Dance of the Gods Page 53

“It’s not to worry. I promise.”

“No, it’s not to worry. You’re home.” He turned, and he smiled—and again, Blair saw Larkin in him.

“Moira.”

“Sir.” Then her breath hitched and she was running to him. Her arms clamped around his neck as he lifted her off the ground.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I took him from you. I’m sorry I worried you so.”

“You’re back now, aren’t you? Safe and whole. And you bring guests.” He set Moira back on her feet. “You’re welcome here.”

“This is Larkin’s father, and the brother of my mother. Prince Riddock. Sir, I would present my friends to you, the best I’ve ever known.”

As Moira introduced them, Larkin stood behind his father’s back, signalling the others that they should bow or curtsey. Blair went with the bow, feeling foolish enough.

“There’s so much to tell you,” Moira began. “If we could sit. Larkin, the doors please? We should be private.”

Riddock listened, interrupting occasionally to ask Moira to repeat or expand. Now and then he directed a question to his son, or to one of the others.

Blair could almost see the weight of the words press down on his shoulders, and the grim determination with which he bore it.

“There have been other attacks, at least six, since—” Riddock hesitated briefly. “Since you left us. I did what I could to heed what you wrote to me, Moira, to warn the people to stay in their homes after sunset, to not welcome strangers in the dark. But habits and traditions die hard. As did those who followed them these weeks.”

Riddock studied Cian across the long table. “You say we must trust this one, though he is one of them. A demon inside a man.”

“Trust is a large word.” Idly, Cian peeled an apple. “Tolerate might be smaller, and more easily swallowed.”

“He fought with us,” Larkin began. “Bled with us.”

“He is my brother. If he isn’t to be trusted,” Hoyt said flatly, “neither am I.”

“Nor any of us,” Glenna finished.

“You’ve banded together these weeks. This is to be understood.” Riddock took a small sip of his wine as his gaze remained watchful on Cian. “But to believe a demon could and would stand against his own kind, to—tolerate—such a thing, is more than a swallow.”

Cian only continued to peel his apple, even as Hoyt started to his feet.

“Uncle.” Moira laid a hand over Riddock’s. “I would be dead if not for him. But beyond that, he stood with us within the Dance of the Gods, traveled here by their hands. Chosen by them. Will you question their will?”

“Every thinking man questions, but I will abide by the will of the gods. Others may find it more difficult.”

“The people of Geall will follow your orders, sir, and your lead.”

“Mine?” He turned to her. “The sword waits for you, Moira, as does the crown.”

“They will wait awhile longer. I’ve only just come home, and there’s much to be done. Much more important matters than ceremony.”

“Ceremony? You speak of the will of the gods one moment, and dismiss it the next?”

“Not dismiss. Only ask that it waits. You have the trust and the confidence of the people. I’m untried. I don’t feel ready, not in my heart or in mind.” Her eyes were grave as they searched her uncle’s face. “Awhile longer, please. I may not be the one to lift the sword, but if I am, I need to know I’m ready to carry it. Geall needs and deserves a ruler of strength and confidence. I won’t give it less.”

“We’ll talk further on it. Now you’re weary. You must all be weary, and a mother waits to see her son.” Riddock got to his feet. “We’ll speak more in the morning, and we’ll do all that needs to be done in the coming days. Larkin.”

He rose at his father’s bidding. “I wish you good night,” Larkin said to the others. “And soft dreams on your first night in Geall.”

He looked briefly at Blair, then followed his father from the room.

“Your uncle’s an imposing man,” Blair commented.

“And a good one. With him we’ll raise an army that will send Lilith back to hell. If you’re ready, I’ll show you to your chambers.”

I t was a little hard to settle down and sleep, Blair decided, when she was spending the night in a castle. And in a room that was suited to royalty.

Before they’d arrived, she’d been expecting something a little more Dark Ages, she supposed. Tough stone fortress on a windy hill. Smoky torches, mud, animal droppings.

Instead she got something closer to Cinderella’s castle.

Instead of a cramped room, something like a barracks with rushes—whatever they were, exactly—on the floor and a lumpy cot, she had a spacious chamber with whitewashed walls. The bed was big, soft and draped in a blue velvet canopy. The thick rug had images of peacocks worked into its soft wool.

A check out the windows showed her she looked down on a garden with a pretty spurting fountain. The window seat was padded with more velvet.

There was a small writing desk. Pretty, she thought, not that she’d be making much use of the crystal inkwell or the quill.

The fire was simmering, and its surround was blueveined white marble.

It was all so fine she could nearly overlook the lack of modern plumbing. The closest the place came to it was the chamber pot tucked behind a painted screen.

She had a feeling she’d be making use of the great outdoors in that area quite a bit.

She stripped down to her underwear and used the basin of water provided to clean the scratches on her leg before dabbing on some of the balm Glenna had given her.

She wondered how the others were doing. She wished it were morning so she could be doing.

When the door opened, she picked up the dagger she’d set beside the basin. Then put it down again when Larkin stepped in.

“Didn’t hear you knock.”

“I didn’t. I thought you might be sleeping.” He closed the door quietly behind him, took a quick scan of the room. “Does this suit you then?”

“The room? It’s rock star. Feel a little weird, that’s all. Like I walked into a book.”

“I understand that, as I felt the same not long ago. Your wounds, do they trouble you?”

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