The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2) (6 page)

BOOK: The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2)
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Hostages

 

When he next awoke, it took Lemarick several long moments to rise from the floor. When he moved his neck, he found that the right-hand side stung incredibly and he gripped it with a sudden instinct. His hand came away from the source of the pain covered in deep, crimson blood. The shade stumbled to his feet and raced to the mirror, recoiling in horror at the butchery that had taken place just below his ear. Two holes had been ripped into the side of his neck by overlong teeth, now glistening with the half-sticky residue of drying blood.

The pair of vampires had said something about harming the theatre. Lemarick gathered his senses quickly and recovered his neckerchief from the floor, tying it securely around his new wound. When he found the door to the dressing room barricaded, the young shade gathered his strength and blasted through the obstruction with a force that smashed every ornament, picture-frame and light fixture in the room. He stormed out into the corridor with the kind of rage he usually reserved for training with Mother, his powers carrying him clean off the ground. A rush of air howled at his back as he picked up speed.

The busy backstage of the Populaire was no more. Trails of blood indicated that several fights must have taken place in the time whilst Lemarick was unconscious, but now the space was empty as a graveyard. Lemarick levitated across the blood-stained props and sandbags, listening intently for the low mumble he thought he could hear. He stopped at the theatre’s great crimson curtain, watching it sway in reaction to the proximity of his powers. A voice suddenly spoke from the other side of the stage.

“Who will be next to feed?”

Yannick Ferve was still in the building, his maniacal cackle rising over the sound of a terrified crowd. Silent as death itself, Novel flew gently from the curtain to the side of the stage, peering out from a shadowed spot to scope the situation. The vampire lord had amassed at least a hundred of the theatre’s patrons, and the wealthy guests were herded into the centre aisle by row-upon-row of Yannick’s horde of vampire lackeys.

From his position in the wings, Lemarick could see at least two dozen human bodies slung into the orchestra pit, blood dripping from their slashed-open throats as their soulless eyes looked up at the grand theatre’s painted ceiling. His stomach quivered but did not lurch at the sight, only anger rose within the shade’s veins. Where were Ugarte and Edvard? Had they escaped before the fray began or were they, like Lemarick, obstructed somewhere from intervening with Yannick’s plans? Elise stood beside her old enemy, now revering him as though they were the greatest of friends. She held her arms out in invitation as the crowd continued to whimper.

“Come now, next to feed!” she urged with a sharp-toothed smile. “Bring me a human to prepare!”

A grunt from two vampires near the edge of the stage indicated motion. Lemarick watched as a trembling old man was plucked from the edge of the crowd, screaming in protest as he was dragged up the steps to meet with Elise on the stage. Lemarick realised with horror that he was one of the businessmen in the box that had been leering at Ugarte. His friends had to be here somewhere, though they were nowhere to be found in the crowd. Elise would surely have recognised them and put them out of action, as she had Lemarick. The shade found his hand rising to the bite on his neck as an unthinkable thought tried to push its way to his consciousness.

Could she have killed them if she’d drained their blood for too long? Were they at the bottom of the body pile in the music pit already?

Lemarick wouldn’t wait a moment longer to find out. He made to step forward and intervene as the next human victim was held down with his neck exposed, but the sight of another man approaching the stage forced him to freeze in his tracks.

“Oho,” Yannick crooned at the new figure, “I thought you were more of a private diner, Monsieur Baptiste?”

Baptiste Du Nord’s fashion had changed very little in his transition from human to vampire. He still gave the air of a well-turned-out gypsy, his elegant waistcoat matched perfectly to the golden scarf about his neck. His beard was cropped in a short, sharp line and his eyes gleamed with malice as his long legs took him up the steps to the stage. He was still only 29 in body, but his spirit reeked of pain and loss and more death than Lemarick could stand to sense. The hunting belt at his waist was still fully-equipped with weapons, but now bracelets made of tiny bones jangled on his caramel-coloured wrists. His teeth were long and sharp when he opened his mouth to speak.

“That’s not why I approached the stage, my lord,” Baptiste explained.

He stood beside Yannick and inclined his head in a polite bow before he leaned in towards the burned beast’s gnarled left ear. In the very last moments of his whispering, Baptiste let his bright eyes flash straight to Lemarick’s, where he hid in the darkened wings. He knew in less than a second that Baptiste had spotted him.

Everything after that was a wild and hasty blur. Yannick barked orders and pointed his withered hands to have the intruder captured, whilst Baptiste and Elise lunged themselves at Lemarick with absurd speed. This time the shade was much sharper in his reactions, dodging their outstretched hands and letting his powers take him high into the domed ceiling of the theatre itself. He looked down on the assembled crowd as he assessed his next move. The humans were gazing up at him in shock and awe, but the vampires were already grouping and listening to more frantic shouts from their lord.

