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OKAY, SO THIS IS THE ONLY FANFICTION I WILL ACTUALLY CONTINUE. AS FOR THE OTHER FANFICTIONS, I'M NOT QUITE SURE, I'LLhAVE TO SEE AFTER I FINISH THIS ONE. I WILL BE UPDATING THIS EVERY 3-4 DAYS! JUST SO YOU KNOW, I HAVE WRITTEN A FEW CHAPTERS AHEAD OF WHAT IHAVE RELEASED BUT AM RELEASING THE CONTENT EVERY FEW DAYS TO LET YOU GUYS WAIT IN SUSPENSE!

THIS STORY TAKES PLACE CENTURIES AFTER SOPHIE FOSTER TOOK DOWN THE NEVERSEEN, AND DOES NOT FEATURE ANY CANON CHARACTER, ONLY MENTIONS THEM. SOME CHARACTERS ARE RELATED TO THE FOSTERS/VACKERS AND OTHER FAMILIES BECAUSE OF HERITAGE.

ENJOY!

Gateway

Synopsis

Isabella Foster is a direct descendant of Sophie Foster and attends Foxfire. Besides some extraordinary talents, she never thought she was all that special of a person, and to all the world, she was just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. But soon she realizes that she is the only key to power for a certain powerful being that needs her for his plan to succeed. Will she do his bidding, or will she try to resist because of what she knows he is...because of the monster inside of him. All this conflict starts, just because of a Gateway.

Chapter 1

HE STOOD THERE, IN FRONT OF THE TALL METAL DOORS. Ice frosted over the doors he was looking at. His dark cold shadow was eminent in the light of the fire. He looked behind himself, to see a round room with an alter in the middle, fire burning on it.

The doors of the round room swung open and a lady with long wavy auburn hair and bronze eyes, a long dark blue dress on.

“You’re late,” he said with a grimace.

“I know,” she said in a soft voice. She strode over to him, and they shared a look. “So, it’s true. What’s in there.”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “Imagine having it in our hands. We’d be the strongest beings in the world.”

“But remember, who created this vault,” she said with caution. “It must have all kinds of curses and enchantments on it. It’s nearly impossible to get into. Even for us.”

“Even opening the door to the chamber will be difficult,” he agreed. “But I know how we must do this.”

“Have you seen it? In a vision?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.

He nodded. “Only this person will be able to open the vault, and enter the chamber.”

“Are they like us?” she asked.

“No one is truly like us, sister,” he said. “You know that. But she is Elven.”

“An elf? You think we can trust one of them again?” she asked.

“This is our only chance,” he said. “Our only chance is a teenage Elven girl—Isabella Foster.”

Chapter 2

MY PEN DROPPED FROM MY HAND AND CLATTERED TO THE CRYSTAL FLOOR. I heard it fall, and the sound echoed through my head as frustration surged through me.

I was supposed to be writing a song, but I couldn’t find any inspiration anywhere. A whole day of brainstorming, and still nothing. I crumpled up my paper and threw it against the wall of my room. I walked out the door and down the stairs.

My brother, Sandor, was downstairs throwing a Bramble ball up and down in his hands. He was much taller than me and two years older than me, which he always loved to boast about. Sandor had black hair that he always spiked straight up, with the same turquoise eyes I had. He was lean and had pale skin with a trademark smirk and movie-worthy grin that made all the girls at Foxfire practically faint.

Then there was me. I had turquoise eyes as well, with pale skin and wavy black hair that came down a little past my shoulders. I never really tried to make myself look pretty, but couldn’t help myself from putting on makeup occasionally, since my family had so much.

My parents worked for the Nobility and were both very important. We’d be popular anyway, because, after all, we are direct descendants of Sophie Foster.

“Finally finished that song, Bella?” Sandor asked, his eyes not losing focus on the Bramble ball. One day Sandor hoped to join a tournament to play Bramble.

“No, I need some inspiration,” I answered. “I’m going shopping at Eastside Mall? Care to join me?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Sure, I’ll come with you.”

I put on some more formal clothes than my pajamas (hey, pajamas are very good inspiration clothes when writing a song, believe me) and we set off to Atlantis to go to the mall.

As we walked down the crowded streets, approaching the mall, I heard something. A whisper.

Bella. Bella.

I turned to Sandor. “Yeah?” I asked.

“What?” Sandor said, confused.

“You were whispering things…” I said, confused, hoping my brother was just trying to prank me, like usual.

Now Sandor looked worried. “I didn’t whisper anything, Bella. Are you sure you’re alright?”

