Read The Elder Blood Chronicles Bk 1 In Shades of Grey Online

Authors: Melissa Myers

Tags: #romance, #fantasy, #magic, #dark fantasy, #epic fantasy, #socercer

The Elder Blood Chronicles Bk 1 In Shades of Grey (38 page)

BOOK: The Elder Blood Chronicles Bk 1 In Shades of Grey
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He swallowed and washed the Ondathi down with
another drink of ale and glanced over his shoulder. “House Rivasa,”
he answered in the same low tone. “And it would appear they want to
have a word with me. How perfectly annoying.”

“So you finally decided to come out of
hiding, did you?” the lead man snapped the moment he was within
earshot of their table. He was thin, almost dainty in appearance,
with dark hair, and skin so pale it seemed unhealthy to her eyes.
His yellow silk shirt hung off him in graceful waves, the cuffs and
collar both lined with lace while his pants were a bright orange.
The gold belt he wore, hung heavy around his waist with twin blades
hanging from the belt. The delicate basket weave hilts and narrow
blades made them seem more accessory than weapon to Jala. She
watched him as he stopped just out of reach of Finn and seemed to
strike a pose. As she watched him, she wondered how often he had
practiced the stance in his mirror. He stood with one hand propped
elegantly on the hilt of the basket weave sword, the other pointing
at Finn in accusation. His chin was up, his expression arrogant,
and overall to Jala’s eyes, he looked the perfect fool.

Finn casually popped another piece of food
into his mouth and regarded the newcomer with disinterest, not
bothering to reply. His gaze flicked past him briefly and
apparently not finding anything of interest went back to watching
the brightly attired Rivasan.

A small crowd stood at the man’s back, at
least six or so men that Jala didn’t recognize and one woman she
did, Cassia Avanti. Cassia stepped forward, the silk of her red
gown swishing gracefully as she moved. “You will regret the insult
you dealt me, Finn Sovaesh,” she proclaimed in a high, clear voice,
drawing attention from those on the street as well as the park, to
her obvious satisfaction. Her pose, too, seemed rehearsed as she
stood before Finn with a look of outrage on her perfect face. Her
hair was, as always, flawless, and the glimmer of rubies rose from
every point Jala could see.

Finn’s gaze traveled to Cassia briefly, and
he smirked and gave a gentle shake of his head. “I highly doubt
that, Cassia.” With almost a yawn, he lifted his ale mug and took
another long slow drink, still watching the man.

“You have insulted the lady’s honor and then
hid yourself,” the man proclaimed as if he had been given a cue for
his lines. “I demand you answer for it.” With a flourish, he
dropped a large white coin down onto the edge of the table closest
to Finn and looked quite pleased with himself. The growing crowd
gave a murmur at this, and a few pushed closer for a better
look.

Jala glanced at the coin in confusion, and
then back up to Finn who seemed rather amused. “It’s an Arena coin.
He wants a duel,” Finn explained as he picked up the coin and
turned it slowly over in his hand, examining it. “And it only has
six marks cut in it,” he added as he set the coin back down. His
gaze left the man and flicked to Jala. “Which, of course, means
this idiot has only been in six duels since he came to Sanctuary.”
He looked back at the young man who was quite obviously offended at
being called an idiot, and looked ready to throw a fit. “Are you
sure you want to get cut up for something as fleeting as Cassia’s
honor?” Finn asked, the amusement still showing on his face. He
glanced toward the crowd and gave a sigh as if realizing there
could be only one answer. Jala had drawn the same conclusion. With
this many witnesses to the drama, the only thing the Rivasan could
do was to push the fight. Anything else would make him seem
weak.

“How dare you!” Cassia gasped, her
exclamation drawing excited murmurs from the spectators on the
street. Cassia whirled on Finn in a swirl of crimson skirts. “My
honor is the honor of House Avanti. How can you dare question it
when your own father serves mine loyally?” she demanded. With a
sniff of pure distaste, she moved to the Rivasan and clutched his
arm as if in desperate need of his strength.

