Con & conjure, p.49
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       Con & Conjure, p.49
 

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 49

 

  The air was stale and damp like nothing had been breathing down here for years. The only thing that could qualify as living was the mold. We reached the bottom and near the far corner of the room was a single, battered chair.

  The Saghred was on it.

  It wasn’t in a casket; no wards held it. An armored glove lay on the chair next to it. The Saghred was just sitting there, its surface a flat, lifeless black.

  I knew better.

  So did the rock.

  I had to get it out of here.

  The rock knew that, too.

  I looked around. The goblin hadn’t carried it out of the citadel in his bare hands. The Saghred had been in its casket, unwarded, but still in its casket.

  “Do you think it ate the goblin?” Vegard asked quietly.

  “I wish,” I muttered. “Even without my magic I’d have known. ”

  “Right, no burp,” Vegard agreed solemnly.

  That made me crack a smile.

  “Can you sense where . . . ” Vegard stopped himself. “Oh, ma’am, I’m so sorry, I—”

  I snorted quietly. “I might have to get used to it. ” People asking me to use the magic I no longer had.

  Bottles clanked and something hit the boards above our heads hard enough to shower us with dust.

  I got an even more white-knuckled grip on my daggers, and the glow of Vegard’s ax doubled. Mychael drew his sword.

  It didn’t glow.

  No glow. No magic.

  No Mychael.

  Oh hell.

  There was a single pop and Vegard’s eyes rolled up in his head as he crumpled to the floor. The goblin thief glamoured as Mychael stood over him, a small dart gun in his other hand. He smiled and pointed it at me.

  “This promises to be a very profitable day. ”

  Chapter 23

  Vegard wasn’t moving. I couldn’t even tell if he was breathing.

  I started to go to him, but was abruptly nose to muzzle with the goblin thief’s poison dart gun.

  “The Guardian’s alive,” he told me. “I only kill when need demands it. ” The thief smiled and pointed the gun at Vegard’s exposed throat. “However, a second dose would be sufficient to kill a man of his size. ” His finger tightened on the trigger.

  “No!” I shouted, loud enough for the Guardians upstairs to hear.

  Silence.

  I didn’t think that was good.

  The thief still glamoured as Mychael pointed the gun at me. “You on the other hand are rather small. It may be too large a dose. ” He took a few steps back, keeping his eyes and the gun on me. “Dalen,” he called, his voice entirely too casual. “What was that?”

  “Cahil tripped, sir. ”

  The thief chuckled. “Human eyes in the dark are worthless. ”

  “Permission to drop our glamours?” the goblin called back.

  “In a few minutes. ”

  Oh crap.

  “Khrynsani,” I said. So much for help—at least for me.

  He smirked. “You catch on quickly, but not quickly enough. ”

  Three Khrynsani glamoured as Guardians. Two had been glamoured as elves in the harbor. Who knew how many more there were in the citadel and around the city? No one knew.

  And no one knew I was here.

  With the Saghred and a goblin master thief glamoured as Mychael.

  Something wasn’t adding up. Like how the hell he was in two places at the same time—running from us with the Saghred one minute, then landing on a sky dragon as Mychael five minutes later? Not to mention, the longer I got him to talk, the longer Vegard and I got to keep breathing.

  “You stole the Saghred and brought it here,” I said. “We saw you and chased you. Then you fly in here on a—”

  Mychael smiled. The goblin might have looked like Mychael, but he didn’t bother to copy Mychael’s mannerisms any longer. His smile gave me ten different kinds of the creeps. “Did you actually see me on the dragon?”

  “No, but—”

  “Or any of my men?”

  Realization dawned, and I thought it might just be worth taking a poison dart in the gut to get my hands on him. “Four Guardians flew in . . . you and those Khrynsani were there waiting. You killed them. ”

  “You make it sound simple,” the goblin said. “I assure you it was not. However, their arrival saved us a great deal of trouble. ”

  “You got what you came for,” I said. “So now you’re hiding in a basement?”

  The thief winked at me. “Not hiding, Raine. Merely awaiting transportation. ” He looked over my shoulder. “I’ve sent the signal that I have the Saghred; within minutes, we’ll have direct passage home. What would we do without magic?” He laughed. “Though it looks like you may be finding out; what a pity. ”

  Bastard. I took a quick glance behind me. Nothing there but a brick wall. I froze.

  A Gate.

  The bastard had just ordered a freaking getaway Gate.