I looked ahead. “I’m fine,” I insisted, and we continued walking.

Later, when we went to walk into the mall, someone was leaning against the mall outside. He was tall, probably an adult, with a large trench-coat on and high boots, with pale skin, messy dirty blond hair and beady red eyes. RED. Not blue, red. And they were glowing. And he was staring right at me. Then the whisper started again. Bella. Bella.

          I turned around to Sandor, looking to see if he saw the guy, but he was clearly more focused on the Bramble supplies on display in the windows. He looked at me. “Ready to do some shopping?”

I nodded. I was going to confront the guy first, but when I turned to see, there was just a plain crystal wall there.

The man was gone.

Chapter 3 (Pt. 1)

WE WALKED OUT OF THE MALL LATER THAT DAY, ARMS FULL OF BAGS FILLED WITH THE MANY THINGS WE HAD GOTTEN WHILE INSIDE THE MANY SHOPS. I didn’t see the strange man or hear the whispers on our way home, so I guessed I must’ve been imaging things.

We entered the house and I plopped down on the couch, needing some time to relax. Moments later, I heard the sound of racing feet upstairs and seconds after I had leaped to my feet I saw my pet imp running down the stairs.

Ugh. The smart imp must’ve somehow found a way to get out of his cage. Again. And this imp was very hard to catch—very mischievous, too. Last time he escaped I had to spend nearly an hour chasing it around the house and outside, and it broke like 5 vases.

But the imp paused and looked up at me, it didn’t run, so I picked it up while I could and ran upstairs. I walked across the long hall and finally found the door to my room. I opened it and looked for the light switch. It was so dark in my room. I turned on the lights, and it was so blinding the imp jumped from my hands while it took the chance and scampered away outside.

“Stupid rodent,” I cursed, glaring at the grinning imp at the top of the stairs. No doubt it would run around the house, destroying all of Mom’s favorite things, just to get her in trouble. But I didn’t worry myself with it.

I walked over. The blinds were open, and the windows were, too. The imp must’ve opened them when he got out. The cage was on the floor, as if the imp had scooted the cage to the very end of the desk until it fell. I still didn’t know how the cage had been opened. I looked at the ajar cage door. The tiny lock was broken, on the floor. I sighed. If only I had known this would happen earlier, I would’ve gotten a new cage at the mall.

I set down my bags on my bed and started filing through all my new clothes, school supplies, trinkets, and sweets. I popped a custard burst in my mouth. It was good, but not nearly as good as my grandmother made.

I started looking at some of the dresses, and capes, and shoes I got when heard a crumple of paper. I moved over. I had been sitting ona piece of paper, how silly of me. I thought it was a school paper so put it on my desk but when I took a closer look I realized it had nothing to do with school. I snatched it and read the handwriting:

We need to talk. Meet me at the Four Seasons Tree tonight. Do NOT keep me waiting.

—HV

Chapter 3 (Pt. 2)

I ARRIVED AT SCHOOL THE NEXT MORNING. My best friend, Ellie, was waiting for me in the atrium. She was a little taller than me with tan skin and dark blue eyes, a wide smile on her face. She also had large square glasses and long black hair with streaks of purple, blue, and red in it.

“Hey Bella!” Ellie said.

“Hi El,” I said with a small smile. “It’s my least favorite class to start the day off.”

“Aw, don’t get too bummed out, it’s just PE,” Ellie said.

I was pretty bad at PE. Let me rephrase that: I’m horrible at it.  I turned and spotted Connor Sylince. He had a football player build, and was tall with teal eyes and short blond hair and a smile that made my heart flutter. I didn’t know how long I was there, but it was long enough for Ellie to notice.

“Bella, did you hear me?” Ellie asked, and then realized what I was doing. “Someone has a crush on the Sylince boy…”

“Do not!” I said, turning to her. She smirked. “You have a crush on Dragos.”

“No, that guy is a freak,” Ellie said, her face full of disgust. She probably didn’t, but I needed something to change the subject away from me.

Dragos Vanderthorn was the newest member of our school, he had come this year. He was the strangest kid I had ever met, and he had no friends, and never talked to anyone.

I heard a footstep and turned to see Dragos staring at me. He had white hair that went to his shoulders, with extremely pale skin and dark blue eyes. He was shorter than me. Dragos looked at me, and then looked down when I saw him.

“Come on, we’ll be late!” Ellie said, and rushed me into Orientation and then we entered the PE class.

Lady Astrid, the PE mentor, elegantly strode into the room. “Today we will be practicing outward channeling. Can someone tell me what that is?”

