Con & conjure, p.32
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       Con & Conjure, p.32
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 32

 

  Mago was standing by the window, the drapes pulled wide open, letting in the morning sunlight, anything he could do to make it uncomfortable for any goblins to try to come and get us for some pre-breakfast interrogation.

  I dragged myself out of bed and actually managed to stay on my feet. Amazing. “You stayed up all night. ”

  Mago shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time. Though I’m usually engaged in a more entertaining activity than watching you sleep. ”

  “When did I lose—”

  “About five bells,” he replied. “The hour before that you phased in and out. ” He smiled slightly and shook his head. “Even in your sleep, you were determined to hold on. ”

  The key turned in the lock. I took a breath and held it. Well, Raine, you’ll see what happens when it happens.

  The same guard who had brought our food opened the door. “Both of you will come with me,” he said, his tone brusque. The guard saw me and his eyes widened in shock.

  I couldn’t run, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to hide. I went with a glare instead. The guard quickly stepped back into the hall and closed the door. No key turned in the lock this time. We heard him talking quickly in hushed, hissing tones with others.

  “I do believe you’ve put a slight crimp in their morning,” Mago noted. “Bravo, cousin. ”

  The bravo had yet to be proven, but if anyone tried to take me anywhere I didn’t want to go, and tried to force me to tell them anything I didn’t want to say, their morning wasn’t going to be crimped, it was going to be ruined. “If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s ruining someone’s day. ”

  Mago chuckled. “Too true. ”

  The talk ceased outside our door. The door opened again, slower this time. The guard cleared his throat, and respectfully inclined his head to me. “Would you both please accompany me?”

  Mago turned to me and smiled. “Such a polite young man. ”

  Chapter 14

  I didn’t know where we were being led, but I was determined to make an impression.

  I succeeded.

  I’d made no effort whatsoever to clean up. My leather doublet was singed with multiple black stripes where some of the firemages’ bolts had breached my shields. The goblins we passed in the embassy’s corridors knew that everyone else who those bolts touched had been instantly vaporized. I only had singed leather.

  When walking among predators, don’t act like prey. Mago walked, but I stalked. It was a little something I’d picked up from Tam. That man could wear blood like a fashion accessory. Goblins admired that. When a goblin killed an enemy or a rival, most of the time they didn’t hide it; they flaunted it. So I figured that the best way for me and Mago to stay uninterrogated was to act like it would be the last mistake anyone here ever made if they tried it.

  Our escort stopped at a closed door. Nothing fancy, no guards posted outside to keep a screaming prisoner from running out. Just a door. The goblin opened the door and stepped back for us to enter.

  I looked before I stepped.

  Imala Kalis stood behind a desk. Her dark eyes widened briefly in surprise. “Hekai, you may go. ”

  Mago and I came inside, and the guard closed the door behind us.

  My cousin let out the breath I didn’t know he’d been holding. “Director Kalis, you are the most breathtaking vision I have ever beheld. ”

  I opted to collapse in a chair.

  “Well, we aren’t going to be tortured,” I muttered. “That’s always a good start to the day. ”

  Imala came running around her desk and did something most ungoblin-like. She hugged me. Not easy to do with me sitting down, but she managed. “How did you get—”

  “Last night, your boys brought in a skinny elven banker named Symon Wiggs from the Satyr’s Grove—”

  Imala did the math in an instant and beamed. “A glamoured witness to a murder. Perfect. ”

  “I wouldn’t go so far as to call us witnesses,” Mago told her. “We saw the ‘after,’ not the ‘during. ’ ”

  “Regardless, you were one of the first to see Chatar’s body. And I’ll wager the first to investigate the room. ”

  “Guilty as charged,” I said.

  She raised a quizzical brow. “Why a banker?”

  I negligently waved the hand that wasn’t holding my head up. “Just another iron I have in the fire. ”

  “Raine, know that this is the highest compliment I can give—it’s a shame you weren’t born a goblin. Though if you had been, my job would be in danger. ”

  “And make a career of being scared out of my mind?” I snorted. “You can have it and keep it. There’s not enough money in anyone’s treasury to pay me to do it. ”

  Imala was looking closely at Mago.

  My cousin hadn’t shaved, hadn’t bathed, and quite frankly looked as if he didn’t give a flying fairy about either one. Personal elegance was not his primary concern right now. Mago looked a little shady and a lot disreputable.

