Home > Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)(2)

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)(2)
Author: Richelle Mead

"This one works. Only a little, but it'll help keep the darkness away during the trial."

She spoke lightly, but we both knew the seriousness of her words. With all of spirit's gifts came a cost: a darkness that showed itself now as anger and confusion, and eventually led to insanity. Darkness that sometimes bled over into me through our bond. Lissa and I had been told that with charms and her healing, we could fight it off. That was also something we had yet to master.

I gave her a faint smile, moved by her concern, and accepted the ring. It didn't scald my hand, which I took as a promising sign. It was tiny and only fit on my pinky. I felt nothing whatsoever as it slid on. Sometimes that happened with healing charms. Or it could mean the ring was completely ineffectual. Either way, no harm done.

"Thanks," I said. I felt delight sweep through her, and we continued walking.

I held my hand out before me, admiring the way the green stones glittered. Jewelry wasn't a great idea in the kind of physical ordeals I'd be facing, but I would have gloves on to cover it.

"Hard to believe that after this, we'll be done here and out in the real world," I mused aloud, not really considering my words.

Beside me, Lissa stiffened, and I immediately regretted speaking. "Being out in the real world" meant Lissa and I were going to undertake a task she'd--unhappily--promised to help me with a couple months ago.

While in Siberia, I'd learned there might be a way to restore Dimitri back to being a dhampir like me. It was a long shot--possibly a lie--and considering the way he was fixated on killing me, I had no illusions that I would have any other choice but to kill him if it came down to him or me. But if there was a way I might save him before that happened, I had to find out.

Unfortunately, the only lead we had to making this miracle come true was through a criminal. Not just any criminal either: Victor Dashkov, a royal Moroi who had tortured Lissa and committed all sorts of other atrocities that had made our lives hell. Justice had been served, and Victor was locked away in prison, which complicated things. We'd learned that so long as he was destined for a life behind bars, he saw no reason to share what he knew about his half-brother--the only person who had once allegedly saved a Strigoi. I'd decided--possibly illogically--that Victor might give up the information if we offered him the one thing no one else could: freedom.

This idea was not foolproof, for a number of reasons. First, I didn't know if it would work. That was kind of a big thing. Second, I had no idea how to stage a prison break, let alone where his prison even was. And finally, there was the fact that we would be releasing our mortal enemy. That was devastating enough to me, let alone Lissa. Yet as much as the idea troubled her--and believe me, it did--she'd firmly sworn she would help me. I'd offered to free her from the promise dozens of times in the last couple months, but she'd stood firm. Of course, considering we had no way to even find the prison, her promise might not matter in the end.

I tried to fill the awkward silence between us, explaining instead that I'd really meant we'd be able to celebrate her birthday in style next week. My attempts were interrupted by Stan, one of my longtime instructors. "Hathaway!" he barked, coming from the direction of the field. "Nice of you to join us. Get in there now!"

Thoughts of Victor vanished from Lissa's mind. Lissa gave me a quick hug. "Good luck," she whispered. "Not that you need it."

Stan's expression told me that this ten-second goodbye was ten seconds too long. I gave Lissa a grin by way of thanks, and then she headed off to find our friends in the stands while I scurried after Stan.

"You're lucky you aren't one of the first ones," he growled. "People were even making bets about whether you'd show."

"Really?" I asked cheerfully. "What kind of odds are there on that? Because I can still change my mind and put down my own bet. Make a little pocket money."

His narrowed eyes shot me a warning that needed no words as we entered the waiting area adjacent to the field, across from the stands. It had always amazed me in past years how much work went into these trials, and I was no less impressed now as I saw it up close. The barrack that novices waited in was constructed out of wood, complete with a roof. The structure looked as though it had been part of the stadium forever. It had been built with remarkable speed and would be taken down equally quickly once the trials were over. A doorway about three people wide gave a partial glimpse onto the field, where one of my classmates was waiting anxiously for her name to be called. All sorts of obstacles were set up there, challenges to test balance and coordination while still having to battle and elude the adult guardians who would be lurking around objects and corners. Wooden walls had been constructed on one end of the field, creating a dark and confusing maze. Nets and shaky platforms hung across other areas, designed to test just how well we could fight under difficult conditions.

A few of the other novices crowded the doorway, hoping to get an advantage by watching those who went ahead of them. Not me. I would go in there blind, content to take on whatever they threw before me. Studying the course now would simply make me overthink and panic. Calm was what I needed now.

So I leaned against one of the barrack walls and watched those around me. It appeared that I really had been the last to show up, and I wondered if people had actually lost money betting on me. Some of my classmates whispered in clusters. Some were doing stretches and warm-up exercises. Others stood with instructors who had been mentors. Those teachers spoke intently to their students, giving last-minute words of advice. I kept hearing words like focus and calm down.

Seeing the instructors made my heart clench. Not so long ago, that was how I'd pictured this day. I'd imagined Dimitri and me standing together, with him telling me to take this seriously and not to lose my cool when I was out on the field. Alberta had done a fair amount of mentoring for me since I'd returned from Russia, but as captain, she was out on the field herself now, busy with all sorts of responsibilities. She had no time to come in here and hold my hand. Friends of mine who might have offered comfort--Eddie, Meredith, and others--were wrapped up in their own fears. I was alone.

Without her or Dimitri--or, well, anyone--I felt a surprising ache of loneliness flow through me. This wasn't right. I shouldn't have been alone. Dimitri should have been here with me. That's how it was supposed to have been. Closing my eyes, I allowed myself to pretend he was really there, only inches away as we spoke.

"Don't worry, comrade. I can do this blindfolded. Hell, maybe I actually will. Do you have anything I can use? If you're nice to me, I'll even let you tie it on." Since this fantasy would have taken place after we'd slept together, there was a strong possibility that he would have later helped me take off that blindfold--among other things.

I could perfectly picture the exasperated shake of his head that would earn me. "Rose, I swear, sometimes it feels like every day with you is my own personal trial."

But I knew he'd smile anyway, and the look of pride and encouragement he'd give me as I headed toward the field would be all I needed to get through the tests--

"Are you meditating?"

I opened my eyes, astonished at the voice. "Mom? What are you doing here?"

My mother, Janine Hathaway, stood in front of me. She was just a few inches shorter than me but had enough fight in her for someone twice my size. The dangerous look on her tanned face dared anyone to bring on a challenge. She gave me a wry smile and put one hand on her hip.

"Did you honestly think I wouldn't come to watch you?"

"I don't know," I admitted, feeling kind of guilty for doubting her. She and I hadn't had much contact over the years, and it was only recent events--most of them bad--that had begun to reestablish our connection. Most of the time, I still didn't know how to feel about her. I oscillated between a little girl's need for her absent mother and a teenager's resentment over abandonment. I also wasn't entirely sure if I'd forgiven her for the time she "accidentally" punched me in a mock fight. "I figured you'd have, you know, more important things to do."

"There's no way I could miss this." She inclined her head toward the stands, making her auburn curls sway. "Neither could your father."

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)