Wayne hammered his fist against the heavy oak door.
“Sarah! Open the door!”
He rattled the handle to no avail. It was locked.
“Maybe no one is home,” Serena said, arms clasped behind her head as she leaned against the wall.
Zoe clung to the vampire’s shirt, pressing her mask up against a curtained window near the two.
Since rescuing Zoe from the thralls, the younger girl had stuck close to Serena. At first it had been mere holding hands. After about ten minutes of walking, Serena put her enhanced strength to good use by giving Zoe a piggy-back ride.
Wayne had kept a close eye on them the entire time. Despite Zoe’s arms being wrapped around Serena, just beneath her sharp fangs, the vampire never once acted like she was about to throw away his trust.
After eating two whole people, maybe that wasn’t so surprising.
All the while, they had kept up a steady conversation. Almost all of it was initiated by Serena. Any time it drifted towards Zoe’s family, Serena skillfully directed it away. It was something that Wayne was beyond grateful for. He was at home in answering Serena’s questions about vampires and magic, but keeping a kid’s mind occupied and off of her parents was far beyond his capabilities.
That Serena kept her from crying only raised Wayne’s opinion of her.
Wayne had abstained from their conversation unless he had been directly addressed. He had not, however, abstained from listening in. Through overhearing their conversation, Wayne had learned that Zoe was a mere ten years old.
Serena herself was sixteen. Older than Wayne had initially suspected, but not so much that he had been expecting her to keep quite such a level head. That was just another thing he had attributed to her vampiric condition.
A less cynical person might say that no one should ever have to experience the things the girls had, especially not at their ages. Wayne was of the opinion that tragedy struck at some point or another, best it come when you can survive it.
For Serena and Zoe, that might just be now if only because of his presence in the city.
And hopefully for Sarah as well.
If she’d open the damn door.
Wayne took a step back. Gripping his tome under the crook of his arm, Wayne held out one hand towards the door. The wood erupted in bright yellow flames. He directed the flames and heat away from the rest of the house, concentrating it all in on itself, focusing on the door.
A metallic clatter made its way out of the silent flames. Wayne extinguished the fire.
The doorway stood open. A handle and a deadbolt lay on the floor, both emitting a faint glow.
“Watch your feet,” he said as he took a ginger step over the threshold.
Serena actually lifted Zoe up and over as they crossed. “I don’t smell any blood,” she said with a sniff of the air. “But there is definitely a smell here. It is a lot closer to Eric and Bart…”
Frowning, Wayne ignited a decent sized ball of flame in his hand. “Stay here,” he said. “And keep the kid safe. Be ready to run.”
“You don’t want backup?”
“Yeah, keep an eye on the door and make sure that we haven’t attracted any attention.”
Words spent, Wayne moved deeper into the house. It wasn’t a large home. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room. The latter two were connected and were attached to the entryway. He started with the nearest bedroom.
Bedroom was probably the wrong word to use. Sarah had converted it to an office as soon as she finished school. But, it had once been his bedroom.
Gone were the posters of various new wave bands. His bed had been replaced by a curved desk, looking out of the curtained window. The only thing remaining was his old guitar, propped up in the corner with a thick layer of dust covering it.
Most of the rest of the office had a decent coating of dust as well. A good deal was probably just the particles of smoke in the air finding a place to settle.
Apart from the dust, nothing appeared amiss. The desk hadn’t been turned over. The computer and stationary sitting atop was undisturbed.
Wayne shut the door and moved on.
He wasn’t entirely certain what to expect within the next room. The last time he had been inside his sister’s room was during their parents’ funeral. It could still be her room, but if he still lived at home, he would have moved into the master bedroom if for no other reason than the added size and attached bathroom.
Whatever he was thinking, he wasn’t expecting a full home theater. Two thick leather chairs sat in the center of the room. A projector had been mounted up against one wall with a white screen opposite. Heavy-duty speakers were in each corner while foam padding lined the rest of the walls.
Where did Sarah get the money for this? Wayne thought with a low whistle. Even with the money they received from their parents, Wayne wouldn’t have considered either of them in any sort of well-to-do position.
Shaking his head, Wayne closed the door. He passed through the main living room again, noting that Zoe and Serena were talking softly near the front door. Or front doorway? Either way, nothing looked amiss.
The door to the master bedroom had been locked. Wayne took that as a good sign. It indicated occupancy. And, unlike the front door, a simple coin would be sufficient to unlock it.
