Home > Evermore (Darkyn #5)(3)

Evermore (Darkyn #5)(3)
Author: Lynn Viehl

"You know Rainer. He was throwing daggers blindfolded, showing off for some human. Beau took a blade in the side and came after him. Farlae dragged him off Rain while I saw to the humans." Harlech's mouth curled into a sour twist. "If the arm wants breaking again, I'd be pleased to see to it."

A hand rapped on the window behind them, and Jayr turned, lowering the glass divider between her and Locksley. "My lord?"

"You must be slowing down, Jayr." His long fingers tapped the top of her shoulder. "Your jacket is torn."

Jayr tucked in her chin to inspect the narrow burn mark scoring the bronze leather. "So it is." She reached inside the jacket to check her shoulder, which bore no wound, and felt something caught in a fold of her sodden shirt. She took out and looked at a flattened slug. "The last bullet must have ricocheted."

Byrne turned his head away from the window to eye the slug. His expression remained composed, but the pupils in his eyes contracted to vertical slivers, and the blue-black irises took on a diffused glow, one of candlelight shining through a goblet of burgundy. "You were shot and you dinnae say a word?"

"I am not injured, my lord."

Byrne's flash of displeasure roused something similar in Jayr's own breast, an immense frustration with him that she had no intention of indulging. Byrne had every right to be annoyed with her for nearly leading him and Lord Locksley into an ambush. That she had issued advice against this trip into the city meant nothing. Her duty was to serve, not to chastise.

It would be gratifying, a snide corner of her heart said, if he would but occasionally listen to me.

Jayr went to remove the embarrassing jacket, remembered the torn condition of her shirt, and instead pulled up the front zipper. The offending slug she pocketed. "Forgive me. I will change as soon as we return to the Realm."

Byrne looked as if he might say more, then nodded and went back to contemplating the passing streetlights.

"I should not have mentioned it." Locksley sounded rueful now. "It is only that I have coveted that particular jacket for months, and planned to filch it from your wardrobe. Where did you get it?"

"Farlae, the keeper of the wardrobe, makes all of our garments," Jayr said. "I can have him measure you. He will have a duplicate made by the end of the week."

"What, and further tarnish my dusty reputation?" His amethyst eyes, over which many a maiden had sighed, twinkled. "Never."

The suzerain's jesting did not provoke a response from Byrne as it usually did, another sign of her master's growing discontent. Jayr would have to see to it that the tournament went without incident. Then, too, Byrne had gone many weeks without proper companionship. Although Jayr hated that part of her duties as nothing else, she would procure some human females to entertain him before their staff was sent on leave. Perhaps two or three of the women he liked best would help dispel this strange, bleak mood of his.

Something had to.

Chapter 2

Aedan mac Byrne had lived longer, fought harder, and spilled more blood than a hundred mortal men. He had brawled his way through human life as laird of the mac Byrnes, and then clawed a path from the grave to aid his human liege lord in driving the English out of their homeland for the last time.

"My Highland demon," Robert the Brus had said, smearing blood from one of his wounds across Byrne's brow. "You met this day with honor and bravery."

The king of the Scots would die never knowing that on that glorious day on Bannockburn, when the English were soundly thrashed by an army half the size of their own, the laird mac Byrne had preserved his own worthless hide by destroying the life of an innocent.

Jayr's life, offered to save his own.

That she had given herself to him freely made no difference, Byrne knew. By taking her and changing her from human to Kyn, he had cursed her soul as wholly and completely as he had his own.

Byrne had tried to do penance for the terrible price she had paid for him. From that day forth he had sought a life of peace. Resisting the lure of battle had not been a simple thing, for it was the only trade he had known, and the only place where his affliction had proved of any value. But for Jayr's sake he had resisted, beating it back until the urges dwindled and subsided.

Or so Byrne had believed.

During the jardin wars, Richard had made Byrne one of his generals at the front, doubtless hoping to wield him like a club to smash the suzerain who had refused to unite under the high lord. It had been the first test of Byrne's control over his affliction, and he had won, keeping a level head even in the midst of the worst fighting.

Many years later, when Byrne left Scotland and the slaughterhouse of memories behind for the promise of a new life in America, his newfound iron control had persuaded Richard to raise him above the ranks of the warrior Kyn. As an American suzerain, Byrne was given rule and responsibility over more than three thousand of his kind who had already settled in the colonies. Here, too, he had been obliged to fight occasionally for what was his, but he had taken up the sword as a man, not a monster.

