I immediately sought out Lissa, who was hanging out in her own room. She was staring intently at a silver spoon, and through our bond, I could sense her intent. She was attempting to infuse it with spirit's compulsion, so that whoever held it would cheer up. I wondered if she intended it for herself or was just randomly experimenting. I didn't probe her mind to find out.
"A spoon?" I asked with amusement.
She shrugged and set it down. "Hey, it's not easy to keep getting a hold of silver. I have to take what I can get."
"Well, it'd make for happy dinner parties."
She smiled and put her feet upon the ebony coffee table that sat in the middle of her little suite's living room. Each time I saw it, I couldn't help but be reminded of the glossy black furniture that had been in my own prison suite back in Russia. I had fought Dimitri with a stake made from a chair's leg of similar style.
"Speaking of which... how was your dinner party?"
"Not as bad as I thought," I admitted. "I never realized what an ass**le Adrian's dad was, though. His mom was actually pretty cool. She didn't have a problem with us dating."
"Yeah, I've met her. She is nice... though I never thought she was nice enough to be okay with scandalous dating. I don't suppose Her Royal Majesty showed up?" Lissa was joking, so my response floored her.
"She did, and... it wasn't awful."
"What? Did you say 'wasn't'?"
"I know, I know. It was so crazy. It was this really quick visit to see Adrian, and she acted like me being there was no big deal." I didn't bother delving into the politics of Tatiana's views on Moroi training for battle. "Of course, who knows what would have happened if she stayed? Maybe she would have turned into her old self. I would have needed a whole set of magic silverware then--to stop me from pulling a knife on her."
Lissa groaned. "Rose, you cannot make those kinds of jokes."
I grinned. "I say the things you're too afraid to."
This made her smile in return. "It's been a long time since I've heard that," she said softly. My trip to Russia had fractured our friendship--which had ended up showing me just how much it really meant to me.
We spent the rest of the time hanging out, talking about Adrian and other gossip. I was relieved to see she'd gotten over her earlier mood about Christian, but as the day progressed, her anxiety grew about our pending mission with Mia.
"It's going to be okay," I told her when the time came. We were heading back across the Court grounds, dressed in comfortable jeans and T-shirts. It was nice to be free of school curfew, but again, being out in the bright sunlight didn't make me feel very covert. "This'll be easy."
Lissa cut me a look but said nothing. The guardians were the security force in our world, and this was their headquarters. Breaking in was going to be anything but easy.
Mia looked determined when we reached her, though, and I felt encouraged by her attitude--and that she was wearing all black. True, it wouldn't do much in sunlight, but it made this all feel more legitimate. I was dying to know what had happened with Christian, and Lissa was too. Again, it was one of those topics best left unexplained.
Mia did, however, explain her plan to us, and I honestly felt it had about a 65 percent chance of working. Lissa was uneasy about her role since it involved compulsion, but she was a trooper and agreed to do it. We went over everything in detail a few more times and then set out to the building that housed guardian operations. I'd been there once before, when Dimitri had taken me to see Victor in the holding cells adjacent to the guardians' HQ. I'd never spent much time in the main offices before, and as Mia had predicted, they were lightly staffed this time of the day.
When we walked in, we were immediately met by a reception area like you'd find in any other administrative office. A stern guardian sat at a desk with a computer, filing cabinets and tables all around him. He probably didn't have much to do at this time of night, but he was still clearly on high alert. Beyond him was a door, and it held my attention. Mia had explained that it was a gateway to all the guardian secrets, to their records and main offices--and surveillance areas that monitored high-risk regions of the Court.
Stern or not, the guy had a small smile for Mia. "Isn't it a little late for you? You aren't here for lessons, are you?"
She grinned back. He must have been one of the guardians she'd grown friendly with during her time at Court. "Nah, just up with some friends and wanted to show them around."
He arched an eyebrow as he took in me and Lissa. He gave a slight nod of acknowledgment. "Princess Dragomir. Guardian Hathaway." Apparently our reputations preceded us. It was the first time I'd been addressed by my new title. It startled me--and made me feel slightly guilty about betraying the group I'd just become a member of.
"This is Don," explained Mia. "Don, the princess has a favor to ask." She looked meaningfully at Lissa.
Lissa took a deep breath, and I felt the burnings of compulsion magic through our bond as she focused her gaze upon him. "Don," she said firmly, "give us the keys and codes to the records archives downstairs. And then make sure the cameras in those areas are turned off."
He frowned. "Why would I--" But as her eyes continued to hold his, I could see the compulsion seize him. The lines on his face smoothed into compliance, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Plenty of people were strong enough to resist compulsion--particularly that of ordinary Moroi. Lissa's was much stronger because of spirit, though you never knew if someone might break through.
"Of course," he said, standing up. He opened a desk drawer and handed Mia a set of keys that she promptly gave to me. "The code is 4312578."
I committed it to memory, and he beckoned us through the all-powerful door. Beyond it, corridors spread in all directions. He pointed to one on our right. "Down there. Take a left at the end, go downstairs two flights, and it's the door on the right."
Mia glanced at me to make sure I understood. I nodded, and she turned back to him. "Now make sure the surveillance is off."
"Take us there," said Lissa firmly.
Don couldn't resist her command, and she and Mia followed him, leaving me on my own. This part of the plan was all on me, and I hurried down the hall. The facility might be lightly staffed, but I could still run into someone--and would have no compulsion to help me talk my way out of trouble.
Don's directions were spot-on, but I still wasn't prepared when I punched in the code and entered the vault. Rows and rows of filing cabinets stretched down a huge hall. I couldn't see the end of it. Drawers were stacked five high, and the faint fluorescent lighting and eerie silence gave it all a spooky, almost haunted feel. All the guardians' information from before the digital age. God only knew how far back these records went. To medieval days in Europe? I suddenly felt daunted and wondered if I could pull this off.