Fangs and Floggers
Weapons of Redemption, Book 5
by Saloni Quinby
eBook ISBN: 06542-02104
Tarun is the captive and a player in Adrian’s carnal game — an orgasm for an answer. Though Tarun warns Adrian that he won’t like what he hears, the hunter is determined to uncover the secrets of the vampire’s twisted past.
Britain, 3000 Years Ago
Tarun lifted his gaze toward the dark sky. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed in the distance. His horse danced uneasily beneath him.
He’d left behind the small group of men who had survived today’s battle with a neighboring clan. Egan, chieftain of the clan, had been starting wars everywhere. He’d already taken over or destroyed several clans and had recently targeted Tarun’s.
Usually peaceful, Tarun’s small clan kept to themselves, fighting only when necessary. Like his father before him, Tarun’s main purpose was to keep his people happy and prospering. He didn’t need to rule the world. They kept to their land on the edge of the forest, not far from the ocean.
They had seen battle before and had managed to survive, but Egan’s attacks were different. The man wanted to conquer everyone. Riding into battle covered in blue symbols and wearing a headdress made from a wolf’s skull, he had already declared himself unbeatable — a god. Any clan who didn’t surrender to him was destroyed.
Tarun had ruled his clan for over ten years, having taken leadership at twenty from his aging father. Though not a large man, Tarun was the fiercest warrior in the clan and a great hunter. His people were safe, well fed and content. He knew each clan member by name.
Two years ago, he had married Lara, a childhood friend. If he hadn’t been the clan leader, responsible for producing a son to take his place, he wouldn’t have married at all. Not that he didn’t care about Lara, but no woman had ever aroused him. Though he didn’t speak about his desire for his own sex, he knew that Lara somehow sensed it. He also knew that she had married him only out of duty to the clan. Since the birth of their son seven months ago, neither he nor Lara had expressed a desire to couple again. He had given her permission to take other men to her bed, as long as she was discreet and didn’t shame him in front of the clan.
“It’s the same for you,” she’d said, holding his gaze. “Be happy with whomever you want, just don’t flaunt it.”
She didn’t need to be concerned with that. If his preference for men became known to the clan, he would be spurned at best. He couldn’t let that happen. He had promised his father that he would protect the clan and lead them well. Tarun had accepted long ago that his desires weren’t important and his only happiness would come from the clan.
What he hadn’t planned was the deep love he felt for his son. When the midwife placed Corin in his arms, he’d known that every sacrifice he’d made for the clan had been worth it. He was no longer simply fulfilling his father’s wishes, but protecting Corin’s legacy.
Now, not only was that legacy threatened, but his son’s very life as well as the lives of every member of the clan.
Today he had lost several of his best warriors and more had been injured. At this rate, Egan would destroy his clan.
“Shhh. Steady,” he said softly to his horse.
Clearly Egan hadn’t expected Tarun and his men to fight as well as they had today, or else he would have sent more warriors. He certainly had them to spare.
Still at least three of Egan’s men had fled the battle, either to report back to their chieftain or to ambush Tarun’s remaining warriors.
Blessed with superior vision, hearing and reflexes, Tarun had little difficulty tracking them. Taking an arrow, he loaded his bow and fired toward a distant tree. He heard a grunt followed by a heavy thud as his target hit the ground.
He quickly loaded another arrow and turned toward a creaking sound to his right. The arrow flew and he struck the next warrior before the man could fire his own arrow.
His horse shifted a bit and at the same moment, Tarun grunted in pain as a dagger struck his shoulder. He turned sharply, despite the pain, and fired another arrow. It struck home and the third enemy warrior fell.
Tarun glanced at the blade sticking out of his shoulder. He didn’t risk removing it now, as he would need one of his men to help stop the bleeding. He turned his horse and rode back to the clearing where he’d left the others.
Donnell, a childhood friend and the best man with a spear Tarun had ever seen, approached him, looking concerned. Tall and burly with red hair, Donnell was a fine warrior.
Donnell glanced at Tarun’s arm. “You’re injured.”
“The others are dead.” Tarun dismounted his horse and Donnell immediately tended his shoulder.
“We need to get back to the cave as soon as possible. Bad storm coming,” Donnell said. He glanced at the bloody dagger he’d pulled from Tarun’s shoulder, then tossed it aside before he went about cleaning and dressing the wound.
Tarun looked at his men, including the dead, and sighed deeply.
Yes, they had killed Egan’s men, but more would come. Many more.
Already Tarun had forced his people to abandon their village. He’d moved them to a cave deep in the woods, where he hoped Egan wouldn’t track them. Yet he knew the bastard wouldn’t stop searching for them. If one small clan escaped his wrath, it might give others hope that the self-proclaimed god could be overthrown.
Once everyone’s wounds were tended, the group traveled to the cave where the rest of the clan awaited them. The dead as well as those too injured to walk were placed on the horses while the others went on foot.
When they reached the cave, a warrior named Grigor met them outside.
“Any problems here?” Tarun asked.
Grigor shook his head. “I have archers posted in trees all around, but we’ve seen no one. The battle?”
“We’ve yet to see the worst of it.”
Grigor’s somber expression grew even more serious. “Go inside. I’ll get some boys to help with the bodies.”
Tarun would have preferred staying outside than facing the families of the dead men, but it was his duty as chieftain.
