The queen of the damned, p.11

The Queen Of The Damned, page 11

 part  #3 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


The Queen Of The Damned

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Chapter 8


  "What we are," Armand said, "it wasn't meant to be, you know that. You didn't have to read Lestat's book to find it out. Any one of us could have told you it was an abomination, a demonic fusion-"

  "Then what Lestat wrote was true. " A demon going into the ancient Egyptian Mother and the Father. Well, a spirit anyway. They had called it a demon back then.

  "Doesn't matter whether or not it's true. The beginning is no longer important. What matters is that the end may be at hand. "

  Deep tightening of panic, the atmosphere of the dream return ing, the shrill sound of the twins' screams.

  "Listen to me," Armand said patiently, calling him back away from the two women. "Lestat has awakened something or someone-"

  "Akasha . . . Enkil. "

  "Perhaps. It may be more than one or two. No one knows for certain. There is a vague repeated cry of danger, but no one seems to know whence it comes. They only know that we are being sought out and annihilated, that coven houses, meeting places, go up in flames. "

  "I've heard the cry of danger," Daniel whispered. "Sometimes very strong in the middle of the night, and then at other moments like an echo. " Again he saw the twins. It had to be connected to the twins. "But how do you know these things, about the coven houses, about-"

  "Daniel, don't try me. There isn't much time left. I know. The others know. It's like a current, running through the wires of a great web. "

  "Yes. " Whenever Daniel had tasted the vampiric blood, he had glimpsed for one instant that great glittering mesh of knowledge, connections, half-understood visions. And it was true then. The web had begun with the Mother and the Father-

  "Years ago," Armand interrupted, "it wouldn't have mattered to me, all this. "

  "What do you mean?"

  "But I don't want it to end now. I don't want to continue unless you-" His face changed slightly. Faint look of surprise. "I don't want you to die. "

  Daniel said nothing.

  Eerie the stillness of this moment. Even with the plane riding the air currents gently. Armand sitting there, so self-contained, so patient, with the words belying the smooth calm of the voice.

  "I'm not afraid, because you're here," Daniel said suddenly.

  "You're a fool then. But I will tell you another mysterious part of it. "


  "Lestat is still in existence. He goes on with his schemes. And those who've gathered near him are unharmed. "

  "But how do you know for certain?"

  Short little velvet faugh. "There you go again. So irrepressibly human. You overestimate me or underestimate me. Seldom do you ever hit the mark. "

  "I work with limited equipment. The cells in my body are subject to deterioration, to a process called aging and-"

  "They're gathered in San Francisco. They crowd the back rooms of a tavern called Dracula's Daughter. Perhaps I know because others know it and one powerful mind picks up images from another and unwittingly or deliberately passes those images along. Perhaps one witness telegraphs the image to many. I can't tell. Thoughts, feelings, voices, they're just there. Traveling the web, the threads. Some are clear, others clouded. Now and then the warning overrides everything. Danger. It is as if our world falls silent for one instant. Then other voices rise again. "

  "And Lestat. Where is Lestat?"

  "He's been seen but only in glimpses. They can't track him to his lair. He's too clever to let that happen. But he teases them. He races his black Porsche through the streets of San Francisco. He may not know all that's happened. "

  "Explain. "

  "The power to communicate varies. To listen to the thoughts of others is often to be heard oneself. Lestat is concealing his presence. His mind may be completely cut off. "

  "And the twins? The two women in the dream, who are they?"

  "I don't know. Not all have had these dreams. But many know of them, and all seem to fear them, to share the conviction that somehow Lestat is to blame. For all that's happened, Lestat is to blame. "

  "A real devil among devils. " Daniel laughed softly.

  With a subtle nod, Armand acknowledged the little jest wearily. He even smiled.

  Stillness. Roar of the engines.

  "Do you understand what I'm telling you? There have been attacks upon our kind everywhere but there. "

  "Where Lestat is. "

  "Precisely. But the destroyer moves erratically. It seems it must be near to the thing it would destroy. It may be waiting for the concert in order to finish what it has begun. "

  "It can't hurt you. It would have already-"

  The short, derisive laugh again, barely audible. A telepathic laugh?

  "Your faith touches me as always, but don't be my acolyte just now. The thing is not omnipotent. It can't move with infinite speed. You have to understand the choice I've made. We're going to him because there isn't any other safe place to go. It has found rogues in far-flung places and burnt them to ashes-"

  "And because you want to be with Lestat. "

  No answer.

