All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) - Page 46


“We won’t let you down, boy,” Kesyn whispered.


Tam stepped out onto one of the few sections of the temple floor that hadn’t been cracked or broken, his back toward the mysterious blaze just outside the temple in Execution Square, the flames’ reflection licking hungrily at his gleaming black armor.


Tam didn’t say a word. There were no incantations, no raised arms, no shouts of challenge. In testament to his skill, he simply stepped aside as the shadows to his left parted like a curtain.


The demon was shorter than Sarad Nukpana’s creature, but height was the only thing it lacked. It was part man, part bull, and all demon—from his cloven hooves to his massive, horned head.


The monster and Tam’s demon took measure of each other, then began slowly circling, drawing closer to their intended kill with every step.


The time to stop Tam was long gone. The demon had been summoned and released, the damage done. Tam was one of the most powerful mages I’d ever met, but Sarad Nukpana had the knowledge, cunning, and power of six of history’s magical heavyweights.


Without the Saghred’s power, what I wanted to do and what I could do were worlds away from each other. Right now I was less useful against both demon and monster than Mirabai and her broken stick.


Mychael raced up the stairs to the altar, and Kesyn didn’t give him time to start trying to blast his way through. The old goblin quickly held out both hands telling him to stop and then a single finger asking him to wait. Mychael gave a tight nod, and stood ready just outside the ward, facing the Khrynsani black mages with his magic flaring, bright and white-hot. He held it in check, letting it swirl and quickly grow around him like a contained cyclone, ready for release.


“We don’t have to break their spell, just their concentration.” Kesyn told me with grim satisfaction. “I’ve been arming myself for the past day in case something like this happened. It’s one of the many advantages to being old. There’s one thing that can get through any ward. Air. These bastards can’t concentrate if they can’t breathe—or don’t want to.” The old mage grinned. “Take a breath and hold it.”


“What? I don’t unde—”


“You don’t have to understand, just do it. Do you think I’ve been eating that cheese because I liked the taste? Take one old man and add stinky cheese. Do the math, girl—or in this case, the chemistry.”


One second those black mages were sealed in a Level Thirteen ward; the next they were gasping for fresh air that no longer existed.


Their concentration broke when Kesyn broke wind.


The mighty mage Kesyn Badru released a spell that laid low the collective strength of the Khrynsani’s most evil archsorcerers.


That’d sound better in the history books than one fart made the old man a hero.


When the Khrynsani lost their concentration, the spell controlling the ward buckled and broke, releasing a backlash that left only two of the mages standing, though staggering would be a more accurate description.


Mychael and his magic were waiting for them. When the crackling light dimmed, the mages weren’t dead at his feet. They were simply gone. A wisp of smoke floating in the air and the fading scent of incense were the only clues to what had happened to them.


Then there was no ward, no black mages. It was just us with the Scythe of Nen and the Saghred.


Mychael removed the Scythe from its scabbard.


Carnades’s blood still

coated the blade, blood that had to be present before the Scythe could cut into the Saghred. For possibly the first and definitely the last time, Carnades Silvanus was about to do something noble.


Mychael started to give me the Scythe, then hesitated, his eyes on mine.


“You promised,” I said quietly. “I have to do this, not you.” I had to swallow to get the rest of the words out. “If this… goes bad, I’m not going to die knowing you’re living with that guilt.”


Mychael’s hand tightened around the Scythe of Nen until his knuckles showed white against his tanned skin.


Then he put it in my outstretched hand, and stepped back to give me and Kesyn room to work. I knew he’d stay close. He couldn’t protect me from the Saghred, but he would keep anything and everything else from harming me.


The Saghred was on its pedestal, no shields protecting it now. I didn’t kid myself for one instant; the Saghred didn’t need any help. It’d kept itself intact and feeding for thousands of years, maybe longer.


Somehow the stone knew what I was about to do. It hadn’t resisted when the demon queen had thrust the Scythe into it to free her husband and king. I was only one elf with no magic, and the rock knew it because we were bonded and it’d taken my magic itself. It knew my fears and my weaknesses; and believe me, there were a lot of both right now, especially fears. But Tam had killed the demon queen with good old stealth and cunning. I had both of those. However, Tam had also had surprise on his side. He’d snuck up on the demon queen and lobbed her head off. There wasn’t going to be any sneaking up on the Saghred.


Kesyn had been standing a little off to the side to give Mychael and me some semblance of privacy. He stepped up to stand by my side. “Let me get some Reapers down here first,” he said quietly.


