I threw power into the next command, "Edwin Alonzo Herman come and stand on your grave, now."
He walked toward me, slowly, jerkily, like a badly made robot. He had to come now, but he was still fighting me. He should not have been able to do that. Even when he stood on the grave, facing us, his body jerked and spasmed, because still he fought my control.
I had the jar of salt open. I handed it to Requiem. "Just hold it."
Graham handed me the machete, and suddenly the zombie's eyes went wide. "What are you going to do with that great knife?" He sounded uncertain, not afraid, he was made of tougher stuff than that.
"It's not for you," I said. I'd already pushed the sleeves of the leather jacket up above my wrists. Now, I started to lay the machete tip against my arm, but Requiem's hand was suddenly wrapped around the hand holding the machete.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I need blood to bind him to his grave. I'd rather do a smaller fresh wound than reopen my left wrist."
His hand stayed around my wrist. "You do not need to lose more blood tonight, Anita."
"I need blood to finish this," I said.
"Does it have to be yours?" he asked.
"Normally, it's animal blood, but I'm not going to slaughter a chicken just to lay a zombie. The chickens have survived this far. If I spill a little more blood, they can make it through the night."
"Would my blood do?" he asked.
I frowned at him. "You're seriously not going to let me do this without an argument, are you?"
"No," he said.
I sighed, and relaxed my arm just a little to save muscle cramp. He kept his grip on the arm with the machete. "I've used vampire blood by accident, but it went a little... odd. I don't need more odd tonight, Requiem."
"Will his do?" He pointed at Graham.
"Will my what do?" Graham asked.
"Your blood," Requiem said, as if it was an everyday request.
"How much blood?" Graham asked, as if it wasn't the first time he'd been asked.
"Just enough to touch the face, sprinkle or smear."
"Okay," Graham said, "I agree that you don't need to lose more blood tonight. If mine will do, then okay. Where will you make the cut?"
"Lower arm, but above the wrist, less risk of hitting something that'll bleed too freely. Also a wound in the wrist hurts more, because of all the movement that goes through it."
He stripped out of his jacket and tossed it on the ground behind him.
I looked up into his face, searched it for some sign that he felt used, or abused. I didn't see that. He looked like he said he was, okay with it.
"The look on your face," he said. "Really, it's okay. It's not like I don't donate blood on a regular basis."
"Your neck and arms are clean," I said, "no bite marks."
"There are other places to donate from, Anita, you should know that."
I blushed, which was bad, since I didn't have enough blood to spare. There were other places to donate from, most of them intimate. "You someone's pomme de sang?" I asked.
"No, not yet."
"What does not yet mean?"
"It means that some of my brethren are hesitant to commit themselves to a single wolf, when your Ulfric has suddenly decided to share such bounty," Requiem said.
"He asked for volunteers," I said.
"Oh, I'm willing," Graham said, "I just don't like going around advertising the fact. Besides," he said, and he put his hands on his hips, palms flat, "it is a wild," he smoothed his hands down his jeans, "ride," until his hands touched either side of his groin, "when they feed," and his hands formed a frame of fingers and thumbs around the bulge in his pants, "down low."
My gaze had followed his hands the whole way, like I was mesmerized. I think I was just tired. I blinked and tried to concentrate on what we needed to do. I was not going to feel well until I'd fed, but I also wasn't feeding on anyone standing here. Nathaniel was waiting back at the club, and so was Jean-Claude. I had people who were willing, now that I could say no to the ardeur until I chose, I didn't have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
"Fine, hold out an arm. I'd recommend it be your nondominant arm." I had the machete in my hand. I'd made small cuts in the arms of other animators when we shared power so we could raise a bigger or older zombie. I choked up my hold on the hilt and held out my other hand for his arm. He tried to give me his hand, and I had to say, "No, I'll hold your wrist to help steady us both."
"Have it your way," he said, and he let me grip his wrist in my left hand. Normally this was quick, but my hands were shaking tonight. It's not good to be cutting on people when your hands are shaking. I blew out all the breath in my body, as if I were aiming down the barrel of a gun, and pressed the edge of the tip against his arm. I had to take a breath and did the down-stroke as I breathed out. I was slower than I would have been if I'd felt steadier. I was working on not going too deep, rather than not causing pain.
He hissed, "Shit," under his breath.
Blood welled out, almost black in the starlight. Not a lot of blood, just a trickle along the edge of the cut. The blood began to glide out of the wound, and I rubbed my fingers through it. I turned with my fingers stained with Graham's blood, turned to the zombie still waiting on the grave.
"Don't touch me with that," he said, and he recoiled away from me.
"Stand still, very still," I said, and he froze in place, unable to move, or back away. Only his eyes showed, wide and frightened.
I had to stand on tiptoe to touch his face, and Requiem was at my arm, as I wobbled. "With blood I bind you to your grave," I said.
Herman's eyes didn't get one bit less frightened.
I raised the machete up, and he made small protesting sounds, because I'd told him not to move and he couldn't scream. I tapped him with the flat of the machete. "With steel I bind you to your grave."
I spoke to Requiem, "The salt now."
He turned and got the open jar that he'd laid down by the foot of the grave. He held it out toward me. I took a handful of salt, and I'd used the wrong hand and gotten blood in the white crystals. All the salt would have to be dumped. Damn it.
I turned to the frightened zombie and threw the salt on him. "With salt I bind you to your grave." I waited for what should happen next, and prayed that this part, at least, would go like normal.
The fear, and fierce personality in those pale eyes began to fade, to leak away, until he stood open-eyed, but empty. His eyes were the eyes of the dead.
Relief poured through me, because if his eyes hadn't gone dead, then we'd have had more problems on our hands than I wanted for tonight. But he was just a zombie, a really good, well-made zombie, but just a zombie. Yeah, he'd fought me, but he was just dead clay, like all the others.
"With blood, steel, and salt, I bind you to your grave, Edwin Alonzo Herman, go, rest, and walk no more."
He lay down on the ground like it was a bed, and then he simply sank into the ground. I moved us off the grave, so that that heaving, shifting earth settled around him, without us having to go along for the ride. When it was over, the ground was undisturbed. It looked as it had when we'd first walked up, like an old grave in an old cemetery.
"Wow," Graham said into the silence, "wow."
"Wow, indeed," Requiem said, "you are very good at this."
"Thanks. There are aloe baby wipes in the Jeep for cleaning up. First aid kit for Graham, then get me back to the club."
"As my lady commands, so shall it be done."
I looked at the tall vampire and frowned at him. "There's going to come a time between us when I'm going to ask you to do something and you won't say that."
"How can you be certain of that?" he asked, and offered me his arm for the walk back to the Jeep. Graham was already packing everything up, except the machete, which I had cleaned with a rag for that purpose, and was oiling down with a cloth that I'd bought for the occasion. The two rags lived in the same bag, until one got bloody. Then it went in the trash. Organization is the key.
"Because, eventually, everyone says no."
"You are terribly young to be so cynical," he said.
"It's a gift," I said and put the machete back in its sheath, and that went on top of the bag that Graham had waiting. He was awfully efficient for a werewolf.