Home > Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(7)

Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(7)
Ilona Andrews

“And the witch?”

“What witch?”

“The old witch who stays with you.”

Most people would’ve taken “witch” as a slur, but for otrokar a witch meant someone of great dark power. He was simply giving Her Grace the respect she had earned.

“Caldenia won’t interfere with the peace talks. This inn and I are the only reason she is still alive. She’ll do nothing to jeopardize that.”

Dagorkun mulled it over, raised the cup to his lips, and sipped. His eyes lit up. “Good.”

“Shall we see to the rooms?”

He nodded. I led him through the front room to a perfectly ordinary hallway. It matched the front of the house perfectly: wooden floor and plain beige walls. And the portrait of my parents in the dead center, in a small alcove just as you walk through the doorway. I’d moved it there just for this occasion. Dagorkun glanced at them. I scrutinized his face. No reaction.

One day someone would walk through this doorway, see my parents, and recognize them. When that happened, I would be ready. I just needed a faint trail, a crumb, some drop of information that told me where to start looking for them. I would not stop until I found them.

We turned right, walked a few feet to another plain doorway, and stepped through it. Dagorkun stopped. A curving stairway of dark wood led up, its rail decorated with carved stylized animals: the long-legged three-horned stag; the kair, a wolf-like predator; the massive armor-plated garuz that looked like a three-horned rhino on steroids… I went right down the list of otrokar heraldry in the traditional order. Light fixtures imitating the traditional torches burned in their sconces on the dark wall streaked with red and gold. Colorful banners of the Hope-Crushing Horde hung between them.

“Does the stairway meet with your approval?” I asked.

“It will suffice,” Dagorkun said carefully.

“Please.” I pointed to the stairs. He started up the steps. Here is hoping the pits were deep enough.

Twenty minutes later we established that the pits were perfectly proportioned, the faux-silk pillows were soft enough and in the correct array of colors, the arched windows were properly ornate, and the view of the orchard which had required enough dimensional finagling to make the entire university of theoretical physicists beg for mercy was stimulating enough. The orchard was seen from every new guest room I had built for the summit, which should’ve been impossible, but I never bothered too much with the laws of physics anyway. If they decided to jump out of their windows, they would end up in my orchard behind the house and out of site of the main road and subdivision. Not that I had any intention of letting anyone exit the inn without my knowledge.

By the end of the tour Dagorkun had relaxed enough to stop continuously checking corners for hidden assassins. We were almost back to my front room when the inn chimed. I glanced out of the window just in time to catch the last glimpse of a familiar red flash. Oh no.

“We have company,” I told Dagorkun. “Excuse me, please.”

I walked to the front door and opened it. A massive figure filled the doorway, broad-shouldered and clad into black armor shot through with blood-red, which made him look enormous. His blond hair spilled onto his back like a long lion’s mane. His face, masculine with a heavy square jaw, was handsome enough to make you pause.

“My lady Dina.” His voice was rich and resonant, the kind of voice that would overpower the roar of the battle, which was fitting since he was the Marshal of House Krahr and had to snarl orders in the middle of the battle quite frequently.

“Lord Arland,” I said. “Please enter.”

Arland stepped through and saw Dagorkun. The two of them froze.

“Hello, Arland,” Dagorkun said. No traditional sun greeting, huh.

“Hello, Dagorkun,” Arland said.

The vampire and otrokar glared at each other. A moment passed. Another. If they kept this up, the floor between would catch on fire.

I sighed. “Would the two of you like some tea?”

The vampire and the otrokar stared at each other over the rims of their cups. Arland was built like a saber-toothed tiger, huge, powerful, and strong. Dagorkun was taller than him by a couple of inches, and while his build was not quite as massive, he was corded with muscle. Neither of them seemed especially worried. They were just sitting here politely, drinking tea and trying to strangle each other with pure will.

“How is your father?” Arland asked, his voice nonchalant, each word precise.

“The Khan is well,” Dagorkun answered. “How is Lady Ilemina?”

“She’s well also.”

“That’s good to hear. Will she be joining us?”

Arland raised his thick eyebrows. “No, she must attend to matters elsewhere. Will the Khan grace us with his presence?”

“Likewise the Khan has many responsibilities,” Dagorkun answered. “He sends the Khanum in his stead.”

So, Arland’s mother wasn’t coming but Dagorkun’s was. The Guide to Major Powers, which I had purchased during summer and which had cost me an arm and a leg, listed Lady Ilemina as the Preceptor of House Krahr together with two pages of her titles and decorations, some of which included words like “Slaughterer of” and “Supreme Predator of.” The Khanum had an equally long list of titles studded with gems like “Spinebreaker” and “Gut Ripper.” All things considered, I was glad only one of them was coming.

Having their sons sitting across from each other, sipping tea and wishing they could drop all pretense and just tear each other’s head off was difficult enough. I finally realized the full extent of the mess I’d gotten into. When there would be six or more individuals from each side, keeping them from violence was going to be almost impossible. This is exactly why Caldenia thought these peace talks were going to be great. My imagination painted a huge brawl in the ballroom and Her Grace quietly sneaking off with a bloody body.

“The Khanum?” Arland coughed. The last sip of tea must’ve gone wrong.

“Are you unwell?” Dagorkun inquired.

“Healthy as a krahr,” Arland said.

“That’s such a relief. I would hate for some illness to interfere and spoil the grand celebration I planned when I send you to your afterlife.”

“Really?” Arland’s eyes narrowed. “I’d think my succumbing to an illness would be a blessing, as it is the only way you could manage such a feat. I dare say, it would have to be a severe illness and even then, I fear the chances of your victory would be remote.”

The otrokar clicked his tongue. “Such hubris, Marshall.”

“I detest false modesty.”

“Perhaps we can test this theory?” Dagorkun offered.

Okay, that’s just enough of that. “I am glad the rooms were to your liking, Under-Khan. Unfortunately, I must ask you to depart so the Marshal of House Krahr can inspect the quarters of his people.”

Dagorkun’s eyes narrowed. “And if I insisted on staying?”

Thin brilliant blue cracks formed in the handle of my broom. The floor in front of Dagorkun shifted, fluid like water. “Then I’ll seal your body in wood so all you can do is blink and use you as a lawn ornament.”

Dagorkun blinked.

“This summit is very important to me,” I explained.

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