Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(7)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(7)
Author: Ilona Andrews

Mr. Rodriquez ran Casa Feliz, one of the largest, best known inns in the entire southwest. He used to be friends with my parents. We, the innkeepers, were a reclusive, paranoid lot. Interactions between us were rare, unless two inns happened to be close together and the innkeepers were friends. Most of our business ran on a handshake and communications took place in person or via encrypted channels. In a show of great trust, Mr. Rodriguez had given me his personal cell phone number and I had used it a couple of times to ask him for advice. He was the reason Orro huffed and puffed in the kitchen. His staff would be able to handle a Ku without any issues.

“I have looked at the coordinates you’ve given me,” Arland said. “According to our records, this place is a Road Lodge, a tavern and an inn in the middle of nowhere where travelers stay for a night or two before continuing on their way elsewhere. The type of hovel that attracts convoy raiders, bandits, and other characters of ill repute.”

Maud knew how to blend in.

“As unpleasant as this possibility might be, I must ask what will happen if your sister isn’t there.”

“She will be there.”

“Your faith in your family is to be commended,” he said. “We may encounter resistance.” He said that the way most people would say, “We may encounter chocolate cake. With frosting!”

“I’m sure we will.” If there was no resistance, Maud wouldn’t be hiding in some hellhole.

“In the event of such an occurrence, I once again offer you my full support. Allow me to be your shield, Lady Dina. For you and your sister.”

“Thank you, Lord Arland.”

I had no idea how Maud’s husband would react to that. Melizard was the second son of the Marshal of House Ervan. Here is hoping no ancient feuds existed between House Ervan and House Krahr or things would get awkward.

The door in front of us opened and we walked into an observation room. Two hundred and seventy degrees of transparent glass beyond which the galaxy stretched in all its glory, the distant nebulae in a hundred colors swirling among the stars. Tables and booths dotted the floor. Arland turned and led me up a staircase to the balcony, where a long table waited for us, filled to the brim with food, most of which seemed to be various cuts of meat.

“Of course, the skills of my chef cannot match your Quillonian, but I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.” Arland pulled out my chair. “Please.”

I took it. A gentle melody, at once soothing and haunting, floated down to us from some invisible speakers. To my left Sean rolled his eyes.

This was going to be an interesting trip.

* * *

Arland was right. Karhari truly was the anus of the galaxy and I was getting an eyeful of it from my seat in Arland’s landing shuttle. Flat, dry, ugly, the planet stretched for miles without any reprieve for the eye. Its soil was brown, the plants that grew on it were greenish-brown, and the bur, the giant herbivores that moved through the plains like shaggy boulders, were also brown. I’d shoot myself within two days of living here.

Arland’s family crest granted him the right to enter Karhari airspace, but the Road Lodge sat far outside of his relative’s lands. Technically it was within a different House’s territory, a local House. Arland had planned to land with a squad of his soldiers, but the local House shot that idea down. Words like “invasion”, “provocation”, and “armed excursion” were thrown around. After tense negotiations, Arland won the right to bring a single shuttle and two people. I had to be one of them, because Maud wouldn’t trust anyone but me, and I had insisted that Sean was the other.

Back when we met, during his first trip to Baha-char, Sean had found a shop run by a veteran werewolf. The shop had contained a special armor made specifically for an alpha-strain werewolf like him. When he put it on, the armor became a part of his body. Normally he kept it relegated into tattoos just under his skin, but right now it was out, sheathing his body like a black jumpsuit. I caught a glimpse of it under the collar of his loose T-shirt when he’d climbed into the flier.

The agreement Arland made specified that none of us could carry ranged combat weapons. The list of what we couldn’t bring was quite long and axed most of everything Sean had in his duffel. Sean and Arland had a long conversation about it and the vampire House politics, at the end of which they concluded that we were being set up but that they had it handled.

The bleak terrain rolled outside the shuttle’s window. Why, Maud? Why Karhari? What happened to the castle? Was little Helen with her or did she somehow get here by herself? The more I thought about it, the more uneasy I became. Neither Arland nor Sean asked me why my sister might be in this hellhole, and for that I was grateful.

“There it is.” Arland pointed to a dark rectangular structure.

Put together from prefab hard plastic and studded with five-foot spikes, the Road Lodge looked about as hospitable as the raider fortress from Mad Max. I pulled my gray travel robe tighter around myself. So far from the inn my power was much weaker, so I brought something from the days Klaus and I had zigzagged across the galaxy trying to find my parents.

I hadn’t heard from Klaus for so long. I didn’t even know where my brother was.

“You sure you don’t want a knife?” Sean asked. He’d offered me one twice already.

“No, thank you.”

“Lady Dina will be perfectly safe in my presence,” Arland said.

Sean gave him a cold stare and settled back into his seat.

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