I thought about my parents, all of our parents, and all of the other people in Grand Lake who had no idea what they were facing. Then I thought about Amy’s story and not the most recent one about how she came to be here. I thought about the Bloodmaiden’s discovery of The Thing That Eats and how it had eaten everyone in the kingdom of Rheged.
“You’re going to need to make an exception in your quarantine. The Thing that Eats is an enemy of Bloodmaiden. She knows how to fight it and how to catch it. She made the wards that caught it the first time.”
Taking a step toward the door, Vengeance said, “For someone who practices blood magic?” His lip curled and there was no mistaking the disgust in his voice. “Never. I’ve met blood mages and some of them seemed like decent people at first. But I’ve never met one that wasn’t eventually corrupted by the magic that they thought served them.”
“She’s different. She’s from another universe where lots of people practice blood magic and don’t get corrupted.”
Vengeance stared. “Have you been there?”
“No,” I began, but he interrupted me, his voice raising.
“Then you don’t know. She could be feeding you a line. You’re all too trusting. You have no idea what kind of power she’s hiding. Besides, magic might be different wherever she comes from. Whatever it’s like there, here it’s what vampires teach their followers. The wizards I know think that the first vampires were blood mages who went too deeply into the magic and came out changed.”
He walked to the door, stopping. “And don’t try to find out if she can sneak through the quarantine. It has followers, blood mages and worse. Our people are protecting the borders, and if they see someone trying to get through, their orders are to stop them. Some of them might try to talk. Others, well… Let’s say that if a wizard tries to sneak through, I hope it’s no one you like.”
Vaughn gave a small wave. “Your people are going to kill anyone who tries to sneak in? Who gave you the right to do that? Aren’t you in the least bit afraid that the Defenders or the government are going to get pissed off about that?”
Vengeance rested his hand on the door. “You don’t get what this is. You’ve precipitated an event that risks regional human extinction. After you told your handler about it, it went up the chain until the FBI passed it on to us. We already knew, of course, but now it’s official. The North American Council of Wizardry is handling this because we are the only ones capable of handling it.”
“Yeah?” Vaughn stepped away from the wall he’d been leaning on. “What if you can’t? I mean damn, The Thing That Eats has been here for more than a thousand years. In the last fifty, it ate a bunch of people and practically took over a country.
“In the last thousand, there’s probably a bunch of even more horrible stuff we’ve never heard of, right? And none of you did anything about it. From where I’m sitting, you’re the incompetent ones. We only knew about this thing for months. In that time, we captured him, delivered him practically to the doorstep of your secret hideaway, and as soon as it’s in your hands, then it gets away.”
Taking step by step as he talked, he crossed half of the room. Vengeance, meanwhile, had his hand on the door handle. The hand grew whiter and tighter as Vaughn went on.
“We’ll manage,” Vengeance growled. “Stay out of our way. We’re going to keep this city safe whatever it takes.”
He threw the door open. Giving a last look back as he closed it behind him, he said, “Oh, and nice Halloween costumes.”
It took me a moment to puzzle that one out. As the door shut and locked, though, I realized what he was referring to. I wore the stealth suit so I was wearing black and silver. Vaughn’s costume at least looked like black leather. Haley’s Night Cat costume was gray and dark gray. Camille, meanwhile, wore an orange costume with an orange starburst outlined in white.
“Halloween?” Vaughn said. “What do you think… Oh.”
Camille looked down. “Was that supposed to be an insult? Or do you think he might have been trying to be funny?”
“Both maybe,” Haley said, but then she frowned. “When he told us to stay out of his way and that he was going to keep the city safe whatever it took? That was a threat. His heart rate was up and he smelled angry.”
I wasn’t sure what angry smelled like, but Vengeance walked away from HQ like a man on a mission.