Two steps, then three, the distance stretching into metres. Lilith didn’t let herself look back, steadily placed one foot in front of the other. Forced herself to keep calm as the spot between her shoulder blades itched with the sensation of being watched.
She turned left onto the first side street, then stopped, placing one hand against the nearest wall to steady her heartbeat. Her head felt light yet she forced herself to concentrate. No sounds of pursuit, no cries of alarm. She’d escaped.
No, Lilith thought, as she began to walk again, more quickly now that she was out of sight. She’d begun her escape. It wasn’t over yet.
Small canopies of cloth were strung between the two rooftops, casting stripes of shadow across the narrow side street. The dirt road was trodden flat, the dust barely stirring with Lilith’s steps. She kept her head down, kept close to the wall, eyeing the passersby. Residents, mostly, judging by their sun-worn skin and calloused hands. None were wearing cloaks, and their curiosity about her was quickly smothered when they noticed the fang necklace.
At least it was good for something.
When Lilith emerged from the side street onto another wider road, she slowed. Over the rooftops of the nearby houses she could see the tip of a white dome—the stone building she’d seen in the market. The sky on the horizon was growing darker, the sun behind her sinking out of view.
Lilith’s pace quickened. Back in the forest, Amber had said that she could track Lilith by scent alone. There was only one place she could hide from someone who didn’t need eyes to find her.
She kept the white dome in sight, turning down side streets and alleyways to reach it all the faster. Eventually she emerged onto a wide square, hemmed on two sides by low-storied houses, the third side—directly opposite Lilith—opening onto the lakeside market. All of the stallholders had gone, but their stalls remained there, empty husks, canopies fastened down with rope.
To her left, towering over the square, was the stone building.
It seemed whiter than the nearby houses, the last rays of the sun blinding as they reflected off the domed roof. Lilith approached the wooden double doors slowly, eyeing the large green gross etched into the surface.
She’d remembered why the cross was familiar: it was the same cross that had adorned Dylan’s cheek. The cross of the witches. The WPL.
She took the fang necklace off, was about to drop it onto the ground when some impulse stopped her. Instead, Lilith tucked it into her pocket and walked up the three stone steps to the double doors.
There was no doorbell, no speaker phone. Lilith knocked against the door, softly first, then more firmly. The wood seemed to swallow the sound. Minutes passed with no answer, Lilith glancing between the doors, the sky, and the edges of the square. Amber had to have noticed she was missing by now.
Perhaps there was a side entrance.
She walked to the side of the building closest to the town, then hesitated, scanning the side streets, straining to make out a figure in the darkness. No movement, no sounds. It was now or never. Lilith kept close to the wall as she began to walk around the building, each empty alcove another disappointment. There were no entrances on this side, but perhaps there was one at the rear, or on the other side. There had to be something.
That’s when she heard it: the scuff of feet against the ground. Someone was following her.
Lilith glanced over her shoulder, caught a glimpse of movement. She stayed still, but no one came around the corner. Yet she could feel them watching, waiting. The moment she turned her back, they would strike.
Whoever it was, it wasn’t Amber.
Lilith sprinted around the back of the building, running on her tiptoes. She stopped around the corner, her back to the wall, eyes half-closed, listening, listening . . .
Another scuff. Closer.
It couldn’t be any of the werewolves. Most of them preferred brute force over subtlety, and for all her cruelty, even Rae lacked the patience to play games.
There were no entrances on this side either. Lilith edged along the wall towards the front of the building, her heart pounding. It had been a mistake to come this way. Across from her was only open space, the waters of the lake dark and still in the twilight. Her only option was to sprint across the open square, where anyone would be able to see her. Unless . . .
She ducked and ran towards the lake, the dirt beneath her feet giving way to pebbles. Lilith crouched behind one of the market stalls, pressing against the table legs, praying she hadn’t been seen.
For a long moment everything was still. The wind ran cold fingertips across Lilith’s neck, the perspiration sticking to her skin. The sky above the town was a dying blaze of orange, but where Lilith stood it was already dark.
Then it came around the corner. The figure was tall, cloaked, its footsteps heavy. Not human: the shape was wrong, the gait too rounded. Its hood was pulled low, shrouding its features from sight. As it walked around the corner, its head swung from side to side, questing the air.
Lilith stared, for a moment couldn’t bring herself to move.
Then something sharp hit the back of Lilith’s neck.
She fought back a gasp, turned to see an ewte poking its head out of the water. “Quick!” it whispered, extending an arm. “This way!” It was a female ewte. The same one as earlier? It was hard to tell; they all looked the same.
Lilith darted to a stall at the shoreline’s edge. When she looked back, her heart stopped. The figure by the building was staring directly at her. It took a step towards her, then another.
“Hurry,” the ewte insisted, shrinking into the water. “It can’t follow.”
But neither could Lilith breathe underwater. What if the ewte wanted to drown her? She hesitated, the water lapping at the tips of her shoes. Perhaps she could outrun them both, find Silver or Amber—any of the werewolves. Then her wrist flared in pain and she staggered, clutching her arm. The Snake’s mark was burning an angry red.
“Now,” the ewte said.
The figure broke into a run.
Lilith didn’t give herself the time to think: she ran forward, took the ewte’s arm, and was dragged deep into the water.