Rain slashed at the windows.
Duncan plotted the annihilation of his immortal enemies. His plan—the result of well over a decade of gathering intelligence, recruiting his army, and growing the necessary funds—would be initiated this very night. It needed to be ready. No, more than ready, it needed to be perfect. They would get but a single shot. Failure meant certain death.
Only after hours of double- and triple-checking was Duncan satisfied. His plan was as good as he could make it. The rest would be up to her.
As if summoned by mere thought, a slender woman entered his office. Her bare feet padded along the tile. Her raven waves tickled the laces of her gown. It was dyed silver to match her eyes, the eyes that had pulled him to her long years ago. Kane was his creation, the one that made everything possible.
“Sire, I thought you may have need of me.” The scent of lavender followed Kane like a handmaiden.
Shivers cascaded down Duncan’s spine. Blood-stained fields dotted with corpses filled his mind. His fangs wore twin grooves into his lower lip. His hands slid over the cool marble of his desk. Unnecessary breaths slowed unnecessary heartbeats.
Duncan’s office door—the color of sun-bleached bone—clicked shut. It brought Duncan out of his hopes for the future and back to the present.
Kane glanced at the windows behind him. The tingles radiating along Duncan’s shoulders and down his arms flared. Twisting in his chair, Duncan checked for himself. Sure enough, the late afternoon sun peeked through the clouds. The leaded glass of the windows protected Duncan from most of the danger, but not all.
“Sire, you should be more careful.” Silent strides delivered Kane to the double windows overlooking the courtyard. She snapped the black-out curtains shut in one fluid movement.
For an instant, Duncan longed for the days when the sun had warmed his human body. “Thank you, my dear.”
After a curt nod, Kane perched on one of the sleek chairs across from Duncan.
He folded his hands on the desk. “As you may suspect, the moment to begin has at last arrived. I’d like you to lead the charge, Kane.”
Kane’s chin dipped into another nod, confirming his implied request.
But another, more important question loomed before Duncan. “Are the others prepared to take your place?”
“Yes, Sire. There are a total of eight available, two of which show promise.”
Scarred fingers—the result of Duncan’s early encounter with Adara—steepled in front of his narrow nose. He couldn’t hope for another Kane, no matter how often he sent Adara on her fruitless searches. But eight of them should be enough to squash his troops’ rebellious instincts. Even a single one could maintain the spells Kane had created on its own. It just wouldn’t last long.
But eight could last an entire year. If not, Adara could find more. And there was always brute force, although that never worked for long. But Duncan could no longer spare Kane for something so trivial.
Kane angled forward in her chair, catching Duncan’s ebony eye. “And I will be but hours away should you need me. If all should fail.”
Duncan’s lips twitched, threatening a rare smile. He had yet to disclose the pilot location, but his base was located in the mountainous middle of the country. Kane couldn’t help but be correct. Not that he would have hours if her replacements failed. “I daresay you will have your hands busy enough, my dear Kane, even if everything goes to plan.”
Rustles emerged from the stables a courtyard away.
Duncan’s thick-lashed gaze flicked toward the computer monitor. By now, the sun would be nearly set. Soon the clatter of battle would reign.
“We have the eight replacements. We’ll just have to hope that they—and any additions Adara finds—will be good enough. It’s time to shift to our true purpose: destroying our eternal enemies. It’s no secret that their waves of mindless soldiers have suppressed us for centuries. Even our historic numbers cannot compare to theirs. No, at this moment, it would be useless to fight them directly. Aside from the public finding out, we would gain little.” Duncan raised a gnarled hand to stave off Kane’s coming objection. She opposed public awareness of their existence, a stance Duncan respected. He did not share it.
“No, first, we must demolish those waiting in the wings. Only then can we fight them in earnest. Only then can we bring an end to this unfortunate chapter in our history.” Duncan leaned back in his chair, surveying Kane. While her face remained smooth as glass, her torso tilted forward. Her hands lay clenched on her lap. Her toes dug into the electric blue rug below them. Kane was excited, though she refused to show it.
“Now, I have plans for battling them directly, but as I mentioned, first we must attack their back-ups, which is where you come in, Kane. This part of the plan is straightforward: we attack their children. As you know, our enemies keep their small ones tight and safe within those villages of theirs. They cannot be our targets, not yet. Instead…” Duncan’s obsidian eyes glittered as he stretched out the suspense. If only he could be the one…but no, he must remain here. He must maintain their single-minded focus on their long-term goals. “Instead, we’ll attack their trainees—those sequestered away in their boarding schools, far away from the action. Far away from meaningful assistance.”
Kane’s forehead wrinkled. Her coral lips pursed. “And how do you intend to do this, Sire?”
“Ah, that, my dear Kane, is for you to determine. You, Fang, and three of our best fighters will go. The five of you are to act as an independent nest, all the while probing and plotting. You’ll report back to me once you have a detailed proposal. Together, we’ll finalize it into something suitable for testing. You may then debut your plan as a sort of trial. If it’s successful, we’ll apply it to their boarding schools around the continent. Remember that, Kane. Whatever plan you create, we’ll have to use it across the board. Now, where is our first target, you may wonder?” Without waiting for a response, Duncan twisted the secondary monitor to face Kane. He extended a talon toward a crimson circle drawn over a satellite image. In the center was a cluster of brick buildings. “This…Eversfield Preparatory Academy.”
Kane assessed the map, probably noting the acres and acres of uninterrupted forest separating Eversfield from any notable cities. Yes, Duncan had provided them with more than enough room for shelter—and their other needs.
“I presume I do not need to ask this, Sire, but what is the objective?”
Duncan responded with a toothy grin a millimeter away from a snarl. “It’s simple: to kill them all.”
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