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       lily harper 04.5 - the bladesmith, p.1

           H. P. Mallory
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lily harper 04.5 - the bladesmith


  THE BLADESMITH

  HP Mallory

  Copyright ©2016 by HP Mallory

  Smashwords Edition

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Please do not participate in or encourage the piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  Acknowledgements

  To my mother, thank you for everything.

  To my son, Finn, I love you so very much!

  To Isaac: Thank you for all your help with this book. And thank you for everything you do.

  To my editor, Teri, at editingfairy.com: Thank you for a great job, as always.

  ALSO BY HP MALLORY:

  THE JOLIE WILKINS SERIES:

  Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble

  Toil and Trouble

  Be Witched (Novella)

  Witchful Thinking

  The Witch Is Back

  Something Witchy This Way Comes

  THE DULCIE O’NEIL SERIES:

  To Kill A Warlock

  A Tale Of Two Goblins

  Great Hexpectations

  Wuthering Frights

  Malice In Wonderland

  For Whom The Spell Tolls

  Eleven Snipers Sniping (Novella)

  A Midsummer Night’s Scream

  THE LILY HARPER SERIES:

  Better Off Dead

  The Underground City

  To Hell And Back

  Persephone

  The Bladesmith (Novella)

  THE PEYTON CLARK SERIES:

  Ghouls Rush In

  Once Haunted, Twice Shy

  Big Easy Murder (Novella)

  THE BRYN AND SINJIN SERIES:

  Sinjin

  The Scent

  CONTENTS

  ONE

  TWO

  THREE

  FOUR

  FIVE

  SIX

  SEVEN

  EIGHT

  NINE

  ONE

  I did not know how long it was that I had been a prisoner.

  The darkness was tireless, constant and discomforting. Although my eyes had already adapted to the near blackness, I saw very little of my actual prison. From what little light was secreted by a torch or two within the main vestibule, I deduced that my space was not very large. As to the rest of me, my hands were weighted down by chains and bound behind me. Whenever I shifted my body, my fingers scraped against the brick and mortared walls, stinging my raw skin.

  The heavy air was sticky, and a foul odor contaminated it. I could not tell whether the incessant putrescence was actually the air, or whether I was inhaling the scent of my own sweat and dirt. I supposed it did not really matter, either way.

  During my confinement, I heard very little, save the creaking of the door signaling the comings and goings of those who brought me food and water … But that was not the sound that made my stomach turn. No, that honor was reserved for the muted echoes of leather slicing flesh and the subsequent yelps of pain coming from the cell next to mine. The cries were coming from my mostly unpleasant companion, the angel, Bill.

  Our imprisonment, it seemed, was vastly different. Mine was more a mental torture rather than physical; the guilt of knowing how terribly I had failed Lily. The chains that bound me mattered not as I was well acquainted with torture. Aye, torture and I were old bedfellows and had been for longer than I could remember. But as for the immortal angel who could not be killed? His crass mouth had managed to finally catch up with him. It seemed our keepers refused to tolerate his loose and oftentimes inflammatory speech. Their patience, I assumed, paled when compared to mine.

  All that Bill and I could look forward to now was eternal darkness. To the untrained eye, it might have appeared as if I had given up and resigned my body to an eternity of nothingness inside my cell. But I was not defeated. No! On the contrary, I made the decision to win by managing to survive. I disallowed my captors to take amusement in my imprisonment because I simply stopped responding.

  “Conan!” the insipid angel rasped from his cell. I did not bother to answer. “Bladesmith!” he cried out again in a voice parched for water. “If you’re still alive, answer me!”

  “Aye, Ah’m still alive,” I responded, contemplating whether the alternative might be better. “O’ course Ah’m still alive,” I muttered. At that moment, there was nothing more despicable to me than my own immortality.

  “When ya gonna get us the hellz outta here?” my jail mate prattled on. His abrasive tone caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. “I’m not meant for this drafty dungeon shit. I’m so hungry, I think my stomach started eatin’ itself; an’ my throat’s so dry, it feels like swallowing glass every time I try to talk.”

