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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: 15 (всего у книги 17 страниц)

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

THE STORM CAME in faster than any Rebekah had ever seen. The captain was caught completely off guard, stammering that it couldn’t be happening. They lost precious minutes to his stupidity, but it didn’t matter. They were never going to make it to open water before the hurricane reached them. It wasn’t even going to be a close race.

“We have to turn back,” Eric urged, his brow furrowed with concern. “The captain is putting everyone in danger. We need to tell him there’s no need to take such a risk.”

“We can outlast this,” Rebekah said, gripping the rails as lightning forked the sky. There never should have been a storm that night, and it couldn’t possibly be as bad as it looked. “It’s just a bit of rain. You’ll see much worse than this if you stay with me.”

Eric looked away from the hurricane to pull her near for a kiss. “Of course I will stay with you,” he said into her hair. “Through this, through worse—through anything. But the ship’s crew have made no such vow, and this is far more than just a bit of rain to them.” She realized that he was leaving his entire life behind to go with her, but he couldn’t leave his habits. He was a leader. Of course he thought of the common sailors, even at a time like this.

“They are all being paid as well, and they understand the risks,” she replied, but she was not so sure. The sailors looked alternately green and pale, clinging to the rigging and watching the clouds anxiously. The captain, who stood to gain the most by leaving and arriving on schedule, was the only one who seemed to think that they should press on. Aside from Rebekah, of course, who had not been afraid of storms since she was a child.

“We can go back,” Eric persisted, “After this, we’ll have every night together, my beloved, so what does it matter if that begins tonight or tomorrow?”

No, she wouldn’t go back—she couldn’t. If they hesitated, they might be lost.

The water was growing wilder by the minute. As they watched, a wave broke just over the bow of their ship, and a few of the sailors shouted in alarm. Wave after wave pummeled the ship, and the wind groaned and whipped about them in an incessant fury. They were tossed about like toys, and the ship spun in the water’s brutal current. Even the captain looked nervous. Finally, Rebekah realized that a broken boat and a drowned crew wouldn’t carry them far, and that they had to turn back.

“Wait here,” she told Eric, kissing him as she left his side. “Please, where I can see you, and hold on.” Another wave broke over the rail, higher this time, and a line snapped free of its mast and whistled through the air above their heads.

When he nodded his assent, Rebekah ran forward to the bow, where the captain struggled to keep control of the wheel. The ship was less and less inclined to respond to his orders, much like his crew. The storm was slowly taking ownership of them all, and she cursed the time she had lost to her stubbornness.

“Not to worry, Madame,” the captain shouted, his voice barely audible over the shrieking wind. “It’s just a trifle. Looks worse than it is.”

Rebekah positioned herself before him and ruthlessly caught his eye. “Turn the ship around,” she ordered, her voice humming with compulsion. “We’ll return to New Orleans and sail again when the weather is clear.”

“We’ll turn back now,” he agreed numbly, then shook himself into action. He began barking orders, which the sailors struggled to obey. By then, one wave out of three was soaking the deck, and the crew was fighting just to stay on board.

Lightning struck down out of the sky near them, and a tree just past the shoreline exploded into a shower of sparks. It was too close, Rebekah realized—they were too late. The ship would never make it back to the harbor, not intact. Just as the thought occurred to her, a crewman was washed overboard, his hands groping for the rail until they disappeared below the white-capped waves.

“Eric!” Rebekah screamed. It had been a terrible mistake to leave his side. She had to get back to him. She tried to run, but the deck tossed and rolled. Another wave washed over the boat, tugging hungrily at her ankles. She wiped the spray from her eyes and found him again. He was holding fast to the central rigging, just as she had asked him to do, but even then she had underestimated the hurricane’s fury. Eric’s feet skittered across the wooden boards of the deck, the strength of his grip the only thing keeping him on board.

In the back of her mind, Rebekah counted between each wave. She would make it; he could hold on. She would reach him before he was swept into the water, and she could carry him safely to land. She would turn him the second they had solid earth beneath their feet, pact be damned. She could not live with the thought that she might lose Eric.

