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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(16) by Bella Forrest

“I’m sorry for the disturbance,” I shouted down as loud as I could, my voice echoing around the square as the humans’ anxious eyes fixed on me. “But The Shade is in grave danger. My father is expecting an attack by the black witches any time now. By now, you should all be aware of the power and ruthlessness of these witches. We still don’t know what they want with us, but if they manage to break through Mona’s spell, it’s safe to assume that nobody will be safe. With this in mind, each and every one of you must decide if you still wish to remain in The Shade.” I paused, resting my voice for a few seconds, my throat dry from shouting. “Here’s what needs to happen. First and foremost, I need you to help me gather every single human on this island and bring them to the clearing outside the main entrance to the Black Heights. Once you do this, we’ll give you time to decide whether you want to leave, or stay with us and weather the storm. But until then, I need your help.”

People began to shout questions up at me, but now wasn’t the time for answers. Not yet.

“Guys, please,” I bellowed, my voice straining from the pressure. “First do as I’ve requested. Direct everyone to the clearing—bring with you only your most valuable possessions. I’ll expect everyone there no later than an hour from now. Please, don’t be late.”

I was relieved when they obeyed. The crowd dispersed quickly, and I climbed back down toward Caleb. I leapt onto his back again and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“We need to help in herding them all,” I said, breathing heavily.

Caleb and I spent the next hour speeding around the island, doing our best to make sure no human was left behind. As the hour was drawing to a close, we headed toward the clearing. I was relieved to see it teeming with humans. There were so many here, not all of them even fit in the large clearing. Many found themselves being pushed into the shade of the forest. I took in a deep breath as Caleb and I made our way through the crowd toward the entrance of the Black Heights. Caleb climbed up the side of the mountain, high enough so that we were clearly visible to everyone who’d gathered here.

The sheer mass of people here was daunting to my already hoarse throat. I wasn’t used to this. I needed a loudspeaker or something…

Caleb seemed to sense my hesitation. “What is it you want to say to them exactly?” he asked.

“I need to explain again about the black witches, for those who didn’t hear it. And then tell them that they have twenty minutes to make a decision whether or not to leave The Shade. Those who wish to leave should remain here in the clearing, while those who wish to stay should walk through the entrance into the Black Heights.”

Caleb nodded, and then his deep voice began booming across the clearing, explaining what I’d just told him. I was shocked at how loud his voice was.

After he’d finished, predictably, the crowd broke out in questions again.

“We don’t have time to answer everyone’s questions one by one,” I said, my stomach clenching at all the fearful faces. “We’re going to have to just answer some general ones, and hope that satisfies most people. Firstly, explain how they will leave The Shade.” I had to pause for a moment to think of this answer myself. I didn’t know how my father was planning to handle this, so I told Caleb what I thought was most logical. “We have witches who can help with that. We’ll send those who want to leave out with a group of witches. Their memories will be erased. They will have no recollection of their time spent in The Shade, but they’ll be left with enough money to last them until they’re reintegrated into society.”

Caleb nodded and, once again, acted as my mouthpiece.

The crowd murmured amongst themselves at his words.

“Next,” I continued, “tell them we don’t know how long they will need to remain within the mountains, because we don’t know exactly when the witches will come. For all we know, it could be days, or it could be weeks. But Vivienne suspects it will be sooner rather than later. So at least for now, we have to play things safe. Food and water will be provided in ample quantity, so they need not worry about this.”

Once Caleb had finished explaining, I said, “Finally, tell them if anyone wishes to take this as an opportunity to turn into a vampire, they can. Those who wish to do this should head immediately to the Vale, and we’ll arrange for a mass turning.”

Hopefully, my parents would be all right with this. I just felt like we ought to offer them this option, given the danger we were now up against.

The crowd seemed satisfied with the answers we’d provided for now, and the next twenty minutes everyone spent discussing among themselves. I felt bad forcing them to make such life-changing decisions within minutes, but none of us knew how much time we had, and we couldn’t afford to have our humans caught out in the open if there was a sudden attack as Vivienne was fearing.

As twenty minutes came to a close, people began hurrying into the entrance. I caught sight of Anna passing by us, holding baby Kiev in her arms, while Kyle walked by her side. Ariana and Jason, although vampires, followed behind them.

“Kyle,” I said, “Would you manage the doors? You know where the keys are stored?”

“Of course, Princess,” he replied.

“You’re human too, Rose,” Anna said, looking up at me with concern. “You should also get yourself inside.”

I shook my head. “Not yet, Anna.”

She threw me a pleading gaze before entering the mountain with her family. Humans continued to pile into the entrance for the next half an hour, and by the time the crowd had completely dispersed—although I’d caught sight of a handful heading toward the Vale—I was shocked to see not a single human had remained in the clearing. Not even Yasmine’s family.