Ellie raised her hand eagerly. She was the Level’s official and certified know-it-all. “Outward channeling is a skill any can learn that with focus, causes destruction to an item, including flesh and bones.”

“Very good, Miss Spencer.” Lady Astrid said with a smile. “I would like you all to try and practice this skill in today’s class. Not all will be successful, but we’ll start off easy.” Lady Astrid got a glass ball and threw it into the air. She levitated it and focused, and the ball exploded into shards of glass. “We’ll start with glass orbs, and the more you destroy, the harder the material will be to destroy. Alright, get your orbs and fan out. It’s time to start practicing!”

I grabbed my orb and walked over to the other side of the field with Ellie. I levitated the glass orb and focused on it, imagining an invisible force bursting in from the center of it and destroying it into shattered glass shards.

I heard a loud splitting noise and thought I had done it. But no, it was Dragos who had done it first. He had a small half-smile on his face as he got his second orb, this one made from wood.

A sudden burst of rage ignited inside me that I didn’t recognize. Hardly paying attention to the orb, it shattered easily.

“Good job, Bella,” Ellie complimented.

I walked by all the struggling students, a small smug look on my face as I too got my second orb. But by the time I was back at my spot, Dragos had almost destroyed his third.

At this rate, I had finished my fifth ball by the end of the lesson. Dragos finished his eleventh.

After PE finished, I decided to confront him. He was walking down the hall toward the atrium and I stopped him. “Hey, how’s it going?”

“Since when are you interested?” Dragos asked. He sounded actually like he was honored I would even think of paying attention to him.

“Since now,” I said with a smile. “Anyway, I was just wondering how you destroyed all those orbs today.”

“So you’re so interested because I’m better than you?” Dragos asked with a small smug grin.

“I suppose you could say that,” I said with a playful smile on my face.

“It’s a mental trick,” Dragos said. “I might teach it to you later.”

Now I had a reason to try and be nice with Dragos. He may be a weirdo, but if he could teach me…maybe it was worth it.

I smiled. “Well, it was nice talking to you.”

He rushed past me without a word, like he was done trying to pretend he could tolerate me. He went into the crowd of bustling kids and disappeared. I turned and started walking when I nearly ran into someone. I looked up. My heart stopped. Connor.

“So, since when do you hang out with him?” Connor asked with a bright smile on his face.

My heart fluttered, and I blushed. “Uh, well, we weren’t really hanging out.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Well, anyway, good luck in your next class.”

“Yeah, you too,” I breathed with an awed face on, my cheeks red.

He smirked and walked down the hall, out of sight.

Ellie met up with me in the atrium before we got ready for lunch. But when I looked in my locker I saw a message on a ripped piece of paper, reading:

You’ve ignored our message. Prepare to feel our wrath.

Chapter 4

THE NEXT WEEK THAT FOLLOWED WAS NOT FUN. I had school, but that wasn’t what was frustrating me. Every day I received a note, and they all said the same thing. Each time whoever gave me the notes got more and more creative, going from putting it in my room to slipping it in my locker and bookbag. One day they even wrote it on my wall, in permanent marker that took FOREVER to wash out using special oils and elixirs. I could tell they were getting impatient, but I had never imagined they would go to these lengths to convince me.

One night, after dinner, we were talking and we suddenly heard a giant BOOM. We ran outside to see our shed, burning and exploded. A paper floated down from the air. The message was clear: I told you to NOT keep me waiting.

          I was angry. I crumpled the paper and threw it into the flames, watching it burn. We were putting it out and had contacted the Nobility, so they could help. But I didn’t wait to see what they did. I ran inside and up to my room. I opened the door to my room and almost screamed.

The same man I had seen in Atlantis was there, staring at me with his beady red eyes.

“We need to talk.”

Chapter 5

I JUMPED BACK, AND PLANNED TO RUN DOWN THE HALL, BUT THE DOOR SLAMMED BEHIND ME BEFORE I COULD EVEN TRY. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Why haven’t you been obeying my notes?” he asked. “That’s what’s more important!”

“You think I’m going to follow a stranger?” I asked. “I didn’t even know if it was a prank or what.”

“Look, I have a job for you, and this…rebellious spirit of yours…it may lead to some trouble,” he said. “And I hope you understand that I will do whatever it takes to get my wishes fulfilled, no matter how difficult it may be for you.”

“What are those wishes, exactly?” I asked.

“I must make you swear you will not tell anyone this,” he said.

“Just one person,” I requested. “Sandor, my brother.”

