Electric energy had taken over the streets of Wolfhelm; people waved gold streamers and threw rice through the air. Girls had woven blue lilies through their hair in remembrance of the late King and Queen. Many wore strands of garlic around their neck, and a few even thrust wooden stakes into the air.
Marion hustled through the crowd, impatient to get home and reunite with her siblings in the safety of their apartment. For a girl who grew up on a farm with only her family, she had little issue shoving past the slow-moving celebrators. They were just like a herd of sheep; if they needed a bite on their heels, so be it.
There was too much danger about with all the young people in uniforms of blue and gold and purple eagerly waiting for night to fall so their magic could come alive. The uniforms meant they were students from that cursed school. Though Marion longed to push them the hardest, she avoided them. Her loathing was surpassed by her fear.
Besides, the sky had turned from orange to red. Time was running short. She needed to see Timothée and Vivian safe in their apartment with the boarded-up windows. Only then could she put the whole day, including that obnoxious boy with the green eyes, behind her.
It had been a horrid interaction, all in all. How he’d knocked her to the ground, her purse flying off, then teased her—
Wait. She reached for her purse with the jar of leeches—
Gone. It was gone! What could have—
She had dropped it. Dropped it when she bumped into that boy. The rage of a thousand fiery demons sprung up Marion’s body. It would have been no surprise if the top of her head blew straight off. Had he stolen it from her? Bumped into her on purpose as some sort of pickpocketing ruse?
Before she even realized what she was doing, she had turned around and was storming in the opposite direction. No, not back to the leech shoppe to get a store of frozen leeches. That would have been the sensible thing to do.
But that boy had stolen both her senses and her leeches. And she was determined to get them back.
The pickpocket had asked her if she would be at the festival. He was probably in the main square, trying to swindle more citizens. Well, she would have none of it. How hard would it be to find one green-eyed boy in a crowd of hundreds?
She chanced a quick look at the reddening sky. It wouldn’t be so bad, just going into a crowded festival, stealing back her purse, and returning home, all before the sunset.
Marion shoved into the main courtyard. She had never seen it so busy. The castle towered ahead, protected by a high stone wall and wooden gate. People travelled from all over Thraina to look upon the stone wall. It was painted with glorious murals, depicting legends of the gods and creation of Thraina. She often caught Vivian walking past the murals on her way home from work, staring transfixed at the flourishes of shape and bursts of colour. Perhaps one day Viv would pick up her paints and pencils again. Perhaps one day she would notice more than red.
Now, offerings to the gods were lined along the stone wall: flowers and fruits and feathers and even urns containing ashes of the dead mixed with burnt up star matter. Father had not been a holy man, and the triplets had never attended a day of church. Marion didn’t even know why the people left offerings, or what they would pray for. Maybe that’s why the Greywick’s life had been so full of sorrow the last three years — the gods were sick of being ignored.
Or maybe it was all a lot of pig dung and life was just cruel and you couldn’t count on anyone or anything to save you. Especially some sentient constellation that sat their arse on a star and never bothered to help the people they apparently created.
Marion gritted her teeth and scanned the crowd for the pickpocket. Yet, her eyes kept going back to the murals. The largest was of a woman in robes of pure white, hair golden as the sun. She stood with arms outstretched, rays of light bursting from all around her.
Rhaemyria, the Mother Goddess. The First Being and Grand Creator. Marion’s heart stalled, chest tightening.
A conversation leapt back at her: Mrs. Sigrud sitting in her leeching chair. “Tell me about yourself, girl,” the old lady had said, legs covered in leeches. “You’re a young thing. Where are your parents?”
“Dead. I’m an orphan,” Marion had responded proudly, as if saying she had gotten top marks at school. For if she wore her tragedy with pride, no one could battle her with pity.
“Aye, is that so?” Mrs. Sigrud nestled deep into the chair. “Your mother must have been a pretty thing like yourself.”
“Wouldn’t know. Never met her. Died when I was a babe.”
“Well, take heart. We’ve all got a mother. Rhaemyria watches over us. She loves us all. Even a lowly leech girl.”
The words ringing in her ears, Marion stared at the mural of Rhaemyria. Behind the goddess’s image was Xydrious, the Father God. At their feet were three babes. The Lost Star Children.