She could predict the swell and crash of each wave, but the next bolt of lightning caught her completely off guard. It struck the mast, and the sound of splintering wood and booming thunder was deafening. She staggered as the deck beneath her feet shuddered.

It cost her two seconds at the most, perhaps only one. But one was enough. A beam the width of her torso collapsed across the ship, splitting the deck from the prow to the stern. And she could not see Eric anymore.

Her cry was lost in a second peal of thunder. She could not believe the violence of the storm, and for a moment she allowed herself to believe that Eric had only been hidden by the bracing curtain of rain.

But she knew, even before she reached him. She had thought she could escape her fate—running from her family to make a new one. For a few short days, she had believed that an Original vampire could be entitled to a life of her own choosing, but it had all been a girlish fantasy. Her crime and her punishment was Eric Moquet.

He lay, limp and lifeless, beneath the heavy beam. His glassy hazel eyes stared vacantly, and his mouth was slack. There was nothing left but his body. Everything else, everything that made him real and human and hers, was gone.

“Eric,” she cried, “Eric, come back to me.”

She bit viciously into her own wrist, tasting the tears that ran down her face as she ripped into the pale, blue-veined skin there. She held the bleeding wound to his lips. Each beat of her heart sent blood coursing down his throat, and she willed it to move and swallow.

She could feel water rushing into the hold below her feet, and fewer voices shouted around her now. The sailors were dead or dying, or else they were abandoning the ship. They were sinking and she needed to get Eric to safety so that her blood could work. She needed to save him so that he could rescue her.

She tugged at his arms, but his body was trapped. She pulled again, harder this time, and felt one of his arms pop out of its shoulder socket. She risked a closer look at how he was stuck.

His stomach and pelvis were completely crushed, and there would be no extracting him without lifting the beam. That would speed the breaking up of the ship, she knew, but it might still be worth the risk...if Eric were not so finally, completely dead. She had known it before she’d given him her blood, but the truth was too hard to comprehend. He’d been beside her just a minute ago. She had kissed him.

Desperately wanting those last sweet moments back, she kissed him again and smoothed a hand down over his eyes. The lids closed, and she choked back a hysterical sob. He looked less dead now, as if he might only be sleeping. She could remember him sleeping a dozen different ways, and she rested her head next to his, trying to capture her happiness again.

There was no breath, no heartbeat, no miracle. He was gone, and he stayed gone. The ship broke apart beneath them, the water pulled them down, and the wreckage surrounded and covered them. They fell into the cold, swirling water together, him dead and her unable to die. She couldn’t feel the storm at the bottom, but it raged on inside her.

Eventually, she had to kick, to swim, and he remained on the bottom. It broke her heart to let him go, but she knew that it would be better there, in the silent depths. If she carried him back with her into the miserable night, she might hold his corpse forever, waiting for it to come back to life. She would lose her mind with the grief of the mistakes she had made and the chances she had missed, and in the end it would do her no good, anyway. Eric would not come back no matter how long she waited.

She broke the surface with a gasp, and made for the shore. Once she thought she saw a sailor clinging to some driftwood, waving frantically at her, but she ignored him. She dragged herself into the shallows of the bayou and sat on a muddy hillock for a while, her arms wrapped around her knees, crying like both a lost child and a grieving widow.

She would have to stand up eventually, she knew. She would have to make decisions again. She would have to rejoin her family and perhaps even speak about this terrible loss. The wound would be covered over and then hidden under fresh ones until she could barely remember the shape of it, because she would have to live with this pain forever.

But for now, she just sat, battered by the rain and whipped by the wind, sobbing.


CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

HUGO REY HAD been brilliant, and Klaus wished that he had managed to meet the man before he died. The network of tunnels and chambers that radiated out from the main cellar allowed them to move unnoticed beneath the werewolves’ very feet. Unfortunately, none of the tunnels seemed to extend beyond the borders of the property, so they could not escape, or even properly flank their besiegers. But there was an opportunity there, Klaus was sure of it. They needed only to decide how best to take advantage of it.

