MY HEAD WAS POUNDING fiercely. My vision was blurry. I could hardly think. I knew I was in a vehicle, a beast like the roaders that first took me away from my life in the woods, but it was also like the roader Phantom Fangs used. Phantom Fangs. It was the only thing clear in my mind. Each of the werewolves that made it up consumed me. The thought of them, their features, the memory of their fiery touch, that was all I knew. They were my only clarity in this hazy half-dream state. I knew I was with vampires, and that they did something to me, but that was it. The rest was Phantom Fangs.
My Phantom Fangs.
They weren’t here.
I tried to focus. This vehicle I was trapped inside blocked out all outside light. The windows were tinted so heavily it almost made me feel as if I was wearing a blindfold. I didn’t know if it was day or night, but some big round body of light was peeking out over the horizon. In the east? The sun?
We were heading toward rocky terrain. Land jutted out and sunk low into the ground. I hoped it was land, anyway. It resembled claws, teeth, gaping maws of giant beasts. I shivered, goosebumps pocking my skin as sweat beaded on my brow. My head lolled back and forth as the ride got bumpy. I couldn’t hold my head straight. My stomach was tying itself into knots. I thought I might be sick, but the sickness was jerked out of me when the vehicle came to an abrupt stop right in front of one of the dark, gaping maws. I tried to tell myself those serrated teeth were nothing but jagged rocks, but the quickening of my heartbeat said otherwise. And something was off. A solid slab of metal was blocking its throat. Light was glinting off a very specific point and drilling its way into my brain in the form of a headache.
I groaned when a high-pitched screech pierced my eardrums as the metal slowly sunk into the ground, revealing the depths of the cave it was shielding. Figures in dark crimson cloaks with gilded hems darted and danced around the streams of sunlight as if they were acid. Then the vehicle let out a distinct hum, and it once again moved forward, this time on a downward ramp leading deeper into the cave.
I blinked my heavy eyelids a few times as darkness engulfed me, and the metal moved back into place. Soft orbs of light dotted the outside of the tinted windows, but I couldn’t make out anything now. I might have used my moonlight reserves to better equip my eyes if I hadn’t been empty. I used it all to protect Phantom Fangs. Phantom Fangs. In the end, I still couldn’t protect them. I had to give myself up to vampires. I had to leave them on their own, hoping with everything I had that the vampires were telling the truth about leaving them alive. The sick feeling settled back into my stomach. What if I never saw them again and I was stuck to wander this delirium forever?
I pushed the thought away because it was too much for me to handle. My heart was fluttering inside of my chest, vibrating like a thin bottle of glass reacting to a matching frequency meant to shatter it. All I wanted was to be with Phantom Fangs. They were the light, the stability, I was holding on to since being taken away from my woods. Nothing outside was like it was supposed to be, but they made it bearable. They made it beautiful.
The vehicle came to a complete stop. I thought I could make out some lights from inside of the cave, but my head was pounding worse and my vision was suffering worse for it. Doors opened; I felt the difference in the air more than I heard the sound. Blood-red fingernails dug into my skin hard enough to hurt but not to pierce as I was yanked outside. I fell to my knees and moaned. My skin stung with the impact of hard, unrefined earth. My feet and legs were bare. I was given only a very basic black shift to put over my naked body when the vampires took me.
“Give her the antidote. She’s completely delusional,” the female vampire holding on to my arm instructed. She forced me back onto my feet to stand at her side. One of the other vampires held a glass vile underneath my nose. It was putrid like rotting flesh. I gagged and nearly vomited. Then my vision cleared as if a strong wind blew in and chased the sickness away.
“There we go,” the vampire at my side said. “She’s coming to. Her eyes are no longer dilated.”
I blinked a few times and slowly moved my head from side to side, seeing clearly for the first time in hours. The dim lights lining the walls were enough to make out the guts of the cave. Water streamed down rock walls, painting the brown-toned stones with streaks of pink minerals. The musty smell of stagnant moisture permeated the air. There was that distinct tang of iron, too. The area was surprisingly empty aside from some tech contraptions and a whole swarm of humans marching like ants up to large trailers on wheels. The humans didn’t get inside. They simply clustered at their openings. They were dressed like me. They were clean, but most of them had bandages on their necks, many of them bled through. They were jumpy like scared animals, wide-eyed and easily spooked.
