Master of the Shadows

Page 20

“Sylas.” Eregen, one of his senior men, came to the bars. “We feared you were dead.”

“I am well. Who did they take?”


Sylas saw that the men had been stripped of their weapons. “How long have the guards been gone?”

“Five minutes at most.”

They would be returning soon, and probably not with Raglan. Sylas unlocked the cell door, but held up his hand when Eregen would have pushed it open. “Wait. Send out two men to occupy our cell. Have them sit back in the shadows until the guards come, and then follow them in here. You should be able to take them without trouble or alerting those above.”

Eregen nodded. “We need weapons.”

“Use the women’s passage, and go to the bathhouse. I will send down what I can.” He turned and saw the mortal watching them. “This is Agent Hutchins. He was taken by the cavalieri from the city, doubtless as part of this scheme. Unless he throws his lot in with Saetta, he is to be regarded as an ally.” He looked at the angry faces of the men of the garrison. “Keep your tempers checked. When we have taken back what is ours, then there will be the time for proper reckoning.”

To his credit, Hutchins said nothing until he had followed Sylas out to the stairwell. “Is this some kind of reenactment thing? You boys think you’re Knights of the Round Table?”

“There was never a round table.” Sylas checked the stairwell before mounting the steps. “Arthur’s knights held council on their feet, surrounding their lord. Be quiet.”

Sylas waited at the top of the stairs for the patrol guard to pass him before he reached out and grabbed the man, clamping a hand over his mouth. “Take the pistol and sword from him.”

Hutchins snatched the gun, but couldn’t work the sword free of the sheath. He tried to club the guard over the head with the butt of the pistol.

“That will not work,” Sylas said. “You must shoot him.”

“I’m not killing this man—”

“It will not kill him.” Sylas plucked the pistol from Hutchins’s hand, pressed it to the guard’s neck, and pulled the trigger. The cartridge of blue liquid lodged halfway into his neck, and the guard fell like a stone.

“That’s a tranquilizer gun,” the mortal said blankly. His eyes widened when Sylas pulled the empty cartridge from the wound in the guard’s flesh, which immediately healed over. Then he looked up. “What kind of drugs did you put in me?”

“None.” Sylas handed him the gun and bent to retrieve the man’s sword. “You see? The sheath is made to hold the blade secure. You must draw it up before you pull it back. Remember that.”

The gun appeared in Sylas’s face. “Tell me what this is. What he is, what you are. Now.”

“You were taken prisoner by a group of renegades who invaded our stronghold,” Sylas said. “We are called Darkyn. We are not human. We cannot be easily killed. I can tell you the rest of our history, but I doubt I will manage more than a few centuries’ worth before we are discovered.”

Hutchins made a disgusted sound. “They must have pumped you full of drugs, too.”

“I will give you proof.” Sylas used the copper dagger to slash his palm, and then held it so Hutchins could watch the wound heal. “When there is time, I will explain the rest. For now, I need you to trust me and follow my orders, or we will be captured. If that happens, they will not spare our lives again.”

“Right.” The mortal regarded him steadily. “You might be crazy as a bedbug, but you got me out of that cell. I’m willing to go on a little faith. What’s next?”

“We need to retrieve weapons for my men. It will require us to move through occupied areas of the house. You must go ahead of me, and when you confront anyone, behave as if you are addled.”


“Drugged. Disoriented. Lost.” Sylas dragged the guard’s body behind some crates. “While you distract the Italians, I will deal with them. Whatever you do, stay in the light.”

“Man, I’m not afraid of the dark.”

Sylas handed him a dagger. “In this place, you have to be.”


Reese searched Robin’s penthouse, tearing it apart in the process, but the book was nowhere to be found. She knew that Will wouldn’t have left it behind unguarded, but she had to be sure. After breaking into Robin’s vault room and searching through his most priceless treasures, she went to the phone and called her father.

“It’s not here,” she said, and explained what had happened since her last report. “Scarlet must have taken it with him to Rosethorn.”

“Then that is where you will go.”

She sat down on the edge of Robin’s bed. “Father, this can’t continue. He is already suspicious of me. If I show up there without cause—”

“He cares for you,” Ennis reminded her. “You must use that affection. Convince him that you were afraid for him—”

“I am afraid for him.”

