Vampire Wake (Page 21)
Luke took a lantern from a smal table beside the bed and lit it. A milky-yelow light glowed, throwing long, deep shadows up the wals of the bare room. The floor was wooden and the boards looked rough and unvarnished. The wals were cracked and in some places, the plaster had falen away, revealing the brickwork beneath it. Cobwebs hung from the corners of the room like dusty-looking chandeliers and I wondered how Luke had managed to hide away in such a place for so long. The room creeped me out and I shifted closer to him on the edge of the bed.
In the light from the lantern, I had a clearer view of Luke and his injuries. Apart from the burns on his face, his left shoulder was also marred by a long scar that ran from just under his chin, down his neck and across his chest. Like the burn on his face, the skin looked stretched and puled out of shape as if someone had poured boiling wax over him. With a trembling hand, I gently reached out and stroked his chest with the tips of my fingers. He flinched and I snapped my hand away.
"Sorry," I whispered. "Does it hurt?"
"No," he said. "I just worry that you wil be repulsed by me."
Without saying anything, I placed my hand against his scars. Looking into his sea-green eyes, I could feel his heart thumping away inside of him. "How could I ever be repulsed...scared of you?" I asked. "You got these scars saving me and I can never forget that...or repay you."
Taking my hand, he removed it from his chest, bought it up to his mouth and kissed it. "You don't have to repay me anything," he said, staring into my eyes. He then added, "I haven't saved you yet."
"You said we were al being hunted?" I asked him.
"I guess you're talking about Philips and Taylor."
"Not just them," he whispered as if someone might be eavesdropping. "There is another."
Then placing his head in his hands, he looked ahead and into the darkness. I couldn't ever recal Luke looking so demoralised. I remembered him to be strong and confident but now he just looked beaten and I guessed it wasn't just his disfigurements that troubled him.
Running my hand down the curve of his spine, I said, "What is it, Luke? Tel me what's happened."
In a low, soft voice he said, "As you know, after leaving The Ragged Cove, Sergeant Murphy and Potter took me below ground - back to The Holows. We stayed amongst our own while I rested and tried to heal. But word spread amongst the Vampyrus about what had happened above ground. It became common knowledge that we had kiled Rom and Roland."
"But they were kilers," I whispered, tracing smal circles with my fingernails across his naked back.
"An emergency meeting was caled by the elders of our race in the Great Caverns," he explained.
"Vampyrus came from every part of The Holows. For as far as the eye could see, the caverns were packed tight with Vampyrus, never before in our history had there been such a huge gathering."
"But why now?" I asked him.
"It has been feared for some time that some of the Vampyrus had been unhappy living beneath humans and some of them wanted more. No longer was it enough that they could come above ground and make a life for themselves amongst humans as long as they returned when the hunger was upon them. It wasn't that the elders particularly cared for the human race; they just didn't want attention drawn to our existence. The elders feared that if humans ever discovered us, they would come in search of us - that they would invade The Holows, and just like they have done above ground, deplete our world of al its natural resources which would eventualy result in the Vampyrus' extinction. So a compromise had been made - Vampyrus could live above ground only if they didn't draw attention to themselves and the rest of our race. The elders hoped that this would placate those Vampyrus who wanted more," he explained.
"But they were kiling people!" I said. "Rom and his merry men were creating vampires - monsters! If that isn't drawing attention to your race, I don't know what is!"
"It wasn't just that," Luke said, looking back into the darkness as if somewhere lurking within it were the answers. "Rom, Roland, Taylor, and Philips are just the front men. Behind them in the shadows is another. He puls the strings of those that want more."
"Who is this Vampyrus?" I asked.
"Nobody knows his identity." Luke whispered, again as if almost fearing that he might be overheard.
"He hides behind his puppets - those who do his dirty work. They go before him, clearing a path. They brainwash and recruit other Vampyrus, teling them that their lives could be so much more above ground if we didn't keep our identities a secret - if we revealed our true selves to the human race. But whoever he is, he is responsible for everything that is turning bad within The Holows. Every crime that is committed, from murder to robbery, if you look deeply enough, he wil be lurking in the background."
"Can't he be stopped?" I asked.
"How can we stop him if we don't know who he is?" Luke said with a tinge of bitterness in his voice.
