Authors: Morgan Blayde
Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction
Once inside the bathhouse, she smiled coldly and stalked toward me. Her voice rasped like she’d burnt it out with cigarettes and whisky. “I will give you Death’s restful darkness—at the end of my hammer!”
“Dropkicking dragons will
never catch on as a sport.”
“I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
She stopped dead. Suddenly, the tough little warrior chick looked like she wanted to cry. “You killed my mother!”
“Did I? Was she trying to kill me at the time?”
Using her war hammer as a pointer, she punctuated her words. “You can’t excuse what you did! You broke her into pieces.”
“Terrible.” I remembered. A storm fey assassin had ambushed me outside my Malibu home. My inner dragon had taken over, swallowing the lightning thrown at me, crushing the storm mage, pounding her into stew meat across my car. “You lost a mom, I lost a Mustang. That balances out pretty much equally, don’t you think?”
The two guys had put the mirror face down, leaving it on the threshold. They’d stepped over and were now coming up behind their mistress to watch her vengeance achieved.
Fuck! Just sell tickets.
She screamed incoherently and threw her hammer. I saw it was going to miss me.
Chick throws like a girl.
The hammer hit the ice. There was a deafening
The ice shattered under the impact of her storm magic. I fell free and bobbed in an ice floe. The magic ice reformed around me, solidifying even more of the pool’s water. This left my head and shoulders jutting above the frozen surface.
I stared up at the fey warrior as she caught her hammer’s shaft, the thunder returning it to her.
“Damn!” I said. “Who’s your daddy? Thor.”
She stepped off the marble tile and walked across the ice. She stopped, looming over me, staring down with a tight smile stretched across her clenched teeth. She lifted the hammer, rocking her hips in a prelude to a swing. I suddenly knew how a golf ball felt.
My inner dragon looked out my eyes, turning my head toward the red dragon statue. He used my voice: “Goodbye Selene, I love you.”
“Yeah, me too.” I tightened my neck and shoulder muscles, bracing for impact.
The war hammer blurred, coming in fast.
A red wall crashed down and smashed the storm fey through the ice. No, not a wall, the red jasper dragon. She’d come alive, her eyes red crystal jewels full of hellfire. The dragon’s mouth gaped, dribbling dragon fire that fell and ate into the ice, clinging like napalm. Great, ragged cracks spread in ice that miraculously didn’t reform. Selene’s dragon magic had pimp-slapped Izumi’s ice magic out of existence.
Fractures in the ice freed me. Knowing there were still two storm fey at the edge of the pool. I gulped a breath and ducked under the water. The heat that should have been near the bottom was gone.
I so wanted to sip cocoa in front of a raging fire.
I swam under the bobbing ice floes, circled around the central pedestal, using it for cover as I climbed out. I crouched on the white tiles, dripping icy water, considering my next move.
A male warrior yelled. “Where is he? Where did he go?”
“Never mind the outlander. Where is Ryella?”
Ryella, must be the woman’s name. Matter of fact, where is she?
The red dragon—unwound from the yellow one— swung its polished stone neck, the head searching as well. A few feet from me, a thin arm stabbed up out of the water. The hand fell and gripped the edge of the pool. Another hand appeared. She seemed to have lost her war hammer somewhere.
Ryella dragged herself up. Bent at the waist, she half sprawled on the tiles. She’d shed her clothes so they wouldn’t weigh her down. She coughed out a little water and turned her face toward me.
Her bright eyes still burned with bottomless rage, but there was calculation there as well. “Oh, well played. You used yourself as bait to spring the ultimate trap, and I fell for it.”
“Would you like to sit by a fire and join me in something hot to drink?” I asked. “I can be merciful in victory.”
She spoke on, ignoring my offer of hospitality. “I should have been suspicious about how easily we broke through your defenses. How long have you known we were lurking on your land?”
“From the beginning,” I lied. I noticed her sliding a hand behind her so her palm pointed at the frigid water behind her.
She’s buying time, gathering her strength while trying to lull me off my guard. Like that could happen.
She surged up, the war hammer magically returned to her hand. The weapon arced down. Its curved spike aimed at my head.
I side-rolled off hands and knees, across my back and returned to the same position—a mocking smile on my face. The weapon’s spike slammed into a marble tile, splintering it with a
. I stared up over her head where the red jasper dragon’s head hung. It had found its prey.
“You may want to surrender now.”
The dragon head dripped on her. She slowly turned and stared up.
The dragon’s lips writhed back, baring stone teeth that had dredged up her missing clothes and amulets. Its silent threat needed no paralyzing roar or sinister chuckle to announce doom.
Ryella’s hand left her war hammer. “I accept your kind offer of a warm fire and drink. My word of honor on my surrender.”
I saw her men—brave but stupid—running around the edge of the pool toward us. They carried swords. Staring at the animated statue, their faces were white with fear, but on they came.
I stood slowly, carefully, every inch of me aching, and gestured
to the statue. It dipped its head and let the objects in its teeth flop and clatter to the marble tiles. After that, I waved the dragon back.
Slowly, it obeyed, as if not eating the enemy went against its better instincts. Once the dragon was gone, Ryella pulled herself fully out of the pool and sat up. Failure darkened her eyes, relaxing her face. There was no tension in her muscles.
