Con & conjure, p.21
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       Con & Conjure, p.21

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
 
Page 21

 

  “Hey, don’t even think about leaving me here alone,” my cousin told both of us. “You’re the Guardian paladin, and you’re the lady with the killer rock. If anyone’s getting out of this alive, it’ll be the two of you. ” He flashed a grin. “So I’m going to be harder to get rid of than bad credit. ”

  We entered the hotel.

  I was going with Mychael because I thought I could help find whatever or whoever it was that was about to unleash doomsday in the Greyhound Hotel. However, I was at a serious disadvantage considering that I had no clue what I was looking for. True to his word, Mago was staying close enough to qualify as my second skin.

  I was wearing my own skin now, not Symon Wiggs’s. I was bonded to the Saghred; Symon wasn’t. I couldn’t tap my magic and hold onto an anatomically correct glamour at the same time. So it was Symon or the Saghred. I liked Symon more than I did the rock, but I needed the rock more than I did a scrawny banker.

  I dropped the glamour.

  If I was going to locate Balmorlan’s surprise before it happened, I’d need every bit of my magic. And if the elven bastard pulled something truly nasty—and I had no doubt that he would—I’d need the Saghred to stop it.

  Mago and I would have opted for stealth when going into a building with heavily armed men not in our own employ. Mychael was the chief lawman on the island; he barged right on through the hotel into the lobby.

  My eyes and magical senses were trying to see everywhere and everyone at once. The lobby was filled with armed goblins and Guardians. Neither was growling at the other, but that was as far as niceties were going to go.

  While Mychael went to speak with a Guardian officer and a goblin senior guard near the front doors, Mago slipped behind a potted plant and pulled me with him, whispering urgently, “Do you see what I see; or more to the point, what I don’t?”

  I blinked. “Cousin, I don’t even know what the hell you just said. ”

  “No elves. ”

  “What?”

  “There are no elves at the front desk,” Mago told me. “They were there when I left for the restaurant, and the senior staff on duty this morning were all elves. ”

  Now they were all humans, every last one of them.

  Oh no.

  I could smell the setup from here. “Every elf in this place was probably an intelligence agent. ”

  “And now they’re gone,” Mago said. “Told to leave, I imagine. ”

  “So Balmorlan values his people,” I muttered, “but doesn’t give a damn about humans. What a guy. ”

  If the elves at the reception desk had been agents, they would also know exactly who was in what room, which would make it a lot easier for assassins to get in and do their thing.

  The goblin guards who had seen us were giving yours truly some seriously belligerent looks.

  “I’m here to try to save their collective ass and they’re looking at me like I’m something they’d like to scrape off their boots. ”

  “Should we tell them?” Mago asked.

  “That elven intelligence is plotting to wipe them all out and they should run screaming into the streets?”

  “You know, that sounds implausible even to me. ”

  I wish I could say the same. I’d seen Balmorlan’s destructive handiwork entirely too up close and personal. A couple of weeks ago, he’d arranged for half a dozen or so crates of Nebian grenades to be stacked in the basement of a house Markus Sevelien was staying in on Embassy Row. When those grenades blew, so did Markus’s house and nearly us along with it.

  The Saghred couldn’t stop explosions from happening. Well, maybe it could, but I didn’t know how to do it.

  Balmorlan would arrange something guaranteed to be deadly to an entire hotel full of people, but something that he knew I could stop and survive.

  My eyes were drawn to the wall behind the registration desk. People weren’t the only things the Greyhound Hotel had too many of.

  Mirrors ran a close second.

  Mychael’s mirror mage friend had said the hotel’s mirrors were warded as of two days ago. Were they warded now? Without the ripple, I couldn’t tell. But a mirror mage could.

  Carnades Silvanus was a mirror mage.

  This was starting to stink like last week’s garbage.

  The Guardian and goblin officer Mychael had been speaking with were now giving orders to their people, and the hotel lobby suddenly got really busy. Good. Message received; threat believed. I didn’t want to think about what would have happened if Mychael hadn’t been with us at the Swan Song. If I’d come running in here yelling the same thing, no one would have believed me. And disbelief would have been the best reaction I’d have gotten; I didn’t even want to consider other more likely scenarios.

  “Let’s go!” Mychael called to us.

