In the dark, all a Templar has is his judgment.
Mythical Knights Book 5
Against his better judgment, Immortal Templar Knight Sir Liam has always watched over Leeza–she’s always been rather accident-prone. Even when she was a child, he made sure she was safe, if only from a distance.
Yet, as much as he tries to keep his distance, Liam continues to need to interact with her, and his feelings start taking over his logic.
When Leeza meets tall, hunky Sir Liam, she’s immediately awed and curious. After all, who goes by “sir” anything, anyway? Still, she starts to trust him. As she does, a whole other world begins to open up around her.
One with dragons, vampires, and all sorts of things that go bump in the night. And in this world, even an immortal Templar Knight must decide which path to follow. The future isn’t set, and the rules are changing.
Monsters are getting more aggressive, and sometimes, all a Templar has is his judgment over who lives and who dies.
Mythical Knights Reading Order:
- Not a Gentleman's Christmas (optional)
- Darkest Judgment
24 years ago
“You have a sick sense of fun,” Sir Ewan whispered to Sir Liam as they, along with Sir Adrian and Sir Tomas, wandered through the gates of the Renaissance Festival. The wind blew, sending a soft haze of dust through the fairgrounds as the large men accepted the programs and started scanning the listings for exhibits.
Mostly because it would be funny to see human reproductions of medieval castles and courts.
It was Liam’s turn to find something to do, and he had read about the fair in the local newspaper. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. The Knights very rarely had a peaceful moment to enjoy themselves. Keeping the peace between all mythical beings was a full-time occupation.
And had been for these men for the last seven hundred years. The last time they’d had a spare moment was six years ago. Adrian had chosen that night.
They had gone bowling.
Liam had wanted something different for his turn.
Upon entering the fair, Liam was second-guessing his idea. The four of them had actually been alive when the Renaissance period happened.
And it hadn’t looked like this.
“Didn’t we just leave this era?” Adrian muttered as they started walking around. He fiddled with the earphones of his Walkman, trying to adjust them to fit better. The portable radio only came out a few years ago, and Adrian had immediately become addicted to the technology. It quieted his demons better than anything thus far.
Most men and women at the fair were dressed in current trends, but a portion of people milling about wore period costumes.
A woman walked by, pink and blue and green streaks in her hair, her bodice cut lower than anything remotely resembling period, and wearing far too much makeup.
Okay, so nothing there was exactly period. There hadn’t been big blue toilets available in the era. Instead, patrons milled about in a modernized version of the period.
What did I expect?
The Templars were stopping traffic in the large open space near the entrance. Artisans had tents set up, and a small area had been designed to resemble a royal court. Farther down the row were a couple of additional staging areas.
Liam glanced at the map. A sword-fighting arena was along the far west border, and a jousting tournament was slated to start later along the south border.
He really wasn’t there for any of that. He merely wanted to see the artisans. He read his map, trying to locate the tents he wanted to visit.
“Good morrow to ye, handsome knaves!”
A pack of women—and a pack was exactly what they were—headed straight for them, all dressed in wench costumes. And they were making eyes at the four men.
Adrian covered his mouth and looked away.
Ewan and Tomas burst out laughing. Neither one of them knew the art of subtlety. The wenches surrounded them all, handing them gifts of beads.
Not that any of the women appreciated the power of his glare.
“A pleasant sight this early morn to see such strapping gentlemen!” one said, sashaying up to Liam, pushing her bosom out.
“Aroint, wench.” Liam stepped away.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “What’s that mean?” she asked, her Renaissance speech lost.
“Go away,” Adrian said. “Thy lustful passes are wasted on us. Fare thee well.”
The woman stared at him for a moment. Then she glanced at the other women, who were frozen stock-still at Adrian’s words.
“Fare thee well,” she said, and the troupe wandered off into the crowd.
“Maybe this was a good idea,” Tomas said, laughter filling his features. He gazed at a collection of women dressed as gypsies. “I really think I may have to look around now.”
Ewan snorted and glanced to his right. “Oh look, funnel cake.”
“What is a funnel cake?” Tomas asked, not taking his eyes off the gypsy women.
“I have no idea, but I think we should investigate,” Ewan said, staring at the food. Though Tomas headed after the gypsies instead of the funnel cake.
Adrian and Liam watched them wander off, one toward the snacks, the other headed for the eye candy.
“You don’t think…” Adrian said, watching them walk away.
Liam said nothing. There was no need. Some, like Tomas, walked the line, even flirting with females on occasion.
Liam didn’t approve.
Lusts and desires had no place for Immortal Knights Templar. Even tempting them.
