29.1 | A Good Night for Bad Things

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Author's Note

I'm using Camp NaNoWriMo this April to get back on track with this book! That means the following chapters (maybe even the rest of the book) are probably horrendous in regards to editing. My goal is to stockpile a bunch of chapters for you, so please forgive any errors or awkwardness in the writing. Those things will be fixed when I'm finished. 

Please enjoy Chapter 29.1! The rest of Chapter 29 will be published tomorrow.

Fortunately for Ren and his fellow conspirators, security around Lirovin Square had been doubled since Luiza's abduction. In theory, they didn't have to warn the Vigil of an impending invasion. It should have already been expected. But taking a look around the thirteen mansions, Ren regretted his silence.

It seemed that many keepers hadn't shown up for the job. Or maybe their employers had decided to resume everyday protocol. Whatever the case, security wasn't at its strongest tonight.

Right now, however, nothing could be done about it. Ren was too busy hiding in the tall hedges that surrounded Laguna Manor. No more than a shadow caught between the bushes and the wall, he impatiently glanced at the side door on his right.

How much longer would he have to wait?

Voices—belonging to Elliot and Minister Laguna—trickled from an opened window. Crickets chirped and the wind rustled leaves. Other than those few sounds, the night was quiet. Peaceful. But Ren's blood thrummed with anticipation.

Elliot had been chatting up his godmother for a half-hour. Long enough for Ren to develop an urge to peek through the bushes toward Dimitrovich Manor. He hoped Nika had upheld her promise.

The clocks had to have reached midnight. Any minute now. Any minute...

A bird call repeated four times—Misha's signal. The guards were finally changing shifts.

Ren readied himself, and when a pair of keepers emerged from the house, he noiselessly caught the door before it closed again. The keepers walked on without notice, locked in a mundane conversation.

Ren slipped into the manor. As the door clicked softly behind him, Elliot's voice traveled through the walls: "Can I come with you? I've always wanted to see your vault."

Perfect timing.

"I don't see why not," replied the Minister.

Ren glanced around the corridor he'd entered, then flattened himself against the wall beside a bookshelf. More waiting ensued, and by the time Elliot and Laguna descended the nearby staircase, Ren's pulse was all but drilling holes in his ears.

The footsteps halted.

"No guards?" Elliot said a little louder than necessary.

Ren smothered an amused smile. The boy certainly wasn't used to this kind of work.

But Francesca didn't seem suspicious as she said, "There's usually a keeper or two guard by the vault door, but they're changing shifts right now. Replacements will be here soon."

A series of beeps followed, then the shriek of moving hinges and clang of the heavy iron door. Laguna was in the middle of saying something else when the doorbell rang.

"Go ahead an answer it," Elliot said, his words muffled by both distance and walls. "I know what I'm looking for."

Laguna's footsteps traveled up the stairs and turned down the hall, no more than an arm's length away from Ren. He didn't move from his position until he heard the Minister open the door and greet the visit.

While Misha distracted her with his effortless charm, Ren hurried into the basement and stepped into the open vault. The sight of it nearly stole his breath.

The room was spacious and filled with displays of priceless artifacts, jewelry, printed money, rare artwork, old armor and weaponry, and so much more.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Elliot said, appearing from around one of the shelves.

Ren met him at the back of the vault, where a table was set against the wall. On top of it were various glass cases covering a velvet busts and hands. And in the center, draped around a mannequin's neck, was the magic amulet.

A shudder skittered down Ren's spine. Though his mental shield was locked in place, he couldn't help recalling the slimy trace of Asteroth's mind control. Invisible power pulsed through the room, as if Asteroth sensed his presence.

Shaking it from thought, he told Elliot, "Stand by the door. Signal me if someone comes."

The boy was halfway down the aisle when he stopped and turned around, whispering, "Ren?"


"If it possesses you again—"

"It won't," He met Elliot's gaze. "I'm ready this time."

"But if your shield isn't strong enough—"

"I'd put a bullet in my mouth before I'd hurt you."

Elliot flinched at his honesty, then gave him a skeptical look. "Even if my family hates halfbloods?"

"I wouldn't kill anyone for that reason."

"You might, if you knew the things they said about Nika."

Once, Ren might have denied it. But now...he merely chose to say, "Your father isn't evil because he's a purist. Just misguided."

He didn't give Elliot a chance to respond before opening the glass case that imprisoned Asteroth.

So you've finally come to save me? said that ancient, demonic voice.

Ren gritted his teeth as the magic loomed beyond the obsidian wall protecting his mind. Then he reached inside. 

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