I turned back to the vampire in question. "Why didn't you use your new power to get rid of the wererat guards earlier?"
"I wanted it to be a surprise," she said, and smiled, smiled wide enough to flash fangs. She was so terribly pleased with herself.
"Fine," I said, "all shape-shifter bodyguards that don't happen to be rats, get her ass."
"Kill them," and I knew she was talking to Bobby Lee. That I hadn't foreseen. Shit.
But Bobby Lee and Claudia were both shaking their heads, and backing off from her. "You can order us not to harm you, but you can't make us hurt others. You ain't got that kind of power, girl."
The wererats were all backing away, looking confused and worried. More real rats had begun to scamper in from the far cavern. One of the problems with using a place that is naturally created is that you get nature. Nature isn't always pretty, or friendly.
It was mostly werehyenas that moved forward. Only two of the wereleopards qualified as bodyguards, and those two stayed close to Micah. The rest of our leopards had been brought along as food. Food doesn't fight, food just bleeds.
I realized something I hadn't before--there were no werewolves in the cave except for Stephen. Where had the werewolf guards gone?
Musette said something, and it wasn't in French. In fact it wasn't a language I could even guess at. The two vampires with their ivory gray skin and golden eyes moved in front of her.
Jean-Claude said, "Call them back, ma petite,I would not lose them over this."
"There's only two of them, Jean-Claude."
"But they are not what they seem."
I called everybody off and turned to Jean-Claude. "What?"
It was Valentina who came forward and answered my question. "There is a room where the servants of the Sweet Dark wait, asleep. The council members will go into that room from time to time and try to call them to their service."
I glanced at the two vampires, then back to Valentina. "These two woke," I said.
"More than these two," she said, "our mistress has called six of them awake. She believes it is a mark of her growing power."
Valentina and I looked at each other. "The Mother of All Darkness is waking, and her servants wake before her." I whispered it, but even whispered, it shivered and filled the room with dancing echoes.
"I believe so," Valentina said.
"Our mistress is more powerful than any other. The servants of our Sweet Mother wake to Belle Morte's command. It is a sign of our mistress's greatness," Musette declared it as truth, a ringing pride in her voice.
"You're a fool, Musette, the dark is waking. The fact that they are standing here is proof of that. They'll obey Belle Morte until their true mistress rises, then God help you all."
Musette literally stamped her foot at me. "You will not spoil our fun. You cannot touch me, they will not let you."
I looked at them, and frowned. "They're not just vampires, are they?"
"What do you mean, ma petite?"
I could feel them, feel a presence that shouldn't have been there. "They feel like shape-shifters. Vampires can't be shape-shifters." I realized even as I said it that that wasn't entirely true. The Mother of All Darkness was a shape-shifter and a vampire. I'd felt that.
"I thought Mommy Dearest was the first vampire, the one who made you all."
"Oui, ma petite."
"Are there any vampires on the council that descend directly from her?"
Jean-Claude thought about that for a moment. "We all descend from her."
"That's not what I asked."
Asher answered, "There is no one that can claim direct descent from her line, but she founded the council of vampires. She began our civilization, gave us rules, so that we were no longer solitary beasts, killing each other on sight."
"So she's your cultural mother, not your line's originator."
"Who can tell for certain, ma petite?She is the beginning of what we are today. She is our Mother in all ways that are important."
I shook my head. "Not all ways." I stood out of reach and said, "Someone who speaks whatever they speak translate this for me."
Valentina stepped up. "They understand French now."
"I am here, ma petite."
"Tell them that Musette has forfeited safe conduct, and we need to place her under arrest. She won't be harmed, but she won't be allowed to harm anyone else."
Jean-Claude spoke slow French, so I could understand a lot of it. I had picked up more and more over the years, but rapid speech still gave me problems. "I have told them."
"Then tell them this, too. If they don't move out of the way so we can arrest her, then we are within the rules that the Mother of Darkness laid down--to kill them for disobeying the rules."
Jean-Claude looked doubtful.
"Just repeat it," I said. I walked away a little to find Bobby Lee. He was sweating and looked unwell.
"I am sorry, Anita. We failed you."
I shook my head. "Not yet you haven't."
He looked puzzled.
"Open your leather jacket, wide."
He did what I asked.
I took his gun out of its shoulder holster and got a glimpse of a second gun in his belt. Rules said only guards could be armed. I pointed the gun at the ground, and clicked off the safety.
His eyes were very wide. I wasn't actually sure if he could let me have the gun. But he did, and I threaded my way carefully back through the crowd to the front lines.
The gun was invisible, held in the folds of my full black skirt. "What did they say, Jean-Claude?"
"They don't believe anyone here can hurt them. They say that they are invincible."
"How long have they been asleep?"
Jean-Claude asked them. "They don't know for certain."
"How do they know they're invincible?" I asked.
He asked, and they drew swords from under their white coats. Short swords, forged of something darker and heavier than steel. Was it bronze? I wasn't sure. I just knew it wasn't steel.
We all stepped back from the drawn blades, whatever they were made of. "They say that no weapon born of man can harm them," Jean Claude said.
Musette laughed. "They are the finest warriors ever created. You will not touch me with them as my protectors."
I stepped back, put myself in as balanced a stance as I could get with the high heels, and raised the gun. I aimed for a headshot, and got it. The vampire's head exploded in a wash of blood and brains. The sound of the shot seemed to echo forever, and I couldn't hear the yell I saw on the lips of the second warrior as he charged me. His head exploded like the first one had. All the hand-to-hand combat training in the world is useless if your enemy doesn't let you get close enough to use it.
Musette stood blinking, too shocked to move, I think. She was covered in blood and gore. Her blond hair and pale face were a red mask, out of which her blue eyes blinked. Her white dress was half crimson.
I aimed the gun at her startled face. I thought about it, God knows, I thought about it. But I didn't need Jean-Claude's frightened, "Ma petite,please, for all our sakes, do not do this," to make me hesitate. I couldn't kill Musette, because of what Belle Morte might do in retaliation. But I let Musette see in my eyes, my face, my body, that I would kill her, that I wanted to kill her, and that, given the right excuse, I might forget Belle's vengeance for the second it would take me to pull a trigger.
Musette's eyes filled with glistening tears. She was a fool, but not so big a fool as all that. But I had to be certain, so we didn't have these misunderstandings again. "What do you see in my face, Musette?" My voice was low, almost a whisper, because I was afraid of what my hand would do if I yelled.
She swallowed and, it was loud to my ringing ears. "I see my death upon your face."
"Yes," I said, "yes, you do. Never forget this moment, Musette, because if it happens again, it will be your last moment."
She let out a shaking breath. "I understand."
"I hope so, Musette, I really, truly, hope so." I lowered the gun, slowly. "Now, Merle can you oversee Musette and Angelito going to their rooms, right now."
Merle stepped forward, and a small army of werehyenas moved with him. "My Nimir-Ra speaks, and I obey." I'd heard him say things like that to Micah before, but never to me, or at least not like he meant it.