Legend had it, Rhaemyria and Xydrious gave birth to a son called Noctis. But Noctis had not been gifted in the act of creation like his mother, or the will of change like his father. Noctis could only destroy. In his greed for his parents’ power, he perverted human beings into the first vampires. Rhaemyria was forced to destroy her son, and then hid in the stars forever after.
Well, not forever after. The church had made a big announcement, something like two decades ago. Rhaemyria had sent three children down to Thraina to save the world from the vampires her first son had created. But the children vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.
Marion scowled at the painting. Mrs. Sigrud might have said Rhaemyria was mother to all, but she wasn’t Marion’s mother. Marion didn’t need a mother, especially one that killed her son and then lost three of her children. Maybe if she’d been a better mother, Noctis wouldn’t have gone mad and created a cult of blood-sucking demons.
Marion rolled her eyes. It was nothing but bedtime stories for the elderly. There were real problems that needed solving.
Like finding that damned pickpocket.
In the centre of the square was a wooden stage with a cream tent boasting the flag of Andúrigard on the top. The edges of the stage were decorated with hanging blue tassels and golden string. Lipstick on a pig: that ‘stage’ was the gallows, where at least monthly some poor sob with a taste for the forbidden found himself with a short drop and a sudden stop. Marion didn’t understand why commoners were so keen to hunt down stars when they knew even a hint of magic without a badge from the Celestial Academy would find them at the end of a rope, but people did a lot of things she didn’t understand.
It seemed since she’d left her beloved fields of lavender three years ago, everything had stopped making sense.
Knights wearing both the sigil of the Kingdom and of the Celestial Church patrolled through the crowd, some standing by the many vendors along the courtyard’s walls, some up on the stage where a stern green-haired man ran hitherto, rearranging the blue bouquets of flowers.
The crowd buzzed like thousands of flies. The annual swearing of allegiance ceremony would begin soon — and the Prince would make his appearance.
Marion made note of the exits from the courtyard; there were two on opposite sides, both crowded with people but perhaps less so than the one she’d entered from. If she took the east exit, and skirted down the side streets past Taliesan Avenue, she would be home before the sky turned purple. Vivian and Timothée would be waiting for her—
Except it wasn’t true.
Because Vivian was not waiting for her at home.
Vivian was here. At the festival.
What in the bloody stars?
At the very front of the stage, a sheet of chestnut hair blew freely in the wind. Vivian was so tall she was easily seen among the masses. Marion’s heart thrummed. No, no, no. Everything was going so terribly, dangerously wrong.
What could have possessed Vivian to come to the festival? She had made it all the way to the very front of the stage. Marion put her elbows out on either side and shoved her way through the crowd with the grace of a bull in a pottery shop.
To anyone around them, Marion appeared a model sister, graciously grabbing her sister’s arm and greeting her with a smile. They did not see the way her fingers clawed into Vivian’s arm or hear the angry whisper: “What in the Three do you think you’re doing here?”
For her credit, Viv didn’t flinch. Her eyes were trained on the stage. “Didn’t you get my note? I left it on the apartment door. I just want to see a little of the ceremony. What’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem?” Marion cast her eyes to the heavens as if one of the Three would offer reassurance she hadn’t gone completely mad. “It’s a moonless night, that’s the problem. And the sun has nearly set. Besides,” she glanced at the stage where the green-haired man paced, “you don’t have to be here for this. Let’s go home and pretend it never happened.”
Vivian didn’t blink. “I can never forget it happened.”
Curse her loose tongue. A hot wave of shame flooded Marion’s cheeks. Of course, Vivian couldn’t. She looked especially pale — she always did, of course, but she appeared almost translucent in the dimming sun. Her brilliant grey eyes were sunken deep into dark circles as if she had not slept in days. She was still beautiful…but unwell. And everyday a little piece of her seemed to slip further away.
“You should at least eat something,” Marion said crossly. That was the problem with worry. It always made her cross.
She just needed to find her bag, then Vivian could duck down, have something to eat and be more reasonable. She peered through the crowd. Cured of her initial rage, she realized she had just as much chance of finding one boy here as she did of finding a unicorn in the woods.
Damn that green-eyed boy and his scheme!
“I’ve lost my bag,” Marion admitted. “It was foolish to think I could get it back. Let’s go now. We’ll stop at the shoppe and pick up a frozen jar. There’s still time—”
But Vivian did not move, even when Marion tugged on her thin wrist. She stared as if seeing a ghost. Or a god.
