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“Don’t give up. Keep on moving.” The voice whispered in the back of my head.

The voice sounded like Victor’s. I didn’t know if that made the pain surging in my heart better or worse. I continued to cry for what seemed like hours. I supposed I should consider myself lucky that I was left alone in that alley. Either no one heard me, or everyone thought better than to come bother me. Maybe keeping anyone from bothering me was another one of the sorceress’ “kindnesses”. Anger shot through the numbness, giving me a momentary surge of emotion.

I forced myself to my feet. It couldn’t end like this. Ryan was in the clutches of that monster. Victor was dead. I found myself stranded in Italy. No, that wasn’t how this was going to end at all. Perhaps I could use Daltom’s time machine and travel back and prevent it from happening. I could smack my own face until I let go of the idea of helping Ryan find his mistress. That could work!

I pulled out my cellphone; I suppose I’d have to come up with an excuse over why our next bill had an international call on it. I dialed my little brother’s number. The phone rang three times before being sent to the voicemail. I called again, only to have it sent to voicemail again. The despair began to surge in me once again. The weight of failure began to press down on me.

“Don’t give up.” The voice seemed to whisper.

I may be hearing the disembodied voice of my dead friend, but at least he actually died to cause the damage to my mental state necessary to cause me to hear things. It was something that actually mattered and affected me on a personal basis. I certainly wasn’t hearing voices for something stupid like a boyfriend of six months breaking up with me. I had real mental anguish here!

“Mistress really wants us to have all of this moved by the end of the night?” a voice came from just outside the alley.

The name and reverence In the voice immediately struck a nerve with me. I inched out to the entrance of the ally and peered into the street. I recognized where I was; they had not dragged me particularly far from the cathedral. They just dumped me in an alley across the street. They considered me such a small threat that they dumped me out like trash. Lilith would pay; I would make her pay, somehow.

The person who spoke was one of the pretty boys I had seen catering to her in her inner sanctum. He walked along with another pretty boy, carrying some kind of box.

“Well, you heard her before. Apparently, some bad stuff is going down. She says that her position is compromised.”

“It’s not another one of the Necromancer’s representatives, is it?”

The first boy shivered visible, “I hope not to see another one of those again. You don’t need to worry about that though. She denied his offer with brutality. She would be the last person to join him on his stupid crusade.”

The second one shook his head, “Still, it makes me nervous. The last thing I want is to be drafted into some kind of war.”

“Well, wars coming, whether we like it or not. Mistress will just ride the waves of war, and she’ll keep us within her protective grace.”

“Like she did with Ryan?”

The first boy’s eyes darkened, “You better not think or talk like that again. You don’t want her binding you and turning you into a zombie like some of the others. They’re no better than the Necromancer’s… people. Let’s just keep moving.”

The second gave a stern nod and the two continued to move until they were out of sight around a corner. The panic in me doubled. They were going to leave? They were going to take Ryan away and move him into hiding?

I pulled out my cell phone and began dialing numbers. I dialed Andrew, Rune, Daniel, and Stephan. I went through the list of all of my friends. Every single number was sent straight to voicemail. They all abandoned me when I needed them the most. Of course, even if they had picked up, there was nothing they could do. The flight alone would take over a day for them to arrive. Lilith and her cohorts would be long gone by the time they could do anything.

My knees sunk and I collapsed to the ground. It all felt completely hopeless. I could be such an idiot sometimes.

“Don’t give in.” The voice seemed to whisper to me.

“But how?” I asked out loud.

There was no response. There wouldn’t be a response, but as the silence stretched, I began to realize what I had to do. I would need to confront Lilith. Maybe, I could bluff her. Maybe, she’d kill me on the spot. Either way, I needed to talk to Ryan again. If I pleaded with him, maybe he’d help me. He was always helpful and kind; I just couldn’t believe Ryan would sit back and do nothing. If Lilith attacked me, Ryan would jump to my defense. I just knew it.

The next trick would be how to get to Ryan. Most likely, she was keeping him at her side as she had originally ordered. We were stopped by at least a half dozen of her companions on the way down to her throne room. There wasn’t a chance I’d be able to just storm the place.

As I watched the front of the cathedral, the boys seemed to move in and out with increasing regularity. If it was her plan to leave the place, then she would probably head out through the front door. It made sense, magical or not, she seemed to want to be seen leaving the place, almost like she was making a statement to the Necromancer. Why had he been here and what had he offered her? I shook my head; that was a question for another day.

I waited for what seemed like hours, watching the boys move in an out. However, the movements continued to slow until I hadn’t seen any more in what seemed like hours. There was a surge of panic; maybe she didn’t come out the front entrance. They had all snuck away out the back and here I was just sitting like an idiot.

My throat was raw, but I didn’t dare move from my spot. My body casted multiple shadows out into the street, to the point that I feared that it might give away my location. Then the door swung open, and the sorceress moved out. I was surprised she was walking on her own two feet. I’d expected the boys to carry her out on a palanquin. She wore a beautiful tan gown, adorned from head to toe in jewels. I wanted to punch her in the face.

