A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(11) by Bella Forrest
As Arletta screamed, I had two choices. I could either join her in screaming or obey Frederick’s request to save ourselves. Arletta and I were now only moments away from being attacked. There was no time to lower the boat. Grabbing Arletta’s hand, I pulled her to the railing and with one strong push from my legs, I sent us both tumbling over the side of the boat and down into the waves. Still holding onto Arletta’s hand, I forced the two of us deep under the water before we swam as fast as we could in the opposite direction from the ship.
I kept looking back over my shoulder every few seconds, opening my eyes even though the saltwater stung, to see if the deathly form of Braithe was following after us. But as we swam further and further away from the ship, my tension eased a little. Finally, after we’d distanced ourselves by at least two miles, I allowed us to resurface to gasp for breath. It was a good thing that vampires could hold their breath for a long time.
We gazed at the distant outline of the ship, listening to the cries of Frederick and Colin. What is Braithe going to do with them? Will he slaughter them?
I glanced at Arletta’s face, drained of all color. Her lips were parted and trembling. I could see she’d gotten past the stage of screaming, and now her mind was numb with shock.
All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sob, but we were now adrift in the ocean. We had to reach land before the sun rose, or Arletta and I would burn. Looking all around us, I decided that we ought to head north. Other than Cruor, where we dared not return, the nearest landmass was in that direction.
I tugged on Arletta. “Come on,” I said in a choked whisper. “You need to follow me. We don’t have long before the sun rises.”
She resisted my urging for several minutes, her eyes remaining fixed on the ship in horror. I slapped her face hard, and that brought her out of her stupor.
“Arletta. I’m a wreck, too. But getting fried in the ocean won’t do your brothers any favors.”
Mention of her brothers seemed to get through to her. At least she followed me as I continued swimming with all the speed my limbs could muster.
As we swam, the ghastly forms of Hans and Braithe—the same forms that I was now certain Frederick and Colin would soon develop—plagued my mind. My head reeled. What had happened? What has my Hans become? It was like the starvation had caused Hans and his fellow vampires to somehow evolve… into a different species altogether. How is it that Braithe didn’t die when the pole struck his heart? No vampire should have survived that. And whatever his condition is, it’s contagious?
It was as though they were no longer even vampires… Or at least, not the vampires we knew.
Chapter 1: Ben
As I finished downing the blue elixir, a fire blazed in my stomach. I dropped the glass bottle. The burning sensation spread from my stomach to my chest, then along my limbs to the tips of my toes and fingers. The Elder’s shrieking faded into the background. I closed my eyes tight, locking my jaw as the agony consumed me.
And then, just as I felt that I could take it no longer, it stopped.
A lightness filled me. I felt myself floating upward. I opened my eyes. The sky above me, previously streaked with red, now looked washed out, its vibrant color faded. I twisted, rolling over weightlessly in what felt like midair, to face downward.
Beneath me was… me. My body. Curled up in a fetal position, face and fists clenched up in pain. Perfectly still, surrounded by the shards of the shattered glass vial.
The black mist of the Elder reached my body. He billowed around it, engulfing it completely, even as he continued to screech.
I stared down at my hands. They were a pearly, translucent white, as were my feet… and the rest of my form. I could almost see the dark ground below through my limbs.
When I’d realized my only path lay in taking the potion, I hadn’t been completely certain that it would work. That the liquid would really do what Arron had told me it would—detach me from my body and turn me into… a ghost. Although I had prayed that it would, I hadn’t been in the slightest bit prepared for it.
I no longer had a body. I was a ghost. A subtle being, trapped in the so-called “in-between” that Arron had described. This was the only place that I could be. I couldn’t remain in my body without putting into jeopardy not just the human realm, but countless others. And at the same time, I wasn’t ready to meet with death…
Staring down at my body curled up on the ground shook me to the core.
I am down there… and yet I am not.
Then what am I?
Throughout my existence, since the day I was born, I’d identified myself with that body, the body I now saw lying on the ground, a corpse. Although the Hawk had told me that I had an existence separate from it, being told such a thing and actually experiencing it were two different matters entirely. Arron was right. Although devoid of my physical wrapping, I still possess thoughts. Mind. Consciousness. There is more to each of us than flesh and bone.
The Elder, still swirling around my body, was apparently trying to enter it. But he remained outside—it was no longer habitable to him. They couldn’t inhabit corpses. They could only hijack bodies that were still living.
The Elder tried in vain for several moments before, letting out another scream of frustration, he moved away from my body. Apparently having accepted that there was no way I could be of use to him anymore, he began to glide away toward the edge of the cliff… when another presence arrived—another veil of black mist, followed by a voice.
“What happened to the boy?” the hiss asked Basilius.