Jake and I left the same evening, taking only light packs with us. I travelled as I always did, weapons, spare clothes and nothing else besides. Jake had no weapons, human money, some stores and more clothes. We went into the forest, away from where the Council was found. On the way, Jake told me about Vampire Mansion.
"Its a sanctuary for all kinds of people and there is a huge mix of pasts there. A couple of people who encountered the Shadow I have to admit. But there's ex-Council members, humans and vampires who just want somewhere to live. They're kind people there, you would fit right in. You wouldn't have to say anything, just that you want to shelter from the Council. They'd take you in, give you a room, people to talk to.. You could have a life again Asha. And I'd be right there with you."
He made it sound so good, I couldn't resist. I craved the life he was offering me. I just wanted to have a life that didn't mean killing or being slave to Zelthar and as far away from Lee as I could manage.
"It's a long way though.." Jake said, hesitant.
"Even better," I was grinning at him, happy to have a goal that meant no one got hurt. "I told you I want to leave the Shadow in the past."
Jake didn't reply, smiling back at me and sprinting ahead even faster. Laughing, I paced him through the forest until we reached a wide clearing. The canopy ahead had opened out, due to a large tree fallen across the clearing. There were medow grasses under a vast, clear night sky, illuminated by a full moon. Jake winked at me before he flashed away, laughing. I caught him up and overtook him, springing over the tree.
"You can't outpace the Shadows Jake!" I laughed.
There was a strangled yell in response.
"Jake!" I screamed, skidding to a halt and reversing my direction. I vaulted the tree with my swords in my hand and landed, pulling my mask over as I went. Flames errupted in a sheet at my feet, cutting me off. Regardless I ran through them, feeling a momentary scorching heat, then the cool night air. A ring of fire sprang up around me. Beyond it, I could see Jake's crumpled form on the ground. Standing over him, Zelthar was grinning coldly at me. Lee held only a bottle of holy water. Even from here, I could smell that it was holy. The sharp smell of burning did not even cover the smell of Jake's blood, which began to pool around him, staining the grasses.
"What do you want Zelthar?!" I yelled over the flames, "It's over, I failed! Jessica was already turned and Lee took her from me! Let me go! I'm a failure. I'm no use to you anymore."
"Au contraire, my dear Shadow. You have proven to be most useful. You have brought me a specimen far greater than the girl." He indicated Jake on the ground. "And you still remain my favorite. This." He nodded at Lee "Stole the girl in the mistaken belief he would be freed. Now he will pay the price. You, will continue to enjoy working for me as before, no penatly and of course, a reward for this one."
A quiet, cold horror dawned on me as Zelthar extinguished the flames around me. I had just handed Zelthar the one I loved on a platter.
"Let me tend his wounds." I spoke mechanically as I went swiftly to Jake's side. "He's not completely invulnerable."
"Bring him to me within three days, my dear. Else you shall also pay the price."
I kept my head down, nodding once in response as I took in the deep gash on Jake's head. His blood already covered my hands. Zelthar disappeared, leaving Lee with me and Jake. Sneering, Lee threw the bottle at me, where it smashed, burning my skin like acid. I screamed, causing Zelthar to appear again.
"I do apologise, my dear. He will be taken care of." Zelthar smashed his hand into the side of Lee's head, leaving a wound like Jake's. A minute later, they both left, leaving Jake unconcious and me with no idea what to do.