All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) - Page 10


If our lives suddenly decided to turn ideal, Sathrik and Sarad Nukpana both would choke on a chicken bone, preferably at the same time, emptying the big chair and the space behind it for Chigaru and Tam.


Carnades was next to go through the opening.


The elf mage had slithered his way to one step away from being archmagus. Carnades was patient, waiting for the chance to make his move, be it in politics or getting his chains around my neck. He went through without a peep. Those magic-sapping manacles were downright handy.


Tam and Talon went through together, with both of Tam’s hands on Talon’s shoulders. If the kid didn’t like it, he kept his opinion to himself. He knew what was waiting inside those walls. Staying on Mid and reporting to Vegard during a goblin invasion probably looked like sweet duty right about now. Mychael kept a hand on Piaras’s shoulder. He knew Piaras’s abilities, and that the kid could squelch his own magic, but now wasn’t the time to take chances. We’d be taking plenty of those later.


It was my turn.


I could swear I felt the air pressure drop as everyone took a deep breath and held it. Mychael and Tam remained on the other side of the opening, the torchlight showing me their expressionless faces. They knew as well as I did that Sarad Nukpana could have had something other than magic being picked up by those sensors. Magic was the only thing they could help me cover up, so taking the next couple of steps without setting off alarms throughout the city was all up to me.


I tried to empty my mind, which shouldn’t have been that much of a challenge, and went with the breath-holding thing, too. As I stepped through, my heart decided to skip a couple of beats. That part wasn’t my idea, but I wasn’t opposed to the sensors picking up a dead person if they noticed anything at all.


Nothing.


At least nothing I could hear. Everyone else was looking up and around like they expected Khrynsani to drop through the ceiling or jump through the walls. Neither happened, and my heart started beating double time again. I told myself it was just making up for stopping for a second there, not that I was scared out of my wits.


Jash motioned for us to follow him. There were three directions open to us. Two appeared to go to the right and left of the opening, running against the city walls. We’d followed Jash into the one that went straight—and apparently deeper into the city. The rest of the Resistance fighters split into two groups and disappeared down the two tunnels running along the city walls.


Nath drew close to Tam and Mychael. I was close enough to hear him. “The others will make their way to our other hideouts.”


Tam exchanged a look with Mychael. “And we’re going where?” he asked.


Nath gave his brother a genuine, warm smile. “Home.”


I could see why a race that wasn’t that fond of sunlight would have tunnels running under their city. Though if they got us from here to wherever and whatever Nath referred to as home, I had no problem with them. The problem I did have, had everything to do with the tunnels’ condition. The floor was completely smooth with no loose paving stones or chipped walls to trip on. The tunnel looked well maintained and well… used. A lot. And it stood to reason that they were maintained by city workers, which was part of the government, all of which was King Sathrik Mal’Salin. To my overactive and paranoid imagination, every new curve and turn in the tunnel was a Khrynsani ambush waiting to happen.


Piaras was staying every bit as close to me as Vegard always had. I didn’t want Vegard to

be here, but at the same time I missed my big Guardian bodyguard. My shadow was definitely feeling lonely without Vegard’s solid and reassuring presence to keep it company. I didn’t want to think about what he was going through right now. From my bodyguard to acting paladin on Justinius’s proclamation, and then, on top of that, dealing with a probable dress rehearsal for a goblin invasion. Was Vegard’s biggest problem invading goblins or pigheaded Conclave mages questioning his authority? Had the goblin soldiers stopped streaming through mirrors and mini-Gates once we’d dived through Carnades’s mirror? Or had they seen an opportunity and taken it?


Along with any students and mages they could get their hands on.


Mychael’s knights were good; they were the best, but outnumbered was outnumbered, and with attacks coming from all over the city—


“They’re going to be fine,” Piaras said quietly.


I gave him a sidelong glance. “So now you can read minds, too?”


“No, I’m just worrying about the same things.”


“Is Katelyn evacuating with the other students?”


Piaras nodded once. “I put her on Phaelan’s ship myself. She didn’t want to go, and neither did a lot of the other girls.”


Katelyn was Katelyn Valerian, Piaras’s girlfriend—and Justinius Valerian’s granddaughter. I’d met some of Katelyn’s friends. Those girls could sling spells faster and fight better than half of the Guardians’ cadets. Ever since their inception when the Isle of Mid was founded over a millennia ago, the Guardians had been an all-boys club. Since coming to the Conclave college, Katelyn had been a thorn in her granddaddy’s side about changing the rules to let girls compete for places in the Guardians’ cadet corps. If I made it back to Mid in one piece, I’d be having a chat with Justinius on those girls’ behalf. They deserved the chance.


