Dark Hunger


Page 21



“Give him time to heal,” Saetta said as he straightened. “Then begin again, and do not stop until he talks or he dies.”


“As you command, maréchal.”


Saetta went to the kitchens, where he washed the blood and saliva from his face. Darkyn did not eat food, so to him the room was a waste of space, but he imagined the Americans pampered the mortals who served them. He could easily imagine the pretty wife of Sylas, working over a breadboard, her sleeves folded back, her slim hands shaping dough. In his human life, he had loved to watch his wife work in the kitchen. Even when he had been hired by the Medicis, and had more money than he had known how to spend, she had refused to hire a cook. Making food for the family was the work of a wife, she always claimed.


“Maréchal,” someone said behind him.


Saetta dried his dripping face and turned. “What is it now?”


“’Tis the prisoners we put below,” the lieutenant said. “They have escaped.”


“Which prisoners?”


“All of them, maréchal.”


Reese took the camper to a public underground garage and parked it there. She was exhausted, and if she were going to finish this thing she had to sleep. Cautiously she went into the back to check on Rebecca, who had curled up on one of the camper’s bunks and appeared to be in the deep, still state that passed for sleep among the Kyn. But as she turned to make her way back toward the front of the camper, the chatelaine called her name, startling her so much she dropped her bag.


Rebecca looked over the side of the bunk. “Forgive me. I didn’t intend to scare you.”


“No problem,” Reese told her, bending down to pick up her things. “I’ve found a safe place to park for a while. We’re going to stay here until sunset.”


The chatelaine reached down and picked up Reese’s wallet. “Do you carry photos in here?”


“Just one.” Reese took the wallet, unfolded it, and showed her the picture tucked under the clear plastic. “That’s my father.”


Rebecca frowned. “He’s dressed like a priest.”


“He was a priest, before he…left the church.” She closed the wallet and finished gathering her things. “Rest now. In a few hours we’ll be back at Rosethorn, and we’ll find Sylas.”


“Sylas.” Rebecca’s eyes closed. “He’s in the shadows.”


Being in the darkest part of the garage helped block the sunlight and gave an illusion of night, but Reese still couldn’t rest. Given Rebecca’s uncertain mental state, sleeping close to the chatelaine seemed unwise, so she returned to the front of the camper. She lowered the driver’s seat back as far as it would go and turned on her side, trying to make herself comfortable, but her stomach felt shriveled and her head pounded unpleasantly. Finally she grabbed her bag, removed one of the vials, and, with a glance back at Rebecca, drank from it. Only then was she was able to close her eyes and fall into a deep sleep.


The dream that came over her took her into a shabby room lit only by candles and the flames from a fireplace. There were two people sitting at a table, one dressed in priest’s robes, the other a rude-looking peasant man with a powerful build. A candle and two mugs sat between them.


Reese tried to turn and leave, but the dream held her fast.


“Pater Noster, que es in calis, sanctificúe nomen tuum,” the priest said, and then waited for the peasant to respond.


“Adveniáte regnum tuum,” the villein muttered. “Fiat volúntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.”


The priest nodded. “You see, my child? You can remember the words, when you try.”


The peasant held his head in his hands. “Remember. Words.” He lashed out with his arm, knocking the two mugs from the table. “Forget.”


“God wants you to remember words,” the priest said. “He wants you never to forget again.”


“Look.” The peasant gripped his own shirt in his fists. “Not me.”


“I would give you back what you have lost, child, but it is not meant to be.” He eased the peasant’s hands away from the shredded shirt and held them. “God has given you an enormous gift. It is a miracle. You can be anyone you wish to be.”


“Me.” Tears rolled down the man’s face. “I want me.”


Reese rushed toward the table. “Kill him,” she shouted at the priest. “Kill him now.” She passed through the table, her body like that of a ghost. “God, please, don’t do this.”


“We will find a woman for you,” the priest was saying. “One who pleases you. Then we will continue with our work.”

“Woman. Work.” The peasant swiped at his eyes. “Yes.”


Reese was torn from the room and into another, this one lit by electric lights. The priest sat at a table with six other men and one woman, a scroll rolled out before them.


