Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(13)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(13)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“What happened?” I had a strong suspicion I knew the answer.

“What always happened.” She sounded bitter and tired. “Melizard.”

Maud typed a code into a small terminal within the kit. The filaments turned pale green and knitted the armor back, this time without the dent.

“He waited about six months until he thought he had built up enough support and started rocking the boat. He didn’t like the jobs we were getting, and if he were in charge, he would get us better jobs, and everyone would be swimming in water, and things would be fair. That was his favorite word. Fair. It wasn’t enough to be respected and earn a decent living. He had to run things and he didn’t want to wait for it.”

“They threw you out?” I guessed.

“They threw him out. They told me Helen and I could stay.”

“But you didn’t.”

She glanced at me for a second. “No. I didn’t.”

The Melizard I knew was the perfect younger child: blindingly handsome, witty, charismatic, with a bright smile, the kind that told you right away that you could trust him because he was a good guy, even if he was up to no good once in a while. He was the son of the Marshal of House Ervan, handsome, rich, a legend on the battlefield by the time he met Maud, and the kind of catch young vampire girls dreamed of. Maud fell for him hard, but she stuck to her guns. I was sixteen when they met. He worked on her for two years. Maud was like a swan. It took a lot to earn her loyalty but once she gave it, she gave it for life.

“Is that what happened with House Ervan?”

She nodded. “Something like that. After we got thrown out of the camp, I told him it was the last time. That he didn’t care about me or Helen and all he had were these idiotic ambitions that landed us in the middle of a damned wasteland again and again. If he pulled that crap one more time, he was on his own. He swore to me that he would put everything right. He did everything he could: he promised, he begged, he smiled that charming smile, except I was over it.”

“Then why did you stay with him?”

She glanced at Helen sleeping under the covers. And instantly I knew. Helen must’ve adored her father with all her little heart. Melizard was so lovable, handsome, and funny. It would take her years to figure out that he was a terrible parent.

Maud inspected the repair. It was like the dent was never there. She chewed on her lower lip, turning the armor under the light this way and that, and moved on to the next dent.

“After that, House Kor hired him,” she said. “To be their sergeant. They were in a land dispute with another House, and it was getting ugly. They didn’t want me, they just wanted him. They needed someone skilled in tactics, with some name recognition, and they needed him fast, because the other House was going on the offensive. Melizard agreed to take the job. He trained their soldiers, he overhauled their entire force, and he did what he always did when you put him on the battlefield: he tore through his enemies. The other House realized that they had to take him out.”

“Did they kill him?”

“No.” Maud paused and looked at me. “They offered him twice as much money. They didn’t want him to fight for them. They just wanted him to not show up.”

“He told them to shove it, right?”

“No. The moron took the money.”

“Are you serious?”

“It’s like the planet was slowly driving him mad, eroding his soul piece by piece. I didn’t even recognize him anymore. He took that blood money and he had the audacity to tell me he was doing it for me and Helen. That I, horrible witch that I am, accused him of not caring for his wife and daughter and when he took the money, he was thinking of us and where we would be if he died in battle.”

I tried to reconcile the Melizard I remembered with that and couldn’t.

“According to him, House Kor was too weak to win anyway and all their victories were temporary. But he’d trained them too well. They won and after they figured out what happened, they hired a gang of raiders and tracked us down in another province. They arranged for a local House to offer a lucrative job and when Melizard took the bait, they killed him. I watched it happen.”

Her voice lost all emotion, as if she were talking about something completely unimportant.

“I was supposed to come with him but at the last minute he told me to stay back, almost like he had a premonition. Helen and I were laying on a nearby hill when they cut him to pieces while he was still alive and then burned his body. They put his head on a stake and stuck it on the House wall.”

“Did Helen see?”

“No. I covered her eyes. But she saw the head. There was no way around that.”

Maud glanced at her. “She surprises me. She’s my daughter. She came out of me; I was there. But there are times she does weird things and I don’t know if it’s human weird or vampire weird. This was one of those times. You’d think a child that young wouldn’t be able to understand death, but somehow she figured out that her father wouldn’t be coming back and that a blood debt had to be paid. I thought she would be heartbroken, and she was for a few days, then she bounced back like it never happened. Maybe it’s because Melizard spent so little time with her in the past two years. We were either on the job together or he was on the job on his own. She got used to him leaving. I don’t know.”

Neither did I. I was the youngest child. No baby brothers or sisters and a five-year-old was brand new territory. “What happened after he died?”

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