Home > The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(9)

The Compelled (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #6)(9)
Author: L.J. Smith

“I can’t go further until I have some security.” Lady Alice’s gaze flicked to us, then landed on Jemima. “Do you know how to do a loyalty spel ?” she asked. It was the first time she’d acknowledged Jemima in a while, and Jemima seemed taken aback.

“A simple one, yes,” she said meekly.

“Good. Can you perform it between the two vampires and me?”

“Al right.” Jemima exhaled, and I could tel she was nervous at her skil s being put to the test. “I need a lock of hair from each of you.”

I reached to the top of my head and plucked a few brunette strands for her. Lady Alice and Damon did the same and gave their strands to Jemima as wel . She squinted at them and braided them together, her brow furrowed. The braid thickened and grew until it became a multicolored rope.

“Put out your hands. Palms up, please,” she said. Then she then took the rope and tied it loosely on each of our wrists. “Fidelitas ad finum!” She clapped her hands. The rope disappeared, but left a shiny red welt against my skin.

Damon and Lady Alice had similar ones. It throbbed in time with my heart.

“We’re bound. Thank you,” Lady Alice said, as though Jemima had performed a task as simple as pouring a cup of coffee. “That spel means that even if you wanted to betray me, you couldn’t. The words wouldn’t be able to escape from your lips. And now, I can tel you al I know.”

“Please do,” I said.

“Legend is, if a vampire eats the heart of a purebred witch, he can compel other vampires,” Lady Alice said sadly. She reached to drape her arm over Mary Jane’s shoulders, but Mary Jane jerked away, holding both hands to her chest as she lurched from the bench and began to run.

“I don’t believe any of this!” she yel ed from halfway across the garden. “You’re trying to scare me!”

“Mary Jane, it’s al right!” Cora ran toward her and pul ed her into an embrace.

“But it’s not al right!” Mary Jane said, her voice muffled as she buried her face in Cora’s shoulder. “If he can do that with my heart, that means he’l never, ever leave me alone.

And even if we do kil Samuel, then what if another vampire wants to kil me? I’l never be safe!”

“Shh, there, there,” Lady Alice said. “You wil be safe.

Stay with me. We’re safe here. If you’re here, you’l have nothing to worry about.”

We needed Lady Alice, and although I knew she’d do whatever it took to help Mary Jane, I wasn’t sure her loyalty extended to us. If Mary Jane decided to stay in Lady Alice’s mansion, how would we convince them to work with us to mansion, how would we convince them to work with us to trap Samuel?

I rested a hand on Mary Jane’s back to comfort her, only to have Lady Alice shoot me a look. I snatched my hand away.

“We’re keeping Mary Jane safe,” I explained awkwardly.

“They’ve been protecting me, too,” Cora piped up. I shot her a grateful look.

“Where?” Lady Alice asked crisply.

“Near the Bank of London,” I said evasively, not wanting to give away the fact that our current address was a tunnel far below ground.

“Near the bank? But where exactly, pray tel ?” Lady Alice asked quizzical y, knitting her eyebrows together. I wasn’t being compel ed. I was entirely in charge of my own faculties, and yet the knowledge that I couldn’t lie set me on edge.

“The Underground tunnel,” I admitted.

Lady Alice shook her head. “Two grown-up vampires might belong underground. And as for the human girl, wel , whoever she decides to spend her time with is her own foolish choice. I don’t interfere with humans unless absolutely necessary. But Mary Jane, I insist you stay here.

Your friend can, too,” she said, nodding at Jemima.

Mary Jane pul ed back. “No. I know you mean wel , but it would be too hard to stay here now. I wanted more than anything to live with you when I was little. Now, I’m used to being on my own. I need to stay with Stefan and Damon. I trust them. And they need me,” she said in a smal , proud voice.

Lady Alice pursed her lips as if to protest, but then nodded once. “Very wel . But I’m involved now and I’m not going to let you disappear from my life again. We’l take the matter to my coven. You know what a coven is, don’t you, Mary Jane?” she asked as if she were a schoolteacher.

“I…I think so,” Mary Jane said uncertainly.

