Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 4 - Page 70

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NEXT DAY I REGRETTED that I had not eaten the food Amber had prepared. But I was more thirsty than anything. The fairy staff showed up once, and I told it to go away and be safe, speaking softly so no one would notice. When I glanced back at the corner it had been in, it was gone again.

Chad taught me and the oakman how to swear in ASL and worked with us until we were pretty good at finger spelling. It left my hands aching, but kept him occupied.

We knew that Blackwood was paying attention to us again when Corban stopped in the middle of a sentence. After a few minutes he turned his head, and Blackwood opened the door.

The vampire looked at me without favor. "And where do you suppose I'm going to find another cook for you?" He took the body away and returned a few hours later with apples and oranges and bottled water - tossing them carelessly through the bars.

His hands smelled of Amber, rot, and earth. I supposed he'd buried her somewhere.

He took Corban away. When Chad's father returned, he was stumblingly weak and had another bite mark on his neck.

"My friend is better at that than you are," I said in a snotty voice because Blackwood had paused, with the cage door open, to look at Chad. "He doesn't leave huge bruises behind."

The vampire slammed the door, locked it, and stowed the key in his pants pocket. "Whenever you open your mouth," he said, "I marvel that the Marrok didn't wring your neck years ago." He smiled a little.

"Fine. Since you are the cause of my hunger, you may feed it."

The cause of his hunger... when I sent Amber away from her dead body, it must have hurt him. Good. Now all I had to do was get him to make a lot more zombies or whatever he wanted to call them. Then I could destroy them, too. I might weaken him enough that we could take him. Of course, the nearest available people to become zombies were us.

He opened my cage door, and I had to think really hard about the present not to panic. I fought him. I didn't think he'd expected it.

Years of karate had honed my reflexes, and I was faster than a human would have been. But I was weak - an apple a day might keep the doctor away, but it's not, by itself, the best diet for optimum performance. After a time that was too short for my ego to be happy, he had me pinned.

He left me aware this time when he bit my neck. It hurt the whole time, either a further punishment or Stefan's bites were giving him trouble - I didn't know enough to tell. When he tried to feed me in return,

I fought as hard as I could and finally he grabbed my jaw and forced his gaze on me.

I woke up on the far side of the cage, and Blackwood was gone. Chad was making noise, trying to get my attention. I rose to hands and knees. When it was quite clear that I wasn't going to get up farther than that, I sat up instead of standing. Chad stopped making those sad, desperate sounds. I made the sign he'd taught me for the "f-word" and finger-spelled, very slowly with clumsy fingers. "That's it. No more Ms. Nice Girl. Next time I scalp him."

It made him smile a very little. Corban was sitting in the middle of their cage looking at a mark in the cement.

"Well, oakman," I said, tiredly. "Is it daylight or darkness?"

Before he answered me, Stefan was there in my cage. I blinked stupidly at him. I'd given up on him, but I hadn't realized it until he was there. I reached out and touched his arm lightly to make sure he was real.

He patted my hand and gave a quick look up as if he could see through the ceiling to the floor above.

"He knows I'm here. Mercy - "

"You have to take Chad," I told him urgently

"Chad?" Stefan followed my gaze and stiffened. He started to shake his head.

"Blackwood killed his mother - but left her a zombie to do his chores until I killed her for real." I told him. "Chad has to be taken to safety."

He stared at the boy, who was staring back. "If I take him, I can't come back for a couple of nights. I'll be unconscious, and no one knows where you are but me - and Marsilia." He bit her name out as if he still weren't happy with her. "And she wouldn't lift a finger to help you."

"I can survive a couple of nights," I told him with conviction.

Stefan clenched his hands. "If I do it," he told me fiercely, "if I do this and you survive - you will forgive me for the others."

"Yes," I said. "Get Chad out of here."

He was gone, then reappeared standing next to Chad. He started to use ASL to say something - but we both heard Blackwood race down the stairs.

"To Adam or Samuel," I said urgently.

"Yes," Stefan told me. "Stay alive."

He waited until I nodded, then he disappeared with Chad.

BLACKWOOD WAS MUCH MORE UNHAPPY ABOUT STEFAN'S presence in his house than he was with Chad's escape. He ranted and raved, and if he hit me again, I was worried I might not be able to keep my promise to Stefan.

Apparently he came to the same conclusion. He stood looking down at me. "There are ways to keep other vampires out of my home. But they are taxing, and I expect that your friend Corban won't survive my thirst." He bent forward. "Ah, now you are frightened. Good." He inhaled like a wine taster with a particularly fine vintage.

He left.

I curled up on the floor and hugged my misery to me - along with the fairy staff. The oakman stirred.

"Mercy, what is it that you have?"

I raised one hand and waved it feebly in the air so he could see it. It didn't hurt as much as I thought it should.

There was a little pause, and the Oakman said, reverently, "How did that come to be here?"

"It's not my fault," I told him. It took me a moment to sit up... and I realized that Blackwood had been much more in control of himself than he appeared because nothing was broken. There wasn't much of me that wasn't bruised - but not broken was good.

"What do you mean?" the oakman asked.

"I tried to give it back," I explained, "but it keeps showing up. I told it that this wasn't a good place for it, but it leaves for a while, then comes back."

"By your leave," he said formally, "may I see it?"

"Sure," I said, and tried to throw it to him. I should have been able to do it. The distance between our cages was less than ten feet, but the... bruises made it more difficult than normal.

It landed on the floor halfway between us. But as I stared at it in dismay, it rolled back toward me, not stopping until it was against the cage bars.

The third time I threw it, the oakman caught it out of the air.

"Ah, Lugh, you did such fine work," he crooned, petting the thing. He rested a cheek against it. "It follows you because it owes you service, Mercy." He smiled, awakening lines and wrinkles in the dark-wood-colored face and brightening his black eyes to purple. "And because it likes you."