Con & conjure, p.30
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       Con & Conjure, p.30
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 30

 

  A glove.

  If I’d been wearing my own skin, I could have determined that it was Rache’s by using my seeker skills, but as it was, I recognized it as Rache by the scent. He still wore the same cologne, and it was on his glove.

  At least one thing had gone right tonight.

  “I’d like to interrogate—excuse me, I mean interview—any witnesses. ”

  I froze. Mago froze. And we both looked out Rache’s door and down the hall.

  A goblin. Black armored and armed with enough bladed weapons to discourage anyone from asking any questions—and to encourage everyone to give him answers.

  Oh crap.

  “I’m certain that Masters Peronne and Wiggs would be glad to give you a statement,” Madam Camille told him.

  Oh, hell no, we wouldn’t. I shot a glance to the window and thought that a three-story drop wouldn’t be all that bad. A turned ankle would be the worst that could happen, right?

  “Recognize them?” Mago whispered.

  “Nope. You’re the prince’s personal banker. Fix this,” I hissed.

  “I manage the prince’s money, not the murders of the prince’s officials. ”

  “Money, murder—they’re related. ”

  The big goblin spotted us and smiled until his fangs showed, and in no way, shape, or form was it friendly. He had good reason to smile. His witnesses were a pair of elven bankers. Easily intimidated, easy pickings. Give him half an hour and he’d have us confessing to murder. I could read it off of him as clearly as if he were saying it. Symon was good at reading people. Nice gift to have. To this goblin we were just two elves who had been in close proximity to a newly dead goblin courtier. We were suspects. I could smell his suspicion from here.

  “Gentlemen,” the goblin said, his voice deep and silky soft. “If I might have a few minutes of your time. ”

  Mago straightened his doublet and strolled down the hall to the goblin. I had no choice but to follow.

  “But of course, we’d be glad to help in any way we can,” Mago said. “But first I need to know your name and rank. ”

  “I will be asking the questions . . . Master Peronne, is it?”

  “Yes, it is. But I cannot answer any questions without first knowing to whom I am speaking,” Mago said, his tone cool. “When I report this to Prince Chigaru, I want to be certain that I can correctly recall any names. ”

  “Report?”

  Mago bowed from the waist. “Mago Peronne, personal banker to His Highness Prince Chigaru Mal’Salin. I’ve come from D’Mai at the prince’s express invitation to oversee some pressing financial matters. We were to have our second meeting tomorrow morning. I gather that His Highness is unharmed after the tragedy at the hotel?”

  “His Highness is well. ” The goblin wasn’t happy with this little turn of events. Not only did he just lose his interrogation fun, now his name would be mentioned directly to the prince.

  And to Tam and Imala.

  The goblin responded to Mago’s bow with one of his own, though his was stiff and clearly reluctant. “Captain Sokanon at your service, Master Peronne. ” When his head came up there was a sparkle in his eye that had nothing to do with being at anyone’s service. “Did you have the misfortune of staying at the Greyhound Hotel as well?”

  “We did. A tragedy. ”

  “They’re going to stay here for the evening,” Madam Camille chimed in, “until they can make other arrangements. ”

  “I thought as much. ” The gleam in his eyes said he knew a pair of bankers couldn’t be here for women. As a puny banker I took great offense at that.

  The gleam in the goblin’s eyes turned into a grin on his lips. I knew what was coming. Oh crap, crap, crap.

  “Then on behalf of His Royal Highness, Prince Chigaru Mal’Salin, I would like to extend the hospitality of the goblin embassy to you both. ”

  Crap and dammit.

  I knew what this guy wanted, I knew that goblins hated Raine Benares with a passion, and I knew I couldn’t hold this glamour much longer. In fact, I’d never held one for this long. Yes, Tam and Imala were probably at the embassy, but they just as easily could still be at the hotel, or what was left of it. I knew for a fact that the elven embassy had subterranean levels with prison cells where the bureaucrats upstairs wouldn’t be bothered with any unseemly screaming. I let Mago know in no uncertain terms exactly how I felt. I pinched him. Hard. He stifled a yelp.

  “I thank you for your generosity, Captain Sokanon, but Master Wiggs and I will be quite content here. ”

  “We’ll have to close the Grove for the night,” one of the watchers told us. “No overnight guests allowed. ”

  The big goblin clapped his black leather-gloved hands together in undisguised glee. “The prince would not want you turned out on the streets at this time of the night. Since you have a meeting scheduled with His Highness in the morning, I must insist. ”

  Yeah, I was sure he must.

