About Blood Redemption
Trapped in the Dark Realms, Caspia finds herself the unwitting leader of a growing Nephilim rebellion. Plagued by strange dreams and intrigue, she learns to master her Azalene abilities when all she wants is to find her way back home.
To Whitfield. To Ethan.
But a new enemy gathers, and it isn’t just Belial. To avoid another Nephilim war, the Realms of Light decide to attack their ancient enemy first. Caspia, her hometown, and everyone she loves happens to be in the way. With the Light poised to strike from one side, and the Dark Realms on the other, she and Ethan must fight their way back to each other and try to protect the life they’ve built.
Sleep, to my surprise, came easily.
After the events of the day, I expected to be too keyed up. Jack had to use his Dreamwalking ability so we could find out what was going on in Whitfield.
I had to find Ethan.
I felt Miranda’s slight weight on the bed beside me, and the low gentle murmur of her voice as she spoke to Jack of simple things: a meal, an absent friend, a half-remembered dream. His answers came as even softer murmurings, almost whispers, and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt secure. I knew I was as safe as anyone could be in this awful place.
Burrowing deeper into the warm bed, I relaxed and let sleep take me completely. The room around me faded more and more, replaced by that half-awake ethereal state where the physical world vanishes.
Instead, a world of white surrounded me. I held out my hands, palms first; although my new environment looked like a blank canvas, it felt as insubstantial as fog. Far off in the distance, I could see what looked like multiple patches of light, scattered haphazardly through the mist, and a few shadowy patches.
“I’ve been here before,” I said, turning rapidly to take in the entire scene. I had first dreamed of Ethan against such a background, warning me of Shadows and their dangers. I rushed to stifle the sharp stab of remorse. It would do me no good here.
White covered everything. I hoped Jack could find me in it. My mind immediately jumped to the worst possible scenario: Belial finding out about Jack’s hidden ability. If that happened, not only would he be severely punished, it would spell the end of any chance I had of communicating with the outside world. I thought of all the people I had left behind. I pictured Hellhounds burning my town to the ground. I thought of Logan, in hiding. And of course, Ethan was still at Asheroth’s rather dubious concept of mercy. Shadows rose on my arms, cold and electric.
“You look like you want to murder someone and eat their liver raw,” Jack said, one eyebrow raised high. He had snuck up on me; I wrapped my Shadow-clad arms around my middle, hoping I wouldn’t accidentally blast him with one. I ignored his comment, and spun to face him instead.
He crouched behind me in that way of his: a kind of half-kneel that implied openness, but allowed him to spring at any second. His skin glowed a faint blue, as it had each time I’d seen him in the Dreamtime. To my surprise, when I looked down at my own hands, they glowed with same soft light.
“Hey!” I said, feeling a grin start in spite of myself. “We match.”
“And I can shed that stupid uniform,” he said with a long-suffering sigh. It was true; Jack wore the same loose pants I was used to seeing him in, and nothing else. His chest was once again bare, as were his feet, and I could see the intricate tattoos that decorated his entire torso. If I squinted hard enough, I could just barely see the edges of the tattoos as they subtly shifted and moved.
I felt the same brief pang of tangled emotions that I did every time I saw Jack shirtless, which was most of the time. “Where are we?” I asked to distract myself.
“In the ether,” he said, turning to survey our surroundings. “It’s a place in the collective unconscious between falling asleep and actually dreaming. I’m glad I caught you here; it’s much easier to find individual dreamers this way.”
“You know I have no real idea what you’re talking about, right?”
He rose from his crouch and shrugged impatiently. “It doesn’t matter. Just know that it works.” He reached for my hand and flipped it palm-up in his own. Shadows still snaked around my hands and arms. “Want me to get rid of these for you?” he asked, idly tracing a darkly inked sunburst on his arm with his index finger. He swept his thumb across my pulse. His touch was casual and quick, but it still made me uncomfortably warm.