Lady Alice clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “You have so much to learn. I hate that this is how we’ve come together again, but trust me, your life wil change for the better. And there’s no need for you to stay in that tunnel. You can stay with me and stil help your vampire friends. But from a distance. The way it should be.”

“They’re not my ‘vampire friends,’” Mary Jane said in a low voice. “They’re Stefan and Damon. They’re good men.”

“They’re not men at al ,” Lady Alice said. “These vampires might be better than most, but I want you to know that, beyond this chal enge, we can’t real y trust them.

They’re monsters.”

“Wil you stop?” Damon interrupted loudly. “I’m so sick of it. It was the same bloody thing in the Civil War, where soldiers wouldn’t trust one another because so-and-so’s grandfather was from Massachusetts, so Northern blood was in his veins. Wel , we’re al monsters, and we’re al misfits. I’m here, and I’m ready to get involved in your spel -

casting, but I won’t do it if I’m going to be mocked and mistrusted.”

Lady Alice’s eyes flashed. “I’ve been around just as long as you, Damon. I could tel you horrible stories about the war between vampires and witches, and they wouldn’t even scratch the surface of why I hate your species,” she said as she crossed to the wel and let down a tiny wooden pail into the blackness below. The wel itself looked like it belonged in a museum, perhaps in an exhibit about the lives of fifteenth-century vil agers.

“Would the both of you stop arguing?” Jemima interrupted. “I don’t care what you cal each other, but I think Mary Jane should stay with Lady Alice. It’s safer. Stefan, Samuel knows you saved her. If we both stay with Alice instead, there’s a smal er chance he can find us here.”

“Of course,” Lady Alice said cool y. She pul ed the bucket back up and held it toward Mary Jane. Liquid sloshed out of it. “Drink some,” she said. “It’l help protect you. Protect—but not save. Al this water does is surround you with goodwil and thoughts. Don’t think it gives you license to do anything foolish.”

“Goodwil from the wel ?” Damon quipped. “Why not charge for it?”

Lady Alice glared at Damon. “It’s not for you to understand,” she said crisply.

“Or to drink,” Damon said under his breath as Lady Alice passed the bucket to Mary Jane.

“Thank you,” Mary Jane said, and drank deeply, water running down her chin. I wondered whether the water real y was magic. For her sake, I hoped so.

For all our sakes, I hoped so.

“Thank you for your kindness,” I echoed, even though Lady Alice hadn’t been especial y kind to us.

Lady Alice hadn’t been especial y kind to us.

The wind had picked up and the sparrows that had perched on the wel ’s roof scattered. I watched them fly above us, tiny brown dots against the light gray sky, and I remembered the mysterious meeting Cora and I had had with Ephraim. He’d had a raven that responded to his beck and cal . Did Lady Alice have a special kinship with these sparrows? With witches, nothing was what it seemed. Even if we were bound in loyalty to Lady Alice, what did that mean? And how would I know whether or not to trust her coven?

“We’l meet tomorrow at midnight. I’l be waiting in Kensington Gore to col ect you. Don’t be late or my fel ow witches may be even less inclined to help you vampires than usual.”

“Kensington Gore?” Damon interrupted.

A shadow of a smile, the first I’d seen from her, appeared on Lady Alice’s face. “Yes. The coven thinks it’s rather amusing, too. It’s just the name of the street, not some occult ritual. It’s right near Royal Albert Hal , where we hold our meetings. Come alone, without candles, stakes, or any other weapons. And be prepared to fol ow the orders of the coven.” She walked over to me and grabbed my shirt, pul ing me toward her with a firm tug.

“Promise that no matter what, you’l do everything in your power to see that no harm comes to Mary Jane. Do I have your word?”

“You have my word,” I said, each word as deliberate and heavy as an anvil.

“Good.” Lady Alice clapped her hands and the wind died down at once, scattering leaves al over the benches on which we’d been sitting. “I’l see you tomorrow night. I’l leave it to you lot to let yourselves out,” she said, nodding slightly. “And remember, we haven’t agreed to anything. But I want to be fair and give you a chance to petition my coven in person. You’l ask them for vinculum. If they agree, then we’l go forward. And if they don’t, then the matter is out of my hands.”

