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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: 9 (всего у книги 17 страниц)


THE HOUSE WAS huddled so low to the ground that its silhouette barely made an impression against the night sky. Elijah knew that Rebekah would be livid and Klaus would be petulant, but at least they would be safe. Once the protection spell was cast, they would be able to weather any storm within its walls. Surely that was the only thing that really mattered.

Ysabelle’s face looked tense and drawn. She must be nervous, he knew. The first spell had worked, and now she had a taste of what the grimoire’s power could do for her. She needed this spell to go just as smoothly, though, or else she would be no better off than she had been before. The anxiety crackled around her like static, and he hoped it would motivate her to do her very best work for him tonight.

“We need to establish a perimeter around the land,” she told him, and he could hear a little quavering in her voice. “With fire.”

Working in opposite directions, they spread peat from the bayou in a thin line along the chalky ground. It was harder than he had thought it would be to keep it flowing steadily and evenly while trying to keep his footing in the dark, and he lost track of Ysabelle’s progress before he had finished one full side of the large, uneven quadrangle of the land’s border.

He could not help but smile, though, as he passed a large stump near the back edge of the land. He suspected it was the one Hugo had mentioned during their séance, the one that was rotting and would need to come out. Supervising repairs and improvements would be one way to keep his siblings busy, he decided, and Rebekah especially would have some choice things to say about the furnishings. There would be plenty for them all to do to make the place more comfortable.

Plenty to keep them out of trouble, and safe in the fortress. No one would be able to set foot on this little patch of ground unannounced. No witch or werewolf could enter without an invitation, and no weapon could touch the house or those sheltered within it. No matter what happened this would always be a safe haven.

Ysabelle strode toward him, pouring out the last of her peat as she went. The perimeter was complete, and the two of them stepped inside. Ysabelle muttered a few words under her voice and a small flame licked up from the place where their two lines had joined. It took hold, and then it began to spread hungrily in both directions.

“Now the work begins in earnest.” Ysabelle delicately touched the worn leather cover of Esther’s grimoire. Elijah knew she had studied the spell and almost certainly memorized it, but they could not be too prepared.

She had mixed most of the required potion beforehand, but some elements had to be added at the last possible moment. Ysabelle rehearsed the incantation as she ground up some kind of dried insects with a pestle, then poured the resulting powder into the mix. She produced a small gemstone from a pocket of her gown and dropped it in whole, swirling the potion in its iron bowl and inhaling deeply through her mouth as if she was preparing for intense physical exertion.

“Ready,” she announced tersely, and Elijah felt every muscle in his body tense.

Ysabelle began the incantation in earnest, and poured a thin trickle of the potion over the flames that danced up out of the line of peat. She took a moment to observe the result, then set off at a brisk but steady walk, pouring as she went. The fire spat and sputtered where she passed, although she was careful not to pour so quickly that she doused any part of it. He lost sight of her when she passed to the opposite side of the low house, and Elijah found himself counting off his heartbeats as if they matched her unseen paces.

It felt like forever before he spotted her again on the other side of the border. As she approached him, Elijah worried that she would make a mistake and they’d have to start over. Surely she would trip over a root or run out of her potion too soon or her hand would grow tired and shake...but the closer he came to fear, the more perfect her performance became.

She finished in the same spot where she had begun, and cut off her chanting. There was a stillness in the air—an oppressive, heavy presence. The silence grew louder until its pressure was so great that Elijah raised his hands to cover his ears...

. . . And then the spell itself exploded. In the force of the invisible blast, every single pane of glass in every single window of Hugo Rey’s house blew outward.

Instinctively, Elijah threw himself in front of Ysabelle, shielding her from the shrapnel. He felt a sharp edge slice into his raised forearm, and a nasty puncture just below his ribs, along the sting of dozens of tinier cuts. But they would heal on him, and he needed his witch alive.

She had a great deal to answer for.

