|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 3)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
Zacarias pierced his palm first, allowing his blood to flow down the stone, joining with the ancient warriors. At once the hum began, a low call of greeting, of recognition and honor. Colors swirled around the room as if the ancients knew Zacarias and his legendary reputation. They seemed to greet him as an old friend. There was no doubt in Zev’s mind that the ancient warriors were paying tribute to Zacarias. Many probably had known him.
When the humming died down, Luiz stepped close to the stone and pierced his palm, his blood flowing into that of the eldest De La Cruz. Manolito came next and did the same so that the blood of all three mingled with that of the ancient warriors.
At once the humming of approval began again, and the great columns of both stalagmites and stalactites banded with colors of white and yellow and bright red.
Luiz stood silent, very still, much as Gary had before him, and just as Gary had, Luiz nodded his head several times as though listening. He looked up at Zacarias and Manolito and smiled for the first time.
“It is done,” Mikhail murmured in a low, carrying tone of power that seemed to fill the chamber. “So be it.”
Zev’s mouth went dry. His heart began to pound. He felt tension gather low in his belly, great knots forming that he couldn’t prevent. There was acceptance here—but there could also be rejection. He wasn’t born Carpathian, but Fen and Dimitri were offering him so much more than that—they stood for him. Called him brother. If these ancient warriors accepted him, he would be truly both Carpathian and Lycan. He would have a pack of his own again. He would belong somewhere.
The feeling in the great chamber was very somber. The eloquence of the long dead slowly faded and he knew it was time. He had no idea what he would do when asked. None. He wasn’t even certain his legs would carry him the distance, and he wasn’t going to be carried to the bloodstone.
“Is it your wish, Zev, to become fully a brother?” Mikhail asked.
He felt the weight of every stare. Warriors all. Good men who knew battle. Men he respected. His feet wanted to move forward. He wanted to be a part of them. He was physically still very weak. What if he didn’t measure up in their eyes?
You aren’t weak, Zev. There is nothing weak about you.
Her voice moved through him like a breath of fresh air. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath until she spoke so intimately to him. He let it go, braced himself and made his first move. Fen and Dimitri stayed close, not just to walk him to the bloodstone, but to make absolutely certain he didn’t fall on his face. Still, he was determined it wouldn’t happen.
With every step he took on that worn, stone floor he seemed to absorb into him the ancients who had gone before. Their wisdom. Their technique in battle. Their great determination and sense of honor and duty. He felt information gathering in his mind, yet he couldn’t quite process it. It was a great gift, but he couldn’t access the data and that left him even more concerned that he might be rejected. Somewhere, sometime, long ago, he felt he’d been in this sacred chamber before. The longer he was in it, the more familiar to him it felt.
As he approached the crystal column, his heart accelerated even more. He felt sheer raw power emanating from the bloodstone. The formation pulsed with power, and each time it did, color banded, ropes of various shades of red, blood he knew was collected from all the great warriors who were long gone from the Carpathian world, yet, through the prince, could still aid their people. Mikhail understood their voices through those perfectly pitched notes.
Fen dropped his palm over the tip of the stalagmite. His blood ran down the sacred stone. The colors changed instantly, swirling with a deep purple through dark red. He stepped back to allow Zev to approach the column.
Zev wasn’t going to draw it out. Either they accepted him or they didn’t. In his life, he couldn’t remember a single time when he cared what others thought of him, but here, in the sacred chamber of warriors, he found it mattered much more than he wanted to admit. He dropped his palm over the sharp tip so that it pierced his palm and blood flowed over Fen’s, mingling with that of the one who would be his brother, and that of the great warriors of the past.
His soul stretched to meet those who had gone before. He was surrounded, filled with camaraderie, with acceptance, with belonging. His community dated back to ancient times, and those warriors of old called out to him in greeting. As they did, the flood of information through his brain, adhering to his memories, was both astonishing and overwhelming.
