Home > Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(7)

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)(7)
Author: Richelle Mead

As I studied the surroundings, I couldn't help but think what a circle of irony my life was. Off to the sides of the church's extensive grounds were two giant statues showing ancient Moroi monarchs of legend, a king and queen who had helped the Moroi prosper. Even though they were a fair distance from the church, the statues loomed ominously, like they were scrutinizing everything. Near the queen's statue was a garden that I knew well. I'd been forced to landscape it as punishment for running off to Las Vegas. My true purpose on that trip--which no one knew--had been to free Victor Dashkov from prison. Victor had been a longtime enemy of ours, but he and his brother Robert, a spirit user, had held the knowledge we needed to save Dimitri. If any guardians had found out that I'd freed Victor--then later lost him--my punishment would have been a lot worse than filing and landscaping. At least I'd done a good job with the garden, I thought bitterly. If I was executed, I'd leave a lasting mark at Court.

Lissa's eyes lingered on one of the statues for a long time before she turned back to the church. She was sweating heavily now, and I realized some of it wasn't just the heat. She was anxious too. But why? Why was she so nervous? This was just ceremony. All she had to do was go through the motions here. Yet ... there it was again. Something else was bothering her. She was still keeping a cluster of thoughts from me, but a few leaked out as she worried.

Too close, too close. We're moving too fast.

Fast? Not by my estimation. I could have never handled this slow, stately pace. I felt especially bad for the pallbearers. If I were one, I would've said to hell with propriety and started jogging toward my final destination. Of course, that might jostle the body. If the funeral coordinator had been upset over Lissa's dress, there was no telling how she'd react if Tatiana fell out of the coffin.

Our view of the cathedral was getting clearer, its domes shining amber and orange in the setting sun. Lissa was still several yards away, but the priest standing out front was clearly visible. His robes were almost blinding. They were made of heavy, glittering gold brocade, long and full. A rounded hat with a cross, also gold, sat on his head. I thought it was in poor taste for him to outshine the queen's clothing, but maybe that was just what priests did on formal occasions. Maybe it got God's attention. He lifted his arms in welcome, showing off more of that rich fabric. The rest of the crowd and I couldn't help but stare at the dazzling display.

So, you can imagine our surprise when the statues blew up.

Chapter Four

AND WHEN I SAY THEY blew up, I mean they blew up.

Flames and smoke unfurled like petals from a newly opened flower as those poor monarchs exploded into pieces of rock. For a moment, I was stunned. It was like watching an action movie, the explosion cracking the air and shaking the ground. Then, guardian training kicked in. Critical observation and calculation took over. I immediately noticed that the bulk of the statue's material blew toward the outer sides of the garden. Small stone pieces and dust rained down on the funeral procession, but no large chunks of rock hit Lissa or anyone standing nearby. Assuming the statues had not spontaneously combusted, whoever had blown them up had done so in a precise way. The logistics aside, huge billowing pillars of flame are still pretty scary. Chaos broke loose as everyone tried to get away. Only, they all took different routes, so collisions and entanglements occurred. Even the pallbearers set down their precious burden and took off. Ambrose was the last to do so, his mouth agape and eyes wide as he stared at Tatiana, but another look at the statues sent him off into the mob. A few guardians tried to keep order, herding people back down the funeral path, but it didn't do a lot of good. Everyone was out for themselves, too terrified and panicked to think reasonably.

Well, everyone except for Lissa.

To my surprise, she wasn't surprised.

She had been expecting the explosion.

She didn't run right away, despite people pushing past and shoving her aside. She stood rooted where she'd been when the statues blew up, studying them and the wreckage they'd caused. In particular, she seemed concerned about anyone in the crowd who might have been hurt by the blasts. But, no. As I'd already observed, there seemed to be no injuries. And if there were, it was going to be because of the stampede.

Satisfied, Lissa turned and began walking away with the others. (Well, she was walking; they were running). She'd only gone a little distance when she saw a huge group of guardians hurrying toward the church, faces grim. Some of them stopped to aid those escaping the destruction, but most of the guardians were on their way to the blast site to see what had happened.

Lissa paused again, causing the guy behind her to slam into her back, but she barely felt the impact. She intently watched the guardians, taking note of how many there were, and then moved on once more. Her hidden thoughts were starting to unravel. Finally, I began to see pieces of the plan she'd kept hidden from me. She was pleased. Nervous, too. But overall, she felt--

A commotion back at the jail snapped me into my own mind. The usual quiet of the holding area had shattered and was now filled with grunts and exclamations. I leapt up from where I'd been sitting and pressed against the bars, straining to see what was happening. Was this building about to explode too? My cell only faced a wall in the hallway, with no view of the rest of the corridor or its entrance. I did, however, see the guardians who usually stood at the hall's far end come tearing past me, toward whatever altercation was occurring.

I didn't know what this meant for me and braced for anything, friend or foe. For all I knew, there could be some political fringe group launching attacks on the Court to make a statement against the Moroi government. Peering around the cell, I swore silently, wishing I had anything to defend myself. The closest I had was Abe's book, which was no good at all. If he was the badass he pretended to be, he really would have slipped a file into it. Or gotten me something bigger, like War and Peace.

The scuffling died down and footsteps thundered toward me. Clenching my fists, I took a few steps back, ready to defend myself against anyone.

"Anyone' turned out to be Eddie Castile. And Mikhail Tanner.

Friendly faces were not what I had expected. Eddie was a longtime friend from St. Vladimir's, another new guardian like me and someone who'd stuck by me through a lot of misadventures, including the Victor Dashkov prison break. Mikhail was older than us, mid-twenties, and had helped us restore Dimitri in the hopes that Sonya Karp--a woman Mikhail had loved who had turned Strigoi--might be saved as well. I glanced back and forth between the two guys' faces.

"What's going on?' I demanded.

"Nice to see you too,' said Eddie. He was sweating and keyed up with battle fervor, a few purple marks on his face showing he'd met someone's fist tonight. In his hand was a weapon I'd seen in the guardians' arsenal: a baton-type thing used to incapacitate people without killing them. But Mikhail held something much more valuable: the keycard and mechanical key to open my cell.

My friends were staging a prison break. Unbelievable. Crazy was usually my specialty.

"Did you guys ...' I frowned. The thought of escape filled me with joy, but the logistics were sobering. Clearly, they'd been responsible for the fight with my guards that I'd just heard. Getting down here in the first place wasn't that easy either. "Did you two just take on every guardian in this building?'

Mikhail finished unlocking the door, and I didn't waste any time in hurrying out. After feeling so oppressed and smothered for days, it was like stepping onto a mountain ledge, wind and space all around me.

"Rose, there are no guardians in this building. Well, maybe one. And these guys.' Eddie gestured in the direction of the earlier fight, where I assumed my guards lay unconscious. Surely my friends hadn't killed anyone.

"The rest of the guardians are all checking out the explosion,' I realized. Pieces began coming together--including Lissa's lack of surprise over the commotion. "Oh no. You had Christian blow up ancient Moroi artifacts.'

"Of course not,' said Eddie. He seemed shocked that I would have suggested such an atrocity. "Other fire users would be able to tell if he did.'

"Well, that's something,' I said. I should have had more faith in their sanity.

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)