Con & conjure, p.4
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       Con & Conjure, p.4

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
 
Page 4

 

  Phaelan covered his head—like that was going to help—and laid out a string of curses that’d make his crew proud. I confess I joined him for a few seconds.

  The aftermath wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was bad enough. Other pilot boats abandoned their escort charges and became rescue vessels. There were people in the water and once the debris finally stopped raining down, the screams and shouts started. The mass of people on the shoreline had more than doubled.

  Great, just great.

  Flaming debris had started fires on the decks of at least four vessels, and at least one of them had been carrying something extremely flammable, judging from the panicked activity on deck and some crewmen diving over the side into the harbor.

  I looked to the bow of the yacht where Prince Chigaru had been standing.

  It was empty.

  Empty didn’t mean that he’d been injured; empty could mean the goblin was showing some sense and was doing what Phaelan had done—cower and cuss. But the number of goblins leaning over the yacht’s railing and frantically searching the harbor below indicated that the prince had taken a swim. I couldn’t see that being voluntary or good.

  Dammit to hell again.

  The thick smoke kept me from seeing the stern portion of the yacht.

  “Can you tell if she’s taking on water?” I yelled to Phaelan. It was the only way to make myself heard.

  “She’s not listing, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t hit. ”

  I ran down the boardwalk toward the dock closest to Chigaru’s yacht. I’d been on Mid for nearly three months, and by now nearly everyone knew exactly who and what I was—or more to the point, what soul-sucking rock I was bonded to—and got the hell out of my way. For some, they threw themselves over the side into the harbor and thought that was the lesser of two evils. Smart people. I’d have joined them if I thought I could actually get away from myself.

  I’d almost reached the dock, when a goblin I knew only too well pushed his way through the crowd, shucked his outer robe and dove off the pier after the prince, smoothly cutting through the water’s surface like a knife.

  Tamnais Nathrach.

  Tam was a friend of mine and a former nightclub owner. Now he’d gone back to his old job as a duke and chief mage to the Mal’Salin family. He wanted to kick the king off the throne and put the prince on it, which had resulted in a big bull’s-eye on his chest. Though right now, Tam was doing a fine job of killing himself before the king could by diving into flaming, debris-infested waters after a prince who hadn’t enough sense to keep his head down when sailing into enemy territory.

  If Chigaru survived his fall into the harbor, I was going to kill him.

  I got to where Tam had taken a swan dive off the pier and looked down into dirty harbor water.

  No prince. No Tam.

  Phaelan shouldered through to stand next to me. He looked down in the water, shook his head, and winced. “Damn. ”

  “Yeah, they’re still under. ”

  “I was referring to what they’re under,” Phaelan said. “I’ve seen what all gets tossed or dumped in a busy harbor. ”

  “Good riddance to the goblin scum,” a man’s voice said from nearby.

  Phaelan and I turned our heads to find the speaker. He picked that moment to shut up. The comment wasn’t loud, but it was loud enough to earn him some mutters of approval from some of the people around us. Elves mostly, some humans. The murmurs spread and my hand inched toward my sword when a different man from farther back in the crowd said, “drown ’em all like cats” in a loud voice.

  Some of the goblins heard that.

  Great. Just great.

  There was enough elf versus goblin hostility in the air to start our own little war right here. A good number of the elves gathered on shore were mages and their guards. If an elf shoved a goblin or a goblin said something to an elf, the boat would merely be the first explosion of the day.

  A pretty, petite, and highly pissed goblin pushed her way through the crowd on a dock jutting out closest to the yacht, and frantically scanned the water. I couldn’t hear the word she spat, but my lip reading was working just fine.

  Imala Kalis was the director of the goblin secret service. Like Tam, she wanted the prince in and the king out, but nothing would put the brakes on a coup faster than the future king and his chief mage drowning.

  Tam came to the surface, pulling in as much air as his lungs could hold, his arm locked around Chigaru’s shoulders. The prince appeared to be out cold.

  “Pakil. Zukat. Help the duke. ” Imala snapped and two goblins jumped. Literally.

  Tam twisted in the water, and I saw it.

  A crossbow bolt sticking out of Chigaru’s shoulder. The explosion didn’t throw him in the water; an assassin’s shot did. The explosion must have made the prince drop his shield, just before that bolt arrived. Talk about bad timing.

  The crowd on the waterfront was getting bigger by the second. Armed goblins were stalking through the crowd, looking for a hit man that they weren’t going to find. Anyone hired by Sathrik to take out his baby brother would have enough sense to be long gone by now. Once he found out that his shot just took Chigaru in the shoulder, he’d be back for another try. But for now, he’d have ditched the crossbow, and was probably having a drink in a dockside dive.