An instant later, I felt the old goblin mage’s call, literally felt it, his thoughts brushing like butterfly wings against my mind. I resisted the urge to shiver. The Reapers appeared almost instantly.


Kesyn and I looked up. A vortex had opened that went through and beyond the temple ceiling. We couldn’t see the end of it, or out into the temple. The swirling wasn’t some kind of gray mist; it was Reapers. Thousands of them.


Instantly the Saghred was in my mind, whispering to me without words, a sibilant hiss that pushed the vision of the Reapers aside and replaced them with what was happening right now to the people I loved. Tam clenched in one hand of Nukpana’s creature, while it fought the demon with the other hand for possession of Tam. Piaras snapped up by a dragon and dragged screaming into the bowels of the temple. Sarad Nukpana had turned his attention from his monster to Mychael. Mychael was now on his knees, magic fading, strength almost gone, struggling under Nukpana’s unrelenting attack. Khrynsani black mages surrounded him, sacrificial daggers at the ready.


“No!” I screamed the word out loud and in my mind.


None of it was true. The Saghred knew me; it knew what scared me.


It was the Saghred that was afraid. Sarad Nukpana had somehow bound it; it couldn’t take me until the goblin gave his permission. But that didn’t mean that the thousands of souls about to be ripped from the stone through me wouldn’t kill me or drive me irrevocably insane. Like me, the Saghred was vulnerable, possibly for the first time in its existence. An existence I was going to end, even if I ended my own life.


I was afraid, too. Hell, I was terrified. But my fears weren’t for me, not anymore. Some things were worth

dying for. Tam knew that. He had made that decision for himself, determined that an eternity of torment was worth destroying the Saghred to save those he loved, and his people, all of his people.


The Saghred wasn’t giving up. It weighed down my mind, sending my thoughts into a tailspin of torturous images.


My fear will not control me. My fear will not control me. The Saghred will not control me.


I had a power that the Saghred didn’t have and would never have. In its own way it was magic, magic that the Saghred could never bury or bind or take away from me.


Love.


Tam was risking his soul for it. Mychael had fought for me all these months and was now by my side protecting me. Chigaru’s love for Mirabai and his people inspired him to challenge the evil of Sarad Nukpana.


One rock wasn’t going to take that away from any of us.


I got a death grip on the Scythe.


For an instant, I could see through the Reapers. The dark energy swirling around Sarad Nukpana shifted as he saw me poised with the Scythe. All of his attention, the entire focus of his vast power, was caught up in controlling his monstrous creation.


Nukpana’s mad eyes widened in desperation as he screamed to the Saghred, “Take her!”


I drove the Scythe of Nen into the Saghred up to the hilt.


Shrieks, screams, agonized wailing, whether from me or the Saghred or its captive souls, I didn’t know and was beyond caring. It was as if I’d plunged the Scythe into my own guts. My breath froze, my heart fluttering in shock and panic, fluttering, then slowing, stopping. My fingers weakened on the Scythe’s grip, the cold metal sliding away. Suddenly another hand covered mine, warm and strong, keeping my fingers tight around the dagger, sharing his strength, his determination.


“Hang on, girl. We’re almost there.”


Kesyn Badru.


I managed to raise my head. I could no longer see through the spirits swirling around me and Kesyn. I looked up. The Saghred’s souls were escaping, the Reapers guiding them up into the vortex and on to whatever came after.


When the souls finally stopped coming out of the stone, I glanced down. The Saghred was smooth and as opaque as fine alabaster. I could see the blade of the Scythe of Nen inside, its grip protruding from between my trembling fingers. There were no more souls inside. My breath came in ragged gasps. The stone wasn’t the only one that had been drained. I pulled the blade out, immediately reversing the grip and bringing both the pommel and my free fist down on the Saghred, shattering it into glittering dust.


Sarad Nukpana’s scream turned to a howl of rage and disbelief, of ambitions dashed, plans in ruins. He’d seen the Saghred destroyed. He staggered back and nearly fell, maybe from witnessing the obliteration of his future, but his focus on his monster had wavered and broken; the backlash from the botched link drove him to his knees. The creature began folding in on itself as if deflating, emitting a keening cry as the magic that made it vanished.


Tam’s demon ignored the monster completely, his gleaming red eyes hungrily locked on Sarad Nukpana. The goblin recovered quickly, but the demon was faster. With a bellow of triumph, he charged toward the steps and Nukpana, his hooves striking sparks from the floor, each strike like a clap of thunder. The goblin shielded himself and defiantly stood his ground, snarling a guttural spell that rocked the stone beneath our feet, throwing us to the floor.