Chapter 46: A Blade of Justice
“Here you are, Father!” Mason said as he shoved open the dungeon-like door. Inside the cellar room, eight young girls ranging in age from thirteen to sixteen huddled together for warmth. “This should help take your mind off of Lord Fancy-Pants Percy.”
Lennox stared through the doorway at the shivering slave girls with his left eye. His right eye, like most of his face, remained swollen from his last encounter with the Earl of Hawthorne.
“Why do you have so many?” Lennox mumbled past his cracked and puffy lower lip.
“A new business venture I decided to invest in,” Mason explained with a dismissive shrug. “Normally, I’d ship these to a third party right away, but I’m allowed to dip my hand into the merchandise now and then.”
“You’re tangled up in the sex trade business?” Lennox blurted out, managing to look shocked despite the condition of his face.
“Don’t look so alarmed, Father,” Mason replied with a laugh. “I’m just the middleman. I get them cleaned up, feed them for a day or two and ship them discreetly to another party in the capital. Where they go from there—” he shrugged “—none of my business.”
Lennox rubbed his chin and stared at his eldest son, worriedly. “But if you were ever caught. Underaged sex trade, Mason! You could be arrested and lose your title!”
“Father—” Mason sighed. “As I said, you don’t have to worry. I brought you down here to pick one for the night. So enjoy yourself and forget about the Turnbell’s and that half-blood.”
“Don’t—” Lennox snapped and winced as he cupped his jaw. “Do not bring up that bitch or Josiah before me ever again!”
Mason raised his hands with an exasperated sigh. “I got it. Though I never understood why you entertained the idea of paying to marry a half-blood.”
“Nevermind that, are you sure this business is worth the risk?” Lennox pressed, still distracted by the matter of his son’s new criminal enterprise.
Mason sighed and rolled his neck. “Fine, if it will make you feel better, I can tell you that myself and my associates are protected by a very powerful and high ranking Noble.”
Annoyance flickered across Mason’s face and perhaps just a flicker of fear. “I can’t tell you any more than that. Now, are you fucking one or not?”
Lennox grunted as he stepped into the cell. The herd of slave girls crowded against the far wall away from him. His good eye settled in on a brunette whose face was covered with freckles.
The child’s hazel-blue eyes widened in terror. It was enough to give Lennox a mild jolt of pleasure as he reached towards her. But in those wide dark pupils, he saw not just his reflection, but the blue mask of a ghoul behind him.
The demon grabbed Lennox by the neck. Strong fingers dug into his esophagus as their vicious grip penetrated past his neck rolls. Then a sharp pain pierced between the ribs of his back. The slave girls screamed as Lennox spluttered and grabbed desperately at the grip affixed to his throat.
The pain returned. The blade rammed savagely through Lennox’s flailing arms. Then his legs gave out, and he was dragged away from the girls, who screamed and cowered against each other.
All except for the freckled one, who watched with eerie calm as Lennox grabbed the doorframe and clung to it desperately before the flash of a silver blade slid across his throat.
Ghost stood over Lennox’s body and wiped his blade against the dead lord’s handkerchief. The shadow behind him moved closer and knelt.
“My prince, we have detained all the servants outside per your request. As anticipated, Lord Mason’s wife and child were away this evening. All that remains are the slave children.”
Ghost turned towards the elite shadow guard.”Deliver the children to the capital knights with the evidence we collected.”
“Yes, my Prince—” the shadow guard glanced at Mason, crumpled against a wall in the narrow hallway. The dead man’s lifeless eyes and slack jaw gapped in horror into the afterlife. “Wouldn’t it have been better to keep Lord Mason alive to track down his contact in the capital?”
“I already know who that contact is. This is the third trade line we’ve cut off. Borghese won’t be so quick to open another, especially once the knights start investigating.”
“Very well, then—your father has also been asking when you’ll return?”
Ghost turned towards the shadow guard as he flicked the knife back into its hidden sheath. “Tell—the Emperor—that I will return when the matter in Lafeara is settled.”
“I will, my Prince, but he is growing impatient.”
Ghost laughed as he brushed a speck of dirt from the shadow guard’s shoulder. “Then tell him to come and drag me back himself if he’s so tired of waiting.”
The shadow made no comment as the assassin walked past him.
“Get the children out of here so I can cleanse the place,” Ghost ordered as he headed up the stairs.
“Yes, my Prince.”
Ghost wandered the halls of the luxurious mansion with morbid curiosity. The shadows that worked for him hastily carried the slave girls outside. They also gathered a ledger, which included the prices paid for each girl, where they were picked up and dropped off. Enough evidence to give the Knights of Lafeara a fighting chance at tracking down the mastermind behind this sex trade ring, or so Ghost hoped.
If not, he would take matters into his own hands—again.
Ghost paused in front of the mantel where the wooden statue of a Saint walking beside Lafeara’s crowned wolf stared at him imperiously. With a heavy sigh, he lifted the small but heavy statue in his hand and studied the craftsmanship silently.
“My Prince,” the shadow returned to his side. “The house has been cleared.”
Ghost stared at the statue and said nothing.
“Do you have any further commands, my Prince?”
“Did you place one of your men beside Lady Maura at the palace?”
“Yes, as close as we could without drawing suspicion,” the shadow answered
“And he understands his purpose?”
“He will watch over and protect Lady Maura from the shadows by your command, my Prince.”
Ghost nodded and dismissed him with a wave. The shadow guard vanished as silently as he had appeared. The silence of the house wrapped around Ghost as he removed his mask and hooked it onto his belt.
“Where does one lie end—” he returned the statue to the mantel and stepped back “—and another begin?”
In the mirror behind the statue, his eyes flickered and glowed with a golden hue. “Cinis cinerem,” Ghost murmured.
The statue caught flame. The fire spread greedily across the mantle. It hissed and crackled as it consumed stone, wood, and fabric with little discrimination.
Ghost watched as the flames spread around him. The mirror blackened, and the glass cracked. The curtains spun and twisted like demonic specters as they were consumed by the burning hellfire that clawed its way up the walls and spread towards the ceiling.
The assassin lifted his mask and stared at the flames through its eye slits. Then he covered his face, turned, and ignored the flames which licked at his feet as he left the mansion to burn.
From the safety of the tree line at the perimeter of the yard, Ghost watched the flames spiral and climb through the shattered windows of the third floor. The servants, bound and unconscious, had been left a safe distance away by the water pump. Their slumped silhouettes illuminated by the inferno.
Although Ghost had dismissed the shadow guard, he knew they still watched him. They were never truly his to command. Their loyalty remained with the Emperor of Vetrayna.
‘I will make use of them all the same. Time to focus on the next target.’
He climbed effortlessly over the spiked metal fence and slipped into the night—like a ghost.