Home > The Day of the Dead (Cassandra Palmer #3.1)(7)

The Day of the Dead (Cassandra Palmer #3.1)(7)
Author: Karen Chance

Instead of answering, the young woman giggled, a nervous, high pitched sound that warned of incipient hysteria. It reverberated oddly in the high vault of the room; laughter wasn’t a sound that lived here, and the echoes came back with sharp, mocking edges. She stopped, cutting it off abruptly.

“We told you already,” the older man next to her said, his salt and pepper beard quivering more than his voice. “What you ask is impossible. Even if we could create that many – which we can’t – keeping them under control would be –”

“They’re zombies!” Alejandro screamed, cutting him off. He gestured savagely to a row of odd-looking spectators assembled behind his throne.

The missing kings looked out with dead, empty eyes onto the crowd, assembled once more in an audience chamber, as if to give their advice.

“They’ll have no more mind than these! A child could control them!”

“If the child had multiple souls,” the older man snapped. “We’re necromancers, not puppeteers! To raise a zombie, we must lend it part of our soul – that is the only way to direct it. I can create one or two zombies at a time – no more. An especially gifted bokor might be able to manage as many as five, but a whole army?” He gestured to the mass of waiting humans. They were there, Tomas realized with a sickening lurch, to be turned into more troops for Alejandro’s growing megalomania. Troops who wouldn’t question his orders, wouldn’t challenge him as Tomas and a few others had dared. “You ask the impossible!”

Alejandro didn’t move, didn’t blink, but Tomas knew what was coming.

A flick of the guard’s wrist broke the man’s neck, his body tumbling to the floor to join the others. The young man who had been intended as the next victim fainted and was dragged back into the waiting throng.

“Do it,” Alejandro told the girl, who was staring at the body of her fallen colleague as it was arranged in line with the others. “Now.”

She transferred her stare to the creature on the throne, and Tomas knew she couldn’t do as he asked. It was written on her face, along with horror and revulsion and abject terror. She was shaking, just standing there, and he doubted she could con concentrate enough to rmember her name at this point. Much less manage a complex spell.

“She’ll fail,” Sara said suddenly, “and my brother will be next.”

Tomas looked around frantically for any sign that she had been overheard, but there was nothing. The closest vamps, two guards a few feet away at the bottom of the stairs, never even flinched. They were watching one of the captives who was busy vomiting up his dinner, the gasping, wet sounds followed by painful dry gasps. Tomas glanced at Sara, who nodded at the fanatic. He was clutching his bones and murmuring something with a distracted air, as if everything below wasn’t enough to hold his attention.

“Silence shield,” Sara explained. “Have any suggestions, or do you just want to wing it?”

Forkface had taken off his bulging pack and was systematically tucking stoppered vials into his already weapons-filled belt. It was pretty obvious how he was voting. Too bad they’d all be dead within half a minute of an attack.

“This is Alejandro’s power base,” he said, struggling to explain in terms a human could understand. “In addition to his own, he can draw power from every vampire in the room. A frontal assault will not be successful.”

“Any idea what will?”

Tomas’ eyes were on the woman necromancer, who was crying and chanting at the same time, with theatrically raised arms but no discernable effect on any of the bodies. “Can he do a spell to allow you to move through the crowd unseen?” Tomas nodded at the fanatic.

“The best he can do in full light is a shadow spell to make us less obvious.

It works on humans by redirecting their attention away from us. But I don’t know what effect it will have on vamps.” She glanced at her colleague, who was still muttering to himself but was now staring at an old inscription in the rock. She kicked him.

“Yes, yes. Will not work on master-level, but all else, yes.”

Tomas nodded. “I’ll distract Alejandro. While he is occupied with me, slip through the crowd and get your brother.”

“That won’t help everyone else.”

“If I can defeat him, his position will devolve onto me and they’ll be safe.” But the odds were a lot less in his favour than he’d hoped. Catching Alejandro somewhere in the tunnels or the jungle, alone except for a few of his closest attendants he might have stood a chance. But nowhere in his plans had he figured on anything like this.

His voice must have reflected some of his doubt, because Sara narrowed her eyes. “And if you can’t?”

“Once they see me, the court will likely have eyes for nothing else. Get as many people out as you can while they are distracted.”

“Distracted killing you, you mean. Bullshit.”

“I came here knowing this was the likely the outcome.”