Not in the habit of carrying around change, Wayne extinguished his fireball and fished out his car keys instead. The lock gave way with a light click. He pressed in on the door without creating any more noise.
A hand reached out of the darkness, gripping the wrist that held the doorknob.
The moment he felt the lightest brush of something cold against his skin, Wayne pushed the limits of his mental acceleration. Relative time slowed to an almost complete stop.
Wayne’s first instinct was to incinerate everything within the room. The hand had already clasped tight around his wrist; there would be no escape from his assailant through any regular force.
A glimmer of light on the wrist stayed his hand. A small charm bracelet wrapped around the wrist, adorned with various caricatures of dragons. Wayne’s familiarity with the bracelet kept him from attacking, but filled him with a certain measure of despair.
Cutting off the flow of magic through his focus, time resumed its regular speed.
Wayne found himself being yanked into the room. A hand on his back and a leg sweeping upwards flipped him up through the air. His grip on his tome wasn’t tight enough, it went flying as his back landed on a bed.
Even as cold fingers wrapped around his throat, Wayne didn’t struggle. He stared up as two steel-gray eyes looked down at him. The eyes matched his own. The two sharp teeth, however, did not.
“Hello Sarah,” Wayne said. There was no humor in his voice. No good cheer at seeing his sister alive.
Because she wasn’t. While her eyes maintained the same intensity they held the last time Wayne was in her presence, her complexion matched that of Serena. Her cold hand was the first sign of something being wrong. Her teeth only confirmed that suspicion.
Looks like I won’t be needing those spare masks after all.
“Wayne. I would say it is good to see you again.”
“It has been two years.”
“Hell of a time to visit.”
“Could be worse,” Wayne said. “Could be snowing.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes. Shaking her head, she moved back and released her hold on Wayne’s throat. “I take it you didn’t get my message?” she asked as she bent down to pick up the lost tome.
“Oh no. I got it. Loud and clear.”
His thick focus flew back over his shoulder and slammed into the wall.
Wayne winced at hearing papers tear upon it landing. That thing hadn’t been cheap.
“Then why are you here? I explicitly told you not to come. Someone needs to take care–”
“I’ve never cared about the dragons. I care about my sister.”
“Wayne,” Sarah said with a sigh. “Mom and dad loved–”
“I don’t need you lecturing me about them. I grew up with them, same as you. You know that I don’t like your crusade to carry on their ‘legacy.'” Wayne grabbed his tome, smoothed out the pages that needed smoothing, and incinerated the pages that had been torn loose in the throw. “Besides,” he said, “you didn’t get rid of the kin, did you? They can get along without you for a while yet.
“We, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of time. If the government doesn’t nuke the city, the Elysium Order will. Standard operating procedure for lost-town scenarios does include a quick sweep for survivors, but they don’t actually care about people. Those that do get rescued will typically be inducted into their order. I wouldn’t put it past them to skip straight to scorched-earth for Lansing.”
“Since when did you become an expert on Elysium Order tactics?”
Wayne shrugged. “Been researching them lately.”
“Oh?” Sarah narrowed her eyes in his direction. “What priceless artifact do you want to steal this time?”
“You’re the last person I want to hear a lecture from. Don’t think I have forgotten about your hobbies.” Wayne stood from the bed and moved for the door. “We need to find a way out of the city.”
Wayne stilled as he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.
“You’re not going to mention it?” Sarah said, her voice so soft that Wayne had to strain to hear.
For a moment, he made no move. There was so much to do, so much to consider. At the worst, he had expected a deceased sister. Wounded at best. For her to have become a vampire had never entered into his fears.
“How did it happen?”
“Went to bed around eight on New Year’s Eve. Woke up in my bed with pointier teeth at sundown the night before last. Sent out the message a few hours later.”
“Two days?” Wayne turned to look her in the eyes. “And you didn’t willingly–”
“You think I’m stupid? Of course I didn’t.”
Wayne searched her eyes, looking for any hint of deception. He found none. Blinking, Wayne realized something else that was missing. “Your eyes are the same as mine.”
“You don’t have the Blacksky eyes.” Wayne took one of her hands in his own, just for confirmation. “And you don’t have claws. What strain are you?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped, slapping his hand away. “It didn’t come with an instruction manual.”
“Have you fed?”
Sarah’s eyes went wide before she turned her gaze to the side.
Understanding, Wayne let the matter drop. He turned back to the door. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. You’re still my sister and you didn’t attack me. That’s all that matters. We can discuss your condition more after we’re safe. Or even on the way, for some of it.”
