|Home > Christine Feehan > Dark Series > Dark Blood (Chapter 32)|
|Dark Blood(Dark #26) by Christine Feehan|
Lyall smirked. Randall snarled, a low, warning note that raised the hair on the back of Zev’s neck and had Mikhail’s guards whipping around to face the threat. Arno stopped pacing, his body rippling with the effort not to shift into the half man, half wolf that would signal even more danger.
Rolf held up his hand to stop his fellow council members from further action. “No one likes the torture of any being, not even a traitor such as Lyall, but to prevent war, sometimes things none of us like must be done.”
Mikhail shook his head. “It isn’t our way, Rolf, nor will it ever be.”
Randall leapt to his feet as if he would extract the answers needed from Lyall himself.
“I believe we have a satisfactory solution for both parties,” Zev said. “Branislava has offered to interrogate Lyall. She’ll get the necessary information without harming a hair on his head.”
Lyall’s gaze jumped to her face. He glared at her, but then looked rather amused. “A Carpathian can’t invade my mind no matter how hard they try. Do you think I’m afraid of her? Or that I’ll answer her questions because she’s beautiful? She might enslave Zev, but I’m stronger than that.”
Branislava smiled at him. Her green eyes glowed with the fire of the dragon burning so bright in her. She glided closer to Lyall. Her long, thick hair crackled with energy. Power radiated from her. Her skin had a radiance Zev had never noticed before. She was truly beautiful, and Zev couldn’t imagine any man resisting her, let alone the older Lycan who had spent a lifetime chasing women.
“Did you think I might sleep with you to get the information from you?” Amusement dripped from her voice like warm honey. “Aw, I see that you did. I have to disappoint you, sir, I only sleep with one man, and that wouldn’t be you.”
The chamber had gone utterly silent. Even Randall had ceased snarling and once more shifted back to his human form. Arno settled into his chair. All eyes were riveted on Branislava. Zev folded his arms across his chest, simply waiting. He had seen the power in his woman on more than one occasion. Lyall didn’t stand much of a chance against her.
“What then?” Suspicion settled on Lyall’s face. He scowled at her. “Do you think I’ll be so intimidated because you come close to me? That perhaps Zev can move fast enough to protect you if I choose to kill you instead of talk to you?” He held his hands straight in the air to show he was not bound.
“Have no worries,” Zev said. “I am Hän ku pesäk kaikak—guardian of all, and I have been for some time, Lyall. Each of the Sange rau you have sent to kill me or one of the others has failed. You’re a hypocrite to secretly use the very creature you publicly condemn against our people. None of them were faster. Are you mixed blood? I have seen you walk in the sun. If you were, you would be unable to do so. You cannot possibly be faster than me, should I choose to strike you down.”
Lyall sneered at him. “Why would you ever say such a thing to me? You walk in the sun as well. How is it you can when no other Sange rau can? Do you think to lie to me? That I would believe such nonsense? You are so arrogant, puffed up with your own importance.”
Zev had never asked himself that question. He hadn’t realized he had mixed blood for a very long time and when he had become suspicious, he’d dismissed the idea because he could carry out his duties in midday. He shrugged his shoulders. “You don’t have to believe me, but if you’re considering suicide by elite hunter, I would not kill you, not before Branka has had the chance to question you.”
“He is Dark Blood,” Mikhail said. “The ultimate warrior. He is of Carpathian descent and the last of his line. Few could ever defeat a Dark Blood in battle, and the women who were their lifemates were every bit as fierce and as gifted. He can walk in the sun because he is Dark Blood.”
Zev felt Branislava gasp, but she didn’t change expressions or even glance at him. Still, he felt her touch, that hot slide of her palm against his chest—such a casual gesture but so intimate when his lifemate initiated the caress mind to mind.
Branislava smiled at Lyall, her soft, gentle, perfect smile, the one that lit up Zev’s world. It seemed to have an effect on the Lycan as well. He lowered his hands, twisting his fingers together, and stared at her with a look of admiration and puzzlement.
