Saturday, November 9, 2019

Stefan’s Diaries: Bloodlust Chapter 23

October 9, 1864 Iam not supposed to have a heart. A bullet went through it nearly three weeks ago, and no blood of my own will ever pump through it again. The only blood that now courses through my veins is that of whomever I happen to attack. And yet something about Callie causes my dead heart to flutter and the stolen blood to quicken in my body. Is it real? Or is it a mere memory of something that used to be? Damon once told me that on the battlefield, boys who'd undergone amputations still woke up to agonizing pain in their legs or cried for the hand that ached, though those limbs were no longer part of them. But while those boys had phantom limbs, it seems I have a phantom heart. In my short time in New Orleans, I've learned about my Power. It's what has driven me, what I've thrived on, what makes me a vampire. But that's not the only power I possess. The other kind isn't exciting, or thrilling, or dangerous. It's mundane and tedious–the exercising of control over my Power. I've had to learn to suppress my urges to fit in and to remain with Lexi. Yet when I was with Callie at the show, it was as though my two powers were at cross-purposes, each threatening to destroy the other in a private battle in my brain. Now she enters my thoughts constantly. The constellation of freckles on her skin. Her long eyelashes. Her vibrant smile. I can't help but admire the way she wields her own power. How she commands the attention and respect of her father's employees, but also how she grows soft around me, cuddling close when she thinks no one is looking. I think of my hand interlaced with hers. And every time an image of Callie floats to my consciousness, I curse myself. I should be stronger than this. I shouldn't think of her. I should put her out of my mind, write her off as a silly little girl who is lucky I'm letting her live. But deep down, despite my Power, I know Callie has control over me–and my phantom heart. The next morning, I returned to the freak show, with only one thing on my mind: freeing Damon. â€Å"Hello, friend!† the strong man, Arnold, greeted me as I walked through the gateway to the fairgrounds. â€Å"Hello,† I muttered. The tattooed woman came up behind him and gazed at me quizzically. Without her India-inked designs, she was actually quite pretty, with high cheekbones and wide, inquisitive eyes. â€Å"What are you doing here?† I grunted in response. â€Å"Youll want to apologize to Callie.† She pointed at the side of the tent. So Callie had already told her friends about our disastrous evening. Just as I had feared. I walked around the grounds until I saw Callie kneeling over a piece of birch wood at her feet. Paint splattered her overalls, and her red hair was twisted on top of her head and held in place by a single, slender, long-handled paintbrush. The sign said: A PENNY A PEEK: A REAL, LIVE, HUNGRY VAMPIRE. ENTER IF YOU DARE! Underneath was a crude drawing of a vampire: fangs elongated, eyes squinting, blood trickling down both sides of his mouth. The features were Damons, but it was clear Callie had drawn significant artistic inspiration from the burlesque show last night. Callie looked up, catching me staring. Her mouth made a round O, and she dropped her brush onto the canvas. A large black spot suddenly appeared on Damons face. â€Å"Look what you made me do,† she said angrily. I stuck my hands in my pockets, subtly sniffing the air for traces of Damon. â€Å"Im sorry.† Callie sighed in annoyance. â€Å"I dont need your apologies. I just need you to stop distracting me so I can get some work done.† â€Å"Do you want me to help you fix the painting?† The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. They hung between us for a long moment, both of us seemingly surprised by my offer. â€Å"Fix the painting?† Callie echoed, putting her hands on her hips. â€Å"Am I hearing you correctly? Fix thepainting?† â€Å"Yes?† I fumbled. â€Å"Are you aware that you left me last night to get home alone, with no explanation?