Klaus was partial to the idea of springing from one trapdoor while Elijah leaped out of an opposite one, surprising the wolves on two fronts and hopefully creating enough casualties to convince them to leave. But Elijah pointed out, quite reasonably, that once the trapdoors were open, the werewolves might manage to get into the cellar. Its far-flung chambers could not possibly be covered by the protection spell, and once the wolves had found them their only advantage would be lost.

Vivianne was no help, as all of her suggestions involved as few deaths as possible. She seemed convinced, in spite of the taunts and threats shouted through the missing windows, that a peaceful solution was possible and even desirable. Klaus fumed at the pointlessness of his earlier threat—he couldn’t very well lock her in the cellar when they needed access to the arms stored there.

Klaus preferred if Vivianne didn’t watch the slaughter, and put her in the upstairs bedroom, where she agreed to wait out the battle and storm.

“Stay safe, my love, and I will be back soon,” he said with a kiss that was more of a bite of her full red lips. She gave him a smile that melted him from the inside, whispering a yes into his chest. Damn, he’d never get enough of this woman.

Back in the cellar, they scanned the ammunition. “This isn’t everything,” Elijah declared, his sharp brown eyes scanning the boxes. “The day Hugo died, I brought some barrels down for him, but they must still be in one of the outer cellars.” He turned slowly, muttering something about “the southeast corner” and seeming to mentally check off each door in turn.

“That one,” Klaus told him decisively, pointing to the one on their left and then crossing the dank dirt floor to throw it open. He let Elijah go first, then followed.

The barrels waited at the end of the tunnel, five of them, each nearly as tall as they were. Elijah was already prying the lid off one of them by the time Klaus caught up to him. He looked up with a strange gleam in his eyes. “Gunpowder,” he said.

“In all of them?” Klaus demanded, but he didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he yanked up the lid of the nearest barrel while Elijah moved on to another. He could smell it even before he could see it. All five barrels were packed with gunpowder. There was enough to last them a year if they fired at the werewolves night and day the entire time, but Klaus felt that would be a terrible waste of such an extraordinary supply of the stuff.

“Each of these would make a powerful blast if we left it as it is,” Elijah mused, and Klaus knew that they were thinking along the same lines.

“Four of these chambers and four barrels,” Klaus agreed, “and a fifth from which we could pour out fuses. No blast will damage the house, but we could blow up the ground beneath their feet.”

“I always did envy the number of werewolves you managed to pick off when we first arrived,” Elijah grinned, positioning one barrel on the rough earthen steps and stepping back to examine the effect.

Klaus tipped his barrel over at the base of Elijah’s and began to pour heavy black powder in a steady stream. When the thickness looked right for a makeshift fuse, he began to back away down the tunnel from which they had come. Elijah picked up a second barrel and took the easternmost door toward another of the outer cellars. With a full barrel in each corner of the property and the loose powder from the fifth barrel connecting them all to the center, they could turn the tables on their attackers with one simple spark.

Klaus ran his fuse into the very center of the main cellar, just below the open trapdoor. He counted his paces as he continued in a straight line to the door. By Klaus’s estimate it would take less than a minute for the lines to burn in every direction, reach the full kegs, and blow them up through the earth.

Elijah met him below the central trapdoor, grinning. Klaus hadn’t realized the extent to which they’d been at odds during the last nine years until they were on the same side again, fighting shoulder to shoulder—just as they always should have been.

“No point in waiting,” Klaus pointed out, striking a spark and waving Elijah toward the ladder. “We can clear out the werewolf infestation before the worst of the storm hits, then come back down here to ride it out if we have to.”

Elijah cast a wary glance at the tinder in Klaus’s hand before climbing up into the house. Klaus crouched down and touched the flame to where the four trails of gunpowder joined. It popped and caught, and he watched for a moment to make sure that it spread in each direction before following Elijah up the ladder.

“I’m impressed, brother,” Elijah told him as he closed the trapdoor and stamped it firmly shut.

