Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 7 - Page 72

Stefan put a hand on Hao's shoulder. "You couldn't know."

Stefan liked Hao. I hadn't known that there were any vampires left that Stefan liked.

Hao shrugged. "It is past and done. I cannot do it over. I did not want a seethe, and I was happy to leave Frost to it - though he made my skin crawl."

He met my eyes, started to drop his - and then left them where they were. A vampire's gaze didn't affect me the way it does everyone else, but he tried anyway. When he failed, he gave me a solemn nod.

He looked away, and his gaze traveled to Marsilia and Stefan. "We are not good people, Ms. Hauptman. Good people don't become vampires. I knew he was evil, and I left the vampires of Portland to him." Hao smiled, and I knew that when he was really amused, he did not smile. "You have heard, I think, that the police are having ... difficulties in Portland. Too many of them are dying as they go about their jobs. Bran moved the Portland pack to Eugene, Oregon, where they would be safer. I believe he was more worried about the police than the vampires, and he was right. Frost is not ready to take on Bran just yet."

I'd heard about the move out of Portland. It happens that packs move. Not often. Usually it is just a matter of the Alpha switching jobs to a place where there is no pack and bringing the rest of his wolves with him. I hadn't asked why the Portland pack moved to Eugene. At the time, it hadn't concerned me.

"Bran is watching him?"

Hao shrugged. "I do not know Bran, Ms. Hauptman - that is your area of expertise. If he is watching William Frost, he isn't doing anything about him. I suspect, though, Bran has enough on his mind without dabbling in - how did you put it earlier - vampire politics."

"I am sorry if I offended you." Nope. Not a bit, but it seemed politic to say so - or might have, if I'd used a different tone of voice.

He caught my lie and gave me an amused half bow. "Frost moved south from there instead of north to Seattle. I think it was because the werewolves in Seattle have a very strong hold on their territory, and the seethe there is small and weak. He would have had to import vampires from Portland to really control the city."

I couldn't remember who the Seattle Alpha was offhand. I'd have to ask Bran.

"He hit Los Angeles next. The vampires there are ..." Hao's voice trailed off, presumably because he was looking for the proper adjective.

"Barbaric," supplied Marsilia. "Stupid. Weak. The Master of the Los Angeles seethe surrendered to Frost, practically gibbering in terror after seeing a demonstration of Frost's power. William Frost, whoever he is, wherever he came from, has one of the rarest of vampire powers - he is a necromancer."

"Not necessarily. Perhaps he was a necromancer before he was turned." Hao's nonexpression looked thoughtful, and I suddenly realized why I could read him. Charles had nonexpressions like that when his wife Anna wasn't in the room. "A witch with an affinity for the dead. If so, he is very old, because the witch family who had those spells, that affinity, was among the first destroyed in the wars in Europe."

He wasn't talking about human wars, but about the vendettas and feuding that killed off most of the witch families in Europe and sparked the Inquisition and its softer, gentler brother, the witch hunts.

"By necromancer," I said carefully, "you mean he controls the ghosts here. And he somehow reanimated the body of the fae assassin?"

"Yes," Hao agreed. "At the very least, he can do such things - and there is no reason for anyone else to do so."

James Blackwood, the Master of Spokane, had been able to control ghosts because he could absorb the powers of the creatures he fed from, and he had drunk the blood of a walker. Even the other vampires had been afraid of him - though not because he could control ghosts. He was just that crazy.

But a witch was different from a walker. A lot more powerful - if I could judge by the kind of power Elizaveta had. A necromancer witch would control the dead - and ghosts and zombies weren't the only kind of dead. That was why Marsilia was afraid.

"Can he control vampires?" I asked.

"He is not strong enough to take us over," Hao told me, motioning to the vampires present. "Though younger or less powerful vampires would be at risk."

Was that why Marsilia hadn't brought any of her other vampires? Why we had met here instead of the seethe? Did she worry that Frost would interrupt us?

"He has control of Oregon," Marsilia said before I could ask her if she was expecting Frost. "The Master of Portland was the only one he killed, the only one who might have stood against him - the rest being weak of will and cowards. He has Nevada, not that there were ever many vampires in Nevada. He has California except for San Francisco. Frost is still afraid of Hao, and Hao is the only vampire in San Francisco. Like Blackwood, Hao prefers not to have encroachers in his territory."

"Your lieutenants, Estelle and Bernard," I said. "He suborned them to weaken you and take over your seethe. He didn't do anything like that with the other seethes? Why not?" I asked.

"He has to be careful with Marsilia," said Hao. "She held the Master of Milan in thrall for centuries, and any vampire with two pennies' worth of common sense is terrified of attracting the attention of the Lord of Night."

A small smile ghosted across Marsilia's face and was gone. "The Lord of Night might be angry with me, but he would enjoy avenging me." She made a noise, and I couldn't tell if it was happy or unhappy. Maybe even she didn't know. "But he would enjoy mourning my death twice as much."

"Only great love can inspire such heated rage," agreed Stefan, and there was a glimmer of affection in his voice. "But Frost is right to be afraid. Even now, the Lord of Milan talks of you to his courtiers."

She ignored Stefan, which made me think that what he was saying was very important to her.

"Only if I violated our laws could Frost steal my vampires by stealth," Marsilia told me. "If Bernard and Estelle had instigated a rebellion, Frost could have claimed he was coming to my 'aid.' But I rid myself of his tools, and he was forced to look for another way."

"In the meantime, he continued to take over seethes." Hao looked at Marsilia. "To my shame, I ignored him until one of my making came to me. She had been in Shamus's care."

"Reno," Stefan told me. "Shamus was a tough bastard, but fair and smart."

"As good a master as a vampire can be," Hao agreed. "Constance ... Constance was strong. Frost broke her. She escaped him, or he let her go - it's hard to tell and ultimately not important. She came to me and told me I was a fool to keep ignoring Frost. Eventually, he would amass enough power that he could destroy me."