Dance of the Gods Page 65

He said nothing, only nodded then strode to his horse.

“He’s taking the female he ended to heart,” Cian murmured.

“Some are harder than others. You have that cloak thing, right? In case.”

“I do, but I’ll be frank and tell you I’d rather not risk my skin on it.”

“Can’t blame you. If and when you have to ride ahead, you ride.” She looked over where the two vampires were shackled, gagged and tied across one of their horses. “We can handle them.”

“You could handle them on your own, we both know that.”

“Larkin shouldn’t have to deal with what’s back there in that wagon by himself.” She swung onto her horse. “Let’s get this done.”

They rode in silence through the dark of the woods, across the fields dappled with pale moonlight. Once, just ahead, a white owl swooped over a gentle rise with only the whisper of wings. Blair thought, for an instant, she saw the glitter of its eyes, green as jewels. Then there was only the murmur of the wind through the high grass and the hushed silence of predawn.

She saw the vampire she fought lift its head. When its eyes met hers she saw the blood lust, and the fury. But over them both she saw the fear. He struggled against his chains, eyes wheeling toward the east. The one beside him lay weakly, and Blair thought the sounds he made behind his gag were sobs.

“They feel dawn coming,” Cian said from beside her. “The burn of it.”

“Go. Larkin and I can handle it.”

“Oh, there’s time yet, a bit of time yet.”

“We should only be a couple miles out.”

“Less,” Larkin told her. “A bit less. The wounded man’s coming around some. I wish he wouldn’t.”

The ride couldn’t be doing him any good, Blair thought, but they couldn’t afford to keep it slow and smooth any longer. The stars had faded out.

“Let’s pick up the pace.” She kicked her horse into a gallop, and hoped the man slumped over the horse she led would live another mile.

She saw the lights first, the flicker of them—candle and torch—through the rising mists. And there, the silhouette of the castle, high on the rise with its white flags waving against a sky that was no longer black, but a deep, dense blue.

“Go!”

The vampires bucked and jerked, making sounds far from human as the first streaks of red bled over the horizon behind the castle.

But Cian rode straight in the saddle, hair flying. “I so rarely see it from out of doors.”

There was pain, the rip and the burn of it. And there was wonder, and a faint regret as he galloped through the gates and into the shadow of the keep.

Moira was there, her face tight and pale. “Go inside, please. Your horse will be tended. Please,” she repeated, the strain cutting through the word as Cian slowly dismounted. “Be quick.”

She gestured for the men with her to take the prisoners.

“Got a handy dungeon?” Blair asked her.

“We don’t, no.”

Riddock watched the men drag the chained prisoners away. “Arrangements have been made, as Moira requested. They’ll be held in the cellars, and guarded.”

“Leave the chains on them,” Larkin ordered.

“Hoyt and Glenna are waiting inside,” Moira told him. “We’ll add magic to the chains. You’re not to worry. You need food and rest, all of you.”

“This one’s human. And wounded.” Blair stepped over, laid her fingers on the pulse in the man’s throat. “Alive, but he needs attention.”

“Right away. Sir?”

“We’ll send for the physician.” Riddock signalled to some men. “See to him,” he ordered before turning to his son. “Are you hurt?”

“No. I have to go back, there are some we had to leave, back in the forest on the path to Cillard.” Larkin’s face was pale, and it was set. “They need to be buried.”

“We’ll send a party out.”

“I have a need to see to it myself.”

“Then you will. But come inside first. You need to wash, break your fast.” He slung an arm around Larkin’s shoulders. “It’s been a long night for all of us.”

Inside, Cian stood speaking with Hoyt and Glenna. He broke off when the others entered and lifted a brow at Moira.

“You have your prisoners. What do you intend to do with them?”

“We’ll speak of it, all of it. I’ve ordered food to the family parlor. If we could meet there, we have much to discuss.”

She swept away with two of her women hurrying behind her.

Blair went to her own room where a fire was lit and fresh water waited. She washed away the blood, changing the borrowed tunic for one of her own shirts.

Then she braced her hands on the bureau and studied her face in the mirror.

She’d looked better, she decided. She needed sleep, but wasn’t going to get it. Nor for a while yet. She’d have paid a lot for an hour in a bed, but that wasn’t in the cards any more than a couple days at a nice spa.

Instead, she was going to take half the day to ride back out, bury three strangers. There wasn’t time for it, not when she should have been working with the troops, devising strategies, checking on weapon production. A dozen practical and necessary tasks.

But if she didn’t go, Larkin would do it alone. She couldn’t let that happen.

He was already in the parlor when she walked in. And he was alone by the window, watching morning strike mist.

“You think I’m wasting valuable time,” he said without turning around. “With something unnecessary and useless.”

So he read her, she thought. And damn clearly. “It doesn’t matter. You need to do it, so we’ll do it.”

“Families should be safe on the roads of Geall. Young girls should not be raped and tortured and killed. Should not be turned into something that must be destroyed.”

“No, they shouldn’t.”

“You’ve lived with it longer than I. And perhaps you can face it more…”

“Callously.”

“No.” He turned now. He looked older, she thought, in the hard light, with the violence of the night still on him. “That wasn’t the word, and would never be one I’d use for you. Coolly perhaps, practically for certain. So you must. I won’t hold you to going with me.”

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