Jack took up the stance that David had taught him and placed an arrow against the bow. Raising it up, he aimed the arrow over the wall but failed miserably as it bounced off the top of the battlements and spiraled back to the ground. He cursed angrily as David shook his head and lit another arrow for him. “Put some of that vamp strength behind this one Wimpy.”
Jack scowled at him but he leaned back and fired the arrow with a lot more force. This time it cleared the high walls and sailed into the courtyard of the palace. “Back away!” someone shouted as a sudden influx of soldiers lined the walls.
The troops outside the gates fell back as a fresh wave of arrows cascaded down upon them. A ferocious shout rose up from the back. Jack had to strain to see over the sea of heads surrounding him as he turned to look behind him. More soldiers had filtered out from the alleys and homes that weren’t yet on fire within the town.
From the back, his father’s soldiers released a loud battle cry as they charged up the hill. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Jack realized they were pinned in between the soldiers behind, and the soldiers above as more arrows were released upon them.
Braith was moving faster as they accessed another small hallway and the staircase that led to the lowest bowels of the palace, the dungeons. Even as he took the stairs he knew that something was wrong. He knew, before he even saw the ruined door that Aria wasn’t within the dark cells below. A low growl escaped him; his hands trembled as he pulled the heavy metal gate away from where it had fallen across the bottom of the doorway.
A snarl curved his upper lip as he bypassed the steps and leapt into the depths of the dungeons below. The smell hit him first, he had been here before, he had drawn people from here before, but he’d never truly noticed the smell until now. He hadn’t even noticed it on his victims; he’d been too lost in the madness consuming him at the time. It engulfed him now, suffused him with its desolation and dread. Even though he was struck by the harsh scent, beneath it all he could smell Aria’s potent, more delicious scent. She had been here, trapped within this place, ensconced in this awful gloom. This place was everything that her woods weren’t, everything that she wasn’t. The clamoring madness inside him was briefly pushed aside as a lump formed in his throat.
Sharp gasps accompanied his sudden arrival. People scurried like cockroaches from the light to the backs of their cells. He deserved their terror, there may even be some women still within that he had fed from, but he didn’t have time for it.
He stopped before an open cell door, his hand twisted around the metal frame. For a moment he couldn’t move as her scent overwhelmed him. He’d known what they would do to her, the abuse that she would endure, but the strong scent of her blood slapped him in the face with the harsh reality of it. He ripped the door from the wall with a violent wrench that did little to soothe him. He managed to restrain himself from heaving it at the back wall as it fell with a clattering ring at his feet.
She longed to pause to catch her breath, and calm her pulse, but she didn’t dare stop for even a moment. She had a head start on Caleb, but not much of one, and he was much faster than she was.
His freakish humming filled the air as he strolled through the dark halls, relentlessly and unerringly pursuing her. She fell against the wall, wheezing as her legs trembled and shook from exhaustion. She knew she was being louder than normal but she didn’t understand how he managed to stay on her trail so easily.
Lifting her arm to wipe the sweat from her forehead, she froze as a small groan escaped her. Her blood was still seeping from the multiple bites that had been inflicted upon her. Though most of them had stopped bleeding, there were a few of them still open and raw enough to leave a blood trail behind her. She was ringing the dinner bell and Caleb was answering it.