Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) - Page 27


I could defy the Saghred; but would I deny myself? And if I could deny myself, how long could I keep doing it?


I knew the answer to that question. That answer, that truth, scared me more than Sarad Nukpana, the Saghred, and every specter loose on the island.


My voice was a bare whisper. “What happened in the bordello, when the specter challenged me . . . I enjoyed it. I wanted to destroy that thing. I wanted to consume it.”


“I know.”


“I don’t want to be like that.” I felt my fingers clench into fists. “I won’t be like that.”


“I won’t let it happen to you.”


My laugh came out bitter. “It already has and you know it.”


Mychael closed the distance between us and his long fingers slid under my chin, tilting my face up to his. His eyes were blue fire. “One step does not damn you.”


“There’s been more than one and you know it. Weeks ago when I crushed that demon in watcher headquarters, I—”


Mychael shook his head. “I don’t care how much you enjoyed what you did. It was a demon. It possesses and destroys, or kills and consumes. You killed a thing that needed to be killed. Yes, you may have enjoyed it; and yes, that exhilaration you felt undoubtedly came from using the Saghred. Power is exhilarating.” The fingers that had been holding my chin gently touched my face; his other hand was warm against my cheek as he cradled my face in his hands. “Using that power for good does not condemn you.” He paused. “Raine, would you have killed that demon again, even if you knew you would have to use the Saghred to do it?”


“Without hesitating.”


“Why?”


I blinked. “Why? Because it was trying to kill people. It might have succeeded. One of those watchers wasn’t moving; several weren’t moving. I don’t even know what happened to them.”


“You killed to protect, to defend. Does that sound evil to you?”


“No. But I—”


“Because it’s not.”


“But I still enjoyed it.”


“That doesn’t make you evil. The nature of the Saghred is temptation. It can’t do anything alone. It wants someone to use it. It needs someone to use it.”


“It’s chosen lucky me. And now it’s chosen you because of me. I’m the one who should be apologizing.”


“I wouldn’t take it, because you have nothing to apologize for. Nothing you have done or will do is your fault. I will see to that.”


My throat tightened. “Thank you,” I managed. “That means a lot, especially coming from you.”


His hands slid down to my shoulders. “You have nothing to thank me for.”


“I have everything to thank you for. You believe in me, and you believe I can do this—all of this.”


“I have no doubt.”


I looked up at him. “So what happened to Mychael Eiliesor, protector of the people by the book?”


His smile held many secrets. “Occasionally I have him take the night off.” The smile faded. “By the book doesn’t always get the job done—and sometimes it can get innocent people killed.”


I glanced around the room. “Looks like you give him the night off a lot.”


Mychael’s eyes gleamed in the dim light. “A few times.”


“So who else knows about

this place?”


“Just me and the archmage.”


“Not Vegard?”


Mychael shook his head. “I trust him with my life, but some things he’s safer not knowing.”


“Would this place have anything to do with Justinius flushing his enemies out of hiding?”


“Occasionally.”


I flashed him a grin. “Secretive and cryptic with a touch of deception. Don’t take this the wrong way, but sneaky suits you.”


“It’s just another side of me.”


“You should let him out to play more often.”


“The way things are going, that’ll be unavoidable.”


“Okay, say we go to the bar, get the name, the place, and the money—a nice added bonus, by the way. But what happens when Morrell and Orla don’t deliver Sarad Nukpana’s next meal? I don’t think Nukpana or his uncle will be too pleased with their procurer. Not that I have a problem with that.”


“Anyone who arranges kidnappings and murders for a living deserves anything they get,” Mychael said. “Though if, when everything plays out, Nukpana’s uncle wants to take any revenge on his hireling, he’d better act fast. My plan is for Sarad to cease to be a problem in the next day or two, and his uncle right behind him.”


“I like the ‘cease to be’ part.”


“And in addition to meeting with Karl Cradock, and preventing the next kidnapping and murder, we’ll be getting proof that Tam has had nothing to do with any of this.”


“Did Morrell and Orla confess?”


“They didn’t kidnap General Aratus. Karl Cradock did that himself.”


