Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(15)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

“We al ied ourselves with a coven using the vinculum spel . After that was in place, they used praesidium on Mary Jane,” I cut in. “We thought that we’d use her to lure Samuel, then trap him and kil him. But he brought along a witch who had a potion that reversed the spel . He out-smarted us,” I explained.

“And he ate the heart?” James asked, his face, even the reddish boils, draining of color. He closed his eyes and shook his head.

“Yes,” Cora and I said in unison.

James sighed and sat down heavily. “This is bad,” he said. “This is very, very bad.”

“I know,” I said. “That’s why we came to you. We need help.”

“Of course you need help! But the problem is, I can’t give it to you. Your whole story is the perfect example of why vampires are bad for my business and bad for society.

They always think they can control the world. They think no one else matters but them. But they don’t understand what they’re doing in the process!” he fumed, standing and overturning his chair in his fury. He pul ed down the shades and bolted the door before crossing to the bookcase and hauling books off the shelf. Final y, he found what he was looking for: a thin, threadbare red volume. He frantical y turned the pages with his chubby hands as Cora and I glanced at each other. I was afraid to even breathe.

“Listen to this story, vampire,” James muttered. “Then you’l know what you’re dealing with.” The cat hissed, and I felt al the eyebal s in the jar on the shelf staring at me in silent judgment.

James gulped Cora’s untouched tea and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before he flipped one more page. He glanced at it and nodded, as if the words proved some unspoken point. “There’s a town in the middle of Prussia cal ed Tulpedorf,” James said, tripping over the foreign pronunciation. “Or rather, there was a town. It doesn’t exist anymore,” James said evenly, the color beginning to return to his face.

“What happened?” Cora asked, leaning forward.

“A vampire moved in,” James explained. “Kind of like your Samuel—a man with a terrible mission. Elijah was his name. No one knew where he came from, or who he was.

He was a stranger, but remarkably charismatic. People liked him, and there was even some whispering that he should rule the town. The more people who whispered that, the more people who started to believe it. After al , strange things were happening around town. Animal attacks, mysterious deaths. Maybe Elijah would save them. Little did they know, he was a vampire. One day, he did take over the town. He rounded up an army of the vil agers he’d been turning into vampires ever since he arrived and compel ed them to do his bidding. They stormed the castle of the local lord. Then, of course, his army began kil ing innocent citizens. For two days, there was mass carnage.

But just as quickly as it began, it stopped. Elijah cal ed off his vampire army. He compel ed them to head to the woods and find as many branches as they could. Once there was an enormous pile of kindling, Elijah lit a match and ordered the army to step into the flames. They did, without a second glance. At this point, everyone in the town who hadn’t been kil ed just watched in horror. Some screamed for them to stop. But no one did. Elijah did it just because he could, you see? He played with people, like a puppeteer, and didn’t care about the consequences. And that was a tiny town.

One can only imagine what a man with ambition and numbers would do in a city like London.”

“Where did Elijah go?” I asked.

“No one knows.” James shrugged. “But that’s neither here nor there. I’m tel ing you this story so you know exactly what your Samuel is now capable of. But something tel s me he won’t be content with a few dozen murders.”

“So what do we do?” Cora asked. “Is there some sort of antidote? I know vervain stops humans from fal ing under compulsion. If we could just find another herb that would protect vampires, then we could fil the water supply or…” she trailed off.

“There is no herb,” James said. “Vervain won’t work against his power. It may protect humans against any of the vampires Samuel wil compel, but how long do you think that wil last? Any job that can’t be carried out by one of his minions, I’m sure Samuel wil simply perform himself. I can’t help you. And I can’t have either of you coming to my shop anymore. It’s too dangerous. I’m leaving here myself.”

“I understand,” I said heavily, glancing futilely at the shelves.

