Chapter 5

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RPOV

The walk back to camp was filled with awkward silence and tentative glances at each other when we thought the other wasn’t looking. I kept five feet between us at all times and tried to always stay ahead of Dimitri. Unfortunately, he was finding it way too easy to keep up- damn his long legs! . If that wasn’t enough, I was terrified about what was going to happen when I arrived at their camp. I doubted that the rest of their party would be happy to have a stray tagging along, and there were about a billion things that could go wrong: people could work out who I was, what I was; the illusion could fail, leaving me with the obvious red eyes; or my bloodlust could take over and I could attack someone. One had to wonder why I agreed to this in the first place.

Lost in my thoughts and completely oblivious to my surroundings, I didn’t notice that we had stopped moving until I ran into a brick wall, namely Dimitri’s chest.

“Erh, sorry I wasn’t watching…” I mumbled. His lips curved slightly upwards, before returning to a neutral gaze.

 " It’s fine. We'll arrive just as soon as we get to that clearing,” he said, pointing to somewhere in the distance. I nodded calmly, although inside I was a shaky bundle of nerves. How could he sound so unperturbed- so... in control all of the time? Had he not yet realised how risky this whole business was?

“You know, it’ll be fine, you don’t have anything to wor-" he trailed off as he noticed we had company.

"Who are you?" a booming voice, thick with authority and laced with suspicion demanded. I stared at her, my mind completely blank as I tried to come up with a plausible excuse. "Well?" She asked again, a touch of impatience now lingering in her voice.

"Guardian Hathaway, ma’am." I said suddenly, sounding a lot more confident than I felt. I paused to allow that piece of information to sink in, although really I was just trying to come up with what to say next. "I've come here on the orders of the queen. Apparently, she wanted more guardians here, due to there being… erm… royals here- her own guardians at that. 'Better trained guardians' were her exact words," I spoke the last part with a smug look on my face

"I wasn’t aware of the new arrangements- and if she wanted more guardians, why did she only send you? " Her poker face was almost as good as Dimitri’s and her questions were incessant. It was only a matter of time before I tripped over one of my own lies.

"I'm one of her best, ma’am."

"Right… and… you are how old? You don't look much older than eighteen at most," she said accusingly. "I don't see how you could be 'one of her best' when you have so little experience." Suddenly, I felt offended. I might not have actually been a guardian, but what right did she have to base skill off of age, especially when her job was one that people sent eighteen year olds out to do?

" I am eighteen, however you of all people should know that age means very little in our career path. I have already had to kill many Strigoi, a lot before I even graduated. I turned around revealing my neck with was covered in molnija marks and battle marks. The truth was that Strigoi also got molnija marks for their kills- any Moroi killed, any dhampir; they were all worth a mark. No one outside of the Strigoi race knew about them as they were kept extremely secret, but the thought of them now, tattooed across my back, sickened me. Each was a reminder of the darkness that I inhibited, but each was also a reminder of who I no longer wanted to be.

It was at this point that Dimitri decided to defend me. “I’ve checked her paperwork, guardian Petrova and everything seems to be in order, but I’ll call the royal court and confirm.“ Guardian Petrova scrutinised Dimitri for a second, before briefly and sharply nodding once.

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