Chapter Twelve

Confetti blood stained the walls and everything was knocked over, lying in shattered irreparable pieces on the ground.

Exactly like outside, everything was deathly silent but did not give off a peaceful comfort. Demetri carefully stepped over the broken, mangled property and called out, "Traian?" No answer.

"Caterina? Alina? Alexandru? Gabriel? Fane?" Not one sound other than his own voice.

He went into the kitchen where everything was just as destroyed as it was in the front room and the den.

Soft whimpering made his heart jump but he hesitated before following the crying to behind the kitchen counter. It was Alina, her clothes and old, weathered face smeared in blood that was obviously not her own. She was shaking, terror struck into her heart and the fear pouring out of her eyes as tears when she burst into fresh sobs, seeing Demetri and throwing herself to the hem of his pants, pointing under the table.

He couldn't move much with her grip on him and could only bring himself to turn his head to the morbidly familiar sight of death.

Fane was dead, his throat ripped out in a recognizable style; broken bones poking through strips of dangling red flesh and nerves, his eyes blank with horror and his mouth slightly open in surprise.

He bent down beside Alina and hissed, "Where is everyone else?"

"Upstairs."

He lowered his voice further and said, "Go out, call somebody. I'll go to Caterina, Traian, and Alexandru."

He stood up, gently shook the old woman off of him, left the kitchen, and started up the stairs, fingering the cross in his pocket, feeling the electrifying tingle run sharply through his bones.

The usual warming security that came from the Dalakis' walls was gone, replaced with an eerie dread. What he wouldn't give to bolt out of the house and get as far away as he could but he forced himself up the brown creaking staircase, the dark red carpet, damp and stick wit ha strong, alluring, metallic smell. The golden yellow walls seemed to have dulled and faded to a sad shade and Demetri felt his head pounding with each step closer to the room.

When he reached the top of the staircase, he began towards the room that Caterina and Traian shared; the strange pull was coming from there.

He still found himself not feeling scared at all as he moved himself towards the room where the heard quiet voices speaking to one another, hushed but urgent and commanding.

Quickly, he turned the knob of the door and push it open and there were the twins, their clothes torn with little splatters of red, their faces smeared with tears and blood. They were both welding knives although Demetri saw no evident of immediate danger anywhere in the room and he was certain that they had both gone mad.

"Traian, Caterina, what –"

Seeing him, their faces melted from anger to sudden panic.

"Demetri, get out of here!" Traian began and his voice was filled with so much frustration and urgency that Demetri started to do as he was told, backing away but felt his bones freeze from terror to hear a voice above his head, echoing his name.

"Demetri?"

Looking up, he could only watch as Vladmir fell from the ceiling and land gracefully on his feet like a cat, interlocking his eyes with Demetri's, grinning as he lowered his voice so low that only the two of them could hear.

"What a pleasant surprise – more than pleasant, your father will certainly be pleased with me." Fane's blood had dried on his chin, leaving Vladmir's breath fetid and bitter.

"Well, it's me you've been looking for!" Demetri spat. "I'm here, leave those two and this whole household alone, you've had your feed now here I am."

To his displeasure and surprise, Vladmir only laughed and said, "You are not priority right now. The one I want is not with us. But while we're at it…"

The lights went out and Demetri gasped, blindly staggering around to find security with the twins.

He felt lost and confused for a moment when he felt one of their hands grab him by the wrist and drag him beside them.

