Home > Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(5)

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4)(5)
Author: Richelle Mead

Well, she might have been playing coy, but I had no such hesitation about busting into uncomfortable topics. In fact, it was kind of my trademark.

"So, are you ready to tell me who you are and what's going on?"

Sydney looked up. Now that we were in brighter light, I could see that her eyes were brown. I also noticed that she had an interesting tattoo on her lower left cheek. The ink looked like gold, something I'd never seen before. It was an elaborate design of flowers and leaves and was only really visible when she tilted her head certain ways so that the gold caught the light.

"I told you," she said. "I'm an Alchemist."

"And I told you, I don't know what that is. Is it some Russian word?" It didn't sound like one.

A half-smile played on her lips. "No. I take it you've never heard of alchemy either?"

I shook my head, and she propped her chin up with her hand, eyes staring down at the table again. She swallowed, like she was bracing herself, and then a rush of words came out. "Back in the Middle Ages, there were these people who were convinced that if they found the right formula or magic, they could turn lead into gold. Unsurprisingly, they couldn't. This didn't stop them from pursuing all sorts of other mystical and supernatural stuff, and eventually they did find something magical." She frowned. "Vampires."

I thought back to my Moroi history classes. The Middle Ages were when our kind really started pulling away from humans, hiding out and keeping to ourselves. That was the time when vampires truly became myth as far as the rest of the world was concerned, and even Moroi were regarded as monsters worth hunting.

Sydney verified my thoughts. "And that was when the Moroi began to stay away. They had their magic, but humans were starting to outnumber them. We still do." That almost brought a smile to her face. Moroi sometimes had trouble conceiving, whereas humans seemed to have too easy a time. "And the Moroi made a deal with the Alchemists. If the Alchemists would help Moroi and dhampirs and their societies stay secret from humans, the Moroi would give us these." She touched the golden tattoo.

"What is that?" I asked. "I mean, aside from the obvious."

She gently stroked it with her fingertips and didn't bother hiding the sarcasm when she spoke. "My guardian angel. It's actually gold and"-she grimaced and dropped her hand-"Moroi blood, charmed with water and earth."

"What?" My voice came out too loud, and some people in the restaurant turned to look at me. Sydney continued speaking, her tone much lower and very bitter.

"I'm not thrilled about it, but it's our 'reward' for helping you guys. The water and earth bind it to our skin and give us the same traits Moroi have well, a couple of them. I almost never get sick. I'll live a long life."

"I guess that sounds good," I said uncertainly.

"Maybe for some. We don't have a choice. This 'career' is a family thing-it gets passed down. We all have to learn about Moroi and dhampirs. We work connections among humans that let us cover up for you since we can move around more freely. We've got tricks and techniques to get rid of Strigoi bodies-like that potion you saw. In return, though, we want to stay apart from you as much as we can-which is why most dhampirs aren't told about us until they graduate. And Moroi hardly ever." She abruptly stopped. I guessed the lesson was over.

My head was reeling. I had never, never considered anything like this-wait. Had I? Most of my education had emphasized the physical aspects of being a guardian: watchfulness, combat, etc. Yet every so often I'd heard vague references to those out in the human world who would help hide Moroi or get them out of weird and dangerous situations. I'd never thought much about it or heard the term Alchemist. If I had stayed in school, maybe I would have.

This probably wasn't an idea I should have suggested, but my nature couldn't help it. "Why keep the charm to yourselves? Why not share it with the human world?"

"Because there's an extra part to its power. It stops us from speaking about your kind in a way that would endanger or expose them."

A charm that bound them from speaking... that sounded suspiciously like compulsion. All Moroi could use compulsion a little, and most could put some of their magic into objects to give them certain properties. Moroi magic had changed over the years, and compulsion was regarded as an immoral thing now. I was guessing this tattoo was an old, old spell that had come down through the centuries.

I replayed the rest of what Sydney had said, more questions spinning in my head. "Why... why do you want to stay away from us? I mean, not that I'm looking to become BFFs or anything..."

"Because it's our duty to God to protect the rest of humanity from evil creatures of the night." Absentmindedly, her hand went to something at her neck. It was mostly covered by her jacket, but a parting of her collar briefly revealed a golden cross.

My initial reaction to that was unease, seeing as I wasn't very religious. In fact, I was never entirely comfortable around those who were hard-core believers. Thirty seconds later, the full impact of the rest of her words sank in.

"Wait a minute," I exclaimed indignantly. "Are you talking about all of us-dhampirs and Moroi? We're all evil creatures of the night?"

Her hands dropped from the cross, and she didn't respond.

"We're not like Strigoi!" I snapped.

Her face stayed bland. "Moroi drink blood. Dhampirs are the unnatural offspring of them and humans."

No one had ever called me unnatural before, except for the time I put ketchup on a taco. But seriously, we'd been out of salsa, so what else was I supposed to do? "Moroi and dhampirs are not evil," I told Sydney. "Not like Strigoi."

"That's true," she conceded. "Strigoi are more evil."

"Hey, that's not what I-"

The food arrived just then, and the fried chicken was almost enough to distract me from the outrage of being compared to a Strigoi. Mostly all it did was delay me from responding immediately to her claims, and I bit into the golden crust and nearly melted then and there. Sydney had ordered a cheeseburger and fries and nibbled her food delicately.

After taking down an entire chicken leg, I was finally able to resume the argument. "We're not like Strigoi at all. Moroi don't kill. You have no reason to be afraid of us." Again, I wasn't keen on cozying up to humans. None of my kind were, not with the way humans tended to be trigger-happy and ready to experiment on anything they didn't understand.

"Any human who learns about you will inevitably learn about Strigoi," she said. She was playing with her fries but not actually eating them.

"Knowing about Strigoi might enable humans to protect themselves, though." Why the hell was I playing devil's advocate here?

She finished toying with a fry and dropped it back on her plate. "Perhaps. But there are a lot of people who would be tempted by the thought of immortality-even at the cost of serving Strigoi in exchange for being turned into a creature from hell. You'd be surprised at how a lot of humans respond when they learn about vampires. Immortality's a big draw-despite the evil that goes with it. A lot of humans who learn about Strigoi will try to serve them, in the hopes of eventually being turned."

"That's insane-" I stopped. Last year, we'd discovered evidence of humans helping Strigoi. Strigoi couldn't touch silver stakes, but humans could, and some had used those stakes to shatter Moroi wards. Had those humans been promised immortality? "And so," said Sydney, "that's why it's best if we just make sure no one knows about any of you. You're out there-all of you-and there's nothing to be done about it. You do your thing to get rid of Strigoi, and we'll do ours and save the rest of my kind."

I chewed on a chicken wing and restrained myself from the implied meaning that she was saving her kind from people like me, too. In some ways, what she was saying made sense. It wasn't possible that we could always move through the world invisibly, and yes, I could admit, it was necessary for someone to dispose of Strigoi bodies. Humans working with Moroi were an ideal choice. Such humans would be able to move around the world freely, particularly if they had the kinds of contacts and connections she kept implying.

Books
     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)