  Tam was climbing a ladder that extended from the water to the dock with Chigaru limp over his shoulder. The prince was almost as tall as Tam, and all lean muscle. Yet Tam was climbing that ladder like Chigaru weighed no more than a child.

  Imala turned toward the yacht that was now being tied to the dock. “We need a healer!” For such a tiny woman, she had no problem making herself heard over the chaos.

  A mage ran forward, leaping like a cat over the distance between the yacht’s deck and the dock. He saw me and his lips pulled back from a pair of very impressive fangs in a snarl. Judging from his robes, he was one of the mages I’d played boat tug-of-war with; judging from that snarl, he recognized me, too.

  Mage and healer, and both pissed. He clearly wanted to do something about it, but he had a job to do first. He glared at me and then knelt beside Chigaru, turning all of his attention to the prince. The bolt had taken Chigaru in the right shoulder just below the collar bone. I remembered Chigaru as being left handed. It wasn’t going to kill him and it wasn’t going to slow him down. Much.

  “He’s not breathing,” Tam growled.

  What?

  Imala pushed her way through to him, while Tam quickly rolled the prince over and worked on getting the harbor water out of Chigaru’s stomach. No water came out of the prince’s mouth. The bolt hadn’t hit anything vital . . . so how did . . .

  Maybe all the assassin needed to do was get the bolt in.

  “Tam, poison!” I yelled and tried to push my way through the crowd to him. Phaelan was right behind me. Most people got out of my way; the rest I shoved out of my way. Four needlessly large goblin guards rushed in to stop us. There’s not really a polite way to lift someone off their feet and remove them from an area, and these guys didn’t even try.

  The goblin mage/healer glared at me. “She pushed the boat into us. ”

  Instantly, every goblin on that dock was looking at me like I’d sprouted two horns and a tail. Mob mentality promptly took over. I felt the growls of the two goblins who were holding me clear down to my toenails. They clenched their hands around my arms like they were getting a better grip to tear me apart. Phaelan was on the receiving end of the same treatment.

  And I couldn’t say a damned thing to prove that I wasn’t a prince killer.

  The weather wizard controlling the boats had probably fished himself out of the harbor and was long gone by now. The pilots were blown up so there was no proof that they were Khrynsani, not elves. And to top it off, Chigaru’s people were well aware that I didn’t like him, and he didn’t trust me.


  It was too much and too complicated for anyone to believe.

  “No one move!” Tam roared. That order was intended for every goblin on the dock and yacht, but Tam’s dark eyes were leveled squarely on our over-eager guards. Their grip lightened. A little.

  Imala knelt beside the prince, quickly pulling his long, wet hair away from his neck and throat. She hissed a curse, and pulled a tiny dart from the back of the prince’s neck with her gloved hand. She quickly but carefully examined the wound, the dart, and lifted back one of the prince’s eyelids.

  “Baelusa,” she told Tam.

  I had no idea what baelusa was, but Imala’s glare and Tam’s spat curse told me it meant plenty to them.

  The goblin healer knelt beside the prince, his healing magic a living, pulsing thing. He placed one hand over Chigaru’s chest, holding the other a few inches above the prince’s mouth. A spiral tattoo on the back of both hands darkened from blood red to almost black. I felt the steady strength of air being pulled into Chigaru’s lungs and being pushed out from his nose and mouth.

  The harbor around us was chaos, but no one on the dock moved or spoke.

  Suddenly, the goblin prince gasped and started coughing.

  Tam’s glare went from the guards to the goblins gathered on the yacht’s deck—the prince’s courtiers, personal guards, and mages. Imala’s eyes quickly took in the faces of everyone on that deck, storing them for later questioning.

  One of them had just tried to assassinate their prince.

  That dart had taken the prince in the back of the neck. The person who fired it had to have been standing behind him. Every goblin on Chigaru’s yacht had been standing behind him. One of his own tried to poison him. Khrynsani disguised as elves tried to blow him up. And an unknown assassin armed with a crossbow wasn’t about to be left out of the fun and took his own shot.

  Someone—or several someones—wanted Chigaru really dead. Blown up, shot, and poisoned all in less than ten seconds. I think the goblin prince just set a new assassination attempt record.

  Imala stood and carefully wrapped the dart in a small square of cloth. That done, she turned to our guards, who were still dutifully not tearing us in two. “Release them,” she told them. “Now!” she snapped when they didn’t immediately obey.
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