The flames around them were gone, and so was even the faintest tingle of magic in the air. The spell had ended, and there was no question that it had failed. Elijah rounded on Ysabelle, feeling his fangs extend. “Tell me what just happened,” he ordered, “and I would advise you not to try to lay the blame on the spell.”

“It should have worked,” Ysabelle answered uneasily, but rather than his menacing face she was staring at the windowless house. Perversely, it seemed larger than when they had begun, nearly towering over them now like a face missing its eyes and teeth.

“It should have,” he agreed furiously. “Unless you have the kind of death wish that leads a person to try to deceive an Original.” He could not imagine what she thought she stood to gain from stringing him along with this charade, but he would make sure it cost her.

“Deceive—” She frowned, taking in the extent of his rage. “No, of course not.” She crouched and picked up the grimoire from where it had fallen during the blast. She flipped through its pages, moving her lips as she skimmed and nodded, checking off directions. “It’s not the spell,” she muttered, but still her eyes roamed the pages, hunting for clues. “And it isn’t the way we worked it, either.” Then she snapped the book shut and looked at Elijah. “It can only be the land.”

“The land?” he rocked back in surprise. “There can be no question of my claim to it.”

Ysabelle nodded, her brown eyes far away. “It was transferred to you properly, and Hugo held the deed. But...” She pressed her lips together and crouched to touch the chalky soil at their feet.

“But?” he prompted impatiently. She almost seemed to have forgotten that he was there.

Ysabelle’s long fingers dug into the dirt. She cocked her head as if she was listening to it. “This here,” she murmured, her singsong voice far away, “this was once pack land. Werewolf land.”

“It was Hugo’s,” Elijah countered, nearly growling in his frustration. “He had the deed.” If the land had never been Hugo’s, then it couldn’t be Elijah’s, and that was unthinkable. He would kill the entire werewolf pack before he would concede that his new home really belonged to the Navarros.

Ysabelle’s hand was buried up to her bony wrist, and he wondered what strength she had found to force it down so far. “Legally the land was his, and now it is yours,” she agreed absently. “There is no question of that. But magic and the law do not always agree. The spell does not recognize your claim to ownership because by natural law, this is still pack land. I think that the reason Hugo Rey’s name stood out to me earlier is because I vaguely recall that he was a werewolf by blood...but chose not to change. So the Navarros may have given him this land when they exiled him, but as far as the magic is concerned, it still belongs to the werewolves.”

Elijah started to argue, but there was no point. The spell had failed, and Ysabelle certainly had no control over the finer points of supernatural land ownership. His wounds itched as they healed, and it only added to his annoyance.

“We cannot change what was done or not done,” Ysabelle went on. “Now that I understand the problem, I can see what ingredient we were missing. It will not be simple to get, but it will make the protection spell work for you.”

Elijah raised his head, intrigued. “Out with it,” he snapped. It would serve her well to remember that she had just failed him, even if it wasn’t entirely her fault. A little fear was a powerful motivator, and an angry vampire was a frightening sight.

Ysabelle licked her lips nervously, but her voice did not falter. “You need the blood of a pack member,” she explained. “A Navarro werewolf.” Elijah didn’t think his problems could get worse, but suddenly they had. How the hell was he going to pull that off?

Her words hung in the air as she slid her hand out of the dry earth, brushing it off against her dress. It left a dark, dusty mark on the creamy fabric that stood out as starkly as blood. “More than a drop, although not enough to kill. But I suspect killing may yet be the only way to obtain it, and that will put you in a very precarious position before we can get the protection spell in place.”

Elijah frowned. He was so close, and there had to be a way to overcome this setback. This one last obstacle could also be the easiest if Elijah kept an eye out for the right opportunity. Werewolves hunted, after all, and accidents happened in the woods. The moon was only a day away from full, so he could not hesitate. “Leave it to me,” he told her, and saw Ysabelle’s square shoulders slump in relief. “I will get the blood tomorrow night. Be ready to perform the spell again by the time the sun rises in two days, and wait for me here.”

