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The Chosen (Chapter 8)

Well?" Daphne said.

"I think it's the slave trade."

And, Rashel thought, I think I was right-this is something big.

The Night World slave trade had been banned a long time ago-back in medieval days, if she

remembered the stories correctly. The Council apparently had decided that kidnapping humans and

selling them to Night People for food or amusement was just too dangerous. But it sounded as if Quinn

might be reviving it, probably without the Council's permission. How very enterprising of him.

I was right about killing him, too, Rashel thought. There's no choice now. He's as bad as I imagined- and

worse.

Daphne was goggling. "They were going to make me a slave?" she almost yelled.

"Sh." Rashel glanced at the man behind the doughnut counter. "I think so. Well-a slave and a sort of

perpetual food supply if you were sold to vampires. Probably just dinner if you were going to

werewolves."

Daphne's lips repeated werewolves silently. But Rashel was speaking again before she could ask about

it.

"Look, Daphne-did you get any idea about where you might be going? You said they mentioned a boat.

But a boat to where? What city?"

"I don't know. They never talked about any city. They just said the boat was ready… and something

about an aunt-clave." She pronounced it ont-clave. "The girl said, 'When we get to the aunt-clave…'"

Daphne broke off as Rashel grabbed her wrist.

"An enclave," Rashel whispered. Thin chills of excitement were running through her. "They were talking

about an enclave."

Daphne nodded, looking alarmed. "I guess."

This was big. This was… bigger than big. It was incredible.

A vampire enclave. The kidnapped girls were being taken to one of the hidden enclaves, one of the

secret strongholds no vampire hunter had ever managed to penetrate. No human had even discovered

the location of one.

If I could get there… if I could get in…

She could learn enough to destroy a whole town of vampires. Wipe an enclave off the face of the earth.

She knew she could.

"Uh, Rashel? You're hurting me."

"Sorry." Rashel let go of Daphne's arm. "Now, listen," she said fiercely. "I saved your life, right? I mean,

they were going to do terrible things to you. So you owe me, right?"

"Yeah, sure; sure, I owe you." Daphne made pacifying motions with her hands. "Are you okay?"

"Yes. I'm fine. But I need your help. I want you to tell me everything about that club. Everything I need

to get in-and get chosen."

Daphne stared at her. "I'm sorry; you're crazy."

"No, no. I know what I'm doing. As long as they don't know I'm a vampire hunter, it'll be okay. I have

to get to that enclave."

Daphne slowly shook her blond head. "What, you're going to, like, slay them all? By yourself? Can't we

just tell the police?"

"Not all by myself. I could take a couple of other vampire hunters to help me. And as for the police…"

Rashel stopped and sighed. "Okay. I guess there are some things I should explain. Then maybe you'll

understand better." She raised her eyes and looked at Daphne steadily. "First, I should tell you about the

Night World. Look, even before you met those vampires, didn't you ever have the feeling that there was

something eerie going on, right alongside our world and all mixed up in it?"

She made it as simple as she could, and tried to answer Daphne's questions patiently. And at last,

Daphne sat back, looking sick and more frightened than Rashel had seen her yet.

"They're all over," Daphne said, as if she still didn't believe it. "In the police departments. In the

government. And nobody's ever been able to do anything about them."

"The only people who've had any success are the ones who work secretly, in small groups or alone. We

stay hidden. We're very careful. And we weed them out, one by one. That's what it means to be a

vampire hunter."

She leaned forward. "Now do you see why it's so important for me to get to that enclave? It's a chance

to get at a whole bunch of them all at once, to wipe out one of their hiding places. Not to mention

stopping the slave trade. Don't you think it should be stopped?"

Daphne opened her mouth, shut it again. "Okay," she said finally, and sighed. "I'll help. I can tell you

what to talk about, how to act. At least what worked for me." She cocked her head. "You're going to

have to dress differently…."

"I'll get a couple of other vampire hunters and we'll meet tomorrow after school. Let's say six-thirty.

Right now, I'm taking you home. You need to sleep." She waited to see if Daphne would object, but the

other girl just nodded and sighed again.

"Yeah. You know, after some of the things I've learned, home's starting to look good."

"Just one more thing," Rashel said. "You can't tell anybody about what happened to you. Tell them

anything-that you ran away, whatever-but not the truth. Okay?"

"Okay."

"And especially don't tell anyone about me. Got it? My life may depend on it."

"Elliot's not here." The voice on the telephone was cold and as hostile as Rashel had ever heard it.

"Vicky, I need to talk to him. Or somebody. I'm telling you, this is our chance to get to an enclave. The

girl from the warehouse heard them talking about it." It was Friday afternoon and Rashel was phoning

from a booth near her school.

Vicky was speaking heavily. "We staked out that street for days and didn't see anything, but you just

happened to be in the right place at the right time to help a girl escape."

"Yes. I already told you."

"Well, that was convenient, wasn't it?"

