Read 05 Dragon Blood: The Blade's Memory Online

Authors: Lindsay Buroker

Tags: #Fantasy

05 Dragon Blood: The Blade's Memory (8 page)

BOOK: 05 Dragon Blood: The Blade's Memory
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“Probably not. I assume there’s a closed door up ahead?”

“Actually, there’s a closed wall,” Sardelle said after a quick check.

“Even better.”

She was on the verge of conjuring a small globe of light into existence when a pale green glow arose, washing the half-crumbled walls with its illumination. Cas stood in the center of the tunnel, holding the big dragon blade in her hands.

body a witch now?” Kaika grumbled, eyeing the glowing weapon with distaste.

“I’m not a witch,” Cas said coolly.

“I prefer the term sorceress,” Sardelle said.

“Next time, I’m bringing some of my own people.” Kaika headed down the passage, with Cas walking behind her.

Sardelle followed several steps behind, glad that sword would not be at her back.

After about a hundred and fifty meters of scrambling over boulders and ducking broken supports, they reached the brick wall Sardelle had sensed. Judging by the tightness of the mortar and the brightness of the brick, the construction had occurred within the last couple of decades, unlike the tunnel behind them, which seemed as ancient as the harbor itself. Maybe it truly had been the invention of the dragon fliers that had convinced those dwelling in the castle that an underground escape route was no longer necessary.

“We’ll be at the basement level, if not lower, right?” Kaika rested her ear against the bricks for a moment, then dropped her pack and dug into it.

“There’s a wine cellar on the other side,” Sardelle said, “then a food storage area above it and the kitchen above that.”

“Good to know. That shouldn’t be busy at this time of night.”

“The cellars are empty. There are two women in the kitchen washing dishes and mopping.”

Kaika looked at her.

“Too much information?” Sardelle had assumed Kaika would appreciate any intelligence she could get before they barged in.

“No. I was thinking Nowon and I should have taken you when we infiltrated the Cofah volcano lab. You’re like a really fancy spyglass that can see through walls.”

“Thank you,” Sardelle said, not quite able to keep the dryness out of her voice. What would her childhood instructors think to have her two decades of training summed up in a comparison to a spyglass?

Kaika donned gloves, pulled out what appeared to be a ceramic pot with a spout, and stuck a metallic ribbon through a hole. Next, she tugged thick goggles over her head. Sardelle had assumed her concoction would work similarly to Tolemek’s goos, but perhaps it did not.

“You two might want to stand back again,” Kaika said. “There will be some sparks and heat, and a stench that will fry your nose hairs.”

“That was going to happen tonight one way or another,” Cas said.

Sardelle and Kaika looked at her.

“Either here or via the sewer route.” Cas wrinkled her nose.


Kaika lit the ribbon, and Sardelle backed away.

“Lieutenant, if you want to put out your pig sticker, that might be good. Just in case Freckles here isn’t as omniscient as she thinks and there’s a wine steward selecting a vintage a few feet away.”

“It’s a dragon sticker,” Cas said.

“Yes, whatever. It’s glowing like my cheeks after a twenty-mile run. Or an exhilarating night in someone’s bunk.”

“That turns you a sickly green?” Sardelle asked.

Kaika grinned back at her. “Depends how much exertion was involved.”

Cas sheathed the sword, dropping darkness onto the tunnel. Soon, the promised sparks came from the brick wall. Kaika turned her back to them, so Sardelle could not see exactly what she was doing.

Something smellier and less efficient than what I could do
, Jaxi said.

I thought you wanted to rest your powers in case we need them later.

That was before Kasandral there started showing off his light-making ability.

Sorry, did you want me to rush to pull you out first in the next room? So you can show off

It would certainly be more attractive than the vomit green light he shines, but I wanted to deliver a warning, not brag about my abilities.

Sardelle shifted her weight, uneasiness creeping into her gut
. A warning about the sword?

No, about that guard you sensed. He told his buddies that he saw someone moving around out on the rocks, and now security is sending a couple of people out to look.

Any chance you can keep them from seeing that hole?
Sardelle doubted she could create an illusion to fool someone from that far away, but Jaxi was more powerful than she.

Probably, but if someone falls through it, he’ll probably notice it’s there.

