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This is the companion piece to Shadows, so I do recommend reading that one first.

“We cannot stay here long.” Even the whispers seemed too loud for this place, regardless of how far from the family manor they had gotten. Dietrich couldn’t hear the screams anymore but if he looked back over his shoulder, he could still see the faint glow of the fire that devoured his home.

“We have to go back!” Vivian’s outburst echoed off the trees and Dietrich winced. It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with his twin, but she hadn’t seen what he had. Their uncle had grabbed him first and they’d barely made it to her bedroom before the demons. In between, there was nothing but blood and fire and a mockery of the home he’d grown up in.

“Vivian,” their uncle’s eyes were dark, they always had been. Warren was their father’s brother. He’d come to live with them and teach them history. His lessons had been fun, with his magic bringing some events to life in front of their eyes. But they’d always been fascinated by his eyes. They were not dual colored, as was the family trait. Nor did they catch the starlight when he did magic like their own. Tonight, that darkness to his gaze spoke volumes of what he had seen that he shielded them from. “There is no going back now.”

“No! We must! Our parents are still there!” Vivian argued, stomping her foot on the ground like she did when she was six. It was such a little thing, a habit she’d broken herself of when Father called her childish, but it told Dietrich how upset she was. “We can’t leave them to the demons, Uncle Warren, we have to help them.”

While his sister and uncle argued, Dietrich only half-paid attention. His mind was elsewhere, numb for the moment. Shock is what his uncle had called it when they had stopped the first time and Vivan had shaken him for a reaction but for him, it was like watching a horrific movie that he couldn’t pull himself away from. The demons had come from thin air as far as they could tell. There were wards to keep out such dark entities, to protect their safety of the family and all who lived there. The Percival Manor hadn’t been breached for thousands of years, there was no way that they’d broken down now. None of it made sense and no one was prepared for the horde.

“She was the one who let the demons in!” Warren’s harsh, emotion laden words pulled Dietrich from his thoughts just as quickly as they had gotten Vivian to shut up. Though Dietrich let his own tears fall freely on the way out here, seeing his sister’s eyes water had never sat well with him. These weren’t tears of frustration like when she couldn’t get a spell just right either, these were ones of shock and pain.

“But,” Vivan whimpered, the disbelief clear on her face. Dietrich was there in an instant, quick to take her hand and offer what comfort he could while glaring at their uncle. Making his sister cry was unacceptable, even now.

“Odessa is the one who called the demons. She has put everyone in that manor to slaughter. I told your parents that I would keep you safe.” His words had softened in tone but they could hear his emotions just as well. He was angry in a way they’d never heard before, even when they’d caused an explosion in his work room and killed all his rare plants. However, it was the sliver of fear that he let slip that terrified them.

Nothing scared Uncle Warren. He was only their father’s half brother, making him half Percival Sorceress. He’d spent his childhood with his mother, among the Fae. It was why he was only teaching them history and not any magic. His other half made his magic different, something that they would never replicate and something that did not quite work well with the family spells. Fae magic was always dominate in mixed breeds, or so their father said, but it was formidable and made him a force. They always thought it made him invincible, fearless.

Two things that were proven wrong that night.

“They…they aren’t…” Dietrich couldn’t get the words out and Vivian’s hand turned into a vice around his. They’d both scoffed at their Mother’s insistence to practice some evacuation scenarios. It was a recent addition to their lessons, only added after their long lost cousin had come to visit. They knew that Odessa wasn’t safe, that she was likely to do something dangerous and hadn’t bothered to say anything.

“No.” The single word was back to a near whisper and neither twin could hold the tears back at that. Their parents weren’t coming, they weren’t going to meet up with them at the safe place that they’d all spoken about. As the realization sunk in, they clung to each other and then to their uncle who dropped to his knees next to them in order to draw them into the safety of his arms.

“Why would Odessa do this?” Dietrich had been happy to play with the older girl, to show her little tricks when they were alone. She had been so kind to them, had even taught them some advanced magic. Such things were not easily shared among magic users but she seemed to be willing to do anything to get in their parent’s good graces.

“One day, I will tell you all that I know about the woman. But like I said, we cannot stay here. She will be after you.” One day. That was always something their Uncle and Father said when the twins were deemed too young to understand something.

“Okay,” Vivian sniffled, pulling back and rubbing her eyes furiously. Dietrich could feel her slipping control, her power pulling at his. He let his answer, hoping to help give her comfort. It was his job to take care of her, his father had told him so but he couldn’t help but also agree with her next words.

“But she won’t get away with this. We can make her pay, somehow can’t we? For Mama and Papa?”

Both of them looked up at their uncle, their eyes glittering with the same light as the night sky above them. Twin sorcerers of the Percival line and heirs to all that that entailed couldn’t do it alone. They were still in training and couldn’t outrun the demons on their tails. Neither one of them expected Warren to pull out their father’s grimoire from his coat, the cover etched with the stars from which they drew power. It was a sacred text, passed down through the years. One day, it was supposed to be Dietrich’s. For now, it was all they had.

“I will do what I can. For now, we survive.”