Shade strolled down the steps into the Caelum tavern. Caelum. Her favorite human village. They weren’t wealthy enough to go into a contract with her. Shade helped them because of their lovely disposition.
A red-faced boy handed her a plate load with raw meat. Humans eating breakfast waved their greetings with amiable smiles. If only she could live here all the time. Shade couldn’t afford it.
They occupied a small abandoned community in Middle Jael. The eating room and lounge with rooms on the second and third floors was the first structure they built instead of merely fixing.
Wraith strolled through. Children jumped on his back. Humans patted his horns while they fed him meat.
“Good morning, Shade,” Iah Rafil said.
At ninety, he was the oldest man in the village—the oldest human Shade met. Most who made a home in these new villages didn’t live well past seventy because of illnesses or accidents.
Iah was super-human. She didn’t smell Lifeblood in him. The old man worked all day in the fields. He ran Caelum. He didn’t have any children. Shade didn’t like his potential replacement. He smelled wrong. His smile made Shade want to knock his teeth out.
Shade tipped her head. She couldn’t speak with a full mouth. The meat was as big as her plate. They didn’t have enough food for that. Shade planned to hunt today anyway. She needed food too. Divine ate most of hers.
How was he? She tried going back to that place he saw. She wondered the desert. She couldn’t find anything. His scent vanished. She didn’t know where he was.
She should’ve kept him with her.
He needed his memories.
Xurice could pull it out of him.
Those beasts wouldn’t let Divine travel with her.
She could kill them.
He needed his connections.
Damn. She needed to stop doing this.
Hunting. Battling an animal would take her mind off Divine.
Wraith followed her out of the building. Caelum repaired the weather beaten one-floor homes enough to keep out the rain. The houses didn’t protect inhabitants from the cold. Shade put a shield around the houses to keep them warm and steady in strong winds. She put another shield over the town to keep out the Darkness.
She repaired the shields. Shade couldn’t come here as often as she wanted to.
She and Wraith strolled into the forest. She missed clean air. Darkness turn the air into fire. She couldn’t track anything. Animals took advantage of that. She couldn’t smell. They could. It was a game. It was good practice.
A river. Fishing was the easiest. Wraith skulked off in search of bigger prey.
Rolling up her pants leg, Shade put Lifeblood at the bottom of her feet. Fish were smart. She could stand like a statue in the water for a day and they’d never pass her.
She stood on the water and waited.
Savage death rushed Shade. It came from Caelum. Everything in this town was dead. Had died, violently.
She shouldered her bag. She was running. Wraith beside her. She hadn’t been out that long. How did something sneak past her? How did they kill everyone so fast? Why Caelum?
Shade tried to absorb Bria. The Darkness attacked. She held the Dark Consciousness and had every right to the Bria it possessed. She could only pull in a little at a time. The pain was blinding.
No one greeted her once she entered Caelum.
She felt surrounded. She didn’t see anything. She smelled malice coming at her from every direction. The enemy wasn’t human.
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