I am shaken out of my sleep, when I open my eyes I spot Rose, she jumps back a safe distance to avoid Screamer’s strike.
“What do you want?” I snarl.
“Rowaelin is about to start identifying the vamps we killed,” she says watching me with predatory eyes, “I thought you would like to see.”
I get out of bed and swipe a shirt from by bag, pulling it over my head, much to Rose’s disappointment. I follow Rose down the long corridors and she looks back at me over her shoulder.
“By the way,” she says, “my offer still stands for dinner.”
“Not interested,” I say as we stop at a door, she shrugs her shoulders and opens the door, we step in and the room is freezing cold and filled with dead vampires laying on tables.
“So tell me Miss Rowaelin,” James says standing in the middle of the room with Rowaelin, “Who are we looking at.”
Rowaelin walks around the room, her eyes rest on me and then she continues around the room, she stops at a table, laying on the table is the vampire she was with when we rescued her, the one I killed.
“Connor,” she says in a soft voice, no doubt remembering what happened that night, “He is the brother to my Mistress.”
“She is not your Mistress,” James says and Rowaelin flinches at his voice, “Do not call her that, her name is Thana.”
“Yes sir,” she says nodding her head and then walking around the room again, she looks to me again and then stops by a table where there is nothing but slump on the table.
“What is that?” I ask and James looks at me.
“A vampire, we scooped up as much of it as we could, it is defiantly a vampire,” James says.
“Bronnen,” Rowaelin says silently and I notice Rose writing the names down, “One of Mist- Thana’s prodigies.”
She walks around the room naming more vampires.
Dimitri, and Haylee, both Connor’s prodigy, Taylor, a prodigy of one of Thana’s sister. Damian, Jeffery, Travis, Kenneth, Margery, Lacy, Lucy, all other vampires with no known connection to Thana.
I feel sorry for Rowaelin, I see tears roll down her cheek and she hastily wipes them. And when she names the last vampire she looks around.
“Did you not get Thana?” she asks looking around, her face pales as James shakes his head.
“She got away along with at least three other vampires that we know of,” I say and she looks at me and bites her bottom lip.
“Rowaelin can you tell us who Thana is?” James asks and she looks at him in confusion
“Why?” she asks and James’s gaze hardens.
“Because I asked you,” he says and Rowaelin flinches and looks at the floor, “And what I say around here goes.”
“No one knows much about her,” Rowaelin says, “the one who knows the most about her would be Amal, her prodigy, and her sire, no one knows anything about her sire. Except me, she talked to me, compelled me to never tell anyone. That’s why she kept me close to her.”
“But you can’t say a thing about it can you?” Rose says and Rowaelin looks over to her and glares.
“No I can’t,” she says, “she compelled me not to.”
“Have you met her sire?” James asks.
Rowaelin’s face sets hard and she frowns before shaking her head.
“I don’t think so,” She answers finally.
“You don’t think so?”
“She could have compelled me to forget.”
“Well we will have to find a way around that,” James says and I fear for Rowaelin.
James walks around the room, looking at the deceased vampires.
“Burn them,” he orders and hunters begin to move and take the bodies away, “Adrian, Rowaelin, with me.”
He walks out of the room and we follow. He goes into an office and we sit down with him.
“Rowaelin,” he says addressing her, “You will remain here for as long as we need you. And since Adrian is so demanding and insisting that his department needs you too, then he will be your temporary guardian. Anything you want, any complaints, go to him.”
Rowaelin nods and looks at me out of the corner of her eye.
“Furthermore,” Father Broan continues, “The media is particularly fond of your story, especially due to your circumstances with your mother. I’ve told them that they cannot interview you. And then, there is the matter of your mother’s will.”
“Her will?” Rowaelin says sitting up straight, James goes through his files and pulls out a sheet of paper and hands it to Rowaelin, “In your mother’s death, you inherited everything, her money, her house as well as everything in it and a small storage box.”
“Then why do I have to stay here?” Rowaelin asks wiping a tear from her cheek, “if I have a home, if I have money, then why are you keeping me here?”
“Because we need you,” James says, “because we need to find Thana, and right now you are the only one who could help us do that.”
“How?” I ask, “How do you intend to crack vampire compulsion?”
