Photo by Snapwire
CHAPTER 3: THE NEW CAMP
I wake up the next evening at six with a knot in my chest to match the one in my head. I don’t want to face the Devotees again. Not after what happened in Veracruz. Not after the explosions, the blood, the ripples of darkness reaching out into every corner of the city, killing everything and everyone they came into contact with… I don’t want to deal with it. I can’t. Not yet.
There’s a knock at my door, and I sit up and call, “Come in.” The door opens to reveal Briella, standing there with the cat at her ankles. Her scarf is wrapped loosely around her neck.
“What do you want?” I ask. My voice comes out more harshly than I meant it to, and she flinches slightly.
“Your head,” she says. “Your head is hurting, isn’t it?”
I nod slowly. “How did you know?”
She smiles. “It’s like there’s a knot in the middle of your brain, pulling all of your thoughts into it and sending them through a strainer to the other side until this is that and that is this and wrong is right and right is wrong.”
“How did you know?” I repeat more forcefully.
she points to her own head. “All of the Crazies go through it when we turn. Some get through it faster than others.”
I shake my head. “No way. I’ve been a vampire for ninety-seven years. I would know if I was a Madman.”
She shrugs. “You’d have started to rot by now, but it did take old Ryan from accounting fifty years to get through the turning. My advice? Stop pulling at the knot gently. Just take a sword through it. Saves you a lot of trouble.”
“Um. Thank you?” I say.
“Ava!” Montero’s voice echoes down the hall. “Briella! Time for you two to go!”
I pull myself to my feet and hop out of my coffin. Briella grins at me and heads off down the hall, and I follow her. Montero is waiting at the table, his hands clasped in front of him.
“The base is straight down the road,” he says. “It should take you maybe five minutes to get there. I need to just get in your heads to–”
“You’ve never worked with a Crazy before, have you?” asks Briella. “You don’t want to be in my head. Establish your little Saviour link with Ava here, or better yet, not at all.”
“You’re just being paranoid,” Montero says. “I won’t actually be in your head; I’ll just be seeing what you see and hearing what you hear. And I need to see what you see, as well; what if you two are separated?”
“I can tell you about what happens to me,” says Briella. “When I get back.”
“Forgive me if I don’t trust a Madman’s account implicitly,” says Montero coolly.
“Then you should trust my senses even less. I can interpret them. You can’t.”
“Montero, it should be enough if you’re in my head,” I say quickly. “Which you already are. Now let’s go.”
Montero stares at me as Briella stands up and starts towards the door. I make to follow her, but Montero grabs my wrist and whispers, “You really trust her?”
I look at him for a long moment. His eyes are searching my face as though looking for a sign of… something.
“Yes,” I say. “I trust her.”
His eyes narrow, and he releases my wrist. The knot in my head increases in size, and I squeeze my eyes shut for a second and then open them again, hurrying after Briella. She’s humming a strange little song to herself.
“Ready?” she asks.
I shake my head. “Not really. But whatever.”
Briella cackles loudly. “That’s the spirit, Ava.”
There’s silence for a long moment. Then I ask, “Why weren’t you at Veracruz?”
“Because you were,” says Briella. I glance over at her quickly, the knots in my stomach and head tightening simultaneously, but she doesn’t seem to notice. We walk for what feels like forever in silence. Then I see a lone figure, tall, lanky, and blonde, standing in the centre of the road, silhouetted by moonlight.
“Briella–” I begin, but before I can say anything more, she calls, “Charlotte! How long has it been?”
“Briella Martelle,” the figure says. Her voice is high and reedy, and seems to almost scratch at the insides of my ears. The knot in my skull grows. “Why are you here? And who’s that?”
“I’m coming home, Char,” says Briella, smiling. I shiver slightly at the look in her eyes. “And I brought a newbie.”
“Enchanted?” asks Charlotte.
“No,” says Briella. “Recruit.”
Charlotte stares at me as Briella and I draw even with her. I want to shrink away under her gaze, but I stand up straighter and stare back. Finally, she smiles, a smile even darker and crueler than Briella’s, and says, “Well, in that case, follow me.” She turns and walks down a path that leads off into shadows that even I can’t see through. Briella glances over at me, and as one, we follow.