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Shadow knelt to pick up the body of his long ago lover. Only his face could be seen in his characteristic black cloak. He threw it over his body trying to not concentrate on what he had done. Doing that meant not looking at the handsome face he had once loved. When he went in the front door, he had to force his blurry eyes to focus on the house. It was the same he had left. It was not a similar reproduction, or even a different location. My Gods, he had never moved! Why? So Shade would know where to come when he came back to him, he wondered. Heaven forbid it! This was his home…This house held more memories than he ever wanted to relive. He closed his eyes again to block out the shadowed view of the foyer, trying to block out the feelings of confusion, grief, and worst of all…his combined terror and love. Tarkin had maimed him for fleeing! Why hadn’t he moved? He had hunted him! Whispering a million ways to torture and kill him into his ears…if he had found him. If he had caught him…all of the things he would do to make him pay. Why should he be the one to pay; Tarkin was the one, not him! Tarkin had hurt him, he thought bitterly. He seemed to always be hurting him.

He drew in a deep breath shuddering as he followed the long hallway into the darkened foyer ahead. The stairs were there. He had always loved the way they looked; one set going up to split into two, curling along the back wall in opposite directions. They went to their bedrooms. He took the right side up. Knowing the layout by heart, he kept his eyes closed when he entered his chamber. It did seem to block out most of the memories the sight was certain to invoke. Somehow, he knew his old love had not changed a single detail. This especially, he did not want to see. Not now, not yet, he thought wearily. He felt the edge of the bed at his knees and let the master of the house slide down slowly onto it. Then, he turned and fled the room. He could almost hear the mocking laughter trailing behind him as he went back down. He would have to return after he was certain no one else remained inside the house.

He sealed the upper floors with a simple spell laid at the bottom of the stairs. It would keep anyone from going up to Tarkin’ton…just as it would keep Tarkin’ton from coming downstairs should he not be quite as dead as he seemed. Shadow winced at the mere idea. Then, his entire body weakened and he hit the hard floor in pain. He knelt closing his barely useful eyes to counteract the rising nausea. He wondered if it was his eyes adjusting to the light that was making him so ill. It was particularly blinding, even shadowed the way Tarkin kept it. All of the colors and lights were often so blurred he could barely tell what he was looking at; some were so bright he would focus upon them to the exclusion of all else. He was tempted to keep them permanently closed. Yet here of all places, he knew he would need them.

He got back up and listened for any sounds in the solemn house. There was someone in the kitchen, he thought. The noise had attracted him, but the furtive sound was purposely soft. The person was trying to hide. He tried to go there, but his body only stumbled in the general direction. Why was he so weak all of the sudden? He didn’t have long to worry over it. Something hard and swift struck him right across the face! He was shocked by the suddenness of the attack; the person could have killed him without trying very hard at all. Instead, a creature that looked like a dead woman he had once known leapt over him. She was just a little younger than a matching boy who dropped whatever weapon he had used and cautiously tried to step over his prone body. The boy was watching him for any sign of movement, he knew just by the slow way he approached. His eyes had closed as he had fallen. Doubtless, both children believed him unconscious. He shouldn’t need them to catch this prey. He grasped the ankle that passed over his head. The boy panicked screaming in terror and falling across his body as he tried to yank himself free. Shadow studied the dark indigo of his skin as he babbled in some odd aquatic language. It wasn’t Mer, but he could break it down into a few understandable words as he listened.

“…don’t hurt…hungry! Please…forgive…protect her.” Shade grew still as he met the boy’s frightened eyes. His skin was very dark, not the usual pale pastel that so many were fond of using. It was also rather thick like an animal’s hide. His hair was a long, tangled mass of purple so rich and deep it was unreal to look at it. His violet eyes were much softer seemingly an innocent blending of the other two, paled down to a lighter shade. He looked close to fourteen which made his sister far too young to be in this house! Using the hand that held the kid, he levered himself up into a sitting position. A tiny tattoo on the side of the boy’s neck cleverly advertised that he did not need to be a linguist to understand anyone who spoke to him. It was a spell, permanently embedded into his body to translate bets10 any words spoken near him.