He pried himself away and held on tighter to their wrist with his own hand, not knowing if it was Traian or Caterina, but remained uncaring as long as he remained alive.
It didn't matter who it was for everyone in the room had stopped breathing.
Seconds ticked by in silence and abruptly, without warning, Traian bellowed and Demetri felt Caterina push him aside, sending him falling. He closed his eyes and heard himself screaming, hearing two more screeching voices joining Traian's – one was Vladmir, just laughing then suddenly letting out ear-shattering screeches and the other was Caterina speaking in an angry tongue that he couldn't understand. He saw nothing but the sounds of the fevered yelling of the others in excruciating pain and knives – or was it fangs? – penetrating flesh and breaking bones.
He felt flecks of sordid blood fly to his face, hearing more flesh being ripped apart. Someone was dying or dead in the room now. Demetri tried to open his eyes but he saw nothing for everything was pitch-black. He was helpless and vulnerable and he knew that; however Caterina and Traian were managing was beyond him, that was, if they were still alive for the noises stopped and Demetri found that the silence was far more deafening and worried him more than any other noise in the world ever could.
He breathed a sigh of relief hearing Caterina's tired voice calling to him.
"Are you still alive, Demetri?"
"And breathing," he replied nervously.
He had never been so happy to see Caterina as she lit the candle in the room, wiping the black blood of Vladmir on her long green skirt.
"What happened to him?"
Her eyes traveled over the scattered black ashes, smoke still coming from them.
"And Traian…?" He stopped mid-question for it was answered without Caterina opening her mouth.
Traian was on the ground, unconscious but still breathing, his own knife stick in his right arm with blood steadily pouring from the wound.
His sister remained strangely calm but Demetri was not, running towards then kneeling beside his friend. Caterina kneeled on the other side, holding her brother down as Demetri pried out the knife, doing it was painlessly as he could. Traian squirmed and groaned but Caterina hushed him, soothing by pushing his sweaty dark hair away from his forehead. As soon as the tip of the blade came loose from his arm, blood gushed out of the wound like a river and Caterina pulled her scarf out of her flowing black tresses and tied the wound tightly murmuring to the blue-eyed boy, "Please help me get to him to bed."
Demetri easily lifted his legs as she took him by the arms to lay her brother onto the feather-soft mattress and let him snore soundly.
Before they could say anything to each other, there was fierce knocking on the door downstairs. They looked at each other worriedly and hurried down the stairs, stepping over the broken possessions and toppled furniture.
Demetri stood behind Caterina and she whispered, "Stand behind me, and act normal, whoever it is."
She opened the door just a crack and jumped back as it was flung open by the person outside. Demetri's eyes widened as well to see what seemed to be the entire town standing in front of the Dalakis' house.
"Alina!" he snapped in frustration to the old housemaid who was standing beside the boyar who was obviously Madalina's father, "I told you to only get one person, not the entire town."
Caterina shot Demetri a look of annoyance replying, "She shouldn't have left the house at all…"
"What happened here?" Braunstein asked, suspiciously eying the house.
"It was nothing; we just had a little accident."
He didn't seem to believe her for he looked at the blood on them and in the room and snapped, "Nobody can survive after losing that much blood. What's your name?"
"Caterina Dalakis –"
"Dalakis you say?" I should have known, this is an absolute –"
"Caterina?" a panicked voice called out, pushing frantically to get to the front of the scene.
It was Alexandru and seeing Caterina, worn out and blood spattered, he groaned and put one arm around her quivering body. "I knew leaving the house was a bad idea, you should have just let me do it for you in the morning."
"Do what, exactly?" Braunstein snapped and Alexandru flushed and replied, "I was only going running an errand for her. Never got around to it, I got a bit sidetracked –"
"Sidetracked?" Caterina hissed and Alexandru sheepishly shrugged and muttered, "I'll explain later…"
"What is going on here?"
The crowed had separated to let Gabriel Dalakis through the throng and Demetri never remembered seeing him looking so livid.
"Seems as though there was an accident," Braunstein began to explain but Gabriel cut him off, eyeing the inside of his home and his daughter and Demetri, snapping, "That's stating the obvious. Caterina, where is your brother?"
"He's upstairs," she mumbled and Gabriel straightened again, with a vague understanding of what she was saying for he nodded grimly.
"Everything is fine. There is nothing to see here."
"Nothing to see here…? Have you looked at your place?" Braunstein seemed to be glaring at Alexandru and then further quieted his voice. "The vampires, they know we're here… What you're doing to your family and all of us are anything but safe."
Vampires.
Demetri looked up and stared at Braunstein before following his eyes that rested on Alexandru who still had his arm around Caterina.
'So…the man isn't completely in the dark about it all.'
A pale, nearly transparent, illuminating figure in the back caught Demetri's eye and he had to keep himself from shouting out.
Henry stood amongst the crowd, going completely unnoticed, being taken in as one of them. He saw his younger brother staring at him in alarm and grinned, revealing his pearly white fangs that glistened with scarlet in the moonlight.
Henry was watching him; he knew where Demetri was now. Whether he would go to mother with the news that Demetri was staying with a family of half gypsies was not made clear in his smile but Demetri hoped that the news would not reach Daciana.
He couldn't afford the guilt if the Dalakis family were to summer any more because of him. He had inkling to call Henri out on everyone. Let him be hunted down and killed –Demetri didn't like the smirk on his face. Obviously, seeing disaster like this was only amusing to Henry. He didn't know the pain and fear the humans lived through; he had forgotten so quickly. To have him feel a morsel of that just one more time would have been pleasing to Demetri but he quickly brought himself out of it. He must be faithful to Henry for after all, they were still brothers.
"Oi, Demetri," Alexandru said sharply, giving a slight nudge to the back of his head. "What's the matter with you?"
Startled, Demetri flinched and looked at both Caterina and Alexandru gazing at him curiously before shrugging and turning back to where he had seen his brother.
"Nothing is wrong."
Henry was gone but Gabriel and Braunstein were still talking.
"I cannot have trouble happening in this town—"
"And I have everything under control—"
"—you promised me there'd be no trouble. I had your word that nothing bad would come of this—"
"I have yet to see a problem that effects the entire town. Only my family and guests were affected tonight, that is my sole problem to bear, not yours. Once one of your people is put to danger—"
"—the child might as well be a bastard-dhampir–"
Demetri watched Alexandru take a step forward but Gabriel had lost his temper after hearing the last two words, shouting angrily, "I told you go get out of my home, all of you!"
The crowd flinched at his harsh tone but did not disappear completely until Braunstein nodded reluctantly and raised his hand to signal them to have them leave.
"I expect no more trouble from this house. People are starting to get worried."
Once he was gone, Gabriel looked to Alina and Caterina and said, "Where is Traian did you say?"
"In our bedroom."
"Very well." He took a step inside and coldly looked around the destructed area. "Just make sure that this gets cleaned later. We have to get your brother to the infirmary as of right now and start making plans for Fane's body and how to get the news to your father," he said to Alexandru.
As Gabriel went upstairs to fetch his son, Caterina began to sweep up the mess. Their home would be empty now that most of their things had been broken. Demetri didn't know what to do, standing in the middle of it all helplessly, like just another burden to care for by the Dalakis family but he couldn't bring himself to leave them. He assumed it was for a selfish want.
He followed Alexandru up to Caterina and Traian's messy quarters and watched him carefully as he turned his back to Demetri to set something down and place his jacket carefully over it.