Zev was a man who observed every detail of his surroundings. It was one of the characteristics that had allowed him to become an elite hunter. Now, everything seemed even sharper and more vivid to him. Every warrior’s heart in the chamber from ancient to modern times matched the drumming of the earth’s heart. Blood ebbed and flowed in their veins, matching the flow of the ancients’ blood within the crystal, but also the ebb and flow of water throughout their earth.
Dimitri dropped his palm over the crystal and at once, Zev felt the mingling of their blood, the kinship that ran deeper than friendship. His history and their history became one, stretching back to ancient times. Information was accumulative, amassing in his mind at a rapid rate. With it came the heavy responsibility of his kind.
The humming grew loud, and he recognized now what those notes meant—approval—acceptance without reserve. Colors swirled and banded throughout the room. Those ancient warriors recognized him, recognized his bloodline, not just the blood of Fen and Dimitri who claimed kinship, but his own, born of a union not all Lycan.
Bur tule ekämet kuntamak. The voices of the ancestors filled his mind with greetings. Well met, brother-kin. Eläsz jeläbam ainaak. Long may you live in the light.
Zev had no knowledge of his lineage being anything but pure Lycan. His mother had died long before he had memory of her. Why would these warriors claim kinship with him through his own bloodline and not Fen and Dimitri’s? That made no sense to him.
Our lives are tied together by our blood. They spoke to him in their own ancient language and he had no trouble translating it, as if the language had always been a part of him and he had just needed the ancients to bridge some gap in his memory for it all to unfold.
I don’t understand. That was an understatement. He was more confused than ever.
Everything including one’s lifemate is determined by the blood flowing in our veins. Your blood is Dark Blood. You now are of mixed blood, but you are one of us. You are kont o sívanak.
Strong heart, heart of a warrior. It was a tribute, but it didn’t tell him what he needed to know.
Who was my mother? That was the question he needed answered. If Carpathian blood already flowed in his veins, how was it he hadn’t known?
Your mother’s mother was fully Carpathian. Lycans killed her for being Sange rau. Her daughter, your mother, was raised wholly Lycan. She mated with a Lycan, and gave birth to you, a Dark Blood. You are kunta.
Family, he interpreted. From what bloodline? How? Zev knew he was taking far longer than either Gary or Luiz had, but he didn’t want to leave this source of information. His father never once let on that there was any Carpathian blood in their family. Had he known? Had his mother even known? If his grandmother had been murdered by the Lycans for her mixed blood, no one would ever admit that his mother had been the child of a mixed blood. The family would have hidden her from the others. Most likely her father had left his pack and found another one to protect her.
The humming began to fade and Zev found himself reaching out, needing more.
Wait. Who was she?
It is there, in your memories, everything you need, everything you are. Blood calls to blood and you are whole again. The humming faded away.
“It is done,” Mikhail said formally. “So be it.”
Fen clapped Zev on the shoulder hard enough to make him wince. “Looks like I’m your big brother. I knew eventually there would be an upside to meeting you. I’ve got another little brother to boss around.”
Dimitri groaned. “Now we’re in for it. He’s going to strut around all puffed up. No one will be able to live with him.”
Zev tried not to fall over. His stomach throbbed with pain. For the first time since he’d been so gravely injured protecting Arno, one of the Lycan council members, he looked down as if he might see the wound through the white shirt Fen had provided. His hand went up to cover the spot where it felt as if he had a huge hole torn through him. He half expected to feel the flesh gone right through the shirt.
The revelations from the ancient warriors were almost too much to process, just as all the information they had packed into his mind was. He swayed with weariness. He found he could barely think with his mind turning over and over trying to understand the things about him that had been revealed. Had he been in a dream state? Was it real? Right now, only the pain felt real. The rest of it felt surreal.
His fingers bunched the material of the shirt into a fist and he looked around slowly, carefully, wanting to see only one person. His breath caught in his throat. He felt his wolf leap forward as if to protect him. He was still disoriented, and it was impossible in his present state to process the wealth of information now imprinted on his brain. He found it difficult to stand, let alone think, and he needed her.
