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Первородные: Восхождение
  • Текст добавлен: 15 октября 2016, 06:37

Текст книги "Первородные: Восхождение"


Автор книги: Julie Plec






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Текущая страница: 10 (всего у книги 17 страниц)

CHAPTER NINETEEN

KLAUS WOKE IN the late afternoon, fully rested for the first time he could remember. He reached for Vivianne by pure instinct, needing to pull her closer again, to be touching every inch of her. But his hand found nothing but cold, crumpled bedding, and he jumped to his feet in alarm.

She was gone. Her dress, her shoes, even her scent was fading. She had been gone for hours and hours, and soon it would be as if she had never been there at all. What had happened to her?

He dressed quickly, thinking over what had happened. Whatever they had experienced together, something had obviously gone wrong. He had missed something...something she hadn’t wanted him to see. When she had given herself to him, she’d also been preparing to take herself away, and he had misunderstood everything.

He circled her family’s home, prowling like an animal with every sense attuned to the slightest change. He could feel her moving between its rooms, even when he could not see her. And so he knew when she stole out of the house, although her own mother had no idea she was gone. She was escaping his love and now her family’s, believing they could never understand what she was about to do.

She was wrong. She was young and impulsive and sincere, and that combination made her incredibly vulnerable to the manipulation of the werewolves.

And people called Klaus a monster.

She wore a long, black cloak with a deep hood that hid her face, but he did not doubt for a moment that it was she. He followed soundlessly, pursuing her through the shadowed cobblestoned streets until they gave way to dirt tracks. She did not hesitate, and he did not take his eyes from her concealed form. He would have killed anyone or anything that troubled her, but he couldn’t protect her from herself.

He knew Vivianne better than anyone. If she truly wanted to do this, then blocking her path was futile. If he didn’t stop her he might lose her, but he would lose her for sure if he tried. So he could only watch, hoping against hope that he had misunderstood her intentions.

He had not. He smelled the werewolves before he saw them. Dozens and dozens, all waiting for Vivianne. Her first kill would not be some accident in a narrow back alley—they would make a production of her joining their ranks. They would draw her in with their celebration so that she wouldn’t be able to stop, and then it would be done. Irrevocable. She would become the wolf that he could not, and then she would be allied with his bitterest enemies.

They had gathered in a semicircle near the edge of the forest, waiting for her with torches and the requisite human sacrifice. Klaus was repulsed by the makeshift altar, which tried to lend an air of legitimacy to the proceedings. An unconscious man lay across it, naked to the waist with his hands bound behind him. How could Vivianne not be revolted by it? That she could believe she was amongst her own kind turned his stomach.

Vivianne threw back the hood of her cloak, and Klaus closed his eyes for a moment, remembering every single emotion he had seen on that lovely face the night before. There was no hint of a smile on her bloodred lips now. Even in the soft golden light of sunset, she looked pale and serious. Armand stepped forward to greet her, but stopped halfway, apparently reading her expression. Vivianne was obviously in no mood to be comforted. She had come to kill.

“Welcome, all,” Solomon Navarro bellowed, tugging his son back into the semicircle. “And welcome, Vivianne. We are here to welcome you into our ranks, and to celebrate the union of our families. It will be formalized at the wedding, but we all know it begins here, with this bridge between our two worlds.”

“Thank you,” Vivianne answered. “As a girl I never gave much thought to my werewolf heritage, and I certainly never expected to find myself here. But there is no denying what I am—the common ground between the witch and the werewolf clans. And tonight I will fully embrace both halves of myself in order to make this city whole.”

Klaus longed to shake sense into her, but a rumbling of approval rose from the werewolves. Their energy was high, yet so was their tension. So far, Viv had said the right things, but she hadn’t actually killed anyone yet. The real party wouldn’t start until she had backed up her pretty words with murder.

“Who is he?” she asked, gesturing to the man on the rough wooden altar.

“A criminal,” Armand Navarro assured her. “This death is better than the one he deserves.”

Vivianne lifted her chin. “I would prefer to be the judge of that,” she told him. Klaus smiled in spite of himself—she couldn’t bring herself to be sweet to Armand so soon after being in Klaus’s bed. “What was his crime?”

A female werewolf stepped forward from the pack. She was young, with long blonde hair that was pulled back severely. “He attacked me,” she answered, her voice full of steel. “He said I wasn’t the first, there’d been other women before me.”

