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Authors: Sophia Sharp

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BOOK: Destined
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is treasonous to our race.”

“Not everything is as black and white as you see it,” Alexander said, and Laura felt Logan tense again.

“We share because of our mutual interests. It seems you placed your cards in our camp a long time ago, regardless. The elders want you. Dead or alive, they want you. And they wil find you, eventual y. They have turned nearly every member of the
Vassiz
after you. It is only a matter of time before you are reached by those loyal to the elders.

“And when that happens, no amount of strength or courage wil save you. So, sharing seemed to me to be a simple proposition. We have both been aided by a mutual friend, and thus our interests seem to align. We told you of the archive simply because we wish to extend you a welcome. Rafael told us there are documents stil contained there of great importance, which need to be read. And considering you have no current destination in mind…?” At a forced nod from Logan, he continued, “…we thought you might want to come with us. To see what these documents are. To find out more about the elders, and their ascent to power. It is a subject shrouded in mystery, but Rafael was convinced there would be…

something… in the archive that would help us see some hidden truth.”

“Wait,” Laura said, suddenly thinking clearly. “If you know where the archive is, why can’t we just go there in the dream world?”

Madison laughed, a clear crystal chime. “You show your youth. We cannot do that, for transient things like paper are not represented there. As wel , we believe there have been certain wards placed around it to prevent entrance through the dream.”

“Wards?”

“That’s right. It is an art long lost, but some of the
Vassiz
in the past have been known to ward their dreams, and locations in the real world, from other dream walkers.”

“You know much,” Logan said slowly, sounding impressed. He shifted his gaze to Laura. “What do you think? We can gain a lot traveling with them.”

“I wouldn’t object,” Laura said. “If they’l have us, I’d welcome their company gladly.”

“So it is decided,” Alexander clapped his hands.

“You wil journey with us north. That is as it shal be.”

He paused, considering. Then his eyes slowly came to meet Laura’s. She felt his gaze on her, felt like he was looking deep into the recesses of her soul. It was discomforting, but she couldn’t look away. “There is… one other matter,” Alexander said slowly, stil locking eyes with Laura. Then he ripped them away, and looked at Logan. “Your companion has not yet fed.”

“She is newborn?” Madison asked. She

sounded scandalized. “No, that wil not do, it is too dangerous. She wil be a risk to bring along.”

“What?” Laura demanded. “Why?” At the same

time Logan said, “I wil not leave without her.”

“If she has not fed,” Madison continued over them, “she wil be unable to control her hunger. It may overtake her at wil .”

“It won’t,” Laura said. “I can control it!”

“Control it?” Madison laughed mockingly. “The memories of my first feeding are stil vivid to me. As they are for Alexander, and for your friend, Logan. The first feeding
changes
you. It is only after your first feast on human blood do you truly become a part of the
Vassiz
. It is what your body wil demand of you. No, you cannot control it, girl. And until you feed, the urges wil overtake you completely.”

“I
can
control it,” Laura said stubbornly. “I did so, less than a week ago.”

“It’s true,” Logan spoke. “A group of game hunters crossed our path. Laura chased after one of them. She
hunted
. But… she pul ed away just before taking his blood.” Logan’s tone turned to one of admiration, and Laura felt warmth spread inside her.

“I cannot imagine the wil power it must have taken her to do so. Newborns are crazy with bloodlust, but Laura… she overcame it, when her prey was most vulnerable.”

“Is this true?” Alexander asked, looking at Laura again.

“Yes,” she nodded, somewhat shyly.

“Alexander? You do not think to bring her along, do you?” Madison sounded appal ed. “She presents a risk we cannot take!”

“Sometimes,” he said cryptical y, “a gamble is al we can place our hopes on.” Then he nodded. “Fine. She wil be al owed to come.”

“What?” Madison’s voice turned indignant with disbelief. “I was fine with them coming before I knew the truth, but I cannot—” she got up, and swung her head angrily. “She wil endanger our entire purpose!”

“If she says she can control it,” Alexander replied,

“I believe her.” His words were hard, as if he was forcing
himself
to believe them.

Madison sniffed angrily. Taking one long, hard glare at Laura, she turned and stalked away. Gray growled in Laura’s lap.

Alexander did not even look in her direction. “Do not mind her,” he said, speaking directly to Laura.

