All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) - Page 27


Piaras looked around at the sickly glow. “What is it?”


“Some say residue from a dragon’s breath,” Kesyn said. “I’ve also heard it’s from scales scraping against rock. I don’t think anyone’s asked a dragon and found out.”


We were moving fast down a nearly dark, wet tunnel, toward a nest of dragons. Hungry little ones, overprotective big ones. All we needed now was someone running ahead of us ringing a dinner bell.


We hadn’t heard any roars in the past few minutes—or screams, either.


“We need to go faster,” Imala urged Tam.


In response, Tam tripped over something. It was a body. A goblin with eyes wide open and staring. Judging from his clothing and armor, he was Khrynsani. So much for where Chigaru had come by that sword.


“Did a dragon do this?” I asked.


Tam knelt and did a quick inspection. “Chigaru’s been putting that sword to good use. This one took a blade through the heart.”


Just a few feet farther down the tunnel was another crumpled figure. Also not Chigaru, likewise dead, same cause. It appeared that the sea dragon was only the latest of Chigaru’s problems that had just become ours.


Another roar blasted through the air around us—angrier and closer.


It meant Chigaru was still alive. Imala shoved Tam out of her way.


“Imala!” Tam bellowed.


She ignored him and bolted for the end of the tunnel. The green glow was brighter here, and I didn’t need a lightglobe to find my way.


The tunnel emptied into a vast chamber. Really vast. I skidded to a halt on something both slimy and crunchy. I didn’t look down to find out. The green glow illuminated black water and a soaring ceiling, with the green flecking scattered above us like sickly stars. The air was sea fresh and graveyard fetid at the same time. I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me, but I could sense the hugeness of the sea cave. I was on the edge of a vast lake. My boots hit something solid. I looked down. I wasn’t standing in gravel.


Eggshells. Dragon eggshells.


And the remains of more than a few recent meals.


I was standing in the middle of a freaking sea dragon nest. It was empty, but empty probably just meant that the kids were big enough to be out and about on their own.


Hunting for their own food.


Prince Chigaru was trapped on a narrow shelf of rock, the tip of his sword following the head and sinuous neck of a sea dragon weaving cobra-like within striking distance. Chigaru had nowhere to go and the dragon acted like it had all the time in the world. The sight of us didn’t even make it bat an eye, though maybe it didn’t have eyelids.


It was a young dragon, about half the size of the one that had flown over Phaelan’s ship. This one was old enough to mate, but too young for cunning. Rage had made it clumsy, and the cuts on its throat were evidence that Chigaru had taken advantage. If it’d been any older or craftier, the prince would have been dead.


“Spellsong?” I asked Mychael.


“Only works on things with a certain level of smarts. Sea dragons don’t rate that high.”


We could use a lightglobe to temporarily blind the dragon, but light would also blind us. The dragons knew these tunnels; we didn’t.


The solution grabbed me by the foot.


It was a baby sea dragon, about six feet long. Apparently my boot and the tasty morsel inside were irresistible.


My panic flared—and so did Piaras’s magic. In the next instant, the dragon juvenile delinquent was flying through the air, landing with a splash and an enraged squeal in the water on the far side

of the cavern. Both parents took off in protective pursuit, the waves they left in their wake soaking us all from the knees down.


Tam’s eyes went from the airborne baby dragon to the landlocked goblin prince. “Thanks for the idea, Piaras.” He sheathed his blade and extended his arms to Prince Chigaru. “Jump!”


Chigaru looked at his chancellor like he’d lost his mind. “What?”


“Jump. I’ll catch you and pull you over. Magically, not physically.”


“He’s good at this,” Mychael called to the prince. “Just jump. Your feet won’t even get wet.”


Chigaru obviously saw several flaws with that plan.


“Dammit, Chigaru! Jump!” Tam roared.


The prince jumped.


Tam’s magic caught him in midair. Imala grimaced.


Tam shot a glance at her. “Not you, too.”


“I don’t doubt your—”


“Yes, you do!”


“Hurry up!” Chigaru shrieked.


We all looked up. When Tam had started talking, Chigaru had stopped moving. Now he was dangling with his boots about five feet from the water’s surface. The water was choppy. It was choppy for a reason. Something was moving just beneath the surface. Several somethings, actually. Looked like we’d just found the dragon kiddie pool.


Tam made a jerking motion with his arm, and Chigaru literally flew the rest of the way across. The prince’s feet had barely touched the ground, and Tam was pushing him toward the tunnel.


