Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)
Author: L.J. Smith

PREFACE

The only thing in the world that’s constant is war. It was an aphorism murmured in the sticky summer of 1864 as the Civil War tore America apart—and it was a truth that had only become more evident in my more than twenty years as a vampire. Every time I picked up the paper, there were stories of humans fighting humans: brawls on the streets of San Francisco, uprisings in India, insurrections all over Europe. And once blood had been shed and graves marked, they’d start all over again.

But the war my brother, Damon, and I were fighting against the evil vampire Samuel Mortimer was far different. It was a battle without limits. After all, soldiers instinctively fear death. As vampires, we’d already conquered it. What we feared was the reign of terror Samuel would surely inflict upon London if he won. Evil would run rampant.

To the citizens of London, Samuel Mortimer was a member of the city’s political elite. But we knew his true nature: He was a fiendish vampire, one we’d been trying to destroy for weeks. Not only had he fed on the blood of innocent women and tried to kill me, he had framed my brother as Jack the Ripper—a now infamous name for the deranged killer responsible for the Whitechapel murders, which Samuel himself was committing.

He’d also been one of Katherine’s lovers.

Katherine, the vampire who’d seduced Damon and me and fanned the flames of discord between us two decades prior, had turned us into the creatures we now were. Samuel was convinced we’d killed his love, and he wanted revenge. It didn’t matter that Damon and I hadn’t been the ones to trap and burn her in the church back in Mystic Falls. He would never believe we’d tried to save her. Samuel needed someone to pay for her death, and he’d chosen us.

No matter what, it seemed neither decades nor miles nor oceans could separate me from Katherine’s legacy.

But this time had been different. Her memory hadn’t divided my brother and me. Instead, it had united us against Samuel. We’d managed to kill Samuel’s brother, Henry, before the battle had taken a terrible turn, but Samuel had captured Damon. I knew he could kill Damon in a second if he wanted to. Right now, the only thing keeping Damon from death was Samuel’s penchant for torture and sadistic games. I had to rescue Damon from his suffering before Samuel tired of him.

I wasn’t afraid to die. But, as odd as it was after our years of fighting, I was afraid to live in a world without Damon. My brother was callous, rude, and destructive. And yet he had saved me on more than one occasion during our time in London. He was the one on whom I could count when no one else could be trusted. He was all I had.

After all, we were bound by blood. And if I’d learned anything from my time as a vampire, it was that blood was life. Without Damon, my life force would ebb. Now, I had to do everything in my power to get him back…

1

There was a moment after Samuel dragged Damon away when it seemed as though my spirit had left my body. It was how I’d felt when a bul et from my father’s gun had pierced my chest al those years ago in Mystic Fal s: a split-second of agony, fol owed by a blankness that radiated from the very core of my being.

But I wasn’t dead. And I wouldn’t let Samuel escape with Damon. Once I’d made sure Cora was al right, I took a deep breath and catapulted my body out the window of the Magdalene Asylum. Glass shattered around me, and a shard pierced my cheek. Blood ran down my skin. I didn’t care.

“Damon!” I yel ed. The Asylum was empty—no one would hear me. Al the residents, nuns, and priests were at a midnight church service, which had been convenient for Damon and me when we set our trap for Samuel.

We’d had weapons. We’d had plans. We’d had the element of surprise. And stil , we’d fal en short. It was as if Samuel had purposely al owed us to get closer and closer, only to outwit us—just like his alter ego, Jack the Ripper, had done to the Metropolitan Police when he sent them on a cat-and-mouse chase through London.

I ran through the city streets at vampire speed, trying to listen for shouts, scuffles, even labored breathing—anything that would lead me to my brother. I knew it was useless, but I had to do something. After al , Damon had saved me from Samuel. He deserved the same from me.

I ran through Dutfield Park, the overgrown square where Damon and I had first realized we were being hunted. It would be poetic justice for Samuel to kil him here, beneath the stone wal where he’d written a chil ing message in blood to let us know he would have his revenge. But I noticed nothing amiss. The only sounds were the scampering of squirrels in the underbrush and the whistling of the wind through barren trees.

