Blood Feud Page 26

“Simple enough for a handmaiden,” she replied. “I just had to find the thread of this shamanka’s story, the energy she left trapped in the painting.” She pointed to the outline of a handprint done in spatters of red. “That’s her mark.”

“So I’m not insane?”

“No,” Isabeau replied, just as Magda snorted, “Yes.”

“Watch,” Isabeau urged us.

A woman who I assumed was the shamanka shimmered into view. She looked about Solange’s age, but with several long blond braids and symbols on her face and arms in mud and some kind of blue dye. She wore a long necklace that looked like it was made of bones, crystals, and dog claws.

She scooped red ocher paint out of a clay bowl and smeared it on the wal s. There was chanting but I couldn’t see anyone other than half a dozen giant shaggy dogs at her feet, and what looked like a wolf. Incense smoke bil owed out of a cairn of white pebbles.

Everything sped up until the paintings were abruptly finished.

There were dogs who looked as if they were breathing and moving ever so slightly, as if wind ruffled their fur. There were vampires with blood on their chins and a red moon overhead.

There was a human heart, a jug of blood, a woman with a giant pregnant bel y fil ed with squirming puppies.

“Cwn Mamau,” Isabeau explained in a reverent whisper. “The Hounds of the Mother.”

There was a religious feel to the artwork, simple and primitive as it was. The painted dogs lifted their throats al at once and let out a plaintive ululating howl that lifted the hairs on the back of out a plaintive ululating howl that lifted the hairs on the back of my neck.

And then everything went dark, except for a jagged scar of red light near the edge of the low ceiling, in the back corner. The ocher dog painted underneath it growled.

Isabeau drew her sword from its scabbard. The holy feeling inside the cave shattered instantly. I reached for my dagger even though I had no idea where the danger was coming from. I tried to step in front of Isabeau to shield her. She kicked my Achil es heel and I cursed.

“You’l get yourself skewered on my sword,” she said distractedly, stil staring up at the red light. It was throbbing now, like a broken tooth. There was something decidedly menacing about it.

“Isabeau, be careful,” Magda said tightly as Isabeau approached it. I stayed at her side despite the half hiss she threw my way.

“What the hel is it?” I asked.

“A warning,” she replied, lowering her sword slowly. “When I tapped into the energy of this place, I broke some sort of cloaking spel .”

“Cloaking spel ?” I echoed. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“It’s a standard charm,” she said, shrugging one shoulder.

“You can buy them off any witch or spel singer.”

“Witches and spel singers,” I muttered. “I keep forgetting I woke up in some sort of a fairy tale.”

She shook her head. “Vampires who don’t believe in magic,” she said. “I’l never understand you.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t believe in it,” I replied. “Just that I wasn’t expecting so much damn proof.” I didn’t even like the feel of the light on my face. I took a step back. “So what the hel was it cloaking?”

“A very good question.”

She poked it with her sword, as if she didn’t want to touch it either. Charlemagne growled once. There was a groaning sound and a pebble dislodged, then another and another. A broken boulder the size of a watermelon tumbled and hit the ground in a puff of dust. The weird red light went out, like a torch in a windstorm.

But not before flashing on a narrow, half-completed opening.

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered, grabbing the candle and holding it inside. The tunnel was long and dark and freshly dug through the limestone.

“Someone is planning an unannounced visit,” Isabeau said grimly.

“Montmartre,” I bit out.

“He is quite determined,” Isabeau agreed. “He wil have many plans.”

I hefted the boulder back up and shoved it back into the tunnel, closing it off again.

“What are you doing?” Magda asked.

“I don’t want them knowing we found their secret passageway until we’ve decided what to do about it,” I replied, rubbing my hands together to get rid of the dust. Frock coats don’t come cheap and I’d already ruined one hurtling through the woods being chased by bounty hunters and rogue Helios-Ra on being chased by bounty hunters and rogue Helios-Ra on Solange’s birthday.

“Oh,” Magda said, sounding reluctantly impressed. “Good point.”

“We should go back,” I said, waiting at the regular entrance for them to pass through it. I didn’t want them turning their backs on the secret tunnel, even knowing it was empty. “The tour is official y over.”



Helena, Liam, Finn, and two others I didn’t know were waiting for us in an antechamber off a cave fil ed with bookshelves with glass doors to protect against the inevitable damp. An oil lamp burned on a table. Guards nodded at us when we passed through the doorway. I barely noticed. I was trying hard to retain my composure, to be the strong, dependable handmaiden Kala had trained me to be. This work was important, even if I didn’t feel suited for it. Even if the nightmare from earlier was circling in my brain again like carrion crows over a fresh corpse. Not to mention trying to decipher the unexpected dreamwalk with the cave paintings. Truthful y, I hadn’t expected it to work quite so wel with a vampire as untrained as Logan.

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