Midnight Awakening (Chapter Thirty-two)

Tegan's mind came awake before the rest of his body. His throat burned, still raw and coated with the residue of whatever drug had been shot into him by Kuhn's guards. He was no longer in the containment facility; his nose told him that much. Instead of the clinical stench of that place, he smelled old wood and brick, a hint of fresh paint as well, coming from somewhere overhead…

And nearby, the odor of a recent death. The cloying scent of spilled, coagulating Breed blood– a lot of it–hung like a thick shroud. He didn't have to attempt to move his limbs to know that he was restrained. The weight of heavy manacles and chains hung from his wrists and ankles, his body drawn spread-eagle between two large wooden beams.

Overhead, coming from outside whatever structure it was that imprisoned him, he heard the chatter of crows as they flew by. Even though it was dark where he was being held, it was daylight outside, his brain reasoned as the cawing grew distant. He must have been here–wherever here was–for hours.

He cracked one eyelid open, hardly able to lift it. His vision swam, instant vertigo making him sag deeper into his restraints.

Awake at last, mused a voice Tegan recognized, even in his half-drugged state. Those idiots employed by Kuhn almost killed you with their tranquilizer darts. And that is a privilege I intend to save for myself.

Tegan didn't respond. He wouldn't have, even if he'd been able to make his sluggish tongue form words. Marek deserved no respect whatsoever.

Wake up, came the terse command. Wake the fuck up, Tegan, and tell me where he is!

Hard fingers gripped a handful of his hair, lifted his head roughly when he didn't have the strength to do it on his own. A heavy, closed-fisted blow landed on the side of his face, but he barely registered it through the fog of his sedation.

Need a little convincing, do you?

Footsteps sounded across a creaking, plank wood floor as Marek left him to slump and walked a few paces away. He came back a moment later. Tegan's head was yanked back. Something was pressed beneath his nose. When the fist connected with his gut, he sucked in his breath.

The involuntary reaction brought the sting of fine powder traveling up his nostrils and in through his open mouth. He coughed, choking on the foul substance, and knew at once what Marek had just fed him.

There we are. A little Crimson ought to speed things up.

Marek backed away as Tegan tried to spit the drug out. It was no use. He could feel the Crimson seeping into his sinus passages, clinging to the back of his throat. Like an electrical current shot straight into his brain, the drug made him spasm and shudder. He felt it absorbing into his bloodstream, heat traveling along his strung-up limbs. When the initial quake subsided, Tegan opened his eyes and fixed a murderous stare on his captor.

Marek crossed his arms over his chest, grinning. Back online already, eh?

Fuck you. He tried to bring his arms down, but the chains held fast. His head was clearing, but his physical strength was still subpar at best. It was going to take time–or a stronger, riskier hit of Crimson–to shake off the effects of the tranqs.

Where is he, Tegan? Have you found the hiding place yet? Marek's eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses, but Tegan felt the furious heat of his stare. I know the Order has the journal. I know you've seen the riddle. And I know you spoke with Petrov Odolf. What did he tell you about it?

He's dead.

Yes, Marek agreed civilly. Overdosed on Crimson, as you no doubt suspected when you went to see Herr Kuhn over here. Tegan's gaze followed Marek's casual gesture to the source of the death stench in the room. Director Kuhn's headless torso lay on the floor next to a broad-bladed, blood-soaked sword.

Marek shrugged. He outserved his purpose. All of the quivering, hapless sheep inhabiting the Darkhavens have outserved their purpose, wouldn't you agree? They've forgotten their roots, if they really ever understood them. How many generations have been spawned since the illustrious first that you and I are both a part of? Too many, and each generation has grown weaker, their blood diluted with feeble homo sapiens genes. It's time to start fresh, Tegan. The Breed needs to sever its atrophied branches and begin a new reign of Gen One power. I want to see the Breed thrive. I want us to be kings–the way it should be.

You're insane, Tegan growled. And you only want power for yourself. You always did.

Marek scoffed. I deserved to rule. I was eldest, not Lucan. I had the clearer vision for how our race should evolve. The humans should be hiding from us, living to please us, not the other way around. Lucan didn't see it that way. He still doesn't. His humanity is his greatest weakness.

And yours has always been your arrogance.

