All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) - Page 9


Us alive. Sarad Nukpana dead. The Saghred reduced to dust, like the dirt presently covering my hair.


“Are we there yet?” Talon asked.


I muffled a snort.


“When we’re there, we’ll stop walking,” Nath told him.


If someone had given Nath and Talon a more-than-passing glance, they would have thought the two goblins were brothers. I estimated that Nath was about ten years older than Talon, which made me seriously question the wisdom of putting Nath in charge of a retrieval mission. Maybe that was why Jash Masloc was his shadow. The goblin mage gave the impression of steady calm, and that Tam respected him said even more. I knew for a fact it didn’t take much to send Talon flying off the handle. I hoped Nath had more of a grip on his impulses than his nephew did.


I had to hand it to everyone—for a crowd of people, they moved almost without a sound. Other than his one question, even Talon was keeping his mouth shut. The kid was probably scared to death. He’d never been to Regor, and he certainly had never been surrounded by this many pure-blooded goblins. And if traveling with heavily armed goblin Resistance fighters bothered Piaras, you’d never know it.


The Guardian cadet uniforms and armor were helping both of them. There weren’t any goblin Guardians, so perhaps the Resistance thought Talon must have been especially kick-ass in the magic and military departments to be recruited. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two of the female Resistance fighters giving Talon the once-over. I knew that look. Heck, I’d given that look. These ladies weren’t evaluating Talon’s military prowess. Good thing the kid didn’t notice those glances, or we’d never get him to shut up.


“Where are Mother and Father?” Tam asked his brother. “Are they safe?”


Nath hesitated, then he and Jash Masloc exchanged a tense glance.


“Where are they?” Tam’s voice promised pain to whoever had made his parents not safe.


“Mother’s fine,” Nath told him. “If being in charge of the Resistance means that you’re fine. For every one of our people the Khrynsani take, Mother and her agents kill two—or more if they can get them.”


“Impressive,” Imala murmured.


“If we had another couple of months, Mother could probably empty the Khrynsani temple.”


I spoke. “Tam, a woman who’s in charge of the Resistance and picks off Khrynsani doesn’t exactly sound like a stay-at-home mom.”


“Before she met our father, Mother was one of the finest mortekal in Rheskilia.”


“Mortekal?”


“Loosely translated as ‘noble taker of life’ or ‘righteous executioner.’”


“A mortekal doesn’t kill for money,” Imala explained. “They kill because it needs to be done. Though a mortekal will accept payment for expenses and any extenuating circumstances surrounding the target.”


“There was a serial killer in the northern provinces that neither the local law enforcement nor the garrison there could stop,” Nath said. “The people took up a collection and hired Mother. She had the bastard’s head on a pike in a week.”


“I’ll bet you two never had a problem with bullies growing up.”


“None,” Tam said. He reached out and grabbed Nath by the shoulder. “You haven’t answered my question. Where’s Father?”


Nath’s voice stayed steady. “There was an ambush. Our latest intelligence has him imprisoned in the temple dungeons.”


“Sarad Nukpana is mine.” Tam’s words were low and calm and chilling as hell.


“You’re welcome to him, but it was Sandrina Ghalfari who did the taking.”


That name sounded familiar.


“Sarad’s mother,” Imala told me.


“That thing has a mother?” I blurted.


“Now she has joint command with Sarad,” Jash said. “His injuries prohibit him from assuming all of his duties. Plus, the scope of their plan is too large to be handled by one person alone. It seems Sarad trusts Sandrina enough to share power with her.”


“Such a nice son,” I muttered. “Until she turns her back.”


“Or until he turns his,” Tam said. “Sarad is merely insane. Sandrina is evil.”


“She’d give the demon queen a run for her money?”


Tam nodded once. “Sandrina Ghalfari poisoned and murdered my wife. She did the same to her husband to secure his title and fortune. Now she has taken my father. Her life is mine.”


The tunnel began a gradual upward slope and the ground beneath our feet went from packed dirt to solid rock. I was relieved to see the walls and ceiling do the same thing.


When Jash Masloc stopped, we all did.


My hand crept toward my sword hilt as I peered into the dark beyond the torches’ light. Nothing but a lot of dark, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything inside.


“We’re coming up on the base of the city walls,” Jash said. “Sarad Nukpana has sensors anchored to the top every fifty feet.”


“To sense what?” Talon asked.


