Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(5)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(5)
Author: L.J. Smith

I racked my brain, pul ing memories from Mystic Fal s and New Orleans as if turning back the pages of a book. I knew every painful detail of my first kil —my father. I remembered the sweet, smoky blood of Clementine Haverford, the fresh, lilac-scented blood of my victim on the train to New Orleans, as wel as al the faceless humans who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time…

“Can’t even remember, can you?” Jemima asked in disgust. “See, their destruction has no boundaries.”

“I have kil ed, it’s true. More than I wish I had. But I haven’t in a long time, and I don’t feed on humans,” I said, choosing my words careful y.

Jemima’s flinty gray eyes softened slightly, “That, at least, is the truth.”

“It’s al I have,” I said. “I can’t change the past. But I want to change the future. And I don’t want Samuel to kil my brother.”

“So is that how you see it?” Jemima asked, turning to the witches as if she were a lawyer speaking to a jury.

“Because you saved Mary Jane’s life, we owe it to you to save your brother’s life?”

save your brother’s life?”

“If that’s how you want to see it, yes.” I expected Jemima to argue. But instead, she merely laughed, a sharp snort that punctuated the tense silence that had fal en in the room.

“You’re smart, vampire. You know better than to lie your way into my good graces. I think we might be able to work something out. Besides, I don’t like vampires, so I’m al for getting rid of one who’s been causing trouble.”

“Thank you,” I said grateful y.

Jemima held up her hand. “Don’t thank me til I’ve done something. Of course, the fact that you don’t feed on human blood comes with complications, doesn’t it? Vivian, we’re going to need some eleuthro. Actual y, better find enough for the lot of us,” she said. Instantly, Vivian scrambled to her feet and raced down the stairs. Jemima leaned toward me.

I flinched, sure she was about to touch me and set off the same burning sensation she had a moment ago. But she didn’t. Instead, she yanked a single hair from my head.

“What’s eleuthro?” I asked, my tongue tripping over the unfamiliar word.

“A potion,” Jemima said briefly. “But don’t you worry about that. First things first, let’s find where Samuel’s keeping your brother.” She dropped the strand of hair into the fire. “What’s his name?”

“Damon. Damon Salvatore,” I said, picturing the classic half-smirk my brother wore when he introduced himself to beautiful women. But my thoughts were interrupted by Jemima’s chants.

Two blood brothers, separated by land or sea With this lock bring him to thee.

Show us Damon, not for game, or sport, or play

But so from evil we can lift him away.

“Now let’s hope it works,” she muttered as she stepped back, al owing Bil y to stoke the fire. He circled the blaze in a counterclockwise motion, causing the room to fil with smoke. The grayish-white bil ows began to fan out. I blinked as a purple cloud formed directly above the flames. In its center was a hazy image of Damon. He was tied to a column, his eyes drooping, and his body trembling. He was clearly starving and wracked with pain. Ropes bound him to the scaffolding, and I knew from the enormous welts apparent in the vision that they must have been soaked with vervain.

I squinted, trying to pick out some sort of clue in the background. In the distance, far beyond Damon’s shoulder, was a hulking edifice. But was that stil part of the vision, or was it a trick of the light? I felt a painful pounding in my temple.

“It looks like the Tower Bridge,” I murmured, walking closer and closer to the image. I could make out the foundation and the deck, with Damon’s body affixed to one of the girders. Al of a sudden, I heard a loud sizzle. The image disappeared and I realized Jemima had poured a large bucket of water onto the fire. Sparks jumped around me.

“Why did you do that?” I’d only begun to pick apart the vision for clues. Yes, it was the Bridge, but why? Where was Samuel? How long had Damon been there? And how long would he survive?

“Saving you from yourself, vampire,” Jemima said, grimacing. “You were so close to the fire you were about to fal in. And then where would we be?”

I took a few steps back, seating myself in a chair in the far corner of the room, trying to figure out how I could use what I had seen in the fire to rescue Damon.

