Con & conjure, p.52
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       Con & Conjure, p.52

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 52


  “Are you sure?” Dad asked quietly. “No one would blame you. Actually, it’d be a relief to all of us to know you were safe. ”

  “No, I’m not sure, but I’m doing it anyway. I can still do something that none of you can. I can sense the Saghred. Do you have any idea how I can sense the rock, but can’t tap my magic?”

  “You’re treading untrod ground, Raine. No one knows. ”

  “Sarad Nukpana’s going to know I’m not packing. ”

  “Safe assumption. ”

  I snorted. “Glad assumptions are safe. I’m not. ”

  “It’s entirely possible that your magic is simply in shock from what you went through and should be coming back. ”


  Dad shrugged. “It’s a theory. ”

  “Theories aren’t going to keep Sarad Nukpana from frying me where I stand. ”

  His lips turned up at one corner in a crooked smile. “Then I’d suggest you keep moving. ”

  “Story of my life,” I muttered, finishing off the rest of my coffee.

  The smile turned into a grin. “Story of both our lives. ”

  There was a knock on the door, then it opened and Vegard stuck his head in. The big Guardian was still a little pasty, but he was smiling.

  “Good to see you up and alive, ma’am. ”

  I raised my mug in salute. “Same to you, darlin’. ”

  “Are they ready for us?” Dad asked him.

  “Yes, sir. ”

  I looked from one to the other. “Ready?”

  “You’ll see, daughter. Follow me. ”

  “Where are we going?”

  “Justinius Valerian’s office. ”

  “The goblins will kill me!”

  I knew that voice. It belonged to the best mirror mage on Mid—and the Conclave’s newest criminal.

  Carnades Silvanus.

  “Shit,” I spat.

  We were listening at the door outside of Justinius’s office. We hadn’t gone in yet, and I was giving serious thought to going right back to Mychael’s apartment and crawling under the bed.

  Dad chuckled. “Couldn’t have said it better. Unfortunately, he’s also the best. And that’s his getaway mirror in that cave outside Regor. ”

  “Carnades was the emissary to the goblin court a handful of years ago,” Vegard said. “It was Archmagus Valerian’s first try to get rid of him. The goblins hated Carnades and the feeling was mutual, so . . . ”

  I nodded. “He had a getaway mirror waiting nearby, though you’d think he’d have put the thing closer. ”

  “Ten miles was as close as he could put it without it being detected,” Dad explained.

  “And all of this is good, how?”

  “Beggars can’t be choosers,” he murmured. His eyes sparkled with barely contained mirth. “And Carnades has definitely drawn the short straw today. ”

  The Lower Hells were officially frozen over.

  I was going to Regor using a mirror with Carnades Silvanus as my tour guide.

  I gave a second’s serious thought to going sailing with Phaelan. A lifetime of running wouldn’t be that bad. I’d be in fabulous shape.

  Justinius snorted and laughed. “You don’t have to go to Regor to die,” he told Carnades. “You’ve got people on this island lining up to kill you. The advantage to Regor is they won’t know you’re there—if you don’t screw up. You get the team there and safely back again. Every. Last. One. Do it and you live—behind bars, but your head will still be attached to the rest of you. If you don’t . . . well, you’d be better off staying with the goblins. On your return, your level of cooperation will be taken into consideration at your trial. Understand?”

  “Perfectly. ” Icicles hung off of that one word.

  I decided to add the cherry on top of Carnades’s bad day. I stepped into Justinius’s office and let Carnades see me. The expression on his face made the risk of death and dismemberment in Regor worth it.

  The elf mage was still wearing his usual sumptuous black velvet robes, but now they were perfectly accessorized with a pair of magic-sapping manacles. Though they were bright and shiny and looked more like jewelry than restraints. I guess high-class criminals got the good stuff.

  Carnades’s face turned a most unattractive shade of red. “You!”

  I smiled. “Me. ”

  I thought I’d make his day even worse by confirming what he’d long suspected. I walked over to Mychael and got myself a good hug and a kiss. I deserved it—and so did Carnades.

