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Rubius waved that naivete away with one hand. "Pride.
Rebellious pride. We raised you, boy, taught you, considered you precious. And you repay us with
treachery." He had begun to pace, his bulk moving with surprising grace back and forth in front
of the fire. "And even when your experiment went wrong and the bitch tried to kill Beatrix, who
was born, and rule the Continent through that human general, what was his name?"
"Bonaparte, Eldest." He kept his voice flat. It wasn't hard.
"Even then, you let her go."
"I thought exile "
"Don't excuse yourself!" Rubius rounded on him. He clasped his hands behind his back and paced.
"Look where it led. She found an Old One, took his blood. She was almost so strong none of us
could stop her. Made vampires everywhere," he muttered. "Khalenberg and Davinoff, Urbano
and the others have had a time of it trying to find them all."
"I volunteered "
"How could we trust you to go?" Rubius almost spit the words across the carpet.
"You couldn't." That was the worst pain. He hadn't been allowed to make amends.
There was a long silence. Rubius rocked back and forward on his heels. "Well. Now you want the
refuge of the Vow."
"You will find me a humble and eager Aspirant." Stephan kept his gaze riveted on the carpet at
Rubius's feet.
"Will I?" Rubius mused.
"I swear it," Stephan said, unable to keep the emotion from the edge of his voice.
"There is a price," Rubius whispered. The look in his eyes was speculative, and& triumphant.
That look frightened Stephan. What kind of price?
It didn't matter. "How& how can I serve you, Eldest?" Abruptly Rubius turned away and eased
himself into the
leather wing chair that sat beside the fire. He gestured to the chair's mate. Stephan sat stiffly.
Rubius stared into the fire. The light flickered across his ruddy face. "I have a task for you, boy,"
he said at last
"You have but to ask." Yes! He would prove himself. The old eyes bored into him.
"You will become an instrument of justice even as you have been a force for chaos. You will set
right what has been loosed upon the world through your crimes. For that atonement, you will
earn the right to work toward a quiet mind. You will be granted refuge at Mirso."
Stephan breathed. "Yes. Let me set it right."
"But to do that, you must be trained."
Stephan straightened in the chair, then went down on one knee before Rubius, head bowed. "I will
be a willing student, Eldest."
Rubius put his hand on Stephan's bent head. "You make that promise lightly, but your way will not
be easy. Still, the promise is made. I shall hold you to it."
Hope fluttered in Stephan's breast. "You shall not have to compel my obedience."
"Let me introduce you to your teachers, then." A door snicked open.
Stephan raised his head. Three beautiful women drifted through the door. One was dressed in red,
one in black, one in shimmering white. They wore simple dresses in the style of Rome. But no
matron of Rome would have dared wear them. Courtesans perhaps, in the privacy of a secluded
villa meant for pleasure, but not matrons. Silk by the clinging look of it hung from their shoulders,
leaving their arms bare, and plunged between their breasts to be clasped at their waists in gold
filigree. Their hair was all long, black, and loose about their bodies, but the hair of the plumpest
one curled softly rather than being straight like that of the other two. Their skin was the white of
those who have never seen the sun.
Their eyes were dark pools& of what? Stephan saw desire, purpose& avarice?
"My daughters, Sincai." Rubius waved his hand.
Stephan could not help but register his surprise.
"You thought I was sterile? I am the father to many of you, somewhere back in time."
Stephan wanted to shudder. What did one become after so many years of life ?
"What do you call yourselves these days, my dears?" Rubius asked the women. He turned
confidentially to Stephan. "Women are always changing; names as well as dresses."
"Deirdre," one said. She was taller than the others, and her face was long, just as her body was
lean. Her breasts were small and her arms showed the muscle in them.
"Freya," the second said, a petite and lithe version of the first. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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