He shrugged and rolled his eyes. “If that is what it takes to convince you, then yes. Alright, so swear to me you won’t tell anyone besides Sandor under any circumstances.”

“I swear,” I said.

He brought out his hand and I shook and felt an immense pain in my chest as strength drained from me for a second before returning to me. “What did you do?”

“I made it official,” he said. “If you tell anyone, you will die.”

My eyes widened. I believed him. “Ok, tell me.”

“So, at the dawn of time,” he began. “There was a Council, but it was not as orderly as it is today. There was a lot of debate about how our world would be ruled, and how the different intelligent species would coexist and work together. The elves, like always, thought they were better than everyone, so of course, they believed that they should rule over all the species. Two of the Council members realized their compatriot was different from them. So they shut him out, like he was an outcast. They shut him out because he was different, and stronger than them. Because he was like me! Out of rage, he destroyed many of their cities and caused destruction and havoc, murdering people. But he knew they would find him, so he locked up his most powerful weapon in a secret vault no one could get into.” He paused and looked at me slowly. “No one, but you.”

“W-what do you mean?” I asked.

“For some reason, you are the only one with the prized ability to make it past the Gates, to the Chamber, and ultimately, to the legendary weapon the Exiled Councillor hid so many centuries ago,” he said. “At first, I thought you were like me, but no, you are just a regular elf. A strong one, though. Your abilities?”

“Empath and Telepath,” I said proudly.

“I’d like to challenge you, Miss Foster, to read my mind. Don’t worry, I give you permission,” he said.

I tried. I could read anyone’s mind, as far as I knew. But right when I got to the place where I normally entered the mind and its thoughts, a wall pushed me out and I actually flew back and into a wall.

“So you aren’t like me,” he said. “Interesting. I had to check. Sometimes the powers suppress themselves, but not in this case. I must find out what is so special about you.”

I glared at him. “What are you?”

“I am one of the strongest beings there ever was, and I am of superior species to mere elves,” he said. “If you accomplish this task for me, I promise I will tell you.”

“What’s the task?” I asked.

“Deliver this letter to Gilden Eletha. He’s an old friend, and I need him to get some information,” he said.

I took the envelope he handed me. Looked like this would be harder than I had originally envisioned, but I would learn about his secrets, no matter what it took.

Chapter 6

A BIG OBSIDIAN MANSION PERCHED ON TOP OF A HILL, AWAY FROM ALL CIVILZATION. This was the house where I needed to deliver the letter, but it intimidated me.

I slowly walked up to the front door, and reluctantly knocked on the door, half-expecting a monster to come out and whack me all the way down the hill.

But a little girl opened the door. She was probably about as tall as me with pale skin and a few freckles with long scarlet hair that came down a bit past her shoulders. She smiled brightly. “Hello there!”

“Um, hi, I’m Isabella Foster,” I introduced. “I came here to deliver some mail to Gilden Eletha. Is this his residence?”

The girl nodded. “He’s my dad,” she explained. “I’m Danielle Eletha, you see. Come on in, I’ll go get him.”

She welcomed me in, and I sat in the big black couch they had in the foyer, a coffee table in front of me with many gourmet snacks and tasty sweets laid out on pristinely clean and styled bowls that had designs that surely hadn’t been made for hundreds of years. To the side of me was a big fireplace, and in front of me was a giant wall made of glass. I could see their giant glorious backyard, and I was sure on a sunnier day it would be amazing, but today was overcast and cloudy. They also had an intricate matrix of staircases that linked up to many top floors that must’ve been way above me.

“Help yourself to any of the snacks, I’ll be right back,” she said.

When she didn’t come back within a few minutes, I reluctantly leaned forward and grabbed a custard burst. Minutes later, a tall gaunt figure walked in.

He was much taller than me, with a lean and skinny build, a pointy chin that made him look even more Elven, with big pointy ears and dark blue eyes, along with slicked back dark black hair. He had pale glossed over skin that almost appeared to have makeup on it. He had a wicked smile, and was actually quite handsome, no matter how old he was biologically.

“Hello,” he said in his interesting accent I couldn’t quite place. It almost sounded like a deep Scottish accent.  “I hear you’ve been looking for me, Miss Foster. I am Gilden Eletha. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Hi,” I said. “I’m supposed to give this to you. It’s from an old friend.”

This was when I realized what his pointed ears meant. That Gilden was an ancient. Which meant the man that had slipped me the notes was nearly that old as well. Which also puzzled me, because if Gilden was thousands of years old, how did his daughter look my age? So many thoughts wandered through my head.

