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The path continues through deep and impenetrable shadows for what feels like hours. Every now and again, I hear movement from either side of me, but when I look over, I can’t see anything. Each time I look, I feel the knot in my head tighten, as though I were using shadows.

“Hmph,” Charlotte says, rolling her eyes. “Ignore the Madmen. You’ll get used to them. The None is a vampire, born as an orphan, who doesn’t belong to a family. And the All belongs to all three families. When the two work together, they will have the power to bring down the Dynasty and free vampirekind to rule the world once more.”

“The All was born of a parent who had taken in the blood of other families,” says Charlotte. “Enough that their blood mixed with that of the other families when they Raised the All.

The None… none know of their origin, except for they themself.” Charlotte sighs. “We have yet to find either.”

It’s nearly dawn by the time we arrive at the main body of the camp. It looks like a village; there are homes and little shops scattered about, varying in quality from beat-up shacks to lovely little cottages. People are wandering around between the buildings, buying clothing and decorations and various other knick-knacks. Some have the shadowed visages of vampires, and others have the colourless pallor of the Enchanted, humans who have become addicted to the thrill of vampire feedings, and as such will serve their vampire masters in order to experience it again. anxiety disorder adalah At one point, I even saw a flash of salt-and-pepper fur that looked like a werewolf. All of them smile and wave at Briella, Charlotte, and I as we pass. In the centre of the village, there’s a building that looks to be four or five stories tall that towers over the little single-level homes and shops around it.

“My, Briella has done an awful job of teaching you, hasn’t she?” asks Charlotte. Briella scoffs, but Charlotte ignores her and continues. “The All has the powers of all of the families. Saviour telepathy, the shadow manipulation of the Damned, and the Madmen’s precognition. The None… well, again, not much is known about them. It is said that they have their own power, a power more intense than that of all of the families combined. No one knows what it is.”

“Very well, then, Ava,” she says. By now, we’ve arrived at the building in the centre of town. Charlotte gestures to the door, reaching out with her other hand and grabbing Briella by the wrist. “The Leader is up on the top floor. You will not have trouble finding her. I wish you luck.”

I close my eyes, steel myself, and then walk inside. brain anoxia recovery The building is dark, dark enough that I have to widely expand my senses to see well enough to walk around. The sounds of the village clamour even through the stone walls, and I shudder as the knot in my head pulses and throbs.

The fifth floor is just as dark as the first. I narrow my eyes, the shapes around me coming slowly into focus. Ahead of me, there is a long hallway that leads to a broad, thick wooden door. I reach my mind out, searching for anyone else on this floor. anoxia cerebral In this building. There, beyond the door, is one mind. The only one in the entire building. They are… she is excited. And a little bit afraid.

I start down the hallway, letting my senses dull so that my footsteps no long echo quite so loudly and neither do the conversations below me, and knock on the door. There is a brief silence, and then a soft, high-pitched, and oddly familiar voice calls, “Come in.”

I open the door, stepping into the room beyond and blinking in the sudden brightness, dulling my senses and feeling the knot in my head recede simultaneously. The room is still dim, lit only by the flickering glow of a half a dozen candles sitting on a desk across from me. In front of the desk is a broad, high-backed chair that hides the mind sitting within it from my view.

The chair spins, and I freeze. The smooth, amber skin, black eyes, chocolate hair, the marks of the Shadows running down from her severe centre part and down her nose and spreading around her neck, that knowing smile… I know that face. I know that woman.

My mind flies back in time, to a moment just like this one. I stood in front of this woman, in front of Dania Alvarez, the founder and leader of the Devotees, inside the Devotees headquarters in the centre of Veracruz. Just before I blew the city to hell and back.

Dania’s face breaks into a smile. “See, I knew you’d catch on. You’re our leader. You’re the one who is to lead us out of the captivity of the Dynasty and into a new era of freedom for all magickal folk. Not just vampires, but lycans and Fay and mages and ghouls and–”

“This is your destiny!” Dania says, her voice rising angrily. “All of our Madmen have seen it. The All will bring freedom to our kind. Go on. You are still resisting the changing of the Mad. anoxia at birth Let yourself fall. Let your mind fall into the darkness and madness. That is the one ability you still lack. Become mad, and you will see your destiny as well.”

“You will be allowed to leave,” says Dania. “But only once you have let yourself go mad. Once you see your destiny, the way it lays out before you, the beauty of it, then you will be allowed to go. And then you can begin to fulfill it, with me and my Devotees behind you.”

“ It’s like there’s a knot in the middle of your brain, pulling all of your thoughts into it and sending them through a strainer to the other side until this is that and that is this and wrong is right and right is wrong… My advice? Stop pulling at the knot gently. Just take a sword through it. Saves you a lot of trouble.”

I close my eyes, seeing the knot, pulsing and pounding and growing ever larger as it drags my thoughts into its pull, only to distort the world until nothing makes sense. anoxic encephalopathy emedicine It’s grown since this evening, grown tenfold, and it’s black and red and veined and revolting. Just looking at it makes me sick. It’s as though I’m staring into the very heart of evil. The very core of everything that’s wrong with the world, of everything that’s ever been wrong with the world. If I can untangle the knot– if I can destroy it– the world will be right. Everything will be right.

I visualize a sword materializing in my hand. At the sight of it, the knot quivers, almost in fear, and I feel a perverse thrill shoot through me. I raise the sword, charging at the knot. It pulses, growing more and more, darker and darker, and I bring the blade down with a yell and–

The knot dissolves. My eyes fly open. The world is glimmering, shining in a way that it never has before. Everything is clear. Everything makes sense. I see the future, stretched out before me, and I see what I want and what I need and how to make it happen. anxiety attack cure tips I see a way to never kill again. And then I realize. I realize the truth.

“You’re correct about my power,” I say. “You’re correct about my destiny, at least in part. But I am not the All.” I reach up, and a shockwave pulses out of my hand, like it did at Veracruz, except that this one is made out of pure light instead of pure shadow. It is more concentrated, more focused; meant to break through matter, not souls. Meant to leave my victims alive. The wave smacks into the ceiling, and the rocks above us shatter, falling onto the ground. The orange light of dawn blazes into the room, and Dania screams as her hands, the only part of her not protected by the fallen rocks, shrivel and crumble to dust.

“I am not the All,” I say. “I’m the None.” And with that, I shoot myself upwards on beams of pure light, using my power– a power no vampire possesses, the power of the sun– to fly over the commune. I land in front of a house, feeling Briella’s mind within, and bang on the door.