One such shadow that lurked in the room came forward, dragging its dark ragged cloak across the floor bringing the invitation of death along with it. With not a whisper of a voice in the room, it came to stand next to the bed where the girl was fast asleep. The hidden face looking down in her direction, seconds passing to minutes before it's hand moved forward towards her slender neck.
Boney, skeleton fingers hovered above her to wrap around her neck like a leech without waking her up.
The creature then suddenly squeezed her neck, waking her up from her sleep out of shock and lack of air to breath. She pushed the bony hand away, the cloak sleeves hiding her face as her neck was squeezed tighter making her lash out on the bed but her body was weak against the ghoul. Its fingers dug into her skin, bruising it.
"It would better to have you dead than let the secret out," she heard Lord Nicholas' voice far across the room.
Her hand reached up, asking to stop the ghoul but the lord had no such plans. Air began to disappear from her chest, her head going lighter and dizzy while she struggled to breathe. Suddenly Vivian woke up from her sleep to sit upright on the bed with a gasp, sweat covering her forehead as she heaved for air. Touching her neck and looking around the dark room for the sign of the ghoul she sighed.
It was only a dream. She had dreamt of the ghoul trying to kill her in her sleep.
Not getting enough sleep, in the morning Vivian woke up with a light amount of pain in her head. With clothes that were already packed, she got ready before getting down the stairs and relief flooded in when her eyes fell on blonde hairs.
As if sensing her presence, Leonard who was talking to the Lord and his cousin Rhys who had arrived back with him turned to see her walking down the corridor.
Not making her wait, he took four steps himself towards her, raising his hand such that when she came near him he circled it around her waist. Pulling her close, he kissed the top of her head which had her instantly blushing. Leonard had never been discreet when it came to the affections he held for Vivian. It was more of a sign for others to know that she was his beloved. Someone who was not to be hurt.
Though the men in the room showed no notable difference when it came to their expressions, Vivian couldn't help but feel embarrassed at Leo's open display of affection. Leo's cousin, Rhys stood there with a dull face while Lord Nicholas smiled at her when their eyes met. When it came to Leonard's interest in Vivian, it was no secret in the close circle of Duke Carmichael that he had liked the girl for a long time.
"How are you?" his voice turning gentler than the tone he had used with the men before she had come. His arm lingered longed around her waist before pulling away to see her, "Did you miss me?" he asked bringing blood rushing up through her neck which filled up her pale cheeks in colour.
Leonard noticed the dark circles around her eyes as if she hadn't been sleeping well.
"I, yes," she whispered for only Leonard to hear but the other men heard it anyway with their pureblooded vampire hearing. She felt his thumb run below her eyes, "How was your journey? Was it successful?" she asked him, hoping it was, as he had travelled far to Valeria.
"Not completely but yes. We found something there with the help of Lord Alexander. We should be able to solve the case soon," he replied unable to keep his gaze off her face.
It hadn't been hard only for Vivian but the three days Leonard had spent away from her had been hard. He had put her under the care of Nicholas yet his heart felt unsettled with the distance of not knowing if he could come to her if something were to happen. He considered Lord Nicholas to be one of his close allies but the man had his own way of doing things so much that one couldn't trust the person entirely without doubt.
It was when Vivian's eyes met Lord Nicholas' did he notice the way her sight moved away nervously. Something must have happened, thought Leonard to himself and when he turned to look at Lord Nicholas with narrowed eyes the man smiled. A smile that said the Lord understood what he was thinking.
"The weather looks good today, how about we have breakfast outside today?" Lord Nicholas clapped his hands together.
The butler and the maids began to set up table and chairs in the back of the mansion where there were green leaves unlike the empty lifeless trees in the front of the mansion. Like Lord Nicholas had said, the number of clouds on the sky had disappeared to bring in some light and heat. It wasn't hot, Bonelake was never hot in weather, the wind that breezed through felt light, losing some coolness that it carried from the previous night.
Once the chairs were set, the servants brought food one by one which was made freshly in the kitchen.
"When do you think we should report it at the council?" asked Rhys when they sat around the table, his black hair which looked like a mess. Vivian couldn't help herself but look at Leonard who had his blonde hair neatly combed, "I don't think Igor will stay quiet."
Leonard said, "Igor wants to handle the case himself. Though he asked Nicholas for my help, it was merely because the head council asked to add me in the job. His pride has been wounded that someone who isn't from his department has been assigned the case as they weren't able to get any solid information. Rueben can only keep them at bay for so much longer before he gets questioned during the next court meeting."
"Igor knew he wouldn't be able to persuade you and asked Lord Nicholas," commented Rhys, not touching anything on the table when breakfast was served.
"That's because Leo wouldn't agree if I didn't intervene. What did you find about the black witch?" Lord Nicholas picked the teacup, pouring the tea from the kettle and adding two cubes of sugar in it. He then offered it to Vivian to which Leonard' eyes narrowed. The man only made tea for women whom he had need for, people whom he could use and kill after his work was done.
Lord Nicholas had been too frivolous before he came to realize what Leonard observed. The boy observed and picked on things very quickly. Little behaviours which not everyone noticed. Even the details he himself as a Lord missed.
"I am only offering her tea. No need to be jealous," Vivian heard the Lord speak to Leonard when she took the teacup but Leo took it from her. Taking a sip from it, he handed it back to her, "Your lack of trust in me freezes my heart, Leo."
Leonard rolled his eyes before answering Lord Nicholas' previous question, "Two of them were caught hiding in the shelter that is not far from the border of Valeria but we found another trace. The trace led back to Bonelake."
"It's no mystery. The black witches have spread themselves well," commented Lord Nicholas.
Leonard continued to speak, "We heard from the officials that a town in Mythweald went through a wipeout one night ago. No trace of any living and breathing found in and around the block."
"Sacrifice?" asked Lord Nicholas.
"What else can it be. Witches have used humans for their sacrifice from time to time. This might only be a bigger one," Rhys added two cents of his thought to the conversation.
"So what has been causing all this ruckus in the council?" asked Lord Nicholas, leaning forward in his seat with his hand supporting his chin.
"Switchers," Leo answered, "The last time I met Elliot Wells, he spoke about similar pieces of flesh being found like snakes that shed their skin. A switcher is a kind who can shapeshift into another person. I don't think copying someone is easy as the one we captured tried to turn to Rhys but that didn't go well."
"I have never heard of something like this. Makes one wonder how many more are there apart from our kind," Lord Nicholas said rubbing his chin.
Leonard then continued, "Our guess is they need time to study the individual before turning into one..."
Vivian who sat among them quietly sipped her tea not having anything to say. She had only heard about black witches and had been fortunate enough to not come across one. In her mind they were like evil mythical creatures but who knew that they could sacrifice an entire town. To now think that there were other kinds, a kind that could copy her to transform into her was something she couldn't imagine.
Her eyes wandered over the tall mansion, moving from one window to another until it stopped to see a cloaked shadow looking down at them. More than the black witches or switchers Leo had mentioned she had found the creature up in the mansion to be more terrifying last night.