Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2) - Page 45


Talon’s aqua eyes widened in disbelief, and he screamed in muffled rage from behind his gag.


“Your father didn’t tell you?” Muralin asked mildly. “Or should I say your father refused to claim you. Hardly surprising. Taking pleasure from elves is permissible; procreating is not. His shame is understandable.”


I should probably have kept my mouth shut, but I didn’t want to.


“My father kept the Saghred away from you for eight— or was it nine? — hundred years. Not too shabby for an elf.” I lowered my voice in commiseration. “Must have embarrassed the hell out of you. Your shame is understandable.”


Rudra Muralin’s hand went white-knuckled around the dagger’s grip. “Since you’re an elf and female, the feeding process will probably shatter your sanity. You should be grateful that I’m merciful and willing to kill you quickly.” His eyes glittered with something nasty. “And if the Saghred rejects Tamnais’s spawn, all I’ve lost is something that should have been drowned at birth.”


I pushed down my rage. “What a sweetheart. If you unhook me, I’ll give you a hug.”


Rudra Muralin turned to Talon’s guards. “Bring him.”


Talon fought like a wildcat despite being tied up, and his guards had to virtually drag him across the floor to me.


“You need do nothing,” Muralin told me. He came closer, circling me to stand just behind my right shoulder. My legs weren’t chained and he wasn’t taking any chances. “If my test is successful, I’ll have the other spellsingers brought in one at a time.” His voice turned soft and coaxing next to my ear. “Just relax, Raine. The Saghred has done this many times. It knows what to do.”


I felt myself begin to respond to his voice, to do what he said. I fought the urge to thrash and struggle. I was still desperately trying to come up with a way to get out of this while trying not to look desperate.


One of the guards grabbed a handful of Talon’s long hair and jerked his head back, exposing his throat. Rudra Muralin moved into position behind him.


I felt the Saghred. I couldn’t use its power, but it was there, quivering in anticipation, waiting, eager.


But not for Talon’s blood.


It was ignoring Talon completely. Its attention was elsewhere—and so was mine.


Muralin sensed something was wrong.


I met his black eyes. “It’s not Talon’s fault.” I let one corner of my mouth curve into a crooked grin. “It’s yours.”


Rudra Muralin was a thousand years old, but he was still just a boy.


The lower hells must be freezing over. The Saghred and I actually agreed on something.


Why would you want a boy when you could have a man? A voice came from the shadows, low and dark with barely contained rage. Tam’s voice.


“Release my son.”


Heavily armed and black-armored goblins silently emerged from the tunnels and quickly surrounded the Khrynsani. Dark power rolled in waves from each and every one of them. These weren’t nightclub bouncers. Tam had called in high-powered, out-of-town talent.


The Khrynsani weren’t outnumbered, but I do believe they were outgunned. The same thought was crossing their minds. They looked to Rudra Muralin for the command they had to expect but didn’t want to hear. Even death-loving Khrynsani didn’t want to die.


Tam’s dark eyes glittered in the dim light. This

wasn’t the Tam I knew. This was Primaru Tamnais Nathrach: dark mage, former chief shaman for the House of Mal’Salin, magical enforcer to the goblin queen—and a really pissed-off father.


Tam was dressed for sending Rudra Muralin to his reserved place in the lower hells. He was in black from head to toe, including boots that came up to midthigh. His armor was leather and matte black steel, he was wearing blades anywhere and everywhere he had the room, and his hair was pulled back in a long, goblin battle braid. When he stepped into the room, his braid didn’t move. Probably another blade.


Rudra Muralin was standing between Tam and his son. When bad people threaten your child, I imagine that could make you a little irrational. Add irrational to rage and black magic and you’ve got a powder keg ready and eager to explode. Most people would run screaming from that kind of blast before it happened.


Tam was going to run toward it; I could see it in his eyes. And if he got the chance, Rudra Muralin was going to do the exact same thing.


And I was hanging there like a side of beef, smack dab in the middle of the room, with Piaras sprawled in a corner, out cold.


Like I’d said, things were going to get ugly.


“I offered you a place of honor among my new disciples.” Muralin’s voice was ominously quiet. “You scorned my gift.”


I blinked. So the petulant punk was going to slaughter Talon out of spite?


Tam looked past Rudra Muralin to me.


“Did he harm you?”


“Just my dignity for now, but I don’t like his plans for later.”


“Plans can change.”