His victory over his affliction had seemed complete, but Byrne knew that what lurked inside his soul would never leave him. Nothing could destroy the sleeping horror.

Something, however, had reawakened it.

This night he removed his sword belt, tossing it aside as he basked in the circle of heat from his fireplace. Knight's Realm, the small kingdom he had made to serve and protect the Kyn, had all the benefits of modern heating and cooling, but none reached his rooms. He had ordered his architects to leave his private chambers as they would have been in his human lifetime: cells of bare, cold stone illuminated only by log fire, torch, and candlelight.

Not much more than the priest's cell in which he had spent years praying for mercy from a God gone deaf.

"My lord."

The sweet-spicy scent of tansy accompanied Jayr as she entered his chamber. Her fragrance blended easily with his own, and chased the tension from his frame.

"Jayr." It had been an hour since they had returned from the city—too long for her to spend changing her clothing. Had she forgotten what night this was? "What kept you?"

"I thought I should first see to Lord Locksley's comfort." She picked up his belt and sword and stowed them on his weapons rack.

He watched her, noting the dry shirt and the fitted harness of pistols and blades she wore strapped over it. He could not remember the last time he had seen her unarmed.

No, the God's truth of it was he that could. He simply would not allow himself to think on that day, when fate and all its clever demons had well and truly cursed him.

Byrne watched her work. "Is Rob satisfied with his comforts?"

"He claimed he is, my lord. He talked a great deal about the tournament as well, and these new Kyn coming over from Europe." Jayr went to the corner cabinets and prepared a goblet of bloodwine. "I should not have stayed so long with him. You must be thirsty."

Aye, he was. Would that he were still human and could still drink himself into a stupor. One of the larger annoyances of being an immortal was that the only manner in which he could become intoxicated required him to enrapture and drain a human. The result would keep him trapped and rendered senseless by blood thrall for days, but the Kyn no longer killed mortals.

Yet tonight he had nearly torn four boys to pieces.

"My thanks." As he accepted the goblet Jayr brought to him, he noticed she still wore the oval device on her ear that allowed her to take calls from the telephone and speak to others within the Realm. "Must you have that thing stuck to your head all the night and day?"

"Only during the time of the tournament." Accustomed to his dislike of electronics, she reached up and removed the clip, thumbed a switch on its side, and dropped it into her light hip pocket.

Byrne knew he was being unreasonable—Jayr was in charge of his household, and so had to field all types of communications—but he considered most of the technological advances of humankind little better than the bubonic plague. Those used to make modern weapons slaughtered without discrimination; the industrial revolution had done much to foul the earth. Combustion engines had turned the air to filth; factories had done the same, as well as poisoning the land and water. Even the small electronic devices Jayr relied on seemed insulting to Byrne. It irked him enough that he had to make use of the telephone to speak with other Kyn lords instead of resorting to the couriers and diplomats of old.

Byrne would have nothing to do with these wireless devices, however. If he wished to speak to one of his own men, he would bloody well do it face-to-face, not through some toy that hung from his ear.

"Harlech mentioned that Rainer has been absent from the lists," Jayr said as she wiped down his sword with a lightly oiled rag before returning it to its scabbard.

Byrne recalled the fight he had seen Farlae break up between the man and Beaumaris. "The arm, then?"

She nodded. "I will do what I can, but if the bone has set wrong, I will have to summon a leech from the city."

"Have Farlae help you; Rain will do as he says." Byrne knew his seneschal had a deft touch when it came to most of the minor injuries his men sustained in training, but even her talents were limited. A shame they did not have a Kyn trained in the healing arts, as Cyprien did. Although his leech sygkenis had caused more trouble than Byrne thought she was worth, she could be trusted to hold her tongue. Locksley claimed she had even found a potion to reverse the effects of Richard's changeling disease.

A shaft of light from the long, narrow eyelet of his window made Byrne squint. "Dawn already. Wake me an hour before sunset, Jayr. Rob rarely sleeps the day through, and there are matters we should discuss before the others arrive."

"I will." She came to him and knelt between his thighs to remove his boots. "I would apologize for what happened tonight, my lord."

He raised his brows. "For seeing to Rob and listening to him natter on? I should thank you. My ears needed the respite."

"I meant my carelessness in the city." All the softness vanished from her voice. "I allowed myself to become distracted by the weather and did not sense the humans until they surrounded me." Her mouth twisted briefly. "It will not happen again."

   
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