† Her chin was jutted out, and her stance was aggressive, but her lower lip wobbled, and I could tell she was hurt. â€Å"Callie,† I began. Excuses flew through my head.I work for your father. We should not sneak around. You're just a girl, and I'm a vampire Even though part of me was furious at her for allowing her father to parade Damon around like livestock, to let him fight perhaps until death, the other part knew that she had as little sway over her father as Id had with mine. And now all I could think about was making her lip stop wobbling. â€Å"Its better this way,† I said, twisting my ring around my finger. She shook her head and stabbed the sharp wooden end of the paintbrush into the dirt. It remained there, as if it were a tiny surrender flag after a battle. â€Å"No explanation necessary. Weve known each other a week. You dont owe me an explanation. Thats the best thing about strangers: You dont owe them anything,† she said crisply. I rocked back on my heels. A silence hung between us. The image of Damon glared up at me, seemingly mocking my ineffectiveness. â€Å"Well, arent you going to get to work?† she asked. â€Å"Or are we just paying you to stand around?† Before I could turn to leave, Jasper burst out of a small black tent at the edge of the property. â€Å"We need some extra hands!† A lanky man trailed behind him, cradling his forearm close to his chest. Callie leaped to her feet. â€Å"What happened?† As the man held out his hand, blood flowed down his arm onto the ground. I averted my eyes. Even so, pain rippled along my jaw as I felt my fangs grow. â€Å"The vampires fighting today. We need more men.† Jasper gasped breathlessly, his eyes falling on me. â€Å"Stefan,† Callie said in a tone that wasnt a question. Jasper and the stocky man stared at me. â€Å"Well then, come on, new guy. Show us youre Gallagher material,† Jasper said, jerking his chin in the direction of the tent. â€Å"Of course,† I said slowly, a plan forming in my mind. I could pick out four separate heartbeats in the tent. There would be copious amounts of vervain, of course, but Id been feeding regularly enough that I might be able to overcome the men. Four I could handle, but five I turned to Jasper. â€Å"Why dont you and Callie take care of your man here and Ill join the others in the tent?† â€Å"I'm coming, brother,† I added under my breath. Callie squinted at me. â€Å"Did you say something?† â€Å"No,† I said quickly. Jasper shifted from foot to foot, sizing me up with his eyes. â€Å"Callie will take care of Charley here, and Ill take care of you. Teach you the tricks of monster wrangling,† he said, clapping me on the back, pushing me toward the tent. With each step the scent of vervain grew stronger, curdling the blood in my veins. Together, we entered the tent. The interior was hot and dark, the stench of vervain nearly suffocating me. It took every ounce of my strength not to bend at the waist and scream in agony. I forced my eyes open and looked at my brother, who was chained in the corner. Four men yanked on his restraints, trying desperately to keep him in place. The second Damons eyes landed on me, his face lit up. â€Å"Welcome to hell, brother,† Damon whispered, his lips barely moving as he locked eyes with me. Then he turned to Jasper. â€Å"So, Jasp,† he said, in a conversational tone, as if they were just two men engaged in a friendly talk at a tavern, â€Å"you found a new sap to do your dirty work. Well, come on, brother. Lets see if you can stake me.† â€Å"His bark is worse than his bite,† Jasper said, holding out a stake to me. From its stench I could tell it had been soaked in vervain. â€Å"Give me your gloves,† I said with an air of authority. Touching the wood would give me away instantly. â€Å"Wont give you much protection. Those fangs can go through anything,† Jasper protested. â€Å"Just give them to me,† I said through clenched teeth. Damon watched the exchange intently, clearly enjoying my predicament. â€Å"Okay, if theyll make you more comfortable. † Jasper shrugged and handed me his leather gloves. I pulled them over my hands and took the stake from Jasper, my hands trembling slightly. How could something so light be so deadly? Damon let out a low chuckle. â€Å"Is this the best you could rustle up? He looks about ready to keel over.† I glared at my brother. â€Å"I'm trying to save you,† I whispered. Damon just snorted derisively. â€Å"Please,† I added. â€Å"Please what?† he said, wrapping the chains around his hands. â€Å"Please let me save you.† â€Å"Sorry. Can't help you there,† he said, before yanking on the chains. Two of the guards fell to the ground in surprise. â€Å"Do something!† Jasper said gruffly. â€Å"Youve got to stick him, let him know his place.† â€Å"Listen to your boss,† Damon sneered.†Be a man and stab me. A real man isn't afraid of blood, isn't that right?