"I'm going to go freshen up," Alexandru said quietly, but he seemed to be talking more to himself than to Demetri.

Alexandru quietly shut the door behind himself and unexpectedly, Demetri's nose twitched. He smelled something familiarly bittersweet.

Demetri listened carefully and looked around to make sure no one was coming his way and paused for only a moment before moving stealthily to the table where Alexandru's coat was thrown. Lifting the jacket carefully, his eyes widened and flashed a dark shade of blue, seeing a bowl filled near to the rim with fresh blood. At least Demetri assumed it was fresh. He dipped his middle and index fingers in, swirled it around for a little, then tilted his head back to open his mouth and let the sweet warm red liquid drop onto his tongue and down this throat. It was certainly new.

Only very vague, blurry moments came from this victim's memory, even as he licked the remaining blood off his fingers. Collecting thoughts and feelings were not particularly his favorite part but the bittersweetness dancing on in his mouth made it worthwhile while it lasted. He played with the blood between his fingers, imagining if he could submerge himself completely in it for the feeling it gave him was soundlessly empowering but indescribable.

"What are you doing?"

Startled by the unexpected intrusion, Demetri dropped the bowl and it shatter into two large fragments with the thick red liquid wasted and spreading over the dark wood floor. Seeing what Demetri had done, Alexandru's handsome face contorted first in surprise, confusion and finally, controlled anger. Demetri couldn't find the words to say, how to explain the blood on the floor, his fingertips, and around the corners of his lips. He opened his mouth to improvise some sort of excuse but closed it again and darted his eyes to the floor when Alexandru snapped, "You forget it. Go back downstairs; you'll be assisting Caterina and her father to bring Traian to the infirmary. Well? What are you waiting for? Get out!"

Clearly, he was upset.

Demetri dodged the mess he made and pushed through Alexandru and bolted for the door, glancing back one last time to see him on his knees, hunched over the mess, rubbing the back of his clean dark brown hair as if wondering what to do next.

He nearly sprained his ankle just to get down the stairs where Caterina, Gabriel, and a sleeping Traian were.

Caterina was leaning on her side against the wall, her arms folded indignantly as Gabriel spoke to her in a low, harsh, shaking voice. His daughter wasn't making eye-contact with him and she seemed rather upset with the way her eyes were becoming shiny and the way her mouth tightened and became stern. When they saw him, Gabriel stopped talking and Caterina said, "Can you call Alexandru down here please? I want to speak to him for a few minutes." It came out more of a command rather than a request.
"Um, sure," Demetri mumbled before leaving the room to go upstairs to call Alexandru out of his guest quarters.
He knocked quietly once, twice, three times, and went in. He was busy cleaning the blood off the
"Alexandru," Demetri snapped and the older boy put down whatever he was holding down and he landed with a small noise. He spun around to face him, saying unusually pleasantly and breathlessly, "Hi Demetri." He took off his coat and threw it over whatever he was trying so desperately to hide.
"Uh-huh…" Demetri said suspiciously, looking him up and down. "…listen, Caterina wants to talk to you."
Alexandru said nothing more, only brushed by Demetri and like a fool, shut the door, leaving Demetri all alone in the room.

Chuckling to himself,

Everyone was silent and reverent but once they say him, they all got up and went outside to the stables. There were five horses in the Dalakis's stable, two for them belonging to Alexandru now. Demetri wondered what would be done with Fane's horse now that he was dead. Gabriel instructed that they would ride in the small carriage that they had pulled by his and Caterina's horses only.

Demetri waited inside the small, dark, and cramped compartment as Caterina helped her father tie the horses properly before she came in as well to sit beside her sleeping brother. It had a sweet foggy odor of old roses inside. The infirmary was not too far away but it was too much for them to walk and carry Traian late at night. The horses were treading as quietly as they could through the misty streets and from looking out the window, Demetri saw the only light came from the lanterns attached to the outside of the carriage.

Traian was still asleep even as his sister began to redo the bandage on his arm with a fresh clean white one. Demetri cleared his throat and mumbled her name, getting an irritated response from her as she looked up at him and snapped, "What is it?"