Solomon crossed the line of werewolves to rest a heavy hand on Vivianne’s shoulder. “He has committed innumerable crimes against humanity,” Sol continued for the woman, “but it is for the crime against a pack member that he dies. You will grow used to our ways in time, and they will protect you as fully as any one of us.”

Vivianne considered those words, her gaze level with Sol’s. Finally, she unfastened the clasp of her cloak, letting it fall in a puddle of darkness at her heels. Armand offered her a knife, and in the flickering torchlight Klaus could see strange carvings running the length of its blade. Vivianne took it, shifting the hilt in her hand as if to test the balance. “It is for all of his crimes that he will die,” she countered.

Sol nodded his consent, and Vivianne walked slowly to the altar. She seemed to be studying the man who lay across it, but Klaus wasn’t sure. He hoped that this was harder for her than she wanted the wolves to know, and he wished that she would just turn and run. They would pursue her, but Klaus would be waiting. She only had to feel Klaus’s presence.

Instead, she lifted the knife.

A howl rose from the werewolves, and they closed in around her and the man. There was no chance left to hesitate, and so the knife flashed down, slicing the man’s throat in two just as neatly as if Klaus had done it himself.

There was a moment when the man’s blood spurted out and the air meant for his lungs bubbled through the gap and nothing else happened at all. Klaus watched, stunned. The split second lasted longer than the rest of his entire life. He had been so sure that she would run. He had imagined spending lifetimes with her, and in one brutal moment she had thrown it all away. Thrown him away. She wasn’t the person he thought she was, not at all.

The response from the werewolves was deafening, like they had all gone mad. The howling drowned out any individual voices, overwhelming anything Vivianne might have said. She was lost to him now, just another member of the pack. She might as well have cut his heart apart with her knife.

And then the pack was changing, shifting, crying out in an agony that matched their ecstasy. The sun had fully set, Klaus realized, and the full moon was rising over New Orleans. Vivianne would greet it as a wolf.

All around her, men and women turned into wolves one by one, but she writhed on the ground in her shuddering, breaking human form. No matter what pain this transition caused her, though, her feelings about what came after would be worse. She didn’t have the luxury of shutting off her emotions the way a young vampire might have. She would have to live with her condition long after the werewolf change had grown easy for her.

It was the least she deserved.

Disgusted, Klaus turned his back on the increasingly wild scene. Their celebration would go on until morning, but there wasn’t a reason for him to stay. He’d leave her to her new family and find some other way to drown his sorrows.


CHAPTER TWENTY

IT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE that there were no werewolves to be found on the night of the full moon. Elijah had been sure there would be at least one prowling the woods near Hugo’s house. Eventually, he had wandered out into the forest in the hope of crossing their path, and finally had begun tracking in earnest when he had realized that dawn might come without him finding a single wolf. At this rate, he thought, he might not even need the protection spell—maybe all of the Navarros had simply left town.

He was almost on top of them before he realized his mistake.

On a curved plain between two wings of the tangled forest, hundreds of werewolves reveled. They fought, mated, and tore into raw game with their bare teeth. There was a dead man lying on a wooden platform in their midst, surrounded by sputtering torches, and Elijah could guess what they were celebrating. He couldn’t remember ever seeing a changing ceremony this large before, and the game they were sharing was coming from somewhere.

Even as he watched, four wolves split off from the celebration. They had to be a hunting party, and Elijah crouched in the underbrush. Before he could overthink the consequences he put his head down and ran.

Their trail was wide and clear, with broken branches and trampled leaves leading straight into the depths of the forest. Elijah followed cautiously, trying to understand and predict their movements. The largest of them, a massive silver beast, nearly surprised him once. It paused as Elijah quickly slipped between the trees, lifting its angry yellow eyes straight at him. Elijah didn’t blink or breathe, and after a moment the hulking silver monster took off at a run to rejoin the hunt.

Elijah picked up the track of one of the two smaller wolves, a quick-footed brown creature with nervous, alert ears. It hunted intently, and he pursued it with the same kind of focus. When the rest of its friends were a good distance away, he crouched in the soft dirt, measuring the werewolf’s steps with his eyes.

There was no more time to lose, and so he sprang.

He wrapped one hand around the werewolf’s muzzle, both to avoid being bitten and to prevent it from alerting the others. The wolf bucked and twisted, but Elijah sank his fangs into its shoulder like a cobra striking. The brown werewolf squealed through its closed jaw and fell awkwardly to the ground, trapped beneath Elijah’s weight. He could feel warm, sticky wetness on his hand, and he pulled out the handkerchief from his breast pocket and pressed it to the spot.