“It’s a good plan,” Klaus agreed smugly. “But it’s fortunate we were so well supplied.” It was easy enough to spread some of the credit around when there was so much of it and they were about to take out the entire Navarro pack from the comfort of their own home.

“That as well,” Elijah said. “But I meant that Vivianne stayed put when you told her to.”

Klaus chuckled and nodded, but then he felt a sudden stab of doubt. Why had Viv obeyed so placidly? Elijah was right—it wasn’t like her at all. He raced up the stairs, calling her name and throwing open the bedroom door.

She was gone. She was gone, but she had not come down to the cellar to debate with them. He had not heard, seen, or even smelled her anywhere on the ground floor, and now there was no trace of her on the upper floor, either. She was simply gone.

It took him seconds—he could not have said exactly how many—to understand. She was not in the house, and so she must have left the house. She had defied him and departed the one safe place left to her, to go out into a crowd of angry werewolves under a bewitched hurricane. If she survived the night, he would kill her himself.

He crossed to the window and a flash of lightning showed him everything. Armand held her white arm in a vise grip, his face inches from hers. Sol stood directly behind her, his forehead beaded with sweat as he shouted something unintelligible.

“Viv!” Klaus shouted, and a few of the closest werewolves turned his way. The main ring of them was a good distance from the house, settling in for what they thought would be a long wait.

It would not, though. Klaus could picture the burning fuses and in the next brilliant bolt of lightning he even thought he could make out the trapdoor beside Vivianne’s beaded shoes.

He dove from the window, but the first of the barrels went up even as he fell. There was another deafening crash just as he hit the ground. He rolled immediately to his feet, but before he could take a single step, the last two explosions went off together. Vivianne stared at him, her mouth open as if she wanted to speak, and then she disappeared as the ground beneath her erupted in shrapnel and flames.

The concussive blast of the explosions slammed Klaus hard against the wall of the house behind him, and fire bit into every inch of his skin. For a long time he could not see anything but light and smoke, and then he wished he could not.

Through the deafening ringing sound in his ears, Klaus thought he heard moans here and there around the house, but the destruction had been nearly total. The house stood untouched, in the center of a ravaged plot of dirt, crisscrossed by tunnels that lay open like waiting graves. Corpses lay everywhere around them, a triumph that left Klaus completely, utterly empty.

One of the bodies was hers. He knew before he looked, and so he could not bear to look too carefully. A shred of blackened lace, a stretch of blistered skin. She had been standing directly above the keg of gunpowder. He found that his arms were around her, that he held her as close as he ever could have. She had met a quick, brutal end to her short, charmed life, and Klaus knew it was far more his loss than hers.

Vivianne Lescheres had lived every moment fully and passionately, and now Klaus would have to live the rest of his without her. It was unbearable, unthinkable. It was cruel, and it was at least a little bit his fault. He had seen how far she was willing to go to defend her faith in her people, and he had understood the profound depths of her naïveté.

And yet he had left her unprotected, because no matter how well he knew her, he had never once managed to put himself in her place. He had never predicted the intensity of her need to do the right thing, and so he had lost her again and again until there was nothing left to lose.

“Run, if you can,” he shouted hollowly to any wolf left to hear him. “Run now. There will be no amnesty, no peace. Run.”

A hurricane was coming to level the city, and nearly all of its werewolves were dead. The ones who remained would do well to heed his warning, because Vivianne was gone and Klaus had nothing else to protect. He heard a few miserable survivors scrambling into the brush. Klaus found himself alone, the world around him as barren as his own heart. A sudden sheet of rain drowned out the fires from the explosion, and Klaus held Vivianne’s body closer, guarding her as the storm came upon their exposed scar of land.


CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

THE STORM FORCED the door closed again as soon as Elijah managed to yank it open. The wind had a life of its own, thrashing and dancing around the house, and carrying along bits of debris. The storm had blown in across the water and reached them at last, and Elijah was not at all sure the house would stand against it.

