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Soulmate (Chapter 15)

Hannah's breath was taken away.

She hadn't expected a coherent answer from Maya… but she'd gotten one. And she did understand.

Maya had devoted her life to keeping Hannah and Thierry apart. Her long life. Her thousands of years. If

she lost at this point, that life became meaningless.

"You don't know how to do anything else," Hannah whispered slowly, figuring it out.

"Oh, enough of the press conference. I know how to do lots of things-you'll find that out. I'm through

fooling around with you, cupcake."

Hannah ignored the threat-and the insulting endearment. "But it won't do you any good," she said, *

genuinely bewildered, as if she and Maya were discussing whether or not to go shopping together.

"You're going to kill me, sure, I understand that. But it won't help you get Thierry. He'll just hate you

more… and he'll just wait for me to come back."

Maya had knelt by the backpack, rummaging in it.

she looked up at Hannah and smiled-a strange slow smile.

"Will he?"

Hannah stared at those red lips, feeling as if someone were pouring ice water down her backbone. "You

know he will. Unless you kill him, too."

The lips curved again. "An interesting idea. But not quite what I had in mind. I need him alive; he's my

prize, you see. When you win, you need a prize." Hannah was feeling colder and colder inside. "Then

he'll wait." "Not if you're not coming back." And how do you arrange that? Hannah thought. God, maybe

she's going to keep me alive here… tied up and alive until I'm ninety. The idea brought a wave of

suffocating fear. Hannah glanced around, trying to imagine what it would be like to spend her life in this

place. In this cold, dark, horrible… Maya burst into laughter.

"You can't figure it out, can you? Well, let me help." She walked to where Hannah was sitting and knelt.

"Look at this. Look, Hannah."

She was holding up an oval hand mirror. At the same moment she shone the flashlight on Hannah's face.

Hannah looked into the mirror-and gasped.

It was her face… but not her face. For one instant she couldn't put her finger on the difference-all she

could think was that it was Hana's face, Hana of the Three Rivers. And then she realized.

Her birthmark was gone.

Or … almost gone. She could still see a shadow of it if she turned her head to one side. But it had faded

almost to invisibility.

God, I'm good-looking, Hannah thought numbly. She was too dazed to feel either vain or humble. Then

she realized it wasn't just the absence of the birthmark that made her look beautiful.

Even in the unnatural beam of the flashlight she could tell that she was pale. Her skin was creamy, almost

translucent. Her eyes seemed larger and brighter. Her mouth seemed softer and more sensuous. And

there was an indefinable something about her face….

I look like Poppy, she thought. Like Poppy, the girl with the copper hair. The vampire. Wordlessly, she

looked at Maya. Maya's red lips stretched in a smile. "Yes. I exchanged blood with you when I picked

you up last night. That's why you slept so long… you probably don't realize it, but it's afternoon out

there. And you're changing already. I figure one more exchange of blood… maybe two. I don't want to

rush things. I can't have you dying before you become a vampire."

Hannah's mind was reeling. Her head fell back weakly to rest against the post. She stared at Maya. "But

why?" she whispered, almost pleadingly. "Why make me a vampire?"

Maya stood. She walked over to the backpack and carefully tucked the mirror inside. Then she pulled

out something else, something so long that it was sticking out of the top of the pack. She held it up.

A stake. A black wooden stake, like a spear, about as long as Maya's arm. It had a nice pointed end on it.

"Vampires don't come back," Maya said. Suddenly there was a roaring in Hannah's ears.

She swallowed and swallowed. She was afraid she was going to faint or be sick.

"Vampires… don't… ?"

"It's an interesting bit of trivia, isn't it? Maybe it'll be on "Jeopardy!" someday. I have to admit, I don't

exactly understand the logistics-but vampires don't reincarnate, not even if they're Old Souls. They just

die. I've heard it suggested that it's because making them vampires takes their souls away, but I don't

know…. Does Thierry have a soul, do you think?"

Everything was whirling around Hannah now. There was nothing solid, nothing to hang on to.

To die … she could face that. But to die forever, to go out… what if vampires didn't even go to some

other place, some afterlife? What if they just suddenly weren't?

It was the most frightening thing she had ever imagined.

"I won't let you," she whispered, hearing her own voice come out hoarse and ragged. "I won't-"

"But you can't stop me," Maya said, amused. "Those ropes are hemp-they'll hold you when you're a

vampire as well as when you're human. You're helpless, poor baby. You can't do anything against me."

With a look of pleasure in her own cleverness, she said, "I finally found a way to break the cycle."

She left the backpack and knelt in front of Hannah again. This time when the red lips parted, Hannah

saw long sharp teeth.

