Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2) - Page 21

I jumped, dropped the book, and barely caught it before it hit the floor.


“Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

He raised his hands defensively. “I didn’t sneak. I knocked. You didn’t answer, so I let myself in. It’s not my fault you weren’t paying attention.”

“I was distracted.”

“Obviously. Must be a really hot book. So who’s doing what to whom and how long have they been going at it?”

“About a thousand years.” I sat down and squeezed my eyes shut against the headache I knew was on the way from the link with Megan.

Phaelan whistled. “Impressive.”

“And scary.” I told him what I’d read yesterday and just now. I didn’t have to explain why any of it was scary; that part was obvious.

What I didn’t tell him was about Tam. Phaelan was a rogue and a scoundrel himself, so you’d think he wouldn’t mind his cousin being semi-involved with someone of like character. You’d be wrong. It wasn’t the obvious elf/goblin prejudice. I think it was that in Phaelan’s opinion, no man would ever be good enough for me. I had enough problems right now without Phaelan finding out what had happened last night.

My cousin sat down in the chair across from me. “So let me get this straight. When you fed Sarad Nukpana to the rock, you basically rang the dinner bell. And the antique goblin shaman who’s probably still alive and kicking—”

“Rudra Muralin,” I told him.

“Right. The really old guy. He’d always fed the rock all the souls it could hold, so the next time it wakes up, the Saghred will expect you to serve it breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a silver platter since you’re its… What did you say Nukpana called you?”

I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes. “Bond servant.” My headache had officially arrived and was setting up house between my eyes.

Phaelan didn’t say anything else. I kept my eyes closed; the darkness and silence felt wonderful. Too bad it couldn’t last.

“You ready to get out of here?” Phaelan asked quietly.

I opened my eyes into a squint. My cousin looked as grim as I’d ever seen him.

“I can’t. I wish I could, but I can’t.”

“Why not?” Grim turned into angry. “You did your seeker thing and found the Saghred for that paladin. Hell, you even retrieved it for him. End of job. You don’t owe anyone here a damned thing. The only thing you should be seeking now is a way to get off this island.” He lowered his voice. “I’ve told the crew to be quiet about it, but to get the Fortune ready to leave in a hurry.”

“I mean I really can’t leave yet. I’m still connected to the Saghred. Bond servant, remember?”

Phaelan’s dark eyes flashed. “Yeah, I do. And from what I’ve seen, no one here’s breaking much of a sweat to do anything about it.”

“It’s only been two days. Things have happened.” Entirely too much had happened. “It’s complicated.”

“When someone I’m doing business with tells me there’s been a complication, that means the only problem they’re having is deciding which way to screw me over. I’m not going to stand by and watch that happen to you or Piaras.”

I froze. “What about Piaras?” It occurred to me I hadn’t even seen him since

his inadvertent audition yesterday afternoon.

“First Nightshades collapse the stage so somebody can watch you pick it up,” Phaelan said. “Then somebody slashes the shields on the music room so Piaras can knock out the Guardians in the citadel. Banan Ryce as much as said you auditioned for whoever hired him—and I think Piaras auditioned for someone besides Ronan Cayle. Maybe Ryce’s employer, maybe someone else. It could be anyone. Every mage on this island knows by now that you and Piaras are packing some serious firepower. They’re either thinking the two of you are a threat—or a really valuable commodity.”

Carnades Silvanus thought I was a threat. The Khrynsani saw me as a commodity to be acquired—and last night in that alley they’d damned near succeeded. Did anyone think Piaras needed to be locked up or acquired?

I closed the book and got out of the chair. I needed to get dressed and find Piaras.

“Don’t worry. I’ve been keeping an eye on him for you,” Phaelan said. “What he did yesterday impressed the maestro and whoever slashed the shields, but some of the Guardians the kid put nighty-night might not be so impressed. A couple of them could be really pissed off.”

I hadn’t thought of that. “Where is he?”

“Having another lesson with ‘the maestro.’ ” Phaelan scowled. “By the way, Ronan Cayle’s a mean bastard and I don’t like him.”

“He’s a mage, and you don’t like any of them.”

“I’m keeping an eye on you, too,” he said quietly.