“We have tried before,” James says, “Got real close too, we scratched the surface, and the patient began to reveal some of the smaller compulsion spells.”
“What happened?” I ask and James takes a deep breath.
“The patient died before we could reveal too much.”
“How?” I persist, “How did he die?”
“See we figured that compulsion resides deep in the brain, like a wall over the memories that they want you to forget,” James starts, “So we thought that we should try to tear down that wall with electroshock therapy as well as other psychological tests.”
“No,” I say and James looks at me with raised eyebrows, “no way.”
“That is not your choice to make,” he says and I glare at him.
“Your damn right it’s not,” I say, “It’s her choice. I will not let you torture her to get some information about a vampire. I don’t care how important or dangerous the vampire is.”
“You do not run this establishment!” James says standing, from the corner of my eye I see Rowaelin flinch.
“No, I don’t,” I say standing and leaning on the desk between us, “But I am not a damn murderous priest who acts like god, controlling everything and everyone. I will not let you hurt her, she has been through enough.”
“Watch your step, Adrian,” James says, “I don’t care how powerful you think you are, or how good you think you are, you are nothing. We will do what I want because I run this establishment.”
I curl my lips and Rowaelin shrinks further into her chair, no doubt wanting to hide and run from the shouting.
I walk away from this conversation, I leave the room, knowing that there is only one person who could put an end to this.
I storm to my room and call Stella, telling her of the American’s plans to hurt Rowaelin.
“Adrian,” Sella says with a coldness in her voice, “I am going to hang up now, I cannot do anything from here, so I will make calls, mark my words I will stop this. But I have to go above my head and his.”
“Ok,” I agree, the line goes dead.
Adrian leaves, he just leaves me alone with this priest, whose eyes are now on me, staring at me with unfeeling emotion.
“Please don’t do this,” I plead, my heart is racing in my chest as fear floods my veins.
“We have to,” he says calling in a hunter who grabs my arm and leads me out of the room.
“No,” I try to fight back, but they are stronger than me, “No, please no.”
The hunter leads me down a long corridor and then into a dark room, the lights are turned on and I am momentarily blinded. The hunter picks me up and places me onto a cold metal table. I am strapped to the table, bound with leather cuffs.
They don’t care, they stare at me with blank faces and empty eyes, I feel as if my heart is in my throat, it’s hard to breathe, my mind races and tries to think of a way out.
“We have to,” the priest says again, “We need to save humanity.”
“By doing this you are no better than the monsters that held me and fed off of me,” I spit feeling a momentary pulse of bravery.
My bravery is responded with a rubber block, it’s shoved into my mouth without warning, it wedges between my teeth with a small tube sticking so that I can still breathe.
The hunter strips me of my shirt and then places two circular pads attached to wires onto my chest. The priest rubs a gel on my temples and I hear the beeping of a machine monitoring my heart rate.
“Rowaelin,” the priest says putting an ointment onto my temples, “We are infinitely better than the monsters that you pleasured.”
I glare at him and he smiles at me as if this was somehow entertaining to him.
He nods at the hunter who brought me in here and I hear a machine hiss, and the priest picks up a pair of paddles.
“Ready?” he asks me, my hands clutch the side of the table and my body tenses.
“Stop this!” a voice calls out, Adrian flies into the room and tries to grab me from the table.
I want to go with him, I want him to take me away, but before he could undo one cuff another hunter comes and drags him out of the room. Adrian puts up a fight, but more hunters come and hold him back. Tears well in my eyes as one hunter hits him in the stomach.
But I cannot think about it too long, the machine whirrs and I scream out as best I can. I feel my body tighten and pain runs all over it, I can feel the electricity racing through my body, I can feel it coiling around my brain, picking it apart. I hear Adrian shout, but it is a blurred sound. My back pushes off the table and my toes curl. I hear the machine connected to my heart begin to beep frantically. Then the machine goes quiet and so do I, the electricity’s source is cut off and there is no pain.
“What do you remember about Thana?” he asks, I close my eyes tight and try to remember for my sake. But I can’t, I can’t remember. The priest sighs and then nods to someone I can’t see.
The machine whirrs again and pain goes through me, I scream through the rubber block. When the pain stops my body goes slack and I lose consciousness.