“She does not know what I do.”

“…and what is that, Alexander?” Laura asked cautiously.

“I know that you are a woman of your word,” he answered. “And I know that if you say you can control your hunger, you truly believe you can. But understand the importance of having that control. If you slip but once, if you lose your grip for half a moment, without it being planned on beforehand, the elders wil become aware of our location. And it wil compromise everything.

“I can hold on,” Laura said determinedly. She felt Logan place his hand over hers and squeeze it tight.

Chapter Five

~The Journey Begins~

Laura slept poorly that night. She went to bed feeling bad for being the cause of animosity between Madison and Alexander, and couldn’t shake the feeling before she fel asleep. Mostly, though, she tossed and turned uneasily, drifting in and out of a tenuous rest.

At one point, stil half-asleep, Laura flipped over to one side and opened her eyes. And she saw Logan, seated far away, speaking intently with Madison. Laura strained her ears without thinking, trying to make out what they were saying, but heard nothing. Suddenly Madison looked right at her. Laura shut her eyes quickly, pretending to resume the steady breaths of sleep. Her disguise must have worked, for when she made a tiny slit between her eyelids to look again, Madison had returned her attention to Logan. Absently, Laura wondered what they were talking about, but then sleep overtook her again. A sleep that was haunted by those same unremembered nightmares.

When she woke that morning to a bright sun, she realized she was alone. Searchingly, she reached out a hand to feel for Gray… and found that he was missing too. Getting up, she looked around. There were no signs that anyone had ever been in the smal clearing, no signs of the fire from last night. She frowned. Where did everyone go?

As soon as that thought crossed her mind, Logan, together with Madison and Alexander, came through the edge of the forest and into the clearing. Laura opened her mouth to speak, but stopped as soon as Madison looked at her. Madison, on realizing that Laura was up, sniffed loudly and walked away. Laura didn’t understand why Madison didn’t like her. It’s not like she actual y
did
anything wrong. She decided she would try to make peace with Madison later that day.

Alexander, however, behaved in completely the opposite manner. On seeing that Laura was up, he walked over and greeted her with a smile.

“Good to see you final y up,” he said.

“Where did everyone go?” Laura asked.

“We went to convince Madison to come with us.”

“Oh. Did you succeed?”

“Wel , you saw her here, didn’t you?” Alexander scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Although I have to warn you, she’s not too happy about it.”

“Oh. Because of me?”

Alexander avoided her question. “I wouldn’t blame myself too much if I were you. Madison’s issues are her own, and she has to deal with them herself.”

“I see.”

“Now, you’d better get ready for travel. We’ve got a long day ahead.” As if Laura wasn’t used to walking long distances by now. But with that, he turned away, al owing Logan to come over.

“How did you sleep?” he asked.

“Not bad,” Laura answered. Then she

remembered what she saw last night. She didn’t want to admit she had spied on Logan, though, but at the same time itched to ask about his conversation with Madison. Maybe she could get him to mention it.

“How did
you
sleep?” she asked.

“Me?” Logan sounded surprised. “I kept watch last night, as usual. I stil haven’t felt the need to sleep yet.”

“Oh. I take it nothing unusual happened, then?”

“Nothing that you should worry over,” Logan answered. “I saw Gray scuttling away this morning, though. Out into the woods. I think he found a smal rodent or something like that. In case you were wondering where he was.”

“Oh. Yes, thank you.”

Logan started to turn away, but Laura caught his sleeve. He had that black shirt on, and looked absolutely majestic in the rich fabric. “Are you sure nothing happened last night?” she prodded.

“No.” He paused, looking over her. “You probably should go find your bear. I haven’t seen him since he left.” And with that, he turned to make his way back to Alexander.

Laura stood staring after him. She had given him
two
opportunities to mention the conversation with Madison, and he had avoided it each time. Changed the subject, even. Why? But he was also right about finding Gray.

She looked around the place she had slept. This time she found Gray’s paw prints, faded in the dirt, leading away into the forest. She fol owed the trail. Walking into the shrouded woods, she could only pick up bit and pieces of his trail. A bent leaf here, a broken twig there. If her eyesight wasn’t so sharp, she doubted she could have fol owed him. As she picked her way along, she wondered where he had run off to, and why.