  I looked up at Mychael, his arms still around me. “So when do we get this show on the road?” I nodded toward my dad. “I’ve been told the big picture. ” I wasn’t about to say “dad” out loud around Carnades. Maybe it’d scare him into behaving if he knew—or kick him one step closer to more betrayal. Some secrets were best kept that way.

  “The mirror we’ll be using is downstairs in the containment area,” Mychael said.

  That was surprising. I’d have figured Carnades would have kept it in his house. But I guess if he came screaming through a mirror with a hundred pissed off and racially offended goblins after him, he’d want Guardians for backup, not his butler.

  “We’ll leave as soon as we gather our gear and the rest of the team arrives,” Mychael told me.

  “Who’s the rest of the team?”

  He gazed down at me. “You’re going?”

  “Not my first choice for a romantic getaway, but yeah, I’m going. ”

  Mychael tightened his arms around me. “The two of us, Carnades, Tam, Imala, Prince Chigaru, and four others. ”

  I knew Dad was one of the four others. For Tam and Imala, now was the time to move against Sathrik, and prevent their people from being slaughtered to feed the Saghred. I knew that Prince Chigaru was determined to rescue his fiancée before she was forced to marry Sathrik. After that, Chigaru only had two goals: take his brother’s throne, then take his brother’s life.

  “Carnades can take ten people through that mirror,” Mychael was saying. “In weapons and supplies, we’ll essentially be limited to what we can carry. ”

  Vegard stepped forward. “Sir, what about—”

  “I need you here, Vegard. ”

  “But, sir—”

  “As acting paladin. ”

  You could have heard a pin drop.

  “I need to know that you’re here,” Mychael told him, “working in my stead if we fail—”

  “You won’t fail,” Vegard said vehemently.

  “If we do, I want you to get the students off of the island. ”

  Justinius put a hand on Vegard’s shoulder. “I’ll make the announcement to the full Conclave within the hour. It would be good if you were there beside me. ”

  “Evacuate the students first, youngest to oldest,” Mychael told him. “Phaelan and Commodore Benares have offered their ships as transport. ”

  My throat threatened to close up. “And they’ll be damned fine guards,” I managed.

  “Yes, they will,” Mychael agreed quietly.

  Justinius dropped his hand from Vegard’s shoulder and motioned to me. He went to the far corner of his office, out of earshot, and I followed.

  “Any sign of your magic?”

  “No, sir. ”

  “It should have come back by now. ”

  “I was going with ‘if I don’t say it, it won’t be true. ’ ”

  “Doesn’t work like that. ”

  “I know. ” I glanced at Carnades; he was glaring at me. I turned away so he couldn’t read my lips. “Does Carnades know?”

  “Not from me or anyone else here. You play cards, girl?”

  I knew where he was going. I nodded. “And I know how to run a convincing bluff. ”

  “Make this one your best. ”

  “Thank you, sir, but that goes without saying. ”

  Mychael was talking to Carna
des. “If you want to destroy goblins, there are two in Regor that you’re free to cut loose on. Only on my command. You will not endanger the lives of this team, or we’ll gladly walk home from Regor. ”

  “You wouldn’t dare!” Carnades snarled.

  “No, I wouldn’t dare,” Mychael replied mildly. “I would do; and as I just said, I would do it gladly. ”

  Carnades lunged at Mychael.

  Mychael met him with an armored forearm against his throat.

  A blue-white spark flared to life at the tip of my finger. It didn’t grow. It just pulsed there. As far as magic went, it was smaller than tiny.

  But it was mine. I didn’t know how, but I’d made it.

  “You don’t have a choice, Carnades,” I said, hardly daring to breathe for fear of blowing that spark out. “And neither do I. ”

  The elf mage’s stare was silent and icy.

  “Yeah, it sucks to be us. If Nukpana wins, the two of us will be at the front of his kill line. Are you with us or not?”

  His stare didn’t melt. “Yes. ”

  And the tiny spark didn’t vanish. Its glow was fierce and bright. Determined.

  I looked at Mychael over the spark and smiled.

  “Let’s go steal ourselves a rock. ”

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