“Before you make your try to interrogate me, I wish to answer the charge Zev has laid against me. I have no idea what he’s talking about when he says I used the Sange rau against our people. I am not one of those abominations nor would I ever seek to align myself with one. Had I known Zev is what he claims, I would have issued the death sentence against him, commanding those loyal to our ways to have him killed immediately.”
“You sound so righteous,” Rolf said quietly, “yet you tried to assassinate the prince of the Carpathian people and kill all of us.”
“I follow the doctrines and principles of the Lycan race.” Lyall glared at Rolf. “To come here was wrong. We were warned never to mix with Carpathians. It is written in the sacred code and yet you, head of our council, agreed to such a meeting. You betrayed our kind, not me.”
Arno made a soft sound, a mixture of despair and anger. “You’ve been my best friend since we were boys together, Lyall, yet you were willing to murder me. You stood for me at my joining ceremony. I don’t understand how you could do such a thing.”
Lyall had the grace to look slightly ashamed. His gaze avoided Arno’s. “I tried talking to you numerous times over the last few years. You kept sitting on the fence.” His tone grew accusing. “You wouldn’t commit to doing what was right, even though you knew what you should do and how you should vote. The women’s issue was the clincher for me. And coming here, to this place, to these people.” His voice swelled with disgust. “You followed like a little lamb being led to the slaughter.”
“Do you think we don’t know about Xaviero?” Zev asked.
Lyall frowned. “I have no idea who or what you’re talking about.”
Branislava shook her head. “No, of course you wouldn’t. He would never go by that name. He would be an older man, but not too old because he would want the admiration of the women and girls around him. He would be very good-looking, and soft-spoken, but his word would carry great weight. He would be a man you admire greatly, perhaps the only man you look up to. He would not be able to hide his very distinctive eyes. They glow like silver.”
Lyall looked a little alarmed. The council members exchanged long looks of equal alarm.
“You mean like Zev’s eyes?” Lyall injected sarcasm into his voice.
She shook her head slowly, and this time she addressed the council. “Real silver, glittering and changing from molten to hard. Lyall would have been a very close friend to him.”
“You are describing Rannalufr. He has been around for centuries, nearly as long as me,” Rolf said. “He has been a trusted advisor to our council for many, many years.” He shook his head. “I cannot believe he would betray us.”
Rannalufr means plundering wolf in Old Norse, Zev informed her. Would Xaviero be so bold as to give himself such a name?
That’s exactly the kind of thing he would do, Branislava said. Aloud, she addressed the council members. “If this is the man I’ve described, he is not Lycan, but mage, and he’s infiltrated your council for his own agenda—destroying the Lycan race. One of his brothers has destroyed the Jaguar species and the other nearly managed to eliminate the Carpathians. He is Xaviero, brother to Xavier. You are old enough to know of him,” Branislava assured.
“I know of Xavier, but I have never heard of Xaviero,” Rolf denied. “Not a whisper about a brother or brothers.”
“They were interchangeable, identical and they kept the fact that they could be in three places at one time from the world because it suited them to do so,” Branislava explained. “Xaviero is hard at work destroying your species. He’s actually creating the Sange rau. No doubt, Rannalufr is a great chemist and such a boon to your people. You are indebted to him for his many kindnesses and his aid in discovering various remedies that help with strange illnesses that suddenly beset your people as well as other things. Am I correct?”
The council members looked at one another, their alarm growing. Lyall continually shook his head in denial.
“How is this possible?” Rolf asked. “I don’t understand this. It can’t be possible. Rannalufr has been to my home on many occasions, sat at my table and played with my children.”
“And Lyall?” Mikhail asked quietly. “Has he not been to your home, sat at your table and played with your children?”
Rolf’s gaze jumped to his old friend’s face. “Yes,” he said, sounding tired, answering for Lyall. “Yes he has, many times. I have loved him as a brother.”
“As did I,” Arno said sadly.
Again, Lyall looked a little ashamed, but he shook it off, shaking his head. “You betrayed our people, Rolf, Arno. All of you did. I merely am an instrument of justice.”