I dream of Thana, I see her looking at me, her lips moving, talking to me, and yet I cannot hear the words she is saying. Her lips move and I try to focus on the words coming out of her lips.
Then the words begin to come through with sound, it sounds like buzzing bees. I see her lips move in the same motion over and over again, I try hard to figure out what she is saying, but before I can the dream fades.
I wake up on the large soft bed in my room, my heart pounds in my ears and pain burns on my temples, my mouth feels incredibly dry.
“Hey,” a voice says, I look over and see Adrian sitting in a seat next to the bed.
“Water,” I rasp, my throat burns and when Adrian hands me the cup I sit up and drink greedily.
Adrian looks at me in guilt, as if he blames himself for what happened. He looks at me and I notice a yellow and purple bruise forming under his eye.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t stop this.”
I clench my jaw and then look at the ceiling.
“Good, you’re awake,” the priest says coming into the room.
“Get out,” Adrian says standing, “You need to leave.”
“No, I don’t,” the priest says and my heart races as he looks at me, “What do you remember?”
“Nothing,” I whisper and the priest scowls
“We will try again tomorrow,” the priest says
“You will not lay another hand on her,” Adrian says standing up to the priest.
In a sudden blur of movement, the priest strikes Adrian across the face with the back of his hand.
James’s hand makes contact with my face and it stings.
“You are not in control here, or anywhere else,” James spits, “You are a soldier, you will do as you are told or you will be thrown out. You are nothing, and will always be nothing. So remember your place.”
I clench my fists as the priest turns and walks out of the room. I have to restrain myself, knowing that nothing will be solved if I fly into a fit of rage.
I look back to Rowaelin, her face painted with fear. This is all wrong, no one should have this fear, not after everything she has gone through.
“Max!” I call and the dog trots down the hall and comes into the room, “Stay here, protect her.”
Max seems to smile at me, I stalk out of the room, furious at what James said and what he did to Rowaelin. I grab my keys and head back to my hotel room.
I pack everything and then check out, Rowaelin won’t survive long if I’m not there.
As soon as Adrian leaves I call his dog over and hold it close.
I fell asleep with my face pressed into the dog’s fur and I dream about Thana again. I watch her lips and one word repeats over and over again. Again and again, she says it, but I cannot remember what she said.
I am awoken by a rumbling feeling on my face, my eyes open but I see nothing but fur.
The rumble sounds again and I realise that Max is growling, I sit up and Max stands over me and flattens his ears. He is snarling at the Priest who now stands in the doorway with two hunters by his side, they all stare at me.
“Grab her,” the priest says, the hunters come towards me and Max barks loudly, warning them to stay away.
“Rowaelin,” the priest says, “Call off the dog or we will be forced to put him down.”
I touch Max on his back and he looks back at me briefly before continuing to snarl at the men in front of him.
“Max,” I whisper, hating the image of him being hurt, “Stop.”
Max whines and stands over me, I tell him to stay as I get out of bed and follow the hunters who take my arm and lead me back down the hall.
“Stop it right there,” A hunter says, cutting us off, “You can’t do this!”
“Step aside, John,” Broan says as I recognise the man, he is the Australian who first came to the club with Adrian.
“No,” he growls, “I will not let you fuckwits hurt this girl, she has been through enough.”
In a sudden movement he steps forward and reaches to take me from the others, but another hunter stops him by punching him in the eye, while the two hunters fight, Father Broan leads me away.
I take a deep breath as I am strapped down onto the table and gel is placed on my temples, the rubber block is placed in my mouth and my heart races in fear.
I cannot fight, I’m too exhausted. Pain shoots through me and my body seizes up and my head burns. I scream and see Thana behind my eyes.
“What do you remember?!” The priest says as he cranks up the power, pain pulses through me, I can’t say anything. He doesn’t stop, he keeps the paddles on my temples. I bite down on the rubber and scream. Then the electricity stops and my body goes numb.
“Tell me what you remember!” the priest says standing over me as chest heaves, “Tell me about Thana.”
He takes the rubber out of my mouth and I take a deep breath.
“I don’t know,” I huff and the priest shoves the block back into my mouth and then the electricity is turned on again. I close my eyes and my face scrunches up as my toes curl. It hurts so bad, like nothing I’ve ever felt before; my body feels numb and on fire at the same time.
