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“My apologies for the unseemly reception, and the inconvenience of the attack, my lord.” She gestured toward the staircase. “You may take refuge in the loft while we deal with the attack.”

“What, and miss all the hacking and dismembering and beheading?” He drew off his gloves. “Please, Jayr. Don’t deny me my little amusements.”

“What he means to say, my lady,” Korvel put in, “is that we would be happy to assist with your defense. He’s also summoned his garrison. They should arrive in a few hours.”

“Did you have to spoil the surprise?” Lucan demanded.

“Thank you, Captain Korvel. If you would join Harlech in the bailey, he will be glad of your counsel and experience. Lord Durand, your blade will be welcome among my swordsmen at the outer ward.” She turned to Lucan. “My lord, thank you for sending for your men. I must inspect the perimeter and assess the traitors’ numbers and resources, so if you are willing, I will give you the keep.”

“My lady.” A glint of respect shone in his cold eyes. “I shall hold it safe until your return.”

Jayr used the postern passage to enter the escape tunnel under the castle, and flashed through it until she reached the moat lock. After she sealed herself inside the watertight room, she braced herself and pressed the button to open the outer doors.

Water flooded the chamber, immersing her in seconds. She swam out through the doors, turning long enough to seal them before she kicked her way to the surface.

She came up into the frigid air beneath a low-hanging fringe of branches from the holly Byrne had planted along the very edge of the moat’s inner bank to provide concealment. From her position she could see a few boats still floating, their occupants covered with arrows, but the bulk of the rafts had retreated to the outer bank. She glanced up to see the finest of her garrison’s snipers still holding position behind the machicolations, each man’s weapon poised and ready to fire.

Jayr sank beneath the water and swam across the moat to emerge beneath the platform that connected to the bridges to permit vehicles into the castle courtyard. As soon as the general alarm had been sounded, her men in the barbican towers had locked the bridges at the bottom of the moat; the attackers would not be able to raise them again without access to the tower controls. She crept up the bank, keeping her body close to the earth to avoid being spotted as she listened to the mortals several feet away.

“—that pontoon ready to launch in one hour,” a harsh voice ordered. “Move the rocket launchers into position, and have the sharpshooters take out those emergency lights.”

Jayr breathed in, appalled by the number of scents she detected. From what she had seen on the monitors, she had guessed the mortals numbered only a few hundred; she smelled close to a thousand or more. The attackers outnumbered her men three to one, and with their sheer numbers and explosives they might breach their defenses before Lucan’s garrison could reach the Realm.

We do not die so easily.

She crawled back down to the edge and slipped into the water. A daring idea began to form in her mind as she swam along the entire length of the moat, surfacing every few hundred feet to survey the positions of the mortals. At last she reached the underwater entrance to the lock and used it to reenter the postern tunnel.

She stripped out of her sodden armor, leaving it in the tunnel as she flashed back up into the keep. She found Lucan in the main hall, standing watch on the gallery. “They’re preparing a pontoon. They’ll use their rockets to cover the launch, which will be in less than an hour.” She pulled down from a recess in the wall a large map of the Realm and the land surrounding it.

Lucan jumped down to the floor and joined her. “They’re not fools. This time they’ll shield the pontoon from your archers. How many are there?”

“A thousand, perhaps more. Once they breach the walls—and they will—we’ll be overrun before your men arrive.” She glanced at him. “Unless we invite them in first by raising the bridges, and opening the gates.”

He scowled at her. “My lady, Kyn do not surrender to mortals, or anyone, for that matter.”

“This I know, my lord.” She replaced the map. “But who said anything about surrendering?”

Lucan regarded her in silence for several moments before he smiled. “I like you, Jayr. I like you very much.”

“Good to know someone’s happy.” Alexandra Keller leaned against the doorway, her expression dazed. “Me, I’ve been shot. Every time I come to this fucking place, I get shot. Oops, there go my knees again.” She slid down to the floor.

Jayr hurried over with Lucan and helped her to a bench, checking her over before she looked up at the suzerain. “I don’t see any blood.”

“She doesn’t have any,” he drawled. “Only ice runs through those veins.”

