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"There's a traitor among us."
With a completely stoic expression, Varian duFey looked up from the desk where he was wasting time on a Sudoku puzzle to meet Merlin's worried gaze. As always, she was dressed in a long white medieval styled gown that was trimmed in gold, while her pale flaxen hair fell around her shoulders and down her back like a mantle of silk. Unlike the Merlin who'd served King Arthur, Aquila Penmerlin was lithe and young, with a beauty that was only surpassed by her intelligence and magick.
Scratching his chin, Varian merely arched a single brow at her agitated demeanor. "No shit, Sherlock. There's always a traitor among us."
Closing the distance between them, she cradled his chin in her hand and forced him to look up at her. Those cold blue eyes bored into him, and by the sharp turn of her perfectly shaped lips he could tell she didn't find his words amusing. Before he could move, she waved her hand in a circle before his face, causing a mist to form a ball in the air. As the mist swirled, it began to reveal an image.
It showed a man in his mid twenties lying facedown in a pool of his own blood . . . only the blood wasn't red, it was a dark sickly gray . . . as was everything in the picture. That told him that the body wasn't in the world of man or in Avalon. It was on the "other" side—the one that was controlled by unrelenting evil.
Beautiful, just beautiful. He could see right where this was heading . . . straight down a shitty road that ended with him getting screwed over.
He must truly be a masochist, otherwise, he'd get up right now, tell her to shove it, and leave.
If only it were that easy.
Varian narrowed his gaze on the man's body. Dressed in the chain-mail armor and dark surcoat that were common for mid twelfth-century -England, the dead man had one arm outstretched -toward an old stone building as if he'd been -reaching for help when he'd died. Not that anyone in that particular realm would ever stoop to help someone, at least not unless an obscene amount of money had changed hands.
But that wasn't what disturbed Varian, nor did he care that it was obvious from the bruises and cuts that the man had been severely beaten and tortured before death had spared him. What made his heart stop beating was the sight of where the knight's armor had been torn free of his left shoulder blade to reveal the tattoo of a dragon encircled by fire rising out of a goblet. There were only a handful of men who bore that mark, and their names were a very carefully guarded secret. More than that, they were men who'd been imbued with extremely strong magick. That alone should have kept the dead man safe from whatever had killed him.
"A grail knight?"
Merlin nodded as she released him and stepped back. "Tarynce of Essex. Morgen's MODs seized him before I could dispatch aid. They dragged him from his home in medieval England through the veil into Glastonbury, where they killed him."
Little wonder that. He personaly knew several of Morgen's minions of death, and they were a hardy bunch who lived for the opportunity to kill anything. To be unleashed against an original knight of the Round Table was something they would sell their own mothers for. There was nothing they loved more than to bathe in the blood of their enemies . . . or their friends either for that matter.
"Did they learn anything from him?" he asked Merlin.
The worry returned to her brow. "I don't know. No one does, except the MODs or Morgen. That's why I need you."
How he hated those words. He'd long grown tired of being Merlin's tool. She was forever asking him to ferret out traitors and information from the other side. And when the traitor needed executing, that, too, was his job. Honestly, he wanted to absolve himself from these distasteful tasks. He was tired of being caught between Merlin and Morgen. "You don't need me for this."
"Yes, I do. From the way his armor was torn from his shoulder, it appears they knew to look for the mark. Someone had to tell them of it, and if Morgen has learned that, then she knows how to identify the remaining grail knights. We are all in danger, Varian. You are in danger."
He had to stamp down an extremely sarcastic "duh" at her dire tone. He was always in danger from someone or something. So what? Even now, he lived among his enemies, and they made no bones about the fact that none of them would mourn his death.
"You can't scare me, Merlin," he said quietly. "I'm too old for ghost stories, and I really don't give a rat's ass about Morgen or her flock. If they want to come for me, notify the undertaker. He'll need to stock up on body bags."
"Then you don't care that the rest of the grail knights are to be slaughtered like animals?"
He met her question with one of his own. "Should I?"
She shook her head at him. "As fellow members of the Round Table, they're your brothers."
Yeah, right. None of them had any more care for him than he had for them. If the tables were turned, they'd hand him over without a second thought. "Tell that to them."
Merlin reached out a kind hand to touch his forearm. She alone knew that kindness was one of the few things that could render him weak. He'd had so little experience with it that it baffled him, and he never knew how to react.
"Please, Varian. For me. You're the only one I trust to go inside Glastonbury and look around for information. I have a traitor who told Morgen about that tattoo and Tarynce. . . .Knight of Darkness. Copyright © by Kinley MacGregor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Knight of Darkness by Kinley MacGregor
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