|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 2)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
His heart began to pound in alarm. He had no idea where he was or how he got there. He turned his head and instantly his body settled. She was there, sitting beside him. Branislava. She was truly as beautiful as he remembered her. Her skin was pale and flawless. Her lashes were just as long, her lips as perfect as in his dream. Only her clothes were different.
He was afraid if he spoke aloud she would disappear. She looked as ethereal as ever, a creature from long ago, not meant for the world he resided in. The chanting swelled in volume, and he reached for her hand, threading his fingers tightly through hers before he turned his head to try to find the source—or sources—of that summons.
There were several men in the room, all warriors with faces that had seen too many battles. He felt comfortable with them, a part of them, as if—in that sacred chamber—they were a brotherhood. He knew their faces, although most he’d never met, but he knew the caliber of men they were.
He recognized four men he knew well, although it felt as if a hundred years had passed since he’d seen them. Fenris Dalka was there. He should have known he would be. Fen was his friend, if someone like him could have friends. Beside him was Dimitri Tirunul, Fen’s brother, and that too wasn’t surprising. The brothers were close. Their last names were different only because Fen had taken the last name of a Lycan in order to better fit in during his years with them.
Two figures stood over another hole in the ground where a man lay looking around him just as Zev was. The man in what could have been an open grave looked pale and worn, as if he’d been through hell and had come out the other side. Zev wondered idly if he looked the same way. It took a few moments before he recognized Gary Jansen. Gary was human, and he’d waded through rogue wolves to get to Zev during a particularly fierce battle. Zev was very happy to see him alive.
He was familiar with Gregori Daratrazanoff. Usually Gregori wasn’t far from his prince, but he hovered close to the man who struggled to sit up. Gregori immediately reached down and gently helped Gary into a sitting position. The man on the other side of the “grave” had the same look as Gregori. This had to be another Daratrazanoff.
On the other side of Gregori, a short distance from him, stood two of the De La Cruz brothers, Zacarias and Manolito, both of whom he knew and who had joined with him in a battle of some kind. The actual facts were still a little fuzzy. A third man stood between them.
In the center of the room were several smaller columns made of crystals forming a circle around a bloodred formation with what looked to be a razor-sharp tip. Standing beside it was Mikhail Dubrinsky, prince of the Carpathian people. He spoke very low, but his voice carried through the chamber with great authority.
Mikhail spoke in an ancient language, the ritual words to call to their long gone ancestors. “Veri isäakank—veri ekäakank.”
To his absolute shock and astonishment, Zev understood the words. Blood of our fathers—blood of our brothers. He knew that was the literal translation, but the language was an ancient one, not of the Lycans. He had been born Lycan. He had heard the language spoken by Carpathians down through the centuries but he shouldn’t have understood the words so clearly.
“Veri olen elid.”
Blood is life. Zev’s breath caught in his throat. He understood. He spoke many languages, but this was so ancient he couldn’t have ever learned it. Why was he understanding it now? Nothing made sense, although his mind wasn’t quite as foggy as it had been.
Branislava tightened her fingers around his. He turned his head and looked at her. She was so beautiful she took his breath away. Her eyes were on his face and he felt her gaze penetrating deep. Too deep. She was already branded in his mind. She was coming far too close to his heart.
“Andak veri-elidet Karpatiiakank, és wäke-sarna ku meke arwa-arvo, irgalom, hän ku agba, és wäke kutni, ku manaak verival,” Mikhail continued. The power of his voice rang through the chamber, raw and elemental, bringing Zev’s attention back to him.
Zev understood the words. We offer that life to our people with a blood-sworn vow of honor, mercy, integrity and endurance.
What did that mean? This was a ritual—a ceremony that he felt part of—even though he didn’t know what exactly was going on. The appearance of Fen and Dimitri was reassuring to him. The longer he was awake, the more his mind cleared. The two were of mixed blood, although both had been born Carpathian.
Mikhail dropped his palm over the very sharp tip of the dark red column. At once the crystals went from dark red to crimson, as if Mikhail’s blood had brought them to life.
Verink sokta; verink terád. Mikhail’s voice swelled with power.