He dragged Klaus inside, fighting the wind the whole way. Klaus stubbornly held a body in his arms, a corpse Elijah recognized as Vivianne. He cradled her tenderly against his chest, and Elijah was awed by the endurance of his love.

“You should have told me, brother,” Elijah said, but Klaus did not seem to hear him. He slammed the door behind them. Perversely, now it did not want to remain shut, and Elijah found a wooden bar to hold it closed. “I would not have liked it, but I would have understood.”

“You were dead set against it,” Klaus said, but there was no bitterness in his tone, there was just nothing. “Everyone was against us, and yet she never stopped wanting to explain. She died trying to make the rest of the world understand.

“I would have,” Elijah repeated, resting one hand on his brother’s shoulder. Klaus flinched a little, but he did not pull away. “If I had known you felt this way, I would have stood behind you.”

“We will never know,” Klaus answered, setting Vivianne’s body down on the floor and stroking her dark hair. “With her gone, I do not think my happiness will ever depend so entirely on one woman again.”

Elijah rocked back on his heels, stunned at the raw, vulnerable loss in Klaus’s voice. Vivianne hadn’t simply been a conquest or a delectable piece of forbidden fruit; Klaus had been in love. He could not remember the last time he had seen his brother look so empty, his usual fire not just dampened but nowhere to be found. It was almost unbearable to see Klaus—irrepressible, impossible Klaus—defeated.

Rebekah was gone and Klaus was broken, and the storm had come in earnest. Elijah could tell that the witches fully intended to make good on their threat, and as the night went on it was clear that Ysabelle’s protection spell was the only thing that kept the house standing. Perhaps it actually did defend against the weather, or it could somehow tell that this was no natural storm.

The hurricane howled through the window frames, shredding the curtains and throwing books, plates, and even furniture around the room. Lightning crashed down around them, splitting whole trees down to the ground. The pounding rain turned the earth into rivers and waterfalls, flooding the tunnels and certainly the cellar beneath them. But the house itself did not yield. When morning arrived, the new day brought the faintest hint of sunlight along with it.

Elijah convinced Klaus to take a ride with him, promising that they would pass by the witches’ cemetery along their way. A place would need to be made for Vivianne, and making that kind of practical arrangement might lift Klaus’s spirits a bit. He would want to feel he could do something for her.

They caught a couple of horses that were running loose in the forest. From the look of them, Elijah guessed that they had come from the French army’s encampment. He doubted they fared well in their tents and makeshift buildings, especially with their commander and his lieutenant gone.

Where the houses were closer, the damage was even more pronounced than in the ravaged outskirts. Elijah barely understood where he was at first, now that all the landmarks were missing. It seemed he no longer knew his way around New Orleans, with this house gone and that villa collapsed, with that magnificent tree now lying sideways across that stately manor. It was as if he had entered an alien place, and he hurried his horse along.

Klaus followed behind, not seeming to notice what had become of the city. He held Vivianne’s body before him on his horse, and only looked at her.

The werewolves’ quarter had been beaten just as badly. Even though most of the pack had been at the Mikaelsons’, it was obvious that the witches would have been willing to do the job for them. Any werewolf who had not taken part in the siege had been drowned or crushed.

Hardly anyone but the two Originals moved among the devastated houses, and of the few survivors he saw, at least half were packing up their possessions into carts. New Orleans was no place for the werewolves now—they were surrounded by enemies and without a pack. They’d all be gone soon enough, and Elijah felt a twinge at the bitterness of his success.

Yet in spite of the solemnity of the destruction around him, Elijah could feel the wheels in his head turning. It certainly had not been their intention, but the witches had created a great deal of space...and left vampires to fill it.

They turned west, toward the cemetery. Elijah had an ulterior motive, of course—he was curious to see if Ysabelle had survived the night. She and her sister had taken no part in the raising of the hurricane, and he would be sorry if it had killed them.

Klaus dismounted in the graveyard and waved him onward. Elijah left his horse beside Klaus’s and continued alone. He found Ysabelle and Sofia on the porch of Ysabelle’s house, blinking in the daylight as if they had just come outside.

