As her eyes closed, Caroline was swept into a state like she’d never been in before. Her body was slumbering in the wretched, torturous sleep of the drugged but her mind travelled the dreamlands in search of her only goal. Her only comfort and her only joy. Instead of her beloved Victor, the one that she had jealously and cruelly sought to keep to herself, she was greeted to the overwhelming sense of darkness all around her. Cruel, heavy and oppressive shadows gathered everywhere and felt as thought they were trying to choke the very air out of her. She knew this feeling. Like drowning. Like the shadows had finally found their grasp of her and were pulling. Their hands were many and she knew for certain that if she did not wake, she would join them. As she struggled against their clawing, unseen fingers, Caroline felt their grasp hardening around her. There were too many shadows and they were so strong together. Forced to sit still and allow her eyes to adjust to this awful darkness, the horror was quickly dawning in her as she saw something appear for the first time.

The horror in her began to become as unbearable as the choking for air as one by one, the ghastly pallid faces began to appear. Vague and formless at first, they soon began to take shape in the dim environment about her. Caroline saw, to her terrified shock, that these faces were arranged in a vicious, inescapable ring around her. The sheer magnitude of these phantoms surrounding her was horrifying and left her quivering in fear of the scope of danger she had found herself. Still, these haunting images became even more apparent to her. She saw with a sickening clarity the gray, sheer veils that were drawn over stark white faces, their wide lustrous black eyes fixated on only her as though they could see straight through her. Worse still, each one of these veiled faces were of women. All these female visages were fixed staring at her and some of the, to her horror, were ones that she knew.

One face separated from the others and came forward to reveal a full figure. As she emerged, Caroline recognized the figure immediately from the eyes. They were eyes she would know anywhere even though she had not seen them for many years. Forced to endure this torment from her frozen position, Caroline could not cry out as the lone figure came closer, arms out to her.

“A new sister has come,” said the figure, her voice sounding more like she was choking. Gasping for breath under a tide. Still she approached, her mouth open like a hole into a void. “Join us, our sister. Come to us. Join us as you have always wanted to.”

The sisters began to approach and Caroline was able to feel their malicious intent. They craved her attention. They wanted her to be a part of their ranks. To dawn the veil. To accept them. The leader that had emerged with the familiar appearance – the all too known face of a woman she once shared a home with – reached forth her arms, her greedy hands grasping through the air like it were water in attempts to draw her in. To pull her closer and into the embrace of the damned sister.

No. Caroline’s small thoughts could only echo this sound but it grew as her horror increased by the seconds. No, she would not join. She would never allow this. She had so many sisters. Too many sisters and all she craved was her only brother. Her brother was to be hers and only hers. No, she wanted to scream. No she would not allow this to stand. The whole of her weakened being was betraying her as the hands pulled at her but she would not allow this to be. She would not accept that this was the truth. She had sisters that she hated with a passion. She hated them all so damn much and she had run from them to fetch only him. She would not have this sea of women take him away! He belonged to her and she would not lose him again to yet another wretched sister! No!

Caroline woke with a heavy gasp for breath. The light of day greeted her like she was viewing it through a crystal prism. As the fog in her mind began to clear, she had a vicious headache that quickly swelled behind her eyes. As the blooms of horrible pain raged, she became aware that the shelter was gone. She was suddenly afraid she’d been dragged somewhere else. When she was able to move again, she propped herself up on her elbow and saw the remains of the fire pit from the night before. She also saw the remains of the last two men of their group. Their frozen bodies were twisted in the snow, likely drowned in about double the poison that she’d taken in.

I am the last, she thought. A new dawning horror crawled through her as she had not been intended to survive. She was to have been killed along with these frozen wretches near her. They had tried to kill the mother after all, the bastards.

Her bundle! It was gone. That criminal who’d tried to end her life had taken it from her when he’d tried to murder her. Oh she’d been a fool to trust him and now he had taken her baby. She had been robbed of the only life that she cared for now that she had to avenge Victor. Caroline reached around herself and found that the cord was still lashed around her body where she left it. Her shock turned to a blistering rage as she shook. Dragging herself through sheer force of will, she found safety somewhere near in the shelter of a bush and watched. The travellers were still there which meant that the enemy was still in reach. They would not remain for long and she knew this well enough. She had no intention on letting them leave and go to Vivian without her. As she watched, she saw the very same man who had tried to kill her moving about. He was directing their efforts back towards the caravan that she’d spent too many horrible hours in already. She knew it was close to time that she would return to it when they were not looking. She would find a way. But first, she would exact her revenge.

“Brother Adam, we have a problem,” that wretched Stephen called from near where she hid. Silently, Caroline slid away from the area and hid further into the trees. “One of the bodies is missing.”

“We’ve no time for this,” Brother Adam retorted with annoyance.

“We cannot leave lose ends, Brother,” Stephen said, bitterly. “We’ve wasted enough time already.”

“Of that I’m well aware,” he snapped back. “The caravan is loaded up and all is ready to go. When you hear the tap on the back, you will know the job is finished but leave this to me. I know how to handle this properly.”

Brother Stephen said nothing but his irritation was clear. He left towards the caravan and Brother Adam began following the easy trail that Caroline had left in the snow. As he approached, Caroline tightened her grip on the cord. She saw him draw a gun and she watched as he came closer. When he was nearly upon her, she tossed a small pebble at a bush near him, startling him and drawing his attention away for only a moment. It was all the help she needed as she looped the cord around his neck and pulled with all her might. Though she was weaker, immediately his face turned a wicked red and he struggled to free himself. The strain was quickly wearing her down as she pulled and swung him around towards the trees. Frothing at the mouth, Brother Adam pulled his gun around as Caroline swung his head towards the nearest tree trunk with the last of her strength. A lone shot rang out in the forest. Moments later, a lone figure emerged and weakly crawled into the back of the caravan, tapping to signal they should leave and make their way to the Kent household.

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