Zev saw sparks light up the room. He frowned over the words Mikhail had uttered. Our blood mingles and calls to you. He was mingling his blood with someone of power, that much was obvious from the way the columns throughout the room began to come alive. Several gave off glowing colors, although still very muted.
“Akasz énak ku és juttasz kuntatak it.”
Zev translated again as the columns began to hum. Heed our summons and join with us now. The columns throughout the room rocked, the multicolored crystals illuminating, throwing vivid, bright colors across the ceiling and over the walls of the chamber. The colors were so dazzling, Zev had to shade his sensitive eyes.
Crimson, emerald, a beautiful sapphire, the colors took on the strange phenomenon of the northern lights. The humming grew louder and he realized each took on a different note, a different pitch, the tone perfect to his ear. He hadn’t noticed that the columns appeared to be totems with faces of warriors carved into the mineral, but now they came to life, the color adding expression and character.
Zev let out his breath slowly. These warriors were long dead. He was in a cave of the dead, and Mikhail had summoned the ancient warriors to him for some purpose. Zev had a very bad feeling that he was part of that purpose.
“Ete tekaik, saγeak ekäakanket. med, kutenken hank ekäakank tasa.”
Zev swallowed hard when he translated. We have brought before you our brothers, not born to us, but brothers just the same.
Zev had been born Lycan and he’d served his people for many long years as an elite hunter who traveled the world seeking out and destroying rogue wolves who preyed on mankind. He was one of the few Lycans who could hunt alone and be comfortable and confident doing so. Still, he was Lycan and he would always have the need to be part of a pack.
His own kind despised those of mixed blood. It mattered little that he became mixed blood giving service to his people. He’d been wounded in hundreds of battles and had lost far too much blood. Carpathian warriors had more than once come to his aid as they had done this last time.
Zev looked up to find Fen on one side of him and Dimitri on the other. The two De La Cruz brothers stood with the stranger between them.
Gregori and his brother stood on either side of Gary, who now was getting to his feet with Gregori’s help. Zev took a breath. He would not be the only man sitting on his ass while the others stood. He was getting up or would die trying.
Zev let go of his lifeline and the moment he did nearly panicked—another thing men like him didn’t do. He didn’t want her to disappear. His eyes met hers. Don’t you leave me.
She gave him a smile that could allow a man to live for the rest of his existence on fantasies. We are tied together, Zev. Where you go, I go. Only the ancients can undo a weave of the spirits.
Is that what this is about? He wasn’t certain he wanted to continue if it was.
Not even the prince can ask for such a release. Only me. Or you.
She gave him the information, but he had the feeling she was a little reluctant. That suited him just fine. He wasn’t willing to relinquish his bond with her just yet.
Fen, I don’t have a stitch on and I want to stand up. I’m not going to lie in this grave like a baby. For the first time he realized he was absolutely naked and Branislava had been beside him the entire time holding his hand—even when his body had stirred to life she hadn’t run from him.
At once he was clean, and clothed in soft trousers and an immaculate white shirt. He struggled to get to his feet. Fen and Dimitri both reached for him at the same time, preventing him from falling on his face and making a fool of himself. His legs were rubber, refusing to work properly. For a Lycan, that was embarrassing, but for an elite hunter, it was absolutely humiliating.
Mikhail looked over at him and nodded his approval, or maybe it was relief at him being alive. Zev wasn’t certain yet if he was relieved or not.
“Aka sarnamad, en Karpatiiakak. Saγeak kontaket tekaiked. Tajnak aka-arvonk és arwa-arvonk.”
Hear me, great ones. We bring these men to you, warriors all, deserving of our respect and honor. Zev translated the words carefully twice, just to make certain he was correctly interpreting the prince’s discourse with the ancient warriors.
Gary, standing between the two Daratrazanoff brothers, straightened his shoulders as if feeling eyes on him. Zev was fairly certain that somehow, those spirits of the dead were watching all of them, perhaps judging their worth. Colors swirled into various hues, and the notes blended together as if the ancient warriors questioned the prince.
“Gregori és Darius katak Daratrazanoffak. Kontak sarnanak hän agba nókunta ekäankal, Gary Jansen, hän ku olenot küm, kutenken olen it Karpatii. Hän pohoopa kuš Karpatiikuntanak, partiolenaka és kontaka. Saγeak hänet ete tekaik.”