Taken aback by her sharpness, he bowed his head and grumbled, "Is Traian going to die?"

Her eyes flashed and she replied, "Honestly, I really don't think that's something to worry about. We just have to take him to the infirmary to make sure this wound doesn't start to fester and become infected."

He was hardly paying attention to her words, only focusing his attention to the lines on her face.

"What's the matter with you?"

She evaded eye contact with him as if bandaging Traian's arm had become very interesting.

"It's just that my father is angry with me about Traian and especially that I sent Alexandru out to run an errand for me. He wasn't supposed to leave the house, my father says he would've kept us safe and Fane wouldn't have died otherwise." She let out a guilty sigh and accidentally pulled on the drawstrings of the cloth around her brother's arm too tightly, causing him to wince a bit.

"What errand was that?"

"It doesn't really matter. He didn't deliver anyway."

"Have you ever thought…" Demetri hesitated before finished off with, "…there was something different or weird around Alexandru?"

The carriage came to a sharp halt and Caterina only gave Demetri a strange and questioning gaze and stepped out, nudging her brother and helping him to feebly limp out of the coach for he was still weak from having to bear the tearin pain gnawing at his arm. Demetri decided to no longer attempt to further instiage and hopped out after them.

Gabriel was still seated at the driver's seat, watching them all closely. Demetri stood beside him and said, "Um, Gabriel…sir?"

He only turned his head and started down at Demetri with a coldness that uneasily reminded him of Count Benedict.

"If it would help any, I can stay with Traian. Caterina should go home, she's tired."

Caterina started to loosen the reigns of her horse more slowly, making it obvious that he was listening in. Gabriel nodded and looked straight ahead and said, "Stay the night if you wish. She'll need a lot of help tomorrow since she'll be finish her chores and making sure her brother gets home safely before evening."

He said this so patronizingly that Caterina lowered her head again and finished untying her horse and walked it to the front of the infirmary with Traian on her other arm.

"It Demetri staying?" she asked, her voice shaking a bit as she came back. Demetri could tell her was trying to keep herself from crying.

"I will," Demetri said. "I'll help you with whatever you need me to."

"It's settled then," Gabriel said quickly. "Rest up, the both of you have a busy day tomorrow. Oh, and Caterina, if I hear anything about you having Alexandru running anymore 'errands' for you…" He let his words trail off and left the consequences up to their imagination. He lashed the reigns and the horses galloped away.

Demetri woke up to a quiet sound of light trapping on the room's door and his name being called. He lay still for a moment, staring up to make sure he was hearing correctly before sitting up in bed, looking around the room. Traian was laying sprawled on his own bed, snoring soundly and he could see the mess of the back of Caterina's head. He let his legs dangle off the bed, watching as the tapping and whispering continued.

Demetri furrowed his eyebrows suspiciously and clutched the crucifix in his pocket before shakily letting his feet touch the cold ground, and stood up to head to the door.

As soon as he was only a foot away from it, the doorknob turned and the door creaked open. He looked over his shoulder. Caterina nor Traian had stirred from their sleep. He could hear the sound of another's breathing coming from the other side of the door.

If Caterina and Traian could kill Vladmir, two human adolescents killing a full fledged vampire, then Demetri assumed it should not be as impossible as the challenge sounded. He took the edge of the open door and flung it open the rest of the way, hearing a familiar gasp and felt two slender arms fling themselves tightly around his neck.

"Madalina!" he hissed into the side of her curly brown hair as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "What in hell are you doing here?"

She broke away from their embrace for only a moment to look in his eyes and pull him out to the room's balcony before saying, "My father told me about what happened tonight at the Dalakis' home and I know you're staying with them. I could hardly sleep without thinking it was you who got hurt."

"I'm fine," Demetri said, "it was just Traian and, um, Fane is dead."

Her face softened. "Oh, their house is clearly not safe. You should stay somewhere else—"

"What's going on?" Caterina stood at the patio door, sleepy-eyed and staring. "I'm trying to sleep and—" She saw the girl beside Demetri and immediately she seemed to wake up. "Oh. Hi Madalina." She paused. "Goodnight Demetri."

She turned her back to stagger sleepily back into the room when Madalina called out, "Caterina, I need to talk to you."

Demetri saw the tension in her shoulders as she hesitated again and turned around.

"What?" The hint of a sour attitude in Caterina's voice heightened his own anxiety as Madalina arches her eyebrow in a subtle challenge.

"I just wanted to discuss this issue about the living conditions that Demetri is living in," she explained and Caterina's face contorted itself to look completely irritated.

"What are you prattling on about?" she snapped, leaning her side against the wall, resting her head on the doorway from grogginess.

Madalina was talking sweetly, obviously struggling to remain polite saying, "After tonight I think it's more than obvious that your home is not safe."

"It's the first time it's happened the entire time we've lived in his town and—"

"Why are you acting so intent on keeping him with you?"