He stepped into the cave and the first person to greet him was Lara, Corin in her arms.
“You’re wounded,” she said, her fingertips hovering over the bloodied bandage on his shoulder.
“I’ll be fine,” he told her and caressed his son’s plump face. The boy smiled and reached for him. He wanted to hold Corin, but he had other far less pleasant duties to attend to first. Meeting Lara’s green gaze, he said, “We lost several good men today. I need to speak to their families.”
She nodded, then took his hand and squeezed it before stepping away.
Many tears and wails filled the next moments. Grieving wives, children, parents and siblings went to the bodies of the dead warriors.
Tarun met with Grigor, Donnell and several other trusted advisors. They all agreed that the outlook for their clan wasn’t good. They could flee the area, but Egan would look for them. If they remained here, they would inevitably be found. While they had defeated a relatively small band of Egan’s warriors today, they were too greatly outnumbered to overthrow him.
“We’ll find a way to save the clan,” Tarun said. “Let me think on it.”
“I’m willing to give you all the time you need,” Grigor said. “But I doubt Egan will.”
“It’s late. We need to rest,” Donnell suggested. “The night guards are posted.”
Tarun dismissed them and went to the corner of the cave where Lara and Corin slept, wrapped in furs. He climbed in beside them, careful not to wake them, but Lara turned to him.
“I can’t sleep,” she whispered. “I’m worried.”
“I’ll keep you and Corin safe,” he said with more confidence than he felt.
“I mean I’m worried about you. This isn’t your fault, you know.”
“Isn’t it? Maybe if I had been more concerned with conquering than with defense, we would be able to defeat Egan and anyone like him. I let myself grow complacent because we were happy. That’s the worst offense a leader can commit.”
“We were all complacent. Why do you think so many clans have been destroyed?”
“Other clans aren’t my concern. This one is. I won’t let Egan take us. I’ll find a way to stop him.” Rage burned inside Tarun, so powerful that he couldn’t simply lie there or else he’d be consumed by it. He rose quickly.
“Where are you going?” Lara asked, concerned.
“I need to be alone for a while. Go to sleep. I’ll be back.”
He ignored her and continued on his way. Outside the cave, he mounted his horse. Although it was night, the full moon shone through the trees now that the earlier storm had passed. Tarun’s sharp vision guided him as he made his way toward a nearby brook. He dismounted. Squatting by the water, he splashed some on his face.
“Worried about losing everything to Egan? Your clan, your son, your life?”
Tarun drew a sharp breath. Loading his bow, he sprang to his feet. His eyes wide, he glanced around, searching for the man who had spoken.
“Show yourself,” Tarun demanded.
A tall, lean man with long, dark hair and piercing gray eyes stepped from behind a tree. He appeared to be unarmed.
“Who are you?” Tarun demanded.
“I’ve gone by many names, but you may call me Archer.”
“Has Egan sent you?”
“No. Egan is interesting, but not as interesting as you.” Archer stepped closer. Tarun kept his weapon aimed at him. “You don’t need that. I’m here to help not harm you, Tarun.”
“How do you know me?”
“I’ve been watching you for a long time. You have so much potential, but you’re wasting it. Love makes one complacent, doesn’t it? It’s such a useless emotion. Egan knows this. It’s what makes him strong.”
“Love isn’t a weakness.”
“A strange notion for a man, but you’re rather a strange man, aren’t you? Once you’ve been tainted by love, the effects are permanent.”
“What do you want?”
“I want to give you the weapons you need to save the ones you love.”
This roused Tarun’s interest. “What kind of weapons?”
Archer’s smile broadened, revealing the tips of his sharp fangs. “Not the kind of weapons you’re thinking of.”
Tarun’s gut clenched and a twinge of fear shot through him. “What kind of magic is this?”
“I’ll be glad to show you.”
Tarun continued holding Archer’s cool, gray gaze.
“Egan will destroy you. He’s already slaughtered too many of your people, don’t you agree?”
“He doesn’t want to take over your clan, you know this in your heart. You’ve rebelled and you’ve killed the warriors he sent to destroy you. Only blood will satisfy Egan now. Blood. It’s powerful. He’ll bathe in your clan’s blood — in your son’s blood.”
Tarun curled his lip in disgust. He wished Archer’s words didn’t strike so close to his heart. Worst of all, he knew the man was right.
“Who are you?” Tarun demanded.
“I told you. You may call me –”
“I don’t mean your name.”
“I’m someone with rare skills and I’m willing to share them with you, Tarun.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Are you refusing? I’m offering you the only way to save your people.”
Maybe he had a point. Whatever happened to Tarun personally would be his problem. Even if he lost his life, his soul, but his clan and son lived, that’s truly all that mattered.
“What do you want in return?” Tarun asked, just to be sure where he stood.
“I want you to use the gifts I’ll give you. You see, unlike you, the only way I can have children is through sharing my blood. You’ll become my son to save the life of yours.”
Tarun slowly lowered his bow, but didn’t remove the arrow.
He wasn’t a fool. He knew evil when he saw it, but he also realized that the only way to defeat evil was with evil.
Still he knew too little about this creature to enter an agreement with him now.
In Tarun’s moment of doubt, Archer moved with the speed of a spirit, pulling him into a crushing embrace. The monster ripped the blood-soaked bandage from his shoulder and sank his sharp fangs into Tarun’s raw wound.