The crowd erupted into cheers. Clapping, crying, screaming—all in fervent reverence.
For out of the tent on the top of the stage walked Darius Störmberg, crown prince of Andúrigard.
Marion stifled an eyeroll. She cared little of princes and even less for the crowds they drew. She had never thought Vivian had any interest in the Prince either. Yet today, it was like a fever had taken her.
Gods, she had eaten yesterday, hadn’t she?
“All hail Prince Darius!” the green-haired man said. He seemed a nervous sort. Marion recognized him from other ceremonies held in the capital: the loremaster of the Celestial Academy, Lord Setviren.
Prince Darius walked out and waved. Marion allowed herself to hesitate a moment. He was handsome, as handsome as all the ladies who came in for their leeching loved to gush about. He was so close she could see how his hair shimmered like golden thread in the dusk, his eyes flashing like shards of glass. He wore a dark blue uniform with silver embellishments.
Beside the prince stood a massive soldier, standing over a head taller than the already tall prince. Based on the sigil across his exceedingly large chest—a wolf’s claw—and the way he stood so close to Darius, he must be the Prince’s loyal guard, Ser Dedont. The ladies loved to talk about him in their leechings too, about how he was an undisputed warrior, the prized jewel of the Kingdom. Ser Dedont had served the royal line for generations, the star magic coursing through him keeping him young and strong.
Marion tugged on Vivian’s wrist again. She was surprisingly well grounded. “Now can we go?”
Still, her sister acted as if Marion were a breeze tugging on a curl; a small annoyance, but not enough to disturb. “I want to watch for just a moment more.” Vivian’s voice was breathy, like she’d stepped out of a dream.
“As above,” the green-haired man, Setviren, called to the crowd.
“So below,” the citizens chanted back. The customary opening to any ceremony.
Setviren cleared his throat and stepped forward. He wore robes of white and a sash around his neck embroidered with both the sigil of Andúrigard and the sigil of the church. “Today is the twelfth Festival of Unification, a celebration of the integration of the three nations and the ending of the Blood War.”
Another calamity overcame the crowd as they cheered and screamed. Marion knew all about the Blood War; though it had happened over a decade ago, no one here could let it go.
“On this day, King Halvor and Queen Elise squashed the rebellions of Kirrintsova and Medihsa. The traitors from Medihsa were welcomed back into Andúrigard, and the Kirrintsovan Empire was absorbed into the greater territory. We become one nation under the Three. And since then, Thraina has thrived!”
Cue another uproarious cheer. Yes, yes, Andúrigard good, rebellions bad. Marion had never had much interest in history or politics at the lavender farm and she had even less interest in it now, even though they lived in the Andúrigardian capital. Everyday was about survival: was there enough food? Enough money? Enough leeches?
She was about to be very cross indeed that Vivian was still staring moon-eyed up at the stage when a commotion clattered in the crowd beside them.
“Watch it, kid!”
“We’re standing here!”
“Ow, my foot!”
And a cloud of flour and slipping books and an ugly black cat erupted forward in the form of a gangly boy.
The tornado of chaos skidded to a stop in a flurry of, “Sorry! Pardon me! Oh, was that your foot? Sorry!” and finally breathed a sigh of relief. “Hello sisters.”
Marion couldn’t even be surprised. How could this day get any worse than all three of the Greywicks siblings being out in a public festival with no moon to dim the light of the stars?
Marion snatched Timothée’s skinny arm. “Do I even want to know why you are here and not at the apartment?”
He shrugged haplessly. “I saw Viv’s note about going to the festival. At first, I couldn’t believe it, but then I though it would be nice to have a lick of fun—”
“Looks like you had more than a lick of fun,” Marion snapped. “Your pants.” Timothée looked down and quickly began retying the rope he used as a belt. Marion forced a deep breath. Vivian had barely even acknowledged their brother, her eyes still locked on the Prince. He wasn’t even that handsome.
“Look at you. Cover up at the very least,” she grumbled and set off on Timothée. She snatched the hat from his pocket and stuffed it on his head. Then she grabbed the scarf from around Vivian’s neck and wound it tightly over Timothée’s face. “You know better than to be exposed tonight.”
Timothée swatted her away and his scrawny cat yowled at her, jumping from Timothée’s shoulder to his arms. Let them both complain. She was right.