“Can you cook?” The boy was damned nervous splayed across his lap. He nodded, glancing at the girl with a baffled expression. “Is there any food in there?” Again, they nodded looking at him oddly. “The two of you can make everyone dinner, then. I will send up anyone I find below. I’ll let them eat before I send them away. Hell, they are probably all starving! Take care of them…” He used the captured ankle to push the boy into the kitchen and used a spell to seal him inside. The girl followed before he could tell her to stop when Shadow moved out of her way. He almost didn’t notice the disgruntled look on the boy’s face as he recovered from the amateur spell. It was too late. She was trapped inside with him. He had made the spell specifically to hold them both. He would have to personally see them back to their own home later, or find someone trustworthy to take them there for him. His balance wavered. He knew he couldn’t rest until it was safe, but his body was shutting down around him. He had to half slide down the stairs to the dungeons fighting off severe dizziness. Had Ashra done something to him other than remove the deadly hunting mark? Something was definitely wrong!

He shook it off enough to get the keys down from a hook on the stone wall. The main dungeon area was chilly and silent. The two guards were gone. Had Collin taken them? There was no one else here. Four cells on one wall must have housed the pair in the kitchen and the girl the slaver had taken with him. He knew there were more. Shadow doubted even Collin had been able to find all of Tarkin’ton’s dark secrets. He had to move the silver cage to the side. It drained what little energy he had left. Beneath it was an ordinary stone floor without any detectable enchantments. Resting his body against the cool stones, he tried to regain enough strength to open the hidden passage. “Oh, please…just let me finish this,” he begged. “After that, I give up…” It took a while before he could begin to claw at the heavy stones. Instantly, shadows engulfed his entire body swarming along his hands. It tightened over his arms, his neck, and chest. There was a massive weight of pressure against his eyes and throat. No matter how hard the shadow minion tried to hurt him, it could not! It howled and screeched in fury raising a wind in protest as his fingers found a groove. As it lifted, the shadow fled in defeat. He pushed and lost his balance as the rest of the stone popped free. Groaning, he hit the solid rock floor below in a pile of shattered stone. Blood seeped from his head and one of his hands making his stomach cramp in hunger. “Later,” he whispered promising himself. He could not feed upon half-starved whelps.

He unlocked each cell. Then, he began again. Starting on the left side, he opened the first door he came to, but it looked empty. There was a desk with a heavy book upon it and a drape covering one small area of the wall. He opened every drawer releasing nearly two dozen small, winged people trapped inside of them. They fled in a shower of pixie dust leaving only one tiny female. She kissed his cheek leaving specks of glitter behind as she too winked out with a grin. Shadow snorted in mild amusement. The drape hid all of his most unpleasant memories except one. He had to part it to see if anyone was occupying the dungeon room beyond, but first… the heavy tome dropped into the now empty desk and it was locked closed. The book belonged to Tarkin’ton. There was a strong whiplash of power pulsing off of it! Trying to ignore the vile reminders of it, he stepped into the next room. Immediately, his heart broke all over again. Only the naked back and hair was visible from this angle, but he remembered the agony of being chained from the ceiling by the wrists alone.

The damp dungeon room was wet enough that two inches of water beneath the prisoner brushed gently along the creature’s toes leaving ripples as the pulse alone caused it to move. They were rhythmic and strong; usually the person’s pulse wasn’t this noticeable. Its skin was a light pinkish tinge with an illusory over wash of darker reds and gold. The hair was like antique gold, yet streaks of lighter colors wove through it. The head rolled limply as something brushed the dangling feet and turned the prisoner to face him. He could tell before it had fully turned that the creature was a sun dragon. It was a strange, less powerful breed that had been created when the light clan and the fire clan had begun to mingle. There was a trademark sunburst tattoo on the right flank. The pretty male was also out cold, Shadow noticed. He looked carefully and saw the tiny red specks on his feet. Shadow sighed and kicked at the snake as it swam back for a second bump. It fled and he sealed its bolt hole so it could not return any time soon. Not able to carry him in his weakened state, he regretfully left him there.