“Another little thing you forgot to mention. We’re gonna have to work on our communication.”

Tomas decided he couldn’t waste more time arguing. The woman necromancer had failed and Alejandro’s power was boiling through the room, hot on his neck. He was furious. And when he lost his temper, people died – a lot of them. It would be perfectly within character for him to simply order every human in the room put to death. As if in response to Tomas’ thoughts, the guard behind the woman started forwards, hand raised.

Tomas was grateful for vampiric speed, which allowed him to reach her before the guard could snap her neck. He caught the vamp’s arm, but needn’t have bothered. The room had frozen.

“Tomas.” The voice was the one he remembered, echoing inside his head like cool silver, but crawling under his skin like something alive. However, the power behind it, the force compelling him to do Alejandro’s will, was gone. For the first time, Tomas had reason to be grateful for his current master. As much as he hated the man, Louis-Cesar’s ownership ensured that Alejandro’s unspoken command exerted no more pull than that of any other first-level master. A rank he currently shared.

Tomas opened his hand and the guard retreated in an undignified scramble. The rest of the court was moving closer, not attacking, yet, but on high alert. No one had any doubts about why he was here.

Apparently, neither did Alejandro, because the moment Tomas made a move in his direction, a strong force pushed against him, like a hundred invisible hands holding him back. Make that 200, he thought, glancing about at the family he’d once called his own. The fifteen feet to the bottom of the stairs felt like miles; he had to fight for every inch with eyes burning into his spine like acid and a thick, roiling nausea in his gut. He had a moment of vertigo, swaying on his feet like a drunk trying to dance, and someone laughed, high and cold and mocking. It wasn’t Alejandro. His eyes were glittering dangerously and he’d lost the faintly amused smile that was his usual armour.

The stairwell leading up to his throne had twenty steps. By the time Tomas reached them, he was panting like he’d run a mile.

“I challenged you once before,” he said around the mass that had risen in his throat, huge and cold and sickening. “But you were too cowardly to face me. I have come –”

It was a good thing he hadn’t worked too hard on his speech, because he never got to give it. The vampires had closed in on every side, jostling each other, trying to get up the courage to attack him. Tomas had hoped that Alejandro’s pride would force him to fight his old servant himself, especially with the odds so heavily in his favour. But Alejandro remained seated, letting his men get more and more worked up until, finally, two broke away from the crowd and dashed in snarling.

They came from opposite sides, and while Tomas was dealing with the one on the left, turning his own knife back against him, the one on the right smashed something heavy against his leg. It was the one he’d injured earlier, the one that had yet to completely heal. He fell to his hands and knees, the jar of landing on the shattered kneecap turning the whole room white hot with blinding pain.

He pulled the knife out of the first vamp, who retreated back into the crowd, howling and clawing at his wound, and rolled in time to slash at the second’s throat. He missed because the vamp dodged, lightening fast, at the last minute, but Tomas didn’t need weapons to crush his throat, only an application of raw power. The vamp was young and that effectively put him out of commission. But it also used power Tomas couldn’t afford to lose, and there were doubtless dozens of others that the family would consider expendable if their deaths served to further weaken him.

Tomas dragged himself back onto one leg, momentarily crippled while his system fought to rebuild torn cartilage and shattered bone. Alejandro leaned forwards, still not bothering to get to his feet. “Do you really believe you will make it all the way up here, Tomas? Because I believe I will sit here and watch them gut you as you try.”

Four more vampires rushed him, all from the same side and although he dealt with them and with the low-level master who had waited on the other side for them to distract him, he missed the axe that someone threw from the crowd. Alejandro made a small gesture and the assault halted, for the moment, while Tomas shuddered and leaned his fore head against the slick, cold surface of the third step, a buzzing uproar surging all around him. On the third or fourth or tenth try, Tomas managed to take a couple of shallow breaths. He brought up shaking hands and tore the weapon out of his belly.

“Really, Tomas. I’m disappointed. I remembered you as better than this.”

Alejandro had finally bothered to get out of his seat, but he didn’t come any closer. “And to think, I was contemplating offering you a position at the head of my new army. I really will have to reconsider.”

Hot tendrils of agony shot out from Tomas’ stomach wound as he tried to stand. At least he couldn’t feel the throbbing in his leg any more, Tomas thought, and laughed to cover the scream that wanted to tear out of his chest. An all-out assault on Alejandro was the only chance he had.

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)