I’m sure that I’m screaming, but I cannot hear myself, I cannot hear the men around me speaking, I can no longer hear the machines around me whirring.
Then the pain stops as I lose consciousness again.
When I arrive back at the church, I go straight to Rowaelin’s room, where a crowd is gathering.
“What’s going on?” I ask pushing through the mob.
“She is a fucking vegetable man,” a hunter says with haunted eyes as I reach the door.
“I tried to stop them, mate,” John says, taking an icepack away from his face.
I push my way into the room, only to come face to face with Max, who is barking and snarling like a lunatic.
“Max!” I shout, “It’s me.”
Max perks his ears and then wags his tail. I look around the room and Rowaelin is nowhere to be seen.
“Where is she?” I ask and Max trots to the bathroom door and sits down.
“Rowaelin?” I call knocking on the door, “is everything ok?”
I can feel the heat from the other side of the door, I drop my bags and open the door. I find Rowaelin sitting on the floor in the shower cubicle fully dressed, with scalding hot water flowing over her skin, she knocks her knuckles against the wall softly.
“Rowaelin?” I ask, “What’s wrong?”
She turns and looks at me, and then I see that the burns on her temples have gotten worse, I bite down my anger, for now, I turn the water off and hold my hand out to her.
“Come on,” I say as she stops knocking her knuckles, she looks over to me and her eyes are red as tears fall down her cheeks.
She reaches for my hand and I pull her up and wrap a towel around her. She takes a deep breath and then whimpers as her knees give out.
Without missing a beat I pick her up and carry her into her room, the door is still open and people gaze in, I put Rowaelin down and go over to the door and slam it in their faces. I hear Rowaelin whimper from behind me as she leans forward and cries.
I have no idea what I am supposed to do in this situation, I am not used to dealing with crying girls, I am not used to dealing with girls at all.
“Rowaelin?” I say moving over to the bed, “Do you want to get changed into dry clothes?”
She doesn’t say anything, she just cries. I scrunch up my nose and then dig out my phone and dial the only person I can think who would help.
“Yes?” the voice on the other end of the phone answers on the first ring.
“I need you to get here as soon as possible,” I say, “It’s Rowaelin.”
The line goes dead.
“Hello?” I say into the dead phone.
I look back at Rowaelin, and feel guilt rise up in me, had I not left, this wouldn’t have happened. I sit in the corner of the room, staring at the ground. About ten minutes pass and there is a knock on the door. I get up to answer it, but before I reach the door Eva glides in and takes one look at Rowaelin and her face pales.
“What happened?” she asks, pinning her glare on me, “She is as thin as a twig, paler than death and…are those burn marks on her head?!”
I explain the situation and her glare darkens.
“Is that how you got the bruise?” she asks, pointing, “Were you a part of this?”
“NO!” I exclaim, “I would never, I tried to stop it but they held me back.”
Her face is hard-set and her eyes are like daggers. She glides over to Rowaelin and her face softens, and she speaks softly to her.
“Max,” I call and the dog is by my side, “come.”
I leave the room and the dog follows.
“I’m sorry, mate,” John says as I leave the room.
“It’s not your fault,” I say as I track down the priest, I find him praying.
“I hope you are praying for your sins,” I spit, grabbing him by his collar and dragging him into the aisle. Max growls at the man and I contemplate lowering his face into the dog’s jaws.
“Let me go,” he says and I punch him right in the nose, blood spills and I smile.
“You are a monster,” I hiss, “You are no worse than the vampires that we kill. I should kill you right now for what you put that girl through.”
“Get your hands off me!” Broan says, squirming. John comes up behind him and grabs him in a headlock.
“Remember me?” he asks as I punch the priest in the stomach.
“Adrian that’s enough!” a familiar voice shouts, I turn to see Stella striding through the church towards us.
“Stella,” I say as John lets Broan go, she puts a hand up to silence me.
“Struth,” John gapes, stepping back.
“Finally,” the priest says with a smile as he straightens his clothes, “Mrs Hane, your soldier is out of control-”
In one fluid movement, Stella whips the back of her hand across the priests face. I smile and I have to suppress my laughter, however, John isn’t quite as reserved at I am.
