Hadiin lay slumped up against the corner of the bedroom, his hand on his stomach, a river of blood oozing out of the belly wound, around his fingers, and dripping to the floor. He’d been stabbed in the shoulder and hand as well while attempting to fight off the assassin. He’d also been knifed in the chest where a lung seemed to have been punctured because he was spitting blood with each haggard breath. Luckily, the thrust had missed his heart.
The room was a wreck. A glass lantern had been smashed on the black tile floor next to him, shards of glass glittering dangerously. The night wind swept through the shattered remnants of the twin balcony doors, past torn curtains and over more shards of glass, before swirling atop the unmoving body, or perhaps corpse, of a young woman in a black dress with two dark arrows protruding from her torso.
He rolled to his knees, gasping in pain and then choking on blood as he breathed. With great effort, he stumbled towards the bed, afraid of what he’d find there.
Marian lay before him, entirely nude, the formerly white sheets now stained crimson with her blood. There were stab wounds in her legs and body. But worst of all, her throat had been slashed. She held a shaking hand to the garish wound in a vain attempt to stop the leakage. Terrified eyes turned towards him, begging him to help her as her life, like his own, bled away.
The coins that has shone so warmly beneath her body that evening were all gone.
Someone pounded on the door and a stern woman’s voice called through. “Excuse me! This is the manager of the inn. And security. What’s going on in there?”
Hadiin could barely function. He felt his body growing colder and numb. He blinked repeatedly, trying to make sense of the banging and the voice. Some distant part of his traumatized brain recognized a potential source of help. He coughed blood and pushed off the bed, legs wobbly as he moved across the room and fell against the door. His hands fumbled with the latch, taking precious seconds to unlock it. He shifted to the side, staining the wall with his blood, and opened the door.
The manager stood there, a handsome woman in her fifties, blond hair in a bun, reading glasses around her neck, wearing a form-fitting gray dress that went high up the neck. She took one look at him and anger turned to fright. She screamed, hand going to her mouth.
The inn security guard, a muscular man wearing chainmail under a tailored black shirt, shoved her aside and burst into the room.
Hadiin felt himself sliding down the wall. “Potions,” he mumbled. “Healing potions. Need three…”
To her considerable credit, the manager nodded. She hiked up her dress and actually sprinted down the hall.
Potions were delivered in remarkably short order, along with another security guard, who came to investigate the crisis.
Hadiin accepted one of the small glass vials but needed help to open and drink it. The blue liquid was acrid but the magic it contained flowed through him. Before his eyes, his wounds closed up and his life stopped fading. It couldn’t replace the blood lost, so he was weak, but at least he felt stabilized. He tried to stand and one of the security guards helped him move to sit on the edge of the bed so that he could check on Marian.
To his relief, she too had been saved by a healing potion. She now sat up against the headboard, covered with a bloody bedsheet, skin pale, looking very shaken.
Belatedly, he recalled that someone else had been in the room, the woman in the black dress. He looked over to where she’d been tossed through the balcony doors, cut up and left for dead after having been shot. She still lay there, very pale white skin unnatural against the blood spotting it. A guard used a thumb to open her lips so that he could pour potion into her mouth. Then he saw the fangs and jerked his hand away.
“Vampire!” he spat with distaste and stood, stepping away from the body.
The manager frowned. “Dead? Er, undead still? Alive? Whatever.”
The guard shrugged. “I don’t know.” He didn’t seem inclined to investigate further.
The manager looked over at Hadiin. “A friend of yours?” she asked, somewhat archly.
He just shook his head, unable to speak yet. He’d never seen the woman before she’d come crashing into the room. He’d only seen her battle the assassin with her own dagger and be utterly outmatched.
“What happened here?” she asked, her eyes again taking in the destruction of the rather expensive room.
Hadiin’s head fell. “They came for the gold.”
She snorted, showing contempt for the first time. “Well of course they did. What did you think was going to happen throwing that much money around?”