Rashel gripped the handset more tightly. "What do you mean?"

"Just that it would be a very dangerous thing, going to a vampire enclave. And that a person would have

to really trust whoever was giving them the information about it. You'd have to be sure it wasn't a trap."

Rashel stared at the phone buttons, controlling her breathing. "I see."

"Yes, well, you don't have much credibility around here anymore. Not since letting that vampire get

away. And this sounds like just the sort of thing you'd do if you were in on it with them."

Great, Rashel thought. I've managed to convince her that I really am a vampire sympathizer. Aloud she

said, "Is that what Nyala is telling everybody? That I'm working with the Night World?"

"I don't know what Nyala is doing." Vicky sounded waspish and a little uneasy. "I haven't seen her since

Tuesday and nobody answers at her house."

Rashel tried to make her voice calm and reasonable. "Will you at least tell Elliot what I'm doing? Then he

can call me if he wants to."

"Don't hold your breath," Vicky said, and hung up.

Great. Terrific. Rashel replaced the handset wondering if she wasn't supposed to hold her breath until

Elliot called, or until Vicky passed on the message.

One thing was clear: she couldn't count on any help from the Lancers. Or any other vampire hunters.

Nyala could be spreading any kind of rumors, and Rashel didn't dare even call another group.

There was no choice. She'd have to do it alone.

That night she went to Daphne's house.

"Well, she's grounded," Mrs. Childs said at the door. She was a small woman with a baby in one hand, a

Pampers in the other, and a toddler clutching her leg. "But I guess you can go upstairs."

Upstairs, Daphne had to chase a younger sister out of the bedroom before Rashel could sit down. "You

see, I don't even have a room of my own," she said.

"And you're grounded. But you're alive," Rashel said, and raised her eyebrows. "Hi."

"Oh. Hi." Daphne looked embarrassed. Then she smiled, sitting cross-legged on her bed. "You're

wearing normal clothes."

Rashel glanced down at her sweater and jeans. "Yeah, the ninja outfit's just my career uniform."

Daphne grinned. "Well, you're still going to have to look different if you're going to get into the club.

Should we start now, or do you want to wait for the others?"

Rashel stared at a row of perfume bottles on the dresser across the room. "There aren't going to be any

others."

"But I thought you said…"

"Look. It's hard to explain, but I've had a little problem with the vampire hunters around here. So I'm

doing it without them. It's no problem. We can start now."

"Well…" Daphne pursed her lips. She looked different from the disheveled wild creature Rashel had

rescued from the street last night. Her blond hair was soft and fluffy, her cornflower blue eyes were large

and innocent, her face was round and sweet. She was fashionably dressed and she seemed relaxed, in

her own element in this normal teenager's room. It was Rashel who felt out of place.

"Well… do you want to just take along a friend or something?" Daphne asked.

"I don't have a friend," Rashel said flatly. "And

I don't want one. Friends are people to worry about, they're baggage. I don't like baggage." Daphne

blinked slowly. "But at school…" "I don't stay at schools more than one year at a time. I live with foster

families, and I usually get myself sent to a new city every year. That way I stay ahead of the vampires.

Look, this isn't about me, okay? What I want to know-"

"But…" Daphne was staring at the mirror. Rashel followed her gaze to see that the reflecting surface

was almost completely covered by pictures. Pictures of Daphne with guys, Daphne with other girls.

Daphne counted her friends in droves, apparently. "But doesn't that get lonely?"

"No, it doesn't get lonely," Rashel said through her teeth. She found herself getting rough with the lacy

little throw pillow on her lap. "I like being on my own. Now are we done with the press conference?"

Looking hurt, Daphne nodded. "Okay. I talked with some people at school and everything at the dub is

going on the same as usual-except that Quinn hasn't been there since Sunday. Ivan and the girl were there

Tuesday and Wednesday, but not Quinn."

"Oh, really?" That was interesting. Rashel had known from the beginning that her greatest problem was

going to be Quinn. The other two vampires hadn't seen her-she didn't think they even realized that

Daphne had run off with a vampire hunter last night. But Quinn had spoken to her. Had been… very

close to her.

Still, what could he have seen in that cellar, even with his vampire vision? Not her face. Not even her

hair. Her ninja outfit covered her from neck to wrist to ankle. All he could possibly know was that she

was tall. If she changed her voice and kept her eyes down, he shouldn't be able to recognize her.

But it would be easier still if he weren't there in the first place, and Rashel could try her act on Ivan.

"That reminds me," she said. "Ivan and the girl- are their little groups into death, too?"

Daphne nodded. "Everybody in the whole place is, basically. It's that kind of place."

A perfect place for vampires, in other words. Rashel wondered briefly if the Night People owned the

dub or if some obliging humans had just constructed the ideal habitat for them. She'd have to check into

that.

"Actually," Daphne was saying, a little shyly, "I've got a poem here for you. I thought you could say you

wrote it. It would sort of prove you were into the same thing as the other girls."

