Chapter no 12

The Serpent and the Wings of Night

I left an hour before dawn broke. It was a gamble to go at all—my wound was so bad that I struggled to move. If I passed out halfway between our meeting spot and

the gates of the Moon Palace, I was fucked. But I gritted my teeth through it, replaced my dressings, and made the trek. It took me twice as long as it had the night before. I hid beneath the bridge and waited.

And waited and waited.

Please, Vincent. Come on. Please.

At first, I was in denial. He was just a little late. Something had kept him. There was no way that he wouldn’t be here, not when he had witnessed that battle and seen my injuries. He would appear any second now.

But the minutes ticked by, and Vincent did not come.


I knew my father, and I knew that there was no explanation for this that could possibly be good, but I had no time to worry about that. When sunrise was far too close, I gave up and dragged myself back to the Moon Palace. By then I was moving even slower. Bleeding heavier. I had been betting on Vincent’s help, and losing that gamble had cost me dearly.

I barely made it back before dawn broke. As early-morning light streamed through the floor-to-ceiling

windows, I crept into the feast hall. It was, thankfully, empty. The table overflowed with fresh food that looked as if it had hardly been touched. But the carafes? The ones that had once held blood?

Those were ominously empty.

I was in so much pain that the thought of eating made my stomach churn, but I stuffed some food into my mouth and into my pockets anyway. I had to keep my strength up somehow, and I had to move fast. Days prior, the Moon Palace had been near-silent during daylight. But now, I could hear activity echoing through the halls—muffled voices, dull thumps, and light footsteps. Raihn had been right. The greenhouse was safe in the day, but the rest of the Palace wouldn’t be.

I moved as swiftly as my injuries would allow from the feast hall to the great room. My eyes locked on the smear of light at the end of the hallway—the greenhouse entrance. It was a bright, clear day, not a cloud in the sky. Sunlight flooded it.

I was two steps away—so fucking close—when I heard the footsteps.

I dropped my pack of food. Grabbed the hilt of my weapons. Turned just in time.

One of my blades slid into the taut muscle of my attacker’s side, and the other blocked his strike to my face. The sudden force of the movement left me breathless with pain as my wounds tore open anew, the fresh flow of blood driving my attacker into a frenzy.

It happened so fast. I didn’t even get a good look at my assailant, only glimpsed little details—the white of his wild stare, the gray of his hair, the overall wiry shape of his form

—before we were tangled together. He was half-feral, moving in jagged lurches, mouth twisted into a snarl and claws digging deep into my shoulders as I fought him back. He wielded a rapier, which opened another wound in my side.

I flung myself against him and together we tumbled into the greenhouse. The vegetation was so thick that it did little more than make my attacker hiss in mild discomfort.

But he was savage with bloodlust. Sloppy. Wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings. When he lunged for me, I used the force of his own movement to slam him against the glass wall.

The morning beat down over us both, the heat beading perspiration on my skin in seconds. His back pressed against the glass, taking the full intensity of the sun. The scent of sweat and burnt flesh filled my nostrils.

It would be enough to jar him from bloodlust. Surely.

But no. He let out a grunt of pain and kept thrashing against me. I could block his teeth, or his sharpened nails, or his weapon, but not all three—at least, not while keeping him pinned. The burning smell grew more pungent.

I stumbled. He lunged. I had one chance. I flung him back against the glass. Seized the moment of his hesitation as the sun scalded one side of his face.

And before he could recover, I plunged my dagger into his chest.

…Not hard enough. The blade didn’t make it through.


I was so, so weak. I drew back again, and nearly collapsed as the world went sideways.

My blurring vision sharpened around the vampire’s eyes

—yellow, with threads of red. He turned to me, a slow smile spreading over his lips.

I threw everything I had into one final thrust, hard hard hard, until I heard a crack, until my dagger went through his chest.

A horrific burning pain skewered me.

My attacker went limp. The dead weight of him nearly toppled me over. He wasn’t dead. His fingers still twitched. I didn’t get deep enough. But my hands didn’t obey when I tried to push again.

I staggered back. Looked down. My abdomen was covered with blood. I couldn’t feel where the cut was.

Couldn’t feel much of anything, actually.

You’re in shock, Oraya. Vincent’s voice was urgent in my head. You are going to bleed out. You need to get out of here, right now. They’ll smell you.

My mind was a muddy mess, but I could make out a single thought:

I am not going to survive this way for four months. No chance.

I clutched my stomach and lifted my head. And there, right before me, as if presented to me as a gift from the Moon Palace itself, was the spiral staircase.

I looked back. The greenhouse door was suddenly far behind me. Had I walked this much? I didn’t remember doing that. But then again, there was little I did remember as I dragged myself up that staircase. Flight after flight after flight, seemingly endless, just as it had been that first night, the first time I’d run up these stairs desperate to make it to the top with my life.

Probably wouldn’t be the last, either.

By the time I made it to the top, I was crawling on my hands and knees. Blood dripped down the stairs and rolled through the gaps in the banister, landing on the distant great room floor like little flower petals.

When there were no more stairs, I lifted my head. A single door stood before me.

I fought to my feet. One step, and I collapsed. Tried to rise. Slipped on my own blood. I didn’t feel it when I hit the ground. The world spun. Faded.

After what felt like an age, someone flipped me onto my back. My throat released a strangled sound of pain.

Raihn leaned over me.

“Well,” he said, crossing his arms, “that didn’t take long.”

Fucking prick.

Aloud, I gurgled.

The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was his broad grin, revealing two very long, very sharp canines.

“Oh, you’re very welcome, Oraya.”

And the last thing I heard was Vincent’s voice in my head, saying, What the hell did you just do?

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