Home > Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(9)

Lord of Misrule (The Morganville Vampires #5)(9)
Author: Rachel Caine

It was a library, full of books. Some--on this floor--were new, or at least newish, with colorful spines and crisp titles that Claire could read even in the low light. She slowed down a little, blinking. "You guys have vampire stories in here?" None of the vampires answered. Amelie veered to the right, through the twostorytall shelves, and headed for a set of sweeping marble steps at the end. The books got older, the paper more yellow. Claire caught sight of a sign that read FOLKLORE, CA. 18701945, ENGLISH, and then another that identified a German section. Then French. Then script that might have been Chinese.

So many books, and from what she could tell, every single one of them had to do in some way with vampires. Was it history or fiction to them?

Claire didn't really have time to work it out. They were taking the stairs, moving around the curve up to the second level. Claire's legs burned all along the calf muscles, and her breathing was getting raspy from the constant movement and adrenaline. Hannah flashed her a quick, sympathetic smile. "Yeah," she said. "Consider it basic training. Can you keep up?"

Claire gave her a gasping nod.

More books here, old and crumbling, and the air tasted like dry leather and ancient paper. Toward the back of the room, there were things that looked like wine racks, the fancy Xshaped kind people put in cellars, only these held rolls of paper, each neatly tied with ribbon. They were scrolls, probably very old ones. Claire hoped they'd go that direction, but no, Amelie was turning them down another book aisle, toward a blank white wall.

No, not quite blank. It had a small painting on the wall, in a fussy gilt frame. Some blandlooking nature scene . . . and then, as Amelie stared at it, the painting changed.

It grew darker, as though clouds had come across the meadow and the drowsy sheep in the picture.

And then it was dark, just a dark canvas, then some pinpricks of light, like candle flames through smoke. . . .

And then Claire saw Myrnin.

He was in chains, silvercolored chains, kneeling on the floor, and his head was down. He was still wearing the blousy white pantaloons of his Pierrot costume, but no shirt. The wet points of his damp hair clung to his face and his marblepale shoulders.

Amelie nodded sharply, and put a hand against the wall to the left of the picture, pressing what looked like a nail, and part of the wall swung out silently on oiled hinges.

Hidden doors: vampires sure seemed to love them.

There was darkness on the other side. "Oh, hell no," Claire heard Hannah mutter. "Not again."

Amelie sent her a glance, and there was a whisper of amusement in the look. "It's a different darkness," she said. "And the dangers are very different, from this point on. Things may change quickly. You will have to adapt."

Then she stepped through, and the vampires followed, and it was just Claire and Hannah.

Claire held out her hand. Hannah took it, still shaking her head, and the dark closed around them like a damp velvet curtain.

There was the hiss of a match dragging, and a flare of light from the corner. Amelie, her face turned ivory by the licking flame, set the match to a candle and left the light burning as she flicked on a small flashlight and played it around the room. Boxes. It was some kind of storeroom, dusty and disused. "All right," she said. "G?rard, if you please."

He swung another door open a crack, nodded, and widened it enough to slip through.

Another hallway. Claire was getting tired of hallways, and they were all starting to look the same. Where were they now, anyway? It looked like some kind of hotel, with polished heavy doors marked with brass plates, only instead of numbers, each door had one of the vampire markings, like the symbol on Claire's bracelet. Each vampire had one; at least she thought they did. So these would be--what? Rooms? Vaults? Claire thought she heard something behind one of the doors--muffled sounds, thumping, scratching. They didn't stop, though--and she wasn't sure she wanted to know, really.

Amelie brought them to a halt at the Tintersection of the hall. It was deserted in every direction, and disorienting, too; Claire couldn't tell one hallway from another. Maybe we should drop crumbs, she thought. Or M&M's. Or blood.

"Myrnin is in a room on this hall," Amelie said. "It is quite obviously a trap, and quite obviously meant for me. I will stay behind and ensure your escape route. Claire." Her pale eyes fixed on Claire with merciless intensity. "Whatever else happens, you must bring Myrnin out safely. Do you understand? Do not let Bishop have him."

She meant, Everybody else is expendable. That made Claire feel sick, and she couldn't help but look at Hannah, and even at the two vampires. G?rard shrugged, so slightly she thought it might have been her imagination.

"We are soldiers," G?rard said. "Yes?" Hannah smiled. "Damn straight."

"Excellent. You will follow my orders."

Hannah saluted him, with just a little trace of irony. "Yes sir, squad leader, sir."

G?rard turned his attention to Claire. "You will stay behind us. Do you understand?"

She nodded. She felt cold and hot at the same time, and a little sick, and the wooden stake in her hand didn't seem like a heck of a lot, considering. But she didn't have any time for second thoughts, because G?rard had turned and was already heading down the hall, his wing man flanking him, and Hannah was beckoning Claire to follow.

Amelie's cool fingers brushed her shoulder. "Careful."

Claire nodded and went to rescue a crazy vampire from an evil one.

The door shattered under G?rard's kick. That wasn't an exaggeration; except for the wood around the door hinges, the rest of it broke into handsized pieces and splinters. Before that rain of wreckage hit the floor, G?rard was inside, moving to the left while his colleague went right. Hannah stepped in and swept the room from one side to the other, holding her air pistol ready to fire, then nodded sharply to Claire.

Myrnin was just as she'd seen him in the picture--kneeling in the center of the room, anchored by tightstretched silvery chains. The chains were doublestrength, and threaded through massive steel bolts on the stone floor.

He was shaking all over, and where the chains touched him, he had welts and burns.

G?rard swore softly under his breath and fiercely kicked the eyebolts in the floor. They bent, but didn't break.

Myrnin finally raised his head, and beneath the mass of sweaty dark hair, Claire saw wild dark eyes, and a smile that made her stomach twist.

"I knew you'd come," he whispered. "You fools. Where is she? Where's Amelie?"

"Behind us," Claire said.


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