Hannah fought. Even knowing that it was hopeless, she did everything she could think of, lashing out at

Maya with the strength of sheer desperation. But it wasn't any good. Maya was simply that much

stronger than she was. In a matter of minutes, Hannah found herself with both hands pinned and her

head twisted to one side, her throat exposed.

Now she knew why Maya had forced her to drink vampire blood before. It hadn't just been random

cruelty. It was part of a plan.

You can't do this to me. You can't. You can't kill my soul….

"Ready or not," Maya said, almost humming it. Then Hannah felt teeth.

She struggled again, like a gazelle in the jaws of a lioness. It had no effect. She could feel the unique pain

of her blood being drawn out against her will. She could feel Maya drinking deeply. I don't want this to

be happening…. At last the pain faded to a drowsy sort of ache. Hannah's mind felt dopey, her body numb.

Maya was wrestling her into a different position, tilting Hannah's head back and pressing her wrist to

Hannah's mouth.

I won't drink. I'll let myself drown first. At least I'll die before I'm a vampire….

But she found that it wasn't that easy to will yourself into dying from lack of air. Eventually, she choked

and swallowed Maya's blood. She wound up coughing and sputtering, trying to clear her throat and get

air. Maya sat back.

"There," she said, slightly breathless. She shone the flashlight into Hannah's face again.

"Yes." She looked judicial, like a woman considering a turkey in the oven. "Yes, it's going very well.

Once more should do it. You'd be a vampire now, if so much time since the first we hadn't wasted exchange."

"Thierry will kill you when he finds out," Hannah whispered.

"And break his sacred promise? I don't think so." Maya smiled and got up again, pottering with her

backpack. "Of course, this wouldn't be happening if he hadn't broken his promise to me," she added,

almost matter-of-factly. "He told me that you wouldn't come between us anymore. But the next time I

turn around-there you are! Shacked up in his house, no less. He should have known better."

Hannah stared at her. "He didn't even know I was there. Maya-don't you realize that? He didn't know-"

Maya cut her off with a gesture. "Don't expect me to believe anything you say. Not at this point." She

straightened up, looked at Hannah, then sighed. She switched off the lantern and picked up the flashlight.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you for a while, now. I'll be back tonight to finish this little job.

Don't worry, I won't be late… after all, I have a deadline to meet. Tomorrow's your birthday."

"Maya …" I have to keep her here talking, Hannah thought. I have to make her understand that Thierry

didn't break his promise.

She was trying to ignore the chilling question that ran just under her thoughts. What if Thierry had been

serious about what he'd told Maya? If he really wanted to be with Maya as long as Hannah was no

longer between them?

"Can't stay; must fly," Maya said, trilling laughter again. "I hope you won't be too lonely. By the way, I

wouldn't rock that pole too much. This is an abandoned silver mine, and that whole structure is unstable."

"Maya-"

"See you later." She picked up the backpack and walked away.

She ignored Hannah's yells. And eventually, when Hannah couldn't see the beam of the flashlight

anymore, she stopped yelling.

She was in the dark again.

And weaker. Drained emotionally and drained of vitality by what Maya had done. She felt sick, feverish,

and itchy as if there were bugs crawling under her skin.

And she was alone.

Almost, almost, she gave in to the panic again. But she was afraid that if she lost control this time, she'd

never get it back. She'd be insane by the time Maya returned.

Time. That's it, girl, you've got some time. She's not coming back until tonight, so get your head clear

and start using the time you have.

But it's so dark….

Wait. Did she take the lantern with her? She turned it off, but did she take it?

With the utmost caution, Hannah felt around her with her hands. Nothing-but then she couldn't lean very

far because of the rope.

Okay. Try your feet. Carefully. If you kick it away, it's all over.

Hannah lifted one leg and began to gently pat the foot down toward the ground. Little pats, slow pats.

About the third time she did it, her foot hit something that fell over.

That's it! Now nudge it toward you. Careful. Careful. Closer… almost… now around to your side…

Got it! Hannah reached out and grabbed the lantern, holding it desperately with both hands like

somebody holding a radio while sitting in the bathtub. Don't drop it … find the switch.

Light blossomed.

Hannah kissed the lantern. She actually kissed it. It was an ordinary battery-operated fluorescent

camping lantern, but she felt as if she were holding a miracle.

Light made such a difference.

Okay. Now look around you. What can you do to help yourself here?

But looking around made her heart sink.

The cavern she was in was irregular, with uneven walls and overhanging slabs of rock. A silver mine,

Maya had said. That meant the place was probably blasted out by humans.