I said, “Tell your men to surrender as well, if you want them to live.”
She faced them and yelled. “Dhal, Silf, lay down your weapons. We have failed.”
Their run became a walk. As they reached us, they stopped and set their arms down, lifting empty hands.
I sat on the marble, arms draped on my knees. “One question. Were you sent by your people, or are you acting alone?”
“Alone. We were told not to come, not to provoke you. We were outlawed for insisting on vengeance.”
“So you have no kingdom to return to.”
Ryella said, “After avenging my mother, I didn’t care what happened to me.”
I sighed. “Nor to your men, it seems. You really think your mom would be happy to see you throw your life away?”
She lowered her head, not answering.
I looked at her servants. “Go to the showers and bring back the towels and the robe you find there. Your mistress is naked.”
Their eyes widened as they realized this was true. One of them ran off to get the items I’d mentioned.”
“Ryella, if you and your men will bind yourselves with an oath, I will take you into my service.”
She jerked her head up, staring in surprise. “You would take in an enemy?”
I smiled with an effort, feeling very weary. “No, but I will take in friends if we can manage to forgive one another.” Besides, I knew no fey could directly lie. They’d stand by their sworn word. That didn’t mean we’d roast marshmallows and sing
together. It did mean I wouldn’t have to waste this new resource.
I get half
, my inner dragon said.
One guy and half the girl?
On hands and knees, she faced me. Ritualistically, she lowered her head so it hung just above her hands, almost touching them. “I swear my loyalty, and that of those sworn to me, to your service in exchange for honorable status, fair wages, and an option to depart after one year. Should I break faith, break me with my own hammer.” She look at me, but didn’t lift her head as high as mine. That would have been an act of fey impudence toward her new lord. “Is this sufficient?”
I thought about it. Being fey, she was binding herself to the exact words of her pledge, not its spirit. I considered her words and found a loophole. “You are pledging for your men as your servants. Should they leave your service, they’d automatically leave mine as well. You’re giving them a way out. That shows you care for them, more than yourself. You will never rise among the fey with that attitude.”
The man returned who’d run off for the towels and robe. He dropped the towels near me. He offered the robe to Ryella. She ignored the offer, waiting on my judgement.
I looked at both male fey. “Will you two take the same oath of service to me in order to remain with Ryella?”
They looked at her, then at me. Without kneeling, Robe Boy said, “I give my word of honor. As long as Ryella serves you, so will I.”
The other said, “As do I. We will not abandon our mistress. This we told her when we joined her in exile.”
I nodded. “Then I take you both into my service from this moment on. Should I dismiss Ryella, you will also be free to leave.”
Ryella gestured to the fey with the robe. “Our lord is naked. His dignity is more important than mine. Give that to him.”
Robe Guy gave her a curt nod. “As you say.” He held the robe out to me. I stood and took it, unwilling to dishonor her sacrifice. I slid into the robe and belted it, glad of the warmth. I picked up the towels.
“Get up,” I told her.
She scrambled up swiftly.
I held out the towels. “Cover yourself. I will have fresh clothes brought to you.”
She took the towels and wrapped herself.
I pointed at the amulets and her soggy clothing. “Bring that stuff along if you want it.” I walked past the men, heading around the pool, and called back. “Come along. I want you guys to stay with me. Enemies may come tonight with an unhealthy interest in my balls. I expect you to fight to the death to protect them—and the rest of me of course—as my personal guard.”
Ryella’s voice snapped out with a cutting edge, her pride restored. “Yes, my lord. Your balls will be safe with us.”
“Glad to hear. Which of you is Dhal and which is Silf?” I felt surprise I’d remembered their names.
The one with a braided mustache and bare chin said, “I am Dhal.”
The one with flame-red hair said, “I am Silf, son of Yon’dre, son of—”
“Yeah, got it, thanks. I’m going to get very drunk now. You bunch need to stay sober.”
Ryella said, “As my lord commands.”
They were sworn only to me. Everyone else in the keep was sworn to
Izumi and me. Izumi could kill these guys, but not countermand my orders to them. For tonight, they were going to be my best friends in the whole world.
, my cock said.
I rounded the pool and led them to the hallway. Once there, I stared down at the upside-down mirror. “Neat trick, Ryella. I take it you have been well-schooled in fey magic.”
“Yes, my lord. I am not naturally gifted in storm magic, like many of my people, so I’ve had to study other disciplines.”
That explained why she hadn’t thrown any lightning bolts my way. I’d just thought she hadn’t bothered because I was known to be immune to lightning attacks. “So, what is your specialty?”
Her voice dimmed, sounding less proud. “I am a craftsman of amulets, skilled in storing spells and energy, attaching them to various objects. Things I shape from the beginning are stronger than things given me to enchant, so I am also adequate at the forge.”
“Excellent! You can’t ever have too many magical swords. Can you work iron?”
“Ah, no my lord, but I can enchant silver so that it has the strength of human forged steel.”
“Wonderful. You are a rare and precious jewel.” And very fuckable. I knew, I’d seen her naked.
Can’t I take the night off?
My cock asked.
My inner dragon chimed in:
She swore to only serve you in honorable employment. And you killed her mother. I think it will be a while before she’s spreading her legs for you.
I nodded agreement with myself.
Yeah, but you know how I love a challenge.