That said, Wayne threw open the door and stepped out.
His frown immediately deepened. “Zoe,” he said to the little girl wringing her hands, “where is Serena?”
The little girl spun to face him, taking a step towards him as she moved. Her step turned into a stumble as she retreated backwards upon seeing Sarah.
Watching his sister out of the corner of his eye, Wayne was pleased to note a hurt expression cross her face. Pleased because it wasn’t hunger or malice.
“She won’t hurt you,” Wayne said as he put on his kindest smile. “This is my sister, Sarah.”
Something–probably my smile–made Zoe take another step back.
“This is a survivor we found,” Wayne said for his sister’s sake.
“‘We?’ You dragged someone else into this?”
“A vampire that wisely decided against trying to kill me. Mostly.”
“Well, she started out attacking me…” Wayne shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Where did she go, Zoe?”
“Something smelled good. Serena went to find out what.”
“Something?” Wayne sniffed, but couldn’t smell much of anything behind his mask.
“I smell it too,” Sarah said after taking a few breaths of her own. A dazed look clouded her eyes. “Blood. Fresh and warm. Lots of it too. More than a single person for sure.”
Wayne grit his teeth together. She just ate two people plus some of my blood. How gluttonous is that girl? “Whatever,” he said. “I told her to stay here. We don’t have time to go rescue her from an Elysium Order trap.”
Both of Zoe’s hands clasped around her mask. “It’s a trap?” she said with a gasp.
“That or a big fight going on. Either way, not something we want to get into.”
“But,” Sarah said, taking an unsteady step forwards, “but I need–”
Wayne clamped a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Sister or not, if I have to break your legs to get us out–”
Not having turned on his mental acceleration, Wayne didn’t have time to react. His sister wrenched out of his grip. An elbow found its way into the pit of his stomach.
Collapsing to his knees, Wayne tried to regain control over his breathing.
Zoe screamed as Sarah charged into a full sprint. Luckily for the girl, Sarah, and Wayne’s conscience, Sarah completely ignored Zoe in her rush to the door.
Vampire out of the way, Zoe walked up to Wayne.
“Definitely a trap,” he groaned out. “Both ate recently. I don’t believe that Sarah would go into a frenzy just because of a little blood.”
“You’re going to save Serena, right?”
Wayne rolled his eyes. Using Zoe’s shoulder to steady himself, he pushed himself back to his feet, rubbing his stomach as he went. “If she’s still kicking.”
Putting a hand on Zoe’s head, Wayne considered telling her to stay where she was. With the front door gone, the house wasn’t as safe as could be. He decided to keep her at his side in the end.
“Let’s go see if we can’t find a couple of vampires.”
Finding their wayward vampires turned out to be much simpler than expected. Zoe helpfully noted in which direction both Serena and Sarah had taken off running. From there, it was a simple matter of walking in a straight line.
The music helped as well.
Classical hymns blaring over half the town only reinforced the feeling that this was a trap. The music would attract what the smell of blood did not; thralls, ghouls, and possibly humans.
It certainly gathered a number of thralls and ghouls.
Smoke obscured most of his view, but what he could see spoke wonders. Humans stood around the edges of the park, all looking in, all watching. A ghoul would occasionally slip through and shamble towards the center. They didn’t last long, usually winding up torn apart in seconds.
A wide vat filled to the brim with thick red liquid sat in the center of Washington Park. Lights had been set up all around it alongside speakers and fans. The fans served to push around the soot-filled air more than clear it, but they did clear it enough to offer a slightly better view. Wayne had a feeling that they were to spread the scent around the city more than any sort of environmental control.
And they performed that task admirably.
At least ten vampires swarmed around the vat. Rather than drink from it, they were too busy fighting their competition.
Probably intentional, Wayne mused from his position atop the park’s tallest slide. He didn’t know of any way to poison a vampire, so whipping them up into a frenzy and having them fight each other was a decent way to cull the group to manageable levels. Then again, if anyone could find a way to poison a vampire, it would be the Elysium Order.
The plan would probably be more effective at night. More vampires would be awake and therefore there would be greater chaos around the vat. But daytime was safer for regular humans. Gathering all the vampires, thralls, and what-have-you to specific points gave the Order free rein to do as they please. If Wayne didn’t miss his guess, this would be the time when the nuns would perform their token check for any regular humans.
Which meant that the end of the city was drawing near.