"I am not! The boy can do whatever he believes he should do, however," Caterina finished blatantly, "it's obvious that I'm not the one making his decisions." As she said this, she turned to Madalina and stared her square in the eye as her mouth dropped in surprise.

"What are you trying to say—" Madalina snapped but instead of replying, Caterina made a rude gesture and that even made Demetri gasp, "Caterina Dalakis!"

She was going to storm back inside but Madalina reached out to grab a fistful of the gypsy girl's hair and yanked her back as if trying to tear her scalp out. Then Demetri was not sure what he saw but it looked as though Caterina extended her arm out and a bolt of purples and gold zigzagged through the air, sending Madalina a couple feet back.

A small line of scarlet fell from her nose and her brown eyes melted into a magnificent shade of violet.

"You witch!" Madalina hissed, stepping forward, "I'll have you and your family burned alive if the vampires don't kill you first!"

It grew cold and it appeared as though something wicked came over Caterina. There was only a fleeting glimpse of a red and black swirl of light spilling from her fingertips, screaming words in a foreign tongue.

He saw a genuine fear in Madalina's eyes before she cried out in terror and smacked Caterina's arm out of the way and shoved her with such great force that the last thing Demetri saw was Caterina taking three small, unexpected and wobbly steps backwards before falling over the short railing of the balcony and plummeting to a clump of bushes below.

"Madalina!" he shrieked, looking over the railing frantically for any sign of his friend. Seeing no movement in the bushes whatsoever, Demetri pushed the girl aside, bolted out of the door and fled down the stairs, purposely brushing aside Madalina's demands for him to stay put.

He burst through the front door of the infirmary and raced to the shroud of plants where Caterina had fallen.

"Where is she?" he cried, shoving brushes around.

"I'm sure she's here somewhere," Madalina insisted, keeping her ground on the paved road. "Demetri, stop it."

Whirling around in frustration, he hissed as his eyes glare with a morose blue, "You pushed her!"

He was breathless and anxious and simple could not deal with being a witness for her possible death.

"You were there!" she retorted, her voice becoming equally accusing. "That witch would've killed us both!"

Demetri had already turned around again to continue his fervent search. There was slight movelemtn in a shrub close by and his head skipped as he hobbled to the area.

"Caterina?" he began but what he saw made him jump back in fear beside Madalina.

A shiny, brilliantly ebony serpent hissed angrily as it slithered out of its hiding spot. Demetri held his arm out to keep Madalina back.

The both of them were mesmerized by the snake's smooth movement as it seemed to stare at them together as a whole, flicking its tongue in and out, its eyes following their movement. It opened its mouth, bearing its fangs that glistened with venom and lashed out to strike.

Madalina screamed and with lightening reflexes, Demetri grabbed a rock and gave a clean blow at the side of the serpent's head, nearly crushing it. Although it did not seem to be badly injured it recoiled and gave up easily, slithering away.

Demetri fell to his knees, letting the stone fall neatly to his side. Madalina knelt beside him and squeezed his shoulder with a mix of coldness and reassurance.

"What's going on?"

The two adolescents jumped to their feet and Demetri's blood froze at the sight of his brother looking at the two of them curiously.

Henry stood tall, painfully handsome, and mysterious as Demetri took a slight step back, muttering, "Henry?"

Madalina seemed pleasantly surprised. "Do you two know each other?"

"This is my brother, actually."

Madalina's eyes sparkled. "Charmed."

He nodded to her and gave her a slight grin.

"Well," Madalina said, raising her eyebrows slightly, "Demetri never told me that he had a brother."

"Here he is," Demetri exclaimed, becoming nervous at the way they stared at each other.

The older handsome boy was the first to tear their gaze to turn to his younger brother.

"Mother has been worried sick about you!" His voice softened. "You have been staying with the Dalakis family?"

"How did you know?"

"Their names are all over the town tonight, you shouldn't be surprised. I heard that some stranger that nearly no one knows has been staying with them. It could only be you."

"You found me," Demetri replied wryly. "But Vladmir is dead now and because of that, Father probably knows where we are."

Henry gave Demetri a look that made it apparent he wanted him to keep his mouth shut around the girl who was staring with wide eyes although she hardly appeared to be listening.

"So it's at this Dalakis family you've been rooming at."

Demetri nodded and Henry continued, "I was going to take you back with me but…perhaps you should stay with them. Why don't you bring them around sometime? I'm sure mother would love to meet you 'friends'."

"I'm not that stupid."

There was something cruelly teasing in Henry's voice but Demetri chose not to make a scene in front of Madalina and Henry looked from his brother to the girl and a glint came in his eye.

"Right. I'll be going. I'll see you very soon, Demetri. There's always a place back for you in our home if you ever decide to come back. Madalina…enchanted." He took her by the hand and bore his emerald eyes into her brown ones as he gently planted a firm kiss on her hand.

He turned his back and walked a few feet before melting away into the fog.

"That was your brother?"

"I believe that was established a few minutes ago."