† Jasper bent down and grabbed a stake from the ground. â€Å"Cmon, boy. Earn your keep,† he said, using the side of the stake to nudge me forward. I gasped. Pain shot up and down my skin, as if Id been touched by a hot poker. Damon laughed again. The flap opened, and Callie poked her head through the tent. I looked wildly over at her. â€Å"Callie, you shouldnt be here!† Both she and Damon looked at me quizzically. A sickening feeling spread through my limbs. The vervain, the heat, the stakes Just then, with a simple twist from his chains, Damon broke free and lunged toward Callie. Callie shrieked, and Jasper dove to shield her. Time seemed to stop, and without thinking, I hurled my stake through Damons belly. He fell backward, gasping, blood spurting from the wound. â€Å"I said, please!† I hissed wildly, in a voice only Damon could hear. Callie cowered near the flap, her eyes wide as she glanced between me and Damon. Damon looked up, wheezing as he pulled the stake from his stomach. Then I heard the faintest, hoarse whisper over the shouts of Jasper and the trainers as they moved to re-chain Damon. â€Å"Then please know that your hell hasn't even yet begun, brother.† Stefan’s Diaries: Bloodlust Chapter 2~3 Chapter 2 Damon and I crouched in the cemeterys hemlock grove behind the mausoleums that housed the bones of Mystic Falls founders. Despite the early hour, already the townspeople stood stoop-shouldered around a gaping hole in the ground. Puffs of air curled into the cerulean blue sky with the crowds every exhalation, as if the entire congregation were smoking celebratory cigars rather than trying to calm their chattering teeth. My heightened senses took in the scene before us. The cloying smell of vervain–an herb that rendered vampires powerless–hung heavy in the air. The grass was laden with dew, each drop of water falling to the earth with a silvery ping, and far off in the distance church bells chimed. Even from this distance, I could see a tear lodged in the corner of Honoria Fellss eye. Down at the pulpit, Mayor Lockwood shuffled from foot to foot, clearly eager to get the crowds attention. I could just make out the winged figure above him, the angel statue that marked my mothers final resting place. Two empty plots lay just beyond, where Damon and I should have been buried. The mayors voice sliced through the cold air, his voice as loud to my sensitive ears as if he were standing right next to me. â€Å"We come together today to say farewell to one of Mystic Falls greatest sons, Giuseppe Salvatore, a man for whom town and family always came before self.† Damon kicked the ground. â€Å"The family he killed. The love he destroyed, the lives he shattered,† he muttered. â€Å"Shhh,† I whispered as I pressed my palm against his forearm. â€Å"If I were to paint a portrait of this great mans life,† Lockwood continued over the sniffles and sighs of the crowd, â€Å"Giuseppe Salvatore would be flanked by his two fallen sons, Damon and Stefan, heroes of the battle of Willow Creek. May we learn from Giuseppe, emulate him, and be inspired to rid our town of evil, either seen or unseen.† Damon let out a low, rattling scoff. â€Å"The portrait he paints,† he said, â€Å"should contain the muzzle flash of Fathers rifle.† He rubbed the place where Fathers bullet had ripped through his chest only a week earlier. There was no physical wound–our transformation healed all injuries–but the betrayal would be etched in our minds forever. â€Å"Shhh,† I said again as Jonathan Gilbert strode up to stand beside Mayor Lockwood, holding a large veiled frame. Jonathan looked to have aged ten years in seven short days: lines creased his tanned forehead, and streaks of white were visible in his brown hair. I wondered if his transformation had something to do with Pearl, the vampire he loved but had condemned to death after finding out what she really was. I spotted Clementines parents in the crowd, arms clasped, not yet aware that their daughter was not among the somber-faced girls in the back of the crowd. Theyd find out soon enough. My thoughts were interrupted by an insistent clicking, like a watch counting or a fingernail tapping against a hard surface. I scanned the crowd, trying to trace the ticking to its point of origin. The sound was slow and steady and mechanical, steadier than a heartbeat, slower than a metronome. And it seemed to be coming directly from Jonathans hand. Clementines blood rushed to my head. The compass. Back when Father first became suspicious of vampires, hed created a committee of men to rid the town of the demonic scourge. Id attended the meetings, which had taken place in Jonathan Gilberts attic. Hed had plans for a contraption to identify vampires, and Id witnessed him using it in action the week before. It was how hed discovered Pearls true nature. I elbowed Damon. â€Å"We have to go,† I said, barely moving my jaw. Just then Jonathan looked up, and his eyes locked directly onto mine. He let out an unholy shriek and pointed to our mausoleum. â€Å"Demon!