Home > Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(3)

Twilight Watch (Watch #3)(3)
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

"There was an article in Arguments and Facts," Gesar explained. "About a fire at the TV tower. It was called NIGHT WATCH ON THE OSTANKINO TOWER."

"Clever," I agreed. The mention of the tower gave me a slight twinge. That hadn't exactly been the best time of my life... And those weren't the most enjoyable adventures I'd ever had. I would be haunted for the rest of my days by the face of the Dark Other I threw off the TV tower in the Twilight...

"Don't get moody, Anton, you didn't do anything wrong," said Gesar. "Let's get down to business."

"Let's do that, Boris Ignatievich," I said, calling the boss by his old "civilian" name. "Is this for real, then?"

Gesar shrugged. "There's not even a whiff of magic from the letter. It was either composed by a human being, or by a competent Other who can cover his tracks. If it's a human being... that means there has to be a leak somewhere. If it's an Other... it's an absolutely irresponsible act of provocation."

"No traces at all?" I asked again to make sure.

"None. The only clue is the postmark." Gesar frowned. "But that looks very much like a red herring..."

"Why - was the letter sent from the Kremlin, then?" I quipped.

"Almost. The mailbox the letter was posted in is located on the grounds of the Assol complex."

Great tall buildings with red roofs - the kind Comrade Stalin would have been sure to approve of. I'd seen them. But only from a distance.

"You can't just go walking in there!"

"No, you can't," Gesar said with a nod. "So, in sending the letter from the Assol residences after all this subterfuge with the paper, the glue, and the letters, our unknown correspondent either committed a crude error..."

I shook my head.

"Or he's leading us onto a false trail..." At this point Gesar paused, observing my reaction closely.

I thought for a moment. And then shook my head again, "That's very naive. No."

"Or the 'wellwisher,'" Gesar pronounced the final word with frank sarcasm, "really does want to give us a clue."

"What for?" I asked.

"He sent the letter for some reason," Gesar reminded me. "As you well understand, Anton, we have to react to this letter somehow. Let's assume the worst - there's a traitor among the Others, who can reveal the secret of our existence to the human race."

"But who's going to believe him?"

"They won't believe a human being. But they will believe an Other who can demonstrate his abilities."

Gesar was right, of course. But I couldn't make sense of why anyone would do such a thing. Even the stupidest and most malicious Dark One had to understand what would happen after the truth was revealed. A new witch hunt, that was what. And people would gladly cast both the Dark Ones and the Light Ones in the role of the witches. Everyone who possessed the abilities of an Other...

Including Sveta. Including little Nadya.

"How is it possible 'to turn this human being into an Other'?" I asked. "Vampirism?"

"Vampires, werewolves..." Gesar shrugged. "That's it, I suppose. Initiation is possible at the very crudest, most primitive levels of Dark Power, but it would have to be paid for by sacrificing the human essence. It's impossible to turn a human being into a magician by initiation."

"Nadiushka..." I whispered. "You rewrote Svetlana's Book of Destiny, didn't you?"

Gesar shook his head. "No, Anton. Your daughter was destined to be born a Great One. All we did was make the sign more precise. We eliminated the element of chance..."

"Egor," I reminded him. "The boy had already become a Dark Other..."

"But we erased the specific quality of his initiation. Gave him a chance to choose again," Gesar said and nodded. "Anton, all the interventions that we are capable of only have to do with the choice of 'Dark' or 'Light.' But there's no way we can make the choice between 'human' or 'Other.' No one in this world can do that."

"Then that means we're talking about vampires," I said. "Supposing the Dark Ones have another vampire who has fallen in love..."

Gesar spread his hands helplessly. "Could be. Then everything's more or less simple. The Dark Ones will check their riffraff - it's in their interest as much as ours... And yes, by the way. They received a letter too. Exactly the same. And sent from Assol too."

"How about the Inquisition - did they get one?"

"You get shrewder and shrewder all the time," Gesar laughed. "They got one too. By mail. From Assol."

Gesar was clearly hinting at something. I thought for a moment and drew yet another shrewd conclusion.

"Then the investigation is being conducted by both Watches and the Inquisition?"

There was a brief flicker of disappointment in Gesar's glance.

"Yes, that's the way it is. When it's absolutely necessary, in a private capacity, it is permissible to reveal yourself to human beings. You know yourself..."he nodded toward the door through which his visitors had left. "But that's a private matter. And the appropriate magical limitations are imposed. This situation is far worse than that. It looks as if one of the Others intends to trade in initiations."

I imagined a vampire offering his services to rich New Russians and smiled. "How would you like to drink the people's blood for real, my dear sir?" But then, it wasn't all about blood. Even the very weakest vampire or werewolf possesses Power. They have no fear of disease. They live for a very, very long time. And their physical strength shouldn't be forgotten either - any werewolf would beat Karelin and give Tyson a good whipping. And then there was their "animal magnetism," the "call" that they had such complete control over. Any woman was yours for the taking, just summon her.

Of course, in reality, both vampires and werewolves were bound by numerous restrictions. Even more so than magicians - their instability required it. But did a newly initiated vampire really understand that?

"What are you smiling at?" Gesar asked.

"I just imagined an announcement in a newspaper. T will turn you into a vampire. Safe, reliable, a hundred years guarantee. Price by arrangement.'"

Gesar nodded. "Good thinking. I'll have the newspapers and internet notice boards checked."

I looked at Gesar, but I couldn't tell if he was joking or serious. "I don't think there's any real danger," I said. "Most likely some crackpot vampire has decided to earn a bit of money. Showed some rich man a few tricks and offered to... er... bite him."

"One bite, and all your troubles are over," Gesar said encouragingly.