Madalina stared unsteadily into the distance for a moment, slightly swaying from side to side. "It's getting late," she said at last.

"It is late."

"I'm going home…goodnight. I'll see you in the morning."

She took out a parchment of paper and an ink pen, scribbled something on it before handing it to Demetri.

"Your brother was nice. I like your family. Give him this." She gave the paper to Demetri and he stared at it carefully, about to unfold it when she grabbed his wrist. "If you trust me, you won't open it. It's just saying that if your family ever needs anything to just ask for Madalina at the Braunstein household."

Demetri nodded and pocketed the note and nodded.

"You'll give the note to that darling brother of yours, won't you?"

"Consider it done!"

Her kiss was fleeting and unfeeling as she hurried away into the empty streets. Before going back in, Demetri scourged the bushes several more minutes for any sign of Caterina before retiring back to bed and resolving to banish the guilt of the empty bed beside him. Demetri woke up alone in the infirmary the next day.

Both beds beside him were empty. He left and by asking around the town he was able to find Traian with his other friends playing in the lake, splashing and screaming.

"It's almost winter. How on earth are you—"

"It's really not that bad," Razvan said, pulling up his pale, lanky body up to shore.

"And I'm physically built for cold weather!" Petre exclaimed. Demetri only grinned at his plump friend before walking beside Traian only going ankle deep into the wather.

"You left the infirmary for this?"

"Who wouldn't? If I don't dir from this wound I would've died from complete boredom if I stayed another minute in there."

"You were only there for a night and the entire time you were sleeping."

Apparently, Traian had declared himself a miracle cure in which he miraculous healed overnight and needed no further treatment.

"Did you get this approved by anyone? Last night was terrible and if your father knew you were here doing this right now—"

"I'll go back later," Traian promised, "but even Caterina wasn't in there when I woke up and she's the one who's in deep, deep cacky with my father. She must've been going crazy in there."

Demetri's ears perked and he quickly asked, "…where is she anyway?"

"Oh," Traian replied carelessly, failing to notice the guilt in his friend's voice, "I visited the house earlier. She's there just cleaning and running errands as usual. Her face seems a little beaten up and I didn't ask but I assume either father or Ana gave her a sound beating for leaving…poor girl. She does have a tendency to run her mouth lately."

Demetri's heart lightened, hearing that Caterina was still alive at the least. Becoming a bit more relaxed, he began to enjoy himself.

"This place," said Traian, his dark eyes scanning the place, "I decided if I were to die, I would want to be buried here. Maybe a little somewhere into the trees." He paused. "It would be nice."

"…why are you thinking about this?"

"Well it's close to where we used to live. My mother died somewhere in the forest too." He paused again. "I think it's a weird like mother like son wish."

Steliana was snapping in irritation at all of them as they splashed handfuls of water at her, leaving traces of wet dark spots on her dress.

"What are you all doing here?" None of you are supposed to her here, especially not you, Traian!"

Demetri looked up, startled, but only rolled his eyes to see Alexandru playing the role of the responsible adult although he was only two years older than the rest of them.

The younger ones sulkily dragged their tired, wet, and cold bodies out of the water, shiver and glaring at Alexandru who had begun to lecture as they collected their things.

"Traian, did you even follow up with the nurses before you left?"

"I'm fine," he insisted, reaching for his arm to untie the bandage but Alexandru slapped his hand away and snapped, "Don't do that! You rally should be resting. The rest of you should not be encouraging him. And you," Alexandru's green eyes flashed with an indescribable emotion at Demetri.

He didn't complete his sentence, only scoffed and turned away to lead the herd back through the woods.

"Honestly, you are so lucky that I decided to come looking for you myself before any concerned adult come because you'd all be in a mess of trouble right now. We have to get you back to the infirmary, it's no use to you out there, splashing around in the cold."

Barely paying attention, Traian pointed ahead, "Look, Alexandu, doesn't this place look familiar to you?"

That one sentence made him fall deadly silent as his green eyes softened at the signt of the empty and destroyed town.

"This is where you used to live?" Casamir said giving a look.

"Don't use that tone, it used to be better than this," Alexandru snapped. "Stop this now, we best be getting home."

But the others had stopped listening to him a long way back and were captivated by Traian and Alexandru's ghost town.

Their eyes were wide with curiosity and nervousness. Demetri followed the rest of their lead, enjoying the little thrill and adventure this gave him. Although quieter and more introverted than usual, Traiain proudly led a miniature tour around.

"Watch your step, Staliana, this house didn't have much of a sturdy floor. Oh and look, there's some mamaliga still on the counter."

Smiling, Demetri looked at the window and saw Alexandru still sitting b himself on the rock, doing nothing but staring. His handsome face remained poker and emotionless but his deep green eyes were clearly deep in through. Slipping outside without the others, blinking an eye, he gently approached Alexandru not sure why he felt ashamed to meet his face.

"What's wrong with you?" he asked, his voice soft and sympathetic.

For the first time in that couple of minutes, Alexandru blinked and shook his head. "Nothing, I just can't stand looking at this place like this, that's all."

