Walking Shadow (The Darkworld Series Book 2)

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© 2014 Emma L. Adams

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ISBN 978-1-62007-642-2 (ebook)
ISBN 978-1-62007-643-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-62007-644-6 (hardcover)

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
John Milton, ‘Paradise Lost’

he moon glared down at us from between the black spires of the cathedral, its cold light giving the gravestones an unearthly glow. I couldn’t help but imagine what Cara, my superstitious best friend, would say if she could see us, sitting by the entrance to the cemetery on a night like this.

“It’s a full moon! You’re just asking for it!”

But despite everything that had happened over the past few months, I still didn’t believe the dead could rise under the light of the full moon and walk amongst the living. Nor was I concerned that any of us were going to transform into hideous monsters at any moment.

Besides, we waited for a vampire, not a werewolf.

I hadn’t believed Leo when he’d first told me that a vampire wanted to meet us in confidence. He’d given me no reason to believe he would lie, but it sounded so outlandish I was convinced he was playing a joke on me.

It was during the first meeting of the new term. Well, we called them “meetings,” even though they were more of a casual gathering of magic-users who, for one reason or other, refused to join with the Venantium, the organisation that policed other sorcerers. Only Leo and I had shown up early, and he’d wasted no time in commandeering the sofa in the Games Room. He lay back with his head over the arm, waiting for the Xbox to load, looking at me upside-down with his dark hair practically vertical. Today his t-shirt proclaimed Armageddon was nigh.

“A vampire wants to meet with us tomorrow night,” he said.

“Uh, what?” I said, looking up from the book on demons I’d just picked up, one of the ones Claudia left lying around. “Is that a joke?”

“Nope, really. There’s a vampire asking for our help.”

“And I have a werewolf on speed-dial.”

He flipped the right way up. “Honestly, Ash, vampires do exist,” he said with all sincerity, though given that he was about to start shooting down a battalion of zombies on an Xbox game, I wasn’t entirely convinced.

“Pull the other one,” I said. “I thought we dealt with demons, not Dracula.”

“Not that kind of vampire,” said Leo. “They don’t drink blood, they drain the life energy out of people.”

“What, just like demons?” I said, sceptically. Demons were, as Claudia put it when she’d first told me, magical parasites that could possess anyone and drain his or her life energy in the blink of an eye. They were spirits, creatures that resembled formless black smoke, apart from their violet eyes. “Or… or human-demons?”

I fought to keep my voice even, to suppress the shiver of hope that began to stir inside me, like a bird awakening from slumber.

“No, nothing like that,” said Leo, killing that metaphorical bird stone dead. “It’s a magical condition, it affects about one in ten magic-users. Basically, they can’t function without magic energy, so they have to take it from others. So a bit like demons, yes. Except they’re fully human. It’s like a genetic thing.”

Told you so
, a voice in my head chided the part of me that dared hope, for a second, there were other people like me out there. Human-demons. Freaks of nature.

“Okay,” I said. “So what does the vampire want to speak to us about?”

“He’s asked us for help,” said Leo, “because seven vampires have been killed in the area in the last month. He wants our protection.”

protection?” This didn’t quite add up with the image I had of vampires in my head. “I thought vampires were crazy-strong and super-fast. Why would he need our help?”

“Vampires aren’t any different from other magic-users,” said Leo. “Except they can’t function without draining someone else’s magical energy. The Venantium have them labelled as monsters, even though most never intentionally harm people. So they generally lead a solitary existence.”

“I can imagine,” I said. “So how are they being killed? I take it they aren’t allergic to sunlight or anything?”

“Nope. You’d think staking them through the heart would be more ironic, but the way they were killed… well, it’s bizarre. All seven of them had their throats cut, but the actual cause of death was from their life energy being drained out of them. Which, as far as I know, can only be done by another vampire. And two of the victims were students.”

“So you think there’s an evil vampire on the loose?” I shivered at the mention of the recent student deaths, which had been all over the news. The Venantium worked hard to cover up any demon-related incident, by any means possible, but I guessed even they wouldn’t be able to hide those gruesome deaths. For smaller incidents, they used Influence―meddling with people’s memories, even removing them entirely. As the organisation responsible for protecting the public from demons, they strived to ensure no non-magic-users ever became aware of it. This was supposedly out of fear demons would take advantage and, I guessed, find a way to manipulate non-sorcerers through the Darkworld. Anyone with a slight awareness of the Darkworld was vulnerable to demon interference―and magic-users, or sorcerers, were most vulnerable of all.

“That’s what the Venantium seem to think. But whatever they might say, vampires aren’t usually a threat to us. I mean, they can be dangerous when in a frenzy, but they can’t help what they are, any more than we can help having a connection to the Darkworld.”

Or than I can help being part demon
, I thought
But I didn’t feel ready to share that yet. Unlike most magic-users, my parents weren’t sorcerers themselves. I was one of the few who developed magical powers―and the ability to see demons―independently. Seeing shadowy, purple-eyed demons everywhere I went had led me to conclude I was losing my mind, and it was only when I’d met Claudia and the others that I’d learned the truth about the Darkworld.

I’d originally decided to come study in Blackstone because it was a demon-free zone, not that I’d known
. It turned out to be because we were right on the doorstep of the Venantium. The Barrier they maintained kept the demons from escaping from the Darkworld into
world. Out of fear of discovery, and my determination to find out why the demons seemed to be interested in me, I’d reluctantly joined up with a small band of magic-users at the university who wanted nothing to do with the Venantium.

But neither I, nor anyone else I knew, could have guessed the reason for my connection to the Darkworld was because I was descended from a higher demon, and I’d vowed never to tell a soul. Who would believe me if I said that the family’s depository of magical energy was currently sitting around my neck in the form of an amethyst pendant, given to me by the woman I’d believed to be my aunt? It had nearly gotten me killed once already, when one of my flatmates, secretly a magic-user, had tried to claim its power and use it to control a demon. But the demon had turned on its summoner, killing him and acknowledging me as its superior.

I knew I was lucky to be alive, as much as I detested the idea of owing my life to a horrible secret I could never tell anyone about. The descendants of the so-called Seven Princes, the higher demons who could apparently take on human form, had been hunted by the Venantium in the past, and I had no intention of finding out whether things had changed. Even the rest of the group had no idea what really happened that night. Only Aunt Eve―whoever she really was―and I knew the full truth.

And I was positive there was more she wasn’t telling me.

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