Vol. 8 - Let Me In | i

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New world.

New rules.

Nerina found in a short space of time that she was no fan of it. She felt chafed by the information Steele imparted. Most of the time she blocked them out for the simple reason that she would not be there for long. She was not moving in so she did not much care what the house rules were. What she did like was that the sun never came up. It was always night with the phasing of the moon ticking the time away. One day here was three days above ground but it did not feel especially long. Nerina could not help but feel an eternity would be an even longer time here.

She had been in the underworld—hell's waiting area— for four days. That was two weeks above ground. During that time, she had hopped back and forth hunting. Steele had shown her another portal she could safely use. To get there, she did not have to go through a hoard of harbingers, or anything that tried to kill her. The only problem was that it was in a highly patrolled area. On the other side, in the human world, the reward was worth the risk. She was not short of food supply where the portal took her.

The Adirondacks were stack laden with prey worth their weight in blood. Steele found her practices strange, but he would not understand. He could control himself, she still on the fence about her own level of control. It was best for all around if she stuck to a less intoxicating diet. Her one slip with Eve had been a lucky break; she did not intend to try her luck again so soon.

It did not help that she felt—something—crawling around inside her. She knew she had changed, but the how was still a mystery to her. Nerina felt like her sanity was slowly slipping away. How else could she explain the indistinct whispers she sometimes heard? Or the itching under her skin?

Nerina kept her mind occupied as they moved around undetected looking for other vampires. They already knew that some of his allies were being held in the city but Steele was hoping to find some reinforcements. He was also hoping that they would have information about where Duncan was holding his friends. When they were not out looking, they trained together. Steele was sure that a fight was coming and he wanted her to be prepared. She kept up with Steele, which left him impressed, and she puffed up with pride.

"There is something different about you," he said one night after training.

"What do you mean?" Nerina felt her anxiety building and did not know why. She knew there was something different about her but it bothered her that he had noticed as well.

"I can't quite put my finger on it. Could just be you're grown a backbone," he teased.

The smile dropped from her lips when he left her alone. She doubted her change was so simple.

When they finally found the vampires, they were in no position to help anyone. Caged like rabid dogs, they behaved like rabid dogs. Small, confined spaces were not the best for vampires with six to a cell, all of them starving. To survive they fed and ate each other the strongest being the only one to survive - for now.

Soon the lack of fresh blood took its tool. Emaciated they died, some self-mutilating to prolong the inevitable. Nerina walked through the rows of cages sick to her core. The vampires rocked and shook the cages reaching out grimy hands to get at her and Steele. The only thing that gave away his agitation was the continuous tick in his jaw. His friends, thankfully, were not among them. Only two werewolves moved about the cages.

Nerina had to give the wolves credit. It was a handy idea what they did, locking them up together. There were hundreds of them. Vampires killing each other, no casualties to the werewolves. Realizing his friends were not part of the lot; though Nerina was not sure how he could tell with all of their faces twisted in madness, Steele started to move on. When he took up a torch from its perch Nerina thought nothing of it until he touched the flame through a cage lighting one of the vampires on fire. She held on to his hand stopping him before he could set another ablaze.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"They can't be allowed to live."

"We came to save them."

"We came to save who could be saved. These—they are long gone. If they got free, they would kill everything in sight. Vampire, werewolf. They'd head for the portals," he said with meaning, looking her straight in the eyes.

The portals led to fresh blood. Human blood. Nerina looked around her, understanding his meaning. With a heavy heart, she took another torch. They set the blood lusted vamps on fire knowing the raucous would draw the attention of the werewolves.

Nerina took to the top of the cages running along while Steele remained on the ground. The werewolves did their best to catch them but never did as they set all the cages on fire. Steele made it through the heavy iron door first. Nerina skidded through slamming it shut behind her. On her way out, she had opened some of the cages, vamps running out covered in flames. They took out the werewolves that had been closing in behind her. She watched through the small barred opening of the door as all life on the other side went up in the inferno. One of the werewolves made it to the door banging on it the fire already eating through his flesh. Nerina stepped back.

"It had to be done," Steele said. "You will come to learn that leading sometimes means making hard decisions that will haunt you for the rest of your life."

Nerina gave him a look over her shoulder before walking away. She knew what it felt like to have no control over what she was—the maddening need to rip and feed. She felt sympathy because at one time she was one of them. They found two more prisons like the first; caged vampires feeding on each other. All went up in flames, and Nerina could see the flash of regret on Steele's face each time he had to kill the people he was supposed to protect.

Steele was becoming frustrated.

He had not come to lay waste to so many of his kind, but the laws were the laws. It had to be done. The tragedies they would cause would be irreparable. Nerina was displeased with the things they did though she followed his lead. She had questions though she never asked. He ran a hand over his face. He needed information and none of the vampires had been in a coherent state. Therefore, there was only one place left to go—directly inside the city and without reinforcements.

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