No Rest for the Wicked Read online

Page 8

look like a host to you?"

  Myst leaned back on Jeff Probst and drew a knee up. "You'll help us because I'm asking you to and you owe me for keeping a juicy secret from the coven. "

  Nïx made a scoffing sound as she ripped her sharp claws through the voodoo book. "What secret?" She yanked up another tome - The Crutch of Modern Mysticism - flexed her claws, then seemed to think better of completely mauling it, instead ripping out several pages, one with the chapter heading "Why It's Easier to Believe. "

  "Remember the year 1197?" Myst asked.

  "B. C. or A. D. ?" Nïx said in a bored tone as she began an intricate creasing of a book page. Origami? A form started to emerge.

  "You know I'm only circa A. D. "

  "A. D. 1197?" Nïx murmured with a frown, then her face colored. Her expression turned mulish, and her fingers began flying over the paper, deftly folding. "Not sporting to bring that up. And one more time - I thought he and all of his pack mates were of age!" When her fingers stilled, she placed the perfect form on her bedside table. It resembled a dragon poised to attack. "Do I bring up your unpleasantries? Do I call you Mysty the Vampire Layer like the rest of the Lore does? Like the nymphs do?"

  Myst clasped her hands to her chest. "Oh, woe, the nymphs have shunned me. I weep bitter tears. " Her face hardened in an instant. "What information do you need from us to help you see something?"

  With a huffish flip of her heavy braid, Nïx turned from Myst to Nikolai and asked, "Why do you want to find them?" She started another origami without looking, this one requiring four pages from the Crutch book.

  "I want to know if they're alive or dead. To know if I can help them and bring them back home. "

  "Why did they leave?" The way she studied him was almost invasive. Her fingers were so fast they were nearly invisible, making the paper appear to fold of its own accord.

  He put his shoulders back, hating having to be so open with her. "Sebastian was enraged that I turned him against his will. Both were furious that I tried to turn four young sisters and our elderly father when they were dying. " Myst studied him, nibbling her lip, knowing how reluctant he was to speak of this. "I have no doubts that they went away only to get strong enough to come back and kill me. " Because both had tried just before they left.

  Sebastian had woken with that terrible hunger that Nikolai remembered so well. When they'd placed a tankard of blood in front of Sebastian, he couldn't drink it fast enough. But once he'd comprehended what he'd done, he'd lunged for Nikolai's throat. . .

  Nikolai had waited months at Blachmount for them to return, uncaring if either attempted it once more. Each day they didn't return made him wonder if they could fend for themselves, gathering blood each night - without drinking humans. Without killing.

  Never lowering her gaze from his face, Nïx finished a twisting shark and placed it by the dragon creature. He found his eyes drawn to the shapes again and again.

  "You knew they would be angry?" Nïx asked.

  After a hesitation, he admitted, "I did. But I turned them anyway. "

  When Myst saw him exhale wearily, she began relaying to Nïx everything he'd told her of his brothers. Granted a reprieve, Nikolai yet again justified his decision to himself. That night, seeing Sebastian about to die had made Nikolai realize how much Sebastian especially had missed out on. All he'd wanted was a family and a place to live in peace. Sebastian had never had a chance to find either - he hadn't yet lived - and Nikolai couldn't accept that.

  As a lad, Sebastian had shot to his full height of six and a half feet early, without the weight and muscle that would come a year or two later. Though he'd been rangy and awkward, Sebastian had almost fared better before his body had caught up with his height.

  After that, he hadn't known what to do with his size, with his incredible strength that grew every day. He'd accidentally blackened more than one girl's eye with his elbow and actually had broken one's nose that way. He'd stepped on so many toes that the village girls joked that they wouldn't walk near him without "clogs and fortitude. "

  But the worst occurred when he and Murdoch had been running in the village, most likely doing some mischief of Murdoch's, and Sebastian had collided with a woman and her young daughter. He'd laid both of them flat, knocking the air from their lungs. A disturbing experience in itself, but once the woman and girl got their breaths back, they'd screamed bloody murder.

  Sebastian had been appalled at himself. From the time he was a small boy, he'd always had a shy bent, and things like this made it much worse. He'd become unsure around all women, without the smooth charm of Murdoch or the indifference of Conrad.

  At thirteen, Murdoch had had a devilish grin that had already earned him entrance under many women's skirts in the village. At the same age, Sebastian had been the quiet lad with a sweating fistful of crushed wildflowers that would never make it to their intended.

  So he'd turned to his studies. Incredibly, even after he'd trained for war since he was old enough to hold a wooden sword, Sebastian's mind was the strongest part of his body. He'd written treatises and scientific papers, which garnered him the notice of some of the great minds of the time -

  "You've seen something," Myst said, bringing Nikolai from his thoughts.

  "I can tell you where Murdoch is. "

  "I saw him only yesterday," Nikolai grated. Murdoch lived at Mount Oblak, a castle seized from the Horde. It was the new Forbearer stronghold, so Nikolai traced there most days.

  "Oh, yes. Of course," Nïx began in a sarcastic tone. "Murdoch is right where you left him. "

  "What's that supposed to mean?" At her blank look, he said, "About Murdoch - what did you mean?"

  "Did I say something? What did I say? How am I supposed to keep track of what I said?"

  He was losing patience. "Damn it, Nïx, I know you could tell us where they are. "

  Her eyes went wide as she breathed, "Are you psychic, too?"

  Sometimes he really hated his in-laws.

  "Nïx, I need you to help with this," he said, biting out the words. As a former general in the Estonian army, and a current one with the Forbearers, he was used to giving orders - and having them obeyed with alacrity. This. . . this asking for things was excruciating.

  Yet now Nïx concentrated only on her craft, until she'd folded what looked like an intricate fire, gingerly placing it next to the other two. More pages ripped free, folding at an even faster rate. Nikolai found his attention riveted to the creations that she seemed compelled to make.

  Moments later, she'd wrought a baying paper wolf. Four shapes placed as though for a storyboard. Myst spared them no more than a glance, but Nikolai was enthralled.

  "Nïx, try harder!" Myst snapped, and Nikolai shook himself, forcing his gaze away.

  "I can't see Conrad!" she snapped back, and lightning struck nearby.

  "What about Sebastian?" Myst said. "Tell us anything. "

  "Anything? Well, what do I know?" Nïx frowned. "What do I know? Oh! I know what I know!"

  Nikolai paced impatiently, gesturing with his free hand for her to continue.

  She shrugged. "Right now, your brother Sebastian is bellowing at someone outside a castle, demanding that they return to him, wishing it with everything that he is. " She smiled, as if pleased with herself for seeing so much, then gave a quick clap. "Oh! And his skin just caught fire!"


  Why would she run from me?

  Repeating this agonizing question over and over in his mind, Sebastian scuffed through the pouring rain and the puddles of water along the main street of the deserted village.

  At sunset, just as he'd set out to search for her, the rain had begun. Even now, hours later, it still fell with a pounding force, visibly eating away at the cobblestone grout. It struck his burned face and hands, but he hardly perceived it.

  What the hell had happened? He'd just been feeling the centuries-old weariness lifting, disappearing with her arrival.