Con & conjure, p.24
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       Con & Conjure, p.24

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 24


  No mercy.

  I heard screaming. It was me. I knew it was me, but I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t screaming in fear at what was happening or horror at what I was doing.

  I was screaming in pure exultant triumph, the joy of battle, of power unfettered.


  I felt the heat coming before Mago screamed my name. My magic met the flaming javelin sent down from the roof of the next building, met it and rode the firemage’s power back to the mage who’d launched it, engulfing him in his own fire and mine. His body fell like a flaming comet to the street.

  Time was a blur, so were the screaming people in the streets. There were other firemages. I couldn’t see them, but my Saghred-fired senses knew they were near, that they still lived.

  I hunted them down.

  A firemage was in a building directly across from the hotel’s entrance. I couldn’t see him, but I didn’t have to. His magic heated the air, leaving behind a wavy trail, leading from the hotel doors to the window on the fourth floor. I used his magic’s trail like a fuse to a bomb. The firemage was gathering his power for another strike. I didn’t know if he realized Death was coming for him.

  I didn’t care.

  I lost track of the next few minutes.

  The other firemages tried to escape.

  I couldn’t stop if I had wanted to.

  And I didn’t want to.

  I only stopped when the last firemage was dead. By my hand, my magic.

  People in the hotel streamed out of the front door, out of the door Mago and I had come through, and from around the far corner. No firemages had them pinned inside.

  They were all dead. Burned. Destroyed.

  And I’d done it all.

  I took two steps back from the curb and threw up. The smoke started choking me, strangling me. Strong arms scooped me up.


  People were drawn to the fire, the chaos; their curiosity drew them in, shouting, jostling. Mago went around and through them. They took one look at the two of us and got out of our way.

  I started shaking, tears running in hot trails down my face.

  “Easy, cousin,” Mago said against my hair. “We’re getting out of here. ”

  “Mychael. ” I coughed. “Tam . . . Ima—”

  “I’m sure they got out. ” The only person Mago was worried about was me. He was scared for me.

  I was terrified of me.

  Chapter 10

  We had to get off the streets. Now.

  I’d used the Saghred—and the Saghred had used me.

  I hadn’t just used the power the stone had gradually given me over the past three months. I had used the stone itself, chosen to use it, and reveled in the death I’d caused. In front of hundreds of witnesses.

  Exactly as Taltek Balmorlan said I would—and just as Carnades had predicted.

  I’d just signed my own death warrant with firemage blood.

  It didn’t matter that I killed those who were killing innocents. I’d let the Saghred take me so that I could take lives.

  We were in the center city, so there was only one place I could go. Mago didn’t know about it, but considering the circumstances, Mychael would have no problem with me taking my cousin to his hideout.

  With our bond, I would have known if Mychael were hurt. I wasn’t going to say dead; I wasn’t even going to think it. I would know if he was . . . I would know it. He wasn’t. He was fine, and he had his hands full right now being paladin in a disaster zone. He’d probably heard by now what I’d done. Torching nine firemages with their own fire would kind of indicate that I was on my feet and healthy. Oh yeah, I was healthy all right, a fine specimen of a Saghred bond servant. I’d given the rock something it’d wanted from the moment it latched on to me—complete control.

  I was back on my feet. I was leading; Mago was my shadow. We didn’t run like we were guilty, but we sure as hell didn’t dawdle. There were a lot of city watchmen headed for the Greyhound Hotel, and we ducked out of sight every time we spotted one. Fortunately, most Guardians would be coming from the citadel. If Balmorlan and Carnades were having wanted posters printed right now with my picture on them, I wasn’t taking any chances on an overzealous Guardian determined to do his duty, regardless of who I was—or what I was to his commander.

  I stopped at an intersection, amazingly empty at this time of day. People were either rushing toward the hotel or running away from it. Mago laid his hand firmly on my shoulder. There was no one anywhere near us; I knew that and so did he. That hand on my shoulder wasn’t a warning, it was a question, and he wanted an answer. He was worried about me and no doubt was wondering if I was in my right mind right now. He wanted to know where we were going.

  “Almost there,” I murmured.

  Mago gave my shoulder a quick squeeze and released it.

  I stopped at a boarded-up building. Its best days had come and gone long ago. But it had never been more useful than it was now. I ran down a short flight of stairs that went below the street level to a door without a knob. Mychael had told me the spell to get in. I laid my hand flat against the wood and murmured the incantation. The door opened on silent, well-oiled, and maintained hinges.