Their laws were absolute. To live an eternal life protecting mythicals from humans, and vice versa, the Knights had to lose something.
They sacrificed physical intimacy.
It was a fair enough trade. All the Knights had been celibate when they joined the brotherhood before the turning, anyway, so it wasn’t a major loss.
Some Knights still enjoyed the beauty of the female form.
Liam found it, well, boring.
After all the centuries, women seemed to look similar. He had yet to see one that made his heart flutter.
And after seven hundred years, surely someone would have enticed him.
Occasionally, he wondered if his ability to admire the female form had been lost. Had he repressed it so much that he had broken that part of himself?
Even when women walked by in revealing costumes, he found no desire to consider them for, well, anything.
Other than a mild irritation at their inaccurate period wear.
“This is not what I expected,” Liam said as he and Adrian headed toward the artisans’ tents.
Adrian eyed a woman in a more vintage Renaissance costume. Or maybe he was looking at his ghost. With Adrian, it was hard to tell.
“Nara, who can’t stop laughing, says you need to lighten up and have a little fun.”
“Tell Nara she can find her entertainment somewhere else.”
“If only it was that easy to get rid of my indentured ghost.”
Adrian had the ability to not only see but to communicate with the dead. While the talent had given them a certain amount of assistance over the centuries, Adrian had never been terribly comfortable with his gift.
Or maybe he wasn’t terribly comfortable with Nara as his liaison to the other side. Nara had been with him since the turning in 1307, cursed to stay within a small rock talisman Adrian wore around his neck.
Liam had to admit he preferred his own special gifts to Adrian’s. At least Liam’s gift didn’t control him.
They walked in silence, observing the traveling musicians playing their instruments, while different music floated out of all the little tents.
“What is that?” Adrian asked, gesturing to a—was he a man?—person dressed as, well, some sort of demon. Or what Liam guessed must be a human interpretation of a demon. He had horns atop his head, black and red face paint, and a pointed chin, making him resemble a goat.
“Is it supposed to be Baphomet?” Liam asked.
“No.” Adrian shook his head. “Baphomet was more catlike. Maybe it’s supposed to be the devil?”
Liam snorted. “And the devil always looks like that…” Lucifer was far more handsome, quite debonair for the troublemaker that he was. “Maybe we should take a picture and give it to him.”
“I think Lucifer would be offended.”
Over the centuries, they had, on occasion, had to deal with the fallen angel—though Liam could count on one hand the number of times. Angels and the Fallen had their own dilemmas to deal with—they rarely stepped upon human soil.
The humans and mythicals were Templar territory.
Liam and Adrian moved on, trying not to stare at the man and his outlandish costume.
One tent they passed was selling swords and chain mail, and Adrian stopped to admire the armor.
Though more likely, he stopped to laugh at it.
It had been a lot of years since the Knights Templar actually had to wear chain mail. They now preferred Kevlar vests whenever possible. But the mail did get brought out on certain occasions.
Liam found the booth he’d been looking for. Inside were dozens of bowls and other pieces, all blown glass. Some were quite pretty, others not so much, but the collection wasn’t the worst he’d ever seen.
Unfortunately, though, the artisan wasn’t making any at the moment. He stood in the back, setting out display items and otherwise inspecting the booth.
Liam scrutinized the setup, looking at the materials and such. He was always considering tips and tricks to help with his own glassblowing. He’d done it for centuries, having learned from an old artisan. The pieces he made were sold at auction or in boutiques, anywhere he could, and the funds went to the Templars.
Not that they needed it, but if selling a set of four goblets got Liam a new vest when he wanted it or more cigars when he desired them, then it was worth it.
And everyone needed a hobby. Even him.
As he examined the materials, he sensed another person entering the booth. The kind of quiet steps he associated with females. He paid her no mind as he focused on his own interests.
“I like the pretty glasses,” a child said.
Liam turned to look, expecting to see an adult, or at least a teenager standing with the child. Instead, the little girl, maybe five years old, was alone. The girl had a thin body and long fingers that stretched out to caress a bowl.
“Where is your mother?”
“Oh, she is over there,” she said, not bothering to take her eyes off the brightly colored glass.
She turned her head and glanced. “She’s over there, looking at the pretty necklaces and the pretty men in silver.”
Liam scanned around. Sure enough, there was a woman talking to a few of the men in full knight armor. And she didn’t seem to care that her little girl wasn’t at her side.
“Well, do you not think you should be with her?”
The little girl turned again, letting out a very dramatic sigh. “She told me to go play.” She picked up one of the glass bowls and stuck her face in it. “Ohhh…” she said, her voice echoing.
