My grandmother coughs as she comes up behind me, pulling me from my thoughts. I was lost in thought, reliving the stories of my childhood and the tragic events that unfolded in the years between. She grabs my hand, making me look at her. Her pale face holds a knowing look, like she knew what I was thinking. I never doubted her ability to read people. She often knew me better than I knew myself.
I dry my hands on the towel before letting her drag me to the broken table that sat in this tiny rundown kitchen, the place is falling apart, the paint peeling on the walls, the benches made of chipboard were flaking and crumbling, the place falling apart, none of the appliances worked but the fridge, not that it had much in it. Even the roof was sloping inward from the water damage caused by the last storm. Rundown was an understatement, this house was condemned and abandoned a long time before we stumbled across it, in a search of somewhere semi-dry to sleep.
Sitting in the chair across from my grandmother, the legs wobble and I sigh heavily, worried about her deteriorating health. Her purple eyes had lost most of their light over the years. When I was a child, they used to burn brightly, almost glowing.
Now, they look dull and lifeless, almost hollow. Yet also knowing and wise, as she had seen a lot over the years. I knew her memories haunted her like a bad dream. We hide our eyes mostly, hoping to blend in with the humans that survived the wars. Better to be human then hunted down and killed like they did with the Witches.
Her once shiny black hair turned white as snow, hanging to her hips. My grandmother used to be the strongest person I knew, but years of hardship had taken its toll on her. She was now frail, barely able to walk without support, her muscles shrinking to shadows of their former selves, leaving her looking like a skeleton with skin.
“What are you thinking, my child?” she asks, her eyes softening as she looks at me.
“Nothing grandma, but I will go get something for that cough. It has lasted too long,” I say worriedly. I can’t afford to lose her too. She was all I had left in this world. My grandmother shook her head, but I stood up, not taking no for an answer.
“Elora, we can’t afford medicine, dear. I will be okay,” she tries to reassure me. She is right, we can’t afford medicine, but I know I can find a way. I always do. Grandma must have known what I was thinking as she tries to stand up but sat down quickly, her coughing taking her breath away as her body heaved with each breath.
“You can’t, it was your mother’s,” she says, before coughing again. I rub her back, trying to help before grabbing a glass of water and handing it to her. She sips slowly, trying to catch her breath.
“Here take this,” she said, pulling her wedding band from her withered old finger, it slipped off easily, much too big for her frail finger. The ring was one of her most prized possessions, with intricate vines wrapping around the band.
“I won’t allow you to sell any more of your mother’s things for me.” I hold the gold band in my hand. It was another family heirloom that was given to her by her late husband, my pop. Passed down from his mother. I close my hand before dropping it into the pocket of my jeans.
“I will be as quick as possible, grandma. Try and stay warm,” I tell her, trying to put her mind at ease.
I grab my coat, throwing it on as I walk outside. The snow is sinking into my holey shoes, making my toes go numb. Winters were always unforgiving, and this winter felt extra cold. We lived in the city in an old abandoned shack. It isn’t much, but it at least keeps us dry and away from the elements. I say shack because it certainly isn’t a house. One side had collapsed in on itself after a storm, making only half the place liveable. On the bright side, it has running water and a working toilet, so it is better than the last place we lived.
We wanted to leave the city, but the Dragon lords refused to let anyone leave. Guards are stationed at every checkpoint, and in our opinion, it wasn’t worth the risk. The Dragon Kings had killed off the last two elders when they tried to escape and she was the closest one to the castle, forcing us to live in rundown abandoned houses. We have been lucky enough to go unnoticed for as long as we have.
They don’t know of my existence yet, and I prayed it stayed that way. But being a Fae in the city was hard. I struggled finding work because I couldn’t remain in one place for too long; anyone looking too hard would be able to tell I was Fae. My grandmother, who was unable to use magic to disguise herself, could not work either.
So, my options were scavenging and bartering or being forced to steal. I hated being forced to steal from others and I also hated stealing from humans, like the Fae they were helpless and dying out. Humans didn’t have much to begin with, not in this city that was overrun with the homeless. Everyone was forced to live in poverty, unless you were Dragon, Lycan, or Vampire. There weren’t many Lycans in the city. The Dragons tolerated them to a certain degree, but they were by no means friendly with each other. Dragons are territorial creatures and so were Lycan’s making them unsuited to live close to each other.
Walking up the muddy streets, I retrieve my contact lenses and pop them in, instantly turning my eyes to a mud brown. I hate wearing them, my vision was enhanced being Fae, and I could see every line on the thin film irritating my vision. The streets of the city are littered with rubbish and homeless people. It wasn’t even considered strange seeing the dead lying on the roads and paths. Famine is the biggest killer to humans other than the cold.
The homeless are at high risk, if the elements didn’t kill them first, predators did, and there were plenty in the city, like the vampires, who use humans as their personal juice box. The Lycans that got into the city or were allowed to reside here which was very few, Lycans liked to kill for sport, and they loved the chase. The streets weren’t safe anywhere in the city, the place was overcrowded. Many creatures walked around doing anything they could to survive the next day.
