2. Strangers in the night

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ZARA

No wonder Zephyr always moved so fast around the domain. The secret passages in his house led to portals that transported him to different parts of Sky's Edge. By sheer luck, the one I chose sent me right by the border with Mountain Meadows. The rugged terrain of the Capricorn's territory was vastly different from the rolling hills of the Sky's Edge, with jagged mountains and steep valleys as far as the eye could see. The air was also crisp and cold this close to the border, the smell of pine needles and fresh snow filling my nostrils.

Excitement flooded through me as I realised my very scientific "innie-minnie-miny-mo" approach had finally paid off. This was one of the furthest points on Zephyr's lands from the mansion, and as far away as I could get from the Council right now.

As I looked back towards the Sky's Edge, I noticed something strange about the domain. While the skies were usually calm and controlled in Zephyr's territory, unusual cloud formations and intense thunderstorms loomed here. The elemental magic seemed to be in a state of confusion, as if something was throwing off the balance of the realm.

Was it a result of Zephyr's death? From what he had told me, the death of a Zodiac required another chosen one to take over in order to maintain the balance in the Skyfall realm. Yet, he was only dead for a few hours ago, and the realm was already going haywire.

Still, I had more pressing needs right now, like finding a place to stay for the night, especially when I barely had much money in my pocket. Where could I go that was cheap and no one was going to ask questions? The answer eluded me as I set off towards the nearby town, my thoughts as clouded as the skies above.

When the Blown Away Inn came into sight, I wasn't sure if I was more relieved or disturbed by the fact that Zephyr's portal was right next to a dodgy motel.

Did he used to come here with Miss Flosham?

The mental image of my boss and the housekeeper entangled in a steamy embrace made me cringe, and I suddenly wished that I could wipe my memory clean.

Despite my reservations, I knew this place was going to do. The seedy motel looked like the perfect hideout for someone who needed to keep a low profile. I doubted that the news of Zephyr's death had spread across Sky's Edge yet, but once it did, my face was likely to be known in the whole domain, if not the entire realm. I could already see it: "The human who killed a Zodiac." A magic wielder who was not supposed to exist.

Ugh, I would have given anything if I could go back home. My real home, though Zephyr had warned me that time moved differently in Starfall. What would have felt like weeks here was going to translate into years for my family back in Brighton.

I cautiously pushed open the door of the motel, the pungent odour of cigarettes and alcohol assaulting my senses. My first instinct was to use my powers to freshen up the air, but I resisted the urge, not wanting to expose myself. The reception was deserted, so I rang the bell to get the attention of whoever was on duty.

A blonde vampire girl appeared from behind the desk, eyeing me up and down in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. "What a tasty little treat we have here." She murmured as her eyes swept over me. "What can I do for you, sweets?"

Her suggestive tone and lingering gaze made me like I was on display. I pulled my cardigan tighter around my chest in the hope that she was going to get the message and back off.

"I need a room."

"Isn't that what everyone's here for?" She smirked, flashing her fangs as she passed her tongue along her lower lip. "Would you like a room with extra service, sweets? I'm not busy at the moment."

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