  “Mayhap ye should listen tae yer body then, an’ shut yer geggie,” I interrupted. I was in no mood to indulge his carrying on. The ugliness of my own twisted thoughts were plenty enough to keep me company. I certainly did not need his.

  “I think I’ve got the flu,” he persisted as if he had not heard me. It was probably more fitting to say he just did not care. He was quiet for a moment or two before starting up again. “Du-u-u-ude! Ya gotta do something! Ya gotta get us outta here, man! I can’t take no more o’ this gloomy shit! An’ my whole body’s hurtin’! I’m like, I’m like losin’ my mind, Conan! Ya gotta help a brother out!”

  “An’ jist whit dae ye propose Ah dae?” I ground out, feeling as helpless as a newborn foal. Frustration had become my only companion, at least since my arrival here.

  “Fuck, I dunno! You’re the one with the crazy Druid magic shit, not me! If I knew how to bust my fat ass outta here, d’ya think we’d be havin’ this conversation right now?”

  “Ah ’spose not,” I answered, taking a deep breath. Much to my chagrin, the ever-present chill seemed to have taken up permanent residency in the stones that comprised my cell walls. There was no escaping its nasty bite.

  “You better not be givin’ up,” the angel continued, although I did my best to ignore the incessant bleating of his voice. “I heard Alaire offerin’ to separate you from that ghost dude inside you, that guy, Donald, or whatever the hellz his name is.”

  “Donnchadh!” I growled back in anger, the energy of the ancient warrior spirit suddenly rising up within me. Too much time had passed since I last bled myself, and Donnchadh’s contaminants were multiplying, threatening to overtake me. If I lost control of my body now, there would be no coming back.

  There isnae comin’ back as it is, I reminded myself. The memory of Alaire’s offer began to haunt me anew. Freedom through death—the ultimate chance to permanently eject Donnchadh from my body and end the miserable existence I had had to endure for two thousand years.

  But bargains with Alaire could never be taken at face value. An image of the self-impressed dandy filled my mind’s eye, and I gritted my teeth in response. My hands clenched and unclenched behind me as a growing ire consumed my entire being. I pulled against the iron manacles that bound me to the wall, suddenly afraid I would lose my mind if I could not escape my prison.

  “So, are you gonna like, just let Alaire kill you, or what, dude?” the angel continued, his voice sounding scratchy and pained. “’Cause that’d be super selfish if you did, namsay?”

  “Whit?” I ground out, bored and irritated by the endless litany of riddles he spewed. I oft wondered whether the angel’s vocabulary was borrowed, or pillaged, from some other foreign language.

  “Know. What. I’m. Saying,” he finished pedantically.

  “Nae,” I answered with a sigh. Releasing
my fists, I stretched my fingers out again, wincing at the pain in my wrists where I had pulled against the chains. “’Tis the problem with ye. Nae one knows whit yer goin’ oan aboot.”

  “Whatevs. Mah point, bro, is that I wanna know what you’re thinkin’ about Alaire’s offer. Are you just gonna give up on me an’ nips now, or what?” He was quiet for a few seconds. “’Cause, dude, there’s no way I’m gonna survive in here all alone.”

  “Ye are an angel. Ye cannae die.”

  “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go cray-cray. I already feel like I am, Bongo. I’m gonna end up like that messed up assistant of Dracula’s, that guy, Reinhold, or Rhine-something, who eats bugs.” He paused for another few seconds. “An’ Angel Bill ain’t sposed ta go out that way! I’m sposed ta be suppin’ on burgers an’ dogs on a white, sandy beach somewhere with some hot ass chick with tatas so big, she doubles as a flotation device.”

  “Ge b’e thig gun chuireadh, suidhidh e gun iarraidh,” I muttered the Gaelic proverb more to myself than my companion.

  “What?” he demanded. “What’d ya say? I missed that!” He took a breath. “What, dude?”

  “’Tis a proverb!” I growled out at him. “It means ‘who comes uninvited will sit down unbidden.’”