Marek grunted. What was yours, Tegan? His tone was a bit too light, too taunting in its casualness. I remember her, you know…Sorcha.

Tegan hated like hell to hear that innocent girl's name on his enemy's lips, but he swallowed the rage that was building inside him. Sorcha was gone. He'd finally let her go, and Marek would not be able to goad him with her memory.

Yes, she was your weakness. I knew that when I went to her that night. You remember, don't you? The night she was abducted from your home while you were out on patrol with my brother on one of his endless missions?

Tegan lifted his gaze to Marek. You…

The vampire's smile was cruel, full of amusement. Yes, me. She and Dragos's Breedmate bitch were thick as thieves, so I'd really hoped Sorcha might be able to tell me the secret Dragos took to his grave and what Kassia sought to cheat me out of when she took her own life before I could wrench the truth out of her. But Sorcha didn't know anything. Well, not quite. She knew about a son Kassia had delivered in secret and sent away– an heir that Dragos himself had known nothing about.

Ah, Christ. Tegan closed his eyes, understanding only just now what Sorcha must have endured–and at Marek's hand.

She broke easily, but then I knew she would. She was never strong. Just a sweet girl who trusted you to keep her safe. Marek paused, as though reflecting. It almost seemed a waste to turn her Minion since she'd given up all her secrets at the first bit of pain.

You son of a bitch, Tegan snarled. You sick, goddamn son of a bitch! Why, then? Why did you do it to her?

Because I could, Marek replied.

Tegan's roar echoed up into the rafters of the place, rattling the black-washed windows that were set high into the roof. He fought his bonds but the momentary burst of spent adrenaline only left him coughing and exhausted. The shackles cut into his wrists as his weight sagged once more, his thighs too weak to hold him.

And because I can, Tegan, Marek added, I'm going to kill you and everyone you care about if you don't tell me what that goddamn riddle means. Tell me where to find the Ancient! Tegan panted, suspended helplessly from his chains. The sedatives were pulling him under again, making his head spin. Marek watched with detached calm, yet standing well out of reach. Very casually, he walked to the door and motioned two of his Minion guards inside. He pointed to Kuhn's desecrated body.

Take that rotting corpse out of here and let it burn.

With his servants rushing to carry out his orders, Marek turned his attention back to Tegan. You look like you need some time to think about what I've asked you. So, you think, Tegan. You think hard. And we'll chat some more when I get back.

Elise took one look at Gideon's face when he came to find her in Tegan's quarters, and she knew something was terribly wrong.

It's Lucan, he said. He needs to talk to you.

She took the cell phone and swallowed hard before answering. What's happened to him? she said into the receiver, not bothering with a greeting when every cell in her body went suddenly still. Lucan, tell me he's okay.

I'm, ah…not sure about that, Elise. Something's gone down over here.

She listened woodenly as Lucan explained Tegan's disappearance. They hadn't seen him, hadn't heard from him, for several hours. Lucan was going to send the rest of the Order out to Prague with Reichen at dusk, but he was staying behind to begin searching for Tegan. He wasn't sure where to begin, or even how long it might take to scour the city for any sign of where he might be. Suspecting that she and Tegan shared a blood bond, their best means of tracking him would be Elise. We can't be certain, Lucan said, but it's a fair guess that Marek might have him. If that's the case, there won't be a lot of time before–

I'm on the way. She glanced at Gideon, who was waiting just outside. Can you get me a flight out right away?

The Order's jet is still in Berlin, but I can see about chartering another one.

There's no time, she said. What about commercial air?

He frowned, concerned. You really want to sit on a plane for half a day with a couple hundred humans? You think you're up for that?

She wasn't sure, actually, but she damn well wasn't going to let that stop her. If she had to hitch a ride with a plane full of convicted killers, she'd do it, if that's what it would take to make sure Tegan was all right.

Just do it, Gideon. Please. The first flight you can get me on.

He nodded and took off at a jog up the corridor to handle the details.

I'll be there as soon as I can, Lucan.

She heard his low exhalation, and the caution in his voice. Lucan wasn't convinced that they would be able to do anything for Tegan, even if they managed to find him.

Okay, he said. A car will be there to pick you up and bring you to Reichen's estate. We'll start searching as soon as you get here.