Bane (Page 4)
Kahli lifted the fabric, instantly knowing what it was. Her eyes darted to his as she held up the mask, and looked past it at the boy. “This was mine. I dropped it that day.”
“I know,” he answered. “I took it.”
She didn’t understand. Confusion clouded her mind. He was a vamp, she was sure—but this meant he’d been a child. Did someone change him after he’d grown? That was impossible. The vamps were weak, unable to sire more of their kind. Shaking her head, she asked, “But you’re a vamp.” He nodded. Her eyes studied his face, wishing she could claw it off. But she still didn’t understand. “How?”
Will looked down, his dark lashing obscuring his eyes. His hands were folded in front of him like this conversation didn’t bother him. Searching for an answer, he decided to tell her the truth. After his plans were executed, he’d never see her again. There was no harm in her knowing. “I’m neither vampire, nor human—”
Kahli interrupted, shaking her head, not believing him. “You’re a vampire. Don’t waste your lies on me.”
Will smirked, “If only things were so simple. The ignorance of humans is adorable, and utterly naïve. Vampires, the Regents, the old ones, are not the same as Bane. You must have realized this. You must have noticed child vampires?”
But she hadn’t. Kahli had been isolated, and spent most of her life alone. The trackers she’d encountered were grown men. “You were the only child I ever saw.”
“Hmmm,” he said studying her face, searching for the truth. “Then you don’t know, do you? You don’t know the difference between the Regent and the Bane? You don’t know what happened, do you?”
Kahli wanted to say yes. She didn’t like being weak, or feeling ignorant, but she hadn’t heard this story. It didn’t matter whether she acknowledged it or not, Will had already seen it in her eyes. She didn’t know.
He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. “The Regent are ancient. They’re your classic variety of vampire. They require human blood to live. Without it, they die. It’s simple, really. Before the ice age—before the famine—they drank freely, secretly. They took what they needed and more. Gluttony was a sin that they enjoyed.” Will shrugged like draining helpless humans wasn’t a big deal. “But my kind, the Bane, didn’t evolve until after the famine. We live and breathe, and our bodies only require the smallest trace of blood to survive.” He spoke so coolly, but it was an act. Will worked long and hard to temper his words, to hide his true feelings. No one knew what he thought about anything. Not the Regent, not the Bane—no one. And he planned on keeping things that way. It mean a longer life, free from complications; complications that usually had to do with a grizzly death and an aristocracy that didn’t like being defied.
Kahli had never heard this. Her mother had told her there were humans and vampires. There was nothing in the middle. The two did not, could not coexist within the same being. By their very nature, vampires were dead. Their bodies were frigid, cold like marble. Their hearts were just as dark and frozen. There was a time to ask questions and this was it. She wanted to keep him talking. Make the vamp-who-thinks-he’s-a-human guy keep talking, so she could get a read on him and figure out what he planned on doing with her. So far, she couldn’t get a read on him at all. He was closed down, everything from his facial expressions to his stance said he didn’t care what happened to her—but he was still there, talking. So she was valuable to him, but the reason why wasn’t what she thought.
The way he spoke bothered her. His indifference was a slap in the face to a lifetime fighting for survival. And losing. She gritted her teeth, “You make it sound so blasé. Like nothing you just said matters or even affects you, assuming you aren’t lying like the rest of your bloodsucking cousins.” She arched a brow at him, trying to gauge him, “So, let’s say I accept your little story. If the Bane weren’t around before the ice, then where did you come from?”
He smiled as if it were an amusing tale and not a nightmare. Will watched the girl. He planned this moment. The words he practiced were burnt into his tongue. There was no fumbling, reaching for thoughts that wouldn’t come. Will knew the girl would ask, and he’d prepared an answer. “They’re as close to being my cousins as you are.” His eyes narrowed, crinkling at the corners. The idea repulsed her. Vampires destroyed her life. Her family—all of them were slaughtered—to feed a population of the undead. Man could have survived the ice, could have survived the wars, but he could not survive the vampires. The Regent were too powerful.
Kahli’s gaze, that fevered hatred that he shared, put Will on edge. He recognized it burning brightly in her eyes. The look made him falter. It blindsided him like a plank to the head. Will shook it off before she had time to consider it.
He continued, “The Regent’s food stores grew thin. The blood supplies dwindled as humanity killed those who managed to survive. The Bane were a futile effort to make self-sustaining humans who required little food to survive. We were created to endure this new world. We were meant to feed the Regent, but things didn’t work out that way. Our blood isn’t sufficient. They can drain a thousand Bane and barely survive. Ancient Ones need, and have always needed, human blood to live. Without it their powers diminish, and their bodies become frail. That’s where the farms came from. The Regent called them camps, but they were farms meant to protect the remaining humans from destroying themselves. Losing power, losing the superiority that they had maintained for centuries was not an option. If the Regent needed human blood, they would have it. All other threats to their precious food supply were erased.” He smiled widely even though he wanted to puke. For some reason, he felt like she was looking through him, and he didn’t want her to. If she knew what his life had been like…
Kahli pushed herself up. She noticed she was still wearing the clothes from the Empire safe house. They were covered in dried blood and grime. Ignoring the disgust she felt as she slid her hand over her clothing, she said, “I don’t understand. Why do you need the Regent?”
