Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) - Page 48


Tam spoke, his voice a marvel of forced calm. “Apparently Talon can now pick and choose who he wants the spell to affect.” Until now, Tam had been entirely too quiet. Scary, deadly quiet.


“He has enough focus for selective targeting?” Mychael was fighting to maintain what calm he had left. “That’s a dangerous combination under the best of circumstances. Tam, why didn’t you tell me?”


“I didn’t know it had gone that far,” Tam snapped and so did his control.


That was probably the honest truth. Most mages came into their full power in their late teens to early twenties. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an age known for rational, responsible thought—or any kind of thinking before acting. And when their power came, it came fast. Last night, Talon had held one Nightshade. In the predawn of this morning, the kid had put thirty Guardians into suspended animation. I guess the Nightshade was just a warm-up.


Piaras had inadvertently put half of the Guardians in the citadel to sleep during one of our first days on the island. Talon had just stopped time for thirty Guardians in the citadel’s courtyard. He probably could have done more, but the men in the courtyard were all he needed to take out.


Two inexperienced, unbelievably powerful teenagers loose in the city, in all likelihood hunting Taltek Balmorlan. Talon knew what Balmorlan wanted with his father—and with him. And he knew that Balmorlan was likely responsible for the Nightshades who tried to kill us all. While I approved of their target, their methods and inexperience were going to get them killed.


Or worse.


I should have known Talon was going to do something like this the moment he agreed to go to the citadel. There was no way the kid was going to stay in the citadel while his father was imprisoned and charged with murder by elves. He probably considered being in the citadel a prison, too. And in a way Mychael had intended it to be just that. A full Guardian escort to get Talon here, the archmagus to keep him in. Next time, gagged and hog-tied would be the way to go.


Talon had believed that Mychael would free his father. Now he wanted to get his hands on one of the elves responsible for locking him up.


I turned to Vegard. “How long were you—”


“Best we figure, nearly half an hour.”


Damn. All this had happened nearly four hours ago, with Talon and Piaras having a half-hour head start. What the hell was Piaras thinking? I didn’t ask it out loud because I knew. He had wanted to do something, anything, to help. He’d told me himself.


“I don’t think Piaras would go along with Talon’s half-brained scheme,” Vegard was saying. “The boy’s got too much sense.”


“But he would go after him,” I said. “He knows how dangerous it is out there, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders. Let’s hope he uses it.” Unless teenage impetuousness had erased that good sense. Just following Talon through those gates had been bad enough.


Piaras hadn’t brought Talon back yet. I didn’t have to say all the things that could mean; we all knew.


At least the kids didn’t just go running off into the dark armed with nothing but their voices and wits—though I was starting to have serious doubts about Talon’s wits. At least he’d pilfered a couple of Guardians before he left. Best we could figure, the kid had a crossbow, a full quiver of armor-piercing bolts, a brace of throwing knives, and a sword.


And for good measure, he’d swiped the purses of two

Guardians.


Phaelan always said, if you’re gonna steal, be thorough about it.


Those two Guardians had just been paid. Those were two very angry men. I bet if we turned them loose, they’d hunt down Talon real quick.


According to Piaras’s bodyguards, he had his cadet’s daggers, but there was a pair of sleek elven swords missing from a Guardian who’d been on duty at the main gate when Talon did his thing.


I forced myself to take a couple of good, deep breaths on the off chance that it might delay the screaming rant I felt coming on. And to make matters worse, standing in the middle of the courtyard didn’t give me anything to hit.


Right now, Tam wasn’t a badass dark mage. He looked like what he was—a tired, worried father. “Raine, can you find them?”


“I can and will find Piaras,” I promised him. “And if he went after Talon to talk some sense into him, hopefully they’ll be in the same place.” And hopefully that place wouldn’t have bars, wards, and magic-sapping manacles—or a life-sapping regenerating goblin. I didn’t say that out loud; I didn’t need to. Tam knew.


I tried to still my thoughts enough to work, but it wasn’t going to happen. The sun had been up for a good two hours and every Guardian still in the citadel was awake and going about their duties.


Hundreds of magic-wielding warriors didn’t exactly make for peaceful surroundings. The air was seething with macho magic. Trying to get a fix on Piaras was like trying to catch; a gnat with a fishnet.


