Con & conjure, p.35
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       Con & Conjure, p.35
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 35

 

  “That’s not helping the poor bastards watching us. ” Mychael’s voice was a husky whisper. “But it’s doing wonderful things for me. ”

  “I’d like to have you do some wonderful things for me right now. Might help curb the terror. ”

  Mychael’s wandering hand cradled my lower back. “I won’t let anyone hurt you. ”

  “You might not be able to stop them. ”

  His smile was that of a man with a secret. “I won’t be alone,” he said in mindspeak. “And you won’t be, either. ”

  “Meaning?”

  “After what the Seat of Twelve just did, Justinius is of a mind to tell them—and the entire Conclave if necessary—to bend over and do something to themselves that I know to be physically impossible. ”

  I grinned. “I just love that old man. ”

  “I’m rather fond of him myself. ” Pride gleamed in his eyes. “And of every Guardian who said they would stand with us. ”

  I just hung there in his arms, stunned. “Us? Both of us? Us as in including me?” I managed.

  “Yes, to all of the above. ”

  “Balmorlan will try to flush me out again. Piaras. Phaelan. Carnades has already threatened to—”

  “That’s been taken care of. Justinius is personally overseeing Piaras’s security, and your Uncle Ryn is essentially sitting on Phaelan. ”

  “Sitting on?”

  “He wants to find you and get you off of the island now. ” Mychael reluctantly set me on my feet. “Quite frankly, I think that’s the best idea your cousin’s ever had. ”

  I smiled, more like a baring of teeth. “I’m not going anywhere,” I told him. “I have too much unfinished business. Carnades has signed his way into a higher spot on my list. Has Imala filled you in on how and where I spent my evening?”

  “She did. ”

  “Then you know we’re close, so close to bringing down Balmorlan, Carnades and his yes-mages. Close to stopping Rache and that glamouring assassin. I’m not going anywhere as long as there’s a chance to make any of those things happen. It’s not just about me and the rock. It’s about the elves and goblins who will fight a war that no one will win, because they’ve been forced to fight, or to swallow the lies that men like Taltek Balmorlan or Sarad Nukpana feed them. I can run, but thousands of innocent people won’t be able to. So I’m not going to, either. ”

  I reached for the goblin secret service uniform on the bed, my lips curling up at the corners. “So, how do you like skintight black leather?”

  “Imala, when Chatar last left the embassy, did he take anything with him?” Mychael asked.

  Mychael and I were in Imala’s office with Tam and Mago.

  She shook her head. “I’ve had him constantly watched. Everything he brought with him from Regor is still in the room he was assigned. ”

  “I need access. Now. And so does Raine. ”

  I agreed completely. “Go through his stuff and see if I get any seeking vibes that match the assassin?”

  “It’s a good place to start. ” Mychael turned to Imala. “As paladin of the Conclave Guardians, I’m formally requesting full access to the goblin embassy. ”

  Imala’s lips were thoughtfully pursed, but her eyes were gleaming. “Don’t you need a warrant signed by the archmagus?”

  “I do, but time is critical and lives are at stake, so I’m not going to do it. ”

  Imala raised her hands. “Just a little test, Mychael. I could never do business with a man who wouldn’t dispense with the law in favor of expediency. ” She smiled fully. “As acting ambassador, the goblin embassy is open to you. ”

  In most embassies, the reception areas were on the main floor, offices on the second, and any floors above that were living quarters for the embassy staff and any guests.

  We made our way upstairs, and as we went, the lights brightened seemingly by themselves. Spooky.

  An elderly goblin was standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at Tam with a fond smile. His long hair was completely white against his dark robes.

  “Tamnais, my boy. I’d heard you were here. ”

  “Dakarai. ” Tam grinned and took the rest of the stairs two at a time and shook hands.