  He took the stairs at a run, four at a time. I could only manage two, which put Mychael one flight ahead of me, which is exactly what he was counting on. If there was danger on the prince’s floor, he wanted to get to it first. That was fine; I needed the space around me clear of any magical distortions. Mychael’s power definitely qualified. Mago was a few steps behind me and didn’t affect what I was doing.

  My feet weren’t the only things running as fast as they could. My magical senses were wide open and racing, searching anywhere and everyone, looking for an anomaly, someone who looked out of place or a hotel staffer or guest who was packing some serious magical mojo and trying to keep it quiet. I knew Mychael was doing the same.

  “Feel anything?” I asked in mindspeak, saving my breath for running, and for what I hopefully wouldn’t have to do all too soon—kick some serious supernatural ass.

  “No. ” His curt response sounded in my head. He was conserving energy, too.

  I didn’t know what I was looking or listening for, but I hoped I found it before it found me.

  We reached the top floor and our way was blocked by a quartet of the prince’s guards.

  “Move!” Mychael bellowed.

  They did.

  There was no spellsinger compulsion in that word, just the voice of a man that other men obeyed without question.

  Apparently so did goblins.

  To my surprise, no one tried to stop me, either.

  Imala was in the hall, a pair of wickedly curved short swords in her hands and the nimbus of a protection spell forming around her.

  “Get the prince out of here,” Mychael told her, his voice low and intense. “Get everyone out. ”

  “What is it?” said a deep voice from right behind me.

  I damned near jumped out of my boots, and Mago helpfully yelped for me.

  It was Tam.

  “Within the hour, this building will be destroyed,” Mychael told him.

  Tam didn’t even blink. “How?”

  “Unknown. ”

  To Tam and Imala’s credit, that was all the proof they needed.

  I thought getting goblin aristocrats out of a building would be like herding cats—big cats. That wasn’t the case. Apparently when you were courtiers of an exiled and renegade prince, you learned to move fast. Not only were they quick about it, they moved in complete silence, no talking other than what was absolutely necessary, and those words were whispered.

  My estimation of goblin courtiers went up a few notches.

  “Uh, Mychael, they can’t just go out into the street. ” I kept my voice down, too. I didn’t need to tell him that I was thinking about snipers.

  “There’s a door in the basement leading to a short tunnel,” he told me. “It empties a block away from the hotel. ”

  Balmorlan had said two blocks over would be safe. Well, when it came to saving lives, you took the best option you had.

  I gave Tam and Imala a quickie rendition of why Balmorlan was having the hotel destroyed.

  “Two birds with one stone,” Imala noted dryly. “Kill the pri
nce and every goblin who supports him. Then a war with Sathrik will merely be a matter of who fires first. ”

  Tam looked at something over my shoulder. “Your Highness, we need to leave immediately. ”

  Prince Chigaru Mal’Salin was on his feet. Barely. A pair of guards stood just behind him, far enough for protocol, close enough to catch the prince before he hit the floor if he happened to pass out.

  The prince was actually smiling. “I must run for my life, and Raine Benares is involved. How shocking. ”

  “And once again, it’s you they’re trying to kill,” I retorted. “Shocking. ”

  At least Chigaru was wearing trousers and boots this time, and he was almost wearing a shirt. It was completely open down the front, exposing his bandaged shoulder. His right arm was in a sling.

  One of his guards turned, went back into Chigaru’s suite, and quickly returned with a cloak, which he draped over his prince’s shoulders and fastened with the clasp at his throat.

  Tam nodded. “Let’s move. ”

  The main staircase was full of panicked guests and staff from the lower floors.

  “This way,” Tam said.

  “Service stairs?” I asked.

  Tam flashed a quick grin full of fang. “Rule one in the goblin court is always know the nearest exit. ”

  I was standing still, but the skin on the back of my neck wasn’t. Tam looked perfectly calm, relaxed even. Many of the goblins I could see were the same.

  “Either being exiled has made running for your lives old hat, or you all risk your lives for fun. ”

  Imala smiled. “Yes. ”

  “I’ll never understand how goblins—” The tiny hairs on my arms joined the skin on my neck in trying to run away. A scent—no, a sensation—drifted through the air. It held the slightest hint of foulness, corruption . . .

  . . . of brimstone.

  Black magic.

  “Mago, stay close,” I said quietly. “Mychael, how many men do you have outside?”

  He stopped, and I felt the magic he instantly held in readiness. He sensed it, too. We all did.

  I swallowed. “We need them inside. ”

  The lights went out and the screams began.

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