Then came the hazy, black cloud that Lemarick had once seen in the tunnels, beneath the earth on which the Populaire was built. The all-consuming blackness had been large enough to fill a tunnel when a single vampire had used it, but now several dozen of the beasts were rising into the air as their transformations began. The cloud rained darkness on the once-bright theatre as vampire after vampire made the hazy transition from beast into bat, flying at Lemarick with deathly precision and fearless grace. The shade took off in a blast of air and gravity that saw him speeding like a bullet as he tried to evade their attacks. Sweeping low over the heads of the stunned humans, Lemarick barked at them at the top of his voice.

“Run you fools! Run!”

In his low swoop, Lemarick swerved towards the stage to try and take a swipe at Yannick, a fireball slowly burning at his fingertips, ready to give the vampire lord a fresh taste of the past. As he reached the hideous lord’s expression, however, Lemarick was met by the sight of Baptiste, who threw a clod of dirt straight into his eyes. He spiralled back into the air to protect himself, horrified when the earth on his face began to burn like acid.

Shadehunters often used ritualised earth as part of their arsenal against the shadeborn. This sacrosanct earth was to shades as holy water was to vampires, and Lemarick felt the wild sting in his eyes as he pawed and clawed at his own face to get the burning substance away from his skin. It appeared that the vampire Baptiste had not given up the ways of the hunter. He was still as prepared as ever for the enemies he needed to face.

Lemarick scarcely had time to wonder what other tricks the hunter had up his sleeves before the first of the bat swarm smacked into his stomach. The horde of creatures were larger and far stronger than natural bats, and they smashed into Lemarick’s body time and again, focusing hard on his chest and stomach until he had little breath left in his lungs. Without the chance to breathe and with his eyes still stinging from the sacred earth, Lemarick found his powers starting to dwindle. He struggled to keep himself aloft in the air, sinking more with every bone-breaking smack as the bats continued their assault. Some of them died from the repeated impact, falling out of the air with a final screech, yet still the others came to continue the onslaught.

Lemarick landed with a thump on the stage and the bats ceased, clearing a path for Yannick and his two flanks to approach. The old, burned lord sneered at him gleefully, then reached out to lift him up by his neckerchief. The emerald fabric broke away, splitting Lemarick’s skin once more where it had dried and stuck to the wound on his neck. Yannick and Elise both stood back, apparently horrified by the sight of the punctures below the shade’s ear.

“Who…” Yannick began with a stutter, “Who has done this? Who drank from him?”

The demand echoed through the bat swarm and Lemarick noticed, with some small amount of triumph, that most of the humans had made it out of the theatre alive, save for a few unfortunate souls who were still being feasted on at the theatre’s exit. The sound of a throat clearing brought the shade’s attention back to those on the stage.

“I drank him,” Baptiste replied.

The Broken Code

 

The hunter crouched down, looking deep into Lemarick’s pale blue eyes, his own shining gaze far beyond that of a senseless, violent beast. He was too evolved to be overtaken completely by the bloodlust that sustained his eternal life.

“Why would you drink from him?” Elise asked with a gasp.

Baptiste merely smiled. “I wanted to see what would happen,” he replied.

A loud smack made Lemarick flinch. A moment later Baptiste too was on the floor of the stage, lying unconscious beside the shade he had defeated. Yannick stood over the hunter’s form, his hand still raised from the blow as his eyes clouded with thought. Elise and the vampire lord spoke in hushed tones above the pair of prone figures, clearly worried by the fateful news that Baptiste had wounded the shade in his unconscious state. Lemarick didn’t understand the laws of blood by which they lived, but he knew that their state of worry was his only chance to escape their clutches alive.

He needed power. Lemarick heaved himself onto his back with a faint whimper of pain, feeling his ribs reverberate with agony at the motion. He looked up at the domed, painting ceiling of the opera house where pleasant cherubim were at play. Beyond those false daylight skies lay the real night of Paris and with it, the stars. Lemarick concentrated hard on the scene above, dredging every last scrap of energy from his ailing form to penetrate the ceiling in a burst of all his elemental powers. Only the bats overhead seemed to notice what he was doing, but the creatures were as exhausted as he by the fray and they remained hanging from the theatre boxes and the rafters as Lemarick bored a single hole into the roof, right through the heart of a particularly plump cherub.

