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    As I scan the numerous shelves, my arms are filled with books that need returning to their correct places. I amble past row upon row of novels, tomes and publications that have been in this library since the rebuilding of the city many generations ago.

    Reaching up, I rearrange a line of history books before adding the three missing from this section. One catches my eye enough that I put my armful of books down on the edge of a low shelf and start flicking through its delicate pages. They are stained with age, and the depictions upon them are starting to fade, but my lips tug up into a smile.

    ‘Found a treasure have we, Dimitri?’

    I turn to my cousin and fellow librarian, Bennett. We share the same dark brown hair, tanned skin and blue eyes. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been joined at the hip – so much so that we work together here in the Rubien City Library, our love for all things books and knowledge something we have in common.

    ‘I think so. Check this out.’

    Together we peer down at the chapters before us, images of our city, which was once above the earth and in sunlight. ‘Rubien before it was destroyed and moved underground.’

    Bennett flicks through the pages, pausing on each picture to read the caption alongside it. ‘To think that a city of innocents was annihilated by one hateful witch.’ He shakes his head glumly. ‘Now we all live in this cave. Who came up with such a strange idea?’

    ‘Perhaps there was a particular reason the royal family moved their lives here,’ I suggest.

    A prince and princess of Hanrah – both only eighteen at the time – were the only survivors within the city’s castle when the witch brought down her wrath on their people. No Rubien civilian is ignorant of the history behind our lands, of the drastic move all families endured from the sunny coastlines to the depths of this cavern, away from any other civilisation.

    ‘A reason such as what, though?’ Bennett mutters, running a hand through his hair. ‘It still baffles me that they created this cave, that all within it was built by the hands of our ancestors.’ He motions to our surroundings. ‘It must have been a scary time for them all.’

    I nod solemnly. Scary indeed.

    ‘Anyway, I’m heading off now. I left the keys inside the desk drawer. Don’t stay behind too late.’ Bennett pats my head fondly as a farewell. He’s done that ever since we were kids – he was once taller than me and happy to make me feel small, but now we are the same height. It still amuses me, though, so I never complain about it.

    ‘Get home safe,’ I say, watching him as he turns back briefly with a nod of acknowledgement. It wouldn’t be the first time my cousin has been mugged. Like most people in our family, we are dameer – humans born with magical abilities.       And like most people in our family, Bennett’s magical abilities are defensive rather than offensive. He can see through anything – a teenage boy’s dream, or so Bennett claims.

    ‘Always do. Make sure you check the streets before you leave,’ he says before heading out the exit.

    From a young age, I have been able to see the future. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to control the random visions and prevent them from occurring. I can also conjure images on demand – to see what I want when I want. As with anything in the future, though, nothing is set in stone. What lies ahead adjusts and evolves depending on a person’s decisions.

    I close my eyes, and my mind moves forward in time to see if Bennett will come to any trouble. The streets of Rubien seem calm and full of people. The shops and market stalls are open and bustling, as is usual for this time of day. Thankfully, I see nothing out of the ordinary. His arrival home is all I need to open my eyes once more to the books before me.

    It’s only when I go to put a volume back that a sudden chill washes over me, and the library’s quietness becomes a cold silence. A shiver runs over my arms as I peer around, sensing something – or rather, someone – watching me. I glance between the books stored on the nearby shelves, towards the reception desk.

    I find a woman standing there, waves of dark brown hair tumbling over her shoulders, contrasting with her milky skin. She wears a dress in an attempt to appear innocent, but I know better than to underestimate her. As I scan her face, she smiles at me, noting my observant gaze. Her lips pull back to show long, sharp fangs, her bright red eyes sparkling with delight.

    ‘Hello, Dimitri.’

chapter one

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