† The crowd turned toward us as one, their stares cutting through the fog like bayonets. Then something rushed past me, and the wall behind me exploded. A cloud of powder billowed around us, and chips of marble slashed across my cheek. I bared my fangs and roared. The sound was loud, primal, terrifying. Half the crowd knocked over chairs in their haste to flee the cemetery, but the other half remained. â€Å"Kill the demons!† Jonathan cried, brandishing a crossbow. â€Å"I think they mean us, brother,† Damon said with a short, humorless laugh. And so I grabbed Damon and ran. Chapter 3 With Damon behind me, I raced through the forest, jumping over felled branches and skipping over stones. I leaped over the waist-high iron gate of the cemetery, turning briefly to make sure Damon was still following. We zigzagged deep into the woods, the gunshots sounding like fireworks in my ear, the shrieks of the townspeople like breaking glass, their heavy breathing like low-rolling thunder. I could even hear the footfalls of the crowd pursuing me, each step sending vibrations through the ground. I silently cursed Damon for being so stubborn. If hed been willing to drink before today, hed be at full strength, and our newfound speed and agility would have already taken us far away from this mess. As we cut through the thicket, squirrels and voles scattered from the underbrush, their blood quickening in the presence of predators. A whinny and a snort sounded from the far edge of the cemetery. â€Å"Comeon.† I grabbed Damon by the waist and hoisted him to his feet again. â€Å"We have to keep moving.† I could hear the blood pumping, smell the iron, feel the ground shaking. I knew the mob was more afraid of me than I of them; but still, the sound of gunshots caused my mind to whirl, my body to lurch forward. Damon was weak and I could only carry him so far. Another gunshot cracked, closer this time. Damon stiffened. â€Å"Demons!† Jonathan Gilberts voice sliced through the woods. Another bullet whizzed past me, grazing my shoulder. Damon flopped forward in my arms. â€Å"Damon!† The word echoed in my ears, sounding so much like the worddemonthat it startled me. â€Å"Brother!† I shook him, then began awkwardly dragging him behind me again toward the sounds of the horses. But despite having just fed, my strength wouldnt last forever, and the footsteps were coming closer and closer. Finally we reached the edge of the cemetery, where several horses were tied to the iron hitching posts. They pawed at the ground, pulling on the ropes that tethered them so hard that their necks bulged. One coal-black mare was none other than my old horse, Mezzanotte. I stared at her, mesmerized at how desperate she appeared to be to get away from me. Just a few days earlier, I was the only rider shed trusted. Footfalls sounded again. I tore my gaze away, shaking my head at being so sentimental. I pulled Fathers old hunting knife from the top of my boot. It had been the one thing Id taken when Id walked through Veritas, our family estate, one last time. Hed always had it with him, although Id never seen him use it. Father had never been one to work with his hands. Still, in my minds eye, the knife conveyed the power and authority that everyone had associated with my father. I put the blade to the rope that tied Mezzanotte, but it didnt make even the smallest cut. Looking down, I saw the knife for what it was: a dull blade that could barely cut through twine, polished to look important. It was well suited to Father, I thought in disgust, throwing the knife to the ground and yanking at the ropes with my bare hands. The footsteps came closer and I looked wildly behind me. I had wanted to free all the horses so Jonathan and his men couldnt ride them, but there simply wasnt time. â€Å"Hey, girl,† I murmured, stroking Mezzanottes elegant neck. She pawed the ground nervously, her heart pounding. â€Å"Its me,† I whispered as I swung myself onto her back. She reared up, and out of surprise, I kicked her so hard in the flanks that I heard the snap of a rib breaking. Instantly, she yielded in submission, and I trotted her to Damon. â€Å"Come on,† I yelled. A flicker of doubt passed across Damons eyes, but then he reached over Mezzanottes broad back and hoisted himself up. Whether it was fear or instinct, his willingness to flee gave me hope that he was not resolved to die, after all. â€Å"Kill them!