Lothaire Read online

Page 42


Page 42

 

  With hunger.

  She fled back to Lothaire, pumping her arms, running as she never had before. They were on her heels, grunting, slavering. Into the bedroom she scrambled.

  Eyes wide, Lothaire held out his hand for her, but didnt move, didnt try to protect her. She darted behind him anyway.

  "Shes controlling me, Elizabeth! Told me not to move. Im trapped as I stand. "

  Dorada pulled out Lothaires desk chair, taking a seat with a casual air. But her movements were sluggish.

  "How did you find this place?" he demanded.

  The sorceress held the band up to the lamps light. "An old acquaintance told me. " She slipped the ring onto her thumb, then waved for Ellie. "Come, girl. "

  She shook her head slowly.

  "Come, or Ill make your vampire drink you to death. "

  Lothaire gripped her wrist-until Dorada commanded, "Release her. "

  He did at once.

  Seeing how much control the sorceress had over him, Ellie crossed

  the room to stand before Dorada. Will she kill me? Turn me into one of those things?

  "Kneel. "

  With no other choice, Ellie did.

  The sorceress scrutinized her with that one eye. "Is that Saroya the Soul Reaper buried deep within this mortal, Lothaire? Was the goddess of vampires the Bride you sought? Perhaps you wanted to make this human host into an immortal with my ring. "

  He remained silent.

  "Do you guard the body so vehemently to preserve Saroya? Or is the girl yours?"

  "Did you come here to insult me? You know the answer to that question. " Lothaire-speak?

  Dorada raised her good hand to touch Ellies forehead, commanding, "Face me, Saroya. "

  Ellie recoiled, resisting Saroya with all her might.

  "No, sorceress!" Lothaire yelled. "Dont do this!"

  "I know you can sense me deep down, goddess," Dorada said, ignoring him. "Now rise!"

  The females gold plates seemed to vibrate as power infused the room. Ellie could feel Saroya skittering wildly in her chest, but still she fought.

  Lothaire too strained against Doradas control. "This has to do with more than my crimes against you. What do you want from Saroya?"

  "Revenge. "

  Ellie remained silent, grappling to hold the goddess back.

  "For what?" Lothaire grated.

  "Why do you think I was in that tomb, vampire?" Dorada said. "Because Saroyas assassins hunted me down without cease! In desperation, I turned to the ring, but she was too powerful for it to vanquish. So I wished never to be found by her killers, to be freed of her torments. And the ring made sure I was forever out of her reach-by having my other enemies trap me in that tomb for ages. " She stared off with her sole eye for long moments, then turned back to him. "Until you came along, waking me. At once, I sensed Saroyas lack of godhood. I refused to let you use my own ring to empower her in any way. "

  "This makes no sense, Dorada. Saroya would have no reason to assassinate you. Who were you to a goddess?"

  Ellies vision wavered. She was losing ground, couldnt hold on much longer. . . .

  Dorada frowned at Lothaire. "You dont know about the prophecy?"

  "What are you talking about?" he bit out. "What prophecy?"

  Amusement. "Hmm. Just know that its about to be fulfilled. "

  With that, Ellie gave a cry, collapsing as her sight went dark.

  Saroya felt herself compelled to rise, blinking open her eyes. She was in Lothaires room? Hand to her forehead, she rose to her knees . . . and found herself surrounded by Wendigos.

  Facing her old nemesis.

  The foretelling! Fear surged within her, seeming to swell inside her throat. But Saroya would bluff as if she still had power. "Dorada," she sneered. "Its been ages. "

  The Gilded One grinned, revealing rotted teeth among gleaming white ones. "Youre no longer the cat-eyed goddess," she said, speaking staticky English through some kind of translation spell.

  "Youre no longer decent to look upon. Fitting that you keep the company of drooling beasts. "

  "Regeneration. " Dorada shrugged. Her customary adornments were nearly blinding, gold plates so heavy they looked like theyd crush her putrefied form. "Your male harmed me quite thoroughly. I wanted revenge on Lothaire. I had no idea I could mete it out to you as well. "

  This couldnt be happening. It is foretold . . . It is foretold . . . Dread inundated Saroya, but she forced herself to give a dismissive wave. "What can you do to me?" Am I sweating from fright? "I am a goddess. "

  "You have no powers. And youre pure evil. Easy for me to control. Shall I do as was divined so long ago?"

  Saroya swallowed. "If you attempt this, you will fail. And then I

  will smite you with a gods wrath. "

  Dorada smirked, her face drawn into a repellent mask. "I believe I will risk it. "

  Saroya turned to Lothaire. "Vampire, do something!"

  His muscles were knotted, his expression strained, but he remained unmoving. Dorada clearly had him under her thrall.

  "Dont take Saroya, sorceress. There must another way to settle this!"

  Comprehension hit her. Lothaire was acting as if she were his Bride, because he knew that Dorada would cast her out to punish him.

  Sure enough, hed discovered a way out of his vows. "Dorada, I am not his Bride! If you seek vengeance against Lothaire, then you must kill-"

  "Why do you deny me now, Saroya?" Lothaire yelled.

  Dorada raised her hand, her splayed fingers directing mystical energy at Saroya. The gold jewelry on her body reverberated, her sole eye glittering. The Wendigos howled as the air grew electric.

  "No!" Saroya shrieked. "Do not do this!"

  "I never would have harmed you, goddess, never would have targeted you, had you not beset me with your assassins. Fool! You turned me onto this path. You fulfilled this prophecy. "

  "You will pay, Dorada! My sister-"

  "Sends her regards. " Dorada shut her eye and snatched closed her fist.

  Blackness spread before Saroya, the prophecy repeating over and over as her consciousness began to dim.

  It is foretold that La Dorada, the Queen of Evil and of Golds, a sorceress of great power, will destroy Saroya the Soul Reaper, Goddess of Divine Death, condemning her to the Ether that spawned her, forever as formless as the chaos whence she sprang. . . .

  Foretold. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Dark. Silent. Cold.

  Nothingness.

  Saroyas last thought: My actions had a consequence.

  Chapter 47

  Elizabeth collapsed to the ground, her body limp. Hours seemed to tick by as Lothaire-and Dorada-waited for her to wake. Waiting . . .

  At last, she rose, shooting upright in a rush, anxiously patting her chest. "Saroyas gone?" Elizabeth faced him. "Ah, God, shes gone!"

  Lothaires jaw slackened as he gazed upon her, taking in her radiant skin and vivid eyes. Those lips shaped like a bow . . .

  Before, her allure had tantalized him. Freed of Saroya, his female was irresistible.

  The being inside Elizabeth must have diluted his need for her. Now it was as if the fierce desire and protectiveness hed felt for her had been multiplied exponentially.

  Then injected straight into his heart.

  My Bride. This was what everyone spoke of.

  Elizabeths face . . . as if a stained-glass window had shattered to let pure light shine in; she was ablaze with utter beauty-

  "Kill her, Lothaire," Dorada said.

  Fighting her control, he made his tone scornful. "Why would I bother? Youve taken Saroya from me. "

  "In case this mortal is your actual Bride. "

  Before, his own vows had chained him-now that he was freed of them, he felt more powerful than hed ever been. Elizabeth was a beacon focusing everything inside him. "I will never harm her. And you know I cant lie. "

  "I suspected she was your Bride. Now I command you to k