The concept of her newly found immortality is causing Aria to have nightmares where she is a bloodthirsty vampire.
When her son Canasa expresses fears that shadows are watching him during the moon, she is concerned. Canasa also warns her that the shadows are seeking her out, but cannot harm her if she stays away. She asks Jace to go into Canasa’s room to observe as she watches through his mind.
The shadows appear and Aria recognizes them. They are the inhabitants that she dreams of killing in her nightmares. In a panic to protect her son and face off with her demons, she pushes Jace and Canasa from the room and stands steadfast before her tormentors.
In the blink of an eye, Aria finds herself trapped in a white sterile chamber with no foreseeable escape.
Walkey has spent his entire life sealed within the chambers of this castle. His goal in life is to keep Aria happy so that her life energy will strengthen the power of their planet. His body has become acclimated to the environment that Aria needs, and he can no more leave then she can.
As Jace, Laniar and Canasa try to figure out how to save her, Aria is forming a plan of her own. Will Walkey help her, or will she be trapped on Porthin forever?
Aria opened her eyes, frowning as she found herself in total darkness. She put her palms up, feeling the solid surface above her. A feeling of panic rose in Aria’s mind and with a surge of power she pushed upwards. The cover flew into the air, slamming against the side hinges and bouncing loudly before stopping. Jace leaned in to look at her, a small trickle of blood running down from the corner of his mouth.
“Are you purposely trying to break the lid off, or is it my imagination?”
“What?” Aria asked as she sat up, the satin under her palms feeling odd. “Where are we, Jace?”
“Rusan, the second New Earth. It is the only planet with castles. Did you have another bad dream?”
“Why do you have blood on your face?”
“Because, Laniar and I just ate. You didn’t want to get up, so we started without you. There is a nice meaty boy chained up and screaming for your attention.”
“Did he hit you?”
“Of course not. The blood is hers, what a tasty little morsel she was.” Jace pointed across the chamber to a young woman lying on the floor. Her body was vacant of natural tint, the skin opal white as if she had been drained of blood.
“What did you do to her?”
“I fed upon her—what is wrong with you this moon? You know what we are. You know that the changes the energy made in our flesh left us with a thirst for raw blood. We came here because you refused to feed upon the inhabitants of Jasta. Are you all right? Get up—we will morph into something that flies and go soaring in the clouds. That always makes you feel better.”
“Are you trying to tell me that we are vampires?”
“Aren’t they those inhabitants who fear crosses and wooden stakes? Who can’t see themselves in a mirror and can’t be touched by the sun? I remember reading an old book back on New Earth about some such nonsense.”
“That is exactly what they are. They feed upon inhabitant blood and only live during the moon. During the sun, they sleep in coffins.”
“That is not a coffin,” he replied with a cheeky grin. “It is the latest in soundless sleep. You have been complaining of Laniar snoring during the moon. When he gets really loud, you sleep in there. We can go out during the sun and we often do, flying as winged flyers. We try not to associate too much with the inhabitants because of our speech. They have their own language here on Rusan. We have a reflection and I have never seen a cross so I don’t know if they would bother us.”
“Jace, you just killed that girl. We are healers. How can we kill unmercifully?”
“It is not without mercy. Without them, the hunger in our bodies would go unsated. It was warping our minds back on Jasta. We go out and heal on occasion to justify the deaths we cause. The ones we take will not be missed. They are outcasts, and loners with no family. They become royalty, and they spend the best suns of their lives in our care before they decide to move on.”
“Are there are others here waiting to be slaughtered?”
“What is wrong with you?” Laniar asked as he walked over, wiping the blood from his lips. “We each only take one or two a month. We don’t slaughter them, and they are always given the option to leave. They never do, lying gluttonous in the pleasures we offer them. When they disappear no one questions it, because they are not willing to give up their own lives to worry about their co-inhabitants. When we see relationships blooming, we always take the pair or the trio in one moon. The man now waits for you. Are you going to get up and eat?”
“No!” she replied in horror. “I’m not killing anyone. That is horrid.”
“Suit yourself. I will drop him into sleep until you come to your senses. You have become really strange over the last year or so since we came here. You need to go back to Jasta for a while. A few suns of true hunger will change your attitude.”
Jace strolled across the chamber, taking a knife and slicing open the young man’s wrist. The blood drained into a silver goblet and then he sealed the wound, placing it beneath Aria’s nose. She could smell the enticing, acrid scent of the liquid and felt a desire growing in her mind beyond comprehension. Her mouth filled with saliva, her stomach beginning to ache as Jace traced her lips with the salty fluid on his fingers. Aria swallowed, drool dripping down the side of her chin as she tried to fight the internal urge to drink. “Take it!” he said, thrusting the cup at her.
Her throat went dry, the saliva that had been there a moment before gone as she reached up for the goblet. “No, Jace,” she said, trying to stop herself from the act she was about to perform. Against every desire to do so, she grasped the mug and gorged herself on the blood within, the taste like honey upon her tongue. Jace lifted her in his arms, carrying her across the chamber as she began to lick the rim, the flavor irresistible. The young man lay slack against the chain that bound him, his brown eyes imploring her as Jace set her down, handing her the blade. “Drink until death finds him and then stop.”
“That is a vampire rule,” she mumbled as she took the knife, leaning into the flesh as she slit the jugular and began to drink in the nectar. The body went limp, the heart stopping as she sucked him dry. Aria leaned back, her stomach filled with liquid, sloshing as she moved away to stand back and look at the corpse before her. She dropped to her knee, crying as she began to vomit in revulsion.
“Aria!” Laniar screamed, shaking her into reality. She gagged, trying to stop the food rising in her throat from spewing out onto him. Her effort was unsuccessful and he gagged, rolling from the bed as Jace put his hand to Aria’s stomach to calm it.