Home > Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)(6)

Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)(6)
Author: Richelle Mead

"This is hardly the time," said Olena. She gestured to Dimitri, who was gazing at Henry with intense scrutiny. "My son is visiting. He hasn't been here in years."

Henry gave Dimitri a polite but curt nod of greeting and then turned back to Olena. "It's never the time. The longer we put this off, the more people are going to be hurt. Another human was killed last night, you know."

This brought silence to several people standing nearby. It also brought me striding over to stand beside Dimitri and Olena. "Who was killed?" I demanded. "And who's doing the killing?"

Henry gave me a once-over. It wasn't like a checking-to-see-if-I-was-hot once-over, though. It was more like he was trying to decide if I was worth responding to. Apparently not. His attention went back to Olena.

"You have to do something," he said.

Olena threw up her hands. "Why do you think I can do it?"

"Because you're ... well, you're kind of what passes for a leader around here. Who else is going to organize dhampirs to take care of this menace?"

"I don't lead anyone," said Olena, shaking her head. "And the people here ... they certainly can't be ordered into battle on a moment's notice."

"But they know how to fight," countered Henry. "You're all trained, even if you didn't become guardians."

"We're trained to defend," she corrected him. "Certainly everyone here would turn out if Strigoi invaded our town. We don't go out seeking trouble, though. Well, except for the Unmarked. But they're all away right now. Once they return in the autumn, I'm sure they'll happily do this for you."

Henry sighed in frustration. "We can't wait until autumn! Humans are dying now."

"Humans who are too stupid to stay out of trouble," said a grizzled dhampir woman.

"This so-called Blood King is just an ordinary Strigoi," added another man who'd been listening. "Nothing special. Humans need to simply stay away, and he'll leave."

I didn't exactly know what was happening here, but pieces were coming together. Alchemists were among the few humans who knew about the existence of vampires and dhampirs. Although we often lived and interacted with humans, my kind generally did an excellent job of hiding our true natures. Alchemists believed all vampires and dhampirs were dark and unnatural and that humanity was better off without contact. Likewise, the Alchemists feared that if our existence was public knowledge, certain weak-willed humans would jump at the chance to become immortal Strigoi and corrupt their souls. As a result, Alchemists helped us stay hidden and also assisted in covering up Strigoi kills and other ugly business those monsters caused. At the end of the day, though, Alchemists made it clear they were helping humans first and us second. So, if there was something out there threatening his kind, it was no wonder Henry was so worked up.

"Start from the beginning," said Dimitri, stepping forward. He'd listened patiently so far, but even he had limits when someone was trying to order his mother around. "Someone explain who this Blood King is and why he's killing humans."

Henry gave Dimitri an assessment similar to the one he'd given me. Only, Dimitri apparently passed. "The Blood King is a Strigoi who lives northwest of here. There are some foothills with several caves and twisting paths, and he's taken up residence in there. We don't know exactly which cave, but evidence suggests he's very old and very powerful."

"And so ... he's what, preying on human hikers that happen to wander nearby?" I asked.

Henry seemed surprised that I'd spoken, but at least answered this time. "No wandering involved. They seek him out. All the people in these villages are superstitious and deluded. They've built up this legendary reputation for him-gave him that Blood King name. They don't fully understand what he is, of course. Anyway, all he has to do is wait around, because every so often, someone gets it into his head that he's going to be the one to defeat the Blood King. They rush headlong into those mountain paths-and never come back."

"Stupid," said the woman who'd spoken earlier. I was inclined to agree.

"You have to do something," repeated Henry. This time, he was looking at everyone as he spoke, desperate for help wherever he could get it. "My people can't kill this Strigoi. You need to. I've talked to guardians in the larger cities, but they won't leave their Moroi. That means it's up to you locals."

"Maybe word will eventually get around and humans will stay away," said Olena reasonably.

     Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)
     Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)
     Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3)
     Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)
     Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)
     Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)
     The Meeting (Vampire Academy 0.9)      Homecoming (Vampire Academy #6.5)