Home > A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(3)

A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(3)
Author: Bella Forrest

The Destroyers’ heads rolled through the tall grass as the shifters returned to our sides, wiping the blood off their mouths and resting on their knuckles. They’d sustained several injuries, but none seemed fatal. Their eyes flared violet as they watched dozens of succubi with green war paint emerge from the trees beyond the white rock. They immediately shifted into copies of us which, despite its creep factor, seemed like the sensible thing to do since they were outnumbered by succubi with arrows designed to kill them.

The succubi approached us with their bows stretched and arrows ready to kill us.

We stilled, leaving our weapons on the ground and slowly raising our hands into the air. Only then did I feel my heart pounding in my chest, my body heat pulsing outward, and beads of sweat trickling down my face.

“We mean you no harm,” I called out to the succubi, who took several steps toward us.

One of them came closer, her pale blue gaze carefully analyzing each of us. She seemed surprised by our “twins” with violet eyes, as she lifted an eyebrow. I glanced at the others in my group and saw Phoenix’s jaw tense, his eyes flickering gold as his fingers twitched. Knowing him, he was ready to send out a barrier to keep the succubi at bay.

“Who are you?” the blue-eyed succubus growled, unyielding in her stance.

She was getting a little too close to Phoenix at this point, her arrow aimed at his head.

“Put that arrow away before you hurt someone with it,” he said, his teeth gritted.

“Or what?” she sneered, and took another step forward.

“Phoenix, don’t!” I managed to say before he released a mild barrier, enough to push her back a couple of feet.

She staggered as she looked down, then glared at him.

“I’ve met one of you before!” she said.

“Serena?” I asked, while I watched the other succubi frown slightly. Some seemed to relax their grip on their weapons.

“Yes,” she said, looking Phoenix over from head to toe, then running a hand through her long black hair. “You’re part of her group?”

“Yes!” I replied, my hands still up. “We’re on our way to Stonewall. We’re being followed by Destroyers, and we had to seek cover in these woods.”

The succubus sighed, then put her bow and arrow away. Phoenix instantly relaxed from his fighting stance, fists balled at his sides. The shifters growled, keeping themselves close to us. The succubi pointed their arrows at them, recognizing what they were based on their distinctive, sharp sounds, but I stepped forward, enough to shield one of the shifters from a potential hit.

“No, please, don’t hurt them. They’re with us!” I pleaded.

“Shifters aren’t with anyone but themselves, and even that’s debatable!” the succubus leader scoffed, then waved at the others. “Kill them!”

“No, don’t!” Field came forward, as did the rest of our group, moving in front of our mutated shifters with our hands up in defensive gestures.

“You must be Wren, right?” I asked the succubus, trying to engage in conversation and draw focus away from our shifters, who waited quietly behind us, their glowing violet eyes darting from one succubus to another.

“Indeed,” she nodded firmly. “Why are you protecting these beasts?”

“They’re… different.” I couldn’t think of a better word to describe the anomaly. “They protect us. They killed many Destroyers to keep us safe. They’re with us. It’s not easy to explain, but they were… modified to safeguard us.”

Wren cocked her head to one side, staring at the shifters in disbelief.

“They even keep other shifters away,” Field added. “We’d be dead right now if it weren’t for them.”

“Fine,” Wren said after a long moment, then motioned for her succubi to put their weapons down. She placed her hands on her hips and pursed her lips at me, as if we were the least desired visitors they’d had in years. “It’s not enough you brought these Destroyer abominations into our forest, but you keep shifters as companions. You people are something else entirely!”

I took a deep breath, recognizing her grouchy mood as a mild defense mechanism. After all, they’d claimed this patch, and we were basically trespassing, but we didn’t have any other choice. The shifters let out a collective sigh of relief and returned to their original form, keeping their heads down but their eyes on the succubi.

“Thank you for helping us,” I said. “I know we’re not welcome here, but we are grateful nevertheless.”

“Nothing to be grateful for, wolf-girl,” Wren shot back, having caught my scent after sniffing the air. “More Destroyers will come after you, and now we’re open to attacks, too. We were doing fine here, keeping a low profile, until you showed up.”

“Well, sorry, but it’s not like Calliope’s been all nice and peaceful lately, has it?” Phoenix replied, his voice low.

Wren looked at us for a while, then exhaled sharply.

“We’re not safe here anymore,” she muttered, glancing at the succubi behind her. “I can’t put what’s left of the Green Tribe at risk by keeping us here. This little patch of woods was our last option on Antara. Now we have to leave it and head for Marton.”

She then saw the red paint on Anjani, Aura, and Almandine, and raised an eyebrow.

“Are you what’s left of the Red Tribe?” she asked Anjani, who shook her head in response.

“No. Some of our sisters are out there, gathering fighters for our alliance with the Druid, while you hide here in the woods to protect your mothers-to-be. Like it or not, this world has no mercy on the weak.”

Anjani’s remark didn’t sit well with Wren.

“At least there are more of us alive than any other tribe,” she scoffed. “Yours was practically obliterated from what I heard. The White Tribe vanished altogether decades ago, and no one knows what happened to them. The others are scattered across the continent or caged in Azazel’s dungeons. We’re actually replenishing our numbers and growing stronger every day.”

“Until Azazel decides it’s time to squash the rogues, after he’s done with the last citadel. You can’t tell me you’re not aware that your so-called safety is not permanent,” I replied. “And what’s up with the color names, anyway? How many tribes were there?”

“Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Black, White, Amber, Gold, and Silver,” Wren said, looking away as grief cast shadows under her eyes. “The free nations of the succubi were formed when we separated ourselves from the incubi and chose freedom in the wild over subservience in their cities. We never sought to expand. The lands we claimed were our home, our haven. We had no quarrel with anyone. We only wanted freedom.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s tough luck,” I replied. “Times have changed. Azazel is coming, whether you like it or not.”

“Well, we were hoping for a few more days here in peace. Until you came along!” Wren snarled, then moved back and nodded toward her succubi. “We’ll come with you to Stonewall. We can repair one of the ships in the harbor and take our mothers-to-be to Marton, where they can safely give birth.”

I’d figured she’d want to blame us for having to move the Green Tribe. We were the perfect excuse, if I thought about it. We’d brought Destroyers into their forest—there was no better reason than these slithering abominations to get her succubi to consider Stonewall. She didn’t seem that upset about it, either, despite her aggravated tone. If anything, she looked toward the east with bright eyes.

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