Unchained, the Dark Forgotten (2010)

Free Unchained, the Dark Forgotten (2010) by Sharon Ashwood

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Authors: Sharon Ashwood
sound.
    “That was human,” Reynard shouted. “One of the men!”
    They were heading to a place where one corridor crossed another. A few paces ahead, Mac slowed, skidding as they reached the intersection. It was impossible to see around the corner, and the dark, blanketing shadows only increased the danger of being caught in a trap. Mac drew his nine-millimeter SIG Sauer automatic. Reynard slid to a stop and dropped to one knee, sighting with his musket and using the corner of the wall for cover.
    For a moment, there was utter silence. Reynard could taste the dry dust of the stone, smell the faint scent of thyme still clinging to his clothes from his adventure with Ashe. His pulse was hard and steady.
    Then he heard the scuffle of feet, an uneven rhythm that ended in another yelp of pain down the righthand—eastern—arm of the corridor. Reynard eased around the corner, trying to see without exposing his position. He exchanged a nod with Mac and rounded the corner, flowing silently into the shadows.
    A tangle of shapes wrestled beyond the smear of torchlight a few feet ahead. The flickering illumination only made the corridor beyond twice as dark. It wasn’t light, but a mockery of it.
    Behind him, Mac yelled and fired the SIG Sauer, the report a physical slap. Reynard slammed his back to the wall and turned enough to see two figures rushing Mac from the western arm of the crossroads. Another assailant burst from the north side, cornering Mac.
    Trap!
    In one motion, Reynard sighted and fired. The Brown Bess banged, coughed smoke, slammed into his shoulder. The third attacker dropped.
    As it fell, Reynard could see the maw of needle teeth where the mouth and nose should have been. A changeling . One of the hideous, twisted mutations of the vampire species. They had all the vampires’ appetite with no humanity left to temper it. Few things would kill a changeling, but blowing the skull to bone shards generally worked.
    Mac kicked one of his attackers in the head. It was a green thing, a kind of frog-man with claws and teeth. A creature that grotesque had to be some kind of dark fey. Miru-kai is behind this .
    Mac’s other assailant was a tusked goblin flailing a two-handed sword. Reynard dropped the musket, pulled out his sidearm and his sword. He’d trained himself to use either hand to fight with sword or pistol, but still preferred the blade on his right.
    As he rushed to help Mac, the demon tossed a stream of flame into the goblin’s face. The creature fell back, raising its hands to protect its eyes. Mac kicked the sword out of its grasp.
    The frog-thing scrabbled for it, but Reynard lunged, sliding his blade between the creature’s ribs and out its back. It screamed piteously, mouth opening wide to reveal fangs like a cobra’s, so long they must have folded up inside its mouth. Reynard pulled back on the blade, feeling bone and the pull of flesh against steel.
    The screaming didn’t stop. The creature was a mercenary, a soldier, but it still felt pain and death. He shot it in the head, over and over, until the screaming stopped.
    “Hey!” Mac dodged as the huge goblin swung with its tusks. The face was grotesque, man crossed with pig and decorated with a dozen piercings. Squares of metal were sewn to its tunic, overlapping like scales. Mac hoisted the sword, letting flame leap along the blade.
    Reynard backed up, giving him room to swing.
    “I’ve got this,” yelled Mac, who looked like he was starting to enjoy himself.
    Now that the odds were even for his friend, Reynard turned and bolted the other way, back toward the source of the first cries. He had delayed only a moment to help Mac, but every lost second tore at him with frantic claws.
    Abandoning stealth, he pelted through the torchlight. The cluster of figures who had struggled in the darkness beyond was gone. Something lay on the ground. Reynard paused just long enough to glance at the object. A circular silver pin decorated with a sprig of

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