Piaras was smiling. “And I told Phaelan if he didn’t keep his hands off Katelyn, I’d fix it so he’d turn into a sea slug at every high tide.”


“You don’t know how to do that.”


“Phaelan doesn’t know that.”


“He bought it?”


Piaras flashed a grin. “Hook, line, and sinker.”


Priceless. I’d loved to have seen Phaelan’s face.


If my cousin so much as looked at the girl wrong, he’d better hope Piaras got to him first. Justinius actually could turn him into a sea slug.


“He’s too quiet,” Piaras murmured.


I didn’t have to be a mind reader to know he wasn’t talking about Phaelan.


Carnades hadn’t uttered a word since we’d left the cave. Surrounded as he’d been the entire time by armed goblins who knew how to use what they carried, even Carnades must have realized the smartest thing he could do was to keep his mouth shut. I didn’t know if being manacled and surrounded by armed goblins was his worst nightmare, but it had to rank up near the top, though you’d never know it to look at him.


Carnades saw me looking at him. His eyes glittered, then reverted back to studied neutrality. If the elf mage was shaking in his designer boots, he’d decided he was the only one who was going to know about it.


Piaras was right. A quiet enemy was a bad enemy. Quiet tended to mean plotting, and eventually one way or another, plots bore fruit. I knew that Carnades Silvanus was hoping to harvest an entire orchard.


A piece of dark peeled away

from the shadows just ahead.


I sucked in a breath and held it like it was my last. Considering what blocked the passageway ahead, it just might be.


A Magh’Sceadu.


It was tall, almost hobgoblin in shape—if hobgoblins were made of black ink. They were blink-of-an-eye fast, with bodies warm and pulsing, like living quicksand. Any part of you that a Magh’Sceadu pulled inside its body stayed there. I’d seen one of them just flow right over a Khrynsani black mage trying to contain it. One glide, one gulp, one gone mage. Magic attracted them and magic fed them, and mages were meals. The more magic you threw at them to defend yourself, the tastier a morsel you became. Khrynsani black mages created Magh’Sceadu to absorb and store magic. They then harvested the power for other purposes.


Like fueling the creation of a giant Gate.


Or feeding a certain starving rock.


Piaras and I had once faced six Magh’Sceadu in an abandoned section of Mermeia appropriately named The Ruins. The only reason we’d survived had been the Saghred. It’d used me as a conduit to force-feed all six more power than they could hold.


I didn’t have the Saghred now.


“That’s new,” Nath commented, without moving anything, including his lips.


“And that’s why there aren’t any guards down here,” Mychael murmured.


I swallowed hard. “Maybe it ate them.”


“Why is it just standing there?” Piaras asked.


Talon’s eyes bulged in disbelief. “Why are we?”


Tam slowly maneuvered toward the front. “It’s not attacking, so it’s probably full.”


My stomach did a slow roll. “Full?”


“Though if we ran, it would chase us down.” Imala said. “Do you have sentries in these tunnels?” she asked Jash.


“Not in this section.”


“It’s standing there as a beacon to other Magh’Sceadu,” Tam said. “I can feel it.”


“Ringing the dinner bell?” I asked.


“Jash, is there a way around that thing?” Mychael asked. “A quick way?”


As if by some silent signal, the Magh’Sceadu turned and flowed quickly down a side tunnel.


As a second one rose up right behind Talon.


The only thing between Talon and that Magh’Sceadu was about ten feet of space.


And me.


Talon just stood there, frozen in terror and disbelief. The sound that tore its way out of his throat tried to be a shriek, but the kid choked on it.


It moved. I didn’t have time to.


The Magh’Sceadu passed me by, ignored me completely.


I didn’t have magic. Talon did.


And now everyone knew that I didn’t.


Including Carnades.


Piaras’s dark eyes met mine for a split second. He’d seen me not use magic in the mirror room or in the cave against the Khrynsani, and that the sensors in the city walls set for the Saghred hadn’t detected a thing when I’d passed through.


There’d been nothing to detect.


Piaras knew.


Disbelief and terror flashed across his face and hardened into determination. I couldn’t save Talon, so Piaras would. He wouldn’t fare any better than Talon. He knew that, but he was going to try anyway.