  A Gate was a tear in the fabric of reality. Stepping through one was like stepping through a doorway, except that Gates covered miles instead of inches. Black magic made them, and torture and death fueled them—the more the merrier.

  Once that Gate was open and stable, the thief would have all the help he needed dragging me through it kicking and screaming. The Saghred would just be happily going home.

  If that happened, it was all over—or I’d wish it was. At that point, the best thing I could do for myself would be to fall on one of Vegard’s dainty daggers. I wasn’t going to do that, because I wasn’t going through that Gate. To keep that from happening, all I had to do was get the Saghred, get past a fully armored man with a poison dart gun, then dodge three Khrynsani. And I’d have to do it all without magic. Just me and mine.

  Help wasn’t coming. Vegard was unconscious, the real Guardians who’d flown in from the citadel were probably dead in an alley, the dragons were snacking on thugs, no one knew I was here, and I had no magic.

  But I had desperation in spades.

  Think, Raine. Think. Keep him talking.

  “That’s why you came forward first out there in the street. You didn’t know I’d lost my magic, until . . . ”

  “You told me. Again saving me much trouble. ” The thief gestured toward my daggers with the gun’s muzzle. “Drop the daggers, Raine. ”

  I made no move to comply.

  The thief pointed the gun at Vegard, then back at me. “Your choice—the Guardian takes a fatal second dart or you take your fatal first. ” His sea blue eyes glittered coldly—Mychael’s sea blue eyes. “Drop. The daggers. ”

  I dropped them and rethought my strategy, such that it was.

  The thief kicked my daggers across the room to the base of the stairs, keeping the gun aimed at me the entire time. “I didn’t think I’d get the chance to take you alive. Put your hands behind your head and stand against the wall. ”

  Like hell anyone was putting manacles on me again. I began to circle him. When in an impossible situation, keep your goals simple. Circle until I reach my daggers. Get them without being shot. Simple. Right.

  “Come with me without any trouble and you need not die. ” The thief started circling me with a saunter as if he had all the time in the world. “My employers would rather have you alive, but they’ll be fine with dead. ”

  I kept my eyes on his, my peripheral vision on that gun. I didn’t need to look at the stairs, not yet. I knew where they were. “Yeah, Sarad Nukpana would be an extra happy psycho if he could kill me on a Khrynsani altar. ”

  I had only a few minutes to prevent that from happening.

  The thief drew a dagger—long, thin, with a needlesharp tip. That wasn’t Guardian issue.

  I kept circling. “Let me guess. Poisoned. ”

  “You don’t have to find out. ” His voice became low, coaxing. “Come now, little elf. Let’s not ma
ke this hurt any more than it has to. ”

  He didn’t want to kill me, but I didn’t care what I had to do to him. Problem was, if I didn’t do it quietly, I’d have to do it three more times to the Khrynsani who’d come running down those stairs.

  There were no winners in a knife fight. This was especially true when your opponent was wearing armor and had a poisoned dagger. He didn’t need to stab me; a scratch could kill me just as dead. Either I won or Sarad Nukpana won me, and I got a long and painful death, followed by the destruction of civilization as we knew it.

  No pressure.

  Nukpana could feed the rock just fine without me. All he’d have to do is sacrifice victims so that their blood fell on the Saghred. The rock would take the sacrifices, and I would feel every last one of them; it didn’t matter if I was in the same room or hundreds of miles away. I’d taken one mage already and he hadn’t even been murdered first. I’d be stark raving loony within the first hour.

  “Though you may welcome death,” the thief said. “If I don’t kill you now, you’ll beg for it later—or do it yourself. ”

  My mind was racing even faster than my feet. Okay, Raine. He was a thief, a thief who could make himself look like someone else. Big freaking deal. That was all the magic he had. If he’d had any more he’d have used it by now. The only advantage he had was that he was bigger than me. You’ve dealt with that before and come out on top. Literally. Come on, girl, time for some ugly.

  I darted my eyes to the right like I was going to make a run for the stairs.

  He bought it.

  I ran straight at him, driving my shoulder into his midsection. The impact with that armor hurt like hell. Better to hurt like hell than to be dragged there. The gun fired, the dart went wide, and we hit the floor together. His head and hands were the only parts of him without armor. I sank my teeth into the wrist of his dagger hand. He swore, but held onto that dagger. Dammit. I didn’t kid myself into thinking that I could reach anything vital, but I knew extreme pain made me drop my glamours. If it didn’t work on him, at least I’d go down biting.

  A thief and a glamourer did his job by hiding and sneaking, not direct confrontation.
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