“In your face!” he whoops, one look from Stella and he silences himself, she excuses him and he walks away barely containing his laughter.
“You are hereby demoted from your position as head-hunter,” Stella says with a cool, ice-like voice, “And in fact fired from this organisation, you will be escorted to the reduction centre immediately.”
Fired seems like a light punishment, if it were up to me, he would be executed.
Hunters are not fired from the organisation often through fear that they will tell the world about vampires. But, if a hunter ever oversteps so far to warrant being fired they are taken to the reduction centre, where scientists use vampire blood to compel ex-hunters into forgetting everything about the organization. Only the most trustworthy hunters are allowed to retire, though not many hunters actually retire, most are killed in action.
“All of your assets are hereby confiscated and will be handed to the next head hunter,” Stella continues, “This ruling is executed on behalf of the Order of Hunters.”
“You can’t do this!” James pleads, his eyes are wide with well-earned fear.
“On the contrary Mr Broan, I can, and I did,” Stella says walking away from the now ex-hunter who is grabbed by his arms and dragged away screaming.
“That was truly amazing,” I smile, “I wish I had a camera.”
“He was a waste,” Stella says examining the back of her hand, “and a danger to this organisation, the Order was happy to fire him, they insisted that I personally deliver the news.”
“Well, you truly know how to deliver,” I say standing next to my mentor.
“Yes,” she smiles with satisfaction written all over her face, “Cedric,”
Stella calls the old head hunter’s name, her voice isn’t very loud, it doesn’t have to be; by now every hunter in this facility knows that Stella is here, and they undoubtedly wait around the corners with open ears.
“Mrs Hane!” Cedric says running into the room, “What are you doing here?”
“Firing a hunter,” she says and Cedric goes pale, “Not you, but you are now you are in charge as the Head Hunter until the Order chooses another.”
“Yes,” Cedric stammers, “Of course.”
Most people are afraid of Stella, she is the definition of lethal grace.
“Now that that’s covered,” she says, her face hardening, “Bring me up to date with the hunt. Have you found the vampire, Thana?”
“No,” Cedric says looking at his feet, “there are hunters combing the city and other factions on the lookout, so far no one has spotted her.”
“I will put the call through to overseas divisions,” Stella says, “Everywhere in the world will be on the lookout for Thana.”
“And what about me?” I ask, “When can I come home?”
“Not yet,” she sighs, “We need you here until Thana is found.”
“What is so special about her?” I ask and Stella sighs.
“Mr Evans, is there perhaps someplace private where we could talk?” she asks and Cedric nods and leads us into Broan’s old office, Stella sits in his seat and Cedric and I sit across from her.
“Now then,” She starts, “What I am about to tell you is strictly confidential and is shared in confidence, do I have your word that you will speak of this to no one?”
“Yes,” I agree and Cedric does too.
“Thana is the oldest and most trusted prodigy of one of the three oldest vampires known to man,” Stella starts.
“The king?” Cedric asks and Stella shakes her head
“His brother,” she says and I lean forward, “The old king’s son. If we can get Thana, then she could hopefully lead us to Rakin, who then could lead us to the king. If we can kill the king then the vampire race will falter as it did in ten eighty-two. Which will be a huge advantage for the hunters.”
“Holy crap,” Cedric breathes and I too am speechless.
The old king, Dario, was the strongest and most ruthless vampire in the history of vampires, when he was slain by one of Stella’s ancestors the vampires fell into ruin and discord, they feared hunters and were hunted almost to extinction.
Until the king’s oldest son picked up his father’s crown and took over the kingdom, teaching the vampires to hide in plain sight and to kill discreetly. Now they are like cockroaches, for every one rogue that we kill there is a well-built nest buried deep underground. If we can kill the new king and send the vampires into their old ways we will be able to eradicate them all.
“Gentlemen, I must stretch how important it is to find Thana and bring her back alive,” Stella says standing, “It is one of the reasons you were sent here, Adrian.”
“I understand,” I say standing and meeting her eyes, “I will do my best.”
“Do better than that,” she says holding out her hand, I shake her hand and nod my head, “Now if you all excuse me, I must leave, I’ve been ordered to bring Mr Broan back to the Order.”
She leaves the office and we follow her back into the church, she is joined by two hunters who drag a disorderly ex-hunter behind them.