For triplets, they all were quite different. Vivian’s hair was warm brown, like a roasted chestnut, Timothée’s dark as wood, and Marion’s golden as the dawn. Vivian always preferred to bundle her hair up into a knot on the top of her head, despite Marion’s pleading that it would look beautiful if she left it down. Which she had done today, another oddity. Timothée on the other hand, never bothered with one thought of his hair; his dark waves always seem perpetually bound to get in his eyes.
All three were tall, with Timothée being the tallest though he be the youngest by twenty minutes. He was thin as a rail, a boy in a man’s gangly awkward body. Marion had no idea how one could work in a bakery and never seem to have any meat on them; she would die to be surrounded by white cakes and macaroons in every shade of pastel, and cream puffs with swirls of vanilla icing. Instead, she had black leeches as company. But Timothée was not as enchanted by sugar as she was; he’d so often lose himself in his work or a book or in his own misty head that he wouldn’t think of eating or drinking until Marion reminded him to.
Vivian had always been strong, with lean muscle. She’d been the one most likely to do the harvest with Father. But Marion had seen her coming out of the bath the other day. Gone were the muscles in her leg and arms. Instead, her skin seemed too small, stretched over the bone until Marion could nearly count her ribs. She needed to eat more. Marion should keep the leech shoppe open later. Maybe Timothée could write some pamphlets to get more customers, and if Vivian was up to it, she could draw her wonderful pictures on it.
“Guess you’re right, Mare,” Timothée said. “It’s late. Do you suppose—”
“Yes, I suppose,” Marion snapped, though she was grateful at least one sibling of hers had any sense.
“Just one more moment,” Vivian said.
The loremaster had been droning on all this time about the annual swearing of allegiance in a few minutes where the wards from Kirrintsova and Medihsa would re-swear their fealty to the Prince. What a bore. Besides, Marion wanted to leave before they started talking about the other anniversary today.
Before she was forced to remember.
“Today,” Setviren said, “we also honour another anniversary. Today marks three years since the loss of our beloved King, Queen, and Princess.”
“Three years ago, our capital was viciously and mercilessly attacked by a cult led by a zealot known as the Dark Prophet.” Setviren’s voice took on a maniacal fervor and his hands shook. “This cult not only wielded the unlawful and disgusting abomination of dark magic,” the crowd gave a horrified gasp as if they had not heard this story thousands of times before, “but was also made up entirely of…” Setviren’s eyes narrowed and his thin mouth resembled that of a snake’s, “vampires.”
The crowd gave another horrified gasp. One woman even screamed.
“Come on,” Marion urged, pinching Vivian’s arm. “We don’t need to hear this.”
“I need to stay,” Vivian whispered.
No one had more reason to hate vampires than the Greywick children. Well, perhaps Darius did. He had lost his father, mother, and younger sister to them.
But had he loved his father the way Marion had loved hers?
Had his father cooked him eggs with butter every morning? Taken him on walks through fields of purple flowers? Told him stories of the stars? Had his father protected him from every danger of the world?
Marion stared at the Prince, bound to be king once he graduated from that awful school in the sky. Darius stood listening as Setviren recalled the tale to the crowd. Listening to the truth turned legend of how his family was murdered before his eyes.
For once, Marion quieted her nagging. She must have looked just like Vivian and all the other citizens, staring entranced at their tragic prince. He was still as stone, his body taunt as a bow string. There were depths beyond depths in those eyes…of grief, of resolve, or something else.
A bitter flash of anger flickered through her chest. The royal family were not the only ones to pay the price that night.
“Though that night is bathed in sorrow,” Setviren drawled, “one thing is clear: the strength and bravery of our future king. That very night, Prince Darius slew the Dark Prophet.”
A chorus of cheers and chants burst from the crowd.
“Prince Darius continues to protect the kingdom and live in divine servitude to the Three!” Setviren roared piously. “All hail the future king!”
Despite the fanatic reverence of the crowd, Prince Darius still stood cold as his ice shard eyes.
No one knew much else of the Dark Prophet and his cult of vampires. Some thought they were supporters of Kirrintsova, still fighting for their freedom. Other believed they were disciples of the fallen god, Noctis.
But there was one thing all the citizens agreed upon: if Prince Darius had not slain the Dark Prophet, scattering his vampire followers into chaos, they could be living in a very different Wolfhelm.
