A red-eyed vampire has Carrow and Ruby.
Carrow struggled to get free, her fingers outstretched as she reached for Malkom.
Ruby flailed, screaming for him.
Though the vampire's skin had caught fire, still he would not release them.
Malkom slashed through the Wendigos, evading their attacks. As the creatures began to feed on their own fallen, slowing their advance, Malkom jerked his head around, searching for a way out of the circling horde.
"Malkom, hurry!" Carrow screamed.
Frustration strangled him, his fists clenching. Can't get to her. Gods, to be able to trace.
Then remember how! Never more desperate, never more frenzied, he struggled to recall - as he hadn't been able to in centuries.
He tensed every muscle in his body. Reach her. Dizziness assailed him; confusion followed. I've felt this. In an instant, he realized he'd experienced the same sensation when he'd run for Carrow during the Gotoh attack. And when he'd somehow reached her in the water amidst the sharks.
Both times he'd been panicked to get to her. Remember now - or lose her. With a yell, he strained again.
The Wendigos began tightening their circle once more.
Must ... reach her.
Then came that unforgettable feeling of floating. He'd begun to disappear! No, only a waver. Leveling his gaze on Carrow's beautiful face, he attempted once more.
He'd vanished. No time to thank the gods before he'd reappeared, claws bared, ready to slay -
They were gone. The vampire had traced them away, could have taken them anywhere. Malkom's legs threatened to buckle.
A vampire has my family. The thought repeated in his disordered mind. He should have found a way to take them from here! Carrow had warned him again and again.
Now his selfishness had cost him everything.
Madness threatened, nigh overwhelming him. Keep your wits about you, Slaine. The vampire wouldn't kill Carrow and Ruby; he could've done that at once. So he'd abducted them for some purpose.
Which meant Malkom would have time to find them.
But how? Have to get off this fucking island!
I can trace now. Yet a vampire or demon could only teleport to places he could see or remember.
Do I not remember her life? He could go to the land of her memories, find her coven, launch a search. When I find that vampire ... he'll beg to die.
Malkom spied a mountaintop in the distance, tracing there out of the oncoming rush of Wendigos.
He needed to buy himself time - to remember a place he'd never been.
By the time the vampire transported Carrow and Ruby to Andoain and dropped them unceremoniously, his skin was fully aflame.
While she and Ruby coughed from the smoke, he merely took the pain as his red eyes scanned a crowd of immortals.
"Neomi!" he bellowed. The phantom gave a cry and ran for him, batting at the flames, extinguishing them.
Clearly uncaring of the damage he'd sustained, he rasped, "Koeri, I need you."
Neomi swallowed, looking part apprehensive, part excited. "Of course, mon coeur." He yanked her into his arms, planting his fangs into her neck. Then they disappeared.
"Wait, no," Carrow cried. "Where'd he go? I need him to get back!"
"Get back?" Mari said. "What are you talking about? I barely got you out."
"Crow, he's in trouble!" Tears streamed down Ruby's face. "We need to help Malkom!"
"Who's Malkom, Ruby?" Mari asked. "And what's on your necks? Carrow, what's on your sword?"
Brown Wendigo blood covered it. "There's no time to explain! Where will the vampire go? We have to find him."
Mari shook her head. "Conrad's a special kind of loopy. He won't be right from that for days." To Ruby, she said, "Hey, kiddo, why don't you go with Elianna and get washed up?"
Elianna hurried over, but Ruby flung herself away. "I want to g-go after Malkom!" Her breaths were shallowing.
The girl was hysterical; Carrow was nearly there. She dropped her sword, crouching to grab Ruby's shoulders. "You know how I came back for you twice? I will find Malkom. I swear to you, I'll bring him home."
"Come, sweet," Elianna said, reaching for her.
Ruby's face had gone red, her chest heaving, eyes shimmering. She was about to pass out again. "I want him back NOW!" Her shriek was earsplitting. "Now, now, now!"
"There, child," Elianna murmured, laying her hand on Ruby's forehead. At once, the girl fell unconscious, and the old witch swooped her up into her arms. "A little mystical Benadryl never hurt anyone," she said, heading upstairs. Over her shoulder, she added, "Ruby will wake in a couple of hours. I suggest you retrieve whoever it is that she wants by then."
