Home > Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(9)

Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2)(9)
Author: Richelle Mead

"We had the family stay inside a restaurant with my partner while I swept the rest of the area," continued the old guardian. He spread his hands out in a sweeping motion, and I felt smug over having made the correct call. The story ended happily, with a found boy and no Strigoi encounters.

The second guy's anecdote talked about how he'd gotten the drop on a Strigoi stalking some Moroi.

"I wasn't even technically on duty," he said. He was the really cute one, and a girl sitting near me stared at him with wide, adoring eyes. "I was visiting a friend and the family he guarded. As I was leaving their apartment, I saw a Strigoi lurking in the shadows. He never expected a guardian to be out there. I circled the block, came up behind him, and ..." The man made a staking motion, far more dramatic than the old guy's hand gestures had been. The storyteller even went so far as to mimic twisting the stake into the Strigoi's heart.

And then it was my mother's turn. A scowl spread over my face before she even said a word, a scowl that grew worse once she actually launched into the story. I swear, if I didn't believe her incapable of having the imagination for it - and her bland clothing choices proved she really didn't have an imagination - I would have thought she was lying. It was more than a story. It was an epic tale, the kind of thing that gets made into movies and wins Oscars.

She talked about how her charge, Lord Szelsky, and his wife had attended a ball put on by another prominent royal family. Several Strigoi had been lying in wait. My mother discovered one, promptly staked it, and then alerted the other guardians present. With their help, she hunted down the other Strigoi lurking around and performed most of the kills herself.

"It wasn't easy," she explained. From anyone else that statement would have sounded like bragging. Not her. There was a briskness to the way she spoke, an efficient way of stating facts that left no room for flourishes. She'd been raised in Glasgow and some of her words still had a Scottish lilt. "There were three others on the premises. At the time, that was considered an unusually large number to be working together. That's not necessarily true now, considering the Badica massacre." A few people flinched at the casual way she spoke about the attack. Once again, I could see the bodies. "We had to dispatch the remaining Strigoi as quickly and quietly as possible, so as not to alert the others. Now, if you have the element of surprise, the best way to take Strigoi is to come around from behind, break their necks, and then stake them. Breaking their necks won't kill them, of course, but it stuns them and allows you to do the staking before they can make any noise. The most difficult part is actually sneaking up on them, because their hearing is so acute. Since I'm smaller and lighter than most guardians, I can move fairly quietly. So I ended up performing two of the three kills myself."

Again, she used that matter-of-fact tone as she described her own stealthy skills. It was annoying, more so than if she'd been openly haughty about how awesome she was. My classmates' faces shone with wonder; they were clearly more interested in the idea of breaking a Strigoi's neck than analyzing my mother's narrative skills.

She continued with the story. When she and the other guardians had killed the remaining Strigoi, they'd discovered two Moroi had been taken from the party. Such an act wasn't uncommon for Strigoi. Sometimes they wanted to save Moroi for a later "snack"; sometimes lower-ranking Strigoi were dispatched by more powerful ones to bring back prey. Regardless, two Moroi were gone from the ball, and their guardian had been injured.

"Naturally, we couldn't leave those Moroi in Strigoi clutches," she said. "We tracked the Strigoi to their hideout and found several of them living together. I'm sure you can recognize how rare that is."

It was. The evil and selfish nature of Strigoi made them turn on each other as easily as they did their victims. Organizing for attacks - when they had an immediate and bloody goal in mind - was the best they could do. But living together? No. It was almost impossible to imagine.

"We managed to free the two captive Moroi, only to discover that others were being held prisoner," my mother said. "We couldn't send the ones we'd rescued back by themselves, though, so the guardians who were with me escorted them out and left it to me to get the others."

Yes, of course, I thought. My mother bravely went in alone. Along the way, she got captured but managed to escape and rescue the prisoners. In doing so, she performed what had to be the hat trick of the century, killing Strigoi in all three ways: staking, decapitation, and setting them on fire.

"I had just staked a Strigoi when two more attacked," she explained. "I didn't have time to pull the stake out when the others jumped me. Fortunately, there was an open fireplace nearby, and I pushed one of the Strigoi into it. The last one chased me outside, into an old shed. There was an axe inside and I used that to cut off her head. I then took a can of gasoline and returned to the house. The one I'd thrown into the fireplace hadn't completely burned, but once I doused him in gasoline, he went up pretty quickly."

The classroom was in awe as she spoke. Mouths dropped. Eyes bugged. Not a sound could be heard. Glancing around, I felt like time had frozen for everyone - except me. I appeared to be the only one unimpressed by her harrowing tale, and seeing the awe on everyone's faces enraged me. When she finished, a dozen hands shot up as the class peppered her with questions about her techniques, whether she was scared, etc.

After about the tenth question, I couldn't take it anymore. I raised my hand. It took her a while to notice and call on me. She seemed mildly astonished to find me in class. I considered myself lucky that she even recognized me.

"So, Guardian Hathaway," I began. "Why didn't you guys just secure the place?"

She frowned. I think she'd gone on her guard the moment she called on me. "What do you mean?"

I shrugged and slouched back in my desk, attempting a casual and conversational air. "I don't know. It seems to me like you guys messed up. Why didn't you scope out the place and make sure it was clear of Strigoi in the first place? Seems like you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble."

All eyes in the room turned toward me. My mother was momentarily at a loss for words. "If we hadn't gone through all that 'trouble,' there'd be seven more Strigoi walking the world, and those other captured Moroi would be dead or turned by now."

"Yeah, yeah, I get how you guys saved the day and all that, but I'm going back to the principles here. I mean, this is a theory class, right?" I glanced over at Stan who was regarding me with a very stormy look. He and I had a long and unpleasant history of classroom conflicts, and I suspected we were on the verge of another. "So I just want to figure out what went wrong in the beginning."

I'll say this for her - my mother had a hell of a lot more self-control than I did. Had our roles been reversed, I would have walked over and smacked me by now. Her face stayed perfectly calm, however, and a small tightness in the set of her lips was the only sign that I was pissing her off.

"It's not that simple," she replied. "The venue had an extremely complex layout. We went through it initially and found nothing. It's believed the Strigoi came in after the festivities had started - or that there might have been passages and hidden rooms we hadn't been aware of."

The class ooh'ed and ahh'ed over the idea of hidden passages, but I wasn't impressed.

"So what you're saying is that you guys either failed to detect them during your first sweep, or they broke through the 'security' you set up during the party. Seems like someone messed up either way."

The tightness in her lips increased, and her voice grew frosty. "We did the best we could with an unusual situation. I can see how someone at your level might not be able to grasp the intricacies of what I'm describing, but once you've actually learned enough to go beyond theory, you'll see how different it is when you're actually out there and lives are in your hands."

"No doubt," I agreed. "Who am I to question your methods? I mean, whatever gets you the molnija marks, right?"

"Miss Hathaway." Stan's deep voice rumbled through the room. "Please take your things and go wait outside for the remainder of class."

     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)