Betrothed, p.6
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       Betrothed, p.6

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice
 
CHAPTER SIX

 

  Sam flew over the British countryside, Polly at his side, but keeping her distance. Their wings were spread out but they were not close to touching, as they each wanted space from each other.

  Sam preferred it that way, and he assumed she did, too. He liked Polly, he really did. But after his debacle with Kendra, he wasn't ready to get close to anyone of the opposite sex for a long time to come. It would be a while before he could trust someone again. Even someone who had been close to his sister, as Polly seemed to be.

  They had been flying for hours, and as Sam looked down in the morning light, he saw endless stretches of farmland, with occasional small houses, smoke rising from their stone chimneys, even on this beautiful fall day. He saw the occasional person out in their yard, tending to clothing, hanging sheets on strings. There were not many houses, though. This countryside seem so entirely rural, he began to wonder if cities even existed in this time - whatever time and place they were in.

  Sam had no idea where to go, and Polly hadn't been much help. They had both used their keen vampire senses to tune in, to try to use their close connection to Caitlin to sense where she might be.

  They had both intuited that she might be in this general direction, and they had been flying for hours. But since then, they had seen no clues or direct leads. Sam's instincts told him that Caitlin was in a large city. But they hadn't passed anything remotely like a city for hundreds of miles.

  Just when Sam was beginning to wonder if they'd chosen the right direction, they rounded a bend, and as they did, he was shocked at what unfolded in the distance. There, on the horizon, sat a sprawling city. He couldn't recognize what city it was, and he wasn't sure that he'd be able to recognize it at all, even up close. His geography was pretty bad, and his history was even worse. It was the result of being moved one too many times, of falling in with the wrong friends, of not paying attention in school. He had been a C student, although he knew he had the potential to get A's. But with his upbringing, it had just been too hard for him to find a reason to care. Now, he regretted it.

  "It's London!" Polly called out, in delight and surprise. "Oh my God! London! I can't believe it.

  We're here! We're really here! What an amazing place to be!" she yelled, excitedly.

  Thank God for Polly, Sam thought, feeling stupider than ever. He realized there was a lot he could learn from her.

  As they got closer and buildings came into view, he marveled at the architecture. Even from this great distance, he could see church steeples rising into the sky, punctuating the city like a field of lances. As they came even closer, he saw just how grand and magnificent all the churches were - and was surprised that they already looked ancient. Beside them, all the other architecture was dwarfed by comparison.

  As he began to take it all in, he sensed keenly that Caitlin was here. And the thought of that excited and thrilled him.

  "Caitlin's down there!" he yelled out. "I can feel it. " Polly smiled back. "So can I!" she yelled.

  For the first time since landing in this time and place, Sam finally felt grounded, felt a strong sense of direction, and of purpose. Finally, he felt as if he were on the right track.

  He tried to sense whether she was in any danger. Try as he did, he was coming up blank. He thought of the last time he had seen her, in Paris, right before she'd fled the Notre Dame. She had been with that guy - Caleb - and he wondered if they were still together. He'd only met Caleb once or twice, but he'd liked him a lot. He hoped that Caitlin was with him, and that he was taking care of her. He got a good feeling from their being together.

  Polly suddenly dove lower, without warning, getting closer to the rooftops. Either she didn't care about Sam following, or she just assumed that he would. It annoyed Sam. He wished she'd given him some warning, or at least cared enough about him to signal that she was diving down low. And yet, a part of him sensed that she did care. Was she just playing hard to get?

  And why did he even care, either way? Didn't he just get through telling himself that he wasn't interested in girls right now?

  Sam dove down lower, to her level, and they flew just feet above the city. But he also made a point of veering off to the left, so that they flew even further apart. Take that, Sam thought.

  As they approached the city center, Sam was blown away. This time and place was so different, so unlike anything he had ever seen or experienced. He was so close the rooftops, he felt as if he could almost reach down and touch them. The majority of buildings were low, just a few stories high, and were built with slanted roofs, topped with what looked like huge piles of hay or straw.

  Most buildings were painted a bright white, with brown lines framing them. The churches - huge, marble, limestone - rose up out of the landscape, dominating entire blocks, and here and there were a few other large structures that looked like palaces. Probably, he guessed, residences for royalty.

  The city was divided by a wide river, over which they now flew. The river was bustling with traffic - boats of all shapes and sizes - and as he looked over at the streets, he saw that they were bustling, too. In fact, he couldn't believe how packed they were. There were people everywhere, hurrying to and fro. He couldn't imagine what they could possibly have to hurry about. It wasn't like they had internet, or e-mails, or faxes, or even phones.