Jala watched the spectacle with a raised
eyebrow. Cassia had missed her calling. Had she chosen to be a lady
of the stage she would have sold out plays. The crowd around them
was thick now, and Jala was grateful Marrow had chosen his hiding
spot well. This little display hardly needed further excitement
added to it, and she was content to remain a shadow here. It seemed
a bit much to her all around, the idea of dueling over Finn calling
Cassia a bitch. He might as well be punished for proclaiming the
sky blue. She hid a smile at the thought. This hardly seemed the
appropriate time for smiles, though she noticed Finn was smiling as
if this were a wonderful joke. He didn’t look the least bit
disturbed at the drama or of the crowd. Of course, he was likely
used to crowds. Finn Sovaesh was quite popular in Sanctuary.

“You insulted my lady in defense of this
peasant whore and dare to question her honor to my face?” Rivasa
demanded, his tone rising in pitch to nearly a screech. He clutched
the apparently wounded Cassia to his side and glared at Finn with a
stare that could wilt flowers.

The amusement drained from Finn’s face and he
casually knocked the white coin into the dirt at the man’s feet
with a flick of his wrist. Still silent, he removed a black coin of
the same size from his own pocket and dropped it on the table. “I
don’t fight for blood. It will be a black coin or nothing. Pick it
up or apologize to Jala. Your choice,” Finn said in a flat, cold
voice.

Jala’s gaze was locked on the black coin. She
didn’t know what the colors meant, but she could easily see the
marks that ringed the coin’s edge. There was barely a free space
left to notch on it. She glanced up from the coin, realizing the
area had grown deathly silent. All eyes were locked on the young
Rivasan lord to see if he would pick up the black coin. Finn’s eyes
were locked on him as well. All warmth in the dark green depths had
vanished. “What does the color of the coins mean, Finn?” Jala
asked, barely above a whisper, not wanting to be the one to break
the hushed silence, but sure it was important.

“White is to first blood. Black is to the
death,” Finn answered, his gaze never wavering. “Are you going to
pick it up, or apologize, Devron?” Finn asked.

Jala noticed the waitress returning with
their food, but the woman froze at the sight of the confrontation
and hurried back into the café. Jala watched her go, praying that
she wouldn’t send for the Justicars, before looking back to Devron
Rivasa.

Devron glanced down at Cassia and gave her a
smile. “Your honor shall be restored, Milady,” he assured her and
picked up the black coin. “Set your time and I will see you on the
field,” he said to Finn, his voice filled with contempt.

“Now,” Finn answered simply, and stood. Jala
quickly clambered to her feet as Finn tossed coins down on the
table to pay for their uneaten meal, and stalked off toward the
Arena.

“Now?” she asked quietly as she hurriedly
caught up with him. The crowd must have noticed Marrow then from
the exclamations and curses behind her. She glanced back to make
sure that the Bendazzi was not having difficulty and placed a hand
on Finn’s shoulder. “Wait a moment, Finn.” Finn paused until Marrow
was beside them and continued on, Jala keeping pace beside him.
“Why now? And do you really only fight to the death?” she asked
again, adding the last question as an afterthought.

“Usually only to the death, and now because
he pissed me off,” Finn answered as he pushed open the lower arena
doors with far more force than needed. The doors banged heavily
against the stone walls of the tunnel. She flinched at the noise
and hurried after him, his boots ringing with heavy echoes as he
crossed to the Arena floor. “Valor will meet me here as my second,”
he explained as he stopped abruptly at the end of the tunnel.

“You need a second?” Jala asked, unsure. Her
eyes roved over the thick sand of the arena floor just beyond them,
and her throat tightened a bit. The idea of Finn fighting to the
death unsettled her.

“It’s a formality. He will serve as witness,
though we will no doubt have a large enough crowd I won’t need
that, and if I die he will see to my body,” he answered and leaned
back against the wall.

“If you die?” she whispered, her voice
catching slightly. “Is that likely?”

His gaze flickered to her and a hint of
amusement returned. “No, it isn’t likely,” he answered in a level
tone without hesitation. His posture was tense and she could see
the muscles in his arms, rigid as if he would willingly do battle
on the spot. There was no question that he was ready and willing
for the fight.

“Why didn’t they follow us? Do you think he
might change his mind?” she asked hopefully. The tunnel behind them
was still empty with no sign of Devron or Cassia or the lackeys
that had surrounded them.

“He will come in from the other side and is
likely looking for an Arena Judge at the moment,” Finn
explained.

“I don’t understand why you are doing this?
Is he an enemy of yours? I’ve never even seen him before,” Jala
spoke rapidly, for the sight of the sand beyond had her nerves on
edge. The Spring Games had been one thing. A duel to the death,
that she was apparently going to see up close, was quite
another.

