Origins (Page 27)

"After his fianc�e got her throat ripped out?" Mayor Lockwood said gruffly.

"Mayor!" Honoria said, clapping her hand to her mouth.

As Jonathan ducked back out into the hall, I settled on a straight-backed chair as far away from the group as possible. I felt out of place, though probably not as out of place as Cordelia, who was now awkwardly sitting on a wooden chair next to Honoria’s rocker.

"Now, then!" Jonathan Gilbert said, coming back to the room, his arms laden with tools and papers and objects I couldn’t even begin to identify. He sat on a moth-eaten velvet armchair at the head of the table and looked around. "Let’s begin."

"Fire," Father said simply.

A shiver of fear ran up my spine. Fire was how Katherine’s parents had perished. Was that because they were vampires, too? Had Katherine been the only one to escape?

"Fire?" Mayor Lockwood repeated.

"It’s been recorded, many times in Italy, that fire kills them, as does beheading or a stake in the heart. And, of course, there are herbs that can protect us." Father nodded to Cordelia.

"Vervain," Cordelia confirmed.

"Vervain," Honoria said dreamily. "How pretty."

Cordelia snorted. "It ain’t nothing but a herb. But if you wear it, then you have protection from the devil. Some say it can also work a bit to nurse those who’ve been around them back to health. But it’s poison to them devils you call vampires."

"I want some!" Honoria said greedily, holding out her hand eagerly.

"I don’t have any with me," Cordelia said.

"Y don’t?" Father looked at her sharply.

ou "It’s all gone from the garden. I used it for Mr. Stefan’s remedies; then when I went to pick it this morning, it was all gone. Was probably the children who took it," Cordelia said indignantly, but she glanced straight at me. I looked away, reassuring myself that if she had known about Katherine’s true nature, she would have told my father by now.

"Well, then, where do I get some?" Honoria asked.

"It’s probably right under your nose," Cordelia said.

"What?" asked Honoria sharply, as if she’d been insulted.

"It grows everywhere. Except our garden," Cordelia said darkly.

"Well," Father said, glancing at the two women, anxious to diffuse the situation. "After this meeting, Cordelia may escort Miss Honoria to her garden to find vervain."

"Now, wait just a damn minute," Mayor Lockwood said, pounding his beefy fist on the table. "Y lost me at the woman talk. Y mean to

ou ou tell me that if I wear a lilac sprig, then the demons will leave me alone?" He snorted.

"Vervain, not lilac," Cordelia explained. "It keeps evil away."

"Y es," Father said sagely. "And everyone in town must wear it. See to it, Mayor Lockwood. That way, not only will our citizens be protected, but anyone who does not wear it will be exposed as a vampire and can then be burned," Father said, his voice so smooth and matter-of-fact that it took every ounce of self-control for me not to stand up, rush down the shaky ladder, find Katherine, and run away with her.

But if I did that, and if Katherine was as dangerous as the Founders thought … I felt like a trapped animal, unable to find any escape. Was I trapped with the enemy right now, or was the enemy back at Veritas? I knew that, beneath my shirt collar, the wound on my neck was beginning to ooze specks of blood, and it would only be a matter of time before they soaked through the fabric and stood out as a visible reminder of my betrayal.

Mayor Lockwood shifted uneasily, causing the chair to creak. I jumped. "Now, if the herb works, that’s one thing. But we’re in the middle of a war. We’ve got a lot of Confederate government officials passing through Mystic Falls on their way to Richmond, and if word gets out that instead of aiding the cause we’re fighting storybook creatures with flowers …" He shook his head. "We cannot issue an edict that everyone wear vervain."

"Oh, really? Then how do we know you’re not a vampire?" Father demanded.

"Father!" I interjected. Someone had to bring a voice of reason into the discussion. "Mayor Lockwood is right. We need to think calmly. Rationally."

"Y son has a good head on his shoulders,"

our Mayor Lockwood said grudgingly.

"A better head than yours," Father mumbled.

"Well … we can discuss vervain later. Honoria, you’ll be in charge of making sure that we have a ready supply, and we can strongly encourage those we love to wear it. But for now, I want to discuss other ways we can find the vampires that walk among us," Jonathan Gilbert said excitedly, unfolding large sheets of paper onto the table. Mayor Lockwood put his bifocals on his nose and peered at the papers, which had complicated mechanical drawings on them.

"This here looks like a compass," Mayor Lockwood said finally, pointing to a complicated drawing.

"It is! But instead of finding north, it finds vampires," Jonathan said, barely containing his excitement. "I’m working on the prototype. It just needs a bit more fine-tuning. It’s able to detect blood. The blood of others," he said meaningfully.

"Can I see that, Mr. Jonathan?" Cordelia asked.

Jonathan looked up, surprised, but handed her the papers. She shook her head.

"No," she said. "The prototype." "Oh, ah, well, it’s very rough," Jonathan said as he fumbled in his back pocket and pulled out a shiny metal object that looked more like a child’s trinket than a tool for finding victims.

Cordelia turned the compass slowly in her hands. "It works?"