"It's just an old deserted town in the middle of the forest."

"Have you forgotten so soon? I used to live here."

"So did Traian and look at him. Hell, he's the one giving us a tour."

Alexandru looked up at him, eyes flashing. "People all react and deal differently even if it's about the same thing." His deep voice softened greatly. "Also, people hide themselves differently and better than others. You wouldn't understand." His voice was sharp. "I know you don't believe in it but vampires killed nearly everyone in this town and tore apart my family."

Demetri sat in front of the boulder in front of Alexandru.

Perhaps the two had more in common than he had assumed.

"I know what you mean," he replied and he received a deep questioning stare before he vegan slowly, "It's unlikely you do, but very possible I suppose."

His voice trailed off and he said, "Can you believe I used to call this place home?"

Demetri shrugged.

"I really loved it here. But then many friends and family was murdered. I absolutely hate lurking at his village now." They were both quiet and there was only e sound of gently chirping from the trees.

"But it's over, just move on." Demetri had done just that.

Clearly with his mother and brother but quickly wiping away his tears before they fell, Alexandru snapped, "It doesn't always take away the most painful memories or the best ones for that matter." He continued to stare at the ruins and his salient jawline began to clench.

"I'm sorry," he finally said, not sure of what to say but Alexandru only shook his head to wave away Demetri's unnecessary apology.

"I suppose it doesn't matter." He straightened his back and looked at Demetri, his bright cheerful smile put back into its proper place. "We ought to round up the others and take them home before their parents are too worried. It's not very safe here during the evening." Alexandru stopped for a moment and cleared his throat, "Because of the unstable houses."

There was an abrupt sound of twigs cracking and rustling.

Alexandru's smile disappeared and his eyes lit up and became suddenly very alert.

"Move," he hissed to Demetri, nudging him up and awqay to the house.

Confused, Demetri asked, "What?" but Alexandu silenced him and added, "Shut up.

Hurry and get the others with me. I really think we should leave."

"What's happening?"

"I told you to shut up, Demetri. I'm not safe here right now I think someone's watching us."

The hair on the back of Demetri' neck rose as he looked around nervously. "I don't see anything," he began but Alexandru snapped, "GO!"

Demetri felt a shove from him and stumbled forward, towards the dilapidated house where the others were. There was s sharp piercing scream splitting the air and Alexandru cursed loudly as he quickened his step and pushed through Demrtri to get to the house where the boys and Steliana were.

He belted through the door and put his hand over the dagger in his left pocket and drawing it out and holding it up, prepared. He pushed open the door and let out a bellow of surprised to see two vampires standing around them and one of them being Raziael beginning to draw Razvan away from the others.

His small brown eyes looked up in fear towards the door but seeing them; Raziael released Razvan and flung him to the ground.

"That's a nice necklace you're wearing," he said inching close to inspect the medallions. Demetri wasn't too concerned whether he was talking to him or Alexandru, keeping a careful eye on Razvan struggling to pull himself off the ground and beside the others as he pressed the sleeve of his shirt to stop his wound from continuing to bleed.

Raziael looked from Demetri to Alexandru and smiled, his fangs still stained with crimson. Lazily, he licked it off and the others began to cry as the door shut behind Alexandru and Demetri.

The two vampires began to creep closer to them, their red, thirsty eyes flickering with hunger.

"I wouldn't have thought I could have gotten so blessed in one night," Raziael said slowly as he eyed all the bodies in the room. "Not only do I have two dhampir bastards, but the two we've been looking for, for a very long time."

Suspicious, calculating glances were exchanged across the room to each other, trying to understand who and what Raziael was talking about.

"You," Raziael said, his buldging, cold dark eyes, examining the necklace around Alexandru's neck. "You must be him. You certainly look the part. Look at you, playing hero to poor, hapless humans, just how your idiot father would have."

Traian stepped forward, his mouth beginning to make a statement but again, the older boy held him back and hushed him, refusing to let any other sound come from him.

"Him? What about —" the other vampire snapped, but Raziael ignored him. "And you," he added, pointing to Demetri.

They all looked at Demetri and the vampire's tight, toothy smile didn't go away, however, he refrained from saying anything more.

He resumed to glancing at each one of them hungrily. "It takes one to deliver a message," he continued. "You," he commanded to the other beside him. "Keep them here while I tell Benedict. If they try anything, do not kill them. You know better than that. If I see one drop of blood missing from any of them, I'll make sure Benedict disposes of you nicely."

He broke out through the roof and turned into a gargoyle-like creature and disappeared in the night air.

Demetri stood still and made his way over to the other until he stood beside and slightly behind Petre, careful to watch the other vampire's move. He was watching them intently with curious eyes as if debating whether or not to follow Raziael's exact orders. With every single movement he made whether it was taking a step forward or a natural shirt of his eyes, Demetri felt his heart beat a little faster and he was sure the others' were as well.

He could not hear where it was coming from but one of the others in their huddled group began sniffling and crying – from fear, Demetri assumed.