Needless to say, he was beyond pleased that they had actually decided to check for humans. That gave him the time he needed to get everyone out of the city. Unfortunately, everyone currently included at least one of the vampires involved in the brawl near the vat.
Sarah, being a trained earth mage, was wiping the floor with her opponents. Literally, in some cases. She carried no focus but was just as effective at manipulating earth as she had been in life–which was to say: terrible. Still, it was a distinct advantage over the other vampires.
And it did confirm Wayne’s suspicions that vampires were entirely capable of thaumaturgy. Serena ought to be happy about that.
If she survived.
Thanks to her little invisibility trick, Serena was performing quite well. She would blink out of sight before appearing on the back of an attacker.
Wayne didn’t know what effects a vampire drinking vampire blood would cause, but he expected that he would be finding out shortly. So long as she survived.
Thus far, the two had remained on opposite sides of the vat from one another. They weren’t working together. Luck had kept them apart so far.
Testing who was stronger between the mediocre earth vampire-mage and the invisible vampire was not a current desire of his.
Wayne stood, cracking his neck side to side.
He’d just have to get them to stop.
“Nice mask. Yours go crazy too?”
Keeping a firm hand on Zoe’s shoulder, Wayne glanced to his side.
One of the thralls had the gall to walk up to him. A scrawny type with wide-rimmed glasses.
“No.” And that was it. Nothing more needed to be said. Wayne didn’t know how the kid came to be a thrall. Probably another sob story; not a thing Wayne cared to hear about. He already had enough sob stories on his hands between Zoe and Serena.
Zoe pressed close to him, holding on to the hem of his suit jacket. “What are you going to do?”
“We,” Wayne said, uncaring as to whether the thrall heard him, “are going to destroy all that blood. It was set out by vampire hunters and I’m not interested in sticking around for their trap.
“You are going to stay right by my side.” Wayne wasn’t about to trust the thralls not to kidnap the kid. “If I say jump or duck or run, you are going to jump or duck or run. No complaints. No hesitation. Understand?”
The kid nodded.
Wayne was fairly certain that this was the point where someone else would give her a confidence boosting ruffle of her hair. Wayne wasn’t someone else. He was Wayne Lurcher. Affectionate displays were far beyond him.
Besides, she had a mask of her own over her head.
“A trap?” The thrall moved closer. “Do you need help? I’m sure some of the others–”
Wayne silenced him by igniting a fireball. “And you can leave. You’ll wind up as nothing more than mince-meat if you come with me.” Wayne wasn’t about to trust the thrall anyway. It was too beholden to his vampire. If, even in the midst of their frenzy, his vampire shouted out some order or another, Wayne held no doubt that the thrall would die to carry the order through.
The thrall backed away, not taking his eyes off the fireball in Wayne’s hand.
After ensuring that the kid was keeping up with his movements, Wayne started wading out into the center of the park. For several steps, none of the vampires so much as glanced in his direction.
Twenty-five feet from the vat, something changed. Two vampires broke off their fight with each other and charged at him.
Slowing his perception of time to a crawl, Wayne had all the time in the world to step to one side, keeping Zoe with him. He nudged the closer of the two ever so slightly as the vampire ran to his side.
Amazing how a slight redirection of momentum can send a vampire crashing into another one.
With both vampires on the ground, shoving and struggling to disentangle their limbs from one another, Wayne was free to burn another prepared page.
A column of fire erupted around the two like a miniature volcano. It lasted only a few seconds, but by the time Wayne extinguished the flames, nothing but ashes remained. Ashes that the fans kicked up into more dust to fill the air.
Wayne took an instant to appreciate his mask. Breathing in vampire remains couldn’t be good for his health.
He felt a slight tremor at his side. Zoe had started shaking. Reaching a fireball-less hand down to her shoulder, Wayne gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Don’t worry. Vampires of this caliber are not a threat.”
Unfortunately, more vampires were taking note of his presence. Three-way fights were harder to break away from, to Wayne’s great relief. Day old vampires might not be troublesome, but he wasn’t immune to being overwhelmed.
Wayne started forward again, increasing his speed even with Zoe hanging off of his clothes.
It would have been simple to launch a fireball from afar. Multiple fireballs, even. That ran the risk of destroying the vat and spilling the blood. Not something Wayne wanted. It would be much harder to destroy spread around the park.
Burning two pages, Wayne created walls of flames extending out and around the vat. It was a long shot, but he was hoping that the vampires would maintain some semblance of sanity and stay away from the fire.
Pushing Zoe into the fastest run her tiny legs could manage, they reached the vat.
