All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) - Page 33

“Got what?”

I scurried over to him and hissed in a whisper, “I have the freaking dagger.”

“What freaking dagger?”

“The freaking dagger.”

“Oh.” Kesyn’s eyes widened as realization sunk in. “Oh. Well, shit.”

“Mychael’s the only one left free to destroy the Saghred,” I said in a strangled whisper. “Now he can’t.”

And I’d asked him to give it to me, insisted actually. Because I wanted to be useful; I wanted to free myself. Great job I was doing of that. I viciously kicked at whatever the damned floor was made of. I couldn’t be any more useless than I was right now. Mychael hadn’t just gotten himself captured by Sarad Nukpana—at least I hoped not. I had. Here I stood, caught, caged, and probably about to have my weapons confiscated. The Scythe of Nen wasn’t big, but it wasn’t small, either. And without it, our mission was history—and so were we.

Kesyn leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Certain ladies in our secret service have often made good use of a hidden pocket in the front of their armor, right about here.” He tapped his fingers over his heart and grinned.

I looked down to where that would be on me. Right over my left breast.

I just looked at him. “And you know this how?”

Kesyn winked at me. “Extensive research and exploration in my younger days.”

I fumbled around in the inside of the quilted leather doublet where Kesyn had indicated, and sure enough, there it was. Hopefully, no lady agents had ever let Sarad Nukpana go exploring in their chest armor. I tucked the dagger in with even a little room to spare. “Well, this lovely turn of events changes our plan,” I muttered bitterly.

“Considerably. However, the best plans can be executed many ways.”

“Could you use something besides ‘executed’? It’s not my favorite word right now.”

“The point is our goal remains the same; the approach has merely changed. Stay flexible, play it by ear, and when you see a chance, jump on it.”

“You mean if I see a chance.”

“I always say what I mean. When you see a chance. If you’re looking close like you’re supposed to, you’ll see it. At least one chance is always there.”

I’d rather jump on Sarad Nukpana with a sharp knife, or the Saghred with the Scythe of Nen. Preferably both. Now it didn’t look like I’d get a chance to do either.

“Are you armed?” I asked him.

Kesyn took another bite of cheese, his eyes glittering in the dim, green light; an old man with a secret. “Don’t worry about me. I’m plenty armed and dangerous. I may have taught Sarad Nukpana a lot of what he knows.” Kesyn’s smile broadened into a devilish grin. “However, I didn’t teach him everything I know.”

“Your magic doesn’t work down here.” I almost added “either,” but swallowed the word in time.

Kesyn’s eyes narrowed. “You’re awfully impressed with hocus-pocus, girl.”

“Not impressed. I just like having my odds more even.”

“No magic is the best magic, Raine.” Kesyn’s expression turned grim and his words came fast and fierce. “You need to get that through your pretty little head right now. You don’t have time to worry about what you don’t have; concentrate on what you do

have. What if Sarad was just a man? What would you do?” Kesyn got in my face. “Let’s hear it! What would you do?”

“Kick his ass to the Lower Hells,” I snarled back. I blinked. I hadn’t hesitated. Just a good old-fashioned ass kicking, ending in death, of course. His. “Like that’s going to happen.”

Kesyn didn’t back down. “Why not?”

“Because he—”

“Has more magic than you do?” The old goblin barked a laugh. “From what I hear, until a couple of months ago, damned near everyone had more magic than you. You ever let that stop you before?”

I stopped in sudden realization. I hadn’t. I’d snuck my way into goblin prisons, freed who I’d come to get, then conned and/or fought my way out. As a seeker, I found people and saved lives. Sure, I’d used my seeking skills and magic to locate them, but after that, more often than not, I’d ended up doing everything else with…

No magic.

None. Just me.

Kesyn was smiling. “Have you ever let that stop you before?” he repeated, quietly.

“No. No, I haven’t.”

“Then don’t let it stop you now. Find chances; and when you see them, take them. You need to remember something that I always told Tam—very often a man’s greatest strength is also his biggest weakness. Know when to use both to your advantage.”

A section of the wall creaked open. A red ward crisscrossed in front of the opening, but I could see through it just fine.

So could all of the Khrynsani mages and guards who were waiting just on the other side. Saying that we were outnumbered would be an absurd understatement. At an unspoken command, the Khrynsani deferentially stepped aside to allow someone to pass through.