The werewolf thrashed again, but halfheartedly this time. Elijah suspected it was wondering why he hadn’t killed it already. He would if he had to, but all he needed was some blood, not the creature’s life. He rolled off the injured werewolf, releasing its muzzle at the last possible instant before backing out of range.

“Run,” he yelled, hoping it wouldn’t try to fight back.

But instead, it crouched low and growled...and so did a chorus of other wolves. Elijah realized he was trapped. The giant silver werewolf was there, its hackles up, along with the rest of the hunting party.

Except there had only been four of them in the beginning...and now Elijah couldn’t count them all. Yellow eyes stared out from every side, and the growls vibrated through the woods. The whole pack was there.

He had been recognized. They had caught an Original vampire attacking a werewolf, and now their fragile truce would come to a bloody end.

He launched himself over the brown wolf and straight at the big silver one. They tumbled one over the other, snarling and snapping, and then the other werewolves moved in. There were too many of them, and Elijah knew better than to stick around and try to defeat them one by one. He disentangled himself from the silver and sprang forward again, kicking another werewolf in the jaw as he passed.

He was faster than them, and stronger, but they were everywhere. He lashed out with fists and fangs, and, above all, kept moving forward, but he felt a sharp set of teeth rake across his forearm. It stung like fire, and broke his concentration just long enough that another werewolf’s bite caught the back of his thigh, trying to sever his hamstring.

He tried to ignore the pain and forced himself onward. There was no chance for him to fend off the attacks, and he was bitten again and again. After what felt like hours, he staggered out into the emptied plain, where the dead man still lay across their makeshift altar.

His vision was starting to blur, but he could have sworn that he saw a snowy white werewolf, female by the size of her, lying beside the altar with her head on her paws. Her yellow eyes stared balefully at him, and the stars swam and swung overhead. She did not attack.

Elijah gained a little speed as he crossed open ground, and the werewolves were losing interest in their pursuit as dawn neared and the change came upon them again. The sun would be rising within minutes, and Elijah’s strength was fading nearly as fast. Now and then there was a nipping at his heels, almost mocking, but most of the werewolves seemed content to let their venom do its work. With the wolves’ poison burning in every inch of his body, his last thought was that he should have let Klaus kill them all. Then he saw the sun’s first rays glittering off the water of the Saint Louis, and he threw himself in.


CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

THERE WAS NO one at their “new” house, and it was even less glamorous than Elijah had described. Rebekah’s clothes were soaked from her flight out of the army’s camp, and she was not amused that the windows lacked glass. The sun was still not up yet, and the wind made her clothes stick to her body. And her brothers were missing.

She added her swim in the river to the list of insults visited on her by Eric and his late lieutenant. Felix had paid his share, but the tally was still rising. She wrung the musty-smelling water out of her long hair, tugging at its tangles with restless fingers.

From the evidence of whatever disaster had occurred there, it was clear that the house was not protected. She was no safer inside than anywhere else in New Orleans. The one place she would be safe was with her family, and so she had to stop pacing the tiny drawing room and go find them. She pulled a musty cloak off a hook, and slammed the door shut behind her, ignoring the squeal of hinges letting go of the wood. They were already out of windows—what was one extra door? She had far more important things to worry about.

There had been a full moon, and she had heard an unusual amount of howling from the woods to the north. In her heart, she suspected that her brothers were probably right where the worst of the trouble was, so she made her way back to the river, intending to follow its line as closely as possible in case she needed to make a quick retreat. She could still cover large sections of the forested land that way, and save the depths of the forest for a last resort.

The sun rising over the bayou touched it with fire, waking some living thing everywhere it reached. For a brief, dizzying moment Rebekah saw what Elijah had seen in this place: It was as wild and confusing as they were. It would shelter them and protect them, and it could be their true home.

Then the strange, almost sourceless dawn light gleamed off something white in the river, and Rebekah stepped closer, trying to ignore the way the mud sucked at her shoes. She certainly had not thought to dress for this sort of thing while flirting with Eric, but her clothes were already ruined by her first dip in the river, so a second couldn’t do them any more harm.

The floating thing didn’t look like driftwood, and animals didn’t wear starched shirts—not even the stained and shredded kind. With a soft cry, Rebekah dove into the water, striking across the lazy current to reach the limp body of her brother.

