Con & conjure, p.31
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       Con & Conjure, p.31

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 31


  It didn’t matter that we hadn’t been involved in any of this. Well, not directly anyway. To these guards, two elves represented all elves. They wanted us dead and they wanted it to hurt. For the cherry on top of our situation, I had nothing but a boot knife to my name. What I wouldn’t have given for a pair of Nebian grenades. Not that those would have saved my bacon, but it’d give goblin guards a whole new respect for elven bankers.

  The interior of the goblin embassy was pretty much what I expected. The drapes were heavy velvet, floor to ceiling, and they were drawn against any glimmer of light getting in. Goblins were nocturnal by preference bordering on necessity. In cities where there were large goblin populations, the shops and businesses owned by goblins or those catering to them were open during the day, but kept extended hours in the evening for the convenience and comfort of their patrons. During the day, the windows were kept shuttered against bright sunlight.

  Soft blue lighting glowed from recessed pockets in the walls. Supposedly the color was soothing to sensitive goblin eyes. What furniture I could see was dark wood covered in dark fabrics. A line of chairs against one wall—presumably for people waiting to see an embassy official—was covered in a shade of red that was disturbingly close to that of fresh blood. The floor was black marble. Oh yeah, that was cheerful and welcoming.

  And we were only in the entry hall.

  “Kijika, turn up the lights for our guests. ”

  The goblin bowed. “Yes, Captain. ”

  “Is His Highness still awake?” Mago asked.

  “The prince has given strict orders that he is not to be disturbed—for any reason. ” The words were polite and so was the tone, but with goblins you had to listen to what was going on beneath and between those words. Mago and I received the message loud and clear: the prince may or may not have given that order, but Captain Sokanon had no intention of telling the prince we were here—for any reason. I had news for him: if anyone tried to force Symon Wiggs into a subterranean cell, they wouldn’t be dealing with a puny banker anymore; they’d have a very pissed Raine Benares and her Amazing Destructive Rock on their hands.

  Mago knew and cleared his throat before I let my fantasy become reality right here in the embassy foyer.

  “Are either Director Kalis or Chancellor Nathrach available?” I asked.

  The guard raised an eyebrow at that, clearly surprised. “You are acquainted with the director and chancellor how?”

  “Through our previous meeting with the prince,” Mago said smoothly.

  “Are they in the embassy?” I persisted.

  “The last report I received had them at the hotel continuing the investigation of the fire. ” The goblin was only too glad to deliver that piece of information, which meant that it was more than likely true. Just our luck.

  “But I know they would want our guests to be made comfortable. ” He gestured to the imposing staircase, also made of black marble. “I will show you to your rooms. You may rest and refresh yourselves for a while. We will question you presently. ”

  They showed us to two rooms, on the second floor, right next to the guard station, and conveniently across the hall from each other. In other words, we were going to be watched like hawks, not allowed to talk to each other, and probably taken for interrogation one at a time.

  Great. Just great.

  “We appreciate your generous hospitality,” Mago said, “but Master Wiggs and I would prefer to be in the same room. ”

  “But each room only has one bed. ”

  Mago stepped up to me and slipped his hand in mine, intertwining our fingers.

  Oh crap in a bucket.

  My cousin gave the captain a dazzling smile. “The sleeping arrangements won’t be a problem. ”

  Realization dawned, and one of the goblin’s fangs bit into his bottom lip to keep from laughing. Two of the guards at the station didn’t try as hard, but at least they muffled their snickers with one cough each.

  I looked anywhere but at Mago. In response, he gave my hand an affectionate squeeze. So help me if he tried to solidify this with a kiss . . .

  “Understood, Master Peronne. One room it is. I will have refreshments sent up. ”

  One of the guards on duty unlocked the door, and then locked it from the outside once we were inside. I’d have been shocked if they didn’t.

  “Did you have to do that?” I kept my voice low. This was the goblin embassy; the walls most definitely had ears—and eyes.

  Mago removed his doublet and tossed it on the entirely too prominent bed. “Yes, I’m afraid I did,” he replied in Myloran. “I won’t allow them to separate us. ”

  I raised an eyebrow at his language choice.

