Not before long I heard a soft voice from under the tree. Asha leapt up onto a branch next to me, and we gazed over the forest at the mansion, in which I was sure at this very moment people were walking calmly with their sires, ready to be turned. A few of them might be undergoing the process as we spoke.
"If its any help, I agree with what you said back at the Mansion. This is crazy. One of the sires is almost certainly going to get hurt."
I flinched compulsively, remembering the pain of turning. "Who's volunteered?"
"Harmony, Cheshire...Jay and Aria." She muttered, looking away. "Ethan chose Cheshire, Jack chose Harmony, Amanda chose Aria, and Jemma chose Jay."
I never expected Harmony to offer, and Aria... well I just had to hope now that she would be alright.
"Aria chose to do this of her own accord. I know exactly how you feel...I hate the idea of Jay siring anyone.” Asha’s eyes were slowly filling with tears. "But we have to let them do it. This is the best chance we have, and I think Aria would like to know you're okay. She seemed worried about you."
“I’m fine.” If I said it enough times maybe I truly would be fine, but as if she read my thoughts (which I knew was a distinct possibility) Asha suddenly gave me a shove. If I wasn’t a vampire it might have sent me falling to the ground. “What the hell was that for?! I nearly fell!”
“Don't you dare think you're the only one suffering here!” Her face contorted with emotion as she revealed that Lee’s brother was arriving, that the Council wanted her to destroy the mansion, that she wanted out. And then suddenly, as if she regretted saying anything at all, she jumped down and landed silently on the forest floor. I let myself fall gracefully from the tree branch and slid down next to her.
“Asha… is all of that true?”
She bit her lip and looked back at the mansion before turning to me and nodding.
“Lee’s brother – is he coming here? Do the others know?”
“You’re not supposed to know – any of you!” She burst out. “I’m supposed to be on his side, remember? Only he wants me dead for what happened to Lee…”
“Well that won’t happen – you know it won’t… but don’t you think we should warn everyone?” I felt panic rising in my throat as I realised, if he was coming to the mansion and we had four newly turned vampires he’d realise what we were planning. And there was no way we could control four new vampires, and fight off Lee’s brother. “Asha we have to stop them.”
“What?” She was staring at me with a confused expression on her face.
“The siring – you have to stop it! Call Jay! If Lee’s brother gets here and realises what we’re doing… either we kill him, or they kill us. You’re going to have to decide – are you the Shadow? Or are you going to be yourself?”
“I’m valuable!” She hissed through tears, “They think I’m with them – we need to keep that link if we want to get rid of the Council!”
“I think the break from them is going to have to come a little sooner than planned now Lee’s brother is after you.” I thought I heard something moving nearby, but Asha didn’t seem to notice. “They want you to destroy the mansion? Do they want proof?”
She nodded again. I breathed in the sharp night air and said desperately, “I want to help you. If you’re not going to tell the rest of them, then let me help!”
“You can’t help – you can’t at all! This is my job! It’s my job to kill and bring down every dissenter, every enemy of the Council!”
There was silence for a moment as we watched the lights in a bedroom of the mansion flick off. “I don’t consider my life of very much significance, if any at all.” She shot me a warning look but I went on, “No listen – if they catch me, there’s nothing they can do to me that I haven’t already been through. But the rest of them, Aria… she has to get through this. Use me, Asha.”
“What do you mean?”
I hesitated. “Use me as proof you killed a vampire living in the mansion. It might just be enough to give everyone here time to train the new ones. It might be all it takes to overthrow the Council.”
Just then there was a cracking of twigs and the noise of someone moving through the bushes. I dragged Asha back towards the trunk of the tree, as I saw a man carrying a limp body back to the mansion. Asha tried to turn to see who it was, but I snatched her head close to my chest before she could see Jay, blood on his chin, carrying the now lifeless body of a young girl back into the house.