Elijah had been mauled. It wasn’t just his shirt that was in tatters: His skin was a bloody map of slices and tears. One of his eyes was so bruised that she could not see how it could possibly open, and a bloody welt on his lip was swollen and raw. But worse than anything she could imagine was the sight of his one open, staring eye. It looked straight up into the rose-and-amber sky, seeing nothing, not even noticing that she was beside him.

The werewolves had done this to him, and she bit back a scream of rage. Under the full moon, the beasts had torn at his flesh and filled him with their poison. But why? Werewolf venom would kill a normal vampire, but not an Original. An Original could live through anything, at least anything that didn’t involve a white-oak stake. Still, the pain and hallucinations were almost as bad as dying a second time, and Elijah must have headed to the river with the hope that some of the poison would seep out into the water.

So much for the supposed truce. She hoped that Klaus was eloping with the little trophy bride right now.

She pulled him close and dragged him to shore, feeling relief at the faint sound of his heartbeat. It was easier to carry him once she reached the shore, although the sucking mud and tangling grasses did their best to hold her back. She was concentrating so hard that a shout rising up from the bayou caught her completely by surprise.

A man in a wide-brimmed hat and drab hunting clothes gaped at the pair of them, then lifted his hand and called out to her again. He must want to help, and Rebekah was happy to take him up on the generous offer. Setting Elijah gently down among the reeds, she sprang on the hunter before he could even lift his rifle. She struck him hard in the head, struggling against the wild, anxious energy in her body that urged her to knock it clear off his neck.

But she needed his heart still pumping, and so with an indrawn breath she stopped herself after the first blow. She dragged his limp body back to Elijah and split open the hunter’s neck with her teeth. The thick red blood flowed freely, and she turned and adjusted the gash until it was spurting more or less into Elijah’s mouth. She waited, hoping that he would revive enough to feed, but whatever blood he swallowed was still better than none.

Eventually, the hunter’s heart gave out. Elijah was still as vacant, but she thought there was a little more color in his pale cheeks. He must be deep within the hallucinations of the venom, and she didn’t envy whatever demons he fought—he’d come back to her in time. She lifted him again and ran for all she was worth.

Back in the house, she felt unnaturally exposed. Without windows, anything or anyone could come inside. She prowled the structure’s two levels, trying to find a place that felt safe enough to harbor her wounded brother, but everywhere she went, she felt seen. It was as if someone was lurking just out of sight, watching her progress from room to room. Part of a windowsill in one of the second-story bedrooms had splintered and skewed upward, and viciously, she tore it off and threw it outside.

Anger would not help her brother, though, and so she dug her fingernails into her soaked, muddy wool gown and started again, this time working from the top of the house downward. When she reached the ground floor again, Elijah moaned softly, and she leaped to his side to check his pulse. It still sounded terribly faint, but to her keen ears it was a bit steadier. He would recover, she knew, but she had no idea what so much venom would do to him. He needed to rest in peace.

She searched the first floor again, trying to find any protected area, no matter how humble. She threw open closets and even cupboards, looking for any enclosed space big enough for Elijah to lie down comfortably. She had crossed the living room floor three times during her hunt before she realized that her footsteps sounded different in the center of the cheerfully red woven rug. She tore it aside and beneath it she found a trapdoor.

The cellar below was damp and more than a little musty, but she didn’t smell anything rank or unclean. Crates and barrels lined the walls. She pried open one and then another, finding musket balls and artillery shells and wicked-looking swords. There was an entire armory below their new house—it was a bit more defensible than she had initially believed.

The cellar was spacious and not much light filtered down through the hole in its ceiling, but Rebekah found short wooden doors in each of the four dirt walls. She moved aside a large whetstone that half blocked one of them and pulled it open, to the loud protest of its tired hinges.

Beyond lay a narrow tunnel, and, more curious than concerned, she followed it. Through another low door lay a smaller cellar, with a set of uneven stairs leading up to where another trapdoor must be. She climbed the stairs and pushed hard on the ceiling. It swung open, letting in fresh daylight. This second cellar had been hollowed out under the stump of what must have been an enormous oak tree, some distance from the house itself. Five large barrels took up most of the small space, and Rebekah vaguely remembered something about Elijah moving barrels to shelter for the owner.

The sunlight also revealed two other closed doors leading out of this smaller chamber, and she realized that there must be an entire network of tunnels and trapdoors. From the house, one could access every corner of the land without being forced to step outside and be seen. Elijah had done well for them, perhaps even better than he had realized.