  The angel was quiet for a moment or two. “Yeti, we ain’t got time for you ta be thinkin’ about foxes and grapes that are too high or some shit. We gotta figure us a way outta this house o’ horrors!”

  I did not have the interest to inform him that there was no way out. Instead, I said nothing at all and it was quiet within my cell for perhaps thirty seconds.

  “So, Alaire’s offer,” the incessant angel started again before his words turned into a coughing fit.

  Alaire’s offer …

  Trusting Alaire was an exercise in plain foolishness. Alaire was a snake, as backhanded and self-serving as the night was long. Yet, if I were to be perfectly honest with myself, I had to realize the real meaning behind his offer. Alaire wanted me gone. I was nothing more than an obstacle in his path to having Lily. Granted, he was already well on his way to owning her completely, but I was still here. Never mind that I was rotting away in a cell, I was still very much alive.

  If I trusted Alaire, or believed his offer were genuine, it would have been nearly impossible not to accept it and agree to the terms. Lily was already lost to me. She was no longer the woman I knew and loved. Her soul was contaminated. She had become one with a darkness I had not seen for centuries. A darkness from my past, which I destroyed with my own hands … or so I had believed.

  “Dude!” the angel persisted.

  “Lily is gone,” I answered immediately. The truth of my words dropped like a boulder in my gut. Alaire’s offer was a good one. Absolution had been my only quest for as long as I could remember. My one constant yearning was for only one thing … death. Now, Alaire was offering me that freedom, and on a silver platter.

  “You know that’s not true, bro. You know that as well as I do. Nips is still in there somewhere,” the angel prattled on, his voice nearly cracking.

  “Nae,” I argued, shaking my head. A large portion of me wanted to believe Lily was dead and gone, consumed by the ugliness that overtook her entire soul until there was nothing left. If I believed as much, it would make my decision significantly easier.

  “If you really believed Lily was totally gone, you woulda snapped up Alaire’s offer as soon as the words left his mouth,” the angel prattled on.

  I hated to admit it, but the bloody bastard was correct. I sighed before trying to argue with him. Despite my valiant effort, I could not deny the truth. The angel was correct: if I truly believed Lily was lost forever, I would have accepted Alaire’s offer as soon as he voiced it. Furthermore, I would never have offered Lily my blood. Perhaps it was simply a case of wishful thinking, but I still refused to give up on the lass. Not yet.

  “Dude, you’re like the worst person to try an’ have ah conversation with,” the angel grumbled before sighing audibly. “This is hell. Bein’ stuck in this prison with you for all eternity.” He sighed again. “FML.”

  “Aye, ’tis nae paradise fer meh either.”

  Thankfully, I was spared from suffering through the angel’s retort when the iron door to the cell room opened. Watching Lily step inside the dimly lit prison, I was immediately seized by anger and outrage. She was dressed just as scandalously as she was the last time she visited me. This time, however, her gossamer gown floated around her curves. The dark blue material revealed her nakedness beneath the garment in the low light. Her heavy breasts were prominently displayed, the peaks of her nipples pebbling underneath the flimsy fabric. As soon as my eyes beheld them, I flushed with shame.

  Although my mind was more than aware of the treachery brewing inside this woman, my body desired her. The realization infuriated me, but I could not deny it. The memory of her slick tightness was etched forever in my mind. Verily, I could admit my own carnal thoughts of her were almost as punishing as the very chains which held me in place.

  “You …” I started, but could not finish. My tone was laced with venom and, yet, my eyes must have betrayed me. It was Lily I saw … no matter the treachery that lay beneath her soft skin.

  “Who is it?” the angel bellowed from the other side. “Has the Wicked Witch returned?”

  Lily did not respond. As soon as she entered the prison, my eyes were riveted on her soulless, empty ones. They were as black as her long tresses. Never did I miss seeing Lily’s emerald eyes and deep-red hair more than I did at that very moment. As she approached my cell, she stared at me deliberately, lasciviously.