Gilden put his hand on his head quickly and then took it off, as if he shouldn’t have done that, shouldn’t have let me notice. He took the envelope and opened the letter. Gilden’s eyebrows shot up.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Nothing to concern yourself with,” Gilden said.

“Then at least tell me one thing,” I said, pleading. “What’s your friend’s name? The man who sent you this letter?”

“His last name is not something for me to share, but his first I suppose would be fine,” Gilden said. “His first name is Howard.”

Howard. It wasn’t the most elfish name ever, but I supposed it was nice nonetheless.

I stood up.

“Why are you standing?” Gilden asked.

“I think I should be leaving now,” I explained. “I was supposed to deliver this letter, and I did, so…”

“Oh, you won’t be leaving for a very long time,” Gilden said. His eyes flashed red and then back to a dark shade of blue. He walked toward me. I now noticed the long black cane with a small sphere of moonstone.

I walked toward the door. I put my hands on the handle to open it, but Gilden put his hand on top of mine. I could feel gears turning inside the handle, and when I tried to open it, it was locked.

“Uh, please, tell me…what’s going on?” I asked, freaked out.

“You’ll find out soon,” Gilden said. His eyes flashed red again and he grabbed my wrist. I started breathing quickly. Was this some staged kidnapping? Was Howard trying to trick me by sending me here?

Out of instinct, I punched Gilden in the face, which gave me long enough of a distraction, so I could pull away and run down the hall. Danielle ran after me, but not in a menacing manner. I couldn’t find my way around and ended up in an empty bedroom. Danielle came in. She shut the door behind her and stared into my eyes for a few seconds.

“What the heck is going on?” I asked.

“Okay, let me explain,” Danielle said. “Gilden, well, he’s been away from regular elves for a while. He’s just a little excited to see you and wishes you would stay longer. See, he’s got some mental diseases, they make him act out like this.”

“That’s not it,” I said blankly. “As good as a planned excuse as that is, it’s not true. I can see it in your eyes.”

Danielle took a step toward me, and then another. Her eyes flashed red.

“Please…” I pleaded. “Tell me the truth.”

“You don’t have time,” Danielle said, changing her attention to the bedroom door. “They know. You have to leave. Now.”

I heard a door open, and people speaking in hushed tones. “Where…” I began.

I didn’t need an answer. I opened the window and jumped through it. Because of my ungracefulness, I landed on my side and tumbled down part of the hill, scraping my arm on a rock. The hill went down to the shore of the ocean, and I was about to tumble down there. I felt a surge of energy rush through me as someone pushed me upright and I stood. I looked to see who it was, and my eyes must’ve been failing me, because who was standing in front of me was…

Dragos.

Chapter 7

“ARE YOU OKAY?” DRAGOS ASKED. His eyes looked directly into mine. They sparkled with a mix of dark blue and teal. He took my hand and pulled me up.

I took a sharp inhale. He touched my hand. I looked at him, and slowly retracted my hand from his. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”

“And the cut? Is it bad?” Dragos asked.

“I never told you I had a cut,” I said.

“There happens to be blood dripping down your arm,” Dragos said slowly.

“Oh,” I said, and looked at my bleeding arm. Truthfully, it stung rather bad from the cut, but I hid that from my face.

“Give me your hand, I can help,” Dragos said.

Reluctantly, I extended my hand and placed it in his palm. It was ice cold. I hadn’t noticed before because of the shock. It almost hurt how cold it was—my fingers became numb. He looked at the blood dripping onto the ground. He put a finger on my wrist, and I flinched. He took his finger off and examined the blood, as if it could tell him something. He looked up into my eyes.

“It’s just a simple cut, a balm will heal it, but I could—” Dragos began, taking his hand and lifting it above my cut, but before he could do anything, he got pushed away a few feet from me. I retracted my hand, lucky to be in the warmth once again. I looked at who had pushed him. Sandor.

“What are you doing to my sister?” Sandor asked.

“Trying to help,” Dragos muttered spitefully. The blood on his finger was still there, and I wondered when he would wipe it off.

“Well you’re not,” Sandor said.

“He did save me,” I said. “I was going to tumble into the ocean.”

Sandor turned to Dragos and Dragos looked at Sandor hopefully, but Sandor just scowled and turned away.

“We’re going home,” Sandor said, and turned, his cape billowing behind him.  “Come on, Bella.”

I followed, not looking back at Dragos. When I turned back minutes later, he was gone from sight.

“What were you thinking?” Sandor asked angrily.