“It’s getting dark. The stars will be out soon. We should go.” Marion turned, preparing to push through the crowd. She had just about enough of princes, and festivals, and Setviren’s nasally voice.
Then she saw it. She saw him.
By it, she meant her jar of leeches glinting in the fading sun. By him, she meant the green-eyed street rat. Slung over his shoulder was her woven bag. He leaned against the side of the stage, unbothered by the guards standing watch. The slippery bastard had stolen her purse!
May the Three curse him. He looked perfectly comfortable in his shabby brown robe, relaxing against the gallows-turned-stage as if they were the walls of his bedroom. Marion wondered what his bedroom actually looked like—probably filled with knickknacks and women’s purses he had pilfered off of the unassuming like her. Her face flushed red for the thought of his bedroom even popping into her mind.
He continued to hold the jar of leeches up to the sky, brows lowered and eyes narrowed as he scrutinized his find. As if he had known where she was all along, he turned to face her. His piercing gaze shot right through her, an arrow to the lungs, forcing out all her breath.
And then he winked.
Marion stopped. Her hands formed fists, nails digging into her palms. Her lip curled back into a cat’s snarl. He’d stolen her leeches and now they were going to have to make a stop back at the shoppe to get more before night fell. And worse than all, he’d tricked her.
No. Absolutely not. No one would take advantage of her or her family.
Marion headed for the stage.
“Mare?” Timothée called through the crowd. “I thought we were leaving?”
“One moment,” she growled. “I’m taking back something that belongs to me.”
Marion ignored the grumbles of, “Quit shoving!” and “Watch it!” as she pushed through the crowd while Timothée and Vivian apologized profusely behind her.
The boy didn’t move as she approached. In fact, he stared at her the whole time, grin widening. He was baiting her…and she was walking straight into his trap.
Well, this boy didn’t know he’d set a crab trap for a shark.
Marion reached the side of the stage. If she looked up, she could see the back of Prince Darius and Setviren, still rambling about the night of the massacre.
The boy straightened as she approached. That one lock of hair still fell between his eyebrows, touching his long straight nose. Marion grabbed her skirts in her hands and stomped right up to him, about to tell him just what she thought of thieves—
He bowed low and held out her purse on one finger, the jar of leeches peeking out from the flap. “Your purse, Miss Marion,” he said, voice smooth as leech skin. “You ran off in such a hurry, I didn’t notice I’d picked it up until you were long gone. But fate has brought us back together, hmm?”
She snatched the purse and opened her mouth. But no words came. Would this boy ever cease rendering her speechless?
A spluttering of syllables came out instead. “H-How dare—”
He only straightened and smiled. “Are these your siblings?”
Only now did she realize Vivian and Timothée flanking her. She felt her face grow even more flushed than it was before.
“Triplets,” the boy said. “That’s rare. A very unique blessing.” He stared at each of them like an artist deciding which kind of paint to use.
“Well, you have returned what you have stolen, so we’ll be leaving now,” Marion finally managed.
He laughed. “I am many things but I am no thief. Won’t you stay and watch the rest of the show? The best part is coming up.” His smile was as melodious as his voice and Marion found herself blinking owlishly at him.
“No, we can’t.” Timothée tugged on her arm. “We have to be going.”
He went back to leaning against the stage. “Suit yourself.”
The three turned, facing back to the crowd. “Who was that?” Vivian whispered.
Marion closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. What a disaster. She wanted nothing but to leave this place and never—
At the sound of his voice, she whipped around. The wind caught her long golden curls and pushed them from her face. She thought she was levelling him with a glare…or maybe she was just staring at him the same way he was staring at her. Like the crowd had melted away like dying rays of sun and the two of them were alone.
“Why do you have a jar of leeches in your purse?” he called.
“I’m the leech girl,” she responded. “What else do you expect?”
His smile broadened, full of unasked questions. “Oh, I expect a lot.”
A flash of red caught her eye. A girl poked her head out of the cream tent on the stage. She wore the purple uniform of the Celestial Academy and her hair was crimson as the blood the leeches greedily sucked out of Mrs. Sigrud. She had the most unusual necklace, tight around her throat. Small gems dangled from it as she looked left and right and then down.
“What in the Three are you doing down there?” the red-haired girl hissed at the boy. “Get up here now!”
The boy looked up at her and sighed. “It’s nothing but work with you.” Then he turned back to Marion. “That’s my cue. See you around.” With a smile and a wink, he threw off his brown robe and jumped up on the stage beside the girl.