“The prophecy of Beatrice says that the book will remain hidden until just after the turn of this century, when it will be used against the mortal world,” one of the men said. “The colonies of the new world where it is said it will reappear must be the United States, and from our calculations, the month will be April of next year. But who is the smiling thief and the dark lord, and which one will take the book?”


“Robin of Locksley and Guy of Guisbourne.” The priest rolled up the scroll. “Locksley has been made a lord paramount. Guisbourne fled to America a few months ago. Both of them, in fact, will take the book.”


“So it has begun,” one of the men murmured. “The end of days, just as she said.”


Another of the men leaned back and folded his arms. “Father, how can we trust the predictions made by a demented witch burned at the stake six hundred years ago?” “She was not demented, nor a witch,” the priest said. “She was Darkyn, and her talent was foresight.” He looked at the faces around him. “The moment is at hand, and the fate of all humanity rests with us.”


Reese saw the priest produce a photograph, one of a smiling young woman with laughing dark eyes, and hand it to the woman at the table. Reese shook her head as she watched the woman study the picture.


“Don’t do it,” she whispered, even though she knew she couldn’t hear her. “Tell him no. Say he must choose another.”


“I should have no difficulty with her,” the woman said.


The priest nodded. “Our investigators say that she works in an advertising agency in the city, she lives alone, and she has no friends outside the tresori.”


“Convenient.” She looked up at the others. “Once I take over, you cannot contact me. I will report only to Father.”


“There is something else you should know, my child,” the priest said, and touched her arm. “The woman has been seen in the company of Robin of Locksley’s seneschal, Will Scarlet.”


The photo dropped out of the woman’s fingers even as Reese was pushed out of the dream and into the dark. Afraid and alone, she called out for Will. When he came, she tried to reach him, but she couldn’t see him. She began to babble, telling him everything she had kept secret, but then she felt him drawing away.


The connection between her and Will snapped, and snapped again, and then a third time, until all she could hear was a sharp rapping.


Reese opened her eyes and turned over to see a security guard tapping the handle of a nightstick against the driver’s-side window. She sat up and opened it.


“You can’t sleep in here, miss,” the man said. “Leave the vehicle or leave the lot, one or the other.”


She looked at her watch and saw the time. The sun would be setting in a few minutes. “All right.”


She started the engine and backed out of the space.


Will knew he had to rest. Jayr had admonished him before retiring to her tent with mac Byrne, and even Lucan had advised him that the quickest way to lose a duel was to spend the night before it awake. As the sun rose, he sent his men to their bedrolls, issued orders to the tresori who would be standing watching during the day, and at last retreated to his tent.


It had been several years since he had been obliged to sleep on the ground, but he had ordered that the few camp beds available be placed in their allies’ tents. The ground was hard and the blankets rough, but as soon as he stretched out on the bedroll his tired body went limp with relief. He would have to rise early and feed before the others woke, he thought, and closed his eyes.


Red, if you are not too mad, I would beg your forgiveness.


Will stood before the gibbet and the hangman, but this time they were all alone. That April morning, when his mortal life had ended, had turned to a night of ill wind and cold, distant stars.


“I shouldn’t have tormented you that day.” Robin of Locksley removed the black hood covering his handsome face. “Have you ever forgiven me for it?”


“You didn’t break my neck, master,” Will reminded him. “You saved it.”


“We still cheated all those fine folk of their spectacle. Or, rather, you did.” Rob cuffed the back of his head. “Five hundred mortals you sent to sleep that day, with only a thought.”


Will looked over at the empty road, and remembered the shock of seeing all the bodies of the townspeople piled on either side of it. “A pity my talent doesn’t work on the Kyn.”


Robin produced a black book. “Not to worry. It’ll be quick, lad.”


The dreamlands often distorted things in the same way mortal dreams did, but always with a purpose. “Why have you come to me, Rob? What am I to do?”


“Look.” His master opened the book and showed him the blank pages. “You have served me well, Will Scarlet. You have been my good friend. But in all these years, you have asked for nothing for yourself. You have lived my life, not yours.”


“I am your seneschal, my lord. My life is yours.” Will didn’t know what else to say. “Rob, are you in trouble?”




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