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An End of Night(A Shade of Vampire,Book 16)(5) by Bella Forrest

By now, we had all stopped chanting. As she began to move toward me, I stepped aside, allowing her to float past me. She lowered to the ground. Her body was still and limp against the rocks as she touched down. Her eyes were still closed, a frown creasing her smooth forehead. Isolde hurried over and bent down over her, wiping away the blood from her face and feeling her pulse.

After a minute, she looked around at the rest of us. “Lilith has returned with the strength of her youth.”

Chapter 5: Rose

Mona consulted the map she had brought with us. She traced her finger along the various gate locations until she settled on one at a nearby shore.

“I’m not sure where this one leads,” she said, “but it’ll have to be good enough for now. Everyone, gather around Ibrahim, Corrine and me.”

“Wait,” I said. “Don’t you think we should return to The Shade and bring at least one dragon with us, just for good measure?”

Mona scowled. “Those beasts refuse to be transported by magic. It would take too long to fly to the gate. We will have to do without them.”

“Okay,” I mumbled nervously.

We made sure we were all touching each other. The room disappeared and a few seconds later, we found ourselves at the top of a mountain with a view of the ocean far in the distance. A volcano, I soon realized. There was a deep crater about twenty feet away from us and heat emanated from the rocks, seeping into the soles of my feet and warming my whole body.

We all looked toward Mona. She had a look of confusion on her face. We all moved closer to the crater to see a bed of molten lava beneath it. Steam billowed upward, scalding our faces. Mona stumbled back, looking back down at the map. “There’s supposed to be a gate here,” she said.

“There’s another hole over there,” Micah—in his wolf form—said, his eyes fixed on a spot in the distance.

We moved over to the hole—partially obscured by the huge crater in front of us—and gathered round it. Sure enough, there was no lava. Just the starry crater that indicated a portal into the supernatural world.

We didn’t delay in leaping through. Spiraling down through the vacuum, I braced myself to shoot out the other end and land on the ground—wherever it might be. But to my surprise, it wasn’t land that greeted me at the other end. I was thrust into a body of cool water.

I closed my mouth, kicking hard upward. I made it to the surface and looked around. Caleb appeared next to me a few moments later, as did the rest of the group. Surrounding us was nothing but open sea. Thankfully, it was nighttime. A full moon shone overhead, the sky glittering with thousands of stars.

“Strange,” Mona muttered. She looked back down into the depths we had just emerged from.

“What’s strange?” Aiden asked.

“That the Ancients should drill a portal right in the depths of the ocean,” she answered. “Oh…” Her voice trailed off as she looked at the soggy map still clasped in her fingers. “I guess this map won’t be of much use this side of the gates anyway. We’re going to have to hope that either I can remember how to get back to the spot, or we find another gate to travel back to the human realm. Now, let’s try to get to The Tavern.”

We made sure we were all touching, and then the scene around us disappeared. We reappeared not in water this time, but on a sandy beach. Laughter and chatter filled the air. Once my vision came into focus, there was a high wall that stretched as far as I could see. An orange glow emanated from behind the wall, and occasional billows of smoke.

“It’s bizarre to be back here,” Matteo muttered. He looked toward Kiev. “You had better make him invisible,” he said to Mona. “If he is recognized, they will want his head.”

“Good idea,” Mona said beneath her breath. She vanished Kiev.

Mona and Matteo walked in front, and we followed them up to a tall wooden door built into the wall. Stopping before it, Mona knocked. We waited in silence, then footsteps approached. The door creaked open and a hideous-looking creature appeared behind it—an ogre. He had one eye missing and the other gleamed bright orange.

His jaw dropped as he laid eyes on Mona and Matteo before looking over the rest of us. “Where have you two been?” he asked.

“No time now, Ronan,” Mona said, “I’m afraid that we are in a rush. May we enter?”

He stepped aside, and we all piled in through the door, stepping into a small brick enclosure. “What are you here for?” the ogre asked, closing the door behind us.

“We are looking to speak to a vampire named Ernesta Helios,” Matteo said. “I believe she resides here?”

“Ernesta,” the ogre muttered. “Yes. We have a vampire of that name here.”

“Where does she live?” Matteo asked.

“The vampire quarters,” Ronan replied. “But I’m not sure that she will be home at this time of night. You might want to look around the town center for her before visiting her home. She’s usually out about now.”

“Okay, thanks,” Mona said.

The ogre’s eyes remained on us as we followed Mona up a flight of stairs. Climbing up the steps, we appeared out in the open—clearly the borders of a makeshift town. Shabby buildings made of logs and bricks lined a wide dirt street. The place was lit with lanterns hanging from trees that gave off a warm glow. Various creatures milled about: mostly vampires, werewolves and ogres, and some I didn’t even recognize. Quite a few of them looked like they had survived some kind of battle. They had physical impairments—some were missing legs or arms, while others looked unstable as they walked, being supported by walking sticks.