Master of the Shadows

Page 26

“Someone has to stop Rebecca,” Reese said, ignoring Lucan. “Unlike everyone else, she trusts me. I can do this.”

“Her talent will bleed you out before you can get close to her,” Will said. “Or Sylas will take you into the shadows with him.”

“But I know what to do—”

“Oh, please,” Lucan said. “You could not even sneak out of camp without getting caught.”

Will’s expression turned cold. “The suzerain is right, Claris.”

Lucan yawned. “I thought her name was Reese.”

“I owe you something, my lord.” Reese punched Lucan in the mouth, splitting his lip.

“Claris, don’t—” Before Will could finish the warning, she brought her bloodied knuckles to her lips, and her body shifted.

“What the devil?” Staring into his own eyes, Lucan didn’t react to the threat of the pressure dart until his duplicate pressed the tip under his chin.

“Rebecca is my friend,” Claris said in Lucan’s voice. “No one is going to kill her.”

“Will,” Lucan said pleasantly. “You are not terribly attached to this female, are you?”

“Good night, my lord.” Reese emptied the cartridge into him.

Lucan slumped forward against Will, who lowered him to the ground before eyeing Claris. “If you go after Rebecca, you will die.”

“We’re all going to die anyway. Rebecca and Sylas belong together.” She looked down at the unconscious suzerain. “What is his talent?”

He got to his feet. “Why?”

“Because it will be mine as well, for as long as I keep his form. I take on their strengths, their weaknesses, their scent, everything.” She glared at him. “What is it?”

“Find out for yourself,” he snarled back.

“Damn you, tell me.” She flinched as the bottle of bloodwine on the table exploded. “He shatters glass, is that it?”

“Glass. Bone. Flesh. Lives.” He advanced on her. “He was Richard’s chief assassin. He can kill anything he touches. It’s why he wears the gloves.”

She backed away, her silver eyes wide. “Stay away from me.”

“I cannot permit you to commit suicide,” Will told her. “You’ll have to use his talent to get past me.”

A large, tattooed Scotsman ducked inside the tent. “Scarlet, where the devil…?” He looked from Will to the unconscious Lucan to the one standing. “So Satan does exist, and takes great joy in our misery.”

Reese took out her dagger and ran to the back wall of the tent, slicing it open and stepping through the slit. The camp had been thrown into chaos; no one noticed the suzerain who darted across to the woods. Reese almost choked on the thick scent Rebecca had left behind, and as she followed it she saw the dead animals the chatelaine’s power had killed.

She knew Rebecca was a gentle woman, but the strain of separation had proven too much. For her to be able to do this with her talent meant nothing living was safe now.

Rebecca had almost reached the front gates when Reese made it to the clearing. Men came out of the stronghold and rushed toward her, but began to drop before they could get within a few feet of her.

The siege of Rosethorn had begun, and it would be fought by one woman—one who had gone mad.


The tide had turned against him, and as Saetta barricaded himself in the main hall, he thought it fitting that the siege should end where it had begun. Here, where they had been made welcome; here, where they had won their first victory. His only regret was that he had not held the place two full days. He had promised his lady that he would.

Beyond the hall, he could hear the cries of his men, and the thuds of their bodies as they fell. He would not have believed that the pretty, gentle-looking creature Sylas called wife could be capable of slaying so many without even touching them, but he had watched her do it himself, from the ravelin.

He went to the table where they had tied Sylas’s body. The castellan had lost a great deal of blood during the beatings his men had administered, but never uttered a sound or made any indication that he felt the pain. He stared up at the ceiling blindly, lost in himself or the dreamlands.

“Maréchal,” Bernardo whispered, and pointed to a long, deep shadow that seemed to be separating itself from the wall and taking on the vague shape of a man. “The demon comes.”

Saetta stepped between the shadow warrior and his men. “You have taken enough lives.”

“War master,” the shadow man said, his voice a mere whisper. “You are defeated now. She is coming. Surrender before more men die.”

“We have pledged to hold this place for our lady,” Saetta told the creature. “We will die before we surrender.”

The dark form swelled as more shadows drifted from the corners and melded with it. “You have been made a fool.”

Saetta stiffened. “We serve our lady with honor and loyalty.”