I started pulling my leathers out of the closet. “Thank you. I’m sure my Guardians will appreciate any help they can get. I seem to be a challenge.”

“Who’s protecting you from them?”

I stopped. “I don’t need protecting from them.”

Phaelan snorted. “Are you so sure about that? What about the paladin?”

“What about him?”

“He has his duty. He’s also not completely in charge here. He takes his orders from the archmagus, and possibly from this Seat of Twelve I keep hearing about.”

“I know.” I pulled out my daggers. “I met one of them yesterday.”

“Did you like anything about him?”

“Not a thing.”

“That’s what I’m talking about, Raine. A lot of these mages want what you can do, but they don’t want to go insane to get it. You haven’t gone off the deep end yet. That makes you very valuable to a lot of powerful people. There’s bound to be competition, and it’s going to get ugly. So you just say the word—I’ll get Piaras, and we’ll get the hell out of here. Nothing the Guardians have at their docks can catch the Fortune.”

I didn’t remind Phaelan about the sentry dragons or weather wizards who could suck the wind right out of his ship’s sails. Leaving Mid would mean leaving my only chance at getting my life back, but I wasn’t going to put Piaras in danger doing it.

“You’ll be the first to know when I’m ready.”

The pair of Guardians on duty outside Mychael’s office saw me coming. I was dressed in my working clothes: trousers, above-the-knee boots, and my favorite doublet, all in formfitting, supple brown leather. I liked the doublet because it had steel links woven between the outer leather and inner lining. It also had leather sleeves to hide the weapons, a pair of knives in forearm

sheaths I carried when I knew someone was going to jump me, but I just didn’t know when.

Vegard walking by my side was probably all that kept Mychael’s sentries from drawing steel. They stepped in front of the door to stop me from barging in, but they did step politely.

“I need to see the paladin,” I told them. “And no, I don’t have an appointment; and no, he’s not expecting me.”

“We can’t open the door, ma’am.” He was a young Guardian and sounded almost apologetic.

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t, ma’am. The paladin sealed the room.”

“What for?” Vegard demanded.

“The spellsinger is in there.” His eyes were a little wide.

“Ronan Cayle?” I asked.

The other sentry nervously cleared his throat. “Him, too. But it’s the other one, the young one from yesterday.”

I bit my lip to keep from laughing. They were afraid of Piaras. Then Phaelan’s words came back to me. If these two were afraid, there just might be some who were pissed. My intention had been to tell Mychael about Banan Ryce’s newest prisoner, and then find Piaras. I could do both here. Good.

I assumed my most reasonable tone. “Surely you can—”

“Just tell the paladin Miss Benares is here to see him,” Vegard interrupted. “Now.”

“Yes, Sir Vegard.”

One of the Guardians passed his hand over a crystal mounted next to the door. The crystal flashed once and within a minute, I heard muted voices and a few seconds later Mychael opened the door.

And Sarad Nukpana was standing right behind him. He was smiling.

I knocked Mychael out of the way, whipped out a knife and slashed the goblin’s throat.

My knife passed straight through.

It was a mirage. What kind of sick mage bastard creates a mirage of Sarad Nukpana?

The sentries behind me had drawn steel, and all of it was pointing at yours truly. I froze, keeping my hands where they could see them.

“Stand down,” Mychael ordered. “Miss Benares was startled by the mirage. Sheath your weapons.”

They did, and so did I.

“Dismissed,” Mychael told them.

They saluted, left, and closed the door behind them.

“My mirage hasn’t dissipated yet,” Ronan Cayle told me. “My apologies if it startled you.”

Piaras was standing next to a raised music stand. “Maestro Cayle was helping me improve my repelling spellsongs. He wanted to know what I was most afraid of.”

Phaelan was right—Ronan Cayle was a mean bastard.

“An amazing likeness, don’t you think?” The flame-robed maniac was actually pleased with himself.

My empty knife hand twitched. “Yeah, amazing. Uncanny even.”

Mychael moved between me and the maestro. He didn’t think I was going to do anything; he was just being prudent. I knew I wasn’t going to do anything, either, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about it.

“Raine, a spellsinger must be able to stop anything in its tracks,” Mychael said. “And they can’t let their fears get in their way.”

“If you can’t think, you’re dead,” I muttered.