“Sandor, I have something to tell you, it’ll explain everything, I promise,” I said.

I turned to him, looking into his eyes, and forced my memories out: the man I had seen in Atlantis, the man coming to my room, and the encounter with Gilden and Danielle. When I was finished, Sandor almost fell back. “Woah.”

“Weird, huh?” I said.

“I think it’s best we’re leaving tomorrow,” Sandor said.

“Leaving?” I asked.

“Mom and Dad thought it would be best to get some family bonding, since we’re growing up and haven’t been able to talk and have some quality time together for a while,” Sandor explained.

“This isn’t a good time,” I said. I still needed to figure this out. “Ugh, where are we going anyway?”

“It’s a surprise.” He said with a smirk and I knew what we were doing. It was Mom and Dad’s favorite trip, and they loved to take it once every other month.

“Ugh,” I said. “Camping.”

Chapter 8

NOW, CAMPING ELVEN-STYLE MAY WORK A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN HUMAN CAMPING, BUT IT’S STILL EQUALLY PAINFUL, I IMAGINE. I mean, traditionally, we have to sleep in tents. Like, in the wild. I mean, we’re civilized human beings, shouldn’t we at least have a nice furnished cabin? But alas, no matter how many times I tried to convince my mom to bring the family yacht, so we could just sleep on the lake, we ended up sleeping in tents.

My parents were smiling and sitting around the colorful Elven Aurenflare. I still had no idea what kept humans from seeing us. My parents liked camping so much that they asked for permission from the Council to have a campsite in the Forbidden Cities, since there weren’t any in the Lost Cities.

I couldn’t sleep that night. It was bad enough I was practically sleeping on the ground, but it didn’t help with everything that was going on. After a few hours of sleep deprivation, I heard a whisper.

“Bella,” it said. I recognized the voice and sat upright.

“Yeah?” I asked. I was being stalked officially now. “Howard, what are you doing outside my tent?”

“I had to check on you after what happened at the Eletha house,” Howard said.

“Well it wasn’t good,” I said. “Gilden almost killed me!”

“Sorry, he gets obsessive,” Howard explained. “He’s been away from elves like you for so long…he hardly ever leaves the house.”

“So he’s one too?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Howard asked.

“You talk about him like he’s part of your kind, whatever they are. Danielle is one, too? You all have red eyes,” I said. “And you promised you’d tell me.”

“I know, but it’s a lot of explaining,” Howard said. “And we couldn’t let you remain in your current state for long.”

I got up and opened the tent door.

“No, don’t come out here—” Howard began. “Too late.”

I looked at him. His face was as pale as ever, but his eyes glowed red in the darkness, almost like red flashlights shining in the night, slicing through the abyss of uncertainty and fog and making it clear.

“What are you?” I asked.

“The Councillor—the man like me,” Howard said. “Is my father. I am Howard Salazar Vasklov, King of my species. My sister, Rosalie, is the Assistant Monarch. Gilden is my best friend, the Duke of our species, his wife the Duchess and their daughter Danielle the Duchess-to-be.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “The reason Gilden attacked you is because the blood that runs through these veins is something craved by our kind.” Howard smiled wickedly. “Yes, Bella. We are vampires.”

Chapter 9

I ALMOST SCREAMED. I pulled away from his grasp. “So, you want to kill me?”

“No, it’s not like that,” Howard said. “This is why I said it would be hard to explain. You’re not safe around us.”

“Us? How many others are there?” I asked.

“Well, I am the King,” Howard said. “A King needs a kingdom. Currently we have hundreds, but many live in the Forbidden Cities.”

“So…how does it work? Do Vampires always want to kill people?” I asked.

“No,” Howard said. “But we do require blood to live. Normally, though, most of us will drink animal blood or drink already prepared blood.” He showed her a flask full of a red liquid. “But we have no problem killing elves or humans for their blood. We can bite them and take their blood, or we can inject our venom and turn them into vampires. We try to stay under the radar of the Council, though.”

I nodded. “Then why do people want to kill me? Like Gilden!” I said, remembering the Ancient who attacked me.

“Well, some people have different ‘blood purities,’” Howard explained. “Sometimes it cannot be explained, but I think it is safe to say that your blood is more attractive to most vampires than other elves because of your powerful heritage.”

So, that made me feel SO much better. Vampires all over the world thought I had attractive blood and wanted to kill me. Reassuring.

“Don’t worry, for as long as watch over you, you are safe from harm,” Howard said. “After all, I am King and I can prosecute as I see fit among my kind.”