She giggled and made more “ohh” sounds.
“Hey!” the artisan in the booth hollered at Liam. “Don’t let your kid play with that.” He charged across the tent, snagged the bowl from the girl and set it back on the table.
Liam glanced at the girl. “Come on.” He took her hand and started to walk toward her mother.
But her mother and the men in the armor had disappeared.
“What is your name?” he asked as he tugged her across the grassy field.
“Leeza,” she said. Her hand felt so delicate in his, so tiny. He reminded himself not to squeeze, for fear of hurting her small bones.
As she held his hand, she shifted her fingers around so that they encircled just his pinky finger, and her grip was strong.
“What’s your name?” she asked him.
“Leeza and Leeeeham!” And she giggled. She started repeating the chant over and over. “Leeza and Leeham, Leeza and Leeham, Leeza and Leeham.”
He looked down at her, raising an eyebrow.
Most people would have been terrified of that look. He’d brought mythicals to their knees with a glance.
This little girl just gave him a big, toothless grin.
Surely she lacked some of her senses.
“Do you see your mother?” From his vantage point, he couldn’t see the woman anywhere.
“No,” she said, and returned to her chant.
Liam let out a growl. This was not pleasant. The thoroughfare started to get clogged with workers and people dressed in costume just for sport.
If any of these people had lived through this period, they wouldn’t be so fond of repeating it. Humans tended to look at the past with nostalgic lenses, casually forgetting the horrors, in favor of the more romanticized visions.
A woman in a formal golden dress—similar to that style of Anne Boleyn, with the V front and sleeves that were almost as long as the dress—came toward Liam and the girl. Her eyes shined with mirth, and while she met his gaze with a grin, there was a presence to her that naturally encouraged humans to part for her without her raising a finger.
The costume merely accentuated her regal nature.
Great. Exactly whom he didn’t want to see.
“Sir Liam,” she said with a broad grin. “It is so pleasing to see you about the world without your sword drawn.”
“I wanna see your sword!” the little girl said.
“I do not have a sword,” Liam said to her.
“Yes you do. I see it there.” The little girl pointed to the sword on his hip. Of course, humans weren’t supposed to be able to see the sword, with it being magically enchanted from mortal eyes.
“It is not there.”
“Fine.” Her lower lip stuck out in a pout, but she didn’t let go of his hand. “I still see it.”
Dropping the subject, Liam turned to the woman who’d started walking in time with him. “Venus, you look lovely. A temptress, just as Lady Boleyn was.”
Venus raised a smug brow at him. “Where do you think she learned it?”
“I hate to speculate.”
“Good boy,” she said.
His gaze darted around the fairgrounds as he spoke, because if Venus decided to make an appearance, then she likely wasn’t alone.
In the distance, one of Cupid’s minions flitting about. The little cherubs, whose likeness had often been mistaken for Cupid, were actually his minions and fired their love-enhancing arrows at unsuspecting humans.
And if the minions were around, then, soon enough, their master would be showing as well.
Liam glanced down at the girl, who was tugging at his arm, dancing around, her chant having changed from “Leeza and Leeham” to “Lady Boleyn…Lady Boleyn!” The second chorus she’d sing strangely, her voice going extra high on the last syllable.
Venus smirked as she watched the little girl. “And where did you find this little treasure?”
“About to break glass in one of the artisan’s tents.”
“Something so offensive you felt the need to drag her from the tent?”
“Surely you have someone else to bother.”
Venus glanced around and pointed her finger at a couple walking together. Suddenly, the man laced his fingers with the woman’s, and the woman blushed as the couple walked by.
“Must you do that?”
“Why, Sir Liam, it is what I do.” Venus extended her finger as if to point it at him. “Surely you would not presume to tell a goddess what she can and cannot do?”
He glared at her through the corner of his eye.
She leaned in close. “I am a goddess, you know. The Balance Mandate does not apply to my abilities.”
“The Balance Mandate applies to every being on Earth, and you know it.”
The corner of her mouth tipped up in a sly grin. “You should read the Balance Mandate closely, Sir Liam. You might be surprised.”
“I am certain you and Cupid have spent enough time looking for loopholes to save me the trouble.”
The two of them were notorious for their need to find trouble in any situation. Though rumor had it Cupid had been better behaved lately.
For the moment, anyway.
Venus laughed. “You are an ornery one, Knight.” When Liam didn’t join in her amusement, she raised her brow at him. “You should try laughing on occasion. It might soften your heart.”
