Everything was washed in red. Rebecca blinked, trying to clear the mist from her eyes. The reddish tinge didn't go away. How long have I been asleep? she thought. Is it sunset? Or sunrise? She had absolutely no idea, but the colour in the room suggested that night was either creeping in or slinking out. She tried to sit up, but an aching emptiness flooding her viens forced her to stay still. It was as though everything inside of her had been turned to dust.

She scrinched her eyes shut and then opened them again. The red receded a bit. Becca stared around at the unfamiliar room. High ceiling, canopy bed hung with heavy blue velvet, a narrow arched window.

With a sudden surge of realisation that she had no idea where she was or how she'd gotten there, she tried to say something. "Roar-uh," she croaked. It was barely a whisper. Red was filling up her vision again, turning to black on the edges like rotting fruit. In the moments before the blackness claimed her, she thought she felt a warm liquid being tipped to her lips and a cool voice saying, "Sleep, Arier, my bold one." She choked and consciousness left her.

When she next opened her eyes, the room was dark. She sat up, vaguely surprised that it was so easy to do. Next to her, a girl shifted under the covers and sighed. Automatically, Becca stretched out a hand and brushed her sister's red hair off her forehead. She was pale, the freckles on her cheeks nearly invisible.

Had they been kidnapped? Becca thrust her fists into her hair and tugged in frustration, thinking hard, trying to remember. They had been walking home from drama practice. The streetlamps had already blinked on an hour ago, and Aurora had been toting her art portfolio, stepping carefully while Becca bounded ahead. Someone had been walking towards them, head bent as though intent on contemplating the properties of his shoelaces. And then—she squinted; it was hard to remember— golden eyes, a knife. A sobbed plea from Aurora, a scream from her own mouth. Unable to move—floating—stumbling.

She unwound her fingers from her hair and brought them slowly to her eyes. A silvery scar sliced across the knuckles of her left hand like the edge of a knife blade.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Zandris kicked aside a crumpled newspaper as he made his way down the narrow alley. Devin, Neil, and Kyle were still inside the Cosmolight breaking down their band equipment, but he had slipped out the back door seeking quiet, and perhaps a meal, as soon as the set had ended. Light, laughter, and shouts spilled from the distant doors of the club as teenagers ambled out into the night, all chattering about the show. Zandris shoved his fists deeper into his pockets and kept walking.

Two trash cans squatted up ahead, puking their guts out onto the dirty concrete. In the dark they almost resembled twin tombstones with flowers strewn about them as if someone had dropped the blossoms hastily and then fled.

As he drew nearer, Zandris felt his aura twitch. Someone was behind the trash cans, but whether it was friend, animal, or enemy, their touch was weak. He expanded his aura, like reaching out millions of tiny, invisible fingers, and brushed up against it.

He recoiled immediately.

It was vampiric, alright—had that powerful undercurrent of blood mixed with the glitter he liked to think of as magic—but it was shrinking, folding in on itself like a sea anemone drawing in its tentacles and going cold. Whoever it was, he was dying, almost already dead.

Third death this week, he thought with a silent curse.

- - - - - - - - -

"You remember Kovyn?" Keeva asked.

Siercy smiled bitterly. Kovyn. Her blood-father. How could she forget? "Yes," she said.

"He's dead." Keeva paused and waited for her reaction. Siercy gave her no response. After a moment she continued.

"There have been more deaths in the past six months alone than in the last century."

Siercy looked away.

"Siercy—they're hunting us."