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An End of Night(A Shade of Vampire,Book 16)(4) by Bella Forrest

We all exchanged glances. Mona looked more uneasy than ever.

“If we are seriously contemplating going all the way to The Tavern,” she said, “we had better hope that this doesn’t turn out to be a wild-goose chase.”

Chapter 4: Rhys

I stopped outside the red door. Reaching for the handle, I paused, taking a deep breath. I could hear sounds coming from within—Isolde and Julisse, no doubt.

“Come in, Rhys,” my aunt called.

I pushed open the door and stepped inside. The two women were standing around a giant vat fixed in the center of the chamber. It was filled to the brim with blood, and steam was billowing up from it. This was just a small portion of the blood we had collected over the last few days.

“We have enough for the first part of the ritual,” Isolde said.

I raised a brow. “Are you certain?”

“Yes,” Isolde said. “You should bring Lilith here now. We have finished draining the blood from all the humans needed for the ritual. This is the last batch. Go now. We are ready.”

I nodded and glanced once more at the blood before leaving the room. Closing the door behind me, I began walking slowly along the corridor.

Lilith. She had been furious that we had failed to take hold of The Shade. At least now, finally, we had some good news for her. I stopped at the end of the hallway and looked out of the window, watching the glistening waves crash against the island. Then I vanished myself.

A few seconds later, I was standing on a black pebble stone beach, facing the same dark ocean. I turned around and made my way up to the entrance of Lilith’s cave. I passed through the dimly lit tunnels and arrived in the circular chamber.

“Lilith,” I called, fixing my eyes on the still black pool in the center of the room.

No response. I reached the edge of the pool and continued to call her name. Still no answer. I was about to dip my hand in and disturb the liquid when a rasping voice called from behind me.

“Rhys.”

I whirled around to see Lilith’s skeletal body descending a flight of stairs. Her legs looked shaky as she made her way toward me. I bowed my head in greeting. I was surprised and anxious to see her out of her pool of liquid.

“I sensed you would be arriving any time now,” she said, her beady black eyes narrowing on me.

“We are ready to complete the first part of the ritual. It’s time for you to come with me.”

“Are you certain you have enough blood?”

“Yes, we are certain we have enough. We also tried to collect mostly females, because we know this is your preference.”

“Young or old blood?”

“Mostly young,” I replied.

She clucked her tongue, nodding slowly in approval. “Follow me then.” A second later she had vanished from the spot.

I followed quickly after her, unsure of what part of our castle she would reappear in. I manifested again outside the main entrance, but she was nowhere in sight. I transported myself to the spell room. She stood by the boiling vat of blood next to my aunt and my sister.

I exchanged glances with the two of them before addressing Lilith. “Allow us to take you outside. We need space.”

Julisse and Isolde stopped stirring the blood and gripped the vessel. The four of us left the spell room and reappeared outside the castle among a cluster of rocks. Julisse led the way, the vat of blood hovering above our heads, and stopped at the edge of a wide pool that had been dug into the ground, already almost filled with blood. Julisse and Isolde tipped the remaining blood into the pool and discarded the vessel, hurling it several feet away from us where it landed with a clatter.

Lilith’s gaze was fixed on the blood. Slowly she lowered herself to the ground, sat on the edge of the pool and slid into the liquid. She submerged herself completely, then surfaced again, her rotten flesh now tinged with red.

My aunt looked my way. “Fetch the others while I begin preparation.”

I transported myself back into the castle, appearing in the main entrance hall where all of our companions were waiting patiently, as instructed. I needed to give them but a nod before they understood. They vanished with me and we all reappeared back outside around the pool of blood.

Lilith’s eyes traveled around the crowd as we all formed a circle around her.

Isolde looked at everyone sternly. “You all understand your parts in this?” she asked.

Everyone nodded in response.

“Then we begin.”

As soon as my aunt had spoken the words, Lilith dipped back down into the blood, out of sight.

Isolde then began to chant. We followed her as she led, starting out slowly, then building in pace and volume until I could barely hear my own voice amidst the others around me. I closed my eyes in concentration, allowing no thoughts to enter, focusing only on the words coming from my mouth.

After an hour of chanting, I could feel heat beginning to emanate from the pool. I opened my eyes slightly to see that the blood was beginning to swirl and churn. Lilith was still nowhere in sight. I closed my eyes again, clenching my fists. Now was the most crucial part of this ritual. None of us could let up on our concentration.

I only opened my eyes once again when there was a loud splash and Isolde’s voice quieted. I took a step back, staring in awe at the sight unfolding before us. The figure of a woman was hovering in the air above the pool. She wore Lilith’s ragged clothes, but gone was any sign of the Ancient’s rotting corpse. The clothes hung off a young, shapely body, the body of a young woman with long dark hair and pale skin. Her eyes were shut tight as she whirled around and around in the air, her arms folded across her chest, her legs intertwined with each other.