Home > Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(5)

Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)(5)
Author: Laura Thalassa

The thing hits the ground with a sickening thud, the soldier’s body joining it a moment later. A pool of dark blood spills from both.

I stare at the head. Its eyes are still blinking. Oh my sweet Lord—why are its eyes still blinking? And holy hell—its mouth is opening and closing like a fish gasping for breath.

I can feel my siren, pressing upon me, growing ever more excited at the sight and smell of blood.

I want it all, she whispers. Their pain, their power, their very lives. Mine to savor, mine to take.

A part of me wants to wrap my siren’s viciousness around me like armor, but a larger part of me is just as disturbed by her as I am at all the carnage. I don’t want any part of me to thrive on these violent deaths.

So I do what I’ve always done—I keep her leashed as best I can.

Forcing myself to move, I head over to the civilian sprawled across the ground and kneel at her side. Her eyes are closed, her face is slack, and her neck is a mess of bloody tissue—and then there’s all the blood outside her body. No human could survive that much blood loss. But then, this isn’t a human.

I see her chest rise and fall and hear her take a laborious breath, the sound broken and ragged.

Des kneels down next to me, and he places two fingers against the woman’s forehead. I can taste a hint of his magic in the air as it settles around the injured woman.

Her eyes flutter, and she shudders out a breath.

“What did you do?” I ask.

The Bargainer stands. “I took away her pain. The rest her magic will have to fix on its own. I am no healer.”

I remember the last soldier I fought, the way her wound began to close only to stop healing. If the soldier’s magic couldn’t heal that wound, can this woman’s magic heal hers?

Unlikely.

The thought filters in from a new part of me, the part that drank the lilac wine, the part that’s now a little fae. I can sense the fairy’s magic slipping outside her body. It lingers in her spilled blood, and it’s evanescing into the air. That magic seeps into the walls and the ceiling, and then it’s no longer this woman’s magic, it’s the castle’s.

What had Des said?

Spirits love to cling to the last of their lifeblood. This woman’s magic is slipping away from her—will her soul slip out with it?

Will I be able to sense that too?

I don’t stick around long enough to find out.

We leave her there, once again making our way to the main entrance of the palace. The closer we get, the more bodies begin to stack up. Here the sounds of fighting are almost deafening. I can tell by the noise alone that a battle rages in the great entryway of the palace.

Rather than heading there, Des takes us to a staircase that leads farther down.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“The dungeons.”

“The dungeons?” I echo. “Why?”

We come to a thick door made of hammered bronze. I can feel a ward humming off the thing.

He turns to me. “Wait here, love.”

“Des—”

But he’s gone.

Chapter 4

I adjust my grip on my daggers, then shift my weight from one leg to the other.

I stare at the metal door ahead of me, the sounds of fighting at my back. My heart is jackknifing in my chest as my adrenaline zings through me. One minute ticks away. Then another.

The battle above me is calling to my siren, luring my dark nature. My wings flutter and resettle with my agitation, and my skin still glows as bright as ever. I begin to edge away from the door, feeling the pull to return to the fighting. The sane part of me is not all that gangbusters to kill more people, but I can’t just stand here while innocent fairies—

The Bargainer returns to my side, stopping the thought in its tracks. In his hands he holds a stained wooden box.

I glance between him and it.

Seriously, what is going on?

Des leans down and whispers to the box in what I’m assuming is Old Fae. He pauses, listening, then speaks some more. As he speaks, I can sense the container’s enchantments unraveling. Once they dissolve away, Des stops speaking.

For a moment, nothing happens. Then the lid springs open.

I can’t help myself, I lean forward and peer inside the box.

It’s … empty. Until, of course, it isn’t.

Shadows I didn’t notice at the bottom of it begin to stir. These don’t look like Des’s shadows, which thicken and coil like smoke. This shadow is a two dimensional, paper-thin thing that moves.

A bony, shadow hand reaches from the depths of the container, its fingers gripping the edge of the box one by one. It pulls itself out, slithers down the side, then drips from a corner onto the floor.

My breath stutters. I’ve seen this creature before, in Des’s throne room.

A bog.

I’d watched the creature eat a Fauna fae who thought it would be a good idea to gift the King of Night a bag of heads.

Bet the dude regretted that decision.

“Remember our deal,” Des tells the shadow monster.

Deal? Only the Bargainer could’ve struck such a thing in the sliver of time he left my side. And with the bog of all things.

“Yessss, my kiiiiing.”

The hair raises on my forearms when the creature speaks. I’m staring at a living nightmare. Literally. The bog eats its victims alive and in the long time it takes to digest them, those fairies are cursed to live out their worst nightmares. Only the Otherworld could be home to such a frightening monster.

And now Des has set this thing loose.

The bog begins to move, then hesitates. I still as I feel it notice me.

Not a creature I want to catch the attention of.

A tempting adversary, my siren whispers because she has no sense.

Des steps in front of me, his wide shoulders blocking out the bog.

“Better kill whatever thought is running through your head,” he growls. “Look at the Night Queen again, and you’ll find out why your comrades fear me.”

Night Queen?

And all shall fall under my thrall …

The siren in me is dying to be set free.

“Undersssstooood,” the bog hisses.

I just barely catch sight of its form as it slithers back the way we came.

Des and I follow it back up the stairs. By the time we make it to the palace’s main entrance, there are dozens and dozens of fairies locked in combat, their wings flared wide behind them. Some of them are civilians, but many of them are soldiers defending the palace from other soldiers, former comrades now pitted against each other.

My eyes sweep over the rest of the gilded entry hall. The place looks like a slaughterhouse. Bodies are scattered across the floor, most of them servants, nobles, or aides—essentially, fairies who weren’t trained to kill. There are fallen Night soldiers as well, but even in death it’s hard to tell whether the soldier defended or raided the castle.

I stare, shocked at the chaos. Amongst it all I see the bog slithering about, swallowing up one traitorous soldier after the next. I have no idea how it knows friend from foe, but I figure Des ironed out those details with the monster before he let it loose.

Swords are clashing, arrows are flying, blood is spraying. Dark magic fills the air. I can smell it, taste it, feel its oily nature clinging to my skin.

Des pulls me in close, stealing a quick kiss from my lips. “Stay safe, love,” he says. His eyes dip to my glowing skin, and his grip tightens. I feel his hesitation, the glamour and our bond keeping him at my side.

Somewhere underneath his armor, he wears three bronze war cuffs, awarded to him for valor. The thought of those bands comforts me. There’s nothing I have to show him that I’ll be fine.

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