“Come on, vampire,” he said, unbolting the door. Cora and I stood on the threshold as James hurriedly began plucking jars and boxes off the shelves and placing them on the table. He opened a smal bottle fil ed with green liquid and gulped it town, then turned around when he realized I was stil staring at him.

“Go!” James yel ed. Cora and I fled. At the far end of the al ey, I turned around. James was standing outside the store, throwing stems of vervain over the welcome mat.

Even the store catering to monsters wouldn’t have me anymore.

12

I felt like I was the bumbling villain in a burlesque show. Despite being foiled time and time again, I insisted on trying a new scheme. Only in a burlesque show, there was an audience. And I couldn’t help but wonder: Was Samuel watching? I hoped he was, if nothing else than as a distraction from building his vampire army.

When Father had planned a siege against the vampires in our town, he’d done it methodically, making sure everyone knew what their roles were: Jonathan Gilbert was supposed to find vampires with his compass, Honoraria Falls was supposed to distribute vervain to everyone, and Sheriff Forbes was to supply the brute manpower, muzzles, and chains to hold the vampires until their destruction. How much simpler would a siege be if the commander could compel everyone—

even his enemies—to do his bidding with a simple thought?

We were out of options, but as foolish as it might have been, I couldn’t stop trying to save the city. I was the only one who could.

As I desperately racked my brain for another idea, I couldn’t help but feel like the curtains were about to fall on the show. The only question was: How would it end?

In the short time we had been in James’s shop, the weather had changed completely. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, the air was cold and sharp, and the ground was coated in a fine layer of white powder.

Cora, chil ed to the bone, headed back to Bedford Square, while I continued to walk. The flurries had the effect of making London look like an etching on a holiday card. The air was redolent with the scent of roasted chestnuts, and rosy-cheeked people were marveling at the accumulation of snow along the curb. Men stopped on the streets to jovial y slap one another on the backs in greeting. Al around me London seemed at its finest, while al I felt was grief and despair.

Everyone had turned on us. Including the witches. But I knew, deep down, that Lady Alice would want to avenge Mary Jane’s death as much as I did. The image of the terrible gold-tinged blood frothing at Samuel’s mouth sprung to my mind. I wouldn’t let Mary Jane’s death fuel evil.

And if Lady Alice loved her as much as she said, she wouldn’t either. Making up my mind, I headed to Lady Alice’s house. Was it a suicide mission? Maybe. I knew she hated me. But she was also our only hope.

By the time I reached the mansion, my boots were soaked and my fingers felt raw from the cold. I tentatively pushed the iron gate, surprised when it swung open without force. She must not have sensed my presence, because walking down the path was Lady Alice herself, wearing a shapeless white robe that looked like a burial shroud.

“Stefan,” she said briefly. I could tel that behind her back she gripped a stake. She was ready for anything.

Silence hung in the air as we appraised each other. I knew she might attack at any second, and I felt my heart hammering in my chest. I wondered if she could hear it.

I imagined the stake coming toward my chest. I’d dodge, before trying to knock the stake out of her hand. I’d want to reason with her. But unbidden, another more terrifying image sprang to my mind. The wooden point would graze my chest and my fangs would appear. In an instant, I’d sink my teeth into Lady Alice’s neck and tear her throat out, stopping only when her body was drained. I mashed my lips together and avoided her gaze. When I was provoked, I was no longer Stefan. I was a monster.

“I’m not here to fight,” I said, profoundly hoping it was the truth. “I just want to talk. I’l agree to whatever terms make you feel comfortable.”

Lady Alice hesitated, and I could see that she was weighing her options.

“Al right.” Lady Alice nodded. “I’l give you a few minutes. Come with me.” She gestured for me to fol ow her down the winding walkway and to a gravel pathway behind the house. In its center was a single rosebush, bursting with red blossoms despite the weather. I fol owed her, matching her slow, careful steps.

