Home > A City of Lies (A Shade of Vampire #55)(6)

A City of Lies (A Shade of Vampire #55)(6)
Author: Bella Forrest

“The Maras are preventing the Imen from telling us certain things about their lives here,” Heron added, “but the Imen’s lore seems to have escaped their scrutiny. The sisters directed us to Lemuel, an old Iman who keeps an archive in the slums of level one. We started going through it yesterday, but we’ll dig deeper today. We couldn’t find anything about the asteroid belt, other than some vague superstitions. Nothing of use, really. But I think our main takeaway is that the mind-bending is far more serious than we originally thought.”

“My only question is, where does our diplomacy end?” I asked, looking at Patrik, our senior officer in charge. “Where do we draw the line with what the Maras should and shouldn’t do to their people?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Patrik replied. “But we obviously can’t trust them. To be specific, we cannot trust the Maras, since they are more manipulative than we thought, and we cannot trust the Imen, since they are the ones who are being manipulated. I don’t know how all this relates to the daemons at this point; it could be just an Imen’s rights issue, which would make it our business as GASP. But we have to prioritize. The city is under siege from daemons. I say one problem at a time, but stay vigilant nonetheless.”

We all nodded, as it was something that we could all agree with. Trust no one. That became our mantra. We only had ourselves to rely on, and maybe Caspian—he came across as different, though still full of secrets.

“Okay, then. I think it’s time we all split up, go do our thing, then meet back here in the evening,” I concluded, then chugged the rest of my blood.

“Keep your eyes and ears open as you go through the city today,” Patrik said as he opened the door. “My traps didn’t go off, but given everything else that hasn’t worked in terms of magic against the daemons, I suggest we all be more thorough and see if anyone was taken last night. Avril and Heron, you keep digging through Lemuel’s archives, and see whatever else you can find out about the daemons, the Maras, and their relationship to the Imen. Fiona, you look for Arrah, and hopefully she’ll shed more light on what is going on in this city. We’ll see you later.”

We went our separate ways. Patrik and I headed up to the Spring Fair, two levels up, which was a more common ground for both Imen and Maras in the city. We didn’t say much to each other, and I could feel the tension rising between us with every second that went by. My heart thudded as I tried to think of something to say, while my lips tingled with the need to feel his again.

We had a long day ahead of us—correction: I had a long day ahead of me, as I had to stay close to a Druid who had snuck into my soul, and who I couldn’t get out of my head. It was difficult to navigate all this already, given the madness and secrets suffocating this world; having to deal with my feelings for Patrik on top of that made it even more daunting.






(Daughter of Benedict & Yelena)



I kept my hood and mask on as I climbed the stairs to the upper level of South Bend Inn, where the Imen servants of the Mara Lords were being hosted until the mansions were rebuilt. The streets buzzed with people, out and about, but there was an overall air of concern and fear lingering wherever I looked.

The inn’s ground floor was relatively busy, as the breakfast room was open for the Imen. The smell of pastries and hot coffee tickled my nose. I made my way to the first floor and up to Arrah’s room. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer.

I listened for a while, but no sound came from the other side of the door. After a couple more knocks, an Iman from the room next to Arrah’s popped his head out, briefly measuring me from head to toe with a curious expression.

“Are you looking for Arrah?” he asked, his voice low, his gaze nervously darting around, as if he didn’t want anyone to hear him.

“Yes.” I nodded. “Have you seen her?”

He shook his head, then inched closer to whisper.

“Nobody knows where she went,” he breathed, “and I don’t know when she’s coming back, either. But I saw her last night, at around eight, during dinner downstairs. She filled her plate with a lot of food, much more than she would normally eat. She’s a tiny little thing compared to the rest of us, so I found it weird that she was packing so much food, which she took upstairs to her room. She didn’t even sit down to eat with us.”

I figured she had been bringing food upstairs for her brother, Demios, who couldn’t be seen anywhere in public, given that I had just broken him out of jail for her.

“Did she say anything? Did she seem… different?” I asked.

“She did seem on edge, maybe a little impatient while she was lining up for the bread.” He scratched his head, narrowing his eyes as he remembered. “We only said hello to each other, and I haven’t seen her since. Even this morning at breakfast, no one had seen her.”

“Thank you,” I said, then went back downstairs and outside.

I looked around, carefully analyzing the expression of every Iman coming in or out of the inn. They all looked wary and tired, but none looked at me in a fearful way. If anything, I caught glimpses of hope, as if I was one of the few creatures they wanted to trust.

I, on the other hand, was beginning to feel a little angry and downright disappointed. It seemed as though Arrah had simply disappeared, without a trace, without telling anyone where she’d gone. Most importantly, although I had reunited her with her brother, she’d left without keeping her promise. I could potentially ask Avril to help track her down, but there was still a part of me that was hoping Arrah would come back to tell me more about what she had seen and heard of the Maras, particularly where their treatment of the Imen was concerned.

Avril and Heron were busy with their research for the next few hours, at least, so I figured my time could be put to better use if I checked in on the first level. If Arrah had indeed decided to just disappear, rather than risk her life and her brother’s by helping GASP, there wasn’t much I could do about it at this point.

The top level of Azure Heights was riddled with construction workers and cleaners, as the reconstruction of the Five Lords’ mansions was underway. Piles of rubble and charred wood were being loaded onto large carts, and the Imen cleared the last remnants of the Lords’ former residences away, while the construction workers unloaded massive white marble bricks and mounted them over the foundations. With every hour that went by, another foot of wall was built, another sliver of the horrific attack removed and replaced with pristine white stone.

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