  “We’ll have none of that,” the old goblin said, and gave Tam a hug that made it obvious that he wasn’t as brittle as he looked. Then he stepped back, his hands on Tam’s upper arms, and looked at him. “It’s been too many years. You’re looking well. ” He laughed. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you alive. ”

  “Every time I wake up, I’m glad for the same reason. It’s good to see you, too, Dakarai. ”

  The old goblin’s eyes sparkled. “The court isn’t the same without you. ”

  “I’m sure it isn’t. ”

  “You are sincerely missed by many. ”

  “And everyone else wants my head . . . or heart, or viscera. ”

  Dakarai dismissively waved a palsied hand. “Jealousy. ”

  “The deadly kind. ”

  “The court is an ever-changing creature, and times are changing again. You should keep your options open, my boy. ”

  “I always keep my options and escape routes open,” Tam assured him. He turned to us. “Dakarai Enric, allow me to present Raine Benares and Mychael Eiliesor. ”

  He shook Mychael’s extended hand. “Paladin Eiliesor I’ve had the honor of meeting. ” He turned those sparkling eyes on me, and I was treated to a most proficient hand kiss. “Mistress Benares I’ve only had the pleasure of hearing about. You have many devoted admirers among our people. ”

  “Devoted to taking my head or just staking my heart?”

  Dakarai laughed again, a sincerely happy sound. “Neither, I assure you. You tricked Sarad into the Saghred, kept the Khrynsani chasing you in vain, and have enraged and frustrated our king to the point of incoherent screaming. ”

  “It’s nice to be appreciated. ”

  “You are looking for our elusive assassin?” he asked Mychael.

  “We are. ”

  Imala spoke. “They thought that searching Chatar’s room might yield some clues. ” She inclined her head down the hall. “His is the last door on the left. ”

  That would be the one with the two really big goblins standing guard.

  They greeted Imala with snappy salutes, opened the door for her, and stepped back.

  “Where are the safes, false floors, and hollowed walls?” Mychael asked her.

  Imala showed him.

  I cleared my throat. “There’s also the inside of cushions, fake bottoms in drawers and chairs, behind picture frames, the insides of boots, under the mattress, and the ever popular under the bed. Obvious—yet often overlooked—places for hiding something you don’t want found. ”

  Mychael gave an amused chuckle. “Do it. ”

  I conjured a tiny lightglobe and got to work.

  No fake bottoms in drawers, and the cushions in the chairs felt like they didn’t have anything in them except stuffing. Crawling around under Chatar’s bed was most definitely not my idea of a good time, but it turned out to be productive. Tucked inside the bed frame, resting on the slats, was a worn-looking wooden box. The floor under the bed was dusty, except in the area where the box was. Someone had been squirming around under here recently. It had been my experience that bad things came in bad boxes, and if this one were a snake, it’d be hissing at me right now. I could feel the malevolent magic oozing from the wood’s grain. As long as I didn’t touch it, I doubted it would bite.

  Probably.

  I wiggled out far enough so that my head was sticking out from under the bed.

  “Found something?” Tam asked.

  “Oh yeah, and I don’t think it likes me. ”

  “What is it?”

  “A box. It’s not big, but it’s got an attitude. ”

  “Spells?”

  “Of the bite-off-my-face kin
d. ”

  Mychael was instantly on his knees next to the bed.

  “Forget it,” I told him. “There’s no way you’d fit under here. ”

  “Shit. ”

  “Yeah, I thought the same thing. And I think it’s a goblin spell. ”

  “Let me take a look. ” Imala Kalis dropped down on her belly next to Tam and started wiggling under the bed.

  Tam grabbed Imala’s ankles. Imala kicked Tam.

  He didn’t let go. “If Chatar wove that spell, you can’t deactivate it. ”

  “But I can tell you what it is, and you can tell me how to do it. ”

  “You can’t—”

  A heavy sigh came from under the bed; and there was probably some eye rolling to go with it. “I’ve been studying since you left,” Imala told him. “How do you think I’ve survived all the assassination attempts against me? Everyone who wants me dead has brought out the big guns. Believe me, I can identify damned near every nasty spell and ward there is. Let me go. ”

  Tam gave a sigh of his own and shook his head, but he released Imala’s ankles.

  A few seconds of silence passed.

  “Shit,” Imala said.

  A woman of few words.

  “Well, that’s three votes for shit,” I said. “That means we’ve got a nasty one. And if it’s nasty, it means Chatar is hiding something he doesn’t want us to see, which means we need to see it. ”

  “Imala, can you tell if it’s only touch activated?” Mychael asked.

  “Appears to be that way. ”

  “Come out from under the bed,” he told her. “You, too, Raine. ”

  I wiggled out. “What are you—”

  “I’m going to move the box to the side of the bed without touching it. Once it’s within reach, based on what it’s protected by, either I or Tam can deactivate the spell. ”

  “What if it doesn’t like being moved by magic?”
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