"Assassins have been sent before to infiltrate his organisation but they have each been rooted out and kiled. No one has ever got close to him - not close enough to discover his identity. But word got back to the elders via spies that Rom, Roland, Taylor, and Philips were his four most trusted disciples and we had kiled two of them and left the others close to death.
Discovering this, he had marked us...issued a death warrant against the Sarge, Potter, and me. Word spread like fire that anyone who shielded us, anyone who offered us shelter, would be dead, too. So fearing that we had brought war and unrest to The Holows, the elders offered a deal of peace to this faceless and nameless monster."
"So what was this peace offering?" I asked.
"We were," Luke said, and his shoulders shuddered in the gloom. "They banished us from The Holows - the elders and our race washed their hands of us in an attempt to pacify this monster."
"So you can never go back?" I said, shocked by what he had just told me.
"Never," Luke said, his voice sounding broken.
"We had to leave then and there. We had no choice.
We weren't even alowed to say goodbye to our friends. It wasn't so bad for Potter - he didn't realy have anyone. If you hadn't already noticed, he doesn't seem to make friends that easily."
"What about you?" I asked, placing my arm about his shoulder. Cocking his head, he looked into my eyes and said, "I was the lucky one. The person I love lives above ground, Kiera."
To hear this and see the intensity of his stare made butterflies swoop about in my stomach. But before I'd the chance to respond to what he'd said, he continued.
"I came above ground too soon, my wounds hadn't healed properly. I can't stand the daylight at al, and to be uncovered in it for a moment makes my skin smoke and blister until it feels raw. My wings are stil in tatters and flying is difficult."
"Wil it always be this way?" I asked him, my heart aching.
"As long as I keep out of the sun and in near darkness, the scars wil eventualy heal. That's why this part of the manor is covered in tarpaulin," he explained.
"For the first few days, we hid above ground by traveling at night and sleeping the days away in cheap hotel rooms. But the Sarge, Potter. and me soon realised we were being pursued by the agents of the man that had issued our death warrants."
"How did you know?" I asked him.
"In the towns that we left behind, we heard that there had been reports of people being mauled by animals. The Sarge and Potter went to investigate one day, while I rested in the darkness of some hotel room.
The authorities believed that the victims had been kiled by animals but Murphy and Potter knew better, they could see the signs."
"Most people kiled by animals don't usualy spring from their graves a few days later," he said with a grim smile on his face. "There were Vampyrus behind us and they were feeding and creating vampires in their wake.
So one night, when the moon was out and the air was cool, we went in search of these Vampyrus. You could say that the hunters became the hunted that night. Potter was realy pumped up. I'd never seen him so agitated. I think he was craving for blood and not being able to go below ground, the flesh of his own kind was going to have to be good enough. There were two of them and we tracked them to a car parked at the rear of a bar.
They waited in the shadows for the bar to close for the night and the last of the staff to leave. We waited in the treetops of a nearby park and waited for the hunters to strike. And we didn't have to wait long. I was glad that the wait was short because Potter had begun to twitch and shake with hunger.
" 'C'mon, show yourselves!' " he kept saying over and over. " 'Let's just get this over with.' "Then we saw her, this petite barmaid locking the door to the bar behind her and stepping out across the desolate car park. Before she even had a chance to reach her car, the hunters had raced in a blur of shadows and were upon her. But just as quick, Potter had raced across the sky and before I'd the chance to blink he had puled the girl free of her attackers. The Sarge was close behind her, snatching her away and laying her on the ground. With my wings stil tattered and torn, I leapt from the tree and see-sawed towards the unconscious barmaid. Making sure that she was okay, I carried her to her car. Finding the keys in her bag, I laid her on the backseat of the car, out of harms way.
"Turning away from the car, I watched as Potter tore apart one of the assassins sent to kil us. He showed no mercy. I'd never seen Potter like that before. His arms seemed to be pumping up and down in a blur as he puled away chunks of the hunter beneath him. Then he set about his face with his teeth and in seconds it would have been hard to believe that the creature had ever had a head, let alone a face. With thick lumps of flesh and sinew swinging from his chin, he turned, looking for the other assassin.
"Murphy had hold of him. The assassin was knelt forward, his head cast low like someone about to be beheaded. Potter strode towards him, his thirst for blood stil not quenched.