After he took blood from a werewolf, every second would count to get the spell in place.


“TAKE ALL THE time you need,” Eric urged her, pulling out her chair chivalrously. “We will speak about whatever you choose, and also...not.”

He had said variations of the same thing so many times since his unexpected proposal that Rebekah knew it must be driving him absolutely mad that she had not yet answered him. But she wasn’t looking forward to his expression when she said no.

She could still feel the heat of his lips on hers; she could still hear the passion in his voice when he had asked her to marry him. She had given him every reason to believe that she returned his feelings, and the truth was that she did. Which only made what she had to tell him more painful.

“Thank you,” she said instead, sitting at the beautifully laid table. “You must know how flattered I am, but I appreciate having this time to think.” It was difficult to believe that it’d only been a day since their ride into the countryside. Every moment she waited to give him her answer felt like another day in itself.

His love pressed right in the center of her pain. She wanted to marry him. If only they could ride off together into another life and dedicate themselves to nothing but making each other happy, and she could leave her tortured past behind.

Sooner or later, though, he would likely notice that she didn’t age. And Mikael would not stop hunting her just because she chose to stop caring, and Klaus would probably stake her even if Eric didn’t figure out her secret and do it himself. There were too many dangers and unknowns to ever accept his proposal.

But as long as he didn’t know that, then she could almost convince herself, at least for this little while, that it might be possible. And so she could not answer him.

A boy who could not have been more than fifteen brought them a crusty loaf of bread and a pitcher of acceptable red wine, and assured Eric in a hoarse whisper that their dinner would be ready at any moment.

“The camp looks almost as good as new,” Rebekah offered, to change the subject. “I heard that the armory sustained some damage, though, that will require new weaponry.”

“Yes,” Eric agreed, looking preoccupied. “We had a source of munitions in the area who has proved very useful for resolving that sort of shortage quickly, but he cannot be found. I have sent some messages up the river, and hopefully some of the other outposts are well supplied. If we have to wait for powder and cannonry from France, we may have trouble holding our position here.”

“Has it been so dangerous?” she asked curiously. Aside from the werewolf raid she had caused, the only real source of entertainment for the soldiers seemed to be the bandits they encountered during their patrols. Cannons were hardly necessary.

“We have been well-armed enough to keep the peace until now,” Eric explained. “If the word gets out that has changed, I expect the rebellious factions and criminal element in this region will grow bolder.”

He wanted overwhelming force, and Rebekah approved of the tactic. It was, after all, the same policy to which she and her brothers subscribed. They had built their legend through a surplus of brutality, and made sure they were always prepared to reinforce the lesson. It was why neither she nor Elijah had tried too hard to slow Klaus’s killing spree when they had first landed here. She believed in holding power at any cost. If Eric wanted artillery just to keep the peace, then he was the sort of man she would consider marrying.

If she could consider marrying.

She opened her mouth to tell him she would do it—damn the consequences. She wanted to be his wife. Years from now, when she hadn’t aged and he wondered why there were signs of vampire kills everywhere they went and Elijah showed up every few months to try to drag her back into the fold...well, she would just figure those problems out as they came.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Felix’s hooked nose poking through the flap of the tent, followed in a moment by his boringly handsome face. “Sir,” he whispered, as if he were close enough to speak only to Eric without Rebekah overhearing the words. “Sir, you are needed. A message has come down from Baton Rouge, an answer to our—my lady”—he seemed to notice her at last—“I am terribly sorry to interrupt, but the captain is needed at the communications post down by the river. At once, sir,” he added with a guilty glance back at Eric.

Eric sighed and rose. “I will return, Madame,” he told her formally, refraining from anything more intimate in front of his lieutenant. Felix must know by now that there was something more than politeness between them, but he just nodded impatiently, eager for Eric to go to his work. As he approached the tent’s exit, though, Eric hesitated. “Stay, please, Felix, and keep Rebekah company while I am gone.” He glanced back at her one last time.