  Still, other parts of the city were relatively peaceful. The dirt roads, the river, and all the boats provided a tranquil feeling. There were no racing cars, buses, horns, trucks or motorcycles revving.

  All was relatively quiet.

  That is, until a sudden roar rose up.

  Sam turned his head, and so did Polly.

  There, off to the side, they spotted a large stadium, built in a perfect circle and rising several stories high. It reminded him of the Roman Coliseum, although much smaller.

  From his bird's-eye view, it looked as if there were some sort of large animal in the center of it, running around, with many other small animals running around it. He couldn't quite figure out what it was, but he could see that the stadium was packed with thousands of people, all standing, on their feet, cheering and roaring.

  He suddenly felt a tingling in his body as he watched. Not because he could tell what it was. But because he suddenly sensed Caitlin's presence there. Strongly.

  "My sister!" he yelled out to Polly. "She's there," he said, pointing. "I feel it. " Polly looked down, and furrowed her brow.

  "I'm not so sure," she said. "I don't feel anything. "

  She turned her head in the other direction, and pointed at the bridge looming before then. "I sense that she's there. "

  Sam looked, and saw a huge bridge spanning the river. He was surprised to notice that it was covered with shops of all sorts, and even more surprised to see, as they flew over it, that there were several prisoners standing there, on a scaffold, nooses around their necks, hoods around their heads.

  It looked as if they were about to be executed. And large crowds gathered around them.

  "Okay," Sam said, and suddenly dove down low, right for the bridge. He figured he would pre-empt her, and be the first one to dive down this time.

  Sam landed on the bridge, not turning around, and moments later, he sensed Polly land several feet behind him. She caught up to him, and the two of them walked side-by-side, keeping their distance, he not looking at her, and she not looking at him either. He was proud that he was keeping their relationship purely professional. There wasn't even a semblance of closeness, which was clearly what they both wanted.

  Sam was amazed at the sights on the bridge. It was overwhelming, with so much stimulation coming at him from every direction.

  "Tan your leather, son?" a man asked him, holding a piece of rawhide up in his face. The man's breath stank, and Sam dodged out of his way.

  "Now where?" Sam asked Polly.

  She scanned the bridge, looking everywhere for Caitlin, as did he. But there wa
s no sight of her anywhere.

  Polly finally shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "I had sensed her here before, but now. . . I'm not so sure. "

  Sam turned and looked off at the horizon, back towards that stadium.

  "I sensed her back there," he said. "In that stadium we flew over. "

  "Okay," Polly said, "let's go that way. But let's walk - just in case she's on the bridge. "

  As they walked across the bridge, through all the vendors, Polly seemed to cheer up again, to slowly become her jolly self. "Look at the fashions of all these people!" she said. "I mean, look at what they wear! It's amazing, isn't it? I don't think I would ever be caught dead wearing something like that. But I can see the functionality of it. I wonder how these fashions even come to be. I mean, how do they just change from generation to generation? So crazy, isn't it? And I was thinking, if I lived in this time, if I was one of these people, what color would I wear. . . "

  Sam sighed. Polly had begun talking again, and he knew there was no stopping her now.

  Inwardly, he tuned her out.

  As they walked, Sam scanned all the faces on the bridge, looking for any sign of Caitlin. He kept thinking he saw her, for a second, only to be disappointed. At one point, he saw a girl from behind that looked just like her, and grabbed her shoulder.

  "Caitlin!" he exclaimed.

  But the girl turned, and he was embarrassed to realize it wasn't her; she gave him an odd look and walked away.

  Soon they were over the bridge, standing on land, and Sam spotted a huge sign which read

  "Southwark. " He turned right, in the direction of that stadium.

  They headed down a street which read "Clink Street," and passed a large prison. They heard another roar, and this time, Sam felt certain that she was there. Caitlin. His sister. Just blocks away.

  They increased their pace and as they rounded the bend, Sam was blown away by the sight: before them sat a large stadium, in front of which milled thousands of people - crude, tough looking types - all hurrying in and out.

  He stopped and turned to Polly. She stood there, looking amazed.

  "I feel that she's in there," he said to her. "Do you want to check it out?"

  Polly stared at the crowd, looking appalled.

  "These people look like they haven't bathed in a year," she said. "And their fashion leaves much to be desired. "

  A huge, sweaty man passed by them, not wearing a shirt, hair coming off his arms, and brushed by Polly's arm, leaving sweat on her which she furiously wiped off.

  "Gross," she said.

  Sam felt repulsed by it, too.

  "I don't know," Polly said. "I don't feel that she's in there. And I don't get a good feeling about this place. "

  Sam scanned the faces. "Do you have any other ideas?" he asked.