Growing up, I quickly learned the difference between the various species. Since then, Elves, Angels, and Witches have become extinct. I had never met a single one of them.
Dragons had reptilian eyes and were big, brooding, and muscular. Dragons are the most easily identified. Dragons stood taller than any other supernatural creature in the city, they also had this air around them that told you they were a predator. Their godlike appearances made it blatantly obvious what they are. However, only three Dragons resided in this city. The dragon lords ruled, and the city was their playground and they only allowed us to merely exist here.
Another strange fact about Dragons was no female dragons had been born since the war, making the Dragon lords angry, fuelling their hate for the Fae. They too were a dying species. Although immortal, most have spent their lives alone or chose to take another male as a mate. I had seen the Dragon lords from afar, but never got close enough to actually meet one and I prayed I never would. There are three lords and rumors circulated through the city that when they couldn’t find their mates, they chose to mate each other, hoping to keep themselves strong enough to rule over the kingdom.
Sometimes people would be forced into the castle, never to be seen again. That was particularly true for any woman to pass through those gates. Dragons were insatiable and impulsive, usually taking a woman before killing her, it didn’t matter what species or status they held, no one survived them once they stepped through those iron gates.
For the most part, everyone looks human apart from their eyes or the color of their skin, Vampires are paler than humans, they looked like creatures of the dead and had blood red eyes and fangs.
Whereas shifters, like the Dragon Kings appeared human besides their eyes which reminded me of snake eyes. Their skin is said to be harder, thick, and impenetrable.
Lycans also had similarities with dragons; they could also partially shift even in human form like the dragons could, they didn’t require having to shift completely to suddenly become the monsters they are. I kept my eyes downcast as I walked through the streets. Most people would glance at me and assume I was human.
It was safest that way; being Fae was dangerous. My DNA would get me killed if discovered. My species is hunted down and dragons are our biggest enemies. Dragons hated Fae for the part we played in the war, so if discovered we would be killed.
Vampires were the easiest to spot with their blood-red eyes and pale skin. Lycans eyes were black like onyx, tall and extremely muscular. They were temperamental creatures like the Dragons. I tried to avoid them at all costs; they were merciless, like the Dragons. Not that many passed through the city, it was no secret they weren’t liked by the Dragons. The Dragons sometimes gave them permission to come into the city to look for potential mates. Dragons had mates; most supernatural creatures had mates.
Not Fae, though. We got to choose our fate, we didn’t have mates like Dragons and other shifters. No, Fae got to choose who we wanted to be with. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean we couldn’t be fated mates to each other though. Before the world was taken over there were plenty of mixed species, and it wasn’t unheard of back then for another species to claim a Fae was their mate. So I was free to choose who I would love.
Rounding the corner onto the next street, I glance up to see the dirty wooden sign that indicated I had arrived at the pharmacist. The man that worked there was a nice human, and since money was scarce here, he would allow me to barter for what I needed, gold being one the hardest to come by currencies yet also the most valuable. I drop my gaze and start walking, trying to blend into the crowds of people. Making my way into the derelict store, I remove my hood, letting my black hair cascade down my back like a veil.
Victor, the store owner, looks up. A smile plays on his lips when he sees me. He always liked my grandmother. They used to be friends before everything went to shit. “Elora dear, how is your grandmother?” he asks. Victor appeared concerned at seeing me this late in the day, he knew I had to try and be home before dark. That’s when the night creatures like the vamps would come out to hunt down their victims. It was never safe to be on the street after dark, easy picking for the more malevolent creatures. “Not good, Victor. The cough hasn’t gone away. She is getting worse,” I tell him, retrieving my grandmother’s wedding band from my pocket. I drop it on the counter, shooting him a knowing look. He snatches it, placing it in his pocket, and nods his head before ducking out the back and bringing back a bottle of liquid. Victor knows what my grandmother is, yet he never mentions it, knowing it is a death sentence if anyone heard him speak of the Fae. “Give her this three times a day
“Grandma, get up, we need to leave. They are going door to door,” I whisper, slipping my holey boots on my feet and quickly doing the laces. I pull my hair into a ponytail, so it doesn’t get in my face. Slipping my contacts in, I hear more screams coming from outside and people fighting. “Come on, grandma get up,” I tell her, pulling on her arm. She shakes her head before pulling a small knife from the coffee table drawer into her lap. She looks up at me with a sad look on her face. “Run, Elora. I won’t allow them to know. I will only slow you down. You need to leave without me,” she whispers. I looked at her, panicked. What is she talking about? “No grandma, come on. We need to leave now,” I tell her, trying to get her to her feet. She shakes me off and shakes her head. “I promised to keep you safe. I can’t if you don’t go now.” “What are you talking about, grandma? Promised who?” “Remember the stories, Elora. You need to remember the stories. Now run.” “No, I am not leaving wi