He was ashamed. He’d only meant to surprise Marian and make her dreams come true for a night, make the celebration special. Memorable. Well, it had been that.
“Idiots,” she snapped.
He nodded. It was true. At the very least, he should have requested a guard stand outside the room. Or had the gold put in the inn’s safe after they were done. Not sleep with it. He was damn lucky neither he nor Marian had died because of it. Although, they were now out half the gold they’d miraculously acquired only hours earlier. He couldn’t bring himself to meet Marian’s eyes for the guilt of it. His head was turned away from the bed.
Which is why he saw the woman on the ground shudder. And watched as her eyelids opened and two bright red irises focused on the room. She sat up. A pale hand yanked the first arrow out of her chest and she groaned, going for the second.
The manager and the two guards spun towards her. One of the men swore and reached for the short sword at his side.
The vampire woman swayed as she took in the occupants of the room and no doubt saw more impending violence coming her way. She rose to her feet and flung herself towards the balcony.
The guard in front of her reached out to grab her.
She dropped under his arms and dove through the doorway, out into the night.
They were on the fourth floor.
Both guards rushed after her. They stood at the guardrail and looked down.
“Well, is she dead now?” the manager mockingly asked.
The guard who’d failed to grab the woman shook his head. “Landed on the balcony below us somehow. She’s climbing down the wall now. Or trying to. She’s pretty badly injured. And leaving a trail of blood.” He looked up. “You want us to go after her?”
The manager thought about it. She looked at Hadiin again. “Did she cause this?”
He spread his hands. “I don’t know. We were sleeping. She crashed through the doors and woke us up. Then someone else came in, male, all in black, his face covered. He cut her down and then turned on us. I tried to stop him, but…”
She grimly nodded. “Sounds like two different parties came for you tonight. Or the money. Or both. Who knows? The Watch can sort it out,” she decided, referring to the town guards, who not only patrolled the walls but also took care of criminal activity. “You two stay on this floor,” she told her own security staff. “In case some other idiot decides to come calling.”
Hadiin tried to stand up, but only sank back to the bed because he was too weak. “I’m sorry.” He felt stupid and pathetic.
Which, from the look she gave both him and Marian, is exactly what the manager seemed to think of them. “Yes, well. I do hope you’ve got more gold hidden away somewhere to pay for all the damages.”
He nodded, heart falling at the thought of even more money wasted because of his foolishness.
A couple of members of the Watch showed up to investigate and ask questions. Hadiin and Marian answered as best they could. Then the inn manager had a pair of maids help the two to another room and fill a bath for them so that they could clean up. Of course, they would also be paying for all the bloodstained towels and cleanup and anything else the manager thought fitting to charge them.
He insisted that Marian bath first and then followed after, the bathwater red and lukewarm at that point, but he didn’t care. Then he slid under the covers next to her, just as naked as she was, and promptly passed out.
Lucina dragged herself through a trash-strewn alley. Her body was full of holes. The only thing keeping her alive was her vampiric nature. Well, the only thing keeping her undead. That is, from her fully dying. Ugh, the terminology was, like, super confusing.
She looked down at herself. She wore a sleeveless black dress cut to the hip on both sides to allow her legs freedom to move. The top of the dress now had two holes in the front. Nope. She fingered another one over her belly. Three. Dagger had gotten her in addition to the two arrows. It matched the knife holes in her left bicep and right leg. Which is why she’d lost a ship-load of blood. Good thing she had vampire healing and that had closed her wounds a bit. Too bad she was still a shitty, super low-level vampire and the wounds were now opening again after her climb down the backside of that inn and running away.
She was so tired. That motherfucking assassin. She leaned heavily against the wall of the alley to rest. He’d been good, whoever ever he was. He’d hit her with arrows from across the street and then somehow leapt the huge gap in an instant. And his flying kick, which had broken at least two ribs, was what had sent her through the doors. Fucker.