“With your own army?” Zev leveled the accusation. “You just managed to recruit an entire army without anyone’s knowledge in a matter of days or weeks because the council suddenly made a decision to come here? I don’t believe you, Lyall. You use both Sange rau as well as rogue packs to do your dirty work.”
“I am a chosen one, a martyr for our people with a higher purpose you cannot possibly understand,” Lyall shot back at Zev, his tone self-righteous and firm.
“That is the mage talking. He ‘joined’ your little cause and he kept you fired up,” Branislava said. “He offered you something to betray your friends, Lyall, what is it you covet most? Power?”
“He had power on the council,” Rolf said. “He covets women.”
Branislava’s heart stuttered. She knew the cruelty Xaviero was capable of, especially with women. He enjoyed hurting his lovers and finding inventive ways of disposing of them. So many young mage women, so many human women. She didn’t want to see those memories in Lyall’s mind.
You do not have to do this, mon chaton féroce, Zev said. There are other ways. I can get the information from him that we need.
He always gave her an out, and Branislava was grateful to him for it. That generous offer allowed her to square her shoulders and send Zev a smile. She could do this because she wasn’t alone. His soul and his spirit were woven to hers.
Branislava let out her breath slowly. “Lyall, I think the time has come to get a few answers from you.”
“Ask me anything,” Lyall said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You will get nothing at all from me.”
Branislava didn’t bother to argue. She raised her arms and wove a pattern in the air around her, as if she was creating a space, clean and pure and free of harm.
Cells to neurons interact and flow,
Carrying messages that I must know.
I see your stimuli, I know your game,
Reveal to me what is hidden so there will be no pain.
Around her, the air changed color, glowing with soft golden light. Her hair crackled and tiny flames seemed to lick up her arms. Lyall went pale and covered his face as if by not looking at her, she couldn’t get into his head.
Current to neuron cells to grow,
Provide me with knowledge so I may know,
I take what is hidden and make it mine.
Lyall began to rock back and forth, making noises like a child in distress. He clearly was in no pain, but he must have felt Branislava in his mind, close to taking control.
Let there be no barriers,
Let there be no lies,
As I came, so now I must return,
Taking these memories so no other may learn.
Lyall screamed and rocked, shaking his head, tears rolling down his face. He pressed his hands over his ears as if he could drown her out—or keep her out of his head. Branislava entered his mind with trepidation, afraid of what she might find.
She felt Zev take her hand. She knew he hadn’t done so physically; he was too busy watching Lyall to ensure the Lycan didn’t try to harm her, but still, it felt as if he’d threaded his fingers through hers and entered that warped mind with her.
There was greed, certainly. Lyall wanted more than the power Rolf claimed he already had as a council member. He wanted to be the one everyone looked up to and followed, just like Rolf. She saw Xaviero and caught glimpses, small little vignettes of the encounters over so many years. Xaviero had been patient in stalking Lyall and learning about him. He had wanted a man in a position of power, one he could persuade easily and yet would believe that all ideas were his own. Lyall, over time, had become that man.
Xaviero had discovered his weakness for women. At first he had used flattery to ensnare Lyall, and then he began to mention his night with a particular woman and the things he had gotten her to do for him. Lyall’s breathing changed, his mouth went slack and he practically drooled. The baser the stories, the more rapt Lyall’s attention became. Xaviero led him down that path slowly as well, talking about how they were so superior to women and how women provoked them with the way they moved and dressed and smiled. How those women were meant to serve men such as they were. Powerful men who needed the relaxation such women provided.
Lyall wanted to hear those things and he accepted more and more of Xaviero’s depravities as normal. He began to believe he was entitled to any woman he wanted, and his good friend agreed with him. By the time Xaviero had begun to share sadistic stories, Lyall was more than ready for them and eager to try them out.
It didn’t take long for Xaviero to begin introducing the subject of the sacred code and how the council wasn’t upholding the ideologies. At first the conversations were merely philosophical, but then they turned to how they could begin to right the wrongs. Always, Xaviero was careful, allowing Lyall to believe all ideas came from him. The mage was clever, admiring everything Lyall said, hanging on his word as if it were gospel. Lyall believed his good friend Rannalufr was his most ardent follower.