Blood Moon Page 41

I had a very uncomfortable moment of empathy for the guards Solange compelled. At least when she’d compelled me I was reasonably certain she wasn’t going to hurt me.

The leader nodded to the vampire on his right. “Leash him.”

The strange colors turned red as sour rage smoldered inside me. I tasted smoke over the lilies. They used the rope to knot my wrists together behind my back and a strip of cloth over my eyes to blindfold me. It was like looking through heavy fog. I could see faint shadows and the shifting of light, but not enough to be sure of my footing or my direction.

“Walk.” The order was accompanied by a shove to get me moving. Pain shot through my knee, blood dripping from a gash that would take some time to heal. I was still so young and and close enough to the bloodchange that only shallow scratches healed almost instantly. After a day’s sleep, I’d be fine. Assuming I made it through the day, of course.

They pushed me into a forced shuffle-walk, my muscles only barely cooperating. Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t fight the movement of my wounded knee, the forward momentum of my legs, the push of the Hypnos as it slid through me, finding every tiny secret place, like water. I slid down a steep incline, scattering pebbles. A hard hand on my shoulder shoved me back onto a trail.

“Come on, princeling,” he sneered. “We’ve got a gilded cage just for you.”

“Where are we going?” Useless to ask, impossible not to. I didn’t get a reply, of course.

We walked until the terrain changed underfoot to smooth rock. I stumbled again, was wrenched back into place. I’d hoped that enough falling and being pushed around would loosen the rope, but it held tight. I could tell by the smell of mildew and cold that we were nearing a cave of some kind. The darkness felt thicker, damp. There was another combination of scents underneath, rust and blood maybe. There were no dogs howling, and no drumming, so the Hounds weren’t nearby. They managed to find distant private caves no one had ever entered before; but clearly these weren’t them. I could smell humans and vampires both. I was jerked to a stop. I hunched my shoulders as the Hypnos began to wear off, expecting a stake in the back. Someone ripped off the blindfold.

I could never have imagined anything like this was even possible.

We were in a huge cavern, with fissures in every wall, blocked off with metal grates like homemade dungeons. Pale, wretched faces showed briefly at the bars. Someone wept in a dark crevice. Someone else grunted in pain. There were chains everywhere and the clank of iron. Torches burned in brackets drilled into the stone. The light flickered over the murky milk-gray water of a sinkhole, like a small pond. An arm bobbed to the surface. I couldn’t tell if it was attached to a body.

I was pushed toward long metal tables set against one corner, under a string of battery-operated lights. Camping lanterns glowed with a clear unnatural light, glinting mercilessly off glass beakers, jars of strange liquids, test tubes, iron-tipped stakes, jagged daggers, and implements of torture I couldn’t look at without sweat breaking out on the back of my neck. We liked to tease Marcus that he was the mad scientist in the family, following in Uncle Geoffrey’s footsteps. But his laboratory was for the pursuit of knowledge, not pain.

Even at a glance, this place had no other purpose.

A half-dead vampire slumped unconscious, hanging on chains attached to her wrists. Blood ran in rivulets down her side, dripping off her elbows, her fingertips, her feet. It gathered in a narrow trench dug into the ground, clogged with water and bodily fluids. I gagged on the stench of old blood and festering wounds.

This wasn’t politics. This was something else entirely.

But I had no idea what.

I made an instinctive move toward her, though how I thought I’d free her with my hands tied behind my back, I had no idea. A boot kicked me in the back of my wounded knee and I toppled, my cheek hitting stone. I saw stars, jerked away from the trench.

Human guards stood at the edges. They looked like Huntsmen, though I thought I saw the glint of at least one Helios-Ra sun pendant. They didn’t even flinch when I sprawled at their feet. The four that captured me stood in a clump, grinning at a man wearing a leather apron smeared with blood and bits of flesh, like Dr. Frankenstein. Beside him, standing quietly alert, was a vampire wearing a familiar brown tunic I’d seen before.

On Montmartre and his Host. Right before he tried to abduct my sister.

I pushed to my feet, hissing, fangs extending so completely my gums bled. The Host flung a rusted iron spike, like a giant horseshoe nail. It slammed into my shoulder, knocking me back and pinning me against a wooden support beam hung with more chains. Pain bit down with jagged teeth. At least pinned to a post with convenient chains and splinters, I could work my hands free. The rope snagged on a sharp spike, and I bore down, fraying it into strings I snapped easily.

Frankenstein glanced at me. “I guess the Hypnos wore off.”

“Am I a hostage?” I forced myself to ask, choking as I yanked myself forward, pulling the spike out.

“You could say that,” my captor answered. “Hostage, test subject, prey. You’re whatever the hell we tell you to be.”

Frankenstein waved his hand. There was blood under his nails. “Do something with him.”

“Don’t you want a closer look?” The tone was smug and self-satisfied.

Frankenstein narrowed his eyes, circling me slowly. “And?”

“He’s a Drake.”

The Host vampire moved so fast it was no wonder humans thought we could fly. All I saw were fangs and fingers digging viciously into the wound in my shoulder. I jabbed out with my thumb and first two fingers in a claw shape, the way Duncan taught me. He fought dirty, even dirtier than Mom. I aimed for the windpipe. The Host gagged, taken by surprise. I went for the eyes next, but he’d recovered and had a stake pressing into my chest.

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