  “Very few goblins speak or understand Myloran,” Mago explained. “They don’t feel it’s worth the bother. ”

  Good enough for me; I switched to Myloran. “I’m not saying your idea wasn’t brilliant, but—”

  “It also stopped any further inquiry. ” He flashed a quick smile. “There are some things those goblins wouldn’t want to know more about. This was one of those things. ”

  I sighed. “Thank you. ”

  “My pleasure. ”

  I chuckled weakly. “Those goblins think it’s your pleasure, too. ”

  “Raine, you need to sit down. ”

  “I need to drop this glamour. ”

  “Then drop it. Hold on until the guards return with food, and then drop it. You can’t hold it forever. ”

  I nodded. He was right. “If things get ugly, I’ll need every bit of my power, and I’ll need rest to use it. ” I glanced over at the bed. It didn’t have any drapes that I could pull to block the inside from view. Though I’d hide under the covers if I had to. As a kid, I used to think that bad things couldn’t get me if I hid under the covers. At least here, the bad things wouldn’t be able to see me. Yes, the majority of goblins in the embassy were loyal to Chigaru, but some of them had to be working for Sathrik Mal’Salin and Sarad Nukpana. That captain could be one of them. If so, he’d have a vested interest in keeping the prince from meeting with his banker.

  I looked out the barred window. I’d been in a bedroom like this only a few months before, in Prince Chigaru’s hideout in the district of Mermeia called The Ruins. That time I’d officially been the prince’s prisoner. He had wanted me to find and use the Saghred for him. I snorted to myself. If he knew I was here, he’d probably want the same thing right now. Armed and armored elves patrolled the walls of the embassy next door. The wards and shields and number of guards told me they were on high alert. The goblins were putting on a similar display. Though the goblins were nocturnal with night vision to match. Their high alert at nearly two bells was more alert than the elves. And if all the lights suddenly got extinguished and the goblins were feeling playful, those elves were toast and they knew it.

  “Whose flash of brilliance was responsible for putting the elf and goblin embassies next to each other?” I asked.

  Mago leisurely pulled a cigar from an interior pocket in his doublet and lit it. “The maze that is the bureaucratic mind is a mystery best left unsolved. ”

  A key turned in the lock and one of the guards wheeled in a cart with several covered dishes and a bottle of wine. He nodded to both of us and left. Of course, he locked us in.

  We looked at the food, then at each other. We couldn’t touch any of it. Drugs were favorite goblin interrogation tools.

  “It would smell divine, wouldn’t it?” Mago said. “Goblin torture is indeed cruel. ”

  “Our excuses for not eating?”

  “This afternoon has been quite traumatic and we have nervous stomachs. ”

  “Which nicely complements the nervous rest of us. ”

  “Indeed. I’ve developed an unfortunate case of indigestion. ”

  I looked at the tray. “Better than a fatal case later,” I muttered.

  Mago was stud
ying me intently. “For a moment I could see you,” he whispered.

  He wasn’t talking about Symon Wiggs. I got up and went to the bed, which conveniently was in the shadows. I was shaking. From exhaustion, but mostly from fear. I was an elf in a goblin embassy, a wanted and hated elf. This glamour was the only protection I had and I was about to lose it.

  Literally and figuratively.

  “Why don’t you get some sleep?” Mago said. “I’ll keep watch. ”

  “I can’t go to sleep. I’ll wake up as me. ”

  Mago smiled gently. “Would that be so bad?”

  “It was this afternoon. When I’m Symon, the Saghred can’t get to me. ”

  “As Symon you can’t defend yourself. ” Mago pulled back the bed covers. “Raine, you can’t run from who you are. ”

  “Or what. ”

  “You’re not a what. The only way that would ever be true is if you start believing what others say—others who want what you have for themselves. ”

  “They’re welcome to it. ”

  “They’re not and you know it. You’re defending that stone as fiercely as you’re protecting the rest of us. You know what’ll happen if anyone other than you gets hold of it. You won’t let that happen. ”

  I snorted. “I’m just all kinds of noble, aren’t I?”

  His smile was back. “Yes, you are,” he said softly.

  I tried to think of a glib comment for that; but truth was, I was too exhausted to make the effort.

  Mago helped me off with my boots, but first I took the boot knife and stuck it under the pillow. I lay back with an exhausted sigh.



  “I’d rather sleep in a cathouse than a house full of cats,” I managed before I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

  I woke up in the same place where I fell asleep. I loved it when that happened.

  I was also me again, wearing the same singed, torn, and bloodstained clothes I’d had on at the hotel. That was the thing about glamouring—when you let go of one, you not only got yourself back, you got the clothes you’d been wearing. I guess it beat the hell out of popping out of a glamour naked.
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