The mission was critical, Ilsa reminded herself as she walked through the hospital halls.
Her father’s words echoed in her head, “The Venatori must never have a strong nether born or they might wipe out the dragons and the rest of the supernatural beings.”
It was her first mission as a member of the Purge. Ilsa took pride in her knowledge she protected the world from the Venatori. Unchecked, they would wipe everyone out. But doubt crept in — killing children seemed wrong.
The umbra connected all dragons and all dragon kin including nether born. The magic pulled at members of The Purge like a game of tug-a-war. This child’s connection radiated across the aether — even her father felt his birth. Only the Purge should feel his call, but power called to power and the strongest of them heeded the call. Isla would not be the only one to hunt this child. Other’s would come if they failed.
His heartbeat pulsed along the tether like a hypnotic drum. Each step forward pulled the cord tighter.
Ilsa walked into the nursery. The tension shifted in her body, and Ilsa clenched her teeth to get through the pain.
The room was empty save for the babes in waiting.
Ilsa starred down into the crib of the nether born.
Twins. Lying swaddled in blankets designating their gender, the twins held hands. They pressed against each other in the confines of a crib meant for one. The boy and the girl slept soundly with small smiles across their lips.
Red colored her vision. The doubt flooded her core.
She had a job to do, Ilsa reminded herself. “Save the world.” She muttered under her breath. Ilsa pushed her killing magic into the crib with a newfound resolve.
The moment her magic drew near, a flash and a loud pop pushed her away from the crib. A shimmering bubble wrapped around the twins.
Ilsa looked around erratically.
No one watched. The room was empty save for the newborn babes swaddled in their blankets. All was silent, including the usual hum of magic. Something familiar niggled at Ilsa’s memory.
Ilsa stretched her fingers across the shimmering bubble.
The bubble pulsed beneath her palm.
She pushed against the delicate surface with her fingertips. Then her palm rested against the gossamer surface.
A jolt of electricity jumped from the surface to her hand.
Ilsa jumped backwards. Her heart raced. How was this possible? Nether born weren’t this powerful! Ilsa’s thoughts raced through all the possibilities, but there was nothing in the ancestral knowledge of dragons.
Ilsa looked again at the babes swaddled quietly in their crib.
The bubble of protection exploded into tiny little sparkles drifting on to the children. The magical remains disappeared into a puff of smoke upon touching the girl, but they lingered on the boy’s face and blanket in a soft glow until they faded into nothingness.
Ilsa looked around.
No one was present.
Ilsa took a single step towards the slumbering pair.
The bubble sprang into its thin veil of protection around the babes. It glowed a darker blue than before. More opaque too. It learned?
Ilsa shook her head and retreated from the nursery. She needed time to think. She should call her father, but failure echoed in her mind. No, she couldn’t do that — not yet.
A voice whispered in the shadows, “What do dragons want with the touched?”
She stepped into the shadows where the voice emanated. “The touched? You saw me?” More questions sped through Isla’s mind as she contemplated the ramifications of a human catching magic in use.
The man took a foot above Ilsa when he drew out of the shadows. His outfit spoke of money — old money. Vampire!
Ilsa sneered, “What business is it of a vampire?”
He smirked, a single fang on display with the lopsided expression. “What business is it of dragons among the touched? The umbra has never touched a dragon before.”
Ilsa shook her head. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“The touched. The boy and girl carry raw umbra in their veins. Did you not feel it?” The man’s voice laughed at her.
Ilsa growled low in her throat. “One or both are nether born. The Purge comes to all Venatori children called by the magic.”
He nodded, “Nether born — born of dragons?”
Ilsa shook her head. “Venatori call them Magnus. The elemental magic is rare among them, but only the strongest pull the Purge toward them.”
The smirk faced into a frown. “This is a human hospital. No Venatori would birth a babe in one.”
Ilsa nodded. “She is human. Nothing special about her other than the smell of dog and her Venatori training.”
“The intel says human raised by Venatori. Hunts like Venatori.”
He nodded his head, his fingers of his left hand caressing the beard at his chin in thought. “A carrier, a nether born, and touched.”
“We can’t kill them.” Ilsa blurted out. “They are too special.”
The man nodded. “Indeed. A plan we must make.”