The next room held three women all bets10 giriş carefully chained facing each wall that did not include the door. They had rich clothing of silks, satin, lace and fur. In the center of the room, a male hung in a similar fashion to the one he had just left. This man was an overall shade of lime green and fairly well built, explaining why he had three comely lovers. He studied each of them. The females had pale-colored skin, but odd tints beneath the pearly opal of their flesh. The hair was each very vivid and bright. “Damn, Tar,” he swore softly. “More dragons…I cannot imagine how you get away with that!” He had to actually climb up the male Glade dragon’s body to unlock his wrists from the chains. A maneuver that no doubt broke them, he thought hearing the pops. The man hissed at him eyes snapping in pain and anger. “You will heal,” he stated callously in his tired state as the male dragon dropped into a crouch holding his arms to his chest. Shadow quickly unchained the female dragons. He left them the moment they were free to keep the man from worrying. “There is food in the kitchens, children who need to go home, and an unconscious Sun dragon I could use a little help moving,” he offered.

The man ignored him glaring spitefully. “Ungrateful, pig,” he hissed at the stupid dragon. “Fine,” he growled eyes reddening in fury. “Gather up your whores and get out! Quickly,” he added in warning. The dragon went casually to check his lovers as the vampire left the room. He took a moment to calm himself not wanting to scare any of the prisoners worse than they already were now. He opened the next door only to shut it and throw up violently. Had the slaver found this section after all? Collin was known for his hatred of females. It was something he was rumored to do. No wonder his eyes had been so cold when he had left the house. The huge chamber was filled with young women. He hadn’t looked close enough to tell what species, or see any faces. They were all dead. Every one of them in that room…slaughtered. Why had he not killed the dragons, too? A soft spot for the species, perhaps, he wondered trying to banish the image from his eyes. Worse was the smell! It made him so hungry; he wanted to go back into the room. He wiped away the fine blood sweat on his face and righted himself. The mess would have to be cleared away, maybe in a few months when the vermin had picked the bones.

He crossed the hall and started over at the beginning on the opposite wall uncertain if he truly wanted to finish checking them all today. A female hung on the wall. She was one of his kind and still breathing. Her wrists were chained to the ceiling separately and she hung limply in them unable to stand or go to her knees, but her feet were flat on the stones below. A loose, sleeveless midriff hid little of her chest and a tiny skirt showed the rounded curves of her ass it was so short. The hair and eyes were a silken black. Her skin was nearly silver by comparison. He did not have to wonder why Tarkin’ton kept this one; his scent clung to her body. Shadow tried to ignore her beauty, but the smell irritated him. Tarkin’ton must have been with her when the slaver had interrupted him. The scent of their sex filled the air with a cloying scent that made him sick. The bruised handprints were beginning to show. Shade’s eyes went red again before he could even approach her. He knew the marks of his old lover; they were easy to recognize! Not moving, he held himself back. He felt the unbearable urge to rip her into little pieces! He turned away the second he could unclip her chains to flee, but she reached for him. Before he was even aware of what he was doing, he sliced her palm wide open! Shadow’s eyes widened in horror as he backed away fearful of doing even worse things.

“Shade, wait,” she called. Her voice calling his name made him hesitate. “He told us you would come.”

“He knew,” he whispered confused. What did she mean?

“You look unwell. Are you? I can call gates. If you need my help to get someone, or send someone away,” she offered. “He told us you killed him. You will always have my undying gratitude for that!”

“The slaver…you spoke to the slaver?” Collin had been down here! He closed his eyes and shook his head wearily once more. His heart stopped skipping in frantic terror. For just a moment, he had thought…something else! “Do not leave the dungeons yet. I do need some help, but let only the dragons go upstairs right now.”

“Yes,” she purred wryly amused. “They do tend to eat other species.” He knew by her tone she did not fear the dragons. Only stupid dragons tried to eat their race. “Especially, the fragile little morsels down the hall,” she added. He left her there, but she came out into the hall to watch him.

The center room held twin dragonettes, but they were not purely dragon blood. Their skin was a light, ashy gray. The hair was pure ebony like jet made to live and move. It fell to the floor on both of them, displaying bets10 güvenilir mi the raw, muscular physics and doubled assortment of flawless flesh deliciously. Shade rubbed his face in disbelief. They were so gorgeous…Men would kill to claim the pair of them. They had tried to hide their beauty with draconian scales, or perhaps they simply did not like being helpless and naked. The rippling, black scales did little to hide anything. They were each edged with a glimmering sheen of silver calling attention to the bands of scales at their waist, or thigh. One had a line of them running like a sharp, garter belt along waist and hips. Shadow itched to rub them. “Damn,” he whispered.