  "You know you do. You want to see him. You want to be there if he needs you. If there's going to be a battle . . . "

  No answer.

  "And if Lestat caused it, maybe he can stop it. "

  Still Armand didn't answer. He appeared confused.

  "It is simpler than that," he said finally. "I have to go. "

  The plane seemed a thing suspended on a spume of sound. Daniel looked drowsily at the ceiling, at the light moving.

  To see Lestat at last. He thought of Lestat's old house in New Orleans. Of the gold watch he'd recovered from the dusty floor. And now it was back to San Francisco, back to the beginning, back to Lestat. God, he wanted the bourbon. Why wouldn't Armand give it to him? He was so weak. They'd go to the concert, he'd see Lestat-

  But then the sense of dread came again, deepening, the dread which the dreams inspired. "Don't let me dream any more of them," he whispered suddenly.

  He thought he heard Armand say yes.

  Suddenly Armand stood beside the bed. His shadow fell over Daniel. The whale's belly seemed smaller, no more than the light surrounding Armand.

  "Look at me, beloved," he said.

  Darkness. And then the high iron gates opening, and the moon flooding down on the garden. What is this place?

  Oh, Italy, it had to be, with this gentle embracing warm air and a full moon shining down on the great sweep of trees and flowers, and beyond, the Villa of the Mysteries at the very edge of ancient Pompeii.

  "But how did we get here!" He turned to Armand, who stood beside him dressed in strange, old-fashioned velvet clothes. For one moment he could do nothing but stare at Armand, at the black velvet tunic he wore and the leggings, and his long curling auburn hair.

  "We aren't realty here," Armand said. "You know we aren't. " He turned and walked into the garden towards the villa, his heels making the faintest sound on the worn gray stones.

  But it was real! Look at the crumbling old brick walls, and the flowers in their long deep beds, and the path itself with Armand's damp footprints! And the stars overhead, the stars! He turned around and reached up into the lemon tree and broke off a single fragrant leaf.

  Armand turned, reached back to take his arm. The smell of freshly turned earth rose from the flower beds. Ah, I could die here.

  "Yes," said Armand, "you could. And you will. And you know, I've never done it before. I told you but you never believed me. Now Lestat's told you in his book. I've never done it. Do you believe him?"

  "Of course I believed you. The vow you made, you explained everything. But Armand, this is my question, to whom did you make this vow?"


  Their voices carried over the garden. Such roses and chrysanthemums, how enormous they were. And light poured from the doorways of the Villa of the Mysteries. Was there music playing? Why, the whole ruined place was brilliantly illuminated under the incandescent blue of the night sky.

"So you would have me break my vow. You would have what you think you want. But look well at this garden, because once I do it, you'll never read my thoughts or see my visions again. A veil of silence will come down. "

  "But we'll be brothers, don't you see?" Daniel asked.

  Armand stood so close to him they were almost kissing. The flowers were crushed against them, huge drowsing yellow dahlias and white gladioli, such lovely drenching perfume. They had stopped beneath a dying tree in which the wisteria grew wild. Its delicate blossoms shivered in clusters, its great twining arms white as bone. And beyond voices poured out of the Villa. Were there people singing?

  "But where are we really?" Daniel asked. "Tell me!"

  "I told you. It's just a dream. But if you want a name, let me call it the gateway of life and death. I'll bring you with me through this gateway. And why? Because I am a coward. And I love you too much to let you go. "

  Such joy Daniel felt, such cold and lovely triumph. And so the moment was his, and he was lost no more in the awesome free fall of time. No more one of the teeming millions who would sleep in this dank odoriferous earth, beneath the broken withered flowers, without name or knowledge, all vision lost.

  "I promise you nothing. How can I? I've told you what lies ahead. "

  "I don't care. I'll go towards it with you. "

  Armand's eyes were reddened, weary, old. Such delicate clothes these were, hand sewn, dusty, like the clothes of a ghost. Were they what the mind conjured effortlessly when it wanted to be purely itself?

  "Don't cry! It's not fair," Daniel said. "This is my rebirth. How can you cry? Don't you know what this means? Is it possible you never knew?" He looked up suddenly, to catch the whole sweep of this enchanted landscape, the distant Villa, the rolling land above and below. And then he turned his face upwards, and the heavens astonished him. Never had he seen so many stars.