When the starlight poured down into the vast theatre, Lemarick felt calmed by its presence. Though its effects were only tiny at first, Lemarick took in a deep, satisfied breath and began to feel the bruises on his torso healing. If he was lucky, then Yannick and Elise would continue their distracted worrying long enough for the shade to regain his ability to fly.

Lemarick Novel was seldom lucky. Mere moments after he had started to heal from the starlight, Elise grabbed him hard by the back of his neck and dragged him onto his knees. Though he had amassed a little power again, Lemarick knew that using it to be free of her grip was a fruitless effort. Elise’s sharp nails clawed into the back of his fair blonde hair.

“We can’t let him live,” she said to Yannick, almost pleading, “not after what Baptiste has done. He has broken the code.”

The hideous, burned face of the vampire lord was solemn and thoughtful.

“As you almost did, years ago, before this creature stopped you,” he replied to Elise.

Lemarick felt the hesitation in her grip on him.

“I… I did not know that they were shades at the time,” she mumbled. “Now, I trust the code. We must never feed upon the blood of the shadeborn. It is an abomination.”

There was something far more important than a simple feeding going on now, but Lemarick was too preoccupied by his other realisation to concentrate on Elise’s words. His eyes watched Yannick’s thoughtful form absently, his mind flushed with new hope. If vampires didn’t usually drain the blood of shades, then Edvard and Ugarte were probably still alive.

Yannick’s neck snapped in two before he could utter a single word in reply.

As the vampire lord’s body crumpled to the ground, Lemarick felt Elise being forced away from the space behind him. He got to his feet as she flew into the wall, watching in relief as Edvard’s steady hand controlled her every move. Ed looked down on Yannick’s body with disgust, a fierceness in his form that Lemarick hadn’t seen since their first encounter with the lord over a century ago.

“He ruined my orchestra,” Ed mused bitterly.

Elise struggled against her invisible bonds, but to no avail. Ugarte came to help Lemarick stand, moving him to face the starlight that she too could sense streaming down from the roof. The injured shade stood in its dim glow, basking for a moment more before considerable chunks of the ceiling started to fly away from the gap. He offered a smile to Ugarte as she focused hard on the spot, dismantling more of the roof to give him a greater chance of regaining his strength.

“I daresay your opening night will not be received in the way it was intended,” Lemarick said with a dry rasp in his voice.

“They say all publicity is good publicity,” Ed replied, but he was frowning all the same. “What do we do with these two?” he asked, looking between Baptiste and Elise.

“We take them to our elders,” Ugarte replied. “It is not for us to decide their fates.”

She was looking at Yannick’s broken neck as she spoke this last. Lemarick sensed that she and Ed weren’t going to have a very pleasant conversation about the impulsive killing of the vampire lord later that evening. Edvard Schoonjans didn’t kill, as a rule, but there was a part of his bloodline that still favoured such barbaric means of problem-solving, and a shade could never fully escape his blood. Lemarick faced the hole in the roof once more, breathing deep and feeling the glow of the starlight as the shademagic returned to his veins. The rush of renewed strength forced a grateful smile to his lips.

A sudden flash illuminated the theatre, blinding Lemarick as impossible rays of daylight blazed into the space all around him. It took him a moment to register the sound of smashing glass before the memory of Living Daylight came to his mind. The hanging bats started to swarm once more, impervious to the light but enraged by its presence. Lemarick fumbled in the momentary chaos, feeling around for Baptiste’s unconscious body on the stage.

He didn’t find it.

“Thank you for destroying my lord, Monsieur,” Baptiste said with a chuckle from somewhere nearby. “I thought it was about time I became a free hunter again.”

In the moment when Lemarick’s eyes adjusted, the sunlight fell away, leaving the bats to scurry out of the hole in the roof. Elise screamed in agony from her place against the wall, falling to a crumpled heap and clutching at her once-beautiful face, now burned to cinders by the stinging light from Baptiste’s familiar potions. He was a hunter through and through, solitary and even willing to harm those who had given him eternal life.

Lemarick expected to hear the sounds of Ed’s power raging as he rushed to attack Baptiste, but instead the exuberant shade was perfectly still, a look of abject fear on his young face. Lemarick’s eyes finally found Baptiste standing atop the body pile in the orchestra pit, and he understood why Ed had not moved in for a swift attack. Baptiste held Ugarte in his strong arms, with a blade at her throat. The blade was marked in runes from an ancient tongue and every inch of its metal section was coated in a fine layer of enchanted earth. Another shadehunter weapon, and now it was threatening to end Ugarte’s life.

This was the moment when Lemarick Novel said “Enough.”

BOOK: The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2)
11.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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