Alexandru was standing on the other side of the room, standing opposite of them, alone, staring the vampire down with hate and curiosity rather than fear like the others. The vampire stared back and only smile.

He was tall, slender and lanky, with a goosey throat, long wavy hair, and snow white skin, blotchy from dark freckles. The nose was pointy and thin, as were his small, withered lips. He appeared to be nearly cross-eyed and his eyes seemed to take up nearly the entire ipper half of his face and were generously lavished with extremely long, curly lashes.

"Raziael was right, how did we get so lucky in one night?"

Alexandru slowly crept his way towards the others, careful not to make too sudden a movement until he stood in front of the others as something like a protective shield, his dagger by his side and his strong fingers turning white from holding the cool, golden handle too tightly, and shaking. Razvan looked a bit faint and seeing that Alexandru nodded off in his direction to Casamir and Petre to look out for him.

This vampire was obviously a stupid one for he saw this sign of distraction and lunged for Alexandru, causing him to curse out loud as the vampire dug his nails into the sides of his arms, flinging him solidly and painfully against the wall.

The others, including Demetri let out a cry that cut through the air like a thin blade but Traian took a giant leap forward, holding a knife above his head, and squeezed his eyes tightly as he let out a high-pitched squeal of excitement and adrenaline.

The vampire whirled around but Traian had already shoved the first inch of the blade through his chest, barely piercing the heart. He cried out with such fury and surprise that it felt as though Demetri's ears were going to fall off from the shrillness.

Traian fell to the ground with a painful thud and crawled away as quickly has he could, watching with blatant smugness Alexandru turned the vampire around to face him. Alexandru, gripped the handle tightly in his hand and thrust the rest of the dagger through., and backed off, pressing himself against the wall beside Traian and Demetri.

"The great son of Gavril is nothing but a folk tale. All he does is hide among the protection of humans."

The vampire began to twitch violently until his skin began to disintegrate into a fine swirl of dust into the air as his frightful screams began, reaching its climax before quickly fading away in the air. The others in the room slowly inched closer to the center, huddling together. All was silent as outside had fallen into darkness.

One of the floor boards creaked, sending them into a terrible fit, wrestling to get out of the door, screaming and tearing through the woods to get back home.

Demetri darted away from the others and ran towards the small cottage hidden away from the rest of the world. Demetri had been running for several minutes straight.

It was just then when he noticed all the painful scratches from the shrubs, briers, and thistles that had been nicking his skin.

He slowed down and glanced behind him and breathed a sign of relief as his spiriting finally came to a halt. He caught his breath and finished the rest of his way into a smooth stroll though he could feel a small feeling of apprehension every time a twig snapped or a bird chirped. A small, subtle grin crept onto his face to see the small but certain vision of the cottage.

He walked through the thin door and quietly closed it behind him.

All was still, no sense of another presence in the room, giving him the realization that neither Daciana nor Henry were home. He had only been inside for a few moments when he turned his back and heard a frantic knock at the door. He whirled around and stared at it as the banging continued. Taking two steps towards it, he paused. No vampire could come in without his consent, he assured himself as he opened the door.

"Steliana!" he bellowed angrily, seeing Razvan's sister shaking with fear at his door.

Dried leaves and twigs were knotted in her ratted, mousy brown hair and she pushed by him to let herself through immediately, wailing incoherently.

He ignored this and grabbed her by the arm, snapping, "How did you find me here?"

She was hiccupping and cried, "W-when we were ru-running, I was falling behind, I-I was frightened, Demetri, I lost the others but I s-saw you come this way so I foll-followed you here. Please let me stay the night, I don't want to die!"

"Which is why you cannot stay here, let me take you back to town," he grumbled, beginning to open the door, but as soon as he looked outside, he shut the door again and hissed to Steliana, "Stay here," and with that, he shoved her under the lone, shaking table and threw the dirty table cloth over it. He had seen the two distant silhouettes of his mother and brother drawing close to the house, their back turned to the brilliant moon, their faces shadowed bu the night's natural darkness.

As soon as he straightened himself from the floor, he turned around and took a step back in surprise to see his mother standing behind him, smiling.

"Demetri," she said, grinning, "You're back." Her lips were crimson and her breath was fetid.

From his peripheral vision, he caught sight of Steliana about to poke her head out to see who was speaking.

He subtly bent his leg and softly kicked her in the face.

Daciana didn't seem to notice.

"Mum," he said, "may I speak to you and Henry in the other room?"

She smiled and followed him to the corner of the back room where Henry was already waiting. Daciana took a seat next to him and smiled.

"Yes? What is it, Demetri?"

Not holding back, Demetri said quietly but confidently, "I believe father knows where we are."

Her face soured and she opened her mouth to say something but Demetri interrupted her and added, "But I believe that there's a possibility our trouble could be less because of an equally important matter on father's hands."

"What are you saying, Demetri?"

"Mother, I have met the Renegade's son and he goes by the name of Alexandru."


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