Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves 1) - Page 77

Without the vault, none of us would be here. It was nothing but a dusty, mostly abandoned relic now. Nash and Lydia still did some transcribing there, as we all had once done, but I hadn’t been inside in months. In spite of the broken, decayed furnishings, it was still remarkable in many ways, the natural filtration of the mountain still providing fresh air and water, but beyond that it was uninhabitable, partly by design. It was meant to be remembered as it once was.

It’s Jase’s fault.

I returned to the main house. Servants were still clearing the gardens after the party, all the guests now gone or retired to Greycastle. Wren and Synové had all but ripped Kazi from my arms when they burst into the drawing room and saw her. There was no trust there, and they assumed the worst until they saw the healer and Kazi’s stitched wounds. Then an expression of guilt washed over them. They knew she had been bitten, but they too had said nothing. Of course, they had no way of knowing that the dogs’ bites were deadly. Once assured she would be fine, they allowed a crew to escort them back to the inn.

I opened the door to Kazi’s room. My mother still sat on the stool, and Oleez was in the chair on the other side of the bed. I noted that Kazi’s dress had been removed and replaced with a nightgown, and her hair had been unbraided from the top of her head, falling in loose waves across her pillow.

“I’ll sit with her now,” I said. “You can go.”

Once they were gone, I walked over and looked down at Kazi, still lost in her drugged dream world, her chest rising in reassuring soft breaths.

You were watching my chest?

I remembered when she caught me in this confession, how I had tripped over my words trying to explain, as if I was twelve years old. We had both distrusted each other then. That day already seemed like a hundred years ago.

I kicked off my boots and eased down on the bed beside her, pulling her close. She nestled in with a gentle murmur, her arm locking around mine.

You’ve infected me with a poison that I don’t want to flush out.

I lay there next to her, and even though the healer assured me she would be fine, I pressed my fingers to her wrist, feeling the thrum of her pulse.

I can’t promise you any tomorrows.

And that was all I wanted.



When I had stirred in the predawn hours this morning, it was to a memory, a scent, a touch. Jase. He was kissing my neck; we danced beneath the moon; he pressed a wish stalk to my ankle; he was whispering about tomorrows. But when I opened my eyes to reach out for him, he wasn’t there, and the nightmare of the night before flooded back in. Had I dreamed it all?

The horrible, cramping pain was gone, but when I wiggled my toes there was a stiff ache. I remembered Jase’s anger an

d his accusing questions, and when he walked through the door with a breakfast tray a few minutes later I braced myself for the worst. Instead, he set the tray on a side table and didn’t mention the last part of the night at all, but the strain of what he wasn’t saying showed in his stiff movements.

“Jase, about last night…”

“I’m sorry for shouting,” he said, “especially since you were in so much pain. I should have warned you about the dogs. Maybe then you wouldn’t have slipped past the guards.”

Ah, there it was. An accusation couched in an apology. “I didn’t slip past the guards, Jase. I walked past them, and they didn’t stop me. I guess with all the activity they didn’t notice me. I didn’t know I needed permission to visit the vault. Do I?”

A thousand questions swirled behind his eyes. He looked back at the tray, pouring me hot tea. “I plan to take you right now. Are you up to it?”

Now? I knew my answer had to be yes. I quickly wolfed down my breakfast, and we left for the vault. I still had a limp, but it looked worse than it felt. Jase slowed his pace as we walked.

We turned down the first passageway and stopped about twenty yards in when we reached an enormous steel door. He spun the wheel in the middle of it, and it seemed forever before a loud thunk, chink, and whoosh sounded, like a hundred locks had slipped out of place.

“Stand back,” he advised.

The door appeared far too large for him to pull back on his own—it was twice his height and wide enough for two wagons to pass through—but it moved easily at his touch. It swung open and open, like the endless maw of some ancient hungry beast, and revealed a dark cavern behind it. The musty age of the world behind the door reached out, gripping me with anticipation. If ghosts walked anywhere, it was here.

“Hold on,” Jase said, and he slipped inside. I heard some stirring, and then a flicker of light was followed by a burst of illumination that lit the entire cavern with an eerie yellow glow.

He waved me in, explaining that there was a lighting system in here that used thousands of mirrors. A single lantern could light an entire room.

A hall lay before us that was roughly hewn from the granite mountain, and either side of it was lined with empty steel shelves. At least half of them were collapsed into heaps. Rusty girders jutted upward like broken bones.

“The family quarters are in better shape. This way,” he said.

Tags: Mary E. Pearson Dance of Thieves Fantasy
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