She walked in one direction for a couple minutes, and then came to a stop. The trail had ended.

“Gray?” she cal ed out, her voice ringing loudly in the quiet forest. She stood stil , waiting. On not seeing him emerge, she turned around, ready to retrace her steps to see where she lost his path. However, just at that moment, Gray came rushing out of the bush, his mouth stained red.

Laura squatted down to greet him. She wondered what kind of animal he might have found, to have his fur stained like that. But as he came closer, she realized – with only a bit of relief – that it was just berry juice.

“S o
that’s
where you’ve been,” she said as he jumped up to lick her face. She laughed as his tongue traced her cheek. “Come on,” she told him,

“we’ve got to get back before they take off without us.” Gray tilted his head at her, but fol owed her back. When she returned, Logan was sitting down, waiting for her. Madison and Alexander were nowhere to be seen.

“They went ahead,” he explained, “and I wanted to wait for you.”

“Thanks,” Laura said.

“Looks like you found Gray pretty quickly.”

“Yea, I guess I did. I had a bit of trouble tracking him, but he was just eating some berries nearby.”

“So that’s why his mouth’s so red,” Logan grinned, getting up. “Come on, we’ve got to get going if we want to catch up.”

“How far away are they?”

“Not far.” Logan ran ahead, and Laura fol owed. Gray trailed behind slightly.

A few minutes later, they found Madison and Alexander walking together… but apart. They were the same distance away from Laura and Logan, but spread widely from one another. Laura hoped that the disagreement last night didn’t strain their relationship.

“Hey!” Logan yel ed out, and both Madison and Alexander stopped and looked back. On seeing them, Alexander walked towards them, but Madison turned and continued forward.

“She wanted to go fast,” Alexander explained,

“but I said we have to wait for you if we’re going to be journeying together. Now that you’re here, though…”

he grinned “…we can make use of our speed.”

“Oh,” Laura said, feeling her cheeks start to burn. “I can’t, yet. Not for long distances.”

Alexander frowned. “Have you been converted so recently?” Laura nodded. At the same time, from far away, Laura heard a derisive laugh. She looked behind Alexander and saw Madison staring back at her.

“You see,” Madison said with a sneer, in a voice that carried surprisingly wel across the distance, “the girl is already holding us back. She should not have come.”

Laura felt her cheeks go completely red, and looked to Logan for protection. Instead, he just shrugged at her. “She’s not wrong,” he said quietly, so quietly that Laura thought she imagined it. She stared at him, flabbergasted, but he ran forward to catch up to Madison.

catch up to Madison.

Alexander looked at Laura and sighed. “I should speak with her, too,” he said. And went forward, leaving Laura alone at the rear.

Laura watched as Alexander caught up with Madison and Logan, who were already speaking. She couldn’t make out anything they were saying. As soon as Alexander arrived, however, Logan turned around and trotted back to Laura. And Madison and Alexander started walking forward.

Laura fol owed after them, meeting Logan halfway. He fel in beside her, but didn’t say anything. After a few moments of silence, Laura spoke.

“What did she tel you?” she asked.

“Nothing you’d want to hear,” Logan answered. Laura looked at him. He seemed… strangely distant.

“Is everything ok?” she asked him after another few seconds of quiet.

“Hmm? Yes, everything’s fine,” he replied. He stared straight ahead, at the other two vampires, and not once did he look at her.

Laura didn’t know what she did, or why Logan was acting like that. But they fol owed after Madison and Alexander, walking side by side. Fol owed in silence.

Maybe an hour later, Logan decided to go up to Madison and Alexander, leaving Laura alone with Gray. She could see the three of them talking, but for some reason couldn’t hear a thing. She didn’t like not knowing what they were talking about. Every once in a while, either Alexander or Logan would shoot her a quick look back, almost as if to make sure she was stil there, and then turn back to the others. In fact, a few minutes later, Laura realized she
hated
not knowing what they were talking about. And she didn’t like feeling left out either.

Yet, they continued on that way until at least midday. Laura, trailing behind the three vampires like a stray dog, not understanding what was going on and not

hearing

even

the

slightest

whisper

of

conversation. Logan and Alexander taking turns speaking and sometimes even vividly gesturing with their hands. Laura wondered again why she couldn’t pick anything up – with the way her hearing was now, she was sure she should be able to. Maybe they were somehow blocking their voices from her.