  He saw Polly close her eyes for several seconds. Finally, she opened them, looking frustrated.

  "No," she said.

  "Then let's check it out," Sam said. "What do we have to lose?"

  *

  Sam was on guard as they walked through the large, open-air archway, into the stadium. It reminded him of entering the Roman Coliseum, but smaller.

  The electricity in the air was palpable. Before them, at eye level, was a circular, dirt floor, surrounded by wooden seating, rising steeply for several levels. There was not an empty seat in the packed house, and everyone was on their feet. People were crammed in impossibly close, shoulder to shoulder, leaning over the wooden railings, and screaming at the top of their lungs.

  Sam looked down to see what they were screaming about, and saw that there, tied to a post in the center of the dirt floor, was a huge, brown bear, fixed to the post by a ten foot metal chain, clamped to its hind leg. The bear snarled and roared, trying to break free, but to no avail.

  The bear ran in circles, back and forth, yanking at the chain with all its might - but it was futile.

  The crowd seemed to get excited every time the bear tried to break free, shouting and jeering. Sam looked closely, scanning the faces, and he could see that most of them were drunk, in the middle of the day, gripping flasks.

  It was crowded down here, too. In the entryway, hundreds of people milled about, shoulder to shoulder, jostling Sam and Polly. While Polly previously had kept her distance from Sam, she inched closer, clearly nervous.

  He cleared a space for them both, pushing their way towards the front so that they could get a better look. Sam scanned all the faces intently, trying to see if he could spot Caitlin anywhere. But it was so chaotic, and there was so much energy in the air, he felt his senses being tuned out. He couldn't see her anywhere, and now he was starting to worry if they were in the right place at all.

  Maybe he had made a mistake coming here. Maybe Polly had been right.

  Sam also couldn't figure out why all these people were so excited about watching a bear chained to a post.

  And then it happened.

  A trumpet sounded, and several trap doors opened all around the sides of the stadium. In a perfect circle, out charged a dozen hunting dogs. They all charged right for the bear. Sam couldn't believe it.

  The dogs leapt high into the air, claws and teeth extended, aiming right for the bear. The first dog to reach it sunk its fangs into the bear's hind leg.

  The bear wheeled in anger, and knocked the dog off of him with a swipe of his paw. The bear's huge claws tore the dog in half, and the dog fell to the ground, dead.

  The crowd roared in approval.

  The other dogs attacked the bear from all directions, and he fought back viciously. They did damage, biting and scratching him, but he did much more damage than they, killing or wounding most of the dogs with a single bite.

  "PLACE YOUR BETS! PLACE YOUR BETS!" shouted a voice. A man walked past Sam and Polly holding out a pouch filled with coins, and an empty palm. As he went, various people reached over, brushing by Sam, and shoved various size coins into his hand. He stuffed these coins into his pouch, and reached out and gave the people tickets in return.

  "Twenty pence on the dogs!" yelled a man, as he thrust a coin into his hand.

  "Two pounds on the bear!" called out another man.

  The man stopped before Sam and Polly, looking at them, holding out his hand. "Will the young couple be placing a bet?" he asked.

  Sam, embarrassed, looked at Polly, and she looked away, equally embarrassed.

  "We are not a couple," Polly corrected, her face reddening.

  But the man didn't seem to care. Realizing they weren't betting, he moved on.

  Sam was embarrassed, too. And despite himself, he also felt a little hurt that Polly was so quick to clarify that they were not a couple. Not that they were. She just didn't have to be so forceful about it.

  The man moved on, but as soon as he did, another man appeared, carrying a sack over his shoulder. "GIN HERE! GIN HERE! Fifteen pence!"

  A huge, drunken man brushed by Sam, and as he did, he bumped Polly roughly, sending her stumbling, as he reached out and grabbed a flask of gin.

  Sam felt his temper flare. He turned to Polly, and could see that she was flustered.

  "Are you okay?" he asked.

  She nodded back, but looked shaken.

  "Let's go," she said. "Caitlin's not here. I want to get out of here. " Sam was willing to go, especially since it was clear that Caitlin was nowhere to be found - but he wasn't ready to leave just yet. He was indignant that the man had so rudely jostled Polly, and he didn't feel right about leaving until he'd spoken his mind.

  "That'll be fifteen pence," said the vendor to the huge man.

  The man suddenly extracted a small knife from somewhere in his garment and held it up to the vendor's throat.

  "How about I trade you the flask for your life?" the man responded.

  The vendor, wide-eyed, hurried off.

  The man turned and began to make his way back.