The door opened, and Vivian entered the room holding a tarnished silver pitcher. “I made the potion. I had plenty of the herb, but I had to guess the amounts of mugwort and dragonroot,” she fretted.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jemima said, but I saw her gaze nervously cut to Mary Jane. So far, al their spel s seemed to have worked. But what happened when one didn’t?

Vivian took a smal sip, wiped her Cupid’s-bow mouth with the back of her hand, and passed the pitcher to Mary Jane, who fol owed suit.

“Makes you stronger,” Mary Jane explained as she passed the pitcher to me.

“Real y?” I asked, looking dubiously at the liquid sloshing inside the container. The greenish color reminded me of sludge cul ed from the bottom of a pond. I sniffed it. It smel ed like burning leaves.

“You have nothing to lose, vampire,” Jemima said sharply.

“True.” I took a large drink, as if to prove to her I wasn’t afraid of the potion—or her. The liquid bubbled down my throat. It tasted fetid and vile, as if it were made of the refuse fil ing the streets.

“I’l need some, too,” Cora said, plucking the pitcher from my hands and taking several deep gulps as though she were one of the tavern girls holding her own in a pint-drinking competition with dock laborers.

“Good girl,” Jemima said, sounding impressed. The boys drank from the pitcher in turn. “And now that we’ve al drunk up, it’s time to go. Who knows how long he’l be at the Bridge.”

I felt stronger, and my throbbing headache had disappeared. The eleuthro was better than blood. It took the edge off my nerves and made me feel like I could take on anyone—or anything. I experimental y squeezed the arm of a nearby chair, thril ed to see the wood snap like a twig between my fingers.

“Confident the potion works, vampire?” Jemima asked, her hands on her hips.

“Yes,” I said testily. “And I’m sorry I broke the chair, but this makes a good stake. We need more weapons like this, just in case,” I said. It was true. The slim chair arm tapered into a sharp point that would easily pierce through skin. I hastily turned to address al the witches. “Damon wil most likely be tied up with vervain-soaked ropes. Vervain’s poisonous to me, so I can’t untie him. Could one of you set him free? The herb won’t hurt you.”

“I wil ,” Bil y volunteered, heading to the remains of the chair to create more makeshift stakes.

“Thank you,” I said. “Jemima, are there any spel s you can perform that could help?”

“Are there any spel s I can perform?” Jemima repeated sarcastical y. I sucked in my breath, annoyed at the literal way she took my words but knowing far better than to say anything.

“What spel do you think would be best?” I asked patiently.

“Leave that to me, vampire,” Jemima said. “I’m not sharing al my secrets with you. I know you’re honest, but I stil can’t trust you. And I won’t know what spel to perform until I see Samuel for myself.”

“What can I do?” Gus asked, stepping up to me.

I appraised the skinny boy, then glanced at Jemima. She nodded at me, as if giving me permission to speak. “Why don’t you watch out for Cora,” I decided.

“I don’t need looking out for,” Cora retorted.

“I know. But if Samuel and Violet are on the scene, then

—”

“Then I want to fight them,” Cora said, cutting me off.

“And aren’t you forgetting something, vampire?” Jemima smirked.

“What?” I asked. We had stakes, we had spel s…

“How do you plan to carry this off at Tower Bridge?

There are always people around. You real y need a blocking spel , so no one walks in on us.”

“Yes!” I exclaimed. Despite Jemima’s sarcasm, her suggestion proved she was listening and ready to help.

“Vampires just don’t think about details,” Jemima

“Vampires just don’t think about details,” Jemima muttered. “Gus and Mary Jane, can you do a simple circle spel when we get to the Bridge? Don’t want any mortals getting caught in the ruckus.”

“Thank you,” I said meaningful y, locking eyes with Jemima.

Jemima didn’t respond, but the corners of her mouth twisted into a smal smile.

And with al the witches on board, we streamed toward the door, ready to free my brother.

“Damon, I’m coming,” I whispered under my breath. But the only response was the ominous sound of rain pelting the roof.

5

Together, stakes concealed under our clothing, our motley group traipsed through the back al eys of London’s East End. What had been a cloudy day had turned into a bitterly cold and rainy evening. Cora shivered beside me.

