Con & conjure, p.3
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       Con & Conjure, p.3

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
 
Page 3

 

  I steadied my breathing and tried to ignore the fact that one of those two boats could go boom within the next minute when it caught up to the prince’s yacht, and I could be out there when it did. A Sending involved my essence leaving my body to do something it’d be impossible or ill-advised for my body to do—like hover over a boat possibly packed with explosives. I didn’t know whether my essence could be blown up, but I didn’t want to find out.

  I focused my will on my destination, trying to convince my stomach and nerves that I wouldn’t physically be going out over the water. Within moments, I felt myself rise out of my body and flow out over the harbor. As I crossed the hundred yards or so separating me from those boats, I clearly saw the pilot in the first one. Light brown hair, short military cut, chiseled features—everything perfectly clear, almost as if it were outlined.

  Too clear to be real. Like a mask. Except it wasn’t a mask, at least not one you could buy. It was magic, a glamour. That pilot wanted people to think that he was an elf. I looked closer. He wasn’t shielded. The weather wizard would need to be within sight of the pilot boats, and there couldn’t be any shield or wards between him and the boats he was moving.

  And if your goal was to ram the lead boat into a yacht and blow it up, there couldn’t be shields of any kind between you and your target.

  The wind in the pilot boat’s sails faltered and so did its forward momentum. For only an instant, I got a look at who and what he really was.

  A goblin. A goblin with a blood-red serpent tattoo on his cheek. That meant he was a Khrynsani assassin. The Khrynsani were an ancient goblin secret society and military order, and their assassins were even more fanatical than their merely homicidal brothers. I didn’t need to look in that boat’s hold; I could smell it, even over the stinking harbor water, I could smell it.

  Nebian black powder. Regular black powder didn’t have anywhere near the punch that the Nebian variety did. It was literally powder fine, highly unstable, and obscenely expensive. The impact of the boat against the yacht’s hull would do the trick. Either the Khrynsani pilot was planning to blow himself up along with the prince, or jump out once he’d steered his boat close enough for impact, then swim like hell for the second boat.

  Khrynsani were essentially the goblin king’s enforcers. It looked like Sathrik wasn’t even going to let his little brother set foot on dry land—unless one of his feet happened to fall there when he got blown to bits.

  And the elves would be blamed.

  The prince would be one of the first to die, but he wouldn’t be the last. I didn’t know how much Nebian black powder was actually in that boat’s hold, but when the prince’s yacht exploded, the flying debris could kill who knew how many. It was morning and the harbor was busy. And on shore, a crowd was gathering to watch Prince Chigaru’s high-profile arrival, like sheep for the slaughter.

  Countering the weather wizard’s spell would take too long. Those boats weren’t the only thing that couldn’t be shielded while the wizard did his thing. He couldn’t have magical obstructions or interruptions of any kind in his way.

  That included personal protective shields.

  His magical and metaphorical britches would be down around his ankles.

  And when you were that focused on maintaining a spell as complex as calling enough wind to fill two sets of sails, broken concentration meant a broken spell. And if I wanted to get really vicious with my interruption, that spell could snap back on its caster. I was feeling particularly vicious right now. But to do it right, I needed to be back in my body.

  Speeding across the harbor made me dizzy; coming back to my standing-still body made me sick. Suddenly seeing things through my body’s eyes again was one of my least favorite parts of being a seeker. Disorienting at best, nausea inducing at worst. I took shallow breaths and blew them out in short puffs, willing the contents of my stomach to stay where they were. I didn’t want to share Mago’s bucket.

  “Well,” Phaelan said, “what’d you see?”

  I told him who I saw, what they were disguised as, and what that lead boat was carrying. While I was telling, I was looking for the weather wizard behind all of the above. He didn’t have to be behind the ships to push air into their sails, but it’d make his work a lot easier. I was hoping he went for easy.

  I helped myself to Phaelan’s spyglass again and looked in the direction the boats had come from.

  Pay dirt.

  There on a pier jutting out into the harbor was a figure in a black cloak with the hood pulled up. If two Khrynsani assassins weren’t about to blow a hole in the water where the prince’s yacht was, he’d be laughable. Bad guys could get away with a lot more if they’d stop dressing like they plotted world domination for fun. He appeared to be short. I guess he needed all the evil accessory help he could get.

  He wasn’t shielded or warded. He might as well have been standing there buck naked. There was nothing between him and me but about half a harbor. I could probably use my magic to kick him off the pier from where I was standing, but adding momentum to an already moving object would work even better.