Rashel took the piece of notebook paper and read:

There's warmth in ice; there's cooling peace in fire,

And midnight light to show us all the way. The dancing flame becomes a funeral pyre; The Dark was

more enticing than the Day.

She looked up at Daphne sharply. "You wrote this before you knew about the Night World?"

Daphne nodded. "It's the kind of thing Quinn liked. He used to say he was the darkness and the silence

and things like that."

Rashel wished she had Quinn right there in the room, along with a large stake. These young girls were

like moths to his flame, and he was taking advantage of their innocence. He wasn't even pretending to be

harmless; instead he was encouraging them to love their own destruction. Making them think it was their

idea.

"About your clothes," Daphne was going on. "My friend Mamie is about your size and she lent me this

stuff. Try it on and we'll see if it looks right." She tossed Rashel a bundle.

Rashel unfolded it, examined it doubtfully. A few minutes later she was examining herself even more

doubtfully in the mirror.

She was wearing a velvety black jumpsuit which clung to her like a second skin. It was cut in a very low

V in front, but the sleeves reached down in Gothic points on the backs of her hands almost to the middle

finger. Around her neck was a black leather choker that looked to her like a dog collar. She said, "I don't

know…" "No, no, you look great. Sort of like a Betsey Johnson ultra model. Walk a little… turn

around… okay, yeah. Now all we have to do is paint your fingernails black, add a little makeup, and-"

Daphne stopped and frowned. "What's wrong?" "It's the way you walk. You walk like-well, like

them, actually. Like the vampires. As if you're stalking something. And you don't ever make a noise.

They're going to know you're a vampire hunter from the way you move."

It was a good point, but Rashel didn't know what to do about it. "Um…"

"I've got it," Daphne said brightly. "We'll put you in heels."

"Oh, no," Rashel said. "There is absolutely no way I'm going to wear those things."

"But it'll be perfect, see? You won't be able to walk normally."

"No, and I won't be able to run, either."

"But you aren't going there to run. You're going to talk and dance and stuff." Hands on her hips, she

shook her head. "I don't know, Rashel, you really need somebody to go there with you, to help you with

this stuff…."

Daphne stopped and her eyes narrowed. She stared at the mirror for a moment, then she nodded.

"Yeah. That's it. There's no other choice," she said, expelling her breath. She turned to face Rashel

squarely. "I'll just have to go with you myself."

"What?"

"You need somebody with you; you can't do this all alone. And there's nobody better than me. I'll go

with you and this time we'll both get chosen."

Rashel sat on the bed. "I'm sorry; this time you 're crazy. You're the last person the vampires would ever

choose. You know all about them."

"But they don't know that," Daphne said serenely. "I told everybody at school today that I didn't

remember anything that happened from Sunday on. I had to tell them something, you know. So I said

that I never got to meet Quinn; that I didn't know what happened to me, but I woke up last night alone

on this street in Mission Hill."

Rashel tried to think. Would any of the vampires believe this story?

The answer surprised her. They just might. If Daphne had begun to come out of the mind control while

she was in the truck… if she had jumped out and started running, only to become fully conscious a little

while later.. .. Yes. It could work. The vampires would assume that she'd have amnesia for the whole

period she was in a trance, and maybe for a little before. It could work….

"But it's too dangerous," she said. "Even if I let you go to the club with me, I could never let you get

chosen."

"Why not? You already said I must be resistant to their mind-control thingy, right?" Daphne's blue eyes

were sparking with energy and her cheeks were flushed. "So that makes me perfect for the job. I can do

it. I know I can help you."

Rashel stood helplessly. Take this fluffy bunny of a girl to a vampire enclave? Let her get sold as a slave

to bloodsucking monsters? Ask her to fight ruthless snakes like Quinn? "I like to work alone," she said in

a hard voice. Daphne folded her arms over her chest, refusing to be intimidated. "Well, maybe it's time

you tried something different. Look, I've never met anyone like you. You're so independent, so

adventurous, so–amazing. But even you can't do everything by yourself. I know I'm not a vampire

hunter, but I'd like to be your friend. Maybe you should try trusting a friend this time."

Her eyes met Rashel's, and at that moment she didn't look like a fluffy bunny, but like a small, confident,

and intelligent young woman.

"Besides, it was me who got kidnapped," Daphne said, shrugging. "Don't you think I should get to pay

them back a little?"

Rashel caught herself almost grinning. She couldn't help liking this girl, or feeling a glow of warmth at her

praise. But still… She drew in a careful breath and watched Daphne closely. "And you're not scared?"

"Of course I'm scared. I'd be stupid not to be. But I'm not so scared I can't go."

It was the right answer. Rashel looked around the cluttered lacy room and nodded slowly. At last she

said, "Okay, you're in. Tomorrow's Saturday. We'll do it tomorrow night."

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