Home > A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(6)

A Shield of Glass (A Shade of Vampire #49)(6)
Author: Bella Forrest

“Thadeus is one of the young Druids hiding on Marton, if I remember correctly?” Draven asked.

“Yes, he was taken by Destroyers along with Damion. Is this true?” I replied, flipping through the rest of Yoran’s journal.

“It is.” Draven nodded. “Such Druids are rare, but they do occur once or twice in a generation. They cannot be identified until they go through the First Circle Ceremony. However, I had no way of knowing Patrik was one such anomaly.”

“What’s the First Circle Ceremony?” Jovi asked from across the table, his lap filled with scrolls from Purgaris, the Third Kingdom, which Azazel had first been assigned to rule.

“When we turn seven, we are taken into a tent with a teacher or a Master Druid. We sit in front of a blue fire as the elder burns some highly noxious herbs and crystal powders—as dangerous as they may be to most creatures, they merely induce an otherworldly state in Druids. It takes us away from reality and deep into ourselves. We spend the next few days in a trance,” Draven explained. “Some of us take two, maybe three days, while others have been known to stay under for weeks. Once we find and commune with our inner ophidian, our serpent soul, we morph into it for the very first time. That is the First Circle Ceremony, the discovery of the snake. That is when the elders give the First Circle tattoo.”

“You don’t have one,” I said slowly.

“That’s because I never had a First Circle Ceremony like the others,” Draven replied, a hint of sadness in his voice. “My father was away for a whole year when my ceremony was meant to take place. I believe he was defending some shelters of disbanded succubi on the southern coast at the time, as they were constantly being attacked by Destroyers. If the process isn’t organized in a timely manner, the Druid runs the risk of developing a sort of split personality, where the snake refuses to commune and the body is broken between two minds. It often leads to madness. I was young, and so afraid of that happening that I rummaged through my father’s study, found the herbs and crystals, and burned them. I passed out and woke up three days later in my snake form. I don’t even remember how I managed to reach out to my inner serpent to begin with. When my father returned, he was obviously surprised to see I’d done it all by myself. He would’ve come sooner if he could, of course, but there was a war going on in the south, after all.”

I found that little morsel of Draven’s past intriguing. Stuck beneath the protective shield of the mansion, with his father away half the time, my Druid had reached major milestones on his own. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the loneliness he must have felt, but it gave me even more reason to keep him close and make sure he’d never go through that again. I’d been so lucky with my brother and Aida and Vita, not to mention our whole family and The Shade. I’d never experienced his solitude, and yet, as sad as it sounded, it had made him into the incredible creature sitting next to me.

A clock on the wall announced the passage of another hour, making it a good time for me to bring out the telepathy spell ingredients and reach out to the rest of our group. I closed my eyes and felt our minds connect as I called out to the others.

The first voice that came through was Tamara’s.

“Our home was raided by Destroyers.” I felt the anger in her words. I looked up and saw Draven and the others looking at me, their eyes wide with shock. “Many of my Lamias managed to flee when they came last night, but we’ve lost at least two dozen in the attack.”

“I… I am so sorry to hear that… We all are,” I managed to reply, unable to find anything else to say in light of such a tragedy. We had all known it was only a matter of time before the Destroyers made their way down to Pyros, but it still hurt us that it had happened.

“For every life Azazel took from the River Pyros, the Lamias will take ten in return,” Tamara said, her voice low. Given her cool composure, I could only assume she’d already made peace with what had happened, and that she’d had some time to process everything to reach that resolve.

“What will you do now?” I asked.

“I’m bringing the survivors together, and we’re coming to Stonewall. I’ve sent messengers across Antara as well. I know of a few small Lamia settlements that will be eager to join this fight,” she replied. “I shall see you all very soon.”

I exhaled sharply as I shifted my focus to Bijarki, hoping he’d have better news to give us.

“Bijarki, please tell me you’re still alive,” I called out to the incubus, while the others waited quietly around me.

“I’m here,” came his husky voice. “I got everything I need for the invisibility spell.”

I heard him groan at the end of the sentence, prompting my heart to skip a beat.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yes, just an injury. Not as bad as it sounds, rest assured. Turns out procuring fire orchids was not as easy as I’d thought it would be. It’ll heal quickly,” he replied. “I’m on my way to Luceria now. I’ll be there in a couple of days, maybe more depending on the weather. It's getting stormy in these parts, and it's making travel very difficult.”

“Please be careful! Vita needs you alive and in one piece for this to work.”

“I will come back from the dead if I have to, Serena. I’m not letting Vita spend any more time than she already has in that wretched castle, with that abomination...”

I found his devotion to Vita heartwarming, and his determination gave me more confidence in his ability to get her out of there and bring her back to safety. Speaking of Oracles, it was time to check in on my brother and see if Aida had gotten any closer to finding the young Druids’ current location.

“Phoenix, Aida, you guys there?” I called out.

There was no answer, and that kind of silence was never a good thing. A chill ran down my spine.

“Phoenix! Aida! Anjani!”

“We’re here! Sort of,” Aida’s voice finally came through.

Jovi and I looked at each other, both breathing a sigh of relief.

“Good! Everything okay?”

“Not really,” Aida replied. “In fact, not at all.”

“What… What happened?” I asked, suddenly on edge.

“The Daughters took the Daughter.”

We all stilled, paralyzed by Aida’s rushed words. She was breathing heavily, as if running.

“The Daughters took the Daughter?” I repeated, dumbfounded and unable to react.

“Okay, let’s call her Viola. Phoenix calls her Viola,” Aida replied. “The Daughters came last night and took her away because she mutated some shifters who attacked us during our diversion to get you guys out of the mansion. They said she intervened in the natural order and they couldn’t trust her with us anymore. They said they’d take her with them and teach her how to control her powers, as we are, and I quote, ‘clearly unable to do so.’”

I leaned against the back of my chair, stunned by this development. ‘Inconvenient’ didn’t even begin to cover it. It was tragic, and the worst part was that my brother shared such a deep bond with the Daughter. I couldn’t even imagine what he was going through.

“What about Phoenix?” I managed. “Is he okay?”

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