Con & conjure, p.10
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       Con & Conjure, p.10

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
 
Page 10

 

  “Where is Chatar now?” I asked.

  “In his room. He’s being guarded, but for the moment, that is all. ” Imala smiled, very slightly. “He claims you accused him because he and the other mages stopped you from assassinating the prince. ”

  I snorted. “And what about his own colleagues pointing the finger at him?”

  “He says he was framed by rivals. ”

  “So, let me get this straight. Everyone on that yacht considers themselves to be loyal to the prince, yet there are rivalries strong enough that they’d frame each other for murder?”

  “These are goblin courtiers, Raine. Rivalries start in the crib. Intrigues begin when we can walk. ”

  “Damn. ”

  She shrugged. “It’s the way of our people. ”

  “It’s a wonder anyone sleeps at night. ”

  “We sleep mostly during the day. ” Imala’s smile broadened until her dimple showed. “And then we find it advantageous to be light sleepers. ”

  Mychael needed to see Prince Chigaru—and Chigaru wanted to see me.

  Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any better.

  Imala escorted us up to the prince’s suite herself. It was protocol and polite, but mainly it kept two elves from being met with drawn steel and bad attitudes. Imala knew at least I would respond accordingly. That was what she really didn’t want—any of her people to get themselves permanently dead because they were momentarily cocky.

  Tam met us in the sitting room in the prince’s suite. He was dry and once again perfectly groomed. His robes were mostly raw black silk with velvet trim. They swept the floor but were slit up the sides to show fitted leather trousers and boots. Tam shared my opinion about robes—they were fashionable deathtraps. Trying to fight or run away from someone or something bent on killing you was best done with unencumbered legs. I’d imagine that was ten times as true in the goblin court. Tam’s hair fell in an ebony sheet down his back, and was held away from his face by a silver circlet set with a single ruby. A silver chain of office was draped over his broad shoulders.

  We told him what happened with Rache, what nearly happened with Mychael—but most importantly, what didn’t happen. No Rache Kai in chains. Tam hissed a particularly descriptive obscenity in Goblin.

  “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I told him.

  Chigaru Mal’Salin was sitting up in bed and doing a fine job of holding court for someone who’d survived three simultaneous assassination attempts just a few hours before. His shoulder was bandaged; his waist-length hair spilled over the opposite shoulder in a blue-black wave. His smooth and leanly muscled chest was bare. A silk bed jacket lay on the bed beside him, untouched.

  No doubt some of the prince’s confidence came from the fact that his suite was packed with guards and retainers—all armed, all eager to use their weapons. Some of the goblins in the room with him also wore their black hair loose, while others wore theirs in braids, elaborately entwined with silver chains and caught at the base with jeweled clasps. They wore earrings with fine chains linking them to cuffs attached to the ear near the pointed tip. All were stylishly attired in dark silks and velvets, though some wore intricately tooled leather and blued steel armor in addition to their finery.

  The prince smiled fully, exposing a pair of pristine and sharp fangs. “Mistress Benares. Paladin Eiliesor. I’m delighted to see you. ”

  “Too bad you weren’t able to tell your guards that down at the docks,” I said.

  The prince waved a dismissive hand. “They are merely protective of me. Please excuse their behavior if you found it disquieting. ”

  “Call me rude, but I have a problem excusing behavior that involves threatening to rip me in half. ”

  “They meant no harm. Their reaction was not part of my plan—and neither was your interference. ”

  Interference. Not “thank you for saving me from my own stupidity. ” Or “I’m sorry that my self-absorbed behavior could have killed hundreds of people. ” Or even “my sincere apologies that you risked your life to save my selfish skin. ”

  Interference.

  I didn’t say any of those things out loud. I wanted to. Badly. I thought my restraint was nothing short of amazing. Going down that path wouldn’t accomplish a thing. Goblins thought differently from elves. Hell, goblins thought differently than any other race. To them a threat of murder was simply overprotective and harmless. And if Chigaru’s guards had succeeded in offing me, the prince would have referred to it as an unfortunate misunderstanding. A misunderstanding for him that would be unfortunately permanent for me. As Imala said, murder and intrigue were merely another way to pass the time at the goblin court; neither was met with much, if any, concern.

  And now, Prince Chigaru was pissed at me, or at least regally annoyed. I saved his life and he blamed me for interfering with his plans.