Carnades Silvanus.

Wearing Khrynsani black mage robes.

Words completely failed me.

“So it is true,” Carnades murmured to me. “Imagine my surprise when I was told that you had dropped into our trap.”

“Our trap?”

“I might have mentioned to Sarad that you and your friends would be paying him a visit, so he was wise and planned accordingly.”

Carnades Silvanus and Sarad Nukpana working together. Hell had officially frozen over, and demons were serving flavored ice.

Kesyn popped the rest of the cheese in his mouth with a flourish. “Remember me?” he asked while chewing.

Carnades looked him up and down with obvious distaste. “Is there a reason why I should?”

The old goblin shrugged. “I guess not. I saw no reason to introduce myself back then. I was on my way out at court during your assignment as Conclave ambassador.” He chuckled darkly. “Justinius Valerian probably gave you the job hoping that mouth of yours would earn you a knife in the back.” Kesyn reached out and patted Carnades twice on the shoulder in consolation. “I’m sure it wasn’t for lack of trying. You must not have been here long enough.” He grinned. “You here to give it another go?”

Carnades’s blue eyes flashed with murder. “You must be Sarad’s ex-teacher.”

“Yeah, I guess I must be.” Kesyn finished chewing the cheese and belched in Carnades’s general direction. The elf flinched at the smell.

Khrynsani guards stepped forward and clapped magic-sapping manacles on both of us.

Now it was Carnades’s turn to smile.

“A mere formality for you, Raine, since you’ve lost your magic.”

“Not lost.” I met his smile and raised him a smirk. “I know exactly where it is. And now I’ll make sure you’re the first one to know when I get it back.” It was an empty threat, but sowing uncertainty in an enemy was never a bad idea.

Carnades indicated Kesyn. “Search him and be careful about it. Sarad said that his former teacher has many unpleasant surprises hidden in those robes.” He turned to me and smiled slowly. “I’ll search Raine myself.”

Carnades Silvanus searched and he found every single weapon I had.

Including the Scythe of Nen.

Apparently Kesyn wasn’t the only one who had had intimate knowledge of secret service armor. I couldn’t imagine Imala having an agent who would have willingly let Carnades grope her. Though Carnades did an entirely too thorough job of searching me, and would have found the demonic dagger regardless.

“This was stolen from a collection in my home,” Carnades noted. “I always thought you were behind it; you and that pirate cousin of yours.”

“The demons that ransacked your house and slaughtered your staff stole that dagger. Me and that pirate cousin of mine followed those demons and saved your miserable life. I’ve heard you should make sure you don’t have any regrets when you die. I regret the hell out of saving your life—that time and all the others.” I looked him up and down. “However, it appears Nukpana thinks you’re good for something besides Saghred fodder. For now. So what did you have to do to buy yourself more breathing time?”

“Nothing that offended my sensibilities.”

“You have those?”

“While we have many fundamental differences, Sarad Nukpana and I have agreed to put them aside for our mutual benefit. The new goblin king recognizes my worth.” Carnades’s eyes glittered. “Unlike my own government, who are fighting like a pack of mange-ridden curs with the Conclave over who will put me on trial first. With Sarad’s help and that of his new goblin government, the changes I have worked tirelessly for all these years will soon come to pass.” He gripped my upper arm. “Time for your tour of the temple, Raine.”

I walked, and my mind was racing. Carnades’s idea of change included killing Justinius Valerian, becoming archmagus and undisputed head of all magic users in the seven kingdoms, with the Guardians reduced to his personal enforcers. Carnades hadn’t been able to accomplish any of them by himself, but with Sarad Nukpana at his back wielding the Saghred? There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, absolutely nothing he couldn’t have.

But Sarad Nukpana didn’t give anyone anything—especially not an elf—unless he’d been well compensated in return. Letting him know that I didn’t have my magic wouldn’t have been nearly enough. So what else did Carnades Silvanus have that Sarad Nukpana wanted—or needed? Nukpana might have told him one thing, but the real reason would be something else entirely, something Carnades had no clue about. One thing I did know: whatever Sarad had promised Carnades wasn’t what he’d eventually get—betrayal and painful death.

I tried to keep my breathing steady and my words even. “So you’re finally going to get the Isle of Mid. Nukpana going to tie a big bow around it for you?”