A lot of different things ran through Laura’s mind as she walked on behind them. Like why Logan had been so distant this morning. And why Madison had taken such a
personal
dislike towards her. Oh, she could understand that perhaps Madison didn’t think Laura could control herself as wel as the others, but that stil didn’t ful y account for the almostcontemptuous aura she got from Madison. Again, it wasn’t like she’d done something wrong on purpose. Sometime after midday, Alexander slowed from his group and al owed Laura to catch up to him. He regarded her kindly, and smiled.

“I apologize. I know this manner of journeying is not what you expected when you met us.”

“Truth be told,” Laura answered, “I didn’t real y know what to expect.”

Alexander chuckled. “I don’t think anybody could have predicted Madison’s reaction to you.”

“No,” Laura said, “I think not.”

“But I am curious,” Alexander continued, “of some things about you.”

“Like what?”

“Wel ,” he answered, “I’ve heard bits and pieces from Rafael, and I’ve spoken to Logan, but I haven’t heard your side of the story, yet.”

“My side of what story?”

“The story of everything. How you came to find yourself in this position. You are newborn, and you haven’t yet had your first feeding, which means you were human not very long ago. For a convert to find themselves on the run from the most powerful of the
Vassiz
… wel , it takes something special to garner so much attention. So I’m curious. What exactly did you do?”

“Wel …” Laura began, starting from the

beginning. She told Alexander the story of meeting Logan at school, told him how they had gotten to know one another enough for him to trust her. She told him of visiting the dream world as a human, and somehow attracting the attention of the elders there. She told him of how she had been chased away from her school, without enough time to even say goodbye to her friends and family, and of how Logan told her he was a vampire. Alexander listened intently, and when Laura final y finished the story, with them final y getting out of the caves, he looked at her thoughtful y.

“That is al ?” he asked final y.

“Al ?” Laura was shocked. “I came into the dream world as a human, which is forbidden by the ancient creed, and have been wanted dead or alive ever after. Preferably alive, so I could be subject to an eternity of torture.” She had purposeful y left out the part about kil ing two other vampires.

“Yes, I understand that,” Alexander replied.

“What I don’t understand is why a human girl visiting the dream world would garner so much attention. It is so… insignificant.”

“Insignificant? Logan said it was a breaking of the
Vassiz
creed!”

“Mm, yes and no.” Alexander replied. This time, it was Laura’s turn to become curious. “The creed guides us and what we do, yes, but… there have always been al owances. Are you certain there is nothing else Logan showed you there, nothing that would be deemed important to our kind?”

Laura shook her head. “I’ve told you al I know,”

she said.

“Interesting. Interesting, that the elders would pay so much attention to you.”

“What do
you
know about me?” Laura asked.

“Just what did Rafael tel you?”

“Ah. Wel , Rafael told us of a young couple on the run who found themselves inside his place of refuge. He said you were trapped inside, after having kil ed a bounty hunter who was coming after you.”

Laura’s cheeks blossomed as she realized he knew about the vampire kil ing. And that he knew that
she
had avoided tel ing him of it. He must have sensed her unease, though. “A smart omission,” he told her. “I would avoid speaking of it to anybody as wel , just as you have. You never know who might be listening.”

Laura smiled somewhat weakly at him.

“Thanks.”

“Furthermore, you can never be completely sure of who to trust. Do not be distrustful of al , for that wil consume you from the inside, but do not volunteer information freely, either. That is the way to survive a long time in this world.”

“That’s good advice,” Laura agreed.

“Yes,” he said.

“What about you?” Laura asked. “What’s your story?”

“Where do I begin?” Alexander asked with a laugh.

“At the start. How long have you been a vampire?”

“Over six hundred years,” he told her.

“Wow,” she breathed. She had thought
Logan
had been alive for a long time. “Is it usual, for most vampires to be that old?”

“There haven’t been many newborns in the last few centuries,” Alexander told her. “Our kind has been dominated by the elders, and they have forbidden expansion of our numbers. It is hard to find another member of the
Vassiz
because of that. And so the ones you do meet, you wil find are of my age, or perhaps older. A youngling like you, however, is most definitely a rare sight.”

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