Another voice echoes through the night. “Enough,” bellows the dragon lord who stood watching over the crowd of women, but he yelled the word too late. I flinch when I hear the swish of the whip before its crack, bracing myself for the impact. Only it doesn’t come. I hear the whip cutting through flesh, yet it isn’t mine. I take a chance and look up when I hear a collective gasp from the crowd. Lifting my eyes slightly, I find the dragon lord standing beside me and can see his muscular arm outstretched beside me. The whip is wrapped tightly around his arm. He wraps his hand around the whip, yanking the man holding it towards him. The man stumbles, falling at his feet, his terrified eyes peering up at us. “I’m sorry, my lord. I didn’t hear you,” he sputters out. I hear a predator’s growl rumbling deep within the dragon lord's chest before I see his foot come down on the vampire's head. Blood sprays out as his head is crushed into the ground. I fight the urge to throw up, seeing his b
“I said strip,” he repeats, raising an eyebrow at me, daring me to disobey. I struggle to remove my shirt, trying to cover my bare chest by turning away from him. The girl beside me starts to remove her clothes as well. “Not you, child. I don’t want to see you naked; you’re only here to make sure she obeys orders,” he says, making me relieved as she pulls her dress strap back up. I remove my pants, leaving me only in my panties. Using my hands, I cover my breasts before turning around to face them. The Lycan man steps forward, he licks his lips approvingly making me flinch. “Remove them,” he says looking down at my panties. “Please,” I beg, not wanting to remove them. “Remove them or I kill the child,” he says tauntingly. I look at the little girl who darted behind me at his words. I feel my cheeks burn with embarrassment. This was so degrading and humiliating. I pull my panties down before placing one hand over my breasts and the other trying to cover my lady parts. Both men
Dropping my gaze to the floor. My long black hair falling to my sides creating a veil. I see his boots come into my line of vision. He then kneels in front of me and grips my chin, bringing my gaze to meet his own. “Why aren’t you sleeping on the bed?” he asks curiously. I look at Lilith, who is still asleep, and I don’t know when we fell asleep, but we were both warm in front of the fire and the rug was comfier than any makeshift bed I had slept on. “We fell asleep,” I tell him. I watch as he cocked his head to the side examining my face carefully before he lets go of my chin. I see Dragus walk in behind him carrying a tray with what smells like chicken soup. He sets the tray on the desk. “Get on the bed,” Dragus says, making me glance at him. I feel sick suddenly, my blood running cold at his words. He seems to notice what he said before putting his hands up in mock surrender. “Not in that way, take the girl with you,” he says, looking down at Lilith laying on the floor. I pl
The next morning, I was awakened by someone opening the door. A woman stands in the doorway. She looks to be around my age, but her skin is chafed like she spent a lot of time outdoors in the cold. Her blue eyes look at mine with curiosity before turning away. “I’m Abigail, follow me please,” she says, looking at me before noticing Lilith who is also awake and alert to the newcomer. We quickly sit up and walk to the door. Peering out the door I notice Abigail was waiting at the end of the hall. She waves us to follow, which we do obligingly. She walks us to a large kitchen area where people are busy preparing food and cleaning dishes. One thing I noticed was all their slaves are human or at least appear to be. The room is huge and modern looking, different from the rest of the castle’s traditional look. It has stainless steel appliances and black marble bench tops, a huge island bench sat in the middle with three women standing around it chopping different fruit and vegetables. T
I take the basket back to the cleaning closet and walk fast to the kitchen, only to notice Lilith is no longer there. Walking over to the woman with red hair and freckles I ask her. “The little girl that was with me. Where did she go?” “The guards came and took her; her mother has been looking for her,” she tells me. I nod, feeling a little sad, but relieved knowing she is safer out there than in here with these monsters. I exit the kitchen and head to the small room where I slept last night. Walking in, I see a small, dark object sitting atop the bed. It is the book I was looking at earlier in the library. Matitus’s deep voice behind me makes me jump. “If you want to read that you should also read this,” he says, holding another book out toward me as he steps in the room. I take the book from him and look at it. It’s a book on Dragons and mates. I look up at him. “Read them. I know Fae have their own stories of the past, but what if they aren’t correct? What if your ancestors lie
I walk closer but don’t take his hand. Instead, I follow, crossing my arms over my chest. Matitus sighs before walking off. Together, we walk to a part of the castle I hadn’t seen before. A huge wooden table sits in the middle of the room, Matitus sat down while Dragus pulled a chair out telling me to sit. I hesitate before finally walking over and sitting down. Dragus took a seat beside me and turned his chair so he was half facing me. A few minutes later, Abigail emerges and places three plates in front of us. I stared at the plate wishing I could be anywhere else. I would have preferred to sit in the room alone and eat instead of finding myself stuck between two intimidating men. Dragus touches my knee beneath the table. I just stare at the plate, feeling uncomfortable. Dragus runs his hand up my leg, making me jump before I move his hand off me only for him to place it back on my thigh. Ignoring his hand, I look over at Matitus. “Eat” he orders, but I suddenly don’t feel like ea