Authors: Lea Griffith
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Published By: Taliesin Publishing, LLC, PO Box 155, Sanford, MI 48657
Arrow to the Soul
Copyright © 2014 by Lea Griffith
Digital Release: February 2014
Cover Artist: Georgia Woods
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Table Of Contents
Arrow to the Soul by Lea Griffith
No Mercy – Book 2
She walks in the darkness—it is all she has ever known.
Arrow walks with death. It is bitter and black, and covers every step she takes. Trained from the crib to be nothing more than a death-bringer she knows she was born without a soul. The darkness is where she’s comfortable and she carries the weight of her duty notched on bow—ready to fly straight and true in to her enemy’s hearts.
He has known love and loss—and then he finds her in the darkness.
Adam knows his calling. Protect and serve. As a member of Trident Corporation he has found the perfect place to meet his obligations. Then he sees a woman with eyes of amber and he is taken under by her darkness. He touches her heart and knows he has no choice—share his light with a killer or lose his soul to her.
Darkness and light. Two sides of one coin. Retribution draws them together but before all is said and done they will learn love can either break you or make you stronger.
Translation Guide for foreign words and phrases located at the end of the book.
This book is dedicated to the following kick ass women:
Jessica Helm—I couldn’t have asked for a better #1 fan. You make me smile lady! Hope you enjoy Arrow’s story and come back to me for more.
Georgia Woods – Editor extraordinaire. Thank you for believing in my writing and the women of No Mercy. Thank you for putting up with my pushing past a deadline. You damn well rock.
Jenny Aspinall & Gitte Doherty—TotallyBookedBlog—thanks to you two lovelies and your readers. You blew Bullet up, and I am so glad my words got in front of you. You gave me that push I needed to get this book done. I love you ladies, so hard!
22 Years Ago
The wind whispered death was coming. Arrow’s eardrums trembled with every muted footstep it took toward them. She cocked her head, wondering why it crept so stealthily this time. Normally it was a freight train of violence, rushing and ebbing with brutality, sometimes mercy, but always with sound. Reckoning gave no one the ease of silence.
She’d been taught death attacked in the hush, but Arrow knew the truth.
Death was loud as it charged over and through you. It never moved quietly because it was the
. There was no need for an absence of warning when death knocked at your door because death took you whether you were ready or not. Perhaps you’d get lucky and be bestowed another life. But whenever your time was up, once again death would come for you.
Why creep with soundless steps when it would revisit you time and time again? Punish you through lifetime after lifetime?
Her thoughts were heavy. She accepted this even as she tried to find the energy to care. They’d been staked to the ground. Roped to the earth with heavy nylon twine that burned and scraped skin raw, they were out in the open at the mercy of the elements. It was a game the black-eyed man liked to play. He tried to break them, and they denied his efforts. Ninka was the only exception.
The yellow-haired child whimpered in the darkness and it sliced over Arrow’s nerves, made her extremities tingle in awareness. Death was singing to them all in the dulcet tones of a Russian child’s lullaby. It wouldn’t be long now.
Arrow breathed in deep, let the air flow through her, feeling the molecules of air inflate her lungs, expanding her stomach and chest. She held it there until it burned and let it leak from her nostrils silently. Unlike the death that taunted her ears.
Her body begged for rest. Her mind remained alert. The others were older than she, yet none had walked in the blackness more than Arrow. None had danced with death more. Arrow was tired.
She listened to Ninka singing to her mother and watched as dawn pin-pricked the ebony sky. They’d been tasked with quiet, and the weakest of them all had broken. Little Ninka with her frail bones and sunlit hair—how much could she take?
Sorrow coated Arrow’s tongue, making it difficult to swallow as the pinks, oranges, and yellows lit the eastern sky in her periphery. Slowly the hated black faded to muted blue, and the intensity of the rising morning mocked her sight. Her eyes burned and she reveled in the pain.
Arrow was alive. But someone would not be much longer. She had defeated death before and would continue to do so, it was not her time. But soon, maybe. Whenever the end happened, Arrow would greet it with her
and dig deep into the black of its soul with her
Her hands clenched, the ache in them sharp as she longed for her bow and arrow. The smooth bamboo of her
and the softness of the golden eagle’s feathers on her
brought a calm she rarely ever experienced unless she was holding them. Only when someone’s life hung in the balance did Arrow know peace.