Finn raised an eyebrow and looked over at her
with a questioning expression. “He called you a whore, Jala,” he
pointed out.

“And you and I know I’m not. Is that really
worth killing, or possibly dying over?” she asked in dismay.

He seemed to consider her for a moment as if
he didn’t quite believe she was objecting. She met his gaze, eyes
full of questioning, and he let out a brief snort of amusement. “I
think so,” he answered simply with a glance back at the hall. He
smiled a cold predatory smile that held none of the warmth she was
so accustomed to seeing on his face. He fished his cigarette case
from his pocket and calmly lit one. “And there is Valor, always so
punctual,” he said as he exhaled slowly.

Footsteps echoed in the tunnel behind them,
and she looked back quickly to see Valor making his way toward
them. The young knight was dressed in fine white leather and silver
chain mail, and wore an expression so serious she couldn’t believe
he was the same drunkard from the hall. He looked at Finn
critically and handed him over a pair of swords. Finn unbuckled his
current set and handed them to Valor and buckled on the offered
blades. Jala watched the exchange curiously, her eyes lingering on
the hilts of Finn’s new blades. Each hilt was in the form of a
beautiful naked woman holding a large opal in her upswept
hands.

“Barllen laced blades, I use these when I’m
dueling someone with questionable honor,” Finn explained. He pulled
the blade a few inches from the scabbard and she noticed the black
metal lining the edge of the blade. “If they try to use magic or
magical swords my blades will absorb the spells.”

“Doesn’t it drain you to carry them?” She
asked in dismay. Sovann had explained Barllen to her, and she had
fervently hoped never to see the metal in her life time.

“Lead lined scabbards, bloody heavy but it
contains the Barllen while I carry them on me, and when I’m
fighting with them, I take care to touch only the hilts which have
no Barllen in them,” he explained, and stepped out into the
Arena.

Bright sunlight glinted off his tawny hair,
making it seem burnished gold. With a shrug of his shoulders, he
pulled the black silk shirt over his head and tossed it back into
the tunnel by her feet. Without thinking, she picked it up and
clutched it to her. It smelled of Finn, a faint spicy scent mixed
with sweat. He moved like a cat toward the center of the ring. The
deep sand of the arena floor did not hamper his grace in the least.
She watched his bronze back as he moved, noting the muscles
rippling just below the surface with every step, and wondered if
perhaps the Academy was wrong. Perhaps the Bendazzi was not, in
fact, the most dangerous predator. She could see Devron stepping
out of the tunnel on the opposing wall. His garish clothes had been
replaced with a chain mail hauberk and coif.

“Shouldn’t Finn have armor if Devron does?”
she asked Valor softly.

Valor flicked a gaze down at her and smirked
and shook his head. “Even with armor, Devron will be dead in less
time than it took Finn to buckle on his swords.” He took her arm as
he spoke and led her out behind Finn. “Finn only uses armor when he
feels he is facing an equal, Devron can barely buckle on his
swords.”

“He has six notches in his white coin,” she
protested feebly, trying to keep up with Valor’s longer
strides.

“I’m amazed he managed to find six men that
he could actually beat,” Valor replied with a snort of amusement,
and slowed his pace as he noticed her difficulty.

She stumbled slightly as the thick sand
pulled at her sandals, but quickly recovered and tried to hide her
blush. Cassia Avanti didn’t seem to be having difficulty at all,
and seemed to glide across the arena floor, her expression filled
with excitement. Jala set her teeth as she watched the other woman.
With a slight shake of her head, she set her shoulders and
continued in smaller, more dignified steps. She would be damned if
she would let Cassia make her look like a clumsy ox. With Wisp,
there was really no help. She couldn’t match the smaller Fae’s
grace, but Cassia was entirely different. She could match Cassia in
anything the woman cared to test her on.

Would you object over much if I eat the
loser or perhaps the woman? We did miss dinner,
Marrow asked
her, and she found herself hoping he was joking.

No, for all you know, Finn might be the
loser
, she replied, a bit harsher than needed.

No, he won’t, the other is soft and
scared. I can smell the fear on him. He looks tender. Sure you
won’t reconsider?
Marrow persisted.

BOOK: The Elder Blood Chronicles Bk 1 In Shades of Grey
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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