Con & conjure, p.40
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       Con & Conjure, p.40

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 40


  Mychael. I had to warn him about the Chameleon.

  Cancel that. I had to warn him when I got out of here. The pessimist living in my head chimed in with “if you get out of here. ” I slammed the door on that part of my head. Though my resident pessimist wouldn’t say what I hadn’t already thought. The embassy was elven soil, and even though Mychael was an elf, he couldn’t get in here unless invited. I didn’t think Mychael would wait for an engraved invitation. If Tam or Imala tried to blast their way in, it’d be an act of war. I didn’t see that stopping them, either.

  “We have to get out of here,” I told Phaelan. Nothing like stating the obvious.

  “I know, I’m working on—”

  “I hoped you would be awake by now, Raine. I was beginning to get impatient. ” A cool voice came from beyond the wards. It was the voice of an elven inquisitor who had me right where he’d wanted me since the day I’d set foot on Mid.

  “It wasn’t like I was taking a nap,” I said.

  “It was unfortunate, but my men took a necessary precaution. ”

  I rattled my chains. “Like these?”

  “Precisely. ” Balmorlan turned his head toward the guard standing behind him. “Lower the wards and leave them down for now; others will be joining me. ”

  The guard wasn’t just a guard; he was a prison mage. He could not only guard, but construct complex wards. It took nearly two minutes for him to disarm the lethal netting that crisscrossed in front of the cell door’s bars.

  Balmorlan came inside. “I didn’t go to the trouble and expense of acquiring you only to have you leave us before I get what I want. The cell is lined with Level Twelve wards, detainment spells layered for strength, and magic-depleting manacles—and you—bolted to the wall. I must say, you are a beautiful sight. ”

  Sick bastard.

  Balmorlan’s smile was lascivious. “The goblin uniform suits you. ”

  Really sick bastard.

  I’d thought that being helpless in Taltek Balmorlan’s dungeon would be the most terrifying thing that’d ever happened to me.

  Being chained to a wall with magic-sapping manacles, forced to wait while elf mages were somewhere nearby working up the courage to bond with me in one of the most intimate ways possible made the short list of my personal nightmares, but that was all.

  I probably should have been scared. Scared would be smart.

  I’m sure that on some level I was, but Taltek Balmorlan had schemed, threatened, bribed, tortured, burned, and murdered his way to his goal—to have the Saghred’s power at his command. And while I was chained here, the Chameleon would be morphing into Mychael, waltzing into the citadel and out with the Saghred, and there wasn’t a damned thing I could do to stop it. The Saghred would be in goblin hands, Mychael would probably be executed for treason, Justinius would be politically ruined, and Carnades would quickly move to take charge. Then there was the subsequent war, death, and destruction.

  I was the only one who knew about the Chameleon. The one act of stealing the Saghred would start an avalanche of events that would essentially carry the world to hell in a handbasket.

  One of those greedy power-grabbers chaining me up was just the last straw.

  I was furious. I didn’t know what qualified as more pissed than furious, but that was what I was; I was positively shaking with it. I wanted to tear Balmorlan apart with my bare hands—no magic involved, just me.

  “Afraid, Raine?”

  “If that’s what you want to think, go right ahead. ”

  The manacles only kept me from using magic. There were no chains on my wits. I had to calm myself down enough to use them. If they couldn’t come up with anything, we were all screwed.

  Balmorlan winked at me. “After waiting so long for this moment, it’s a shame that I can’t take the time to truly savor it. ”

  “No time to share the extent of your evil master plan?”

  The inquisitor showed me his teeth. “Something like that. Though I can tell you about your first assignment. ”

  “Assignment implies I’d get a choice. ”

  “Very well, my mages’ first assignment. Since you were so impressive in preventing my firemages from dispatching Prince Chigaru, we’ll have to use my backup plan. A simple implosion of the goblin embassy should ensure that our building isn’t damaged. ”

  Oh no.

  “The beauty of the plan is that only one woman could pull off such a feat. You’ll provide the power and my mages will direct it. Just think, you’ll be a hero to the elven people. ” Balmorlan’s eyes glittered. “And as the goblins die, they will know that you betrayed and killed them. ”

  There had to be a way out that didn’t involve me using magic. I needed a way out using what wits weren’t now screaming and running in panicked circles inside my head. I’d been chained with magic-sapping manacles before. Tam and his dark mage school buddies had put in an appearance just in time. I wasn’t counting on “just in time” now. It looked like this one was up to me, though if someone wanted to charge in here, kick some bad guy elf ass, and cut me loose, I’d kiss whoever or whatever it was right on the lips.