† a voice yelled, and someone threw a burning torch toward us that arced and landed on the grass at Mezzanottes feet. Instantly, the grass began to burn, and Mezzanotte bolted in the opposite direction of the quarry. Hoofs thudded behind us–the men had leaped on the other horses and were now fast on our tail. Another gunshot rang out behind us, followed by the twang of a bow. Mezzanotte reared up, letting out a high whinny. Damon slipped, grappling to hold on to the underside of Mezzanottes neck, while I tugged at the leather straps, trying to keep us upright. Only after a few steps backward did all four of Mezzanottes hooves get back on the dirt. As Damon righted himself, I saw a slim wooden arrow jutting out from the horses haunches. It was a clever tactic. At a distance, the mob had a far better chance of slowing down our horse than of striking one of us straight through the heart. Hunched low over Mezzanotte, we galloped under branches and pressed on. She was a strong horse, but she favored her left side, where the arrow had gone in. A wet streak of my own blood was streaming down my temple and onto my shirt, and Damons grip on my waist was dangerously loose. Still, I urged Mezzanotte forward. I was relying on instinct, on something beyond thinking and planning. It was as if I could smell freedom and possibility, and just had to trust that Id lead us to it. I pulled the reins and steered out of the woods and into the field behind Veritas Estate. On any other rainy morning there would have been lights in the window of our old home, the lamps giving the bubbled glass an orange-yellow look of sunset. Our maid, Cordelia, would have been singing in the kitchen, and Fathers driver, Alfred, would be sitting sentry by the entrance. Father and I would be sitting in companionable silence in the breakfast room. Now the estate was a cold shell of its former self: the windows dark, the grounds completely silent. It had only been empty for a week, yet Veritas looked as though it had been abandoned for ages. We leaped over the fence and landed unsteadily. I just barely managed to right us with a hard tug on the reins, the metal of the clacking against Mezzanottes teeth. Then we thundered around the side of the house, my skin clammy as we passed Cordelias plot of vervain, the tiny stalks ankle-high. â€Å"Where are you taking us, brother?† Damon asked. I heard three sets of splashing hooves as Jonathan Gilbert, Mayor Lockwood, and Sheriff Forbes cut along the pond at the back of our property. Mezzanotte wheezed, a peach froth lining her mouth, and I knew that outriding them wouldnt be a possibility. Suddenly, the throaty wail of a train whistled through the morning, blocking out the hooves, the wind, and the metallic rasp of a gun reloading. â€Å"Were getting on that train,† I said, kicking Mezzanotte in the flanks. Bearing down, she picked up speed and sailed over the stone wall that separated Veritas from the main road. â€Å"Cmon, girl,† I whispered. Her eyes were wild and terrified, but she ran faster down the road and onto Main Street. The charred church came into sight, blackened bricks rising up like teeth from the ashen earth. The apothecary had also been burned to the ground. Crucifixes were affixed to every single doorframe in town; vervain sprigs were hung in garlands over most. I barely recognized the place Id lived all my seventeen years. Mystic Falls wasnt my home. Not anymore. Behind us, Jonathan Gilbert and Mayor Lockwoods horses were approaching faster and faster. Ahead of us, I could hear the train drawing nearer, grinding against the rails. The froth at Mezzanottes mouth was turning pink with blood. My fangs were dry, and I licked my parched lips, wondering if this constant desire for blood came with being a new vampire, or if I would always feel this way. â€Å"Ready to go, brother?† I asked, yanking Mezzanottes reins. She halted, giving me just enough time to jump off before she collapsed onto the ground, blood rushing from her mouth. A shot rang out, and blood spurted from Mezzanottes flank. I yanked Damon by the wrists and hurled us onto the caboose just before the train roared out of the station, leaving Jonathan Gilbert and Mayor Lockwoods angry cries far behind.

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