“Magic,” Jash said. “And yes, they can sense all the way down here, so push your magic down as far as it will go.”


I hoped Talon knew how to tamp. Surely, Tam had taught him how, but had the kid been listening when he did? We were about to find out the hard way.


Back when the tunnel walls were still dirt, Jash had told us the plan. If we passed under the walls and into the city without incident of the ambush kind, we’d be splitting up. It was the best plan I’d heard all day.


In my opinion, sneaking was an activity best done solo. If others had to tag along, there shouldn’t be more than a handful sharing the shadows with you. Any more than that and you’d be tempting fate, luck, and any anything else you’d care to name. That we’d made it this far undetected was a towering testament to goblin stealth and elven desperation. Once we were inside the city, we’d be moving even faster than we had been. That was something else I was all for. Movement kept sitting ducks from becoming dead ducks.


Jash signaled us to stay put and walked forward on nearly silent footfalls. The flame of his torch illuminated a ragged opening only the height and width of an average man.


The city wall of Regor. Home of Sarad Nukpana, the Khrynsani, and the Saghred—all of whom wanted me dead and gone, and the more painful they could make my death, the better. To make the experience even more enjoyable, it appeared that we’d have to go through the opening in that wall single file. Alone.


Great.


Hopefully no one’s magic would hiccup when they passed through. I felt more than a few nervous glances on me. I had news for them; my magic wasn’t what they needed to worry about. Sarad Nukpana had been close enough to me on numerous occasions to have set those sensors to me, not just to my magic. If that was the case, we were all screwed. It wasn’t like I could tamp down myself.


“I’ll go through first,” Jash told us. “Nath, you follow.

That’ll test the sensors against mage and mundane.”


Imala spoke. “If you weren’t detected when you went through the first time—”


“The first time, Sarad knew Raine Benares wasn’t with us,” Jash reminded her. “Thanks to the spy orb that Khrynsani captain was wearing, Sarad may now know differently. If he knows she’s here, he’s had ample time to have the sensors recalibrated.”


To me. Or to anyone who had the bad luck to be with me.


“Sorry about that,” I said.


“We’re not,” Nath chimed in. “We live for flipping off Death.”


“If those sensors could be set for me, then I should be the last one through.” I kept my voice down for the obvious reasons, but spoke loud enough that the goblins heard me. They’d probably volunteered for this duty, but it never hurt to make nice with the locals. Nothing said nice like giving your new allies a head start on running for their lives if I set off those sensors.


A few of the Resistance fighters graciously inclined their heads in my general direction; a couple more gave me what might have passed for smiles under better circumstances.


All of us had our magic locked down tight. Well, all of us except for me. My magic was probably on vacation on a sunny beach somewhere, toying with the idea of never coming home.


“I’ll wait as well,” Mychael said.


Piaras stepped forward. “Me, too.”


I shot him a look that summed up what I thought of that idea.


Piaras wasn’t backing down. “I’m a Guardian cadet and our sworn duty is to guard and protect the Saghred and prevent it from being wielded by those who would use that power to destroy.”


It sounded like he was quoting out of the Guardian handbook or something. Heck, if there was one, he’d probably already memorized the thing.


A mischievous grin flitted across his mouth. “Just doing my sworn duty.”


“You’ve been talking to Vegard too much.”


“My conversations with Sir Vegard have been highly educational.”


“I’ll bet.”


Talon slid up beside Mychael, speaking in a whisper out of only one side of his mouth. Impressive. “Is guarding Raine a required Guardian cadet activity?”


Mychael fought a smile. “No, Cadet Nathrach. It’s not.”


Talon’s shoulders sagged in relief. “Oh, good.” He glanced at me. “Don’t take it the wrong way, but you’re dangerous to be around.”


“I’ve noticed that. I don’t want to be around me, either.”


Tam clapped a hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’re going through with me.”


“With?”


“To make sure that magic of yours doesn’t spring an ill-timed leak.”


Jash and Nath squeezed through the crack in the city wall without incident. The other goblins followed, including Prince Chigaru and Imala.


Chigaru didn’t have any magic. Odd how the family who had ruled the goblins for the past two thousand years didn’t have a spark of magic to their names. A few could sling a respectable spell in a pinch, but for the most part, they were all nulls. Which said a hell of a lot about their other skills—like terrifying their subjects. There had been coup attempts down through the centuries, but if one Mal’Salin went down, there was always another waiting in the wings.