Sofia Lescheres saw him first, and she touched her sister’s elbow and went into the house without a word. Ysabelle watched her go, then stepped down off the porch to meet Elijah halfway. “She is grieving,” the tall witch explained, wrapping a mauve shawl tightly around her body. “There was a great deal of death last night, and in their anger the fools did not think to protect our people. Witches are dead, and she believes that her daughter is one of them.”

“She is,” Elijah confirmed simply. He considered trying to explain how she had died, but there was very little he could say that would not make it worse. He and Klaus had survived, and Vivianne was dead. Even surrounded by werewolves, the ground exploding, and a magical storm bearing down, the brothers had lived, and the witches would hold them responsible for failing to protect Vivianne.

And perhaps they would be right. If Klaus had not been so deeply, blindly in love, he would have tied her to a chair and been done with it. “It was quick,” Elijah offered. “Vivianne did not suffer.”

Ysabelle shuddered, and he could tell that she was holding back a sob. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I will tell my sister.” She clenched her hands, blue veins standing out angrily. “Those fools,” she repeated, and in those two short words Elijah could hear all of the raging she refused to do in front of him.

“My brother is in the cemetery now,” he told her. “We would like to help with the arrangements, if we may.” Even better if they could get Vivianne’s remains safely into a casket before anyone thought to ask why she was burned. “I understand that Vivianne’s father rests elsewhere, but we thought this place would be most appropriate, if her family agrees.”

Ysabelle hesitated, glancing back at her house again. It looked untouched by the storm, Elijah noticed. He guessed that his was not the only house she had used Esther’s grimoire to protect. “Sofia will be staying with me for a while,” she replied. “Her roof was lost, and she doesn’t want to see anyone. But it is a kind offer, and I think that if it were simply done...”

Elijah nodded. “We will take care of it,” he assured her. “We can begin work on a suitable tomb this morning. If Sofia will come to the cemetery two nights from now, I will make sure that she has a chance to say a proper good-bye. Alone, if she wishes it.”

“I think she will,” Ysabelle agreed. “Thank you.”

He left her there, unable to do more. Ysabelle and her sister would just have to live with their anger and their grief. Elijah guessed that it would be some time before they thought about the rebuilding and running of the city, and that suited him quite well.

He found Klaus still in the witches’ graveyard, looking sober and intent on his task. “I was thinking here,” he said at Elijah’s arrival. “You can see a bit of the river from right here.”

Elijah clasped his arm, then walked with him back to where their horses waited. He explained his conversation with Ysabelle, and they discussed whether they were likely to find a tradesman left in the city to build a casket and a little mausoleum.

Klaus seemed somewhat cheered by the news that a number of witches had perished in the storm, and Elijah was glad that he was beginning to look beyond his gloom. It would take Klaus time to heal, but forever was a long time to carry such a raw wound—and eventually his brother would start to let go of the pain.

As they returned to their home, Klaus’s horse snorted and shied in surprise. Elijah tightened his reins instinctively, looking around for any potential source of danger.

She was right in front of them. Rebekah sat on their porch, with her bare feet dangling carelessly in the muddy water. Her golden hair was plastered down against her skull, and her clothing was so soaked and filthy that he could not have guessed at its original color. Her beautiful face was dirty as well, but he could see where fresh tears had carved out tracks of bare skin.

She didn’t need to speak—it was obvious that she had also lost her true love last night. She would not be there, alone and weeping, if Eric had survived. He would never have wished that kind of a loss on her—or on Klaus, for that matter. To see both of them bereaved in one single blow was the worst kind of sorrow.

“It will be all right,” Elijah told her, then nodded to Klaus so that he would know Elijah spoke to them both. “There can be no replacement for what you have lost, but you have not lost everything. No matter who else is gone or missed or remembered, we will always have one another. We will always have family.”

* * * * *

The untold story of THE ORIGINALS has only just begun.

Read on for a sneak peek of

THE ORIGINALS: THE LOSS

Coming soon from creator Julie Plec,

Alloy Entertainment and HQN Books...


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