  I shut the door behind us, and with a word, wove a lightglobe into existence that floated above my open palm. This time it worked flawlessly. The Saghred was probably responsible for that, too.

  Mago’s dark eyes instantly took in everything in the room.

  The basement room looked like some of the more comfortable hideouts Uncle Ryn had in every major port city. It had the basics: table, a couple of chairs, and weapons. Lots and lots of weapons.

  And a bed in the far corner.

  I felt a flush creep up my neck until my ears were burning. Oh yes, I definitely remembered that bed.

  “What is this place?” Mago asked.

  “Mychael’s home away from home. ”

  That didn’t clear things up for Mago; if anything, he went from confused to concerned.

  “Mychael’s been doing some work for Justinius, and no one but Justinius knew about this place until a few weeks ago when he brought me here. ” I didn’t mention that Mychael and I hadn’t exactly used the bed in the far corner to plot strategy.

  I was here now because the Saghred had just made me its bitch.

  And I’d let it.

  “Raine, you should sit down. ”

  “Do I look that bad?” I tried for a quip; it didn’t come out that way.

  “Actually you should lie down. ”

  “I’d crawl under that bed and stay there if I thought it’d do any good. ” I went and sat on the bed and leaned my head back against the headboard with a thunk. I rubbed a hand across my eyes and left it there.

  I heard Mago twist the cork from a bottle on the table. He took a sniff and, apparently satisfied with what was inside, poured two glasses. Mychael only kept the good stuff here. I guess he figured if you need to hide badly enough to be here, you wanted good liquor keeping you company. That meant I needed the best that had ever been distilled. Mago crossed the room to the bed with nearly silent footfalls; I put out the hand that wasn’t over my eyes, and the cool glass slid into it.

  “Thank you,” I muttered.

  “There appears to be plenty more where that came from,” Mago said. “We need to let Mychael know that you’re safe. ”

  I laughed, but without the humor. “As long as that rock is anything but dust, I’ll never be safe again. I can’t let Mychael know where I am; this place is spellproof. I can’t communicate with him unless I’m outside, and I wouldn’t advise that right now. ”

  “Won’t Mychael assume that you’re here? Since it’s apparent that you know about this place. ”

  “After the show I put on, who knows where he thinks I am. ” I swallowed past a lump that’d suddenly taken up residence in my throat. “Tam a
nd Imala—”

  “Are either fine or they’re not. ”

  “It’s the ‘not’ that I’m worried about. ”

  “Either one is out of your control. ”

  “Have you always been such a cold bastard?”

  “I couldn’t do what I do if I weren’t. I do what I have to. ” His dark eyes were still and calm as he looked at me. “The same as you just did. ” He paused. “And the same as you’ll have to do if you want to survive this. ”

  I got off the bed and stalked the length of the room. I could swear the damned thing had shrunk.

  “Do things that will get me locked in a containment room until Carnades gets around to lobbing my head off?” I tossed back the rest of the whisky. “Or until Balmorlan chains me to a wall and lets his pervert mages have me?”

  “Raine, you know better than anyone that the right thing isn’t always the legal thing . . . you did what you had—”

  “ ‘Legal’? I don’t give a damn about legal. I’m talking about a rock using me to slaughter—”

  “Men and women who deserved it. Killers of innocent people. ”

  “But I enjoyed it; I wanted to do it. I couldn’t stop myself. ”

  “Couldn’t you? If the Saghred had tried to use you to kill Mychael or me—or Tam or Imala—could you have stopped yourself?”

  “That’s not the—”

  “That’s precisely the point. You killed those mages because they needed killing, and you enjoyed it because you’ve had too many people after you for no other reason than you have power that they can’t control or have for themselves. You got a chance to cut loose—to use everything you had in your arsenal to destroy them—and you took it. ” Mago studied my face in silence for a few moments. “Did you imagine one of those mages with someone else’s face? Balmorlan perhaps? Or Silvanus?”

  I didn’t meet his eyes. “I don’t remember. ”

  “Meaning, yes,” he said in a quiet voice. “Raine, you did what needed to be done. ”

  “If a member of the Conclave had torched those mages, they wouldn’t get locked in a containment cell or put on trial for being a danger to society. They’d be a freaking hero. ”
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