A small sound came from the nearby trees, and Rebekah froze, her eyes scanning back and forth. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, and of course there were all kinds of sounds on the very outskirts of civilization. But something felt wrong, and she couldn’t ignore her instincts. She ducked back underground, closing first the trapdoor and then the ones that blocked the tunnel behind her. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly the most sheltered part of the house.

She carried some bedding down first, and then Elijah, who moaned again but still stared in that blank, horrible way out of his one good eye. She decided that he was as comfortable as she could make him, so she left him to heal.

The best thing to do, of course, would be to go out and find him some more blood, but the unseen, unknown something outside made her afraid to leave Elijah alone. She knew it was most likely just her overexcited nerves that kept screaming that they were being watched, but she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she walked into some trap.

She busied herself with straightening up the house, sweeping up the dust and leaves that had blown in through the missing windows and nailing the billowing curtains over their empty sockets so there was at least some kind of barrier. It made her feel a little better once she couldn’t see outside, but at every noise and shadow that shifted across the fabric she jumped.

No sane person would attack a vampire blind. No one, no matter how foolish or how angry, would approach this house and burst into it knowing that she was somewhere inside. No one, but what if there were many? Elijah had marks on him from dozens of werewolves. The entire pack could be out there, human now but desperate to finish what they had started. Or perhaps Eric Moquet had somehow tracked her here, with his army at his back.

The Mikaelsons had come to New Orleans in search of a haven. It was supposed to be their home, their shelter. But the city had turned into a trap. They were exposed, surrounded by enemies, constantly on their guard. There was no safe harbor.

Rebekah peered out between two green canvas curtains, but the sunlit grass was undisturbed. Try as she might, she could not catch one single glimpse of someone hiding among the trees. The only thing to do was wait it out.

She rearranged furniture, chose the largest bedroom for herself, and tried to comb the remnants of the river out of her hair. She hung her gown out on the ramshackle front porch and sampled some of the previous owner’s surprisingly acceptable liquor in nothing but her damp cotton shift. She waited, watched, and fought against her paranoia for all she was worth.

When the sun finally began to dip back down toward the horizon, she decided that it was time to check on Elijah again. He might be strong enough to speak, or at least to share a drink with her. He might be able to tell her what had happened, and what they should fear was coming next.

There would be no need, though, to burden him with the news of her recent disaster. Eric’s first dispatches wouldn’t reach Mikael for weeks yet, so there would be plenty of better times to break that news. They would have to leave, but it didn’t really matter where they went. Rebekah understood now that trouble would follow them everywhere.

She poured some of the liquor into a flask. When Klaus arrived—if he ever got around to it—she would be free to go find some plump farmwife to help speed Elijah back to health. And Klaus always felt like he was being watched, so the eerie feeling she suffered from wouldn’t bother him.

Rebekah pulled open the trapdoor and dropped down. There was a stirring of movement from the blankets where Elijah lay, and her heart leaped with the hope that he was finally awake.

Then her eyes adjusted, and a feral hiss escaped from between her teeth. Elijah was still unconscious, lying exactly in the same position, except that his one eye had finally closed. He breathed shallowly and sweat beaded on his broad forehead. His body was fighting the poison, just as it should be. The movement she saw had come from another source entirely.

Eric crouched in the dank basement, a wooden stake in his raised hand. She prayed that it wasn’t made of white oak, but she could not rely on that hope. Eric was positioned over Elijah’s limp form, threatening his life even as Elijah barely clung to it. Eric gaped at her in surprise, and she experienced every feeling of his betrayal again in fresh, sharp detail as she threw her body against his.

They rolled together, away from Elijah, and the weapon fell from his stunned hand. His body was as hard as steel beneath hers, every muscle taut and tensed. He tried to speak, and part of her wanted to listen. Even now, the sight and feel and smell of him drew her in, made her want to be weak. But Eric had done more than enough damage already thanks to her traitorous feelings.

She wrapped one hand in a vise around his throat, cutting off his breathing until his hazel eyes fluttered and closed.

She fantasized a thousand brutal ways of repaying him for her broken heart, but her family’s safety hung in the balance, and so pragmatism won out. There was no need for another violent death, or for a mysterious disappearance that coincided so neatly with her own flight. His body would be found, drowned in the sea on the far side of New Orleans. It would be a mundane, ordinary death, and that would have to be vengeance enough.


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