Home > The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(15)

The Bitten (Vampire Huntress Legend #4)(15)
Author: L.A. Banks

"I'll work it out. I can make some bodyguards; that's not my primary concern. I just want to be sure that I don't get smoked in my sleep."

"These are dangerous times to be at our level, Carlos," the chairman said carefully. "Fallon Nuit's coup attempt has given the other masters ideas... and none of them is pleased with our choice to promote you before them. Envy is such a powerful emotion."

Carlos watched the elderly vampire's eyes, slowly becoming aware that while the Neteru situation was a problem, something much worse was brewing. When the chairman glanced at the other seated council members before proceeding, he was sure of it.

"Sir," Carlos asked with total deference in his tone, "if there's something compromising our position, I need to know."

The old vampire closed his eyes, let out a long, weary breath and laced his gnarled fingers together. "Your territory had a key hidden within it, as all the territories do. The gray zone of choice is where the catalysts of the Armageddon lie."

Cool beads of sweat crept between Carlos's shoulder blades until they united into a silent trickle down his spine. "You said, 'had'..."

"Damned scientists," the chairman muttered so quietly that no one at the table breathed for a moment. "Their ignorance... lack of knowledge and understanding."

Carlos and the others watched the chairman battle repressed rage, a slight tremor running through him as he stood and swept past the table to stop before the torture wall. He opened his fingers wide, stretching them until the ancient skin seemed like it would rip. They all watched as each digit soon glowed with an eerie red heat, and when he was satisfied that enough energy had collected within his now blue-white palm, he pointed to the wall, scorching it with laser-like flames as he drew the diagram for them.

"There is a key for the Seven Seals as specified within the sixth chapter of Revelations - contained within the book we never mention. Someone from the sixth realm - a master vampire - has stolen the key that will unlock the sixth seal."

Carlos was leaning forward so far in his throne that he almost fell to the floor. The key to the Sixth seal had been stolen?

"When opened, the sixth seal turns the sun to ash, making it black like sackcloth... perpetual night." The chairman paused as murmurs swept the chamber. "The moon will turn to blood. Heaven will roll away as though a scroll taken up." His hard gaze stabbed into every set of pupils that remained riveted to his. "The opener of the seal would be powerful enough to mark his territory with the sacred number of our empire. He would not need a daywalker bloodline, as night would be eternal! The sun would be forever banished. Heaven would have rolled away, giving rise to earthquakes and landmass realignments - our territories would be in chaos... and this victor would rule under a blood moon, rendering this council obsolete as a ruling body!"

All Carlos heard was the part about not needing a Neteru to make daywalkers. That meant Damali was instantly at risk. The only thing that had ever kept them from trying to kill her was the possible use of her womb. If that option vanished, her protection would disappear. Carlos was on his feet.

"But if this was already prophesized in Revelations, it was only a matter of time - "

"Our time!" the chairman shouted, pointing a bony finger toward Carlos to correct him. "Our Dark Lord has always been in pursuit of these hidden keys and seals. He, and he alone, would have handed them over to the most deserving realms, and our level-six council would have been the epitome of his empire. The daywalkers were our insurance. No one knows the true hour of the Armageddon, and for centuries we have all been in wait."

Weary resignation entered Carlos's body, just as it seemed to have slowed the chairman's complaint.

"Sir, you said it happened in my territory. North America, I take it?"

"Yes," the chairman hissed, as he slowly made his way back to his throne. "Your borders were weak, there were many insurgents - but that would not have been enough to find the keys." His lethal gaze swept the table. "Scientists. Bloody, foolish scientists have been conducting experiments to find and monitor our energy fields. They have created disturbances, opened portals, and demagnetized some force fields that once hid the seals and keys from us. They were doing advanced weapons research in the U.S., experimenting with electromagnetic fields, and that's how one of our topside masters came to know that the most critical of the keys was hidden in North America." He released a pained chuckle. "They wanted the ultimate weapon, and they have indeed created it."

"If a master vampire has his hands on the key, then we'll just have to jack him and get it back - basic," Carlos said, making a tent with his hands. "Assassinate the sonofabitch."

The chairman smiled. "While we all like how you think, Mr. Rivera, the critical element is we don't know which master has it." He glimpsed the other more senior councilmen. "You see, Carlos, that is why we summoned you. When the Neteru began to turn, and this all occurred in your territory, we had to invite you down here for an appraisal. Our initial assumption had to be governed by logic versus loyalty. If your bite turned her, and the threat of this council, as well as the loss of the opportunity to start a daywalker empire, was not enough to make you garner restraint... then we could only assume..."

"I understand, sir." Although Carlos was offended, he could appreciate the precaution and simply nodded.

"We now believe that she turned because of the power shift," one of the councilmen at the far end of the table admitted. "A Neteru, post-twenty-one years of age, should never turn. Not like that. Not within the same night. This happened when the breach occurred. When one of the Keys of Light fell into the hands of the Dark Realms, some of her immunity was possibly compromised."

Carlos concurred with a nod. "If you don't know who took it, please tell me you do know where it was taken from. North America is a lot of ground to cover on a treasure hunt."

"A church in Boston," the chairman said, wiping his brow. "Seems energy fluctuations reduced the barrier to evil around the key holder and exposed it, and he had a weakness... shall we call it a proclivity for little boys. The master who came to him trailed illusion and transformed into an irresistible youth, sources tell us, and was thus able to sweet-talk the cleric into fetching the key in order to make an impression."

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