This chapter reverts to the point-of-view of Leila Moss
About an hour or so into my time feeding Ingrid, Kadri came into the room. Well, it was more that she burst through the door and tumbled to her knees. She landed on the floor with an oomph, and Justin was quick to hop out of his seat and help her up. Matthias and Blackthorne stopped their conversation and looked over at her.
“Wow, Kadri, what’s got you so excited?” I asked.
“Leila!” she cried as soon as she’d thanked Justin for his help. She ran over to me. “Leila, Stefan is going outside!”
“Oh, is he? His grumpy butt could probably use some fresh air.”
“No, no, no! He’s going down to the beach!”
Justin and Blackthorne exchanged worried looks.
“He’s going–” Matthias gasped. “Was he not warned about what lurks down there at night?”
“He was,” Blackthorne said, his voice rumbling with frustration, “but Stefan is just as headstrong as Leila.”
“Oh, very funny, Blackthorne!” I gave him a look that showed him that I wasn’t amused. It was hard to not admit that what Blackthorne said was true, but he didn’t have to point it out like that.
Justin hid a smile. I couldn’t fault him for that, really. I hadn’t seen him for years, but he’d always been very sweet.
“What is he planning to do down there, Kadri?” I asked her.
“It’s really bad!” she told us. “Stefan saw a siren walking on the beach, and he thinks she’s going to give him your key, and–“
“Wait, slow down,” I said, taking her hand. “Why does he think that?”
“I– well, umm, she’s wearing a key like it’s a pendant, and she was singing the ballad.”
“It sounds like he rushed to his conclusion,” Blackthorne sighed.
“He wouldn’t stop when I told him that the siren is dangerous. He thinks she’s bringing him the key, sort of like I rode all this way to find you.” She tugged gently on my free arm. “He’ll listen to you, Leila; you have to stop him before he lets the siren drown him!”
I looked to Blackthorne. “He wouldn’t…”
“That’s the problem,” he replied with a frustrated sigh. “He might, and he’d do it because he wants to help you. Ingrid, that’s going to have to be enough for now; let Leila go.”
The vampire looked up and nodded at him. She released my arm, licking the wound clean and accepting a handkerchief from Matthias. Blackthorne wrapped a length of gauze around my arm; it would heal faster than most wounds, but not as instantly as the stories made it seem. Then he took me out into the hall with Kadri and Justin.
“Go ahead and see if you can talk some sense into him,” Blackthorne said.
“You’re not coming with us?”
“Not just yet. If there’s a chance that Stefan goes into the ocean, I need to get someone who can get him out.”
“You’ll see,” he said. He took Justin’s hand and started down the hall. “Please, just get down there and try to keep him out of the water. There’s a storm coming in, and–”
“I know; if he’s in the water, the storm is going to make it that much harder to get him out.”
He nodded, and I headed downstairs with Kadri. I decided that it would be faster if we rode down to the beach, so we went to the stables and took out Lorelei and Sleipnir. Kadri showed me how the unicorn could light up her horn, which gave us just enough light to see the path we were taking. We rounded the hill with the wind blowing in our faces, and raced down towards the beach as fast as the horses could carry us.
Even with the spray of the water being blown by the wind and the thickening cloud, the sand seemed to glow under what little moonlight there was. The beach was littered with dozens of the little polished stones that Kadri and Larsa used for their magic, and their colors glittered here and there. Some were easier to see than others, having been revealed by the footprints Stefan had left in the sand.The problem was, Stefan was nowhere to be seen.
“Those boot-prints look big enough to come from his feet,” I told her.
Kadri pulled Lorelei to a stop and hopped down. She fished a white stone out of the sand and tossed it up as far as she could; the stone burst and shed a dome of light onto that part of the beach. Then she followed the boot-prints further along the shore, picking up white stones here and there to create even more light.
“Kadri,” I said as I rode alongside her; I could hear my voice shaking, “is it me, or are his footsteps getting closer to the water-line the further we go? Not from the tide coming in, but–“
“You’re right.” said, sounding just as worried. “They’re angled towards the water. And I don’t see anyone else’s footprints out here. From the balcony, the siren would have been walking towards us, but there’s no sign of anyone being there recently.”
My brow furrowed as I looked out ahead of me, and then back the way we had come. I had to hold my hair to keep it from being blown across my face again and again. “Stefan…” I murmured to myself. “Where are you?”
I would have questioned whether he’d left the castle at all, but those were his footsteps; his heavy, sure stride. I watched as Kadri kept on following his trail, lighting up the beach as she found little light stones. She paused when his footsteps faded into the waterline.
“Kadri…” I stopped to take in a deep breath. “The light won’t make it harder to find him, will it?”
She looked up at me curiously.
“I mean…” My voice was shaking even more now, “If something has him… will the light make it retreat further?”
“Not likely,” she replied. “The things that hate the light badly enough would probably let him go in order to swim into the dark depths faster, but it can depend on what exactly–“
She paused when Lorelei stepped close to the water and pawed at the sand, then gently led her backwards. “No, Lorelei, the kelpies are out there. Stay on the dry sand.”
Kadri bent down to see what the unicorn had been so interested in. “A ribbon…” It was a wide ribbon, and very long, made of a silvery kind of silk and stitched with crimson thread. “It hasn’t been out here for much time… Look how easily the sand washed off of it.”
“Was that– could that be what the siren was wearing? Didn’t you say she wore the key like a pendant?”
She gave me a worried nod and tucked the ribbon into her belt pouch, then pulled out three white stones. She climbed onto Lorelei’s back and threw the stone high up, angling them a little over the water in order to light up the waves.
“Stefan!” I called out as loudly as I could. Sleipnir took a few uneasy steps into the water. “Steeeefaaaaan!”
“There!” Kadri cried, pointing just beyond the spheres of light she’d made.
There was splashing among the waves, something stronger than the ebb and flow of the ocean or the wind the carried in the storm-clouds. It was the sign of a struggle. I screamed his name again, and had to work even harder to keep Sleipnir from going in after him.
“No– no, the kelpies will pull you under!”
Behind us, just beyond the lights Kadri had made, the shadows deepened. It was nearly pitch black under the cliffs, and I stared into the shadows, all but praying that whatever was happening would help us rescue Stefan from whatever had dragged him out to sea.