I looked around frantically for Ryan. If he wasn’t here, there was nothing I’d be able to do. When he came out, trailing behind her, my mouth dropped just a little. She had adorned him in a maid outfit much like the one Samantha had once put him in. It was tackier than Samantha’s, the skirt far shorter and the neckline wider, sagging a little at Ryan’s lack of cleavage. At least she hadn’t put makeup on his face, although his appearance almost reminded me of a life-sized dress-up doll. Is that how she thought of Ryan, as some kind of toy she could dress up?

Anger surged through me. This woman had killed a good friend of mine. She was using another friend like he was nothing. It seemed like she made a regular habit of using people. I now understood what Victor had meant. She collected people. Not just any people, but attractive boys. She collected them like her own personal doll collection. It was sickening. The most sickening part was how it reminded me of myself.

I was surrounded by boys as well. I knew that most of them cared about me, and would help me with anything I wanted. However, I considered them my friends. I would help them just as much as they’d help me. I’d never turn into someone like Lilith.

I found my feet moving before my brain. The boys surrounding Lilith noticed me before she did herself. Ryan’s eyes opened in shock, an emotion I was unused to seeing on his face. It wasn’t Lilith’s entire harem, just a small retinue of her, Ryan, and three others. The two guards in front moved in my way, preventing me from climbing up the steps. When Lilith noticed, she adopted an annoyed look on her face, although her lips quirked in an almost smile.

“What do I owe the pleasure of another visit?” the sorceress asked snidely.

“I want Ryan back,” I responded curtly.

“Oh?” Lilith turned to Ryan with a look of mock concern on her face, “So you found a lot of enjoyment with him as well? I must say, he has certainly become more interesting since he left on his little sabbatical. I’ve almost considered sending some of my other servants away. Let them become a little more worldly.”

“You mean, like you did with Mia?”

“Mia? Oh, that little servant robot I found alongside Ryan? She was far too useless to keep around. When she broke, it wasn’t worth repairing, not that I even know how. Not reactivating her was a kindness.”

“What do you mean? I thought you made them?”

“Me?” Lilith laughed, “I just found him and turned him on. I suppose I did always imply I was his creator. It served to increase their loyalty to me.”

Lilith moved over to Ryan, looping her arm through his. I grimaced at the sight as she ran her hands through his hair. She then turned back to me.

“So, you want to take him back? Let me tell you a little secret. Ryan’s programing designates a master by kiss. The last person who kisses him on the lips gains the ability to order him at will. It’s like a master reset switch. You could always kiss him, then he would be yours to take away from me,” Lilith smirked as I lowered my head and blushed, “Of course, I’d just kill you if you tried, and then kiss him again. Let’s face it, little girl, you don’t have the capacity to take me on. Claude, why don’t you explain her threat level so she understands how useless she really is?” 

With each word, anger seemed to flair within me. The power that was always just out of my reach started to grow. For a moment, I felt as powerful as I had after drinking one of Victor’s serums. I could fight her; that was always an option. I could run up there, kiss Ryan… the blush reformed on my cheeks. Come on, now was not the time to act like a giddy school girl, my life was in jeopardy here.

The boy who had previously labeled me as a non-threat stepped forward, adjusting his glasses, “Let me see here. I would have to currently label her threat level as dangerous.”

Lilith blinked. “Dangerous? Clearly you’re mistaken.”

“She seems to possess some level of magic right now. However, it is chaotic and unstructured. I sense no real strength from that. Unfortunately, there is another factor that seems to introduce a greater threat.”

I frowned; what did he mean my magic wasn’t a threat? It almost made me feel inadequate.

Lilith seemed as annoyed as I was, “Well, spit it out then.”

“It would appear that this woman has one too many shadows.”

Lilith looked down at my feet, and her eyes widened. I lowered my eyes too, and that was the first time I noticed. The setting sun was shooting light out across the street. Everyone else had just one shadow based on the direction of the dimming sunlight. However, I seemed to possess two, one spiraling off at an odd angle away from me. It didn’t seem to be the same shape as mine either, taller and lankier than my form.

Laughing began to sound in the back of my head. It was the voice of Victor I had been hearing. The voice seemed to grow larger, then change until I realized it wasn’t coming from the back of my head, but out loud next to my ear. The shadow began to shrink, popping out of the ground and drawing the darkness into itself.

The shadows wrapped around each other, spiraling into the darkness until it began to solidify. When it was done, Victor was left standing next to me, his body wrapped in a black cloak that seemed untouched by the wind. His laughing voice echoed in the darkening sky.

“How is that possible?” Lilith took a step back, “I killed you!”

“As I’ve already said,” Victor responded, “I’m an immortal vampire. Did you honestly think your little parlor tricks would be able to affect me?”

Victor was still alive somehow!

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