  “And you, sir, the prince’s banker, now bear more than a passing resemblance to another dark-haired elf of my recent acquaintance—Captain Phaelan Benares. And here are the two of you, fresh from a night of adventure. ” Imala’s dark eyes shone. “I thought it odd yesterday that the two of you were not only together, but knew each other. Now I can clearly see that your last name isn’t Peronne. ”

  Mago may have been up all night, but he swept her a bow that would have been perfect in any court. “Guilty as charged. Will you keep my secret, gentle lady?”

  Imala laughed, a delighted sound. “I’ve never been called ‘gentle,’ but I keep secrets for a living, Master Peronne . Rest assured; your true identity is safe with me. ” She turned to me. “Mychael’s worried sick about you; he and his men are tearing the city apart. ”

  Mychael was alive. My vision blurred and I quickly closed my eyes to stop them from going further. “No doubt with Carnades right behind him. ”

  “So you know about the price on your head. ”

  “It’s only the latest gossip at the Satyr’s Grove. ” I ran a hand over my face. “Can you let Mychael know I’m safe . . . well, at least alive and that I’m here? Without anyone else knowing?”

  Imala’s lips quirked at one corner. “Private goes without saying,” she assured me. “I’ll take care of everything. ” She shook her head in wonder. “Including you. You took on at least five firemages. ”

  “Nine. ”

  “The Saghred?”

  I nodded. “Apparently the rock was having too much fun to let me die. ”

  “Do you require a healer?”

  “Mychael would be nice,” I said with a sudden lump in my throat. “Though just food and some more sleep would do, but I don’t think I have time for either one. ”

  “Time?”

  “Price on my head, assassins to find. I have a busy day planned. ”

  Imala’s expression softened; something I hadn’t seen it do very often. “Raine, there are many others in this city qualified to track down assassins. As to the price on your head, you’re safe here. This is my embassy,” she assured me. “Anything you want is yours. ”

  My eyes got misty again. “Thank you. ”

  “None necessary. We’ll get you fed and then a bath and clean clothes. ”

  “And if Carnades and his Seat of Twelve henchmen find out that I’m here? I don’t want to make trouble for you. ”

  Gentle was instantly replaced by a glower. “No one can force you to leave; if they try, it’s an act of war. ”

  “And if Carnades claims that I’m being held against my will?”

  “Unless you tell them otherwise, our keeping you here would be a goblin act of war against the elves. ”

  “Don’t worry, Imala. I have no intention of lying to anyone. Right now, the goblin embassy is the safest place for me. ” I started. “Where’s Tam?”

  Imala raised her hands in
a calming gesture. “After he claimed Chatar’s body and had it sent back here, he was to meet with the island’s chief watcher. He should be back within the hour. ” She got the chair from behind her desk and pulled it up next to mine. “What happened from the time we were separated at the hotel?”

  I let Mago tell Imala about our day and night of adventure. My cousin was an excellent storyteller and he didn’t disappoint.

  “So that’s how we ended up here,” I said when he finished.

  Imala smiled until her dainty fangs showed. “From elven banker to hero of the goblin people. ”

  I blinked. “Hero?”

  “Hero. For an elf to act in such a courageous fashion in defense of so many goblins, putting her own life and future at risk without thought—”

  “Uh . . . it wasn’t like the Saghred left me much time for thinking. ”

  “But you directed its power at those who were killing my people. ”

  “I definitely did that. ”

  “Do you have regrets?”

  “None. I did what I had to do, and now the Seat of Twelve has put a price on my head. Though I’m probably not the first or last Benares to get that dubious honor. ”

  “From the reports I’ve received, the elves among the Twelve are responsible for the bounty on you. ”

  “Carnades Silvanus probably knocked a couple of them over so he could sign his name first to my arrest warrant. But it was a friend of his in elven intelligence who was directly responsible for what happened today, though I’m willing to bet Carnades’s money paid for some of those firemages. ”

  “That would be Taltek Balmorlan. ”

  I nodded. “Also known as my other iron in the fire. If one of your people gets him in their crosshairs—take the shot. We’ll all be better off. ” I glanced at Mago. “Our chances of taking him down our way are pretty much shot to hell after he and Carnades saw us getting into a goblin embassy coach. ”
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