“A soft heart does not allow me to do my job.”
“On the contrary, Liam. An emotional heart might allow you to do your job better.”
While the words could have come from Venus, they instead emerged from a man who’d appeared on Venus’s side. Cupid, the God of Love, dressed in a formal King Henry ensemble that complemented her ornate dress—albeit Cupid did not have the girth of King Henry.
Ugh. Most all the ancient gods and goddesses made his skin crawl. They were all intermingled in his mind. And every one of them found the Templar Knights highly amusing. “I doubt that.”
Venus smirked at Cupid. “Did you handle that problem you found?”
Cupid smiled. “Love blooms as we speak.” A twinkle sparkled in his eye, making him look as mischievous as Venus. His gaze ran over Liam while keeping a casual expression. Liam knew him well enough to know that the god must have been curious about the little girl Liam had accompanying him. “And it is a great pleasure to see a servant of the Divine out and about on such a lovely day, caring for the welfare of the little ones.”
“I’m not little! I’m a big girl,” little Leeza said, her hands on her hips.
“Indeed you are,” Cupid replied, reaching down and brushing his finger down her nose.
Leeza giggled and smiled, twisting her hips as though she had on a dress. “I like you.”
“And I like you too.” Cupid glanced between Liam and the girl. “Such a lovely companion you have there, Sir Liam.”
Liam snorted. “Did you need something, Cupid?”
“Merely searching for, uh, Lady Boleyn.” He raised his eyebrow at Venus.
She ignored him and pointed at another couple—this time, the woman dragged the man around the corner, between two of the tents.
Liam wanted to growl at her.
Cupid shook his head. “You are pushing too fast. It’s better if it develops slowly,” he muttered, then pointed his own finger at a different nearby couple. One of his cherub minions took off after the couple, an arrow flying into the man’s shoulder. The man paused for a moment, shook his head, then wrapped his arm around the woman.
“But they will enjoy it so much quicker,” Venus smirked. “And the difference between what I did and what you did?”
Cupid sighed. “Because you work in lust and beauty. I work in love—the purest form of emotion.”
“And the most reckless,” Liam muttered.
“But love is longer lasting than lust.” Cupid glanced at Venus.
Liam snorted. “They both are unnecessary.”
“You might be surprised what you need, Sir Liam,” Cupid said.
“I doubt it,” Liam replied.
Little Leeza, who’d been quietly watching this exchange, finally spoke again, “Are you two brother and sister?” Leeza stared between Cupid and Venus.
They glanced at each other for a second, amused, and then Venus answered, “In a manner of speaking.”
Leeza tipped her head to the side. “Like, for pretend?”
Cupid got down on one knee before her. “We have grown up together, living like brother and sister for many years.” He leaned into her ear, cupping it. “We forget we really aren’t.”
Leeza laughed. “Are you gonna get married?”
Cupid smirked. “No. Our love is not that kind.”
She looked back and forth between them. “You match. People who match should be married.”
Liam let out a sigh. He was very much over this conversation. “Leeza, enough of this foolish talk. We need to find your mother.” He started to walk away from the two, but unfortunately they followed him.
And they weren’t going to let the discussion just lie, either.
“Certainly all your years haven’t turned you into a cynic, Sir Liam,” Venus stated, touching his arm as they walked. Cupid remained on the far side of her, and Leeza bounced in front of the troupe, walking intentionally in a crooked line like only a child could.
“He was like that before,” Cupid whispered to her, but plenty loud enough for Liam to hear them.
“I see what love does to people.” And he’d seen enough—men and women, fools who were willing to destroy everything in their lives for the sake of stupid emotion.
“So you see their happiness,” Cupid said.
“Emotion rarely brings happiness.”
“Spoken like someone who’s never loved before.” Cupid arched his eyebrow at Liam, a smirk spreading across his face.
Liam didn’t reply, only shooting a warning glance at the god.
“Or he’s loved and lost,” Cupid added.
“Leeham! I wanna watch the dancers!” Leeza started pulling on Liam’s finger. Gypsy women were doing belly dancing in a nearby staging area.
Anything to get away from the probing gods, Liam nodded to her then spoke to the two gods before Leeza could drag him away. “If you will excuse me.”
“Of course,” Venus said, smiling as she faced Cupid. “Debate goes to you, Cupid. Sir Liam has bowed out.”
Liam gritted his teeth. This was not the first time a god or goddess tried to engage him in a debate regarding humanity. The nature of his heart, or any Templar heart, was not up for discussion.
A soft heart indeed—how would that possibly benefit him in his life?
A mere hindrance.