I had a bad feeling about this. “Then why is he hiring someone else now?”


“My guess is this next job is more than he could handle—or wanted to risk. Karl Cradock isn’t a magic user. Kester Morrell and Maire Orla are.”


“What can they do?”


“Conveniently, Morrell is a spellsinger. Orla is a most proficient hypnotist.”


“I’m not,” I told him.


“The Saghred helped you literally turn yourself into a man; I think a little hypnosis is well within your magical range now.”


I froze. “That tells me Nukpana’s next victim is a magic user, moderate to high powered. Like Piaras. His bodyguards are sticking to him like glue, right?”


“Raine, when we have the name, we’ll take action. Immediately. Worry doesn’t do us or Piaras any good right now. Besides, even on their best days, Morrell and Orla couldn’t get into the citadel. And they sure as hell couldn’t get into Justinius’s apartments.”


“Do you have proof that Karl Cradock snatched Aratus?”


“I know he did, but I don’t have tangible proof; I’ll get that at our meeting.”


“Uh, Mychael, even if we do get him to spill his guts, Carnades doesn’t consider us the most reliable sources of information.”


He grinned crookedly and pulled out what looked like a large marble on a silver chain from beneath his shirt. There was a narrow band of silver around the middle of the stone, about the diameter of a man’s ring. “Which is why we’ll be wearing these.”


I leaned forward for a closer look, but wasn’t about to touch any kind of pendant on a chain. An amulet was what had gotten me into the whole Saghred mess to

begin with. “Which is?”


“It will record everything I see and hear for one hour.”


“What’s it called?”


“The inventor never named it. He’s an old friend of mine, a prolific inventor, not big on naming his gadgets. This little beauty hasn’t failed me yet.”


“Then why do I need to wear one?”


“Because there’s a first time for everything not to work.” He held out the second pendant to me. “I’m not about to take any chances.”


I put it on and held the tiny globe up by the chain and looked into it. It was a flat blue on the surface; it could have been a trick of the light, but I thought I saw swirling strands of pale blue light beneath the surface. “So if Cradock incriminates himself, this little thing will record it?”


“When Cradock incriminates himself,” he corrected me. He smiled gently. “I’ve done this before, many times, and I like to think I’m rather good at it.”


“Sorry. I’m just having trouble with the whole ‘Mychael Eiliesor as con man’ thing.”


“Understandable. No offense taken. The gem will play back the entire hour in any common crystal ball.”


“So when this guy gets a case of loose lips, we’ll have a record of it, and Carnades, or anyone else who wants to keep Tam behind bars, will have no choice but to let him go—with an apology.”


“I think an apology from Carnades would be pushing it.”


I frowned. “Mychael, we’re going to have to do something permanent about him. Phaelan’s offered to contact some people, and I’m about to let him.”


“I agree that he needs to go, but let’s do it my way.” There was that secretive smile again. “I’ve got a few irons in the fire; they’ll be getting hot enough to use soon.”


“What’s your way?”


“Destroy his credibility, take away his influence, and get him dismissed from the Seat of Twelve.” Mychael’s voice turned cold and each word was sharp and clipped. “And when he can’t buy a vote or bribe an official, and none of his bought-and-paid-for allies will even admit to knowing him, then I will personally kick his ass off of my island.”


Now, that was a plan I could get behind.


“When’s this meeting?” I asked.


“Two bells. That gives us a little less than an hour.”


“Where do you have Morrell and Orla locked up?”


“A Guardian safe house.”


“Mychael, I don’t mean to stick pins in your plan, but if I’m going to do a glamour of this woman, I have to see her. I can’t do this without details.”


“I’ve got all the details you need.” He laid his index finger to his temple. “Right here.”


“Use our bond.”


Mychael nodded once. “The cell where we’re holding Morrell and Orla has a ward across the bars so they can’t see out, but I can see in. You’ll have to reproduce her clothes yourself as part of the glamour, but I have all of her weapons here.”


“All of her weapons?”


“I think she carries even more steel than you do, if that’s possible. They’re over there on the bed.”