Here’s another fun excerpt that touches on a little of the main plot. I’m trying to show more scenes that involve characters other than Clyde and Mab. It’s pretty tough since I’m waiting to introduce one and the others really linger around the spoilers. Doesn’t help that the story is very Clyde/Mab heavy. As usual, I’m putting a cut below in case people don’t want to read this.
The portly nobleman runs through his castle halls while the screams of his soldiers rise loud enough to shatter the windows. Desperate to survive, Lord Shallis keeps his balding head down to avoid being seen by the intruders outside. To help him run and stay low, he transforms his arms into extra legs and gallops as fast as he can. Glass cuts into his flesh, but the terrified noble refuses to slow down and remove the shards. The shadows of battling warriors are cast on the far wall, those dressed in armor falling to a towering figure wielding two swords. Recognizing Titus’s silhouette, Shallis barrels through the nearest door and casts a spell to turn the back of the pantry into an exit. He comes out in an inner hallway, the crimson rug and portraits of his former homeland having been torn to shreds. Fearing that he has run into a trap, the vampire leaps to the ceiling and turns into a toxic cloud that seeps through tiny cracks in the stone. Coming out in an upper ballroom, Shallis returns to his natural form and stops to get his bearings. He is checking the pockets of his long-tailed jacket when a nearby clapping startles him to the point that he rips a hole in the dark brown garment.
“You know it’s not a fair bet when you’re using illusions to herd him,” Mab says before tossing a gold coin across the large room. The money lands in Clyde’s open hand as he drops the illusion of him being one of the many statues. “Really thought this one would go outside like all the others. What kind of idiot retreats to an upper floor when the castle is being invaded? Maybe I’m not refined enough to get the strategy because I’d go low and try to sneak out through the underground.”
“The idea is to claim the higher ground, which is easier to defend,” Decker explains from the front door. Standing watch, he swings his axe to send a narrow ice bolt at their enemy’s right leg. “That should keep in place. Another possibility is that he would reach the roof and transform into a bird. It is strange that he doesn’t have a night cloak, so there could be a fortified room that he could cower in. Still, this is really bad planning for a man we’ve uncovered as a conspiracy mastermind. Do you think our last prisoner’s information was wrong?”
“People don’t always think straight when they’re scared and about to get their heads ripped off,” Clyde replies, the vampire abruptly appearing next to Lord Shallis. He crouches next to the noble and delivers a half-hearted punch that shatters the man’s frozen leg. “I know, I know. The proper way to interrogate is to start with words and then move on to torture. Although, it doesn’t really work that way with vampires. A missing limb is painful and frustrating to our kind, but it isn’t like you can’t grow it back. Well, you can’t if I kill you, which is a decision partially left in your ring-studded hands. Are those embedded in the flesh? Now, that’s impressively decadent and a little unsanitary. Be thankful that my friends and I have so many ways to finish you off that it will take me a while to decide on the perfect execution. Gives you plenty of time to talk and convince me to grant you a painless destruction.”
“I have nothing to say to you traitors,” Lord Shallis growls, most of his concentration on regenerating his leg. Fueled by the gallons of blood in his body, the noble’s bone slowly stretches while muscles, veins, and arteries coil around the limb. “Lord Tempest has revealed his true colors over the last few weeks. He has sent you to destroy our hideouts and labs, which were going to be used against the Duragians and the hunters. We’ve already made progress in winning this war with a second group of special vampire species. Our forces would have wiped the mortals out if you hadn’t killed the oakind project. You are such a violent, arrogant, and foolish creature. What kind of name is Clyde for a vampire anyway?”
“The one my mother gave me,” he replies with a smile. With a single kick, he sends the noble slamming into the wall, which nearly collapses. “Ever notice that people who say they have nothing to say end up talking within a minute of the declaration? There’s a reason we stopped betting on if you guys would say that. You’re so predictable and empty. Now, we’re well aware of your progress against the holy hunters since we rarely run into them. For that, Lord Tempest thanks you, but that doesn’t change the truth. Kai and Stephanie have found mountains of evidence showing that the council is pitting the Duragians against the forces of Nyte. How do you explain that whenever we question one of your people, they talk about the priests and the nobles working together?”
“Because they are lying.”
“It’s been thirty people with the same story and each one came from a different location.”
“Plants by a true enemy who has had them memorize a lie.”
“I will add that we got the information using methods that go beyond asking nicely.”
“Telepathy can be tricked.”
“Yes, but not by everyone.”