“Shut up, Lucan, before I make you slap yourself. There isn’t any blood, Jayr. The bastard tranq’d me.” She rested her head against the wall and closed her eyes. “It’s wearing off, and I’ll be fine. I heard about the siege, and I’ve got your ladies setting up the infirmary for casualties. Just tell me where you stashed the girls.”

Jayr frowned. “I’m sorry; the girls?”

“Simone and Chris? My patients?” Alex looked from her to Lucan and back again. “You didn’t take them out of the infirmary and put them somewhere safer. Great. That means the shooter has them, too.”

“Once we take possession of the Realm, I’ll be back for you,” Robert said as he watched the guard tying Alys to the tent pole. “Then you will show me where the emeralds are hidden.”

“I didn’t have the emeralds,” she repeated wearily. “They’re not in the castle. I don’t know where they are. What your spies saw were fakes.”

Robert crouched down in front of her. “You’re being tedious, Alys. If you don’t cooperate, I’ll give you to my men for a few hours. They know many inventive ways to help jog your memory.”

“It won’t make any difference what you do to me. I never had the jewels.” She closed her eyes, unable to look at his face for another second. “You might as well kill me now.”

“You’ll die when I say you will, my dear.” Robert stood up and walked out with the guard, who took up a position just outside the tent flap.

Alys flexed her cramped, cold fingers, straining again at the plastic tie until it bit into her flesh. Robert would kill her eventually, but he would make her suffer a great deal first, and somehow she had to prepare for that. Or she might try to kill herself before he initiated the torture to come.

Don’t be a coward. Beau would want you to keep fighting.

Alys began twisting her wrists against the plastic again, but while it bruised her, the edges of it were too dull to cut her skin. She couldn’t make herself bleed, and blood was the only thing she had that might help her work herself loose.


The word triggered Alys’s thought matrix, and she turned her focus inward to assemble a loose construct of fragmented facts and theories. The Templar who had come to the mission had been Darkyn. We need your blood to survive. All of the Timucua had left their village abruptly, shortly after the Spanish priests had arrived and built the mission. The priests themselves had all disappeared; no bodies were ever found. The borrow pit she’d fallen into had been twenty feet deep. There aren’t any burials anywhere near here.

What did they do with all that dirt and rock?

Alys imagined herself at the site, and began walking it in her mind. There were no unusual elevations in the ground around the mission or the spring pond. All of Tremayne’s property was perfectly flat.

Very funny, you guys.

When she’d stood in the center of the old village, she had looked down at the mission. That shouldn’t have been possible. It seemed that the natives had built a mound—and then they had built their village on top of it.

The construct didn’t make sense to her. Mounds were built to serve as tombs, and as such were sacred places of the dead; the Timucua would never have lived on top of one. Some of the mounds found in Florida, however, had not been tombs. Excavation had proved several had been used by many generations of natives as ancient landfills, and were filled only with the discarded shells, bones, and other refuse of their daily lives.

If the natives had attacked and killed the priests, they wouldn’t have bothered to honor them by burying their bodies. It was more likely they would have left them to rot, burned them, or even displayed them as proof of their tribe’s ferocity.

They constructed the mound, built the village, and then they abandoned it. They fled at the same time the priests disappeared, along with the Templar.

The mission and the village had been flawlessly constructed. They had both survived intact for six centuries. Both had been abandoned. Both had been guarded by the Timucua.

…in my time there were no archaeologists digging up the earth.

The Kyn who guarded the treasure you seek was a smith, and a mason.

Mortals are easy to convince; what you see is what you believe.

Those final pieces slipped into place, completing the puzzle. Now all she had left to do was prevent Robert from ever knowing the truth.

“Guard,” she called out. “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll tell your boss what he wants to know.”

The guard shuffled inside the flap, giving her a strange look.

“He’s looking in the wrong place.” Alys pushed herself to her feet. “Take me to him.”

The guard opened his mouth, closed it, and fell over onto his face as the man standing behind him stepped over him.

“You can’t give the treasure to our enemies, love,” Beau said, smiling. “Not after all this.”

He’s alive. Her heart clenched as she stared at him, almost afraid he would go ghostly on her and shimmer out of sight. But no, he was there, the answer to every wish she would ever make on birthday candles and Christmas mornings and shooting stars.

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