“No thanks,” I said, pulling my arms back against my middle. “You never know when they might come in handy. They are supposed to be weapons, after all.”
He looked disappointed, but nodded anyway. Then his expression brightened. “Hey, want to see something cool?”
“I want to go to Whitfield,” I said stubbornly.
“We will, of course we will,” he said. “But this is on the way.”
I shrugged my consent, but began to pull away again when Jack snatched up my hand. “Look, I need to be touching you when we actually travel between dreams,” he said, as if what he was proposing was the most natural thing in the world.
I slipped my hand back in his, and tried to keep up with his easy loping stride.
“What are those lights scattered around?” I asked, wondering if it was possible to trip in the ether. If it was, I was sure it was going to happen to me. Jack pulled me a little faster. When I squeezed his hand in protest, he reluctantly slowed again.
“Those are what I’m trying to show you,” he said, bright and eager as a seven-year-old at his birthday party. “Those are other people’s dreams. Come on, sometimes you can catch a glimpse from the surface, so you don’t have to actually enter the dream.” At my confused look, he nodded to the patch of light closest to us. “You’ll see,” he promised smugly.
As we drew closer to the patch of light, I saw that it was more a collection of images than an actual light. I stopped when Jack did, and watched the procession of images. A greenish lake shimmered in the setting sun. The picture vanished, followed quickly by one of a kindly, smiling old man. Then the old man was sitting beside a young boy who couldn’t be more than eight or nine; they were fishing together. It seemed like a sweet dream. “How can we tell which one of them is the dreamer?” I asked.
“There’s no real way to know without stepping into the dream itself,” he said. “It could be either of them, or it could be someone else entirely. There’s no way to tell for sure, and I doubt you want to spend the time to find out right now.”
“No, I want to get to Whitfield,” I insisted, for what felt like the millionth time that day. Jack began pulling me behind him again.
I noticed something new in the ether, something that could have been easily overlooked. Not far from the bright bubble of the dream we had just seen hovered what looked like a dark storm cloud. The colors were just a little darker than the eternal twilight of Belial’s kingdom, and they writhed like living things. “What is that?” I demanded, involuntarily jerking myself free of Jack’s restraining grip.
“Oh.” His face fell. “I was hoping we wouldn’t see one of those. Someone is having a nightmare.” He squinted. “A bad one, by the looks of it.”
Intrigued, I inched closer. A figure lay huddled along a short bench made of wooden planks. I saw long hair falling free from the hood of a tightly wrapped cloak; probably a girl. The cloak appeared to be the only covering she had. The walls dripped with water and slime; a single guttering candle served as the lone light in the room. The candle did nothing for the corners of the room, which writhed with shadows and quickly flickering images. The girl cried out from her bench as one of the shadows formed into a creature almost as tall as the low ceiling. It had red eyes and fangs dripping with some kind of venom. It stayed confined to the shadows, not venturing near the weak circle of light surrounding the girl, who began crying at its appearance.
It was a pitiful, thin kind of cry, like the girl had already had all the tears wrung from her and was struggling to come up with more. She sat up and pushed herself as close to the wall as she could, fixated on the horrible dream monster.
That was when I recognized her.
“Hey!” I said, shock warring with anger. “That’s the girl who brought the Hellhounds. That’s the girl who set me up and maybe burned down my town, too!”
Jack’s reaction surprised me. He stared at the unfolding nightmare. “I wish I could do something to stop it,” he murmured. “God knows she’s suffered enough.”
I said nothing, torn between pity for the child I now recognized as a fellow Nephilim, and anger at her former actions. But even through my anger, I couldn’t stand to see a child tormented. “Why don’t you, then?” I asked softly.
“Because she doesn’t know I can Dreamwalk. Since Belial holds her responsible for everything that went wrong with your capture, she’s been locked away in a cell. She’ll do anything to get out; I can’t take the chance that she’ll tell Belial what I can do.” His answer made sense, but did nothing to quiet my rising rage. So Belial liked to pick on little kids, did he? That just made him even more disgusting to me. As soon as I could, I would see what I could do to help this little girl.