“I was hoping you’d say that.” I tilted my head to the right. “Piaras is on the floor over there. Please get him out of here.”


Tam’s eyes went back to Muralin. “Done.”


Muralin actually made tsking sounds. “You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep, Tamnais. Your spawn means nothing to me; I have other sacrifices. But your elf whore is mine.”


Whore?


Chain me, steal my magic, slaughter kids on me, kill me, and call me a whore? I flexed my feet. There’s payback due on that one.


Rudra Muralin took the curved knife away from Talon’s throat and, with a disdainful smile, shoved him to the floor. Talon’s hands were still bound behind him and he landed hard on his shoulder. A muffled sound of pain came from behind his gag, but when he looked up at Rudra Muralin, his aqua eyes were crystal clear and blazing with hatred.


“There’s your filthy bastard,” Muralin purred. “Come and get it.”


Tam did.


Now I don’t mind all hell breaking loose. My family loves a good fight. But a torture chamber full of leather-clad goblin dark mages, and me dangling from the ceiling like a party favor? No, thanks.


Fortunately, most of the spellslinging was aimed elsewhere. One of Tam’s men dragged Piaras clear and took up a defensive stance in front of him. Good. Piaras looked like he was starting to come around. Even better. Hopefully he’d realize that the goblins were divided into “us” and “them,” and that the goblin standing guard over him was one of us.


Talon was on his feet and was looking for a way out when a Khrynsani with a wicked-looking dagger locked his arm around Talon’s throat and pulled him in tight for the kill. Bad move. Talon’s hands were tied behind his back and they were perfectly aligned with their intended target. The guard’s shriek

confirmed it. The kid traded his death grip on the Khrynsani’s dangly bits for a sharp twist, and didn’t let go until the guard’s knees buckled. Having been a man myself for several hours this evening, I knew firsthand that there was no pain like man pain.


“Talon!” I yelled.


The kid turned. He was gagged and tied; I was chained to a hook. We were quite a pair.


“Swing me!”


The kid looked baffled for a split second; then he grinned.


I narrowed my eyes. “Not that kind of swing. Get behind me and push.”


He did, and I got the intense satisfaction of kicking a Khrynsani in the back of the head.


I was on the backswing when I saw Rudra Muralin coming for me, curved dagger held low.


He wanted control of the Saghred—and if he killed me, he had it. I could not believe this. My life’s goal was to get rid of the Saghred. Now to keep my life, I had to fight for the rock. Irony sucked.


Rudra Muralin ran straight at me and I used the only weapons I had. I wrapped my legs around his waist, pinned his arms to his side, and squeezed my thighs together. I felt his power building, so I twisted sharply, squeezed harder, and screamed right in his face.


Tam’s blackjack came down on the back of his head. Rudra Muralin went limp between my legs and I let him go before his weight dislocated my shoulders.


“No spells?” I gasped.


“No need.” Tam grinned and tucked the blackjack back in his belt.


He bent and wrapped his arms around my hips and lifted me straight up. I unhooked the chain and lowered my arms, my shoulders screaming in protest.


I grimaced. “I am going to be so sore in the morning.”


Tam loosened his hold enough that I slowly slid down the length of him until my feet were on the floor. Tam didn’t let go. I’d kind of thought and hoped he wouldn’t.


“Nice work,” he murmured.


I shrugged as much as my aching shoulders would let me. “If you can’t fight, distract.”


I looked around the room and swallowed. Tam’s black-magic hit squad didn’t believe in taking prisoners. If it was Khrynsani, it was dead.


Piaras was on his feet and mostly conscious. Talon was untied and ungagged.


“Garai?” Tam never took his dark eyes from mine.


One of the goblins approached. “Your will, my primaru?”


“Find the keys.”


“At once.”


I stopped and my eyes went wide. With all the black magic flying around the room, the Saghred should have been trying to burn a hole in my chest. It wasn’t.


Oh yeah. The manacles.


Tam knew. He grinned slowly, then bent his head and kissed me even slower. One arm pulled me tight against him; his free hand cradled my face and one finger lightly traced the tip of my ear.


I told myself that my legs were still weak from hanging; Tam’s kiss and nibbling fangs had nothing to do with it.


Tam raised his head and looked down at me; his dark eyes had gotten even darker.


“See, no Saghred kickback,” he murmured.


“Not a peep,” I managed.


His smile turned seven ways wicked. “Maybe we should keep the manacles.”


I met his smile and raised him a grin. “They could come in handy. And you’re very bad.”