Origins (Page 41)

"Attack at the Salvatore estate!" Noah repeated, his words sounding like a chant. I looked up at the sky. The moon was a tiny sliver, and clouds obscured any hint of starlight. But suddenly, as we rode up the hill, I saw Veritas lit up like morning, with a mob of what looked like a hundred people brandishing torches and standing on the steps of the porch, yelling.

Pastor Collins stood on the porch swing, calling out prayers, as several people watched him, kneeling on the ground and praying. Next to him was Honoria Fells, yelling to anyone who would listen about demons and repentance. Old Man Robinson was brandishing his torch and threatening to burn down the entire estate.

"Stefan!" Honoria called as I jumped off the wagon before it stopped. "For your protection," she said, proffering a branch of vervain.

"Excuse me," I called hoarsely, as I pushed through the horde, using my elbows, and ran to the carriage house and up the stairs. I heard angry voices from the chambers.

"I will take her! We’ll leave, and you won’t see either of us again!" Damon’s voice, as low and ominous as incoming thunder.

"Ungrateful!" Father roared, and I heard a sickening crack. I bounded up the stairs and saw Damon, slumped against the doorway, a trickle of blood oozing from his temple. The door had cracked from the impact of Damon’s body.

"Damon!" I called, falling onto my knees next to my brother. Damon tried to struggle to his feet. I winced as I saw the blood flooding from his temple. When he turned toward me, his eyes blazed with anger.

Father stood, stake in hand. "Thank you for getting the sheriff, Stefan. Y did the right thing.

ou Unlike your brother." Father reached out toward him, and I gasped, sure he would hit him again. But instead he stretched out his hand. "Stand up, Damon."

Damon slapped away Father’s hand. He stood on his own, wiping the blood from his head with the back of his hand.

"Damon. Listen to me," Father continued, ignoring the look of pure hatred on Damon’s face. "Y were bewitched by the demon … by that

ou Katherine. But now she will disappear and you must side with what’s right. I showed you mercy, but these people …" He gestured toward the window and the angry mob beyond it.

"Then let me be killed," Damon hissed, as he stormed out the door. He brushed past me, hitting me hard with his shoulder as he ran down the stairs.

From inside the room, an agonizing shriek emerged. "Sheriff?" Father called, swinging open the door to Katherine’s chambers. I gasped. There was Katherine, a leather muzzle over her face, her white arms and legs bound together.

"She’s ready," Sheriff said grimly. "We’ll take her to the wagon and add her to the list. Gilbert’s got the compass and is rounding up the vampires in town. By daybreak, we will have rid the town of this scourge."

Katherine stared at me, a desperate, pleading expression in her eyes. But what could I do? She was lost to me now.

I turned down the stairs and ran.

Chapter 27

I ran out onto the lawn. Fire was everywhere, and I noticed that the servants’ quarters had burst into flames. Right now, the main house looked safe, but who knew how long that would last? I saw glimpses of flames in the woods, and a large group converged around the police wagon. But all I cared about was finding Damon. Finally, I spotted a figure wearing a blue coat, sprinting toward the pond. I turned on my heel and followed him through the field. "Stefan!" I heard my name and stopped, looking about wildly. "Over here!" I turned and saw Jonathan Gilbert, his eyes wild, standing at the edge of the forest, a bow and arrow in one hand, his compass in the other. Jonathan looked down at his invention almost in disbelief. "There’s a vampire in the forest. My compass is pointing, but I need help with a lookout."

"Jonathan!" I yelled, panting. "I can’t … I have to find …"

Suddenly, I saw a flash of white from the forest. Jonathan turned and raised his bow to his shoulder. "Who goes there?" he called, his voice ringing like a clarion bell. Instantly, he released the arrow. I saw the beginning of its arc as it flung into the darkness. Then we heard a scream, followed by a thud.

Jonathan ran into the forest, and I heard a long, low moan. "Jonathan!" I called wildly, then stopped short. I saw Jonathan kneeling over a prone figure. He turned up to me, his eyes shining with tears.

"It’s Pearl," he said dully.

There was an arrow stuck under her shoulder. She moaned, and her eyes fluttered under her lids.

"Pearl!" Jonathan said, angrily this time, as he roughly yanked out the arrow. I turned in horror, not wanting to watch.

Instead, I ran with all my might toward the pond, hoping against hope that Damon was still there.

"Damon?" I called tentatively, as I picked my way around tree roots. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the wooded darkness and relative quiet of the forest. I saw a figure perched on a felled tree branch. "Damon?" I called quietly.

The figure turned around, and I gasped. Damon’s face was white, and his dark hair was sticking to his forehead. The gash at his temple was bordered by crusted blood, and the whites of his eyes were cloudy.

"Y coward," he hissed, drawing his knife

ou from his pocket.

"No." I held my hands up and took a step back. "Don’t hurt me."

"Don’t hurt me!" he mocked in a high-pitched voice. "I knew you’d tell Father eventually. I just don’t know why Katherine trusted you with her secret. Why she believed you wouldn’t turn her in. Why she loved you." His voice broke on the word love, and he dropped the knife. His face crumpled in anguish, and he didn’t look dangerous or hateful. He looked broken.