Will’s blue eyes locked with Kahli’s. He regarded her as if the question was asinine. “What do you mean? We need them for survival, the same way that they need you. We age. We aren’t immortal. Bane are vulnerable. The Regent protects those who are loyal.” Enslaves was more accurate, but she didn’t need to know his whole story.
His words didn’t feel like lies, but Kahli still wasn’t satisfied. She shook her head, “Why didn’t they just kill you off when the Regent realized your kind couldn’t feed them? Aren’t they already having a food crisis? Why’d they keep you?”
“Why does Royalty do anything?” Will asked her, and then he answered, “Besides, there aren’t enough Bane to make a dent in their food supply. We’re no threat to them.” Not anymore.
“How much blood do you need?” she asked. Kahli’s fingers pressed against her neck, wondering if he’d bitten her while she slept.
Will saw her fingers move to her throat and laughed softly. “There is no way I’d drink from you. Ever. An untouched human is priceless. There are no markings on your neck. No vampire has ever tasted you. You’re completely pure.”
Kahli’s spine straightened. This wasn’t what she expected at all. She always thought she would be dropped off at Section 8 if she was captured, or drained. She didn’t expect this. Her stomach dropped when she thought she caught his meaning, “You plan to sell me, then?” she asked, panic coursing through her veins. “To who?”
Will replied, “You’ll find out soon enough.”
The Tracker left Kahli after that conversation and did not return. She was too weak to move. Her shoulder throbbed, despite the ointment that was slathered beneath the bandages. It stank something awful. The stench told her that it was a vamp tonic of some sort. It would heal her faster than nothing, but not as quickly as vampire blood. She wondered why he didn’t force his blood down her throat. Was it because he was Bane? Did his blood not have the same effect? Or was it because he wanted her pure? The boy could have done it already, but he didn’t. And damn. The way he looked at her. It made her stomach twist. Kahli was too weak to ponder what it meant and tried to rest.
When she closed her eyes to sleep, she saw his face as a child. She saw him move swiftly and heard his soft voice lie and say she wasn’t there.
He saw her.
The thought consumed her. The Tracker boy saw her all those years ago and said nothing—no, he’d done more than that. He lied. He lied and saved her. He spared her from whatever fate her mother encountered. Well, until now. Confusion pinched her brow. Her head ached. What was he doing? Why bother saving her from the wolves and risking his life to save her? Humans were valuable, but not worth risking the wolves. Hell, she wouldn’t have risked facing the wolves if she realized the entire pack broke into the building. Only the utterly foolish did something like that—something that could be construed as nuts—or brave. Maybe that’s what was bothering her. The Tracker seemed to be brave. He fit the sense of the word, but the last thing he said didn’t jive with that ideal.
The next time her eyes flew open, it was at the sound of food being passed into the room. A metal tray was sitting near the door with bread, a small chunk of cheese, and water on it. Kahli sat up slowly. The room didn’t spin this time. She padded across the room to the tray, feeling ravenous. She hadn’t eaten since the morning she left the safe house. Tearing into the bread, she bit off a big chunk and swallowed. Quickly, she swallowed some water to force it down. As Kahli chewed another bite, she felt herself becoming less hungry and more lightheaded. She blinked once, slowly, and lifted the bread to her eyes examining it like something was wrong. Her head felt light and heavy at the same time.
“It’s just preparations for your departure—a light sedative—I’m sure you understand,” Will said. He stood in the room. She never heard him come in. Startled, Kahli dropped the bread to the floor. She wanted to speak, but couldn’t remember how to her move her mouth. Will bent down and lifted the bread, handing it back to her.
Kahli took it and looked at him. Drugs swam in her mind, ingested through the piece of food in her hands. The world felt fat and lazy. Things seemed to be happening in slow motion. The Tracker’s blue eyes were inches from hers face, caught in a stare that was far too soft for his kind.
Kahli rolled the words in her mouth and forced them to come out clear. “When you least expect it, I will kill you.” She smiled at him weakly, before blinking hard again. The world wouldn’t stay in focus. Will smiled at her, like she was all sweetness and not threatening to kill him.
Another voice came from the doorway. “She seems like a handful, Will. But I see what you mean about her colorings.” He wore a thick woolen coat that was dark as night. It moved around his calves as he crossed the room, bending down to the place where Kahli sat drugged on the floor. He took her chin in his hand, and turned her face, examining her. “I suppose she’ll do. There’s no trace of ownership?”