Well, it was her own fault wasn’t it? She’d gotten a tip about the ice cream guy and his tart staying at that inn after their big win and thought she’d help alleviate them of some of their future money problems. Her first mistake had been when she’d arrived early only to find the two of them getting naked and screwing each other’s brains out on the very gold she’d come there to steal. And then getting so turned on by the sex that she’d stopped paying as much attention to her surroundings and started playing with herself like the naughty voyeur she was, out on the dark balcony where they safely couldn’t see her. And then allowing herself to relax in post-orgasmic bliss for the next half hour until the couple inside fell asleep.
She probably should have figured that if she had heard about this score, then of course, lots of other people would have heard and come for it too. And since she was the lowest of the low when it came to this line of work, she probably should have realized that any competition would be higher level and that they would go right through her to get at all that damned, beautiful gold.
Gold. She could really use some right now. Maybe to buy a healing potion with. Because she could really use one of those too. For some reason, she was no longer standing and leaning against the wall. She was lying on her side amidst the trash. And she could taste blood on her lips. That was probably not good. Because those Watch guys were most likely out looking for her. And she really hadn’t gone very far…
Marian woke up in bed, thankfully not one soaked in blood, feeling badly hungover and weak. She recalled a night of excitement and hot sex and then the violence and terror. Her heart fluttered a bit and she sat up, feeling nauseous. The sheets fell from her chest, exposing her breasts, but at the moment, she was too sick to care. Besides, Hadiin had gotten enough of them last night to be very familiar with every aspect of the orbs. So whatever.
Hadiin was already awake and sitting on his side of the bed, also nude, facing away from her. His head hung and he didn’t turn to look at her.
She stared at his slender back. He’d barely looked at her last night, after the killer had done his thing: slashing her throat. She touched the spot with her fingers, feeling phantom pain and shuddered. Hadiin hadn’t said much after their lives had been saved, other than mumbling an apology as she’d gotten out of the bath and slunk into bed. The pounding of her head made her wince and look about for water.
Hadiin straightened and turned his head her way at last. “Hey.”
He hesitated. “We’ll get it back.”
She didn’t answer. Was he seriously thinking about the money right now? She felt a flash of annoyance.
He rambled on, words pouring out of him. “I know I said last night that that was your share. Forget about it. It’s mine. I’ll give you everything that’s in the bank account. I’ll have to use some of it to pay for the damages, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ll pay it all back, I promise. This was my fault. My stupidity. I’ll pay.” His eyes still wouldn’t meet hers.
Again, she was silent. Partially because thinking and speaking right now would require a lot of effort in her condition and she mostly just wanted to go to the toilet and vomit. But also, she had mixed feelings. She wasn’t entirely certain that he should take all the blame for last night.
Sure, it had been his idea and he’d been responsible for bringing the gold here so he could surprise her. But it’s not as if she’d seen the money and immediately told him to lock it up because it was a bad idea having it in their bedroom. Nor did she say that after he’d pounded her into the coins a for an hour or two, which she’d rather enjoyed. Instead, after the sex, she’d scooped all the coins up into a pile and then curled herself around it, like a dragon with a hoard. Maybe her class and heritage were affecting her personality a bit.
Marian didn’t relish the idea of tangling with really bad people at her level though. And she was pretty certain that either the gold had drawn random thieves, or that the guy in black who had shoved his knife into her, repeatedly, had been sent specifically to kill them. Likely by that Weasel guy Hadiin had pissed off the day before. Ugh. This was exactly what she’d been upset about when the rich asshole had shown up at their stall and tried throwing his weight around.
And who the heck was that other girl, the vampire? Why had she been there?
Marian rubbed her temples, the sickness getting worse. Did she really want to stick with Hadiin any longer now that he might have someone like that Weasel guy after him? It didn’t help that he seemed to care more about the gold than about her. Was it so hard to look someone in the face and ask if they were ok after they’d almost died? What the hell?
She mentally sighed. It really would be the smarter thing to do to just take the rest of the money and go off on her own.
But first—toilet. She bolted for the bathroom, feeling imminent threats emerging from both ends. It was probably not a good idea to mix copious amounts of alcohol and blood loss.