Authors: Morgan Blayde
Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction
“A bottle full of whisky helps the
medicine go down. Just a fact.”
On the first floor of the keep, we occupied a den. I sprawled in a black-leather leisure recliner that had come from the human world. There was a table next to me made from an oversized wine barrel. A tray sat on top with glasses and an ice bucket. Like the last three, the latest bottle of red wine was open and breathing—but not too loudly. The only other sound filling the room was the soft crackle of burning logs in the fireplace. And at the edges of vision, I kept seeing inexplicable colors, almost as if my drunken ass had recently been magically poisoned. I felt a little distrustful of my brain, suspecting it might be out to get me.
I’d ordered cheese and crackers, and was still waiting for the servants to come scurrying in with them. I’d warned them not to tell Izumi where I was, and had put Dhal and Silf on post, guarding the oak-paneled room’s only entrance: a set of double doors with brass knobs that reminded me of tits. Odd how a lot of things reminded me of tits these days. Even actual tits.
Ryella shared the ottoman with my feet, tending to their comfort. The servants had located a woolen shift and fuzzy slippers for her to wear. Her magical bling was back on, the amulets covering her no-longer-naked tits like chainmail—or maybe medals.
All tits deserve medals, except for the saggy kind. Saggy medals are just sad. Good thing Ryella didn’t have saggy anything.
I studied her amulets with professional interest—wishing I had x-ray vision like Superman.
Hey, maybe there’s a tattoo I can get for that.
Why have I never thought of that before?
“My lord, you look like you have something you need to ask me?” Ryella said.
“Yeah. What the hell was it? Oh, yeah, so, why not just come at me with magic in the first place? It looks like you have some potent spells there.” I pointed at her valiant, but hidden tits.
My inner dragon’s appraisal power let me know these ornaments reeked of power. He also wanted me to steal the silver and give him half.
And they say I’m materialistic.
“Over too quick,” Ryella rasped. “Immolating you in fire is painful enough, sure, but over too quickly. I’d only torch you if I knew you’d survive and be horribly disfigured and in pain for the rest of your life.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I see your problem.”
She smiled brightly, swinging one amulet up on its chain so it separated from the rest. “Now this one here can bubble off your skin in an acid mist and
poison you. That one I’m very proud of. Momma taught it to me.” She looked like she was about to cry again.
Really, she needs to stick to a theme.
“What is it with everyone and poison?” I said. “I just stab people in the face. Sudden. Shocking. Sends a message. Someone want to pour me some more wine? I don’t think I’ve had enough.”
Newly sworn vassal that she was, Ryella leaped up to do it. I waved her back so she could continue massaging my feet. “Not you, one of them.” Dhal left his post at the door and came over. He filled a jeweled goblet for me, handing it over. There was an aroma of sweet red wine from the cup. I smelled nothing that might
have been slipped in. I lifted the cup in salute to the giant elk head with marble eyes mounted high above the fireplace mantle. We had the head. The body couldn’t be far.
“Ever had elk steak?” I asked.
“No, my lord,” Dhal said.
“I wouldn’t mind one.” I drank from the cup, savoring the rich flavor of fey wine.
. “Look out in the hall for a servant.” I knew there’d be one; they’re always underfoot. “Have some steaks rustled up, served with baked potatoes and a lot of butter. We’ll eat in here.”
“Yes, my lord.” His voice vibrated with sudden enthusiasm. He hurried to send word.
“Rare!” I roared. “I want to see some blood!” I smiled at Ryella. “See, there are some perks to working for me.”
“Yes, my lord.” She shifted her massage, concentrating on the base of my toes, digging into the muscles as if she wanted to kill me. My little piggies were in heaven. I groaned in delight.
“Izumi should watch out. She can easily be replaced. And she never does this. She just wants to be serviced, like I’m some kind of a man-whore. Just wants a kid. Whatever happened to just fucking for its own sake? You know, I blame the Pope for this.”
The door squeaked wide open. A gust of cold air intruded. Dhal and Silf grunted in surprise.
“Here you are,” Izumi exclaimed.
Trapped. Trapped I say, like a trapped rat in a trapped place.
I took another drink from my jeweled goblet. “However did you find me?”
“The servants said you were in here, with
? Why is she touching your feet?”
“Medical attention,” I lied. “Someone abandoned me to frostbite. I may lose a toe or two.”
She said, “Drama queen.”
I retaliated. “Queen queen.”
Odd, I’m usually more cunning with words when I drink.
“Queen?” Ryella shot to her feet, neglecting me. She did that cute medieval thing, dipping, head bowing, to greet one of higher caste.
“She’s not your queen,” I said. “You guys don’t have to do that. And I hope somebody has a sword pulled out. She’s that maniac who’s after my balls.”
Ryella’s hand seized one of her amulets, a piece of amber wrapped with copper wire. Blue light beamed out from between her fingers. “Fear not, my lord, we shall not allow her to castrate you.”
“Castrate?” Izumi’s voice spiked with surprise. “Who said anything about castration? Caine, who
“My personal guard, sworn only to me.” I took another gulp of wine. “Strange, my wine cup seems to be empty. Anyone know how that happened? Never mind. Ryella, pour me some more.”
I heard Silf apologize. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I’m going to have ask you to hold your position.”
“But this is
keep. I’m the queen here. And I can kill you with a breath of frost.”
sorry,” Dhal said, but we have our orders.”