And at the very same time, Setviren’s nasally voice called out to the people: “We shall begin the annual re-swearing of allegiance! Please welcome Carmilla Vladimirovna, ward from Kirrintsova, and Khalid Ali Bagheeri, ward from Medihsa!”
The crowd erupted into a mixture of cheers and boos as the red-haired girl walked out from behind the tent to stand beside Prince Darius. And followed by her was the boy. The boy who was wearing the golden uniform of the Celestial Academy, which he had hidden beneath brown robes. The boy who was not a thief at all, and also not a liar, because he had told the truth. He really was Khalid Ali Bagheeri, child to the traitors from the rebellion of Medihsa.
How could she have been so stupid?
Khalid looked so nonchalant up there beside the Prince and the former Princess of the Empire. All three were dressed in their Celestial Academy uniforms, though in different colours: Darius’s being blue, Carmilla’s purple, and Khalid’s golden. She knew the colours signified different star magic, but Father had forbidden any questions of the Academy. Setviren was now going off about how the three had begun their first year at the Celestial Academy earlier this month.
Not only was Khalid one of the most important political figures in Thraina but he was a student of the Celestial Academy. That made him dangerous. More dangerous than any common ruffian in a back alley. How many times had Father warned them of the Celestial Academy? Hid them inside the house when the great shadow crept over the farm as the Isle of Argos floated by?
Father had called them villains. And Marion had let herself fall straight into one’s lap.
She had to be better than this. Her siblings were counting on her. It was no good for someone like her to get caught up in green eyes and ruses.
“Alright,” Marion sighed. “Let’s go home.”
“I’m not,” Vivian said decisively.
Marion glanced at the sky then at her sister. “The sun is about to set.”
“I’ll wear my cloak, shade my face and—” Vivian looked so desperate, her eyes watering, her hair wild around her face, Marion almost felt pity for her.
But pity wouldn’t keep her alive. Only the truth would do that.
“None of us can hide what we are.” Marion bared her teeth. “Especially you.”
Her sister’s face blanched, lips trembling.
“Marion.” Timothée sighed, and reached toward Vivian, but she backed away from him. Even his cat perked up, blinking her sleepy yellow eyes.
“Prince Darius came into the candle shoppe,” Vivian said, and soft tears fell down her cheeks. “He told me to meet him here... and I wanted to be a girl who could.”
Marion wasn’t sure if she should laugh or squeal or cry or scream. Vivian…had met the Prince of Andúrigard. There was no one in all of Thraina more dangerous.
And she would do anything to keep her sister safe.
“You’ll never be that girl,” Marion hissed.
Vivian wiped her eyes with the heel of her palm. “And I’ll always have you to remind me of it.”
Vivian turned from the stage, from the Prince.
There should have been a sense of relief. But two things happened at once.
First, Timothée’s cat let out a horrible yowl, such an awful sound that it caused Setviren’s odious speech to stutter to a stop.
The cat leapt from her brother’s arm, right onto the stage, and ran straight for the Prince of Andúrigard, all matted fur and claws lunging at his polished boots.
“Yvaine!” Timothée cried, reaching out his hand.
“Timothée!” Vivian yelled, whirling around and clasping his arm.
“Vivian,” Prince Darius breathed, trying to shake off the wild cat on his leg.
“Order! Order!” Setviren bellowed frantically.
Behind him, Khalid just smiled, as if the whole thing were an elaborate play, and Carmilla pinched the bridge of her nose, tilting her head back.
But Marion was hardly concerned with any of it. Because in that same moment the shadows came to life.
Dark shapes crept out from behind vendor stalls, from the alleyways, from beneath the stage. Not dark shapes: hooded figures. Creatures clothed in blackness creeping one after another out of every dark corner and taking post around the perimeter of the square.
“What’s going on?” Timothée cried, finally reaching his gangly arm far enough on stage to grip his cat by the tail and tug her back.
Marion grabbed her siblings’ wrists. Prince Darius was shouting orders to guards. He cast a frantic look down at them. “Protect them,” he ordered.
It was too late.
Vivian clutched her neck and cried out in pain.
The courtyard was completely barricaded by the dark creatures. And one by one, they threw back their hoods and bared their fangs.
They had come three years ago. And now on the anniversary of their first massacre, they had returned.
“Vampires,” Marion said.
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