  “Remove the angel from his cell,” she instructed Saxon. He popped up from behind her, reminding me of a circus monkey obeying its master. He refused to look at me, which was just as well. His uncut hair covered the fresh bruise below his right eye and the yellowing marks on his neck, my gifts to him. Of course, now that my chains were shortened, I had no chance of attacking the yellow-bellied coward again. Had I been unbound, I would have torn his windpipe out and shoved it straight up his …

  “What would you like me to do with him, my queen?” Saxon asked. His groveling reverence to this woman disgusted me. I would never acknowledge her as anything more than a usurper.

  “Move him to the prison block adjacent to this one,” she announced without bothering to retract her gaze from mine. “I want the bladesmith to sit in this prison wing alone.”

  “What the hell’s going on?” the angel demanded as soon as Saxon unlocked his cell. “Why don’t you take my chains off and face me like a man? Huh, Saxon, you little fucktard? Take what you got comin’ to ya!”

  Moments later, I heard the sounds of scuffling, followed by heavy breathing. All at once, the squat, little angel appeared in the corridor, still chained, before being dragged off by Saxon. As they passed Lily, she did not bother to turn around.

  “Whatever the hellz you’ve done with my best friend, you skanky bitch, Conan is gonna fuck your ass up! You hear me?!” he yelled at her as he was forcibly lugged past her. Bolstered with bravado or sheer stupidity, he made a snorting sound from deep within his nasal cavity and moments later, spat a wad of something on her feet.

  “You will regret that!” Saxon bellowed. He stopped short and the stookie angel nearly plowed into him.

  Lily held up her hand, and her expression was bored as she shook her head at Saxon. “Remove him,” she said simply, her eyes instantly returning to mine. Saxon didn’t reply, but started forward again, leading the fuming angel from the room.

  “Fight it, Lils!” he yelled as soon as they reached the iron door. “Fight the power! Don’t let whoever the hellz is inside of you win! Fight the bitch!”

  Saxon yanked him through the iron door as the angel fought and cursed like a drunken sailor after realizing he’s been shanghaied and never to be seen nor heard from again. The door slammed shut behind them at the same moment Lily unlocked my cell door before slipping inside.

/>   “I know who you are,” she said simply, taking the few steps that separated us until she was standing right before me.

  “Dae ye?” I asked with little concern. It was simply a matter of time before she uncovered the hidden mystery between us. For myself, I had had my suspicions regarding the identity of the spirit possessing her, and now I supposed those suspicions would finally be put to rest.

  “Do you know who I am?” she asked.

  I shrugged. “Ah have mah suspicions.”

  She laughed, and although it was Lily’s voice, the sound was unlike any laugh I ever heard from her. There was nothing cheerful about it. It sounded acidic and ugly. And only further ignited my embers of anger.

  This foul creature has nae right tae be inhabitin’ the body o’ one sae pure as mah wee lass, I growled at myself. But my words would do me no good because the situation was far beyond my control.

  “I have been gone a very long time,” she started as she stood above me with a smirk. I had no doubt she liked looking down at me. It was a position I was not accustomed to. Judging from the smile on her face, she was well aware of that. “It has taken me quite a while to adapt to this body,” she said as she glanced down at her prominently displayed breasts before grinning more broadly. “Though I must admit, I am quite pleased with it.”

  “Ah am certain ye are,” I said coldly. Lily was beautiful. Her face and her body. But she was only beautiful to me when she was herself and not possessed by this foul temptress.

  “Just as it took me a while to adjust to this body, it has also taken some time for my memories to be restored,” she continued. She straddled my legs before taking a few steps up my body. The material of her skirts tickled my legs, causing gooseflesh to break out all over my skin. I was hopeful she would not notice my reaction.

  “Why are ye botherin’ meh with this?” I demanded as I glared up at her.

  “You already know the answer to that,” she responded before inching her skirt higher up her thighs.

  I dared not divert my attention from her eyes. Sensing the hunger in their depths annoyed me. I swallowed hard because I knew what that meant. She was ravenous, and greedy. I could see the proof of her desire in her eyes. She wanted me … again. My cock responded with a pulsing throb and my ensuing shame engulfed me.

 
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