“Planning on murdering my attendants?” I asked. “That probably won’t sit well with the rest of the staff. They might get to thinking that they could be next. We could wake up with all the help gone, taking all the silverware with them. Then where would we be? Without forks and spoon, I tell you. And who will make the beds and let me pat them on the ass?”
Izumi sighed. “Come to bed when you sober up.” Her steps retreated. The door closed.
“I wonder what happened to Red. He didn’t come. I guess he knew better than to mess with another man’s balls.”
A knock sounded. “Ah, excellent. That will be the cheese and crackers.”
The evening progressed. We finished the elk steaks—which tasted suspiciously like beef. Dhal and Silf took turns eating so one of them could stay at the door. I finished a fifth bottle of wine for dessert. My dragon metabolism wasn’t burning through the alcohol as fast as usual; I felt off balance, woozy, deeply drunk.
Servants entered and left, carrying off the used dishes.
“I’ll be counting the silverware later,” I warned them.
“My lord,” Silf said, “you have a visitor.”
“Name, rank, and serial number?” I asked.
There was a murmur of voices. Silf called out, “It’s a healer. The queen has sent him to see what the hell is wrong with your head.”
“Let him in,” I ordered. “I want to know, too.” I flicked a hand at Ryella.
She rose from the ottoman and took up a position beside me, opposite the barrel table where cheesy crackers still lingered. The healer came around my chair and stopped, the ottoman between us, my elk staring at the back of the man’s head. He—the man, not the moose—carried a canvas pack with the tools of his trade. If anything else came out, I expected Ryella to earn the maybe-elk steak I’d given her.
Staring at the healer, I gestured to the ottoman. “Have a seat, but don’t take it out of the room.”
“As my lord commands.” The white-bearded fellow threw his hood back over his head, sat, and put his hands on his knees so his elbows jutted out. He leaned toward me, wearing round-lensed glasses with silver frames. His eyes were deep mauve with cinnamon flecks.
“Has your skin always had this pale green cast?” he asked.
I lifted a hand and stared at it. “Where’d that come from? Oh, yesh, I was poisoned by snake magic. It’s screwin’ wi’h me.”
The healer nodded. “I can see that.” He looked up at Ryella. “I’m going to slowly pull a scrying crystal out of my bag to look at the magic flowing inside him. Please don’t kill me.”
“Go ahead,” I said.
“Go ahead,” she said.
He eased a finger-length of golden quartz into view and held it between us. “You have my word that I am only here to help you, but there might be some discomfort.”
I waved off the idea. “Don’t worry about it. Pain and I are old friends.”
He nodded and extended the crystal, moving it up and down so it passed my head, heart, and stomach. As if it were synchronizing to my energy centers, the crystal pulsed at different frequencies. Its golden light grew tinted, pure yellow shifting to various shades of amber and green-tinged flame.
He sighed heavily and put the stone away. “You’ll live. In time, I expect you will fully recover, but it might take months. The poisoned energy has mixed with your own, contaminating it. Be careful to keep your communing with your land to a limit. You can take in energy, but try not to exchange energy. You could poison your land. The land is strong and likely will shrug off the dark energy, but it could have unforeseen consequences on those living in our kingdom. People could die, or groves and gardens. Fish could sicken in the streams.” His glance went to the empty bottles in the floor. “Got any more of that? I can use a drink.”
. “Dhal!” I called.
“I’ll handle it, my lord,” he answered.
“Anything I can do besides wait this out?” I asked. “If my enemies find out I’ve grown more vulnerable they will attack in force to take advantage, bastards. Only I’m allowed to take advantage.”
“Keep drinking fey wine,” the healer said. “It’s helping. Discharging large amounts of your mystic energy might purge the poison somewhat, but if you power up a spell with mixed energy...”
He stopped and thought about it. I thought about it, too. I thought about all the ways a twisted spell could go sideways and visit terrible havoc upon myself and others. “Better not use magic for a while, huh?”
Dhal returned. The healer nodded, accepting a bottle. Dhal handed me a bottle as well. I held it in my lap, my gaze locked on the healer. “Take that with you, for your trouble.”
He smiled and stuffed the bottle in his bag. “No trouble. Izumi has been good to me. She took me into her personal service after her mother dismissed me from the Winter Court.”
“Lose someone on the operating table?” I asked.
“Winter’s queen grew enamored of a much younger doctor with poorer skills. She fired me for having what she calls a bony ass.” He sighed. “I don’t think it’s that bony.”
I sighed. “Sucks getting old. I don’t plan on ever letting that happen.”
“If you ever plan on ending yourself,” Ryella said, “please let me and my hammer know. I would love to help you out.”
I slanted her a despairing look from under an arching eyebrow. “And I thought we were getting along so well.”
She shrugged. “Hatred dies hard.”
I nodded, remembering the revenant that was still out there somewhere in the human world. “Very hard.”
You talking about me?
my cock asked.
Ryella looked at me, lifting eyebrows in a silent question.
I shook my head. “Not you.”
The healer struggled to stand. He bowed. “I will go and have several healing draughts made that may ease your symptoms and strengthen your spirit. Expect their delivery in the morning.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Hopefully, I won’t have frequent need of your services.”
He shrugged. “I hear that a lot. I bid you good night, my lord.”
I waved. “Yeah, go. Goodnight.”
He shuffled out of the room.
Damn. Sobriety’s sneaking up on me.
Fortunately I had an answer for that. I handed my bottle to Ryella. “See if you can open that. It needs to breathe. We all need to breathe.” I inhaled deeply to show them how it was done.