  But Sam stepped sideways, and blocked his path. He bravely stared the man down, right in the eye.

  "You owe her an apology," Sam said to him, in a calm, cool rage.

  The man, a good foot taller than Sam - and twice as wide - looked down at Sam as if he were joking, then broke out into a menacing laugh.

  "Do I?" he asked.

  He turned and looked at Polly, and then licked his huge fat lips, practically drooling.

  "I tell you what: how 'bout I take her home with me for a ring or two, and I could apologize to her all night long. Yes. In fact, I think I'll do that. "

  The man took a step towards Polly, as if to grab her.

  But before he could get any further, Sam stepped up and shoved him hard, sending him flying through the crowd, knocking over several people with him, and finally landing on his behind.

  "Sam, let's go," Polly urged in a low, hurried voice, grabbing Sam's arm, trying to pull him away.

  " Please. "

  But Sam wasn't ready to walk away. A part of him, the rational part, knew that he should. But that part was quickly receding into the back of his mind. Another part came to the fore: and it was the part that wanted blood. Vengeance.

  And the huge man didn't seem to be in exactly a forgiving mood, either. His face turned bright red, as he sat there, embarrassed, on his behind, looking at Sam with something like shock. It didn't help that the entire crowd was now looking down at him, howling and hooting at him, making his face turn even redder.

  As he regained his feet, two other huge men suddenly came up beside him, and Sam could see that they were his friends. There was now, facing him, a pack of three of them, and as they approached Sam, they each pulled out a knife.

  "Small boy," said the man, "you're going to pay for that with your life. I hope it was a good one. "

  The three of them lunged toward Sam.

  But Sam didn't feel any fear. Instead, he felt resolve - a cold, steely resolve.

  With one arm, he reached out and brushed Polly back behind him, so that he stood in front of her, offering her safety.

  Then he took two steps forward, leapt into the air, meeting the huge man in the middle, kicking him in the chest with both his feet, and sending him flying backwards. In the same motion, he reached out one hand in each direction, grabbed the heads of the two other men, and smashed them together.

  They collided with a sickening crack, and both collapsed to the ground.

  But Sam wasn't done. He kept running forward, as the big man landed on his back once again.

  As he tried to regain his feet, Sam kicked him hard in the face, knocking him out cold.

  Sam wheeled, looking to see if anyone else was coming after him.

  But the crowd just stood there, in shock, finally silenced. Nobody dared come within feet of him.

  He saw several other men come towards him, from another direction, dressed in all black. They looked like officials, all dressed in the same uniform. They were larger, meaner, more professional looking. Security, perhaps.

  Five of them approached, holding clubs.

  Sam felt himself pulsing with rage, and he couldn't stop it. He leaned back and roared, the rage coursing through every inch of his body. He had never felt such rage, and as he leaned his head back and roared, the noise reverberated, louder and louder, above the din of the crowd, finally shaking the entire stadium. Within moments, the roar became louder than even the bear's.

  People from every direction of the stadium stopped and turned their attention on him.

  The five security guards stopped cold in their tracks, a good ten feet away, frozen in fear at the sound and the sight.

  Clearly, it was evident, even for them, that Sam was not human.

  Sam blinked and opened his eyes to see Polly standing before him. It was hard to focus on her in his rage, but she was now standing just inches away, holding her hands to his face. Forcing him to focus.

  "Sam," she said. "It's me. "

  Slowly, his rage waned.

  She reached out, took his hand, and led him through the parting crowd, everyone afraid to be close to them.

  Within moments, they were out the door, and back outside the stadium.

  Polly led him at a quick pace, gaining even more distance, walking and walking, and they were soon far from the stadium. Eventually, they reached the bank of the river. As they did, Sam slowly felt himself returning to normal.

  Finally, she let go of his hand. He was so flooded with emotion, he was having a hard time remembering what had just happened.

  "Don't you ever do that again," Polly snapped. "You just put us both in danger. And our entire race. "

  Sam felt indignant. He had just stood up for her - this was hardly the thanks he had been expecting.

  "What are you talking about?" he said. "I was looking out for you. I was protecting you. That man elbowed you. "

  "I don't need your protection," Polly said. "I can handle myself, in case you forgot. It's not like I'm human. And I especially don't need any protection from any boys. I'm fine on my own. And besides - you weren't protecting me: you were endangering me. And just flattering your own ego. " Sam felt angry now. He had thought she'd be grateful, and couldn't understand why she was upset.

  "Fine," he snapped. "I won't help you again. "

  "Fine," she snapped back.

  Sam stood there fuming, watching her back as she walked away.

  Girls, he thought. He would never understand them.

 
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