“What’s going on?” I asked. My voice came out gravelly, my words more of a croak, and I wondered if anybody understood me. I cleared my throat to try again, but my designated vampire gripped my arm and forced me deeper into the cave. I had thought that werewolves, the males, had a much greater base strength than I. They did, but these vampires were even stronger. I could feel her fingers slowly leaving bruises on my skin, and she didn’t look like she was straining.
More lights lit up the cave as I stumbled behind the vampire dragging me deeper inside. I was only graced with her back because she wouldn’t allow me at her side now. She wore a crisp crimson cloak and a black uniform underneath. Her auburn hair was cut flat across and reached her chin. Proud shoulders made her look taller than she was, and she wasn’t short; she was a bit taller than me. Something about her was familiar: the blood-red nails, the dark-gray tint to her skin. The last of the haze muddying my brain vanished, and I realized I knew this vampire. She almost killed Caspian.
My whole body tensed at the memory of blood spraying from his throat. My vision went red. I wanted to lash out at the monster in front of me. I wanted to slit her throat the same way she had Caspian’s. I wanted to show her what happened when she hurt those I loved. But I stilled myself. I tried to find a drop of calm waters inside of me, to reach out to Phantom Fangs and the powerful mental connection we had made when I kissed them. My lips buzzed at the thought, little sparks of energy lighting up the sensitive skin. I could hear their thoughts before, feel their emotions, so why couldn’t I hear or feel them now? Where were those strands of silver moonlight tying our hearts together?
I wanted to cry. I just couldn’t find it. Without that connection, I couldn’t know for certain if Phantom Fangs was all right. The vampires retreated and carried me away with them when I had agreed to go with them in exchange for Phantom Fangs’ safety, for all of Wolf Bridge’s safety. Then they threw down fist-sized spherical tech to where all the werewolves were. When the tech hit the ground, they let out tons of dense smoke. I didn’t see anything after that, though I protested. The vampires said something about the gas being nonlethal and ushered me to their vehicle, slick and black, unlike the clunky roaders. They put a glass vial without a scent under my nose that made me woozy and shoved me into darkness. Into the hours of delirium. And now I was here.
Was the smoke harmful at all or was it cover? If the vampires kept their word, Phantom Fangs was safe. Trace and her mother were safe. Koren was safe. Wolf Bridge was safe. The vampires came for me and me alone—so they said.
“Are you going to kill me?” I asked as I tried to match the vampire’s pace. I needed to relieve some of the pressure she was putting on my arm before she tore it clean off. My shoulder was beginning to ache.
“No,” the vampire replied.
What other plans could they possibly have for me? I knew I was valuable to werewolves, but it made sense because, like them, I was a werewolf. This legend, my worth, and my various titles were simply because I was a rare werea, because I held a lot of moonlight. They thought I would bring a new, powerful generation of werewolves. Last night proved just how much power I held. Wouldn’t vampires definitely want to kill me for that? Werewolves and vampires were at war as far as I knew about anything—which was still infuriatingly little.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
The vampire was silent. I thought she wouldn’t answer my question, but then she replied, “Gala.”
My hackles rose. I wanted to tell Gala where she could stick it, to tell her exactly what would happen if she touched what was mine again. I took a deep breath instead. “What are we doing then? What are you going to do with me?”
“I don’t know, Princess Sorissa va Lupin of Howling Sky. I was instructed to take you to my queen. Whatever plan she has in store for you will be made perfectly clear in a few short minutes.”
We reached an area where the cave narrowed down to two bodies in width. Farther ahead, it branched off into multiple tunnels. Gala chose the one on the far right, continuing to drag me with her. I tried wriggling out of her grasp, but it wasn’t happening. If I did anything more drastic, I’d be starting something. I was faced with my least favorite word again: patience. I had to be patient. Wait for an opportunity. Create an opportunity. And get back to Phantom Fangs as soon as possible.