  Getting out of these manacles was my only chance. Problem was my hands were stretched over my head and I couldn’t feel my arms anymore, aside from a painful tingle.

  “If the goblins don’t already know that you’ve been taken, they will soon,” Balmorlan said. “Time is of the essence. ” A twisted eagerness flickered in his eyes. “I would tell you not to worry, that my mages bonding with you and the Saghred won’t hurt, but I have no idea how it will feel. I’m sure you’ll let me know. ”

  A chill ran through me. “You want me. Okay, you’ve got me. You don’t need Phaelan anymore; let him go. ”

  “Oh, but I do need him. For bonding with my mages, the Saghred deserves the reward of a good meal. ”

  I froze in horror.

  “Though a common criminal is many steps removed from the magic user the stone would prefer,” Balmorlan noted. “Beggars can’t be choosers, can they?”

  Chapter 18

  “Has the Saghred ever spit anyone out?” Phaelan asked. “Because I think feeding me to a rock that eats mages would just piss it off. From what I’ve seen, that’s not something you want to do. ”

  Balmorlan smiled a nasty smile. “We won’t know until we try. Even a gourmand would eat moldy bread if he were starving. ”

  I knew Phaelan would like to shove moldy bread down the inquisitor’s throat, but he had to know that we were in a bad situation with an even worse outcome, so he didn’t let his violent urges show on his face. The consummate card player, my cousin. I didn’t know what my face looked like, but I was going for neutral.

  “I heard that all was ready for me. ”

  My skin did a quick crawl, not at the sound of the voice from just outside the cell, but at what it probably belonged to. One of Balmorlan’s elf mage imports.

  Calm, Raine. Keep it calm. Yeah, you’re scared, but scared won’t get you out of here, and these two would love to see you shaking in your boots. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Keep your wits and find a way to keep your sanity.

  The mage walked into the cell, though a more accurate description would be that he swept in. Pure-blooded high elf—cut from the same silky cloth as Carnades. Tall, blond, green eyed, with cheekbones that looked like they’d been carved out with a chisel. Unlike Carnades who’d never stopped looking down his aristocratic nose at me, it was just my luck that this mage took one look at me and obviously liked what he saw.

  I tried to steady my breathing and went for aloof boredom. “So, you want to go first. ”

  The elf mage didn’t answer; he just looked me up and down and took his sweet time doing it. He was trying to get a reaction, preferably a terrified and cowering one. I’d met the type before. This guy liked it when women were afraid of him, but he could only do that to me if I let him.
I met his green eyes and let the corner of my mouth curve into a smile. Time to see if I could rattle his cage. “Been told what’s going to happen to you?”

  I was betting goldilocks wasn’t all that eager to die—or worse.

  I sensed his arrogance bump up a notch. Someone was feeling defensive. Not all that eager to find out what Death had waiting for him on the other side.

  Balmorlan gave me a cold smile. “Nice try, Raine. The Saghred bonded her with the goblin chancellor Tamnais Nathrach and our esteemed paladin,” he told the mage. “They are both quite well and in full control of their faculties. ”

  “Meaning they haven’t gone nuts,” I added. “Yet. ”

  Balmorlan ignored me. “The Saghred wants to be used. It will not harm you. ”

  I just smiled at the mage and shrugged as much as I was able with my arms stretched over my head. “Your funeral. The Saghred likes certain people and doesn’t like others. I don’t know why and unfortunately none of the ‘others’ are around for you to ask. Obliteration does that. ”

  “You will be silent,” Balmorlan hissed. “Or I will make it so you can’t speak. ”

  In the past, whenever I was up to my pointy ears in trouble and couldn’t punch either with a fist or a spell, I’d go with words. Most times it’d gotten me in more trouble than I was already in. Yeah, it was stupid, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I’d always justified stupid by telling myself that I might die, but I’d go down insulting. Dying quietly was just wrong.

  “Someone’s edgy,” I noted. “You won’t do it because you’ve waited too long to hear me scream. ”

  The cool inquisitor was back. “For all the trouble you’ve caused me, I am due some small compensation. ”

  I eyed the mage. “Has he paid you yet—all of it?”

  “The balance of your fee is in my office down the hall,” Balmorlan calmly assured the elf. “Keep your end of the bargain and I’ll keep mine. ”
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