“Can vampires die?” I asked.

“They can be killed, like elves, but are mostly immortal,” Howard said.

I caught what he had said earlier. “Watch over me? You’re watching me? How?”

“Us vampires are quite good at not being noticed,” Howard said. “That day you came home from Atlantis, and your imp was loose, was my doing. I had written the note and put it on your bed, but when I heard you come in I knew you would hear my footsteps. Your imp is no where near smart enough to escape that lock on his own, so I opened it for him and threw the cage on the ground to cover it up. Then I opened the blinds and jumped out the window.”

Realization dawned on me. That had been a genius move by him. I stared at Howard.

“So…” I said. “What can vampires do, exactly?”

“There a certain set of skills all vampires can learn. Some are born naturally with them, others must learn them,” Howard explained. “Super speed, super strength, flying, can breathe underwater, telepathy, and an impenetrable mind.  Some vampires even have special Elvin abilities as well.”

I thought about what he had said. If a vampire tried to come kill me, I wouldn’t be able to stop it. It would succeed. And that scared me. If there were so many vampires, why didn’t they just take over the Lost Cities? It didn’t matter if they came out of hiding for that, an army of vampires could easily beat so many elves of the Cities.

“I’ve already said enough, perhaps too much,” Howard said. “But I won’t break the promise I gave you. But I have been here long enough, so I must be off now.”

I was about to object, tell him he needed to stay, but then he disappeared in an instant. Gone.

Chapter 10

AFTER A TOUGH DAY AT SCHOOL, I WALKED DOWN THE GRASSY HILL TOWARD MY HOUSE. With all the new information overloading my mind, there was no way I could do well in classes, so I decided to take a walk so I had longer to think before I had to be around people at my house.

Much to my dismay, I was only five or ten minutes away from Foxfire when I ran into someone. A big buff tan Level 6 with long black dreadlocks. I recognized him from the halls and gossip.

“Marian Typhon,” I muttered. The cruelest bully there was. His two minions stood behind him.

“Hey there,” Marian said, picking me up by my shirt. “Want to have a little fun?”

He threw me against the ground. I rolled over and stood, trying to avoid them getting near me. Marian swung his fist and hit me hard in the jaw. I shot back. Blood trickled down my cheek.

Marian started walking toward me again when he heard a voice.

“Stop,” Dragos said, sitting under a shady dead twisted gnarled tree.

“Make me,” Marian said.

“Easy enough,” Dragos said, standing and walking toward Marian.

Marian went to punch Dragos, but Dragos jumped spinning in the air and grabbing Marian, throwing him at least ten yards, despite Dragos’ small size. Marian stood on the ground, and Dragos met his glare with a beady stare. Marian started writhing in pain on the ground.

Marian’s first minion came at Dragos, and Dragos jumped over him and grabbed him by the shoulders, throwing him behind his back and then made him writhe in pain as well.

The second minion was smarter. They came at Dragos wearily, but Dragos charged at inhuman-like speeds, punching the minion in the air. They shot back several yards, blood gushing from their face.

Dragos turned to me. He walked closer to me.

“How?” I asked. “How did you do that?”

He licked his lips and smirked, his eyes fixed on the blood trickling down my chin.

I gasped, nearly fell back. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“More than that,” Dragos said. “I’m the Prince of the Vampires.”

Chapter 11

DRAGOS CHARGED ME. His fist flew toward my face, but I dodged. I tried walking closer so I could get in a punch, but he expertly placed his foot so I could trip. I fell, sliding onto the grass. He got out his fist, but I got up, catching his fist and flipping him over to the other side of me using telekinesis.

Dragos looked at me with respect, getting up. “I didn’t think you’d do that.”

“But…” I began.

“That was a test,” Dragos said. “You passed.”

“So you’re…” I began once again.

“The Prince of Vampires,” he said, quite proud.

“But that means…” I said.  

“That Howard is my father,” Dragos finished. “Yes, you’re correct.”

“But why do you have a different last name?” I asked.

“Let me show you something—the reason my father hates elves,” Dragos said, and I followed him down the hill. Dragos walked behind a tree and pulled out a pathfinder. “My father is just my adoptive father, you see, and I’ll show you why.”

I walked into the light, much closer to Dragos than I would have preferred, but as long as I could figure this out it didn’t matter right now.

We appeared in a semi-sunny breezy forest. It was quiet, and there was no one here. Dragos led me through the thick tall trees.

Minutes later, we came out into a clearing. It was a peaceful and beautiful meadow, the sun shining in and reflecting on the green grass like gold.