“Yes, sir,” Felix answered smartly, saluting. “My lady.”

Felix was pleasant enough to look at, she supposed, but in no way was he an acceptable substitute for Eric. For my fiancé, she tried out in her mind, and although it sounded strange she did not dislike it.

Felix did not sit at the table with her, but instead crossed the office to rummage in one of the drawers of the large rosewood desk. “I am sorry to interrupt your dinner,” he repeated offhandedly, the main part of his attention on his search.

“It had not yet begun.” Rebekah stood. “What is it you are looking for?”

Felix frowned and closed the drawer. “It is nothing, Madame,” he assured her. “Just an item the captain will most likely want on hand when he returns. Please excuse me a moment.”

Before she could stop him, Felix stepped into the inner chamber. She waited for a surprised gasp, but none came. It made sense, she realized—as Eric’s right-hand man, Felix must have seen it all by now. That made Rebekah distinctly uncomfortable. Just how many humans in this area had heard of vampires? How long before there was nowhere in the world where they’d still be a secret?

She stepped closer to the curtain and listened intently, trying to track his progress from the sounds of shifting and scraping within. “Madame,” he called suddenly, and she startled. “Can I beg your assistance?” His voice had moved closer to her now as he approached the curtain from the other side. “I am sorry to ask, but I have need of some more delicate hands than my own.”

Rebekah narrowed her eyes suspiciously. Why had Eric left so suddenly, and what was Felix up to? He had resisted her compulsion at first, she remembered with foreboding. Perhaps he somehow remembered the last time they’d been in Eric’s tent together. Was he trying to catch her in some kind of lie? She felt her fangs come out.

“Coming,” she answered sweetly. She stepped confidently through the curtain, and caught Felix’s wrist as it swung down toward her. She twisted hard, and the wooden stake fell from his hand. The smile still on her face, she turned to him. “What was it you needed?”

He kicked at her and pulled his arm away, and she let it go. “Demon,” he grated, and she rolled her eyes. That wasn’t really the type of talk she was looking for, but it was a start.

“I think you have the wrong girl,” she suggested, although her chatty tone was expelled through gritted teeth. She had been so concerned about what Eric knew that she had never stopped to think that he might have an accomplice. “I’m the one you rescued from the dark, scary woods, remember?”

He hissed between his teeth and lunged at her. She sidestepped, bringing her raised foot down on his leg for good measure. The splintering sound it made was deeply satisfying. But there had to be a reason he was so bold in his attack....Had Eric set her up, proposed to her, and then left her to be ambushed? “I know who you are” Felix gasped, and she gave him some grudging credit for not screaming. He was a trained warrior, stronger than those in the French army, and he wasn’t about to give up his fight easily

However, he was human, and humans broke. “I don’t think you do,” she disagreed as he hurled an iron railway stake from one of Eric’s chests at her face. She caught it in the air and whipped it back into the foot of the leg she’d already broken, pinning him to the ground like a butterfly.

“I can see it,” he hissed, pulling at the stake. It was stuck deep in the earth, and he wasn’t going anywhere. “Your pretty face and your evil heart. In Europe, I was trained by the master of all vampire hunters, and I can see that you are filled with darkness to your core. The man who sent us wants your kind dead, and I want to do his bidding.”

Rebekah’s whole body went still as Felix’s words washed over her. So it was her father—the master of the hunters—who’d sent Felix and Eric her way. Only Mikael would have men cross oceans to kill his children. But it seemed like Felix didn’t fully understand who she was, or that her brothers were here as well. And that could be her saving grace.

“Your employer may want me dead,” she agreed, “but I think if he had wanted you to do it yourself, he would have told you how to kill me.”

Felix’s brown eyes were starting to lose focus, and Rebekah knew she didn’t have long to get coherent answers. “He taught me to resist your magic so that I could stand against you. He will reward me....”