Encouraged, I continued. "Someone... for instance, this man's wife, found out about the terrible offer. While her husband is hesitating, she decided to write to us. Hoping that we'll eliminate the vampire and her husband will remain a human being. Hence the combination of letters cut out of newspapers and the post office in Assol. A cry for help. She can't tell us openly, but she's literally begging us: Save my husband!"

"You hopeless romantic," Gesar said disapprovingly. "So then she takes a pair of nail scissors, and snippety-snips the letters out of the latest Pravda... Did she get the addresses out of the newspapers too?"

"The address of the Inquisition!" I exclaimed, suddenly realizing the problem.

"Now there you're right. Could you send a letter to the Inquisition?"

I didn't answer. I'd been put firmly in my place. And Gesar had told me straight out about the letter to the Inquisition.

"In our watch I'm the only person who knows their address. In the Day Watch, I presume Zabulon is the only one. So where does that leave us, Gorodetsky?"

"You sent the letter. Or Zabulon did."

Gesar only snorted.

"And is the Inquisition really uptight about this?" I asked.

"Uptight is putting it mildly. In itself, the attempt to trade in initiations doesn't bother them. That's standard business for the watches - identify the perpetrator, punish him, and seal the leak. Especially since we and the Dark Ones are both equally outraged by what has happened... But a letter to the Inquisition - that's something really exceptional. There aren't very many of them, so you can see... If one side violates the Treaty,

the Inquisition takes the other side, maintaining equilibrium. That gives all of us... discipline. But let's just say somewhere in the depths of one of the Watches a plan is being hatched for ultimate victory. A group of battle magicians who have come together and are capable of killing all the Inquisitors in a single night - that is, of course, if they happen to know all about the Inquisition - who serves in it, where they live, where they keep their documents..."

"Did the letter arrive at their head office?" I asked.

"Yes. And judging from the fact that six hours later the office was empty, and there was a fire in the building, that must have been where the Inquisition kept all its archives. Even I didn't know that for certain. Anyway, by sending the letter to the Inquisition, this person... or Other... has thrown down the gauntlet to them. Now the Inquisition will be after him. The official reason is that security has been breached and an attempt is being made to initiate a human being. But in reality, what's driving them is concern for their own skin."

"I never thought it was like them to feel afraid for themselves," I said.

"Oh yes, and how, Anton! Here's a little something for you to ponder... Why aren't there any traitors in the Inquisition? Dark Ones and Light Ones join them. They go through their training. And then - the Dark Ones punish Dark Ones severely, the Light Ones punish Light Ones, the very moment they violate the Treaty."

"A special character type," I suggested. "They select Others who are like that."

"And they never make a mistake?" Gesar asked skeptically. "That couldn't happen. But in the whole of history, there has never been a single case of an Inquisitor violating the Treaty..."

"They evidently understand too clearly what violating the Treaty leads to. There was one Inquisitor in Prague who told me, 'We are constrained by fear.'"

Gesar frowned. "Witezslav... he's fond of fine phrases... All right, don't bother your head about that. The situation's simple - there's an Other who is either in violation of the Treaty or taunting the Watches and the Inquisition. The Inquisition will conduct its investigation, the Dark Ones will conduct theirs. And a staff member is required from us too."

"May I ask why me in particular?"

Gesar spread his hands expressively again. "For a number of reasons. The first is that in the course of the investigation you'll probably come up against vampires. And you're our top specialist on the lower Dark Ones."

No, he didn't seem to be making fun of me.

"The second reason," Gesar went on, opening the fingers of his fist as he counted, in the German fashion, "is that the investigators officially appointed by the Inquisition are old friends of yours. Witezslav and Edgar."

"Edgar's in Moscow?" I asked, surprised. I couldn't say that I actually liked the Dark Magician who had transferred to the Inquisition three years earlier. But... but I could say that I didn't find him unpleasant.

"Yes, he is. He completed his course of training four months ago and flew back here. Since this job means you'll be in contact with Inquisitors, any previous personal acquaintance is useful."

"My acquaintance with them wasn't all that enjoyable," I reminded him.

"What do you think I'm promising you here, Thai massage during working hours?" Gesar asked cantankerously. "The third reason why I particularly wanted to give this assignment to you is..." He stopped.

I waited.

"The Dark Ones' investigation is also being conducted by an old acquaintance of yours."

Gesar didn't need to go on and mention the name. But he did anyway.

"Konstantin. The young vampire... your former neighbor. I recall that you used to be on good terms."

"Yes, of course," I said bitterly. "When he was still a child, only drank pig's blood, and dreamed of escaping from the 'curse'...

Until he realized that his friend the Light Magician burns his kind to ashes."

"That's life," said Gesar.

"He's already drunk human blood," I said. "He must have! If he's in favor in the Day Watch."

"He has become a Higher Vampire," Gesar declared. "The youngest Higher Vampire in Europe. If you translate that into our terms, that means..."

"Third or fourth level of Power," I whispered. "Five or six lives destroyed."

Kostya, Kostya... I was a young, inexperienced Light Magician back then. I just couldn't make any friends in the Watch, and relations with all my old friends were rapidly falling apart... Others and people can't be friends... and suddenly I discovered that my neighbors on the same staircase were Dark Others. A family of vampires. The mother and father were vampires, and they'd initiated their child, too. There was nothing really sinister about them though. No nocturnal hunting, no applications for licenses, they respected the law and drank pig's blood and donors' blood. And so, like a fool, I let my defenses down. I became friends with them. I even used to go around to see them. I even invited them to my place. They ate food that I'd cooked, and praised it... and, fool that I was, I didn't realize that human food is tasteless to them, that they are tormented by an ancient, eternal hunger. The little vampire kid even decided that he was going to be a biologist and discover a cure for vampirism...

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