" 'What do you want from us?' Potter roared into the face of the hunter. 'Is it not enough that we have been banished from The Holows?' "The kneeling man made no reply, but Potter wouldn't let up.
" 'Tel me what you want?' he screamed, his face only inches from that of the assassin. Again he kept his head bowed and said nothing.
"Then completely freaking out, I watched Potter grab the assassin by the hair and drag him across the car park to the remains of his partner. Leaning in close, so as only the assassin could hear, Potter said something. I don't know what it was, but the assassin began to scream and beg for his life. And as he sobbed like a baby, I heard him say a name that sent a chil down my spine," Luke said.
"But why me?" I asked, gooseflesh scampering up my spine. "What did they want with me?" Ignoring my question, Luke said, "Murphy and me watched as Potter tortured a confession out of the assassin. It wasn't nice to see and I was shocked at Potter's sheer brutality, but he got the assassin to tel him that Taylor and Philips were coming for you."
"But why?" I asked, and again Luke ignored my question.
Staring into the darkness in the corner of the room, Luke said, "Once Potter had al the information that he was going to get, he ripped the assassin to pieces.
Murphy and me were stunned by the sheer ferocity and speed of his attack. Within seconds he had beheaded the Vampyrus sent to kil us, and had his head buried in his chest cavity like a wild dog and eating as if he were ravenous.
" 'We've got to get him some help,' Murphy said to me just above a whisper. 'If we don't, it won't be long before he's attacking humans to satisfy his hunger.
Vampyrus blood won't keep him going for long.' "I argued with Murphy, Kiera," Luke said. "I wanted to come straight to Havensfield and get you.
But the Sarge said that we should stay together, not split up. I was stil weak and with Potter being driven insane by his hunger, Murphy said we should go into hiding - we wouldn't be able to help you if we weren't keeping it together ourselves," Luke explained.
"So what did you do?" I asked him.
"We came here," he said. "Murphy had some connection to Lord Hunt. They had grown up together in the same part of The Holows. But Lord and Lady Hunt were reluctant to help us. The news about our banishment from The Holows had seeped above ground. And knowing that a threat of death had been made to anyone that helped us, they realy just wanted to get rid of us. But Murphy spoke to Michael Hunt in private and whatever it was they discussed, he agreed to let us stay, but on the understanding that we helped him."
"How?" I said, wondering what agreement had been made between them.
"His daughter Kayla had gone missing, so in return for sanctuary, Murphy and Potter agreed to track her and bring her home. I was too weak to go and would only have slowed them down. So it was decided that I would hide out in this wing of the house," Luke explained, and he said it as if he'd let his friends down in some way.
"But what about Potter and his thirst?" I asked.
"Come to think of it, how are you al coping?" "Did Lady Hunt tel you what her husband did as a job?"
Luke asked me. "She said he owned a company that was developing renewable genetics," I told him. "But I'm guessing now that that was a lie?" "Kind of," Luke half-smiled, as if being caught out. "What then?" "He was a chemist - a bit like a doctor realy. He was working on renewable genetics of a sort. He was developing a synthetic blood that would ease the cravings for human blood." Luke explained. "But it would only have been a temporary substitute if for any reason a Vampyrus couldn't get below ground. The plan was for each of the Vampyrus to carry around a smal bottle of the stuff they could use in case of an emergency. Like if you were on a flight that got delayed and you were forty-thousand feet above ground when the cravings started. Instead of feeding on the flight crew and other passengers, the synthetic blood was to hold back the thirst. A bit like giving a heroin addict methadone. It's not the real thing, but it's meant to help for a while. Hunt caled it Lot 13."
"And does it?" I asked, wondering how his cravings were doing. "Does it what?" he asked.
"Help?" "Yes," he smiled. "You're safe with me. It doesn't totaly get rid of the thirst but it helps - it becomes manageable." "So what about me?" I asked him. "Sorry?" he said. "You never answered my question." "What question was that?" he said, looking away from me again. "Why were Taylor and Philips coming after me?" Luke didn't say anything, he just looked ahead. Grabbing him by the shoulder and forcing him to look at me, I said, "They've taken, or worse... killed anyone that I've had contact with since returning from The Ragged Cove. Some of these people were my friends and they've suffered because of me. I think I have a right to know why I'm being hunted!"
Standing, Luke took me by the hands and said, "Kiera, come with me and I'l show you."