“As good as gold,” she murmured as she neared the center. Once there, she turned to face me. The setting sun il uminated her face. “It’s funny—people say that al the time without real y knowing what it means. But in Mary Jane’s case, I saw it with my own eyes. She truly was as good as gold. And now, that good has been turned evil. You broke vinculum, and I do blame you for what has happened. But I won’t kil you. Stil , here’s what you need to know, Stefan,” Lady Alice said in a low voice, her eyes blazing. “I know you’l ask me to help you, and I know you’l say that you’re not asking for yourself. I know you’l say that you’re asking for the greater good, and that London is in grave danger.”

“Yes,” I began, nodding. “But…”

“I know you’re going to say that you’re doing this for Mary Jane. That if we don’t do something, her life was in vain.”

“Y-y-yes,” I said hesitantly.

“But I can’t help you,” she said final y. “I’m not like you. I can’t just drink blood and be good as new. I need time to grieve. And I can’t work with people I don’t trust. Because you betrayed me, Stefan. You may not have meant to, but you gave me your word, and your word was false. Words have power. And when that power is undermined…” She shook her head. “I suppose it’s like when one of your kind gets staked. Not in the heart, so it doesn’t kil you. But it drains your Power.”

“I understand,” I said. “But this isn’t just about us. Now that Samuel has the power to compel vampires, he can control the whole city. Innocent lives wil be lost. I won’t ask you to fight, but can’t you help us? Could you make more eleuthro?”

She sighed heavily. “No, Stefan. I can’t make eleuthro.” She reached toward the rose bush, touching one of the flowers. The petals fel to the earth like drops of blood on the thin white layer of snow. “Witches only have as much power as their coven. And right now, we’re al in mourning, al unsure how we’l handle this…situation. We wil band together again if we find one of our own in danger, but we wil not help the likes of you. That much is certain. And until I have the support of my coven, I don’t have any power at al .”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

“Sorry doesn’t bring back Mary Jane. Now go. You’ve said enough. I can’t bear to hear any more.” I nodded mutely and turned my back, shuffling down the hil .

“Hel o, brother,” Damon said, startling me by bursting into my bedroom. He was wearing a suit with a black silk ascot tied around his neck. He dropped a similarly expensive-looking suit on the foot of my bed. It was later that evening, and I’d spent the last hour frowning into my notebook, desperately trying to come up with a plan. But I couldn’t. I could barely even write. Words have power, Lady Alice had said. Wel , the blank page in front of me certainly didn’t. I was out of ideas.

But while I was miserable, Damon seemed positively overjoyed. He held a crystal glass in his hands. “Would you like a drink?”

I shook my head. “I have nothing to celebrate.”

“Who said you need a reason to celebrate?” He pushed the glass closer to me.

“You want to celebrate while Samuel’s probably rounding up a vampire army?” I concentrated on the dimly glowing lapis lazuli stone set in the ring on my finger so I could avoid his gaze. “I’m not in the mood.”

“Why? Because a witch yel ed at you?” Damon asked pointedly. He sat in a chair in the corner and swirled his glass. “Cora told me you saw Lady Alice, and it didn’t go wel . What did you expect? A hero’s welcome and a six-course dinner? We tried to use magic, and it didn’t work.

So now we go to Plan D,” he said, downing his glass and holding it out to me in a mock toast.

“Plan drunk?” I asked wryly.

“That’s a good one!” he said enthusiastical y. “But no.

Plan Damon.”

“And what would that be?” I asked, turning to face him.

“Is that ‘Kil al of London before Samuel does it first’? Is it

‘Compel your way into mil ions before running away’? Or is it ‘Go over to his side, because you always want to be the one to win’?”

“None of the above.” Damon shrugged. “But I wil say it’s far better than moping, which is Plan Stefan.” I glanced back at my notebook so he wouldn’t see the redness rise to my cheeks. Was that true? And why did I care? Damon liked to deliberately provoke, and no matter what, I walked into his trap.

Just then I heard a light knock on the door.

“Come in!” I cal ed, grateful for the interruption.

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