Tainted Blood by Nathan Long

Description : Tainted Blood
The Tide of Chaos

ABEL HALSTIEG'S BODY lay at Reiner Hetzau's feet, his face frozen in a rictus grin, eyes wide, bloated tongue sticking through bared teeth. Abel's limbs were twisted to the breaking point by the poison that filled his veins. Reiner'spanions - Pavel and Hals, Franka, the girl who disguised herself as a bowman, Gert and Jergen - stared at the corpse as well. Reiner looked at them, knowing one of them had poisoned Abel, and had the power to poison the others with a word. But which one? Who was the spy?

They raised their eyes to him. Hals and Pavel grinned, as if sharing a secret. Gert's eyes twinkled with malicious glee. Jergen glared. Franka smirked. Dread dragged at Reiner's heart. Were they all spies? Was he alone? Was there no one he could...?

Reiner jerked awake, heart thudding. He blinked around the moon-rimmed darkness. He was in his bed in Count Manfred Valdenheim's Altdorf townhouse. Only a nightmare. Then he chuckled bitterly. What did one do when one's nightmares were nothing more than the truth?

Someone tapped at the door. Reiner rolled over and stared. That must have been what had wakened him. He wished he had a dagger, but Count Manfred allowed the Blackhearts no weapons in his house. 'Who is it?' he cried out.

The door opened. A slight figure eased in, candle in hand. It was Franka, still in her boyish kit, though the other Blackhearts now knew her secret. 'Only your valet, m'lord,' she whispered, closing the door and tiptoeing to the bed. 'Come to polish your... sword.'

'Eh?' said Reiner. His head was still clouded with the nightmare.

Franka smiled. 'Come, now....
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