“Maybe you should sit down,” Fen suggested, genuine concern in his voice. “I’m happy you’re alive, Zev, but we may have called you back a little too soon.” He glanced over Zev’s shoulder to the man approaching him from behind.
Zev didn’t think there was much question about it. He wasn’t fully healed yet. He could barely control his body temperature. There was a note of guilt in Fen’s voice that his mixed blood picked up when his mind seemed to be all over the place. “There must have been a reason to wake me.”
He knew the prince had come up behind him. Mikhail made no sound, but the awareness of power couldn’t be mistaken. He turned to greet the prince of the Carpathian people.
Mikhail clasped Zev’s forearms in the welcoming of warriors. “You gave us all a scare, Zev. We weren’t sure you would make it.”
“Neither was I,” Zev admitted. He looked around the chamber. He needed to see her. To touch her. Where was she?
“You need rest, Zev,” Mikhail said.
As if he hadn’t figured that out for himself. Why did you wake me? he asked Fen.
“Dimitri and Fen feel more comfortable in the forest and both have homes there. We can accommodate your preference, forest, mountain or even the village itself, but you’ll still need care, at least until you’re stronger,” Mikhail continued.
He only wanted one person caring for him, and she was no longer in the chamber.
Where are you?
Was that him? He sounded possessive, even irritable that she dared leave without his knowledge. He didn’t want her out of his sight.
“Thank you, I appreciate the offer of a house. I’m still a little shaky.” He pinned Fen with his steel-colored eyes. He may have just come back from the dead, but he’d always gone his own way, fought his own battles and was a force to be reckoned with. There was another reason to awaken him before he was healed other than to present him for judgment before the ancient warriors.
Where are you, Branislava?
His snapped the question a second time, demanding an answer. He used his most commanding voice, one that brooked no refusal.
I need to reassure Tatijana that I live.
She had the same, perfect melodic voice, unaffected in the least by his domineering, idiotic short-tempered pack leader voice.
Wait for me.
He winced, hearing himself. He sounded like a dictator. He couldn’t help how he sounded. It should have been a plea, not a command. She wasn’t part of his pack, but he was used to obedience. Even the Lycan council took his word as law. More, he was annoyed that he didn’t understand why it was so necessary to have her with him. It made no sense to him and until it did, until he could figure out why it was so important to keep her close, she wasn’t going anywhere.
There was a small silence—a distancing—as if she’d been in his mind, but now had pulled away from him. His heart stuttered and he stretched, reached, unable to let go of her. He had been aware of the other men in the chamber talking around him, of the steady drip of water and the small hiss of flames, but now his complete concentration was on Branislava.
Zev willed her to return to him in spite of his overbearing, officious manner. He actually counted his heartbeats, waiting for her answer. Had he been strong enough, he would have gone after her. He knew he could follow her trail. Few eluded him once he was in pursuit.
He smelled her first, that blend of cinnamon, spice and honey. The moment she was close, he drew her scent into his lungs and was able to breathe fully again. He tasted the mixture that was unique to her, on his tongue, and instantly wanted—no needed—more.
He turned his head to gaze at her. The impact was the same as it always was when he looked at her. He hadn’t been cured of whatever spell he was under. Looking at her almost hurt she was so beautiful.
Thank you. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.
Zev held out his hand to her, needing to touch her physically. It was strange to need anything at all, let alone physical contact. He ignored Fen and Dimitri’s raised eyebrows when she didn’t move. He continued to hold out his hand. Waiting. He said nothing at all, just let her make up her mind. Willing her to reach for him.
Branislava put her hand in his. His fingers closed around hers. Her hand felt small and fragile in his. At once everything in him settled and he felt whole. Complete. That was confusing as well. He’d always managed to be just fine on his own.
“I’d like you to meet Gary Jansen,” Mikhail said.