Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(15)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(15)
Author: Katie MacAlister

"Yes. They do not like that term because people fear vampires, and they wish for the world to view them as victims, rather than as the evil murderers they are, but you must not let yourself be fooled. They are born of darkness, and carry it within them, spreading their evil like a disease. You know that they have no souls?"

I blinked a couple of times and shook my head.

"It is so. They are born without them, damned just as demons are damned, only they do not bear the stench of Abaddon on them so noticeably."

"Abaddon being... hell?" I guessed.

"More or less, yes. The vampires have existed since the beginning of man's time, hoping to dominate them, to infect them with their darkness until all the light is gone from the world. The Brotherhood seeks to destroy them, to wipe out their evil, to cleanse the world of the poison that they would use upon innocent people."

"Good god," I said, seeing the truth shining in her eyes. "How can this have been going on and no one in the - what did you call it? mundane world - knew it existed?"

"The Dark Ones are very clever," she said, sitting back. "They hide themselves with mortalkind, blending in so that their evil is not discovered until it is too late. But the children of the light have existed through the ages to find them, to cleanse them of their darkness."

"Wow," I said. "I'm just... I guess I'm flabbergasted that this has been going on around me and I had no idea. Vampires! We're talking about the same thing, right? Wait - are we talking about the sexy Frank Langella type of vampires who seduce women, or the Gary Oldman-scary bun-head guys who kill people?"

Anniki frowned. "I do not know of this scary bun-head people you speak of, but I assure you, there is nothing romantic about the Dark Ones. They are heartless, soulless fiends who want only their own domination over the mortal world. And they are nearly impossible to kill."

"Really? So the old stake through the heart is just a fallacy?" I asked, fascinated despite the horrible subject matter.

"It would slow one down considerably, yes, but not necessarily kill him unless it was done using the power of the light."

"Sunlight?" I asked, thinking back to the stash of Buffy and Angel DVDs that sat next to my TV.

"They burn much easier than mortals, but it would take a long time exposed to sunlight to do more than cause them discomfort. They do not burn up in a flash as seen in movies."

"Huh. What do you know about that. Holy water?"

She shook her head. "The Brotherhood has over the centuries worked out the best ways to destroy their evil. But we are not callous, heartless killers as they are - we call upon the light to cleanse the Dark Ones, to purify them in a ritual that allows them redemption rather than damnation."

"Holy Jehoshaphat," I said, shivering a little. I rubbed my goose-bumpy arms. "I had no idea. No wonder the Brotherhood folk were so grimly determined. Where exactly do you fit in with all of this?"

Tears welled up in her eyes. "My sister Sara... she was the last Zorya. She... she was killed two weeks ago, probably by a Dark One. They found her with..."

She slumped against the wall, digging through her bag for a tissue.

"I'm so sorry. I had no idea. Please don't distress yourself by telling me any more," I said, feeling horribly gauche.

"No, it is all right. Sara would have wanted people to know how bravely she gave her life to the cause of the light." She gave a harsh little laugh. "Some people call us reapers, you know. Reapers. As if that is all we do."

"I'm sorry," I said again, not knowing what else I could say.

She dabbed at her nose and eyes and made an effort to gather her control. "When I heard that Sara had been killed, I was destroyed, you know? But then the Zenith told me that I was to take her place."

"The who?"

"Zenith. It is a title, the name of the person who heads our order. Since I was not with Sara when she died, I could not take the stone from her. The Zenith told me to pick it up here before I went to marry the sacristan, but me, I am horrible with the directions, and I lost the information where to find the stone. But now you have found it for me, so I can take up the battle where Sara left it."

"That's really amazing of you," I said, still rubbing my arms. "I don't know that I'd be able to do something so selfless."

She gave me a tremulous smile. "You are not an ordinary mortal, Pia Thomason. I sense that about you. I have no doubt that you would do just fine as a Zorya."

"Well, luckily, we don't have to put such a generous assessment to the test."

Anniki murmured an agreement as she glanced at her watch.

"You must be wanting to go meet with your people and see your hubby-to-be," I said, putting a couple of coins on the table before gathering up my things and standing.

"Yes, it is late, but I hope to find them before the sun rises." She pressed my hand. "Thank you for guarding the stone so carefully, Pia. You are truly blessed by the light."

"Thank you," I said, wondering if that qualified as doing my good deed for the day. Somehow, casting my mind back over my actions of the evening, I had a feeling it wouldn't. "Good luck with your battle. Oh, the ghosts! There are two of them in the corner over there. Karl and Marta. Want me to introduce you to them?"

"Not yet. I will tend to them as soon as I have seen the Brotherhood. May the light continue to shine upon you," she said, waving good-bye as she hurried off into the dusky twilight.

I glanced at the corner where the ghosts had been when we entered the café, but they were gone. I wondered if they'd given up finding their way, but decided it was Anniki's problem now.

I made my way out of the café at a slower pace, mulling over everything she'd said to me. I glanced around at the people strolling around the edges of the square, the center still being packed with dancers. Vampires! Wandering around pretending they were human! Who knew!

"Pia! What luck!"

Startled, I spun around, but it was a familiar voice that shouted out my name.

"Over here!"

My heart fell when Denise clawed her way over to me, one hand firmly on the sleeve of a balding man with a handlebar mustache. There was a look of desperation in his eyes that I wholly sympathized with. "This is Sven. Or Lars. Or something like that."

   
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