We head south. Our destination at the moment is Minneapolis. Zoesus explained that they would begin their campaign in Europe, sweeping through Asia, then move to the Americas. It is the mission of my new companions to give my allies the decision of the Grigori.
I look at the commander of my companion soldiers. “What is your name?”
“Naeraeus.” He smiled. “That is what I go by now. You could never say my ancient name. Nor is there a reason for any to say it. That language has not been used for ages.”
“And the others?” I cock an eyebrow.
“All you need to know are the names of my lieutenants.” His smile vanishes. “Crassius and Oreus have been with me since the beginning. the rest, as you so deftly referred to them as, are second, third, fourth, and fifth gen…and younger.”
“From the beginning?…” I am curious.
He gives me a look that would make anyone else fall apart. I shrug. I suddenly understand his meaning. He is even more ancient than I had believed. All of the Grigori are.
We continue on in silence for a while. I lose myself in my thoughts. What has transpired since I left the lower forty-eight? What will we find when we reach Minneapolis? What will we find on south?
The questions run through my mind. I have been gone too long. But what I did had to be done. The elder race needed to be awakened and brought back into the real world. We needed their help.
Minneapolis was once a great city. St. Paul sits right across the river from it, acting as its twin. I remember going there once with mama and papa. But that was so long ago. I sometimes feel as if my past is nothing more than a fairy tale, something I think of to escape this hell.
I find it odd that I do not age past twenty, but it is a side effect of either the vampirism or a trait of my being Grigori, as Naeraeus claims me to be. I do not know which.
Strange. The water of the lakes look so clear. So calm. Unspoiled.
And there are so many. Maybe too many. I do not know. Or care.
Naeraeus looks at me. “Go ahead and feed. You need sustenance. As long as you do not take human life, you are not as they are. Your desire to preserve humanity separates you from them.”
I nod. Feeding will give me time to scout the area. Besides. I move faster on my own.
As I vanish, I let Naeraeus know that I will return through a glance. I hate feeding in front of strangers. It makes me feel as if I am being judged, even when I am not.
I have returned to find messengers within our camp. Or are they captives? I do not know. I look to Naeraeus for answers.
He sees my bewilderment and smiles. “Not to worry, Cris. They are messengers. Refugees from the south. Seems Dixie has fallen to the vampires. The only word so far is from Savanna and Mobile. I surmise that the rest of the south has fallen as well.”
I look away. “Or soon will.”
He catches my tone. “Uh, yes. Indeed.” He clears his throat.
He knows well my connection to the south. He has heard of my exploits. My victories. He knows that I had cleared the south of vampires once.
I shrug. “No matter. I will clear the south of the vile creatures once more.”
He chuckles. “Of that, I have no doubt…though I have not seen you in action personally.”
“As long as you deliver me and my unit to our destination, I do not care either way whether or not I do, Cris. Still, I believe that I will before this journey is over.”
I fake a smile. “More than likely. But I hope not.”
I look at the refugees. “Head for the missions. You’ll be safe there. We would take you, but we do not have the time and are not headed that direction.” I point toward the west. “Perhaps Isabel and the Sisters are out hunting. If so, they will gladly guide you.”
Naeraeus glares at me. “Isabel? The Sisters?”
I nod. “Isabel was my cousin. Before I was…changed. She is with the Sisterhood. I have hunted with her before.”
I hear a sigh of relief. “Oh. Perhaps it would be wise for us to go ahead and help these poor refugees find Isabel. Or, at least, their way to the missions. Perhaps we can find out where to go from there.”
I nod again. “Alright. We’ll go to the missions. Maybe we can find Grady there. Or Truva. But after I get you to your destination, I must turn east, then south and go back to Savanna and Mobile. I need to see just how deep the vampires have dug in.”
he says no more, but knows where I will be heading. He knows I want to check on the old haven. I want to know that it is still unnoticed and abandoned. Doesn’t matter that revisiting it is an unspoken taboo. Never go back to your beginnings. A rule McCall and Truva pounded into my head.
Still, I don’t care. I miss the compound. I miss McCall. I miss Truva.
Besides. That swamp had ears. Any news beyond reached the guardians before it reached us. I need to know what they know. I need to know if my hard work has been retaken. Savanna and Mobile won’t be hard to retake. Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans…they are a different story.
“Beware, Cris.” he looks at me. “What you are thinking about doing is going to put you in danger. If you are captured, we lose.”
I look back at him, defiant. “I won’t be captured.”
He shakes his head. “I hope you’re right.”
I get up and move a little ways from him. “They have sent their best after me. I have met them and killed them. They do not have anyone good enough to catch me.”
“Take care not to become too overconfident or sure of yourself.” His warning rings in my ear.