Carrow surveyed the faces in the room, seeing more witches, nymphs, some of the noble fey, Valkyrie, Lykae, and more. Then she spotted King Rydstrom and his fellow demons. He could trace! "Rydstrom, I need you to trace me back to the island. Right back to where I was!"
Mari said, "Carrow, I can only direct Rydstrom to the island - and that's if he can follow some really vague directions. I can't get him exactly back to your location. Apparently, it took Conrad more than three hours to reach you from where I'd sent him."
Even with Carrow's limited knowledge of the island, she couldn't outpace a tracing vampire. More than three hours to get to Malkom...
Have to get started now! "Mari, pull up the directions - Rydstrom is tracing me. And get this thing off my neck!"
Rydstrom's sorceress "ueen, Sabine, demanded, "Is Lanthe there?"
"Yes!" Carrow answered. "Somewhere." At Rydstrom's "uizzical look, she hastily explained, "We got separated. I'm sure we can find her within a day or so. If we leave right now!" Turning to Mariketa, she snapped, "Mari, my collar - I need it gone. It's binding my powers."
"I'm on it!" Mari said, rubbing her thumb over a pocket mirror while studiously gazing away. "Damn, Carrow, that is some serious mojo."
Rydstrom crossed his brawny arms over his chest. "So if you weren't just with Lanthe, then you can't say for certain that she's even still on this island."
No time to convince him, to explain Thronos ... Carrow couldn't catch her breath, feeling as if she were about to hyperventilate like Ruby.
"We'll go in when Mariketa scries for her specifically," Rydstrom decided. "It will ultimately save us time."
Typical logical Rydstrom. "No, damn you! Now!" If anything happened to Malkom ... She clutched at her chest, thinking about Malkom in the midst of all those creatures. "We're leaving this fucking minute!"
Sabine shot to her feet, her anger making the room appear to rock. "You didn't just talk to my husband like that."
"I did. And you'll get him to cooperate if you ever want to see your sister again!"
"Now you're threatening me?" Sabine narrowed her eyes behind her mask. "I'll turn your mind inside out." She held up her glowing palms, poised to strike.
"You think Mari didn't bind any mystical offensives within our coven?" A "uick glance at Mari. "You did, right, Glitch?"
Wide-eyed, Mari nodded. "Between that and your new collar, the best you two can do is catfight."
In his arrogance, Malkom had thought he could protect them from anything.
Now a vampire, one of Malkom's most reviled enemies, had stolen his family right in front of his eyes.
You will always lose.
No, he couldn't. Not this time.
Concentrate. He closed his eyes, dragging up memories from his dreams. He didn't want to go to the pulsing, screeching tavern. He needed to reach Andoain to alert her coven, to get their help in locating the vampire he'd soon rip limb from limb.
Focus, Slaine. ... Malkom felt himself tracing once more. Having no idea where he would end up, he let himself go.
He appeared in a new land - at night. 'Twas warm here, even though the moon was high.
Before him stood a sprawling home with a shimmering blue pool and a grove of trees. He shook his head hard, astonished his tracing had worked. Could this be Andoain?
His brows drew together. This home was unoccupied. No lights burned. No food scents or movements came from within. It didn't look like the Andoain of Carrow's memories.
How to find her?
Emptiness. Wind blew through those trees, bringing a hint of rain. Lightning struck in the distance, nearing swiftly -
A woman's yell sounded. Carrow's!
He traced through the grove in that direction, disappearing and reappearing. Each time, he materialized ever closer to her. Soon he'd located the house she was in.
Every time the lightning blazed, he saw a different facet of the home. In the dark lulls, he perceived an imposing building surrounded by a black fence. During the strikes, he saw a timeworn structure with animals teeming around it. Snakes slithered in the yard. Insects and other reptiles abounded.
Malkom stalked closer. Small black animals - cats - swarmed outside, wrapping around his legs.
He could scent Carrow and the little one inside, among dozens of other beings. He didn't smell that vampire from before, but other immortals were within.
Carrow's voice was distinct now. She didn't sound afraid; the witch sounded furious, railing at others. Was there no threat?
He traced inside, about to take her and Ruby from this place when he heard, "... you want your wife unharmed, then get me back to the island!"