I had to find one obscenely powerful goblin psycho in a city where magic was running rampant. I didn’t need a clue; I needed a location and I needed it now.


I had to get above the Guardians.


The parapet could work, but ideally I needed to see the whole city. The few times I’d done a seeking on Mid, it had been at night, meaning that most people had been in bed. Mid was an island full of magic users, and right now students, professors, and Conclave mage bureaucrats were awake and so was all of their magic. I needed to get above it—way above it.


I turned around and kept turning, looking for something that would work.


The seawall watchtower on the south side of the citadel.


It might not be the perfect solution, but it was as good as I was going to get as quickly as I needed it.


“Vegard, how do I get up there?”


True to his determination to stay by my side, Vegard didn’t tell me; he took me there.


My dad and Vidor Kalta were already in the tower looking out over the city. I could feel Dad’s magic scanning the city below. Apparently I wasn’t the first to think of the idea.


“No doubt you’re wondering what we’re doing here,” Dad said.


“Find Piaras.”


“Find Sarad Nukpana.” Dad gazed out over the city. “Balmorlan is good, but he is a child compared to Sarad’s new strength level. If those boys were captured, it would be by Sarad.”


“Nukpana ate Rudra Muralin,” I told them. “As well as two of the other specters that escaped the Saghred.”


Dad didn’t say anything, but he thought some choice words. “That kind of power can’t be concealed. Even on an island of mages, it’ll shine like a beacon.”


“Sarad could still infest a host body,” Kalta said, “but after another victim or two he will be too solid to leave his own body. Then he can be killed like any other man.”


After another victim or two. Like Piaras and Talon.


“Sarad Nukpana contains the souls of those who are now dead, murdered by his own hand,” Kalta continued. “This will make him easier to locate. He will attract attention he does not want.”


I snorted. “Yeah, me.”


“Reapers, Miss Benares. Reapers.”


I swallowed hard. Not easy to do when your mouth suddenly stopped making spit.


“I had a run-in with one last night,” I said.


Kalta’s black eyes were on me like a shark. “You what?”


I mentally smacked myself in the forehead. Way to tell everyone what you did last night, Raine. And that you weren’t in the citadel like everyone was supposed to believe.


“At Sirens,” I lied. Everyone knew I was at Sirens; no one could know I was at Markus’s house. Vegard was at Sirens; he knew I was lying, but I’d deal with that later. “I didn’t think about what I was doing. I dug up as much magic as I could without tapping the Saghred, and let him have it.”


Kalta arched a dark brow. “Let him have it?”


“I punched him right where his face should have been. I felt a little winded afterward, but at least the thing went away.”


Kalta went a shade or two paler, if that was possible. “Miss Benares, I wouldn’t do that again if I were you.”


“Why not?”


“You didn’t defeat it; you overfed it.”


“But I didn’t feed it anything.”


“You felt fatigued afterward?”


“Yes, but—”


“You fed it rage—Saghred-powered rage, whether you realized it or not.”


“I didn’t use the Saghred.”


“The power the Saghred has already given you was more than sufficient. You fed it your life force. Reapers take souls; it’s all that remains of life. It ‘went away’ as you phrased it, because it was full of Saghred-fueled magic. The Saghred is also fueled by souls. What you fed it was extremely powerful. If Reapers become stronger, they can take the living. You just made one stronger. It will be back for more.”


“Oh shit.”


“Quite.”


As if there weren’t enough monsters loose in the city this morning, now I’d created a Super Reaper. I pushed the thought aside. If it came after me, I’d deal with it then. With the souls he’d ingested, Sarad Nukpana was probably almost as tempting a target as I was. Though it’d be just my luck that evil souls tasted bad.


“Sarad may have the power,” my dad said. “But it takes more strength than he can spare to hide it. He grows confident and even more arrogant.”


I quickly stepped up beside him. “You’ve seen him?”


“We’ve sensed him.”


“Where?”


“The north side of the city.”


I looked where Dad’s attention was riveted. I saw the smoke from an unknown number of chimneys and a thin layer of morning fog from the harbor. The buildings were hidden; apparently Sarad Nukpana wasn’t.


“The Conclave’s section of the city, mainly office buildings,” he told me.


I couldn’t believe it. The bastard was hiding in plain sight. “He’s in there?”