Home > A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(5)

A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(5)
Author: Bella Forrest

I nodded decisively, then went back into the wide, darkened hallway, my makeshift hood covering my head as I entered the chamber Kyana had mentioned. It was a small space, the size of a pantry, and, as expected, a large Destroyer had fallen asleep on the cold, wet, black limestone floor. His serpent tail was curled up against the wall, while his head rested on a leather bag.

His snoring was loud and thunderous, echoing through the chamber as I lowered myself to my knees, moving slowly but quietly toward him. His mouth was wide open. He took a deep breath and gurgled in the process, then licked his lips and most likely slipped deeper into his dream. Whatever it was, it was a good one—the corners of his mouth were pulled up to his ears in an open and slightly goofy grin.

I looked around and saw the keys mounted on a thick, metallic ring attached to his leather belt. The one Kyana had mentioned was indeed small and cast in pure gold, with delicate filigree adorning its classic bow. It looked like a snazzy lever lock key, and had symbols engraved on its stem. I analyzed the ring’s setting carefully before I reached out to get them. One wrong move, a single noise made, and the Destroyer might wake up.

The large ring was set on one of the belt loops made of leather, slim enough for me to cut with a blade. My eyes darted across the Destroyer’s large body and observed a sheath tied to the other side of his belt. With trembling fingers, I undid the little strap holding the knife in the sheath, then slowly removed it. I held my breath as I put the knife’s sharp tip against the leather loop the keys hung on, gently pushing out to cut the loop. My gaze remained fixed on Heggel, who was still comfortably snoring.

I put one finger inside the key ring, holding it completely still as the knife snapped through the belt loop. I then rose to my feet, taking the knife and key ring with me, and moved away, careful of each step until I was out of the chamber and back by Kyana’s cage.

I gave her the keys, nervously looking over my shoulder as she used the golden key to unlock her obsidian shackles, her fingers trembling.

“Need me to help?” I whispered, watching her struggle to get the golden key into the tiny hole on her left cuff.

“No, I’ve got this. You keep an eye out, please,” she mumbled, then stilled when we both heard a click and saw the symbols engraved in the black surface glimmer green. Her left wrist was released. A grin crossed her face as she repeated the process on her right hand until we heard another click.

She looked up and gave me a warm smile, setting the keys in front of me in the cage.

“I cannot express just how thankful I am for this,” she said. “I will never forget this, Vita. And I will repay the favor. I promise.”

“Just get yourself out of here safely,” I whispered.

She nodded as her skin began to ripple. I heard bones crackle as she morphed into a large cobra-like snake with glistening scales in dark green and small patches of yellow on her belly. She slipped out of the cage and slithered away, taking the weight on my heart with her.

I grabbed the keys from the cage, eager to return the others to the sleeping Heggel—after removing the golden one. I had my own obsidian cuffs to remove. I managed to slide the golden key from the ring and was about to stash it in the pocket of my dress along with the knife, when a large shadow cast a blood-chilling darkness over me.

I turned around, keys jingling in my hands, to find Damion glaring at me. I froze as his yellow gaze darted from the empty cage to the keys, then back to the cage, ultimately settling on my face.

“What did you do?” he hissed.

I had no quick answer for this. I’d been caught red-handed and with absolutely no excuse. Worst of all, I hadn’t gotten a chance to hide the little golden key, my fingers clutching it to my chest while I held the knife in my other hand. He was livid.

I instinctively brought the blade up, but he slapped it away so fast that I didn’t even have time to react. I just gasped in response as the knife landed somewhere on the floor.

“I trusted you. I encouraged Azazel to trust you as well. You betrayed me. You… You have no idea what you’ve done to me.” Damion bared his fangs at me.

I took a couple of steps back and moved to flee, but he wrapped his large hands around my neck, blocking my airway. I struggled in his grip, dropping the keys, my sweaty fingers desperately scratching his as he tightened his hold. I felt lightheadedness slip through me.

“You betrayed me!” he growled, as my vision went blurry.

“You’re hurting me,” I managed to croak before I lost contact with the rest of my body.

Damion stilled, perhaps realizing he’d let his rage get the best of him, and immediately released me. I staggered, choking for a few seconds before I breathed in a lungful of damp dungeon air and felt it scratch my throat. This definitely wasn’t the time or the place to tell him about the other Druids, he was too angry and obviously devoted to Azazel. I needed a better setting if I wanted to sway him toward our alliance.

“You really need to get that temper under control,” I muttered.

That didn’t sit well with Damion either, and his arm shot out in a mind-numbing backhand that knocked me out of consciousness.

The last thought that crossed my mind before I faded was of Bijarki. Whatever was about to happen to me—whether I’d wind up in a cage or in a glass bubble—I knew he was on his way. My incubus was coming for me.

I just had to try to survive whatever Azazel threw at me next.

 

 

Serena

 

 

Come morning, we were all gathered in the archive hall, with more hands on deck to help sift through the Druids’ carefully labeled mountains of records, spell books, and information covering all twenty planets of Eritopia. Jax, Hansa, Jovi, and Zeriel each covered a section, along with Rebel and Thorn. Draven and I continued searching through the registries to find out more about the young Druids and Jasmine, who’d disappeared without a trace, based on the documents we’d read so far.

The Druid and I occasionally glanced at each other, his steely gaze setting me on fire whenever our eyes met, reminding me of the previous evening. Something had deepened the connection we shared, yet I knew we still had further to fall.

I made notes of everything I figured might be of use, including accounts of Master Druids regarding the young ones in the Grand Temple. One passage drew my attention in particular, and I read it out loud.

“Thadeus of Bellaria, third in his class and increasingly adept at fire spells, has a peculiar skill where his serpent form is concerned,” I read from the notes of Master Druid Yoran, who died during the Grand Temple siege. “Most of us can only shift into one specific serpent; whether endemic to saltwater or freshwater, desert or jungle, whether venomous or a massive eater, we can never take the form of more than one serpent. It is the creature we bond with during our First Circle Ceremony, during which we discover our inner ophidian, and it is the shape we live with for the rest of our lives. However, there have been cases of Druids with the ability to morph with more than one snake when they acquire their First Circle. Though anomalies, Druids like Thadeus can shift into any serpent they wish, of all sizes and origins. The last such Druid I had the honor to train was Patrik of Raymer City. While rare and strange, Druids like Thadeus and Patrik find it easier to adjust to hostile environments, unrestrained by a single serpent form.”

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