She’d been formed in hell, allowed life because the brilliant golden hue of her eyes marked her a descendant of Benkei, the original
or demon child. Her mother had been afraid to kill her and took her to an orphanage instead. Japanese people were a superstitious lot. The head of the orphanage took one look at the baby brought to him and called the
, warrior monks who lived in the temple on the highest mountain in Kyoto.
Her given name, Rena Kurosawa, literally meant “reborn from the black swamp.” But she’d been stripped of that name long, long ago. The
made sure of it, shaping her into a tool to be used by whoever could hold her.
The black-eyed man continued what the warrior monks of her homeland began. Arrow was a killer, indeed had already filled the well of Hell with a fair number of souls. At barely five years of age she
death. She was…ancient.
She had never been a child. Arrow entered the world with a spirit older than right or wrong, good or bad. Her body was the only inhibition to her talents, and as she grew taller, stronger, she would achieve her life’s mission—to deal more death.
And still the child sang. Ninka’s voice pulled at something deep inside Arrow, and she fought it, scrabbling for calm in the middle of the rising storm.
“She’s dying isn’t she?” Arrow asked, for the little Russian child’s voice was fading, becoming drowned out by the rush of fatality.
“Stop talking!” The fifth girl, the one now called Bone, spit out. “Stop talking!” she demanded again.
“Gretchen, the sky is turning very blue,” Ninka whispered louder now.
Arrow saw the blue Ninka spoke of, but it was overrun by the colors of the dawn. Those colors promised salvation, but there was none to be had on this mountain today. Death would have its way and nothing could stop it.
“Hold on, Ninka. This task is almost over,” Bullet croaked out.
Arrow winced. Bullet coddled Ninka, and it would end up costing them all. Could none of them hear the throb and pulse of the end bearing down on them?
, she screamed in her head. She clenched her hands tighter, allowing her nails to dig into her numbed palms. Wetness began to leak down her wrist and she smiled, grateful she’d drawn blood. She turned her head, saw the red streaks, and drew in another deep breath. Silence was the key to surviving this task.
And Arrow was a survivor.
“She’ll get herself killed and the rest of us punished. Shut up, Ninka,
,” Blade whined.
Blade’s voice was a scythe, which was appropriate. The tiny Irish child wielded a sword and knife unlike any Arrow had seen. When she had opportunity, Arrow watched the other child train. The slice of her steel through the air reminded Arrow of the samurai who practiced at the temple in Kyoto. But Blade was much better than those warriors. Her steel sang the song of endings.
“Shut her up, Bullet. She’ll get us all back in the water pit,” Bone whispered furiously. All of them were staked out except for Bone. They’d tied her to a tree and wrapped her long brown hair around the trunk of it. Her head was effectively tied to the tree along with her body. She’d been forced to stand all night long. The dusky-skinned child had done it with hate burning in her eyes.
“The sky is blue, blue, blue,” Ninka sing-songed. The sound of her voice, so pure, childlike, and innocent, was at odds with the banging clarity of what headed their way.
Arrow shivered. Not in fear but acceptance. The cold didn’t bother her. The bugs that sought out her warmth, crawling over and around her, didn’t have anxiety curling through her stomach. In fact, nothing did that anymore. Except now as the sun rose, a tendril of fear that a member of their small group wouldn’t be leaving this mountain clearing had chill bumps dotting Arrow’s flesh.
She wondered at her sudden introspection. She’d not had time to develop any feelings for these other children except exasperation, maybe pity. They were weaker than Arrow, probably needed her to show them how to calm their hearts and batten down their souls. Extreme emotion had been bled out of her by her
. But she would help these girls if she could so they could find the peace of unrippled water.
The ground trembled beneath her, the sky wavering in her gaze as the wind picked up. The cacophony of noise heralded the entrance of destiny.
“They come,” Arrow’s voice was the breeze, biting and cold. Bullet and Bone always complained Arrow spoke like an old person. As she mouthed those two words she felt like one.
, don’t say a word,” Bullet pleaded.
, tomorrow is a new day,” Ninka trilled, making no effort to be quiet. “Gretchen, my mama is calling me. Do you hear her?”
Ninka never called Gretchen by her new name, Bullet. Arrow wondered why but then again, she’d never told the other girls
given name. Poor Ninka, her mama wasn’t listening to anything she said. Her mama was long gone to the other side.
“Yes, Mama, I am here…” Ninka cried softly.
The wind moaned, lifting leaves to swirl above Arrow. She picked an orange one, curled into itself and blackened on the edges, and she watched it until it disappeared in the mini-tornado of air. Footsteps shush-shushed over the ground, and even the animals stopped twittering.