His words struck another chord of truth. Mikael had taught Felix to resist her, which was an impressive feat on its own. Only by repeating the compulsion over and over had she bent Felix to her will. Yet, through it all, perhaps he had still retained some hazy suspicion about the night she’d snuck into Eric’s tent. It might have taken him some time to recall the pieces and figure out that she was a vampire—but what was Eric’s role in this? Had he deliberately left them alone tonight? If only she’d left the army encampment—like she’d left Europe—and never returned.

Rebekah pulled a silver crucifix from the nearest chest, admiring the evenness of the blade that some lunatic had sharpened to a point. “Now the question becomes: Did you intend to surprise this benefactor of yours with all of the good news at once? Or have you sent messages reporting your discoveries all along?”

Felix’s eyes refocused on the crucifix, and he watched it warily. “The captain sent everything we learned,” he told her defiantly. He could no longer fight her, but he could still hurt her, and he knew it. “A report the morning after you arrived, and another when your monster friends attacked my soldiers.” He smiled triumphantly in spite of the pain that lined his face. “We have known your kind was here for some time, and even heard rumors that you had made some foul nest nearby. Now I have seen the truth—that there has been one of you among us all along.”

It was worse than she thought. She had known Eric was hunting her, that he was an enemy of her kind. So why did it hurt so much to hear it said out loud? Felix’s strained voice spitting out her worst fears felt like actual torture. “Why now?” she asked, hating the note of weakness in her voice. The ache in her heart had cost her control, and now instead of questioning him she was almost pleading. “Why try to kill me now, after I’ve been here so long?”

“I followed you out of camp,” he explained, his labored breath hissing in and out of his lungs. “When you snuck away without a word to anyone, I followed you into the city. And then, as I watched you feed, I remembered everything. I saw what you are, what you do. I am sworn to keep the peace in New Orleans, and there can be no doubt about my duty. The captain did not know the intricacies of my plan, but he will understand what I had to do. You’re a murderer, and you deserve to die.”

“And yet I won’t.” She shrugged coldly. There was no victory to celebrate in defeating him, especially now that fear and pain had driven him into delusion. But Rebekah hurt, and it made her want to hurt Felix. And Eric, especially Eric, but she could only worry about one hunter at a time.

“Killing me will accomplish nothing, demon.” Felix’s words carried conviction, but his eyes looked delirious. “The hunt is only beginning. Your days are numbered.”

Rebekah bent down, enjoying the dread that grew on his face as she came near. It made her feel strong. “Killing you will accomplish a great deal,” she disagreed, tracing the collar of his uniform jacket with her fingernail. “Your little plot interrupted my dinner, Felix.” She smiled so that he could see her fangs clearly. “Now I’m hungry.”

He tried to fight her off even then, but it was hopeless. He died with a strangled cry, and she drank her fill. She didn’t bother to try to cover the marks—there wasn’t a point. Eric would find the corpse, and know that it was the work of a vampire. Even if he didn’t know that Rebekah was the daughter of the very man he took his orders from, it didn’t matter. Her father wanted to kill all vampires, and that he’d finally found his children again would just be a special treat. If it was true that Eric had reported that vampires resided in New Orleans, Mikael might already be on his way to the New World.

Every time the facts crossed through her mind, it was as if she were learning them for the first time. She couldn’t absorb them, because then she would have to believe them. The ambush may have failed, but she had still fallen into the trap.

Eric was far more to her than just an attractive man, or even an opportunity to escape into a new life. She had loved him. She loved him still. The betrayal was more than she could stand, but the thoughts kept coming, reminding her over and over that she had let him play her for a fool. Had he flattered her, wooed her, begged to marry her, solely with the intention of keeping her close until Mikael could arrive to dispatch her?

Rebekah rolled beneath the back of the tent and broke for the river, running so fast that a human eye would see no more than a blur. She hoped that Elijah had gotten the protection spell working on that sorry old house he was always rambling on about. They were going to need it.

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