I ran to the highest point of the park and glanced around in al directions: the elegant dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ominous, dark ribbon of the Thames snaking through the city, the run-down buildings crowding the park. Damon could be anywhere.

He could already be dead.

I jammed my hands in my pockets and turned around, slowly walking back to the Asylum. I needed to get Cora; together, we’d come up with something. It was what we’d been doing for the past several weeks: trailing Samuel, thinking we’d captured him, and then finding ourselves in a worse situation than ever.

Even before I reached the gates of the Asylum, I could hear a low-pitched moan: Cora. My heart twisted in sorrow, thinking of her. I wasn’t the only one missing a family member. Samuel had taken Cora’s sister, Violet, and turned her into a vampire. Violet had attacked her own sister. Of course Cora was mourning.

I entered the Asylum through the window I’d broken. The smel of Henry’s burning flesh stil clung to the room. There was blood pooled on the floor and spattered across the wal s, as though the subterranean office had become an impromptu butcher shop. Which, I suppose, it had.

Standing in the corner, Cora moaned again, her hand clasped to her mouth. Cora was an innocent girl caught in an increasingly tangled web of evil and despair. Only a fortnight ago, Samuel had turned Violet into a vampire.

Ever since then, Cora had been doing whatever she could to try to save her, including infiltrating the Magdalene Asylum, of which Samuel was a wel -known benefactor. As soon as she’d realized Samuel was affiliated with the Asylum, she’d volunteered to pose as a destitute girl seeking salvation within its doors. It was she who’d realized Samuel was using the Asylum residents as his own personal blood supply. And it was she who’d helped set up a trap to snare Samuel. We had hoped to get closer to Samuel, to discover his weaknesses, anything that could help us understand his relentless vendetta against us.

Because the Ripper murders weren’t committed for the blood. As vampires, we could kil quickly and cleanly—but we didn’t need to murder to obtain sustenance. Samuel, especial y, didn’t: As a benefactor to the Magdalene Asylum, he was able to drink his fil from its residents whenever he liked, compel ing them to offer their necks to him and then forget al about the encounter. And yet Samuel was intent on brutal y slaying and slicing open victims on the streets of Whitechapel, al with the goal of framing Damon as a kil er. His motivation could be summed up in one terrible name: Katherine.

At one point, the name had made my heart race. Now, it made it clench in dread. Katherine meant Samuel, and Samuel meant destruction. And the only question was, when would he stop? When Damon was dead? When I was dead? In the process of our investigation, we’d lost Damon and witnessed Violet’s transformation into a soul ess, cold-blooded kil er. Not only had she fought brutal y against Damon and me moments earlier, but she’d hurt—and worse, fed on—Cora. I could only imagine the despair and confusion Cora was feeling as she stood in the corner.

But I couldn’t dwel on what had happened. I needed to think of the future—and I needed to save Damon.

“We can’t stay here. Let’s go home.” Our destination was the Underground tunnel where we’d spent our nights for the last week.

Cora nodded. A flicker of concern crossed her eyes as she noticed the cut on my cheek.

“You’re bleeding,” she said.

“I’m fine,” I said roughly, wiping the blood away with my hand. It was just like Cora to be worried about my discomfort when she was struggling with so much.

“Let me help you.” Cora reached into the sleeve of her dress and pul ed out a handkerchief. She tenderly rubbed it against my skin. “I’m worried about you, Stefan. You have to take care of yourself, because…” She trailed off, but I knew what she was thinking. Because at this point, you’re all I have. I nodded, knowing there wasn’t much else Cora or I could say.

I boosted Cora up so she could climb through the Asylum window, and together, we slowly trudged westward to our temporary home.

Above us, clouds and mist obscured any stars, and the streets were practical y empty. People were terrified of the Ripper, and the eerie wind whistling through the al eys was only adding to the evil tone of the evening. The only heartbeat I could hear was Cora’s, but I knew from the papers that policemen were hiding in every shadowy al ey, on the lookout for the Ripper.

Of course, the police presence was useless. While they were shivering on the streets, on guard for the Ripper’s next attack, the murderer was preoccupied with a prime distraction: plotting to torture my brother.

