Home > Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(7)

Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(7)
Author: Rachel Caine

"Sorting credentials."

Claire didn't know what that meant, exactly, but when she risked moving out just a bit to see what was happening, she saw that there were lots of other vampires in here--about a hundred of them, some sitting down and obviously hurt. There were humans, too, mostly standing together and looking nervous, which seemed reasonable.

If these were Bishop's people, their little rescue party was in serious trouble.

Amelie exchanged some quiet words with the vampire who seemed to be in charge, and G?rard and his partner visibly relaxed. That settled the friendorfoe question, apparently; Amelie turned and nodded to Claire, and she and Hannah edged out from behind the glass cases to join them.

Amelie made a gesture, and immediately several vampires peeled off from the group and joined her in a distant corner.

"What's going on?" Claire asked, and stared around her. Most of the vampires were still dressed in the costumes they'd worn to Bishop's welcome feast, but a few were in more military dress--black, mostly, but some in camouflage.

"It's a rally point," Hannah said. "She's talking strategy, probably. Those would be her captains. Notice there aren't any humans with her?"

Claire did. It wasn't exactly a pleasant sensation, the doubt that boiled up inside.

Whatever orders Amelie delivered, it didn't take long. One by one, the vampires nodded and peeled off from the meeting, gathered up followers--including humans this time--and departed. By the time Amelie had dispatched the last group, there were only about ten people left Claire didn't know, and they were all standing together.

Amelie came back to them, saw the group of humans and vamps, and nodded toward them.

"Claire, this is Theodosius Goldman," Amelie said. "Theo, he prefers to be called. These are his family."

Family? That was a shock, because there were so many of them. Theo seemed to be kind of middleaged, with graying, curly hair and a face that, except for its vampiric pallor, seemed kind of . . . nice.

"May I present my wife, Patience?" he said with the kind of old manners Claire had only seen on Masterpiece Theater. "Our sons, Virgil and Clarence. Their wives, Ida and Minnie." There were more vampires bowing, or in the case of the one guy down on the floor, with his head held in the lap of a female vamp, waving. "And their children."

Evidently the grandkids didn't merit individual introductions. There were four of them, two boys and two girls, all pale like their relatives. They seemed younger than Claire, at least physically; she guessed the littler girl was probably about twelve, the older boy around fifteen.

The older boy and girl glared at her, as if she were personally responsible for the mess they were in, but Claire was too busy imagining how a whole family--down to grandkids--could all be made vampires like this.

Theo, evidently, could see all that in her expression, because he said, "We were made eternal a long time ago, my girl, by"--he cast a quick look at Amelie, who nodded--"by her father, Bishop. It was a joke of his, you see, that we should all be together for all time." He really did have a kind face, Claire thought, and his smile was kind of tragic. "The joke turned on him, though. We refused to let it destroy us. Amelie showed us we did not have to kill to survive, and so we were able to keep our faith as well as our lives."

"Your faith?"

"It's a very old faith," Theo said. "And today is our Sabbath."

Claire blinked. "Oh. You're Jewish?"

He nodded, eyes fixed on her. "We found a refuge here, in Morganville. A place where we could live in peace, both with our nature and our God."

Amelie said, softly, "But will you fight for it now, Theo? This place that gave you refuge?"

He held out his hand. His wife's cool white fingers closed around it. She was a delicate china doll of a woman, with masses of sleek black hair piled on top of her head. "Not today."

"I'm sure God would understand if you broke the Sabbath under these circumstances."

"I'm sure he would. God is forgiving, or we would not still be walking this world. But to be moral is not to need his divine forgiveness, I think." He shook his head again, very regretfully. "We cannot fight, Amelie. Not today. And I would prefer not to fight at all."

"If you think you can stay neutral in this, you're wrong. I will respect your wishes. My father will not."

Theo's face hardened. "If your father threatens my family again, then we will fight. But until he comes for us, until he shows us the sword, we will not take up arms against him."

G?rard snorted, which proved what he thought about it; Claire wasn't much surprised. He seemed like a practical sort of guy. Amelie simply nodded. "I can't force you, and I wouldn't. But be careful. I cannot spare anyone to help you. You should be safe enough here, for a time. If any others come through, send them out to guard the power station and the campus." She allowed her gaze to move beyond Theo, to touch the three humans huddled in the far corner of the room, under another painting, a big one. "Are these under your Protection?"

Theo shrugged. "They asked to join us."

"Theo."

"I will defend them if someone tries to harm them." Theo pitched his voice lower. "Also, we may need them, if we can't get supplies."

Claire went cold. For all his kind face and smile, Theo was talking about using those people as portable blood banks.

"I don't want to do it," Theo continued, "but if things go against us, I have to think of my children. You understand."

"I do," Amelie said. Her face was back to a blank mask that gave away nothing of how she felt about it. "I have never told you what to do, and I will not now. But by the laws of this town, if you place these humans under your Protection, you owe them certain duties. You know that."

Another shrug, and Theo held out his hands to show he was helpless. "Family comes first," he said. "I have always told you so."

"Some of us," Amelie said, "are not so fortunate in our choice of families."

She turned away from Theo without waiting for his response--if he'd been intending to give one--and without so much as a pause, slammed her fist into a glassfronted wall box labeled EMERGENCY USE ONLY three steps to the right. It shattered in a loud clatter, and Amelie shook shards of glass from her skin.

She reached into the box and took out . . . Claire blinked. "Is that a paintball gun?"

Amelie handed it to Hannah, who handled it like a professional. "It fires pellets loaded with silver powder," she said. "Very dangerous to us. Be careful where you aim."

 

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