A vampire burst through the firewall to his side. So much for that idea, Wayne thought with a groan. At least the vampire wasn’t Sarah.
It was, however, on fire. Wayne didn’t need to spend much effort in fanning the flames. Soon enough, the woman was a pile of ash.
Not wasting any more time, Wayne tossed a fireball up onto the center of the vat. As it flew, he burned another page.
Flames exploded outwards, doubling, growing, and heating. By the time the ball reached the top of the vat, he had a miniature sun bearing down on the liquid.
Foul and vile scents penetrated his mask as the blood vaporized under the heat. Zoe audibly gagged, though managed to hold down her lunch.
Then again, who knew when the kid last ate. She might not have anything to throw up.
“Come on,” Wayne said, breathing solely through his mouth, “we should back away until they calm–”
Wayne stumbled forward. His foot got caught in the ground as the earth lost solidity. He sunk into the ground up to his ankles before the dirt hardened.
A figure emerged from the flames. Trails of hot magic licked her clothes as she moved through.
Wayne immediately extinguished the fire. Vampires regenerated from just about anything, but fire damage took the longest by far.
While Sarah would probably forgive him even if the scars lasted a century, it wasn’t a chance he was willing to take.
Sarah opened her mouth in a scream. Her twin fangs protruded from her teeth, dripping with ichor. With blood-addled eyes, Sarah charged.
Unable to move his feet, Wayne was forced to hold his ground. He swung his heavy tome, making contact with her outstretched arm. Something snapped as her elbow bent the wrong way.
Not letting his sympathy get the better of him, Wayne followed through with an elbow-strike to her ribcage.
Again, something snapped.
Pain shot up Wayne’s arm. He accelerated his mental process to the max to take a good ten minutes worth of time just to scream internally.
His arm was broken. No doubt about that.
The only consolation was that he was fairly certain something snapped inside her as well. It wasn’t so much her durability that snapped his arm, it was her sheer speed that broke both their bones.
Working through the pain, Wayne brought his raised tome down on Sarah’s head. She crashed into the ground, face smearing into the dirt.
Wayne was a fire mage. Through and through. He had never cared about dalliances of air magic or the complexities of earth magic, and water magic was sealed away from him due to his affinity for fire. That didn’t mean he hadn’t learned anything from school or his sister.
Using the little earth magic he knew, Wayne freed himself and Zoe–who was in the midst of screaming–from the ground.
Sarah was in the middle of using her arms to push herself up. One arm, mostly. The other didn’t look like it would support much weight anytime soon.
Wayne directed a portion of magic over to his wayward sister. Her arm sank into the ground up to her shoulder.
His sister, though a terrible mage in general, still surpassed him in earth magics. She immediately started to counteract his manipulation of the ground under her arm. In her blood-addled state, she wasn’t that great at it.
“Sarah,” Wayne said, his voice as deep and as authoritative as he could make it. “I am your brother. Wayne. Calm yourself. Do you hear me? You must stop fighting me.”
He could see movement in his peripheral vision. Nothing had burst through his walls of flame since his sister, so their blood-lust may be subsiding. Or they were still too busy fighting each other.
“Sarah,” he said again. “Please.”
His sister’s struggling ceased. She lay flat against the ground with her face in the grass.
Wayne took a step closer. “Sarah?”
Blinking, Wayne shook his head. “I don’t give a damn about your sorrys.” He released his hold on her arm. “Get up and move. We don’t have time to muck about.”
Only when she finally started to move did Wayne start to feel the second coming of his arm’s pain. He knelt down, gritting his teeth, and tossed his backpack on the ground.
“Could you do me a favor,” he said to Zoe. “Find me a vial of milk-white liquid.”
At the younger girl’s staunch nod, Wayne moved up to his sister.
Before he could say a word, she spoke first. “Are you hurt?”
“Broken bone. Not a bad break at that. I have potions.”
“Of course you do.”
“You’re injured worse.” Wayne said, gesturing at her backwards-facing elbow. “And I’m hesitant to try potions on you.”
“Vampires heal right?”
A voice at his elbow sent Wayne jumping to one side.
“They do,” Serena said as she faded into sight. “There are plenty of thralls that just lost their master if you want a little boost to your regeneration.”
Sarah clutched at her side as she stood. A slightly disgusted look crossed her face. “I think I’ll pass.”
Wayne started to smile at her resolve. That smile disappeared as he watched her shamble forwards a step. “Reconsider,” he said to Sarah. “We need to be in top shape to escape.”