“—and seduce him. When he sleeps, take the book and leave.” He waited for her to reply. “Or kill him and take it. Perhaps his death will at last free you from your guilt. He was the one who did this to you, child. Or have you forgotten that?”

“For my sins, I have tried to repent,” she said slowly. “I have given my life into your hands. I have done your work. I have never complained. When will it be enough, Father? When will my penance end?”

His voice chilled. “You ask me for your freedom? Now, when we are so close?”

She didn’t answer. Without the work—without Father—she had nothing. No one would care what happened to her. Not even Will.

“Bring the book to me,” he said, “and I will release you from your vow.”

They had never spoken of this, not since the night in the graveyard. Although it was everything that she wanted, she felt a perverse curiosity. “Why free me now?”

“You have earned it.”

She took the cigarette case from her bag and opened it. Four vials of blood remained, along with one black vial. The last, filled with poison, she carried in the event she was ever captured by their enemies. Her father carried one just like it.

She had to drag the words out. “I will go to Rosethorn now.”

“God watches over you, child.”

Reese left the penthouse and returned to the loading platform, but saw no sign of the truck. Instead, a large recreational vehicle stood parked in its place.

“Our friends in the police department warned us that the truck you drove was reported stolen,” the tresora told her. “I had my men remove it. The lady is resting in the back of the camper.”

Reese eyed the large vehicle. “How is she?”

“Not well,” he said. “She wouldn’t let anyone come near her. Do you need directions to the sanctuary house?”

“No, thank you.” She pulled the strap of her bag over her shoulder. “I know where I’m going.”

Saetta stood at the ravelin atop the main house and looked out at the surrounding property. The stronghold’s central observation post offered a commanding view of the outlying lawns, but nothing past the tree lines. By trapping Locksley’s jardin inside Rosethorn, he had eliminated the immediate threat of a counterattack. However, his lady had warned him that reinforcements were likely to arrive within the first day.

“I have seen not a glimmer of light, maréchal,” the guard on duty assured him.

“They will not use light, or fire, where it might be seen from the house.” He handed the binoculars to the guard. As luck would have it, the wind was coming from the north, blowing from the back of the property to the front and eradicating any scent they might have otherwise detected. “Signal me if you suspect an approach.”

As Saetta returned downstairs to the main hall, a subtle uneasiness crept over him. The house was secure, and no more guards had been attacked by mysterious shadow demons, but something was not right. The silence of the passages seemed too absolute. The air rang with soundless whispers. If he were a superstitious man, he would swear that the house itself watched him with cold, unseen eyes.

“Bernardo, attend me.” When the captain of the cavalieri came to him, Saetta said, “Change the guard.”

“Yes, maréchal. Which guard?”


Bernardo frowned. “We have three hours before the next rotation.”

“Anyone who has been watching us will know that,” Saetta said. “They will seek to take advantage of it. Change them all, at once.”

“Yes, maréchal.”

Saetta went to an adjoining room, where his two best interrogators were still questioning the Kyn taken from the cells. Spatters of blood stained the floor and the prisoner’s clothes, but he remained still and watchful.

“What progress have you made?”

“He says nothing, maréchal.” Domion pulled off his gauntlets and slipped spiked copper knuckle guards over his fingers. “I think he will soon change his mind.”

Saetta crouched in front of the sullen warrior. “One of your jardin attacked my guards. He took one of my men. Until he is returned, and the Kyn who did this named, you will suffer in his place.” He saw the hatred in the man’s eyes. “You cannot prevail.”

The warrior smiled, showing bloodied teeth, and then spit in Saetta’s face. With a curse Domion slammed his fist into the prisoner’s chest, puncturing it with his spiked knuckles. The warrior doubled over as far as his bonds would allow, coughed several times, and then slowly straightened.

“He will take you,” the warrior promised in a low, menacing voice. “One by one, you will go. You cannot stop him.”

Saetta seized the front of the prisoner’s tunic. “Who is he?”

“Master of shadows.” His eyes closed, and he sagged, unconscious.

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