Tatiana always dressed up at the parties I saw her at, but for a formal event like this, she was really channeling the queen look. Her dress was long-sleeved navy silk, and a glittering crown of blue and white stones sat atop her elaborately braided hair. In a beauty pageant, I would have written such gems off as rhinestones. On her, I didn't question for a moment that they were real sapphires and diamonds.

"Thank you," she said. She was also using her royal voice, resonant and impressive, filling the room. "We will be continuing our conversation from yesterday."

Wait... what? They'd been discussing me yesterday too? I noticed then that I'd wrapped my arms around myself in a sort of protective stance and immediately dropped them. I didn't want to look weak, no matter what they had in store for me.

"Today we will be hearing testimony from a newly made guardian." Tatiana's sharp gaze fell on me. The whole room's did. "Rosemarie Hathaway, will you please come forward?"

I did, keeping my head high and posture confident. I didn't exactly know where to stand, so I picked the middle of the room, directly facing Tatiana. If I was going to be paraded in public, I wished someone would have tipped me off to wear guardian black and white. Whatever. I'd show no fear, even in jeans and a T-shirt. I gave a small, proper bow and then met her eyes directly, bracing for what was to come.

"Will you please state your name?" she asked.

She'd already done it for me, but I still said, "Rosemarie Hathaway."

"How old are you?"


"And how long have you been eighteen?"

"A few months."

She waited a couple moments to let it sink in, as though this were important information. "Miss Hathaway, we understand that around that time, you withdrew from St. Vladimir's Academy. Is this correct?"

That's what this was about? Not the Vegas trip with Lissa?

"Yes." I offered no more info. Oh God. I hoped she didn't get into Dimitri. She shouldn't have known about my relationship with him, but there was no telling what information could spread around here.

"You went to Russia to hunt Strigoi."


"As a type of personal revenge following the attack at St. Vladimir 's?"

"Er... yes."

No one said anything, but my response definitely caused a stir in the room. People shifted uneasily and glanced at their neighbors. Strigoi always inspired fear, and someone actively seeking them out was still an unusual concept among us. Oddly, Tatiana seemed very pleased by this confirmation. Was it going to be used as more ammunition against me?

"We would assume then," she continued, "that you are one of those who believe in direct strikes against the Strigoi?"


"Many had different reactions to the terrible attack at St. Vladimir's," she said. "You aren't the only dhampir who wanted to strike back against the Strigoi--though you were certainly the youngest."

I hadn't known about others going on vigilante sprees--well, aside from some reckless dhampirs in Russia. If that was the story about my trip she was willing to believe, that was fine with me.

"We have reports from both guardians and Alchemists in Russia that you were successful." This was the first time I'd heard the Alchemists mentioned in public, but of course they'd be a common topic among the Council. "Can you tell me how many you killed?"

"I..." I stared in surprise. "I'm not sure, Your Majesty. At least..." I racked my brain. "Seven." It might have been more. She thought so too.

"That might be a modest estimate compared to what our sources say," she noted grandly. "Nonetheless, still an impressive number. Did you perform the kills by yourself?"

"Sometimes I did. Sometimes I had help. There were... some other dhampirs I worked with once in a while." Technically, I'd had Strigoi help as well, but I wasn't going to mention that.

"They were close to your age?"


Tatiana said no more, and as though receiving a cue, a woman beside her spoke up. I believed she was the Conta princess.

"When did you kill your first Strigoi?"

I frowned. "Last December."

"And you were seventeen?"


"Did you perform that kill yourself?"

"Well... mostly. A couple friends helped with distraction." I hoped they weren't going to push for more details. My first kill had occurred when Mason had died, and aside from the events surrounding Dimitri, that memory tormented me the most.

But Princess Conta didn't want too many other details. She and the others--who soon joined in the questioning--mostly wanted to know about my kills. They were slightly interested in knowing when other dhampirs had helped me--but didn't want to go into when I'd had Moroi help. They also glossed over my disciplinary record, which I found baffling. The rest of my academic details were mentioned--my exceptional combat grades, how I'd been one of the best when Lissa and I had run away our sophomore year and how quickly I'd made up for lost time to become top in my class again (at least as far as fighting went). They talked also about how I'd protected Lissa whenever we were out in the world alone and finally concluded with my exceptional trial scores.

"Thank you, Guardian Hathaway. You may leave."

Tatiana's dismissive voice left no room for doubt. She wanted me out of there. I was only too eager to comply, giving another bow, and then scurrying out. I cast a quick glance at Tasha and Adrian as I did, and the queen's voice rang out as I cleared the door, "That concludes our session today. We will convene again tomorrow."

I wasn't surprised when Adrian caught up with me a few minutes later. Hans hadn't ordered me to come back and work after the session, so I had decided to read that as freedom.

"Okay," I said, slipping my hand into Adrian's. "Enlighten me with your royal political wisdom. What was that all about?"

"No clue. I'm the last person to ask about political stuff," he said. "I don't even go to those things, but Tasha found me at the last minute and said to come with her. I guess she got a tip-off you'd be there--but she was just as confused."

Neither of us had said anything, but I realized I was leading him toward one of the buildings that housed commerce--restaurants, shops, etc. I was starving all of a sudden.

"I got the impression this was part of something they'd already been talking about--she mentioned their last session."

"It was closed. Like tomorrow's. No one knows what they're discussing."

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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