I saw several multicolored saplings that sparkled in the shade, all different kinds of trees. Then I realized where we were. The Wanderling Woods.

Dragos walked down a path, tall pine trees on either side. He walked into a small shady clearing. In the clearing was a small sapling. It had a black gnarled trunk that extended out more than it did up. Small white shimmering white small lilies were on each branch. There was a singular thick bracelet on the tree, but that was all. There was a bronze plaque beneath the tree. It read:

Dead on the date of December 24th, 1975, Age 18, here lies the Wanderling of Dragos Orion Vanderthorn.

Chapter 12

I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THIS—NOT ONE BIT. How could he have a Wanderling? How could they think he was dead? How did he look so young and yet he died at 18 over 30 years ago?

“Spill,” was all I could say. I sat down on the soft grass, waiting for him to explain.

He sat down next to me, his cold eyes looking right into mine.

“Alright,” Dragos said. “I was a Talentless elf, that likes to cause mischief, but I had social anxiety. I didn’t have any friends. So, it was Christmas Eve, and I went to the Forbidden Cities. I broke the law, but I didn’t care. I was going to have the best night of my life, even if it got me killed by the Council. And it very nearly did. Just not by the Council. By the Neverseen.”

I gasped. This kept getting more and more interesting. I sat there, looking at him as if I was a little kid wanting to hear more of a good fairy tale.

“I was at a giant Christmas party. The best of the best, and I saw one of the members of the Neverseen. I recognized them from a Wanted poster, and they knew I was an elf. I might as well let you see the rest,” Dragos said, grabbing my hand. As soon as he touched me, I could see it. That night.

It was pitch black, and there was ice and snow on the ground. Dragos quickly walked away from a lit house that had music blaring. A hooded figure stood twenty feet behind him, in the light of a streetlight.

The hooded figure started walking quickly, and Dragos looked behind his back. Then Dragos started to run, and then found a hooded figure in front of him. Dragos turned, but saw a car zoom in front of him. Crossing the street would be a risk and would accomplish nothing. He ran at the hooded figure and jumped, but landed wrong and slid across the icy sidewalk, and couldn’t get up. Blood trickled down his leg.

The hooded figures knocked him out, and when he woke up he was in a chair in a dark room.

There was just one hooded figure in the room. Their face was not visible, but they had long red wavy hair that came past their shoulders.

“Tell me where it is,” the hooded figure said.

“What are you talking about?” Dragos asked.

The figure punched Dragos in the jaw, and it was bleeding and probably dislocated. “Yes, you do! The locket!”

“I swear—” Dragos began.

“I don’t want to hear it!” the figure yelled, pushing Dragos out of the chair. Dragos writhed in pain, for probably ten minutes straight.

The vision ended, and I looked at Dragos.

“I was inflicted on, so much, I thought I was dead. I was in so much pain I couldn’t move, was so numb I stopped breathing. And then Howard found me. He saved me, changed me, at the last possible second. I was so close to dying.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s fine,” Dragos said, looking away.

“Hey, I know it hurts—” I began.

“It doesn’t hurt, not anymore,” Dragos said. “After over 30 years of solitude, after 30 years of no help from anyone, I finally learned how to cope with it. No, it’s not fear anymore. All that’s left is anger. And bloodlust. I don’t think you know how this feels!”

“I don’t,” I agreed, looking down at the ground. “So, you said you could teach me that mental trick?”

“No, I can’t,” Dragos said. “It’s a vampire mental strength thing. There’s no way a normal elf could do that.”

“Then why did you—” I began.

“Connor was staring at me in a bad way, I knew I needed some way to get out of there,” Dragos explained. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I said, though that hurt me a little that he had lied. “What’s your limit for outward channeling?”

“None, that I know of. But the bigger the challenge the more tiring it is,” he explained.

“Oh, Dragos, I was also wondering—” I began.

“So, this is how you spend your free time, is it, Bella?” a voice said.

I looked over. My heart jumped. Sandor was standing against a tree, his expression a scowl.

“Sandor—” I started.

“I already know,” Sandor said. “So, you’re a vampire, huh? Just like your father.”

Dragos stood. “Don’t say a word about my father, or you won’t live to see tomorrow.”

“Guys, calm down,” I insisted, walking in between them. “Sandor, he’s not going to kill me.”

“You don’t know that!” Sandor said.

“Do you have any idea what their kind did to elves back centuries ago?” a familiar nerdy voice said from behind a tree. They walked out. “Yes, Sandor told me. I know about it.”

Ellie.

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