Emotions always were.
Little Leeza giggled as she bounced ahead toward the dancers. Liam followed, then took a seat on one of the bales of hay set up around the dancing area.
The girl sat very close to the front, and a few minutes later, Liam—seeing how the girl shifted around on the hay bale—decided he should sit next to her to keep her out of mischief.
She smiled at him, wiggling around, her face lighting up at his attention. “I like you, Mister Leeham.”
“I like you too, Miss Leeza.” And he did. Her eyes were clear, her mind pure and her innocence awesome.
She watched the dancers, shaking in her seat, trying to mimic their dance moves while still sitting. One of the gypsies winked at her and Leeza started to giggle, then stood up to clap and tried shaking her hips like they did.
Liam rolled his eyes.
Yet as he watched the little girl’s innocent movements, he couldn’t help but be a bit taken by her. Her pure soul made his empty one feel alive in ways he hadn’t experienced before.
He turned around, half expecting to see Cupid behind him, pointing, or a cherub flying around. Then he’d have to kill a god, and that was never pleasant. They were such a pain to kill, not to mention trying to explain to the Divine why one of the gods had been deemed worth disposing of.
And shooting magic love arrows at Liam certainly wasn’t worth his death. It wouldn’t be the first time Cupid or one of the other gods had shot some of their magic mojo at a Templar.
The little girl, though…she was why he did what he did. To make sure that the pure, the innocent, didn’t see the ugly side of the world.
When the dancers finished, she giggled, squealed and clapped. She was by far the loudest person cheering for the women. Most of the viewers seemed only mildly entertained by the dancers.
But Leeza was not—she loved it. She was about to run up to the ladies in their jingly costumes, but Liam caught her arm.
“Leeza, I don’t think you should bother the women.”
“But I wanna dance like they do!”
One of the dancers spun around, the one who’d winked, and came forward. “Hi there, little one,” she said, grinning at Leeza.
“That was so neato torpedo!” Leeza reached out to touch the woman’s beaded skirt.
“It takes a lot of practice,” she said. “Want me to teach you a move?”
Liam stood while the dancer showed Leeza a basic rocking of the hips, back and forth. Leeza could barely follow, but she tried very hard. She bit her lip, squinted and watched the woman for several minutes before trying herself.
She was close, but not quite there.
Liam gave them a few more minutes and headed over. “Leeza, I think we should find your mother now.”
The dancer patted her shoulder. “You should do what your daddy says, sweetheart. But maybe you can come back later and dance some more.”
“This is not my daddy. It’s my Leeham.” She walked back over to Liam and he scooped her up before walking away.
He didn’t say anything about her calling him “my Leeham”. He was thankful none of his fellow Knights were around to hear the little girl’s words. Odds were that they wouldn’t let that go for at least a decade.
Probably longer, knowing them.
“What is this?” Leeza asked, tracing the small cross on his shoulder.
“The cross,” he replied.
“What does it mean?”
He looked into her bright eyes. “Safety.”
She grinned at him. “You feel safe.”
They walked a little farther and she started wiggling in his arms, unable to be still. He let her down and she grabbed his finger and they headed off through the crowds.
“That was very nice of the woman to show you the dance,” he told her as they started to look for her mother again.
“I bet if I practice, I can learn to do it.”
“I’m gonna work really hard.”
They walked in silence, Liam scanning around for the girl’s mother, but he could not find her anywhere. Anger curled in his gut. What kind of mother would let her child just roam around a huge fair like this without supervision? Anyone could have found the child—even among humans, there were evil people.
The more they walked, the more distraught the child became. Her grip got tighter around his finger, her head darting about in worried jerks. Tears welled up in her eyes and her lower lip quivered as they maneuvered through the stands.
Liam knew they were at a critical moment—she was near hysterics. He’d been around enough children in his long life that he knew if she wasn’t quickly calmed, he’d be dealing with a full-blown tantrum.
She glanced up at him with big, tear-stained eyes.
“How would you like a piggyback ride?”
Her eyes widened. “On your back?”
“On my back,” he said, kneeling.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Can you hold me? I am five and a half.”
“I can hold you.”
Her little arms gripped his shoulders while she climbed. She was as light as a feather, her legs not long enough to wrap around his chest, so they just dangled at his sides. She squealed and giggled as he stood up.
“I can see the whole world from up here!”
Liam let out a laugh as they started trudging through the fair.
“Ohh!” Leeza wiggled around. “I think my mommy is over there!”
“Hold still,” Liam said.
“Okay,” she said, patting his head.
Liam couldn’t help it—he started to smile.
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