“Piven,” one called weakly. The other only groaned and fell silent again. When no one answered him, the one who had spoken moved weakly in fear. “Please, no,” he begged, “don’t hurt us any more!” It was all he needed to break the spell. These lovely men were afraid, weak, and helpless. He couldn’t even feed off of them.

“I am not Tarkin’ton,” he stated firmly letting them hear his voice clearly.

“Good,” the one who was awake muttered. “Please, get us down from here! We are not food,” he growled angrily. Shade was speechless.

“I didn’t think you were,” he protested. “You are both too weak.” He heard a tiny sob from the silent one and the other grew still in terror.

“Oh, Gods,” he moaned, “What are you?”

“Vampire,” he answered as neutrally as he could manage, but both men reacted violently to his word. He studied the chains knowing they were pressure sensitive being easily retracted and pulled up again. A lever on the wall shifted them between two settings. A soft mattress had been placed in the center between them. It could be reached by both when they were let down. He touched one man’s wrist and tried to unlock it as the creature struggled in fright. It wouldn’t come free, so he exited hitting the lever to release them from the walls as he slammed the door. “I guess you two are another ‘I’ll get you later’,” he stated with a resigned sigh. It was then he noticed the woman in the hall laughing as she watched him.

“Can’t I have my dragons back? They are technically your dragons at the moment,” she pouted playfully with a sultry purr.

“Don’t you even think of crossing this threshold,” he warned, “or I will kill you.” She laughed in pleasure as he went to the very last room.

“Oh, you are a sweet one,” she teased. “Can I take the boys home for you? They are all so young…so tender…so…irresistibly…juicy.” He turned slowly to meet her suddenly cold eyes. She grinned at him unrepentantly. Her upper fangs were extended and slick with hungry saliva. She was still chuckling softly at him.

“Get out of this house,” he demanded finally. “I forbid you to return!” He had had enough of this bitch!

Her grin faltered just a little. “You cannot do that…It is not your house.”

“Really,” he drawled enjoying the look of doubt in her dark eyes. He thought of the house’s guardian shadow and it appeared at his side. Her eyes widened. “Take her off of the premises and never let her return to them again,” he ordered the wispy creature. It was reluctant, but knew it had to obey him. Despite the way the master treated Shadow, he was half owner of the house and could control shadows, too.

“You can’t throw me out,” she sputtered in anger. “This is my home! I live here! It should be mine now that he is gone…”

“Afraid not, toots,” he drawled viciously as he wiggled his fingers at her in good-bye. The shadows claimed her still spitting and fighting as they swept her away. One sprang back up to torment him.

“The master will not be pleased that you threw…”

“His slut out on her ear,” he hissed furiously. “Out of our home…” The creature smiled cruelly at him. “Tell him what I have done when he gets back up, why don’t you?” The question was sarcastic and rhetorical, but the shadow didn’t see it that way. It snarled at him and agreed to do just that. Its confidence that it would just be a matter of time shook his own that Tarkin’ton was dead. It disintegrated and his fury swelled. “I won’t share this house with his little whore!” He almost heard mocking laughter. Did it come from the house? The shadows were probably laughing at him, he thought with a cold shiver. The whole house seemed to be shaking either angry at his impudence, or rolling in enjoyment of his madness.

He opened the door in front of him to a swarm of young boys. They had been moving the youngest to the back of the room, but stopped when the door moved. One of the youths, a six-year-old child from the look of him, burst into sudden tears. The others moved him back barely seeming to move; he just began to fade away among them. He counted a great deal who looked between sixteen to twenty-five, but that meant very little. At the age of eighteen, most of their kind could adapt their age to fit whatever they wanted to be for the rest of their lives. Again, he heard the laughter and a soft voice repeating his last statement back at him. Shadow used some of his remaining energy to scan the boys. It revealed that none of them were younger than twenty or even older than fifty…mere children of their races.

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