Home > Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(5)

Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(5)
Author: Richelle Mead

Standing on the driveway, I glanced up at the sky. The light was bleak and watery, but it was there. Noon. The sun's highest point today. Strigoi couldn't be out in sunlight. I didn't need to fear them, only Dimitri's anger.

I circled around the right side of the house, walking in much deeper snow - almost a foot of it. Nothing else weird about the house struck me. Icicles hung from the eaves, and the tinted windows revealed no secrets. My foot suddenly hit something, and I looked down. There, half-buried in the snow, was a silver stake. It had been driven into the ground. I picked it up and brushed off the snow, frowning. What was a stake doing out here? Silver stakes were valuable. They were a guardian's most deadly weapon, capable of killing a Strigoi with a single strike through the heart. When they were forged, four Moroi charmed them with magic from each of the four elements. I hadn't learned to use one yet, but gripping it in my hand, I suddenly felt safer as I continued my survey.

A large patio door led from the back of the house to a wooden deck that probably would have been a lot of fun to hang out on in the summer. But the patio's glass had been broken, so much so that a person could easily get through the jagged hole. I crept up the deck steps, careful of the ice, knowing I was going to get in major trouble when Dimitri found out what I was doing. In spite of the cold, sweat poured down my neck.

Daylight, daylight, I reminded myself. Nothing to worry about.

I reached the patio and studied the dark glass. I couldn't tell what had broken it. Just inside, snow had blown in and made a small drift on pale blue carpet. I tugged on the door's handle, but it was locked. Not that that mattered with a hole that big. Careful of the sharp edges, I reached through the opening and unlocked the handle's latch from the inside. I removed my hand just as carefully and pulled open the sliding door. It hissed slightly along its tracks, a quiet sound that nonetheless seemed too loud in the eerie silence.

I stepped through the doorway, standing in the patch of sunlight that had been cast inside by opening the door. My eyes adjusted from the sun to the dimness within. Wind swirled through the open patio, dancing with the curtains around me. I was in a living room. It had all the ordinary items one might expect. Couches. TV. A rocking chair.

And a body.

It was a woman. She lay on her back in front of the TV, her dark hair spilling on the floor around her. Her wide eyes stared upward blankly, her face pale - too pale even for a Moroi. For a moment I thought her long hair was covering her neck, too, until I realized that the darkness across her skin was blood - dried blood. Her throat had been ripped out.

The horrible scene was so surreal that I didn't even realize what I was seeing at first. With her posture, the woman might very well have been sleeping. Then I took in the other body: a man on his side only a couple feet away, dark blood staining the carpet around him. Another body was slumped beside the couch: small, child-size. Across the room was another. And another. There were bodies everywhere, bodies and blood.

The scale of the death around me suddenly registered, and my heart began pounding. No, no. It wasn't possible. It was day. Bad things couldn't happen in daylight. A scream started to rise in my throat, suddenly halted when a gloved hand came from behind me and closed over my mouth. I started to struggle; then I smelled Dimitri's aftershave.

"Why," he asked, "don't you ever listen? You'd be dead if they were still here."

I couldn't answer, both because of the hand and my own shock. I'd seen someone die once, but I'd never seen death of this magnitude. After almost a minute, Dimitri finally removed his hand, but he stayed close behind me. I didn't want to look anymore, but I seemed unable to drag my eyes away from the scene before me. Bodies everywhere. Bodies and blood.

Finally, I turned toward him. "It's daytime," I whispered. "Bad things don't happen in the day." I heard the desperation in my voice, a little girl's plea that someone would say this was all a bad dream.

"Bad things can happen anytime," he told me. "And this didn't happen during the day. This probably happened a couple of nights ago."

I dared a peek back at the bodies and felt my stomach twist. Two days. Two days to be dead, to have your existence snuffed out - without anyone in the world even knowing you were gone. My eyes fell on a man's body near the room's entrance to a hallway. He was tall, too well-built to be a Moroi. Dimitri must have noticed where I looked.

"Arthur Schoenberg," he said.

I stared at Arthur's bloody throat. "He's dead," I said, as though it wasn't perfectly obvious. "How can he be dead? How could a Strigoi kill Arthur Schoenberg?" It didn't seem possible. You couldn't kill a legend.

Dimitri didn't answer. Instead his hand moved down and closed around where my own hand held the stake. I flinched.

"Where did you get this?" he asked. I loosened my grip and let him take the stake.

"Outside. In the ground."

He held up the stake, studying its surface as it shone in the sunlight. "It broke the ward."

My mind, still stunned, took a moment to process what he'd said. Then I got it. Wards were magic rings cast by Moroi. Like the stakes, they were made using magic from all four of the elements. They required strong Moroi magic-users, often a couple for each element. The wards could block Strigoi because magic was charged with life, and the Strigoi had none. But wards faded quickly and took a lot of maintenance. Most Moroi didn't use them, but certain places kept them up. St. Vladimir's Academy was ringed with several.

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