On either side of her, Hannah could see more posts like the one she was tied to. They seemed to form a

kind of scaffolding against the wall. So miners can get to it, I guess, she thought vaguely. Or maybe to

help hold the roof up, or both.

And it's unstable.

As a last resort, she could simply do her best to bring the whole thing down. And then pray she died

quickly.

For now, she kept looking.

The wall on her right, the only one she could see in the pool of lantern light, was surprisingly variegated.

Even beautiful. It wasn't just rough gray rock; it was rough gray rock veined with milky-white and pale

pink quartz.

Silver comes in quartz sometimes, Hannah thought. She knew that much from her mom's friends, the

rockhounds.

But that doesn't do me any good. It's pretty, but useless.

She was starting to panic again. She had a light, but what good was it? She could see, but she had

nothing to work with.

There's got to be something here. Rocks. I've got rocks and that's it. Hannah shifted to get away from

one that was bruising her thigh. Maybe I can throw rocks at her….

Not rocks. Quartz.

Suddenly Hannah's whole body was tingling. Her breath was stopped in her lungs and her skin felt

electrified.

I've got quartz.

With shaking hands, she put the lantern down. She reached for an angular chunk of rock on the ground

beside her.

Tears sprang to her eyes.

This is a quartz nodule. It's crystal. Fine-grained. Workable.

I know how to make a tool out of this.

She'd never done it in this life, of course. But Hana of the Three Rivers had done it all the time. She'd

made knives, scrapers, drills… and hand-axes.

She would have preferred flint to work with; it fractured much more regularly. But quartz was fine.

I can feel in my hands how to do it. …

Okay. Stay calm. First, find a hammer stone.

It was too easy. There were rocks all around her. Hannah picked up one with a slightly rounded surface,

weighed it in her hand. It felt good.

She pulled her legs in, set the angular chunk in front of her, and started working.

She didn't actually make a hand-ax. She didn't need to. Once she had bashed off a few flakes with long

sharp edges, she started sawing at the rope. The flakes were wavy and irregular, but they were as sharp

as broken glass and quite sufficient to cut the hemp.

It took a long time, and twice she had to make new flakes when the ones she was using blunted. But she

was patient. She kept working until she could pull first one length of rope, then another and another free.

When the last strand parted, she almost screamed in sheer joy.

I'm free! I did it! I did it!

She jumped up, her weakness and fever forgotten. She danced around the room. Then she ran back and

picked up her precious lantern.

And now-I'm out of here!

But she wasn't.

It took a while for the realization to dawn. First, she walked back in the direction that Maya had come.

She found what felt like miles of twisting passageways, sometimes so narrow that the walls almost

brushed her shoulders, and so low that she had to duck her head. The rock was cold-and wet.

There were several branching passages, but each one led to a dead end. And it was only when Hannah

got to the end of the main passage that she realized how Maya had gotten into the mine.

She was standing below a vertical shaft. It soared maybe a hundred feet straight up. At the very top, she

could see reddish sunlight.

It was like a giant chimney, except that the walls were nowhere near that close to each other. And

nowhere near irregular enough to climb.

No human could get out this way.

I suppose they had some sort of elevator or something when the mine was working, Hannah thought

dazedly. She was sick and numb. She couldn't believe that her triumph had turned into this.

For a while she shouted, staring up at that square of infuriating, unattainable sunlight. When she got so

hoarse she could scarcely hear herself anymore, she admitted that it was no use.

Nobody is going to come and rescue you. Okay. S(c) you have to rescue yourself.

But all I've got is rocks…. No.

No, I'm free now. I can move around. I can get to the scaffolding.

I've got rocks-and wood.

Hannah stood paralyzed for a second, then she clutched the lantern to her chest and went running back

down the passageway.

When she got to her cavern, she examined the scaffolding excitedly.

Yes. Some of this wood is still good. It's old, but it's hard. I can work with this.

This time, she made a real hand-ax, taking special care to fashion the tip, making it thin and

straight-edged and sharp. The final tool was roughly triangular and heavy. It fit comfortably in her hand.

Hana would have been proud of it.

Then she used the ax to chop off a length of wood from the creaking, groaning scaffolding. All the while

she did it she whistled softly, hoping she wasn't going to bring the whole structure down on her head.

She used the ax to shape the length of wood, too, making it round, about as thick as her thumb and as

long as her forearm. She knocked off a quartz scraper to do the finer shaping.

Finally she used a flake to hone one end of the stick to a point. She ground it back and forth against an

outcrop of gritty stone to bring it to maximum smoothness and sharpness.

Then she held out the finished tool and admired it.

She had a stake. A very good stake.

And Maya was going to get a surprise.

Hannah sat down, turned the lantern off to conserve the battery, and began to wait.

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