Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(10)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(10)
Author: Ilona Andrews

A screaming crowd exploded out of the doors and ran for the shuttle.

“Do you even know how to fly, werewolf?” Arland barked.

“Buckle up.” Sean pulled a lever.

The shuttle streaked into the sky.

My sister hugged her daughter to her.

“What happened? Where is Melizard? Where is your husband?”

“Melizard is dead,” Maud said, her eyes haunted. “He led a revolt against his House. They stripped him of all titles and possessions and sent us to Karhari. Eight months ago he crossed the wrong local and the raiders killed him.”

“We killed them back,” Helen told me.

“Yes, my flower.” Maud petted her daughter’s hair, an eerie smile on her lips. “Yes, we did.”

CHAPTER 3

The shuttle docked. Arland paused in the seat, scrutinizing Sean.

“Where did you learn to fly the Holy Anocracy’s shuttles?”

“Wilmos,” Sean said. “An old werewolf at Baha-char. I owed him for some armor he sold me, so I did some mercenary work. He gave me a crash course.”

Arland made a short noise that was the vampire equivalent of a harrumph and sounded a lot like a deep-throat snarl.

The doors of the shuttle swung open. Three vampires stood, waiting, two men and a woman. One of them, an older male, carried a stack of thin towels. Arland stepped out, grabbed one of the towels, and wiped his face. The towel came away bloody.

“Get us out of here before I succumb to temptation and initiate the kinetic bombardment of this dump,” Arland growled.

The female vampire bowed and took off, issuing commands into her communicator.

The other male vampire checked his tablet. “My lord, your injuries…”

“Do you require medical attention?” Arland asked us.

“No,” Maud and I said at the same time.

Arland glanced at Sean. Sean shook his head.

“Lady Dina, if I might have a moment?” Arland asked.

Maud was on my right and I caught a flicker of panic in her eyes. It was very brief but it made my stomach turn. My childhood had few unshakeable truths, but one of them was that my older sister was afraid of nothing. Maud never backed down and never asked for help. When I was a child and someone was mean to me, I went and got Maud, because after she talked to them, they would never be mean to me again.

The vampire with the tablet tried again. “Your injuries…”

“Are minor,” Arland said. “Lady Dina?”

“Of course.”

We walked away a few dozen feet. I glanced at Maud. Helen was standing next to her, hugging her leg. My sister looked ready to pull her sword out at any moment.

“You didn’t tell me that your sister was married to a knight of the Holy Anocracy.”

“I’m sorry. I was focused on rescuing her and my niece.”

“I’m not upset,” Arland said, glancing back at Maud and frowning. “But I do not like to be misled.”

“It wasn’t my intention to mislead you.” Yes, it was. A lie by omission was still a lie. I would’ve told him anything to get Maud and Helen out of there and I didn’t want to risk vampire politics interfering with that. “I wasn’t certain of my sister’s status. I’m sorry if this will cause issues between House Krahr and House Ervan…”

“What?” Arland drew back. “No. I don’t care what House Ervan thinks. If I field a quarter of our fleet, it will still be three times as much as the entirety of what House Ervan can scrape together. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about…” He waved his hand, trying to find the right words.

“Lord Arland, sometimes it helps to speak plainly.”

“Sword,” he said. “She has a blood sword.”

“Yes, she does.” Where was he going with this?

“She killed four vampires and maimed another two.”

I nodded. “Yes, she did.” And he had been counting, apparently.

“She’s wearing syn-armor. It’s been custom fitted and the patch seam on her left side is recent. When one seals a gash in one’s armor while it is still on their body, one moves the sealing tool from the outside in, creating the raised pattern pointing toward the center of the body, as is seen on your sister’s armor. It feels more natural this way and lets one gauge the risk of structural collapse if the nanothreads within the armor are compromised. When one seals the armor after taking it off, the pattern is reversed, because when we face the armor suit, we tend to repair it by moving the tool from center of the body out.”

“Okay?”

“She repaired her own armor. She didn’t feel it was safe to take it off, so she did it while she was wearing it. That requires skill and experience. One wrong move, and you can critically injure yourself.”

Oh, Maud. “I fail to see the significance of this.”

Arland dragged his hand through his hair, exasperated. “From my interactions with my cousin’s wife, I understand the women of Earth to be delicate creatures, powerful in their own right, but not on par with females of the Holy Anocracy when it comes to martial prowess. My cousin’s wife does not wear syn-armor or carry blood weapons.”

I made a mental note to introduce him to a female MMA championship match the next time he stopped at the inn. “Lord Marshal, I have no idea what kind of woman your cousin’s wife is. Human women, like vampire women, come in all varieties. For example, I don’t like violence, but I will kill to protect my family and my guests.”

   
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