Vayle stretched his hands over his head. The Dark Wall was a festering boil, fouling up the landscape. Humans were inept when it came to naming things, but he grudgingly agreed to call those black barriers Walls. They blocked his senses. In the past, they were no more than towering lines of smoke surrounding clusters of heavily populated areas. Now, they appeared impassable. Crescent shaped walls of towering black smoke disturbed Vayle’s view.
The new Masters of Darkness were greedy bastards. They didn’t want anyone touching the Bria. Using his power became a chore. Vayle didn’t like pulling Energy from humans. The images attached to that Energy made Vayle want to kill himself.
Isla in winter was hell. Icy winds made a home in the Stone Fortress. Just sitting outside made Vayle want to find a deep hole and live there until the Thaw. A hint of snow seasoned the air. The city was assaulted with icy rain nearly every morning.
Sitting outside in the piercing nightmare was more comfortable than that house.
How in the name of Darkness did that bastard get a house near the top of the fortress with a balcony overlooking the forest? A good stomp would do away with this protruding insult. Breaking the balcony would just make Shade and Niah hate him more.
The four bedrooms, two-floor stone house belonged to Xurice. He, like the rest of them, spent years going from village to village offering his services.
Vayle shoved his numbing hands into his pocket. Chatter wafted into the balcony. Few humans called Isla their permanent home. They instead rented houses from the city for a short period while they sold goods in the market. The rent and light taxes placed on those setting up shop in the market was the life force of this community. Isla was one of the few villages that reached nearly fifty years old. Recent years saw so much activity the Housing Authority had to rent rooms instead of entire buildings.
Smaller communities started selling their goods in Isla. Enough Bria-imbued objects floated around Middle Jael to give many people and animals safe travels through the brutal Darkness.
Vayle stood. He couldn’t take the cold anymore. The sunset made him want to set the world on fire. He walked into the house.
“You’re cheating,” Shade laughed.
Vayle’s gut twisted.
“Please, I don’t cheat. That move is legal.”
Xurice and Shade sat at the table in the middle of a second floor living room. They were playing a table game with flat colored stones.
Xurice enjoyed the game. He loved teaching Shade. Why would Sciell bother with a tedious human game? Vayle would have to pass her to get to the kitchen where Niah and Tearani were.
They traveled together for four months and still Shade ignored him. Vayle had a job to do. He had villages that needed him. He neglected it all for Shade and she wasn’t talking to him. Would he have to leave her before making up? Vayle hoped gathering everyone together would make her more comfortable around him. Instead, Shade used the others as reasons to ignore him. Xurice had been the last. They found him a month ago. Vayle wanted to throw Xurice back.
Lafayette avoided them for nearly two months now. He took Bleak’s death far better than Vayle expected. Two days later, Lafeyette approached Shade trying to explain why he left. With far more creativity and viciousness than he thought his sister capable of, Shade told Lafayette where he could shove those pretty words.
After that, Lafeyette went into hiding. He still traveled with them. He stayed off on his own. The only one who had any contact with him was Tearani.
The cold inside or the cold outside. Shade laughed again as she punched Xurice’s shoulder.
Vayle sat in the wooden chair and propped his feet against the black rail.
Shade joked with Xurice. Let Tearani and Niah bully her. She acted as if he and Lafayette had violated her soul.
Xurice’s deep laughter cut through Vayle’s chest. Shade’s laughter nearly killed him. He braced himself for it. Still, Vayle knew he’d get sick the morning he woke up to find his sister smelling like she bathed in Xurice’s sweat. It was bad enough being around Tearani. Lafayette’s scent clung to her as though he slept on top of her every night.
If Xurice laughed one more time, Vayle was going to shove that game down his throat.
“Do you know six of those monsters live in that house?” A voice drifted from the narrow road below.
“There should be some law preventing them from gathering together.”
“They’re always plotting to take over our world with their demonic powers.”
“Have you ever talked with one?” A sharper voice said. “They’re courteous. I’ve never felt any danger from them.”
“Demon lover,” someone mumbled.
A loud smack cut through the chatter.
“You don’t have time for pointless conversation. We have coats to sell before winter traps us here.”
Coats? They must be from a new community. By now, most humans had their winter supplies.
Vayle was tired of tiptoeing around the humans’ fear. Why did he keep bending over for them when all they did was spit on him?
Years ago, Vayle was on his way to thinking they weren’t a waste of space. Most humans were well into building their communities before Vayle showed up. At least now, with barriers over every community and The Walls becoming more solid, humans no longer lived in fear that the territory’s government would take back the land.
He was once impressed with humans until they became obsessed with his scent. Then, they got mad at him when he didn’t thank them for that disturbing attention. Reigning in his power stopped that annoyance.
The door opened. Xurice’s scent washed over him. He smelled so much like his sister.
Xurice leaned on the rail.
“What do you want?” Vayle asked.
Vayle’s power needed to get around Xurice. He needed to eat the flesh off that male’s bones.
“Shade sensed you enter the house and lost interest in playing.”
“So you came out here to shove it in my face?” Vayle growled.
Xurice sighed. “She talks about you all the time. It’s annoying. If only I could get paid every time she says your name. I’d be richer.”
Snapping off his head would upset Shade. Vayle kept repeating that.
“Are you sleeping with Shade?” Vayle asked.
Vayle needed Xurice to say yes. He needed a reason to kill the pale-skinned mutt. Why did human females crawl all over him like leeches? They melted under his smile as though he’d given them a long hard knocking between the legs.
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