At least, I hoped he was stil plotting, not already tormenting Damon. Was my brother even now crying out in agony? Or had Samuel simply staked him and thrown his lifeless body in the Thames? Tortured or kil ed? It was a lose-lose situation, but I found myself wishing Samuel’s sadistic nature had won out. While it would prolong Damon’s pain, it gave us a chance at rescuing him, boosting our slim odds.

Cora stumbled and I reached out to steady her. We were almost home. I paused to make sure we hadn’t been fol owed, but no one was chasing us. In fact, no one seemed to be here at al , perhaps put off by the signs that surrounded the work area above the tunnel, al clearly stating that trespassing was strictly prohibited by the Metropolitan Police.

I jumped down into the tunnel, unfazed by the drop. That was one of the advantages of being a vampire: My innate agility ensured I’d land on my feet.

I helped Cora down, and the two of us faced each other.

Despite the darkness, I could see everything, from the packed dirt wal s to the pebbles scattered on the ground.

Meanwhile, Cora blinked several times, her eyes adjusting to the lack of light.

Suddenly, a creature darted past our feet. It was a rat, almost the size of a smal cat. Instead of scrambling away in surprise, Cora grabbed a large stone from the tunnel floor and threw it at the creature. The scuffling stopped.

“You need to eat,” she urged.

“Thank you.” I reached down, grabbed the stil -warm carcass, and placed my mouth to its fur, piercing the thin skin with my fangs. The whole time, I was aware of Cora’s unflinching gaze. But what did it matter? It wasn’t like my drinking blood was a surprise to her. She’d seen me bare my fangs to feed, and she’d seen me battle Henry and Samuel. I felt the rat’s blood calm my body as it ran through my veins.

Once I’d drunk al I could, I threw the carcass to the ground, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, and smiled tersely at Cora. Our friendship was unlike any I’d ever experienced with a human since becoming a vampire.

Even when Cal ie had discovered my identity back in New Orleans, I had never fed in front of her. I had concealed my fangs and masked my yearnings, wanting her to only see the best in me. But Cora was different.

“Was that enough?” she asked, sliding into a seated position and crossing her legs under her gray dress, now spattered with dirt and blood. Dark shadows surrounded her eyes, and the smudges of grime on her cheeks blended with the smattering of freckles on her skin. Her teeth were chattering. A cold snap had hit London in the past few days, and it was especial y frigid in the tunnel, where the wal s were beaded with condensation and a misty gray fog swirled around the darkness.

“It was, thank you. How are you?” I asked, feeling stupid as soon as the words escaped my lips. How was she? She was in the tunnel of an al -but-abandoned construction site.

She’d just kil ed a rat and watched it be drained of its blood. She’d been betrayed by her vampire sister. She’d witnessed vampires torturing one another, seen a body burned to ashes. And although she did so wil ingly, she’d been used as a pawn in our war against Samuel. But he’d escaped, and had brutal y kil ed two of Cora’s friends, then left their corpses in Mitre Square. How did I expect her to feel?

“I’m alive,” Cora said. “I believe that counts for something.” She attempted a laugh, but it came out as a sputtering cough. I patted her on the back and was surprised when she leaned in and gave me a hug.

“I’m sorry I put you in danger,” I said hol owly. “I should have known that we couldn’t reason with Violet. I should never have brought you to see her.” We’d gone to see Ephraim, a witch, and had him cast a locator spel to help us find Violet and persuade her to leave Samuel. But when we’d found her, she hadn’t listened to anything we’d said and had kidnapped Cora, which is how she’d ended up back at the Asylum the same day Damon and I had snuck in to ambush Samuel.

“You wouldn’t have been able to keep me away from Violet,” Cora said firmly. “You told me she wouldn’t be the same. But deep down, I believed she’d stil be my sister.

Now I know I was wrong.” Cora shuddered. I nodded, sad that my prediction had been true.

“I was so stupid,” Cora said, her face twisting in anger. “I thought I could get through to her. I thought she could change. But there was nothing of Violet left in her. She fed on me, Stefan. Then she brought me to the Asylum and asked that groundskeeper, Seaver, to lock me in that room.

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