Home > Nightbred (Lords of the Darkyn #2)(3)

Nightbred (Lords of the Darkyn #2)(3)
Author: Lynn Viehl

Chris translated Turner’s diplomatic jargon into plain English: There was trouble with visiting Kyn, probably the group Burke had warned her were coming in from Europe. Stronghold protocol required all warriors to be escorted to the armory upon arrival in order to surrender their weapons. “But they just got here.”

“Aye,” Turner said, “and we’d be much pleased to see them go.”

The weapons master, a congenial Irishman who Chris knew got along with everyone, sounded ready to personally show them the door, too. “How bad is this brew, Mr. Turner?”

“Blood’s not been shed,” he said. “Yet.”

This was just getting better and better. “What caused the situation?”

“Someone posted a summons from the high lord for all to read.” Turner muttered something under his breath before he added, “Soon as they did, the boasting and insulting commenced.”

Lucan and Samantha had not yet come down from the penthouse suite; Rafael, Lucan’s second-in-command, was currently in the islands training their newest warriors. Herbert Burke, Lucan’s tresora and the highest-ranked mortal in the jardin, had left an hour ago to pick up a courier from the airport.

That meant she would have to handle this. Her first major tresoran intervention. Chris ran her fingers along the chain she wore, shifting the weight of the silver cross hanging under her blouse. “I’ll be right there.”

To get to the service elevators, Chris had to walk through the club, and braced herself for the blast of music that hit her in the face as soon as she stepped outside. Now that the Twilight craze had leveled out, she didn’t spot too many wannabe Edwards or Bellas, but there were plenty of True Blood groupies doing their best to clone Sookie, Bill, Tara, and Eric. A group of sullen Anne Rice diehards, still clinging to their repro lace-cuff and velvet-jacket decadence, occupied one corner, while here and there the undecided stuck to their slinky noncommittal club wear while eagerly flashing their fake canines at anyone who strayed from their vamp herd of choice.

Chris sometimes wondered how the patrons would react if they ever discovered that the hulking, bland-faced bouncers stationed in and outside the club could show them some very real, very lethal seven-hundred-year-old fang.

At least the mood of the crowd seemed less aggressive tonight, Chris thought. On Friday a couple of Lestats had bumped padded shoulders while getting their Louis red wine coolers, and neither had been satisfied by exchanging sneered insults. As soon as the first drink was hurled, the guards had moved in, but a glass to the skull of the other Lestat had resulted in an ugly gash that unsurprisingly didn’t heal spontaneously. The guards had removed the pair before the sight and smell of blood had riled up the crowd too much, but the mess left behind had forced Chris to close down the bar for the night.

She spotted a glitter on the carpet by one of the barstools and stopped to pick up a piece of broken glass one of the cleaners had missed. Beside her, a wannabe Elvira stretched out her cheap stack boots under Chris’s nose. As Chris looked up, the girl used an arm covered with gleaming tribal ink to elbow her chunky companion. “Look, Heather. I think it’s an Avon Lady.”

Three years ago no one would have even noticed her, but now Chris looked out of place. She didn’t have time to play a round of I’m-Legit-and-You’re-Not, especially with someone who thought her tragic home perm, too-small fishnet tights, and pot metal bling made her the Queen of the Damned.

She straightened, pocketing the broken shard as she nodded at the girl’s upper arm. “One of your tats is peeling off.”

Like most Darkyn strongholds, Alenfar had two sides: public and private. Aboveground Lucan maintained the nightclub, the business offices, the guest quarters, the workout rooms, and the penthouse, all of which appeared as modern and functional as any beachfront property. In the expansive network of tunnels and chambers Lucan had built two levels belowground were the real and very private workings of the jardin, which included the garrison’s quarters, training facilities, the weapons forge and armory, the assembly hall, the infirmary, as well as a dozen passages to and from the suzerain’s surrounding properties.

Once inside the elevator Chris opened a panel and entered her pass code into a small keypad, which overrode the lift’s normal operating functions and sent the elevator down two floors. When the cab stopped, she keyed in a second code to open the doors, and stepped out into what appeared to be a half-empty storage room.

Two guards in full battle armor stood flanking the reinforced steel door on the other side of the room. Both studied her before they lowered their automatic weapons.

“Good evening, Miss Christian.” Aldan, a behemoth with a scarred face, braided silver mane, and laser beam blue eyes, inclined his head.

“Hey, Dan.” She smiled at him. “I need to go to the armory and see Mr. Turner.”