  Why, it seemed as if the sky itself went up and up forever with stars so plentiful and bright that the constellations were utterly lost. No pattern. No meaning. Only the gorgeous victory of sheer energy and matter. But then he saw the Pleiades-the constellation beloved of the doomed red-haired twins in the dream-and he smiled. He saw the twins together on a mountaintop, and they were happy. It made him so glad.

  "Say the word, my love," Armand said. "I'll do it. We'll be in hell together after all. "

  "But don't you see," Daniel said, "all human decisions are made like this. Do you think the mother knows what will happen to the child in her womb? Dear God, we are lost, I tell you. What does it matter if you give it to me and it's wrong! There is no wrong! There is only desperation, and I would have it! I want to live forever with you. "

  He opened his eyes. The ceiling of the cabin of the plane, the soft yellow lights reflected in the warm wood-paneled walls, and then around him the garden, the perfume, the sight of the flowers almost breaking loose from their stems.

  They stood beneath the dead tree twined full of airy purple wisteria blossoms. And the blossoms stroked his face, the clusters of waxy petals. Something came back to him, something he had known long ago-that in the language of an ancient people the word for flowers was the same as the word for blood. He felt the sudden sharp stab of the teeth in his neck.

  His heart was caught suddenly, wrenched in a powerful grip! The pressure was more than he could bear. Yet he could see over Armand's shoulder and the night was sliding down around him, the stars growing as large as these moist and fragrant blooms. Why, they were rising into the sky!

  For a split second he saw the Vampire Lestat, driving, plunging through the night in his long sleek black car. How like a lion Lestat looked with his mane of hair blown back by the wind, his eyes filled with mad humor and high spirits. And then he turned and looked at Daniel, and from his throat came a deep soft laugh.

  Louis was there too. Louis was standing in a room on Divisadero Street looking out of the window, waiting, and then he said, "Yes, come, Daniel, if that is what must happen. "

  But they didn't know about the burnt-out coven houses! They didn't know about the twins! About the cry of danger!

  They were all in a crowded room, actually, inside the Villa, and Louis was leaning against the mantel in a frock coat. Everyone was there! Even the twins were there! "Thank God, you've come," Daniel said. He kissed Louis on one cheek and then the other decorously. "Why, my skin is as pale as yours!"

  He cried out suddenly as his heart was let go, and the air filled his lungs. The garden again. The grass was all around him. The garden grew up over his head. Don't leave me here, not here against the earth.

  "Drink, Daniel. " The priest said the Latin words as he poured the Holy Communion wine into his mouth. The red-haired twins took the sacred plates-the heart, the brain. "This the brain and the heart of my mother I devour with all respect for the spirit of my mother-"

  "God, give it to me!" He'd knocked the chalice to the marble floor of the church, so clumsy, but God! The blood!

  He sat up, crushing Armand to him, drawing it out of him, draught after draught. They had fallen over together in the soft bank of flowers. Armand lay beside him, and his mouth was open on Armand's throat, and the blood was an unstoppable fount.

  "Come into the Villa of the Mysteries," said Louis to him. Louis was touching his shoulder. "We're waiting. " The twins were embracing each other, stroking each other's long curling red hair.

  The kids were screaming outside the auditorium because there were no more tickets. They would camp in the parking lot until tomorrow night.

  "Do we have tickets?" he asked. "Armand, the tickets!"

  Danger. Ice. It's coming from the one trapped beneath the ice!

  Something hit him, hard. He was floating.

  "Sleep, beloved. "

  "I want to go back to the garden, the Villa. " He tried to open his eyes. His belly was hurting. Strangest pain, it seemed so far away.

  "You know he's buried under the ice?"

  "Sleep," Armand said, covering him with the blanket. "And when you wake, you'll be just like me. Dead. "

  San Francisco. He knew he was there before he even opened his eyes. And such a ghastly dream, he was glad to leave it-suffocating, blackness, and riding the rough and terrifying current of the sea! But the dream was fading. A dream without sight, and only the sound of the water, the feel of the water! A dream of unspeakable fear. He'd been a woman in it, helpless, without a tongue to scream.

  Let it go away.

  Something about the wintry air on his face, a white freshness that he could almost taste. San Francisco, of course. The cold moved over him like a tight garment, yet inside he was deliciously warm.

  Immortal. Forever.

  He opened his eyes. Armand had put him here. Through the viscid darkness of the dream, he'd heard Armand telling him to remain. Armand had told him that here he would be safe.

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