“Vinculum?” I asked, my tongue tripping over the unfamiliar word.

Lady Alice nodded crisply. “A bonding spel . Under its terms, two warring groups are bound together. Only a murder by the other side destroys the spel . It’s a bond created so one side may not turn on the other.”

“Is there a reason it can’t be invoked right now? After al , we’re here. We trust you. We’ve already performed the loyalty spel .”

Lady Alice shook her head. “It’s not that simple. That spel simply makes it impossible for either party to reveal any secrets that might be harmful to the other. But vinculum requires each side to agree to put aside their own interests and fight for a common cause. While vampires tend to work on their own, witches are strongest in groups. If my coven agrees, you’l have their entire support behind you.”

“And if they don’t?” Damon interrupted.

“Then I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you. Of course, I’l stil protect Mary Jane, but you won’t be part of our plan of action,” Lady Alice said in a matter-of-fact tone.

As if to underscore her point, the wel began to rumble.

Blue and red shoots of water erupted from the opening.

“Quite a magic show. And to think, we didn’t even have to pay a penny,” Damon joked.

“Damon!” I admonished. But the faintest trace of a smile crossed Lady Alice’s face.

“Mark my words, you haven’t seen anything yet, vampire,” she said. “If my coven decides to help you, you’l witness things beyond your wildest dreams.” 8

“Do you think this is a trap?” Cora murmured as we crept along Kensington Gore, right near Royal Albert Hal . As if on cue, Big Ben chimed far off in the distance. The three of us were exactly in the spot Lady Alice had appointed for us to meet. It was midnight, and Lady Alice—and, for that matter, Mary Jane or Jemima—was nowhere to be seen.

On my wrist, the red welt from the loyalty spel throbbed.

“No.” I sounded more confident than I felt. When I heard the witches convened in Royal Albert Hal , I imagined it to be a theater much like the West End music hal Violet and I had visited back when she was a human. But this building took my breath away. It was a domelike structure surrounded by windows on al sides, with many tiers that made it look like an enormous wedding cake.

“It’s not a trap.” A smooth voice made me jump. I whirled around. Lady Alice was standing behind us, as though she’d been there the whole time. She was wearing a simple black dress, and a diamond clip was holding her hair at her neck. She looked like she was about to head to the opera. Mary Jane was behind her, clad in a white dress with her hair pinned back in a similar diamond clip.

“So what is it then, a party game?” Damon asked sarcastical y, clearly not impressed by Lady Alice’s sudden appearance.

“No, the coven doesn’t play games. We’re loyal to each other,” Lady Alice said, ignoring Damon. “Terrible things happen when that trust is broken.”

“Terrible things happen when vampires turn on each other, too, but that doesn’t stop them,” Damon said darkly.

“Wel , that’s another reason why we’re better than you, isn’t it?” Lady Alice said crisply. “Now, come. Everyone’s already gathered. I’l leave it to you both to explain what you need.”

“Where’s Jemima?” I whispered to Mary Jane as Lady Alice turned. I hoped that she and Lady Alice hadn’t gotten into a disagreement.

“Checking on the others,” Mary Jane replied. She seemed more confident than I’d seen her before. I was happy that she and Lady Alice had final y reunited.

Without waiting for a response, Lady Alice pul ed open a wooden trapdoor that lay between the cobblestones of the walkway. Despite the rusty chains giving it the appearance of being tightly locked, it creaked open.

The four of us fol owed Lady Alice into the darkness and onto a shaky iron spiral staircase that rattled with each footstep. A match blazed in Alice’s hand, casting shadows on the concrete wal s. While the exterior of the opera house was majestic, this wasn’t. It was as cold and damp as the Underground tunnel we cal ed home.

Final y, the staircase stopped.

“This is where the magic happens,” Lady Alice said as I took in our surroundings. Hal ways containing racks of costumes, set pieces, and scenery branched out in every direction from where we stood. Directly opposite the spiral metal staircase we’d just descended was a set of twelve steps that led to nowhere. Clearly, it was a prop piece for a stage show.

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