“Would you be needing an escort, Miss Chris?” That came from the other guard, Glenveagh, who was as tall and slim as Aldan was broad and bulky, and wore his blazing red hair in a fiery skullcap.

“No, thanks, Glen, I’m good.” She avoided looking directly into his big green eyes, which was the most polite way to discourage the interest of a Kyn warrior.

Aldan used one hand to open the door, which was too heavy for a mortal to budge, but stopped her with a hand as the distant sound of shouting echoed through the tunnel. “Mayhap I will walk you in myself.”

Chris would have liked nothing better than to go into the armory with Aldan at her side; the big warrior had a fearsome rep among the garrison. But if Turner had needed a guard, he would have sent for one, and if she kept hiding behind the guys while doing her job, no one would ever respect her as a tresora.

“That’s okay, Dan. It’s just a minor misunderstanding with the newbies,” she told him. “I’ve got it.”

He gave her a long, shrewd look before he nodded slowly. “We shall leave the door open until you return.”

She also had a valuable resource that the guards didn’t, one she kept on speed dial. As she walked down the hall, she tucked her wireless headset over her ear, covering it with her hair before she pressed 2 on her mobile.

“Realm Management,” a cool voice answered the line.

“Good evening, Lady Jayr.” She kept her voice to a murmur. “How are things in Orlando?”

“As vexing as ever. Aedan wishes to open another theme park, and does not believe me when I say modern mortals have no desire to attend Medieval Torture World.” Jayr mac Byrne, the only female suzeraina in the world, had been one of the first Kyn to befriend Chris. “You are well? Why are you whispering?”

“Lucan and Sam are occupied upstairs, Burke is at the airport, and we’ve got a visiting-warrior situation.” Chris stopped in her tracks as she heard angry voices spilling out into the hall. “Evidently the men are squabbling over a summons the high lord sent. If you’re not too busy, I could use some advice.”

“Tell me what you know,” Jayr said at once.

Chris quickly related what Turner had said before she added, “I’m almost to the armory now.”

“You should have Lucan attend to this, Christian,” Jayr scolded. “Whether bound by oath or visiting, all warriors within the stronghold answer to the suzerain.”

“If they were actually trying to kill each other, I would,” she assured her. “But Turner called me, and as a tresora I’m supposed to try to handle it myself first. Okay, I’m here. Let me take a peek at what’s happening.” She tiptoed up to the open door of the armory and darted a glance around the edge.

“Tell me what you see,” the suzeraina urged.

Chris swung back, pressing her shoulder blades to the wall. Now she had to whisper. “Ten guys, five on each side. There’s a torn piece of paper on the floor between them, and everyone’s holding copper swords pointed at each other. No blood, and no one’s dead.”

“Yet. The master of the armory, where is he?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t see him.” Which could mean anything; he might be staying out of sight, or he could already be dead. Chris felt the seep of her worry widen into a stream of panic. “Maybe I should get the guards.”

“Jardin sentries are under orders to eliminate all threats,” Jayr reminded her. “They will kill your visitors first and ask questions second.”

“Okay, no guards.” She couldn’t let the men fight, but they wouldn’t be intimidated by a mere mortal female. It took a lot more to scare the Kyn. “Damn. I wish you were the high lord, Suzeraina.”

A startled laugh came over the line. “For that, you would have to cut out my heart, force me to drink the blood of small felines for fifty years, and cause me to sprout a furry manhood.”

“Thanks for that visual, my lady.” The shouts grew louder, and she knew she needed to go in and shut down this rumble now. “How can I stop this without anyone getting hurt?”

“Given that this ridiculous summons Richard sent out is involved, I think it may be beyond your capabilities, Christian.” Jayr sighed. “Call for your lord. Lucan would never expect you to manage this by yourself.”

“No, he wouldn’t.” And that gave her an idea. “I’m going to try something first.”

Chris quickly buttoned her blouse up to her collar before fastening her jacket and smoothing every tendril of hair back from her face. She needed to channel her old DCF caseworker, Miss Audrey, a pleasant-faced grandmother who’d had the disposition of a bipolar rattlesnake. Clenching her back teeth together and pursing her lips, she strode into the armory.

“Mr. Turner,” she called out, ignoring the men as she stalked between them. “Where are you?” Keeping her back to them, she took the ammunition invoice out of her jacket and slapped it down on the desk that served as Turner’s counter. “Lord Alenfar has a serious problem with this order. Come out here, please.”

“You’re trying to get yourself gutted?” Jayr demanded over the earpiece.

   
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