Thirty SixMature

Zoe watched Darran patiently. He seemed to be looking for the right words. He sighed and came over to us. He sat next to me. I looked at him and he smiled slightly. I knew he didn't like talking about it but Riley and I would refuse to tell her and he knew it.

"I'm a Shade," Darran said simply.

"What does that mean?" Zoe asked.

"Well, unlike Riley's or Ace's gifts, it's not something I can show you. A Shade is..." He tipped his head, debating what to say. "Shades were apparently a gift to the vampires from our goddess, to protect us. Shades were used as guards for centuries before one killed two priests and the Messenger at the time.

"A Shade is something that is believed to be pure evil. When we get angry... we just switch off. Nobody remembers what happens when they're in that state. You become a monster, one that can't be stopped. I slaughtered my entire family by accident because of something that's supposed to be a gift."

When he finished, the silence settled. Zoe just looked at him. Darran took a shaky breath.

"So now you know. The reason Ace doesn't go to council is because he hates all this. The reason I don't go is because I'd be close to Her for far too long. It's okay when Ace does what he's supposed to, but three days of religious bullshit..." I bristled when he called it bullshit. He stood up and left the room moodily.

"Vampires have a religion?" Zoe asked quietly.

"Doesn't every race? I know elves do. Dwarves I'm not so sure about but dragons definitely do."

"Dwarves and dragons exist?"


"Zevran said that Afanasya 'still loves you'. What did he mean still?"

I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. "I knew we'd eventually get to this. Nas and I... You could say that we went out for six years. We were never serious, it was more..."

"Lovers?" Zoe suggested.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"What happened?"

"We had an argument. Everyone said she loved me so I asked her about it and she just... exploded at me. I didn't see her for years but after a while she came and apologised. We're friends now but everyone stills says she loves me. I just don't know anymore. I don't care anyway; I've got you."

She smiled at me and moved her hand towards mine, probably still worried I'd freak out. I took her hand and she relaxed.

"What happened to you when you were younger, Ace?" she asked. I knew that she knew the answer but she was probably wondering whether I would tell her the truth.

"Riley's already told you," I said.

"You were watching us?"

"I guess you didn't notice the raven then. Or the butterfly."

She smiled. "No. The cougar was you, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. I couldn't let them hurt you."

"I knew it was you. Ace, could you teach me telepathy?"

"If you want me to."

I took her other hand. She smiled at me and I started to teach her, even though I had no clue what I was doing.

The End

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