“Besides,” Serena said, “I’m not planning on taking on any thralls. Worthless beings that can’t think beyond their next hit. And if you’re not planning on taking any under your wing, then they aren’t coming with us. I don’t rate their chance of survival very high.”
Wayne narrowed his eyes at Serena, but slowly nodded his head in agreement.
Zoe chose that moment to run up to him, holding a vial in one hand and a backpack in the other.
Breaking the seal on his mask, Wayne downed the potion in a single gulp. The acidic taste left over in his mouth caused an involuntary shudder to wrack his body. Pain in his arm flared up almost immediately as the bone reset itself and started mending.
It would still be a few hours before he could use his arm. A few more before he should use his arm. But it paid to get the process started as soon as possible.
“Thanks kid,” he said, giving Zoe an awkward pat on her head.
While she had his bag open, Wayne reached in and pulled out his last two masks. “I don’t know if these will help against any more traps, but they won’t hurt anything. Put them on,” he said, holding them out to the two vampires.
Making some noise that Wayne assumed most teenagers made when excited, Serena accepted immediately. She slipped it on and proceeded to breathe as loudly as she could.
Sarah took the mask, but only held onto it. At his questioning look, she bared her teeth without smiling.
“Right,” Wayne said, understanding. “You hold off for a few minutes.”
With that, Wayne extinguished the flames around them.
Five vampires–not counting Serena and Sarah–stood around with an accompaniment of thralls. All looked like they had been waiting for him.
None looked to be in a fighting mood. Several were wobbling on their feet with droopy eyes–Sarah included. Many were injured to some degree.
Wayne kept his pages charged and ready as he looked over the crowd just in case.
When they failed to part and allow his passage, Wayne cleared his throat. “Vampires. This,” he thumbed over his shoulder at the vat–or where the vat had been before his sun atomized it, “was a trap set by those who hunt your kind. If you stay within the city, you will die. Again. Permanently.”
One stepped forward. “How are we supposed–”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. Move at once or I will end you now.”
“Come now,” an older vampire said. She drew a sharp fingernail across her wrist. Blood dripped out, landing on the ground.
The thrall standing behind her leapt forward, tongue out. He buried his face in the grass and licked. Several of the other bystander thralls looked ready to join in.
Though he knew it was hidden by his mask, Wayne drew back his lips in disgust.
“Surely you want to serve a real master,” the vampire said, having continued to speak even as her thrall made a fool of himself. “I can provide so much more than that flat–”
Wayne had heard enough. Burning a page, Wayne replaced the vampire and her thrall with fire.
The screams filling the air caused Wayne to wince. The vampire had turned to dust in an instant, but her thrall was still mostly human. There would be a charred carcass left over.
He hadn’t even considered Zoe before igniting the two. Looking down, he was pleased to find Serena pressing her hands over Zoe’s ears while pressing the kid’s face into her chest.
Wayne gave a curt nod of thanks to the vampire.
He could tell that she was smiling even behind her mask.
“Anyone else have something to say?” Wayne called out as the thrall’s scream died off.
The remaining vampires cleared away in a flash, leaving behind a scattered group of masterless thralls looking somewhat dazed.
Whipping his head back to his side. Serena–Zoe still pressed against her–moved right up against Wayne. She looped one arm around his, eliciting a small grunt of pain.
“I don’t want you to be my thrall,” she said with a slight husk in her voice, “but maybe something else?”
“Too young for me, kid.” Wayne said. He almost smiled at the pout visible behind her mask.
“Buut,” she said, drawing out the word, “I’m going to be sixteen forever. I’ll always be too young.”
This time, he actually did smile. Glancing at Sarah to hide it, Wayne gave his sister a slight nod of his head followed by a nod towards the thralls.
She sighed, but took off running without complaint.
Which suited him just fine. He wasn’t too interested in saying anything aloud with Zoe around. Though she probably heard anyway, he considered, she had only been a few steps away when Serena had initially mentioned it.
Shaking his head, Wayne turned back to the kids. Mirth over the previous conversation gone, he narrowed his eyes at the vampire.
“Sarah will return in a minute or two. We will leave as soon as she does. But first,” he slowed his perception of time and ignited a small fireball, “I want to know exactly who I am traveling with.”
To his surprise, she didn’t balk away or grow hostile. Serena leaned into him more than before, smile visible beneath her mask.
“You saved me from the Elysium Order’s trap so I’ll give you a little hint. I’m a few years older than I look.”