Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan (10 page)

BOOK: Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan
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“Right over…” His sentence was cut short when he saw her. Lana was lying on the damp stone floor, curled into as tiny a ball as possible. She was facing the cell door with her back to the wall, but didn’t appear to be aware of them. Even at that distance, Brave could see that she hadn’t fared much better than he had at the hands of Reinlitegen captivity.

“For fuck’s sake, Brave. What have you done?” Litha was outraged.

“I
didn’t do this, Litha! We’re here to
rescue
her from the Reinliteten.”

“What?”

She glanced at Perry, then looked at Dart, who responded with his best charming smile. “Hello again, beauty.”

Litha ignored Dart and turned her attention to Brave, who had already opened the cell door and rushed to Lana’s crumpled form. He gathered her in his arms and carried her out of the cell, trying not to panic when she didn’t wake up, or even rouse. He carefully placed her into the cradle of Dart’s large arms and reached for the syringe, which he buried in the muscle of Lana’s thigh.

“Just a minute. What’s going on here?”

Brave turned to say something to Litha, but his eyes went wide when he saw a dozen Reinlitegen coming down the corridor behind her. Litha glanced over her shoulder to see what had caught Brave’s attention that was more important than answering her question.

When she saw the advancing Reinlitegen, she summoned a ball of fire to her hand. She then used the magickal side of her nature to suspend it in midair while rotating it clockwise with the movement of her fingers. As the fiery orb turned in the air it grew larger and larger. Within seconds it was big enough to stretch from one side of the hallway to the other. When she clapped her hands together and shouted something undeterminable at the same time, the ball headed straight for the Reinlitegen like a mad dragon in pursuit.

Wisely, they turned and ran. Even demons can be burned by mystical fire.

Dart and Perry gave each other a look.

Litha turned back to the rescue party. “I told you I did not want to get involved in a demon war!”

“Nobody asked you to come!” said Brave. “Well, maybe Lana did ask you to come, but all we wanted to do here was to get in, get her, and get out.”

Litha stared at Brave.

Perry put in. “Let’s make a decision, shall we? Indecision killed the cat.”

Brave looked at Litha. “We need to get out of here. You can come with us and finish this discussion.”

“She cannot do any such thing,” said Perry. “The whole point of having a secret stronghold is that it’s
secret
. Right?”

Brave stepped right in front of Perry and looked up to him. “She’s coming. I’ll vouch for her.” His eyes shown with a wicked gleam worthy of a mischievous demon. “Until I’m told otherwise, I’m your prince and you’ll do as I say.”

Perry narrowed his eyes. “Yes, Your Eminence.”

Before Brave could register that Perry had taken hold of him, they were coming to rest in Brave’s chambers.

“Get Fortuity,” he shouted as Dart laid her down on Brave’s bed. Her skin was pale, her color grayish, and it sickened Brave to think this had been brought about because of his desire for her. He leaned over, tenderly brushing the hair back from her face.

When Fortuity arrived, Brave reluctantly moved aside so that she could attend to Lana. He knew that he’d been treated in the human world with tubes and machines and he hoped that his demon physician had more humane methods available for Lana.

Fortuity sent her assistant back to her workroom for two vials of something Brave had never heard of. When the assistant returned, Fortuity said, “Hold her head up, Brave. I need her to respond by swallowing a little bit of this.”

“What is it?”

“It will revive her. When she wakes, she will be thirsty. The second vial is full of nutrients that will restore her. We will add it to water and encourage her to drink as much as she can.”

Fortuity poured a tiny bit of potion between Lana’s lips. Lana coughed lightly and sputtered, but she did not swallow and the precious liquid dribbled away.

“This time massage her throat gently, Brave. It may cause an auto-response.”

“I think we should take her to Edinburgh to the clinic that treated you,” Litha said to Brave.

Again Fortuity poured a small dose of her potion into Lana’s mouth. She coughed, but Brave, while massaging her throat, felt her swallow.

Her eyes were partway open. They seemed both vacant and staring at him.

“Lana. You’re safe. You’re with me.” Brave said quietly before glancing at Fortuity. “Are you thirsty?”

Lana’s eyes seemed to focus a little and she nodded. Brave watched Fortuity empty the other vial in a pitcher of water and swirl it around. She poured some of the mixture into a goblet and handed it to Brave.

Lana refocused on the goblet and began to look more present. She tried to reach for it. Brave pulled her to a sitting position and climbed on the bed behind her, using himself as a prop to hold her upright. He talked to her as she drank, coaxing her to take as much as she could, under Fortuity’s supervision.

When she’d drained the pitcher dry, Fortuity looked at Brave and smiled. Then she looked at Litha and smirked, proud that she could claim her methods were superior to those used in the human clinic that Litha had suggested. It would have been a personal affront if her patient had been taken from her care. “This is good. Let her sleep. The next time she wakes you can give her thick warm liquid.”

“Soup,” said Litha.

“Yes. Soup.”