As we walked past a public house where a few men hunched over their pints of ale, Mary Jane hurried to catch up with me. I forced myself to take slow, measured steps, but it was hard to walk at human speed with the eleuthro surging through my veins. Al of my senses were heightened, and I breathed in the stench of rotting garbage in the gutter. As pungent as the scent was, it was a poor distraction from the sound of blood pumping around me.

While it may have taken the edge off my nerves, the eleuthro hadn’t assuaged my craving. If anything, it had intensified it.

“The first rule we have when performing magic is to not draw any attention to ourselves,” Mary Jane said, pul ing me back to the conversation. I hadn’t been paying attention.

I was so distracted by the thought of blood that I could almost taste it on my tongue. I knew it was simply because we were in the East End, which was packed with residents.

The more humans, the greater concentration of blood. That was one of the many reasons I’d preferred my life in a quaint vil age where neighbors were few and far between. It was easier to ignore the cal of blood.

“I was saying, we try to blend in to our surroundings,” Mary Jane said patiently, when she saw I wasn’t exactly focused. “The second rule is, no magic in public, unless we’re threatened by death. Of course, we’l use magic to free your brother, but we must maintain a low profile. If any one of us is exposed, we’re immediately kicked out of the house. It’s Jemima’s rule, and she means it. The third rule is no talking about magic, for the same reason as not performing it.”

“Can al of you do the same magic?” Cora asked.

“Not quite.” Mary Jane wrinkled her forehead in concentration. “Some are good at spel s, others more at finding herbs, and I’m good with animals. I suppose we al work better when we’re together. We protect one another.

Anyway, as soon as Jemima and I realized we were different, we ran away from the orphanage and didn’t look back. Once we al found one another, we didn’t need to wait around for someone to adopt us. Adoptions never seemed to happen. People would always come in and say we were precious, or say we were special, but then they never came back to bring us home,” Mary Jane said sadly. “That’s why it was better for us to form our own family.”

“Shh!” Jemima hissed, whirling around. She took the hood of my cloak and pul ed it over my head. “Try to be inconspicuous, please.”

“Sorry,” I muttered.

“Rule number four. We stick together. Once we get there, there’s no running off, and there’s no leaving anyone behind, even if it’s dangerous. Are we clear?” I nodded.

We walked onto the pier. The Thames was crowded with cargo ships ready to make their early morning deliveries at ports dotting the country, while smal er passenger ships weaved around them.

“We’l go by river,” Jemima decided, nodding to a smal skiff floating in the water. The name Goodspeed was written on its side. I decided to take that as a good sign. “A boat gives us an automatic escape route. Climb on,” she said grandly as we al jumped over the edge and into our stolen boat.

As Bil y pushed the Goodspeed away from the dock, I looked toward the inky horizon. The skiff was moving of its own volition, cutting a V-shaped path through the water.

I could sense Jemima’s eyes on the back of my neck. I turned around. Sure enough, she was staring at me, an inscrutable expression on her face.

“What?” I asked irritably. I had a sense she knew more than she was letting on.

“Just trying to figure out how hungry you are, vampire.”

“I fed on a squirrel today. I’m not thinking of drinking human blood, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Not that kind of hunger,” Jemima said cryptical y. She nodded toward something behind me and I whirled around, seeing the imposing Tower Bridge now only a hundred feet in front of us. It stood several stories off the ground, and was surrounded by wooden scaffolding. The deck of the bridge came to an abrupt end a quarter of the way across the river; across the Thames, a similar setup was in place.

A gap of forty feet separating the two structures. I was surprised that no watchmen were guarding the area.

Instead, al was silent, except for the sound of ragged breathing. It was Damon. It had to be.

“Pul over to the dock!” I cal ed. Immediately, without anyone steering, the skiff turned toward the nearest pier. I jumped onto the dock before the boat stopped. Clutching my stake to my side, I ran toward the bridge. The closer I got, the more I was sure I was being watched.

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