Do your best. We’ll hurry.

Chapter 4

“Another dark house,” Tolemek observed.

He and Ridge stood in the shadow of a tree in the back of another white house, this one identical in layout to Ridge’s own one-story, one-bedroom home. His
home. They had passed the charred ruins on their way over to this street. He had resisted the urge to snoop in the wreckage or knock on the neighbors’ doors to ask if they had seen the diabolical people who had been responsible. He assumed it had to do with the group hunting Sardelle. That group was another reason he didn’t want the word out that he was back in the city. Its leaders would probably assume Sardelle was, too, and double their efforts to find her.

“With luck, he’ll be sleeping,” Ridge whispered. “It’s after midnight now.”

Tolemek had taken more than two hours smoking up Ort’s house with his potion-making projects.

“He may hear us picking his lock,” Tolemek said. “Especially if
do it.”

Yes, that was a risk. Therrik wasn’t just infantry; he had served with the elite forces and internal special security. He had probably been trained to wake up at the sound of a squirrel pissing in the woods.

“You don’t have your corrosive door—and wall—opening goo, eh?” Ridge asked.

“No household items suitable for making it. That takes some strong chemicals and a special touch.”

Special. That described Tolemek suitably enough.

Ridge picked a piece of bark off the tree. “What about your knockout gas?”

“I was able to make knockout grenades and smoke bombs. Technically, grenades and bombs may be optimistic words, since the fuses were made from boot laces and the chemicals are stored in tea tins filched from the kitchen.”

“So long as the contents drop the big hulking muscle-head on his ass,” Ridge said. “How do you feel about lighting one of your tea tins and chucking it through that window? We can get him in his bed, knock him out before he has a chance to hear us trying to sneak in.”

“How do I feel about it? I feel that you should do it. Also that the tin would bounce off the glass.”

Ridge picked up a rock that was part of the edging for the tree. “Tie it to this.”

“Someone’s going to hear that, Zirkander.”

“Does it matter? That someone is supposed to pass out as soon as he breathes in the contents.”

“I meant the neighbors. These houses are close together. And how do you know which window fronts the bedroom?”

Ridge pointed at the back window to the right of the door. “It’s the same layout as my house. The other one’s the kitchen. There’s a living room and a small office up front.”

Tolemek grumbled something incomprehensible, but he had brought twine along and was able to tie one of his canisters to the rock. Ridge wished he had the prowess to simply jump into Therrik’s path, confront him, and then beat meat-for-brains into the ground instead of resorting to trickery, but he wanted to accomplish his self-imposed mission, not get himself killed.

“Here.” Tolemek dumped the rock into Ridge’s hand, as if to dump all responsibility there too.

Ridge accepted it, looked up and down the row of back yards, and listened for anyone who might be walking or driving down the street out front. The fort had fallen asleep while they were in Ort’s house, with the only noise now the sound of the wind whipping a rope against a flagpole down the block.

Ridge crept toward the back window, jerking his head for Tolemek to follow. He had the matches.

As he padded across the lawn, dew dampening the cuffs of his trousers, he stepped as quietly as he could, worried he would make more noise than the pissing squirrel he had thought of earlier. His eyes locked on the closed curtain, hoping he would see if it moved. But he couldn’t make out much in the dim lighting. His heart thudded against his ribs as he crept closer, and images of Therrik leaping out the window to strangle him flashed through his mind. Sweat moistened his palms, but he dared not take them from the rock to wipe them off. If he dropped it, the rock might land on the grenade and break it so that its contents flowed out. Even worse than the strangling vision was one of Therrik walking out and finding Tolemek and Ridge unconscious on his back lawn. Who knew what he would do then?

“Stop it,” Ridge growled to himself. This was a fellow officer in the king’s army, not a pirate or a Cofah soldier. Whatever happened, Therrik shouldn’t kill him. Probably.

A few meters from the house, it occurred to him that Therrik might not be home. What if he was working late at the hangar? What if he had a lover he visited off-base? The idea of Therrik with a lover made Ridge curl his lips in disgust, so he changed his thought to, what if Therrik had a
he visited off-base?