Brave and Lana were left with Litha. Brave stayed where he was with Lana in his arms. In a quiet even tone of voice, he told Litha everything that had happened since she had dropped them off the week before.

When he’d finished, she said, “No wonder the girl looks like death.”

Litha heard Brave’s voice hitch when she said that. “Sorry. It’s just an expression. I can see that Lana will be fine, but since I brought her here and left her, I feel responsible. Do you think that, if I leave her here for three days, you can manage to keep her safe and stay out of trouble that long?”

“That’s both my plan and my desire.”

Litha simply nodded, then vanished.

Dart scratched on the door and poked his head in. He looked around. “Where’s the ditch?”

“What?” Brave wasn’t in the mood for games.

“Litha. She said she’s half demon, half witch. Right? Or I guess she could be a wemon, but that would sound silly.”

“And you think ditch doesn’t sound silly?”

“I guess you want to be left alone?”

“Thank you for going on the mission, Dart.”

“What are friends for?” He left without expecting an answer.

Brave was happy to be alone with Lana in a room that was silent except for the sweet sound of her breathing. He knew in his bones that she would recover and, one day soon, she would blush at something he said or laugh about some human thing he either didn’t know about, or got wrong.

As she slept, he studied the way her lashes lay against her cheek. The way her chest rose and fell. The way her hand in repose looked tiny compared to his.

 

 

 

She slept away most of two days, only waking for soup and drink. On the third day she said, “I want something
real
to eat. I hope that didn’t sound ungrateful or demanding, but I’m really hungry and tired of porridge or whatever they’ve been giving me. Maybe it was gruel. I don’t really know what gruel is, but I’ll bet it’s similar.” Her stomach rumbled. “See?”

Brave laughed.

She looked him over. “You look better than the last time I saw you. What was wrong with you? You passed out on me and wouldn’t wake up.”

It felt to Brave like it had been months since then. “Had a concussion. A bit of potion, a bit of glue, and all’s well.”

“Are you the son of Roanald?” Lana asked.

“What did the Reinlitegen say to you?”

“They asked me where the son of Roanald was. Is that you?”

He sighed. “Seems so. I’ll tell you everything. I’m sorry you’ve been caught up in this, Lana. I never would have brought you here if I’d known.”

“Caught up in what, Brave?”

The door slid open and a large demon walked in shrouded in an unmistakable air of authority and wearing an expression so compelling it was impossible to look away.

“Dad,” said Brave. “Uh, I mean, Regent.” The demon nodded to Brave and then to Lana. “This is Atalanta Ravin. She goes by Lana.” Brave turned to Lana. “Lana, this is Abide, Regent of the Callii.”

“Your foster father,” Lana added for clarity.

“Well.” Brave looked away and didn’t say more.

Abide stared at Lana for a few seconds while she decided that demon kings might not have any manners, but Texas girls certainly do. “I don’t know your customs well enough to know how to greet you. So. Hello.”

Brave chuckled. “Isn’t she perfect?” When Abide looked at Brave like he was crazy, he became defensive. “Don’t look at her like that. You can’t imagine what she’s been through.

“While being pursued and exposed to the elements, she took care of me and protected me while I was blacked out. She killed a forswarog with a tree branch while I was out cold. A big one. Male. Tusks this long.”

Brave held his hands up to indicate the length of the tusks then looked at Lana with pride and love in his eyes. “In her world they would make her a legend for that. Maybe even a goddess! Goddess of the hunt!”

Lana had to chuckle at Brave’s proud enthusiasm.

Abide took another look at Lana with a slightly softer expression. “Indeed. A remarkable feat for a human.”

“Then the Callii took me and left her behind at the mercy of the Reinlitegen, who either don’t know that humans need regular food and water, or don’t care.”

Abide raked his gaze over Lana like he was appraising livestock, nodded, then turned and left without another word.

Dart almost ran into the regent on his way in. He was followed by two female demons balancing trays of food and drink.

“Wow.” Lana stared at the door where Abide had been. “As fathers go, I’ll bet that guy was worth a giant inferiority complex.”

Brave got up to set food out for her. “Yeah. That could have been the story, but he was actually okay as dads go.”

“You mean like tossing a ball around or frank talks about birds and bees.”

Brave looked confused. “Anglish.”

Lana laughed. “That
was
Anglish! I mean did he spend quality time with you when you were little and did he personally take responsibility for the sex talk?”

Lana noticed that everyone in the room had frozen. Brave turned to Dart and the two women. “That doesn’t leave this room. Understand?” They nodded, looking like their lives depended on their answer, then left together.

“Now. What sex talk?”

Lana stared. “You know sometimes I feel like we come from different worlds.”

“Is that a joke?”

“YES! Duh!” Brave opened his mouth, but Lana quickly talked over what he was going to say. “It doesn’t matter. The main thing is that you’re happy with your upbringing and don’t have parent issues. By the way, is there also a foster mom around?”

“There is, but she’s not here. She teaches magical weaving and spends a lot of time off-world. She was around more when I was younger, but now…”

BOOK: Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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