Home > Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)

Dreams of a Dark Warrior (Immortals After Dark #11)
Author: Kresley Cole

Prologue

Hark! Hear this tale, the legend of Aidan the Fierce and Reginleit the Radiant One, a pair of lovers both bound and cursed by fate.

It begins, as many legends do, with a destined meeting-this one between an immortal girl who would never know death and a jaded mortal man who lived only to kill.

Theirs is a story of woe and warning. Take heed and listen well. ...

-i-

The Northlands

In ages long past

"So this is debauchery," Reginleit murmured as two guards led her into the mead hall of the notorious warlord Aidan the Fierce.

At twelve years of age, and newly quit of the paradise of Valhalla, Regin was certainly getting an eyeful.

As she and the guards wound through the crowd of hundreds of berserkers, she gaped at drunken warriors sparring in naught but loincloths while half-clad whores served ale, trenchers of meat, and ... other needs.

Luckily Regin's disguise would conceal her expression-and her glow. She rechecked her cloak with gloved hands. The hood was deep, falling far over her face.

By the light of the fire pits smoking up to the thatched roof, she glimpsed kissing, fondling, and some acts her young mind couldn't yet attach names to.

Yet none within this battlefront encampment laughed; no jaunty music could be heard.

Though they'd seized a bloody victory today-from the cliffs above the field, she'd observed their clash against an army of vampires-all the many warriors here seemed to be simmering, snarling even. Much like the bears these mortals revered.

Mounted bear heads with ominous fangs lined the walls. Viking glyphs of ravening bears decorated the rafters and doors.

Everything she'd ever heard about the uncivilized berserkers was apparently true. Her favorite half sister, Lucia, had once told her, "Berserkers are grim, covetous, and possessive, savage when faced with the loss of something that belongs to them. They are obsessed with war and intercourse-they think of nothing else. Even our older sisters avoid them."

Regin had known the risk in coming here, but she wasn't fearful. As Lucia had also told her, "Sometimes I don't think you have the sense to be afraid when you should." Regin had interpreted that to mean, "You have no sense of fear, oh, great Reginleit."

Besides, she had no choice. She needed the aid of these mortals. She was horseless and had barely escaped a vampire ambush just days ago. Her belly was empty-the trenchers of stew and haunches of venison atop laden tables made her mouth water.

And Lucia was in danger.

Reminded of her purpose, she straightened her shoulders. Since the berserkers were her father's guard, surely they'd be duty-bound to serve her as well. But if she met with trouble here, she wouldn't hesitate to use the long sword holstered across her back or even her claws. They extended through slits in the fingers of her gloves, concealed by her draping sleeves-

Two nearly na**d warriors locked in combat lurched past her. Fights continued all around, brawls over women, wine, and weapons. These men fell into their berserkrage, with their eyes glowing and muscles burgeoning, at the smallest slight.

Fitting that this encampment had been built at the edge of a war zone. For decades, these berserkers had defended this strategic pass against an immortal menace, protecting the villages in the valley below; she began to see that anything keeping these men here on the battlefront-and out of civilization-was a boon.

As she and the guards wended deeper within, Regin stopped abruptly. A short distance away, seated atop a throne on the hall's dais, was a male she'd seen in frenzied combat earlier. One she'd watched raptly.

Considering his unmatched speed and power as he'd wielded his war ax, she'd suspected he was their leader Aidan.

A buxom brunette sat on the arm of his throne, serving him a tankard of drink and murmuring in his ear The wench's eyes were excited, her breath shallow. She thinks the warlord handsome? Regin's gaze flicked over him. Then the wench and I are in accord.

He had broad shoulders and muscular arms, his build as massive as a bear's. His blond hair was thick, some hanks plaited in ravels to keep them from his field of vision. He possessed all his teeth, and they were even and white. His sun-darkened skin made his wintry gray eyes stand out.

Today, when he'd been in his berserkrage, those eyes had glowed like storm clouds ablaze with lightning.

Now he pulled the woman onto his lap, no doubt to join in the debauchery. And lo, there he goes. ... He began to unlace her straining bodice.

"My liege, a moment," one of the guards hastened to say. To catch the warlord before 'twas too late?

"What is it?" Aidan didn't look up from his task of freeing the female's ponderous br**sts. Once he'd loosened her bodice, his big hand dipped down to grasp one.

"This boy demanded to see you."

Boy. Males always assumed she was of their sex, simply because she wore trews and carried a sword.

Aidan turned, his gaze falling on Regin. "Who are you?" he asked, his deep voice booming. Throughout the hall, the enthusiastic skirmishes and fornicating slowed.

She answered honestly, "I am a weary traveler in need of assistance."

At her words, his brows drew together. "You sound ... familiar." He removed his hand from the woman's bodice and sat up straighter, his demeanor now tense. As if her very voice had set him on edge. "Though your accent is strange."

"Yours is not my first tongue." She spoke the ancient language of the immortals first, his Norse mortal language second.

"Come forward."

Though it nettled to take orders from a mere human, Regin stepped forth.

His gaze grew alert, assessing. She knew he was scrutinizing everything about her-her walk, the uncommonly fine material of her cloak, the gold brooch that clasped the hood in place.

The wench tried to reclaim his attention by cupping his face, but Aidan brushed her hand away. When she wriggled suggestively in his lap, he scowled at her and said something in her ear that sent her flouncing away with a huff.

But the woman couldn't prevent a longing glance over her shoulder.

For some reason, his dismissal of the buxom brunette gladdened Regin. She supposed she was merely relieved to have his full attention. "I saw you on the battlefield today, warlord. You fought well." As ever, her thoughts left her lips without any mediation. Lucia's words repeated in her mind: You have to learn to hold your tongue. You could try even a glacier's patience.

He leaned forward. "Boy, we are berserkers-we all fight well."

'Twas not true. She jerked her thumb at a young black-haired man to Aidan's right. "Not him. His guard's too low." Hold your tongue, Regin!

After a stunned silence, a few awkward chuckles sounded. Even Aidan grinned, then seemed startled by his reaction.

 

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