“You would have left your lady before the chapel fire,” the dark figure murmured. “You know siegecraft, maréchal. If your garrison means to abandon you, how do you stop them? Do you command them to stay, or do you destroy their reasons for leaving?”

Saetta frowned. “Our lady would never do such an evil thing. She is good and kind. She saved us.”

“She saved you just after your lord and half your jardin were slaughtered.” The shadow undulated. “You went to her and told her you meant to leave, and she saved you. She needed you to protect her from the Brethren, and she saved you. But not your families. Not your women, not your children. She saved you.”

“You lie.” Bernardo rushed forward, only to be swallowed whole, so quickly that his clothes and blades slid across the floor.

“Who were the first to be sent out of the stronghold during a siege?” the shadow warrior whispered as it grew larger.

“No.” Saetta took a step back. “You are wrong. She would never—”

“You know how it was done. The old, the sick, the children. Expelled from the stronghold because they serve no purpose. They did not protect the lord. They used up the stores. So they were sent out to become trapped between the stronghold and the besiegers’ lines. There they were kept, and there they starved until they died.”

The maréchal’s expression grew stricken. “Be silent.”

“She could not send them away. She could not easily starve them,” the shadow warrior said. “How would you dispatch so many?”

Saetta drew his sword, stabbing it into the dark form. Frost coated the blade as the shadow warrior laughed and then dispersed, the darkness skittering away to the different corners of the hall.

One of his men picked up Bernardo’s sword. “How do we fight such a creature?”

“I do not know.” Saetta looked over at the motionless form of Sylas of Daven. “But there is only one man here who knew about the fire.”

Rebecca limped up to the barricaded entrance to the main house and stopped, vaguely surprised when it wouldn’t open. Until now the strange men had opened all the doors, hurrying out to welcome her home and then falling asleep. She could feel Sylas within, moving and unmoving, but the door wouldn’t budge.

Sylas wouldn’t lock her out. Someone was playing a trick. Someone was trying to keep her from him.

Something struck her shoulder and burned in her flesh. She reached back, pulled out the copper bolt, and saw a group of strangers standing at a distance and pointing crossbows and guns at her. They were firing them, the bolts hissing through the air all around her. A small dart pierced her hip, and she pulled it out, holding it up to watch the blue liquid inside it drip out.

Some of the madness cleared from her mind as she remembered. They had used these the first time. In the hall. The last time she had seen Sylas. The thought of her husband, however sent her thoughts back into a confused snarl.

Bewildered, Rebecca sent her talent at them with a flick of her hand, and they stopped shooting bolts at her. They wept their tears of blood for her and then lay down to sleep.

The door remained locked against her.

Rebecca placed her hand on the wood. It was old and dead, but inside its hardened planks she felt life; millions of tiny creatures who wept for her. The wood swelled and then began to splinter, oozing with their tears. She pried away one of the weakened planks, exposing the locking mechanism and tearing that out of the door. When it still would not open, she punched her fist through, reaching in to feel for the bar across the inside, and lifted it out of the way.

The door fell away, and the strangers inside shouted to one another before they ran. Rebecca stepped over the threshold and stopped to take one of the old war shields from the wall. Her shoulder hurt, and she was tired, but she wouldn’t let them shoot her again. They didn’t understand.

She was home.

Reese knew it would be too dangerous to approach Rebecca in Lucan’s form, so as soon as she reached the stronghold she used another vial. She was almost glad to shift into the body of Reese Carmichael. The big blond Kyn lord had been powerful, but his talent reminded her too much of Rebecca’s.

She followed the bodies that had fallen into the house, but apparently the Italians had realized they couldn’t fight the chatelaine and fled, for no more appeared. The house had gone silent, and corridors seemed much darker than they had last night.

Reese stopped to decide which direction to go, and as she turned a cold sensation ran up the side of her arm. As soon as she stepped away from the shadowed wall and into the light, it went away, but now her arm felt numb.

He is in the shadows, Rebecca had said.

Reese hurried down the right passage, taking care to stay in the center, under the lights. She heard a man cursing in Italian and then an abrupt silence, and headed in that direction. As she did, she took a pressure dart out of her bag and held it ready in her hand.

She went around a corner to see Rebecca standing at the stairwell leading down to the basement. She was tracking Sylas by his scent, Reese guessed, and took a deep breath before she took a step toward her.

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