Gregori and Darius of the great house of Daratrazanoff claim kinship with our brother, Gary Jansen, once human, now one of us. He has served our people tirelessly both in research and in battle. We bring him before you.
Zev knew that aside from actually fighting alongside the Carpathians, Gary had done a tremendous amount of work for the Carpathians, and had lived among them for several years. It was obvious that every Carpathian in the chamber afforded him great respect, as did Zev. Gary had fought both valiantly and selflessly.
“Zacarias és Manolito katak De La Cruzak, käktä enä wäkeva kontak. Kontak sarnanak hän agba nókunta ekäankal, Luiz Silva, hän ku olenot jaquár, kutenken olen it Karpatii. Luiz mänet en elidaket, kor3nat elidaket avio päläfertiilakjakak. Saγeak hänet ete tekaik.”
Zacarias and Manolito from the house of De La Cruz, two of our mightiest warriors, claim kinship with our brother, Luiz Silva, once Jaguar, now Carpathian. Luiz saved the lives of two of their lifemates. We bring him before you.
Zev knew nothing of Luiz, but he had to admire anyone who could stand with Zacarias De La Cruz claiming kinship. Zacarias was not known for his kindness. Luiz had to be a great warrior to run with that family of Carpathians.
“Fen és Dimitri arwa-arvodkatak Tirunulak sarnanak hän agba nókunta ekäankal, Zev Hunter, hän ku olenot Susiküm, kutenken olen it Karpatii. Torot päläpälä Karpatiikuntankal és piwtät és piwtä mekeni sarna kunta jotkan Susikümkunta és Karpatiikunta. Saγeak hänet ete tekaik.”
Fen and Dimitri from the noble house of Tirunul claim kinship with our brother, Zev Hunter, once Lycan, now Carpathian. He has fought side by side with our people and has sought to bring an alliance between Lycan and Carpathian. He is of mixed blood like those who claim kinship. We bring him before you.
There was no mistaking the translation. Mikhail had definitely called his name and indicated that Fen and Dimitri claimed brotherhood with him. He certainly had enough of their blood in him to be a brother.
The humming grew in volume, and Mikhail nodded several times before turning to Gary. “Is it your wish to become fully a brother?”
Gary nodded his head without hesitation. Zev was fairly certain, that like him, Gary hadn’t been prepped ahead of time. The answer had to come from within at the precise moment of the asking. There was no prepping. He didn’t know what his own answer would be.
Gregori and Darius, with Gary between them approached the crystal column, now swirling a dull red. Gregori dropped his hand, palm down, over the tip of the formation, allowing his blood to flow over that of the prince.
“Place your hand over the sacred bloodstone and allow your blood to mingle with that of the ancients and that of your brothers,” Mikhail instructed.
Gary moved forward slowly, his feet following the path so many warriors had walked before him. He placed his hand over the sharp tip and allowed his palm to drop. His blood ran down the crystal column, mixing with Gregori’s.
Darius glided just behind him with the same silent, deadly way of his brother, and when Gary stepped back, Darius placed his palm over the tip of the bloodstone, allowing his blood to mingle with Mikhail’s, Gregori’s, Gary’s and the ancient warriors who had gone before.
The hum grew louder, filling the chamber. Colors swirled, this time taking on hues of blue, green and purple.
Gary gave a little gasp and went silent, nodding his head as if he heard something Zev couldn’t. Within minutes he stepped back and glanced over to the prince.
“It is done,” Mikhail affirmed. “So be it.”
The humming ceased, all those beautiful notes that created a melody of words only the prince could understand. The chamber went silent. Zev became aware of his heart beating too fast. He consciously took a breath and let it out. The tension and sense of anticipation grew.
“Is it your wish, Luiz, to become fully a brother?” Mikhail asked.
Zev took a long look at Zacarias and Manolito. The De La Cruz brothers were rather infamous. Taking on their family as kin would be daunting. Only a very confident and strong man would ever agree.
Luiz inclined his head and walked to the crystal bloodstone on his own, Zacarias and Manolito behind him. Clearly Luiz had not been wounded. He was physically fit and moved with the flow of a jungle cat.