Dance of the Gods Page 78

“Could,” Blair agreed. “And she might put some troops there. But it makes more sense to base closer to the battleground. Even if she doesn’t, at some point she’ll have to move west to east, and if she’s taking the most direct route, she’d have to cross this way. And this river.” She nodded toward the water. “Smarter to cross it near this point, where it narrows. Moira said she took care of the mojo.”

“She had the holy man brought here, as you wanted. The water was blessed.”

“Not to question your holy man, but I’d feel better if I checked it out.”

She dug in her pocket for a vial of blood. “Courtesy of the vampire you skewered into the ground the other night. Let’s try a little chemistry.”

Larkin took the water bag to the river to fill it. While he was there he cupped his hand, sampled straight from the river itself. “Fresh and cool in any case. Pity its not deep enough for a swim just here, or I’d talk you out of your clothes again.”

“On the clock here, pretty boy.” She crouched down beside him and opened the vial. “Just a couple of drops. It’s either going to work or it’s not.”

He tapped a few drops into the vial. And the blood bubbled and steamed with the water mixed with it.

“All right! You’ve got yourself a happening holy man. Look at that boil.” She straightened to do a quick happy dance. “Picture this. Along marches the evil vampire army. Gotta cross the river, if not at this point, at some point. Crap, going to get our feet wet, but we’re the evil vampire army, we’re not afraid of a little stinking water. Then they start across. Man, I can just hear it. ‘Yipe, yipe, shit, f**k!’ Splashing across, splashing back, just making it worse. Wet feet, hell. Searing, burning feet—worse if some of them panic and knock each other down, slip. Oh joy, oh rapture.”

Larkin stayed in his crouch, grinning at her pleasure. “It was damn clever of you.”

“It was freaking brilliant. High five!” She grabbed his hand, slapped her palm to his. “It’s a thing.”

He got up, yanked her to him and kissed her long and deep. “It’s a thing I like better.”

“Who could argue? Wouldn’t it be great, oh, wouldn’t it be sweet, if Lilith was leading the way, starts her strut across the stream. The ultimate hot foot. I’m just loving this.”

She took a huge breath. “Okay, that’s enough fun and frivolity. Let’s go check out the others.”

A good day, Blair thought as they headed toward the second location. Rainbows, dragons, goddesses. She’d faced one of her personal nightmares by walking in the valley, and she’d come out of it again. Now she was seeing her guerilla warfare tactics take shape.

Lilith’s army was going to take a few hard kicks in the ass long before Samhain. Since vamps weren’t known for tending their wounded without a strong connection between them, she was likely going to lose a nice chunk of troops on the march toward destiny.

When Larkin started his descent she prepared herself for another pat on the back. Then he changed directions. Puzzled, she looked down and saw the overturned wagon.

There was a man lying beside it, and a woman standing with a toddler in her arms, and another at her skirts.

The youngest let out a squeal that might have been delight, might have been terror as a gold dragon with a woman on its back soared down to the road.

The young mother went pale as a sheet and stumbled back when the dragon shifted shape into a man.

“Oh, blessed mother!”

“Don’t be frightened.” Larkin spoke gently, added what Blair thought of as his thousand-watt smile. “Just a bit of magic, is all. I’m Larkin, son of Riddock.”

“My lord.” Her cheeks remained colorless, but she managed a curtsey.

“You’ve some trouble here. Your man is hurt?”

“It’s me leg.” The man struggled to sit up, but could only moan. “I fear it’s broke.”

“Let me have a look.” Blair knelt down. His face was gray, she noted, with a good-sized bruise along his jawline.

“The axle, it broke. Thank the gods my family wasn’t hurt, but I took a bad fall. Then the bloody horse runs off.”

“Might have a small fracture here.” Blair gave him a bolstering smile. “It’s not as bad as your axle, but you’re not going to be walking for a while. He’s going to need help, Larkin.”

Larkin studied the wheel. “There’s no fixing that without some new wood. Where are you bound?” he asked the woman.

“My lord, we were going to stop at the wayfarers on the road to Geall City, then travel on from there on the morrow. My husband has relations in Geall City. His brother, Niall, is with the castle guards.”

“I know Niall well. If you’d get what you feel you can’t do without for the evening, we’ll see you to the wayfarer.”

The older child, a girl of about four, tugged on Larkin’s tunic. “Where did your wings go?”

“I’ve just tucked them away for now, but I’ll show them to you again. Help your mother now.” He gestured to Blair.

“Can he ride?” he asked her.

“You’d have to go at a walk. We can put a temporary splint on that leg, but I don’t think it should be jostled around. He’s in a lot of pain.”

“All right then, it’ll have to be flying. It’s only a few miles to the inn.”

“You take them. Two adults—one of them hurt—a couple of kids. That’s about all you can manage.”

“I don’t like leaving you alone.”

“Broad daylight,” she reminded him, “and I’m armed. I can head over, check out the next trap. It’s what, about a quarter mile that way, right?”

“It is, but you could wait here. I wouldn’t be much above a half hour.”

“Kick my heels by a broken wagon? I can check it out and be back here by the time you make the round trip. Then we can swing by the last of them, and maybe do a sweep of the area, see if there are any stragglers that need a hand. We’ll be back home before sunset, with time to spare.”

“All right then, for you’ll go anyway the minute I’ve gone.”

“Nice to be so well understood.”

I t took time, not just to load the family on, but to first convince the woman that it could be done. That it had to be done.

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