Hi, this is Summer. After supper last night - we were getting ready to head from the Green house to the Rose house to get some sleep, actually - the doorbell rang. Cécile and Marie-Grace were standing on the front steps, looking worried. I would have been able to tell from their expressions alone that something was up. Plus the fact that it was so late at night. Plus the fact that they know that coming over might make Tabitha freak out, but they still came without warning. My immediate thought was that this was something bad.
They came inside. (Tabitha went down the the basement and killed a chair. Clare was mostly fine. Every now and then she'd start to crouch defensively like they were about to fight, but she'd catch herself and snap out of it. Ah, territorial young vampires...) After some basic hellos, they got down to business.
"We found out who killed those other vampires," Marie-Grace said. "They're a group of really old, powerful vampires who call themselves The Elders."
Inna dropped the mug she was holding, and it shattered against the tile floor. Her face was even paler than usual. She didn't say anything, though, so the girls went on explaining.
"They're looking for Clare and Tabitha," Cécile said, with obvious worry in her voice.
"Why?" I asked, although I hadn't meant to say it aloud.
It was Inna who answered me. "Vampire society isn't all that organized, in general, except at the family or local group level. But... there are a few groups who try to exert power over the others. Usually less out of the goodness of their hearts, and more because they need vampires to be a secret, so they can keep their own position of control. They enforce what has popularly come to be called 'the masquerade,' so I guess they're the vampire form of a penal system."
"Like the Mounties?" Kiwi asked innocently.
Inna shook her head. "The Mounties follow the law of the land, not just their own whims. Vampires have no official law that everyone recognizes. Also, the Mounties don't just murder people - that's the biggest difference."
"That's why they killed the vampires who turned me, I guess," Clare said. "They drew a lot of human attention. It was in the papers, and stuff, that people were being attacked and disappearing back in Denver. And that's why they're coming after us, too."
Marie-Grace nodded. "That's what they said."
"You talked to them?" I asked.
Cécile looked embarrassed. "Well, it's not like we invited them over for tea. They sought us out, not the other way around. We were just trying to stay out of their way."
Marie-Grace added quietly, "They found us because they wanted to warn us about who we make friends with here. We haven't made them angry. Not yet, anyway. But... they're upset about Tabitha and Clare. Both of those girls created a fair bit of chaos back in the United States." She added, "Sorry!" to Clare, but Clare shrugged and looked ashamed, because it was the truth.
"How do they know Clare and Tabs are here?" Kirsten asked. "They haven't caused any trouble in public here."
"Because of Kiwi's injuries," Cécile replied. "I guess they have people reporting back to them from all over the place, and... someone who read the medical reports didn't buy the 'dog attack' story. They snooped around, and figured it out."
"Do they know where the girls are?" Inna asked, sounding awfully calm under the circumstances.
Cécile shook her head. "Only that they're in this city. Nothing more specific. If they did... things would have gotten bad already. They said... to tell you that your days are numbered, too, Inna. I'm really sorry..."
"It's not your fault," Inna said rather blankly, and exchanged a glance with Maia.
This was all getting to be a bit much for me. These are people I care about!
"Why would they want to hurt Inna?" I asked somewhat angrily.
Inna answered before Cécile could. She said, "Because they tried before and I didn't die."
Suddenly all the pieces clicked into place. We weren't dealing with all kinds of different vampire groups trying to pick us off. It was all these Elders. They were the ones who tried to kill Inna, and then bound her as a servant. They're the ones who chased us here. They're the ones who have been threatening the Rose family all along. Now they're threatening Clare and Tabitha too - and this city probably drew their attention in the first place because Inna came here - they just don't realize we're all together. And from what Bree said about vampires and Fae, she and Fiona may be on the hit list too.
Fortunately, at this point, Marie-Grace broke the silence by announcing, "There's a silver lining, though."
"Go on?" Maia encouraged her, although it was difficult to see the possibility of one.
"Well... they're gone." Marie-Grace was speaking hurriedly now, eager to get this out before the bad mood completely overtook us. "Not forever. They haven't given up. But... something happened. I don't know what. A message came while they were at our house, and they whispered about it, and then they all left. We followed them discreetly, and they boarded a ship at the harbour, and went away. We couldn't figure out where they were going - the ship's information was in Russian, I think - but they're not here anymore."
"They'll come back," Cécile cautioned us.
"Of course," Inna replied, and her smile had a sarcastic twist. "They've been playing cat-and-mouse with me for years. It's amusing to them to toy with the prey." Realizing this comment was potentially alarming, she added, "But don't forget, we have a major advantage now. We know what they're up to, and they don't know that we know. We can be prepared for them."
Clare looked pretty miserable, so I gave her a hug. "I'm sorry about all this..." she said.
"It's not your fault," I told her sincerely. "You didn't ask to become a vampire, and you didn't know how to control yourself at first. You didn't have anyone to help you like we're helping Tabitha. You aren't responsible for what happened."
"Thanks," Clare said softly. It's not like we haven't told her that before, but she obviously needed reassurance at that moment.
So now we have to come up with our next move. Our first thought was to cancel our various holiday trips instead of scattering all over the place for Christmas... safety in numbers, and all. Inna said she didn't think that was a good idea, though. They probably already have some suspicions about us, and if we suddenly had a big change of plans right after they gave Cécile and Marie-Grace a warning, it would be pretty obvious we had something to hide. Well, more like someone to hide - Clare and Tabitha. We're going to go ahead with what we intended to do for the holidays, and hope the vampire Elders stay gone for a good long time.