  The goblin addressed the watchers. “And should you have additional questions for these gentlemen, you will know where to find them. ”

  The street in front of the Satyr’s Grove was packed with people. I guess a murder dressed like a suicide made an interesting change from the entertainment offered in the district. Some of the finest restaurants in the city happened to be in the red-light district. I guess a man—or woman—could work up one heck of an appetite there.

  The goblin captain had left some men behind to investigate and to bring Chatar’s body back to the embassy. The captain and his men would escort us to the embassy. It was obvious which coach we were expected to get into. Black and sleek with matching horses with coats so black that they absorbed the lamplight. I tried not to be obvious about it, but I was looking for some way, any way, any reason to avoid getting into that coach.

  I spotted a reason. A reason to dive under the coach.

  Taltek Balmorlan and Carnades Silvanus were getting out of a coach at the front door of a restaurant directly across the street. Mago and I were in the company of goblin embassy guards, being treated with exaggerated courtesy, and being helped into a goblin embassy coach.

  They saw us.

  Oh no.

  Mago and I had run out of the Swan Song, never shown up at the tavern for Balmorlan’s Saghred demonstration, and now we appeared to be the goblin embassy guards’ new best friends. An embassy that the alive-and-well Prince Chigaru Mal’Salin controlled.

  Our cover wasn’t just blown, it was royally screwed.

  Chapter 13

  The goblin captain sat on the coach seat opposite me and Mago. Now that we were inside a goblin coach going to the goblin embassy, apparently the captain no longer felt the need to be polite or even attempt to make small talk.

  That was fine with me. I couldn’t spare the energy. I wasn’t even in the embassy yet, and I was trying to think of ways to escape. Though my most pressing concern was how to hold on to my Symon Wiggs glamour. Up until an hour ago, I hadn’t felt the weight; I sure did now. Just because I wasn’t physically carrying anything didn’t lessen the sensation that I was hauling Mago around on my back rather than sitting next to him.

  I had to carry it myself; and if I dropped it, I’d drop my glamour.

  That would be ill-advised to say the least. As long as I was glamoured, I couldn’t use my magic, but the Saghred couldn’t use me. That was the best reason I’d ever heard of to keep a death grip on Symon’s glamour.

  I could trust Tam and Imala, but any and all other goblins were suspect. So until I got the lay of the land in the embassy, I’d hold Symon’s pasty skin around myself like the ultimate security blanket.

  The outside of the goblin embassy looked much like the two embassies on either side of it, and was built with the same white stone as most of the government buildings on Mid. However, the black iron fence and gate were pure goblin. Taller than the coach we were in, the fence s
urrounding the embassy and grounds was made of intricately twisted wrought iron with the tip of every other post ending in a sharpened point.

  A really sharp point.

  The ones that weren’t an impalement waiting to happen were topped with a blazing red ball of flame that was far from natural. I could tell just from looking at it that anything that touched them would fry. At least that was my theory, but I wasn’t about to put it to the test. Apparently no one here was taking any chances that another attempt would be made on the prince’s life. We were going in through the front gates, gates that quite frankly, made me doubt that this was anything other than my painful death waiting to happen.

  Woven in steel into the massive embassy gates and glowing with the same blazing red wards was the Mal’Salin family crest of two serpents battling for dominance, both surmounted by a crown.

  To top it off, the banner of the House of Mal’Salin was flying over the embassy and every goblin guard was armed to the fangs and on high alert.

  And we were going inside.

  The gates closed behind the coach with a heavy—and rather unnerving—metal clang. An armed goblin guard opened the coach’s door and folded down the steps.

  “After you, gentlemen,” Captain Sokanon said.

  My feet were smarter than the rest of me; they’d decided that they weren’t going anywhere. Mago realized this and got out first. Then I had no choice. I stepped out of the coach, tripped on something, and damned near landed on my face. Strong, gauntleted hands gripped both of my arms, catching me, keeping me from falling, but taking their sweet time letting me go afterward.

  I looked at those glowing gates and swallowed. I didn’t care that the goblins wouldn’t kill the prince’s banker and hopefully not his puny friend; I still didn’t like any of it.

  “So we go in, hide out for the night, you meet with the prince, then we leave,” I muttered without moving my lips.

  “That’s the plan,” Mago said.

  I didn’t want to remind him that most plans I’d been associated with lately had gone to crap. He knew.

  Mago and I waited as the embassy’s massive doors opened on eerily quiet hinges. The guards in the courtyard were completely silent. All I could hear was the crackle of wards on the gate. I think I knew how mice must feel in a room full of cats. Big cats. Hungry cats. We were elves and we had an armed escort into the goblin embassy two days after what appeared to be elves tried to blow up the prince’s yacht and an elven assassin tried to turn Chigaru into a pin cushion. And only mere hours after elven firemages torched the hotel the prince was staying at.
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