  Two dock workers were rolling a barrel down the pier. My best estimate put that barrel about twenty yards from the wizard. An instant later—after a little nudge from me—that barrel mysteriously escaped. The dock workers yelled, people ran, and the wizard stayed right where he was, oblivious, intent on maintaining his spell.

  The barrel hit the wizard, the wizard lost his hold on the spell, and his feet lost their hold on the pier. Wizard and barrel hit the water together with a gratifying splash.

  The spell stopped, but a sudden gust of real wind kicked in where he left off. The pilot boats actually picked up speed.

  Oh crap.

  Chapter 2

  I estimated about thirty seconds before the prince’s yacht was blown to kindling.

  Time obligingly slowed to that speed that let me briefly ponder what it was going to feel like to go kablowie. A quick calculation told me that Phaelan and I would probably escape the blast, but odds were good that flying debris—flaming or just airborne projectiles—would do an equally good job of killing us.

  I was no weather wizard, but I had to stop those boats. Now. Sinking the things would be the simplest solution, but I knew from nasty past experience that water and unexploded Nebian black powder didn’t mix. I wanted to stop one explosion, not set fire to the entire surface of the harbor.

  “Raine,” Phaelan warned. “We need to get out of—”

  “I’m stopping them,” I said, my eyes focused on the boat with the black powder, drawing in my will to—

  “Are you crazy?”

  “Looks that way,” I murmured, keeping my eyes on the lead boat. Moving a small object was simple, so was what I did with the barrel. This was going to be like locking on to the back bumper of a speeding coach with my teeth.

  The Saghred had given me an obscene amount of strength. Even though that strength was a part of me now and not the rock, I still didn’t like using it. It was like spending dirty money that could spend you right back, but I didn’t have time to be squeamish. The pilot boat was traveling parallel to me and headed toward the docks and the prince’s yacht. I extended my arm and clenched my fingers in the air, using my mind and magic to latch onto the boat near the stern—and braced myself.

  I pulled back with every ounce of effort, magic, will, and sheer stubbornness I had.

  And someone else did the same.

  From the opposite direction.

  Two mages using that much magic on the same object at the same time from different directions was tantamount to lighting the fuse on a bomb and then standing there to see what happened. A split second later, I spotted my competition.

  Not one, but five goblin mages on the deck of Chigaru’s yacht. The prince didn’t travel with magical lightweights. They were strong, and worse, they could work together. I had the magi
cal muscle the Saghred had given me. They were trying to push the boat away; I was trying to stop it where it was. A crack and snap of splintering wood sent its recoil up my extended arm. The pilot boat was going to disintegrate under our combined magic. Though if I let go, the mages would push the boat as far away from the yacht as possible, right into the middle of the crowded harbor, where it could run into any of dozens of ships. I was trying to keep the boat where it was to minimize collateral damage. The only lives the mages were concerned about were those of the goblins on the yacht; that their actions could cause other ships and crews to be blown to bits wasn’t their problem.

  I gritted my teeth. It was mine.

  They shoved and I shoved back. Hard. The mages weren’t going to stop. Suddenly, I didn’t just want to stop them now; I wanted to stop them permanently. Yank them off of that deck and into the harbor. Their robes would weigh them down, but their deaths would be their own fault for refusing to obey—

  Shit.

  Nausea flipped my stomach, and having just flown over the harbor had nothing to do with it. My breath came in shallow gasps. Steady, Raine. You don’t want to kill them, just stop them from what they’re doing. Just breathe and do the work. Breathing got rid of the urge to throw up, but it didn’t stop my heart from pounding at the thought of what I’d wanted to do, not only wanted, but had justified to myself all too easily. That was the Saghred talking, not you. Shake it off. Worry about it later.

  The goblin mages kept up the pressure, pushing the boat away from them. I had no choice; I let the boat go, releasing it slowly to minimize the damage. Still the boat lurched in the goblin mages’ collective grip. The planks were coming apart. Dammit to hell. Which was exactly where a good part of the harbor was going to be blown to.

  The recoil from even a slow release of my magic threw three of the goblin mages backward like dolls. Even though I was no longer holding on to the boat’s stern, I felt the hull shudder and the wood crack under the pressure. If one of those planks snapped the wrong way, the impact against those kegs would—

  The world exploded.

  I grabbed Phaelan, hit the dock, and threw the best shield I had around us both. I didn’t know if it’d hold if a chunk of ship came flying at us, but there was no time to run, and we couldn’t get far enough fast enough.
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