And then it hit me. I could help this girl; Belial had promised to grant me a request. I felt ripped in half as I watched the child’s nightmare unfold. Yes, she had helped capture me and brought Hellhounds to my town. But she was only twelve, and a kidnapping victim herself.
If I helped her, I wouldn’t be able to wish my way out of Belial’s realm.
Right away, I snorted. Like it was ever going to be that easy. But it sure gave me a lot to think about.
I let Jack pull me away, my mind troubled and my heart aching. We passed other dreams, some light and some dark, but I said nothing as he led me farther and farther into the ether.
Suddenly, solid gray shapes, roughly the size of humans, appeared in the white surrounding us. Jack went instantly still. I slammed into his side. “Oof! What the hell . . . .”
“Shh!” Jack pulled me behind him and let go of my hand, dropping instantly into that protective crouch of his. He rubbed his tattoos absently; some of them sparked around the edges at his touch. “Hunters!”
“What does that even mean?” I asked, fear beating out irritation.
Jack’s eyes were very narrow as he squinted into the distance. “It means the other side has found us.”
“But the other side already found me,” I said faintly. Jack merely gave me a measured look and sprang up from his crouch. The gray figures advanced. Jack spun so that his back was to me. The tattoos along his arms and chest looked like they were boiling; electric blue light increased in intensity around his entire body. As it did, the mist began to thin.
“Hurry!” he said, his arms outstretched like a conductor’s. “Grab onto me. There’s no time to find the right dream. I’ll have to make a portal.”
“But,” I hesitated before gingerly wrapping a hand around his glowing, crackling forearm. “What are Hunters?”
“Angels,” he said, gritting his teeth. “The un-Fallen kind. The kind that like to hunt and kill Nephilim.”
I blanched. “But why . . . .”
The ether around him continued to thin. By looking over his shoulder, I thought I could make out a darkened room. “Because we’re Belial’s weapons now. They don’t care that we didn’t volunteer.”
Great. Now someone new wanted to kill us. I threw my arms around Jack in a choking embrace. “Get us the hell out of here, “ I begged. With me in his arms, Jack stepped backwards into what was indeed a darkened room.
A darkened room with white sheets on a queen bed.
A darkened room with Ethan asleep in it.
Or, to be more technically correct, Jack had brought us to Asheroth’s house. I felt a small prickle of alarm, knowing we were in the same space as my Fallen mad guardian, but Ethan looked peaceful and unharmed as he slept. I jerked myself free of Jack’s hold and rushed to the side of the bed.
His light, blue-green eyes were closed, framed by thick lashes. His chest rose and fell slowly beneath the white blanket. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into that bed and curl up next to him, and sleep until all of this went away. But I couldn’t; here in the Dreamtime, I couldn’t even wake him up. That was Jack’s job.
I stared at him beseechingly. “What do I have to do?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself; I drifted even closer, until I could almost feel his breath on my cheek.
“I have to pull him out of sleep and into the Dreamtime with us,” he said. He reached down and wrapped a hand around Ethan’s. “Watch.”
I could barely tear my eyes away from Ethan, but I obeyed. I watched as Jack gripped Ethan firmly by the hand and began to pull. It was like watching someone peel off a layer of really old tape. Ethan’s body continued to sleep on, but a faintly blue version of himself separated, bit by bit, from the rest of him. It seemed to take forever. I watched as an arm came free, then the other arm, and then, with one mighty pull, all of Ethan’s upper body.
Shrouded in blue and blinking sleepily, Ethan’s Dreamtime self propped himself up on his elbows. “What the . . .” he began, but then his eyes lighted on me. Conflicting emotions raced across his face, so fast I couldn’t identify them.
And then, with a small shout of what sounded suspiciously like joy, he pulled me into his arms.
For the first time in what felt like years, I finally felt at home.