  “Did this plan of yours involve getting yourself shot, poisoned, and blown into fish food?” I asked mildly.

  All signs of amusement vanished and the prince waved his courtiers out of the room. Tam, Mychael, and two guards remained. From Chigaru’s unchanging expression, he gave them no more regard than he did the furniture. What a guy.

  Just before the last courtier closed the door behind him, I saw the curious and smugly knowing faces in the adjoining sitting room. I was in the prince’s bedroom; he was in bed half-naked—or maybe even all the way naked under those covers. His servants probably knew, but I didn’t, regardless of what the courtiers’ smarmy faces implied. I had a sudden urge to go out and punch some goblin nobles.

  “My plan was to take any assassin alive—not have them blown to bits,” Chigaru told me.

  “Which would not have happened if your mages had let me finish what I started. ”

  “They were under the impression that you were there to finish me. After all, you are an elf. ”

  “And everyone knows that we’re all chomping at the bit to kill every Mal’Salin we can aim explosives or a crossbow at, right?”

  “You have to admit that the vast majority of your people would not pass up the chance to kill a member of my family. ”

  That did it.

  “Contrary to what you may believe, Your Highness, the vast majority of elves don’t plot your demise on a daily basis; in fact, I’d be surprised if any of them gave you a second thought—or even know who the hell you are. ”

  Chigaru didn’t move. Neither did his two guards. In fact, they didn’t even blink. I resisted the urge to further insult the prince to see if they were real.

  “Tamnais tells me that I’ve had the dubious honor of being shot by the infamous Rache Kai, and that I have you to thank for identifying him. ”

  That was as close to gratitude as I was likely to get.

  “Thrilled to help,” I drawled.

  Apparently Tam hadn’t mentioned that I knew said killer and had nearly married him. That was one detail I could go without the prince knowing.

  “And once you reached Embassy Row, you lost his trail. ”

  “The magical distortion around the embassies kept me from following him any farther. ” I wasn’t about to tell him that he’d taken a shot at Mychael. He didn’t need to know that, either.

  “But you believe him to be in the elven embassy,” Chigaru pressed.

  Mychael spoke. “We have no proof of that, Your Highness. ”

  “Ah, but that is what you believe. ”

  “It’s probable,” he replied. “Considering that Director Kalis is in control of the goblin embassy, I doubt any of her people would welcome an elf—let alone an elven assassin—with open arms. ”

  “Your Highness?” Tam cast the barest glance at the two guards flanking Chigaru’s bed. Chigaru might consider them furniture, but Tam knew that anything and anyone could also be ears.

  Chigaru spared a quick glance at each of them. “I will be quite safe with the chancell
or, paladin, and Mistress Benares. ”

  As the two guards left, I gave Tam a bemused look. “Chancellor?” I mouthed silently.

  Tam shrugged. “It’s a title. ”

  The door closed and the prince’s full attention was on us. “There, is that better?”

  “Very much so,” Tam told him. “Until your power is secure, the fewer people who are privy to your meetings, the better. ”

  Chigaru leaned back against the pillows, getting comfortable and taking his sweet time doing it. “I would like your opinion, Mistress Benares. ”

  That was going to get real old, real quick. “Let’s just make it Raine, and get it over with. ”

  The prince flashed a smile full of fang. “If you insist. ”

  “No, I don’t insist. I can only take being called ‘Mistress Benares’ so many times. Raine is my name, so you might as well use it. ”

  Chigaru flashed a smile that most women would have swooned over. “And it’s much more friendly. ”

  “I can assure you, friendly is the last thing I feel about you; but if believing that makes you happy, go right ahead. ”

  “Tam tells me that the men who tried to blow up my yacht—and me along with it—were goblins, not elves. ”

  “That’s right. When they realized that they were going to be blown up along with it, they dropped their glamours. Staring death in the face can make you lose your concentration. ”

  “They were Khrynsani assassins. ”

  I nodded. “Apparently your brother cares enough to hire only the very best to kill you. ”

  “Others wish my death as well, Mistress—” He gave me that swoon-inducing smile again. “Raine. Some I know of. Others I suspect—and others remain hidden from me. ”

  “They were Khrynsani,” Mychael said. “That means your brother or Sarad Nukpana, probably both. ”

  “The services of Khrynsani assassins can be purchased. ”

  That was surprising. “They freelance?”

 
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