With the curtains closed, there was no way to be certain. He paused, staring down at the rock. Seven gods, it was just a window. If he wasn’t home, the worst that could happen would be they’d break it. So long as no military police soldiers on patrol heard the noise and came running.

Tolemek held up his arm, presumably holding a match and asking if Ridge was ready. Ridge thrust his load toward him. Tolemek felt for the canister, then lit it. Ridge threw the rock, his feet scurrying backward before it struck. In addition to not wanting to be close if Therrik leaped out the window like an attack dog, Ridge did not want to risk breathing in any of those vapors. As the crash sounded, glass shattering and the rock flying through it, he and Tolemek raced back to the tree.

Ridge grasped the bark, watching and listening from behind the trunk. Mostly, he worried about lamps being turned on in other houses, but if one was turned on in Therrik’s, that wouldn’t be good, either. What if their target escaped his room before he breathed enough of the fumes to be knocked out?

“I feel like a delinquent child throwing rocks at old grannies’ windows,” Tolemek said.

“Does that mean you’re having fun?” Ridge kept his gaze locked on the now-broken bedroom window as he spoke.

“No. My father beat the rebelliousness out of the neighborhood delinquents. Nothing fun about that.”

“Bent you over his knee, did he?”

“Numerous times. Did Moe do that to you?”

wasn’t around much. My mom withheld pie if I was too bad. That was a heinous punishment.”

Tolemek snorted. “Admit it, Zirkander. You were coddled.”

“I was an only child. It happens.”

Tolemek did not respond to that, other than to glance skyward. Wondering if his sister was out there somewhere? Ridge was not sure whether to hope Tylie would visit Iskandia or not. A dragon could help with a lot of things—the idea of it glaring at Therrik and him wetting himself was quite appealing—but Ridge hadn’t gotten the impression that the dragon wanted to be an Iskandian ally. More likely, it would join with Cofah airships in plundering the Iskandian countryside.

“At what point are we going to conclude that we threw a knockout grenade—and a rock—into an empty house?” Tolemek asked.

Ridge sighed, afraid he was right.

“If he was in there, he would have had a few seconds to react before succumbing,” Tolemek added. “We would have seen or heard something. Cursing of your name, perhaps.”

“I didn’t put my name on the rock.”

“No? I thought delinquents liked to leave their mark.”

Ridge pointed at the house. “How long before it dissipates and it’s safe for us to go inside?”

“It probably already has.”

“Probably? I only ask because a light went on in that house on the corner—” Ridge pointed, “—and someone might come out to investigate.”

“What’s the point in going in to question him if he’s not home?”

“Snooping. Maybe there’s a nice note about the king’s kidnapping in there.” Ridge doubted it—as much of an ass as Therrik had been to him at that meeting in the castle, nothing he had said or done had suggested anything but respect for the king, and Therrik didn’t seem bright enough to play an actor’s role. One wondered how he had made it through officer training.

“Sounds like wishful thinking.”

“Stay here, if you want.” Feeling the press of time—and the fact that he had accomplished absolutely nothing tonight—Ridge ran for the back door.

He tried the knob, expecting it to be locked and to have to break the rest of the window to get inside, but to his surprise, it turned. “Arrogant bastard,” he muttered. “Thinking nobody would be brave enough to rob him.”

“Maybe he simply doesn’t have anything of value,” Tolemek murmured from behind Ridge’s shoulder. He must have decided to join in with the snooping after all. Maybe he hoped Therrik had a chemically interesting lavatory. “Or he believes this is a secure base where felons aren’t allowed access in exchange for school appearances.”

“I’m not a felon. Yet.”

“Waiting on the conviction?”

“Sh.” Ridge pushed open the door. He found himself reaching for his pistol but forced his hand to open and leave it in his holster. If he shot Therrik, he
be a felon.

After the pot incident at the general’s house, Ridge stepped carefully into the kitchen, but he did not run into anything. Though he believed Tolemek was right and the house was empty, he paused in the middle of the room to listen. His nose crinkled. The bedroom door stood open, a breeze blowing through the broken window, and the scent of chemicals lingered in the air.

“You’re sure they’ve dissipated enough?” Ridge whispered.

BOOK: 05 Dragon Blood: The Blade's Memory
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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