Origins (Chapter 24)

September 25, 1864

They say love can conquer all.

But can it conquer Father's belief that Katherine and those like her are demons–devils?

I do not exaggerate when I say Katherine is an angel. She saved my life–and Anna's. Father must know the truth. Once he does, he will be unable to deny Katherine's goodness.

It is my duty as a Salvatore to stay true to my convictions and to the ones I love.

Now is the time for action, not doubt. Confidence courses through my veins. I will make Father understand the truth–that we are all the same. And with that truth will come love. Father will call off the siege.

This I swear on my name and my life. For the rest of the day, I sat at my desk in my bedroom, glancing at an empty notebook as I contemplated what to do. If Father knew Katherine was a vampire, he'd call off the hunt. He had to. I'd seen him laugh with Katherine, attempt to impress her with stories of his boyish antics back in Italy, and treat her as he'd have treated a daughter. Katherine gave my father a vigor I'd never seen in him. She gave my father life.

But how could I persuade him of this, when he so deeply despised demons? Then again, Father was rational. Logical. Maybe he could learn what Katherine had already taught me: that vampires weren't all evil. They walked among us, they cried human tears; all they wanted was a true home –and to be loved.

Finally, I steeled my courage and stood up, closing the notebook with an abrupt clap. This wasn't a schoolboy's assignment, and I didn't need notes to speak from my heart. I was ready to speak to Father man to man. After all, I was nearly eighteen, and he was planning to leave me Veritas.

I took a deep breath and walked down the winding staircase, through the quiet living room, and knocked sharply on the door to Father's study.

"Come in!" Father's muffled voice called. Before I had even put my hand on the knob, Father swung the door open himself. He wore a tailored jacket, with a sprig of vervain in the lapel, but I noticed that instead of being clean shaven, he sported salt-and-pepper stubble and his eyes were bloodshot and hooded.

"I didn't see you last night at the ball," Father said as he ushered me into his study. "I hope you weren't part of that noisy, careless mob."

"No." I shook my head vigorously, feeling a flicker of hope. Did this mean Father was no longer planning an attack?

"Good." Father sat at his oak desk and slammed his leather-bound book shut. Beneath it, I could see complicated drawings and diagrams of the town, with X's over certain buildings, including the apothecary. And just like that, the flicker of hope was extinguished, and cold, hard fear took up residence in its place.

Father followed my gaze. "As you can see, our plans are much more thought-out than that foolish brigade of drunks and boys. Luckily Sheriff Forbes and his team put a stop to them, and none of them will be welcome at our own siege." Father sighed and steepled his fingers together. "We're living in dangerous and uncertain times, and your actions need to reflect that." His dark eyes softened for a second. "I just want to make sure your decisions, at least, are prudent." He didn't add "unlike Damon's," but he didn't have to. I knew that was what he was thinking.

"So the siege …" "Will happen next week as planned."

"What about the compass?" I asked, remembering the conversation with Katherine.

Father smiled. "It works. Jonathan's been tinkering with it."

"Oh." A wave of horror rushed through me. If it worked, then that meant there was no doubt Father would find Katherine. "How do you know that it works?"

Father smiled and rolled up his papers. "Because it does," he said simply.

"Can I talk to you about something?" I asked, hoping my voice betrayed none of my nerves. An image of Katherine's face flashed in my head, giving me the strength to lock eyes with Father.

"Of course. Sit down, Stefan," Father commanded. I perched in the leather wingback chair near the bookshelves. He stood up and walked over to the decanter of brandy on the corner table. He poured a glass for himself, then one for me.

I took the tumbler and held it to my lips, taking a tiny, almost imperceptible sip of the liquid. Then I steeled my courage and stared straight at him. "I have concerns about your plan for the vampires."

"Oh? And why is that?" Father leaned back against his chair.

I nervously took a large gulp of brandy. "We're making the assumption that they're as evil as they've been characterized. But what if that's not true?" I asked, willing myself to meet Father's gaze.

Father snorted. "Have you any evidence to the contrary?"

I shook my head. "Of course not. But why take what people say at face value? Y taught us

ou differently."

Father sighed and walked to his decanter, pouring more brandy. "Why? Because these creatures are from the darkest parts of hell. They know how to control your mind, seduce your spirit. They are deadly, and they need to be destroyed."

I glanced down at the amber liquid in my glass. It was as dark and murky as my thoughts.

Father tipped his glass to me. "I shouldn't have to tell you, son, that those who stand with them, those who bring shame to their families, will be destroyed as well."

A chill went up my spine, but I held his gaze. "Anyone who stands with evil should be destroyed. But I hardly think it's prudent to assume that all vampires are evil just because they happen to be vampires. Y always taught us to see the good in

ou people, to think for ourselves. The last thing this town needs, when there have already been so many deaths from the war, is more senseless killing," I said, remembering Pearl and Anna's terrified expressions in the woods. "The Founders need to rethink the plan. I'll come to the next meeting with you. I know I haven't been as involved as I could have been, but I'm ready to take on my responsibilities."

Father sank back into his chair, leaning his head against the wooden back. He closed his eyes and massaged his temples. For several long moments he remained in that posture.

I waited, every muscle in my body coiled to receive the angry flurry of words that was sure to fly from his mouth. I stared dejectedly into my glass. I had failed. I had failed Katherine, Pearl, and Anna. I had failed at securing my own happy future.

Finally, Father's eyes snapped open. To my surprise, he nodded. "I suppose I could give the matter some thought."

Cool relief flooded my body, as if I'd just jumped into the pond on a scorching summer day. He would give the matter some thought! To some, that might not seem to be much, but from my stubborn father, it meant everything. It meant there was a chance. A chance to stop sneaking around in the dark. A chance for Katherine to remain safe. For us to be together, forever.

Father lifted his glass to me. "To family."

"To family," I echoed.

Then Father drained the rest of his glass, which compelled me to do the same.