Mom and dad dragon were on the move, and so were we. It’s amazing how much noise water can make when it’s being pushed out of the way by several tons of enraged sea dragon parents. We ran and we didn’t stop running until the tunnels were no longer glowing green. Piaras reignited his lightglobe and we stopped to catch our breath.


Chigaru was leaning over, hands on knees, breathing heavily.


“Are you hurt?” Imala asked.


The prince opted for a head shake over words. After a few more breaths, he raised his head. “How did you find me?”


“You made enough noise for us,” she said testily.


“That and your breadcrumbs,” Tam said.


Chigaru looked puzzled. “What?”


“We found the dead Khrynsani you left in the tunnel back there,” Mychael said. “Nice breadcrumbs. Led us right to you.”


That triggered a creepy thought. “The bodies weren’t there just now.” I turned to Tam. “They were definitely dead. Weren’t they?”


“Yes.”


Kesyn shrugged. “Baby dragons probably got them. That or something else.”


I blinked. “Something else?”


The old goblin looked tired. “There’s all kinds of creepy-crawlies down here. There’s a good reason why these tunnels don’t get patrolled.”


“Any of those creepy-crawlies between us and the dungeons?”


“Yeah.”


“Care to elaborate?”


“The usual. Rats, spiders, salamanders—”


I just looked at him. “Anything unusually big and creepy-crawly?”


“They all grow big down here.”


Great. From what I had seen, food in the tunnels wasn’t exactly in abundance. We were food. There were only six of us, and now Chigaru made seven, but we had to be the most abundant thing to come around in some time.


“What happened, Your Highness?” Imala was asking.


“Make it quick, boy,” Kesyn said. “We got

business upstairs.”


Tam didn’t give Chigaru time to have a royal hissy about being called “boy.” “Highness, this is my teacher, Magus Kesyn Badru.”


Chigaru regally inclined his head in acknowledgment.


“Yeah, pleasure for me, too,” Kesyn said gruffly. “So what the hell you doing down here?”


“I was captive and I escaped,” Chigaru said.


Kesyn clapped his hands together. “There you are,” he told Imala. “The boy escaped. Can we move our asses now?”


“I was taken into the temple itself, to the high altar,” Chigaru continued as if Kesyn wasn’t even there. “Sarad Nukpana was there with the Saghred, and he—”


“Wait,” Mychael interrupted. “Sarad Nukpana is in the temple? How long ago?”


“An hour, maybe two.”


A chill started at the base of my spine and scurried its way up to my neck. We had come into this mission with the assumption that Sarad Nukpana was going to be in the temple when we went after the Saghred. It’d been only a few hours ago, but I’d taken Nukpana’s shooting as a sign that Lady Luck had teamed up with Fate, and both had come over to our side. Sarad Nukpana was out of the temple. We were going to make it. We were going to destroy the Saghred, and we were going home alive. Deidre’s crossbow bolts had brought death to Sathrik and a world of hurt to Sarad Nukpana. He’d been taken to the palace, and while he was there, we would be coming here while the temple was a blessedly Nukpana-free zone. I knew he was going to recover quickly, but not this fast.


“Sarad was shot two hours ago while on the palace balcony with your brother,” Tam was saying.


“So it’s true,” Chigaru said. “He told me that my brother had been assassinated—by your mother. Is that also true?”


“Sarad dropped the shield around the king,” Tam said. “He knew my mother was there, waiting.”


“To kill my brother.”


“To kill them both.”


“When this is over, remind me to make her a duchess.” Chigaru paused and frowned. “Sarad may have been wounded then, but he’s not now. He was with the Saghred, with both hands on it. He was shirtless with blood on his chest and back, but I didn’t see any wounds.”


My mouth dropped open and I let it stay that way. Sarad Nukpana was covered in blood and the rock didn’t eat him—it healed him. It was like Kesyn said: the rock got a better offer. The Saghred officially considered me expendable, and I was on my way to stab the thing. I didn’t know if the rock had actual emotions, but I knew it wouldn’t like seeing me again. Then again, maybe it would; it’d get a chance to zap me into a goopy puddle on the floor.


“Sarad said that my brother had named him as his heir,” Chigaru said, “so he is the king now.” The muscle in his jaw clenched tightly. “He told me that he would wed Princess Mirabai tonight and he wanted me there to witness it as his special guest. Then I would be the first sacrifice of the evening—with Mirabai forced to watch.” Chigaru blew his breath out through his nose and I was reminded of a bull right before it charged. “Mirabai was standing in the open doorway, being held back by two guards. She heard everything that monster said. She started screaming. I tried to fight my way to her. I broke free, but one of the guards slammed into me and knocked me against a wall behind the altar. At least I thought it was a wall until it opened and I fell through.”