Eye of the Tempest (Jane True #4) - Page 40


Her eyes undoubtedly as wide as mine, I watched as Phaedra scrambled away from Graeme, pulling her shields with her. Dashing away from us in an undignified little sprint, the Alfar picked the worst place to run. I groaned, inwardly, as she made her away directly toward the one part of the cavern we didn’t want her to see: the part with the little tunnel. Blondie swore, taking off after our favorite nemesis while throwing mage balls by the dozen in an attempt to get Phaedra to turn back around and meet Blondie’s charge.


Graeme, for his part, had dealt with his mistress’s abandonment with aplomb. At first he’d hesitated when she’d run off, as if unsure whether to follow her. I’d like to think he was afraid of taking me alone, but that’s highly unlikely considering how often—and how thoroughly—he’d trounced me in the past.


Meanwhile, I kept tight rein on my expression. I didn’t want to give away the trap, so I didn’t overbait it by doing anything too dramatic, like faking a swoon. But when his next hesitant probe touched my shield I visibly cringed and backed away just the slightest step.


Most likely realizing that the same bad luck that had taken his great protector away had also taken mine, he grew bolder. Smirking, he strode forward, pushing at my mental shields more firmly. I kept up a modicum of the sort of shield I’d formed before, when I’d slammed his down, but I purposefully kept it weak.


The nice thing about Graeme was that he could be counted on for two things: sadism and arrogance. So it wasn’t very surprising when, feeling my vulnerable defenses, he went ahead and slammed into them with everything he had—all that gruesome mojo, filled with the pained screams of his long life’s many victims.


Bracing myself, I allowed my shields to recede before him. But that was the key word: recede. What probably felt like crumbling to him was really just me pulling them in, as close as they would go, until I think they were actually under the surface of my skin.


The important fact, however, was that they still stood. So when Graeme opened his own channels to blast at me with everything he had, I was ready.


Focusing my power into the narrowest stream I could make it, I waited till after Graeme had finished. To him, it felt like he was hitting me full blast. And to me, it felt like he was painting me in nightmares, but none of them got under my skin.


I’d taken a big risk. If he’d figured out what I’d done, he could have walked up to me and simply torn my head off, something I would never have survived no matter how quickly Blondie intervened. But I knew that Graeme got off more on making his victims collude with him on their destruction than he did on the actual destroying. Not that he didn’t enjoy the pain-infliction part, but I knew he really enjoyed the fact that he could make his victims beg him to torture them.


So the only magic he leveled at me was mind magic. And when he was done, it was my turn.


Ramming forward with the thin shafts of power I’d created, imagining an ice pick as I did so, I pushed as fast and hard as I could. I knew I had only moments before Graeme realized what I’d done and he closed off his channels.


So I struck like a serpent, thrusting myself forward,

physically, with the strength of my magical push. Graeme’s eyes widened as he felt what I’d done, but he was too late. My power burrowed through his channels, straight past his own defenses, buried as it was in his own mental probes. Quick as one of the incubus’s own leering winks, my power was blasting into his brainpan.


Graeme’s body spasmed, his waxen face grimacing in a rictus of pain. Unlike him, however, I took no pleasure in his obvious torment. But I knew we needed Graeme out of this fight, so I pushed even more power through our connection, despite feeling sullied through contact with his depraved mind.


Luckily, the contact was short-lived, for Graeme quickly crumpled to the ground. He lay on the ground, twitching, his eyes rolled back into his head. Before I could let any pity for that monster filter through my system, I hit him with a mage ball to the head, and another, until he was still.


I wasn’t sure if he was dead, but he was definitely still. And I’d seen way too many movies where the girl goes to check if the bad guy is actually dead and gets her ankle grabbed in return. So instead I hit him with one more mage ball and then wove the water around him tight in a binding spell. I put enough juice in it to last a few hours.


Phaedra, meanwhile, was currently battling with Blondie. The Original had caught up with the Alfar well before the entrance to the tunnel, and they were having a good, old-fashioned bash-off. Blondie’s weapon was that same glowing sword, and Phaedra had created two short swords of her own, but her weapons were purely made of power. Unfortunately, Phaedra’s swords were no use against Blondie’s fierce, real-steel-and-magic version, and they kept dissipating at inopportune moments. Phaedra nearly lost her head, and at least one ear, a few times, although she kept managing to roll away or create another weapon at just the last second.


I had to give it to the bald little Alfar: She was nothing if not a fighter.


“Enjoying the view?” Blondie shouted from where she was bashing at Phaedra.


I didn’t answer, but tried to get closer to the Original.


“Never mind me!” she called. “I’ll keep this one busy. You go on up ahead! Fulfill your destiny!”


I gulped. She made all this sound like an episode of Highlander, what with all the destiny talk. I was someone who had issues, not destinies. I also didn’t really enjoy the whole “go it alone” aspect of today’s activities. I’d been pretty sure that, when I’d taken down Graeme, Blondie would make short work of Phaedra, and we could discover, together, whatever was hidden under Rockabill.


I preferred the buddy system to the “Jane has a destiny” system.


“Go on, Jane! I’ll be right behind you!” Blondie called, just as Phaedra swung at her, hard, with a combo of magic-laser-sword and pure mojo. Blondie oofed as her shields buckled, and she listed to the side.


“Goddammit, Phaedra,” she said, irritably, as she righted herself and her shields. “What part of ‘just give up’ are you not understanding?” And with that, the Alfar and the Original went back to bashing at each other, leaving me to do as Blondie commanded and go off to change both Rockabill’s fate

and mine.


Oh fuckerdoodles, I thought, sidling toward the tunnel. Oh fuckerdoodles, I thought again, more emphatically, when I saw Graeme’s still form shift just the slightest bit. I prayed my bindings would hold.


What have I done to deserve this? I thought, as I scrambled toward the tunnel entrance.


All this trouble, when all I ever wanted was to bask on a warm, flat rock.


The tunnel before me was dark as I entered, and darker still as I made my way in. I was just about to light a mage light when the ground dropped out from under me.


The echoes of my screams were all I heard until the next sound: that of my body hitting the floor, hard.


CHAPTER TWENTY


I’m not sure if I passed out or had the wind knocked out of me or what. But I was definitely out of it for at least a few minutes.


Stretching my limbs slowly, I felt aches but no real pain. Nothing seemed to be broken.


I let myself lie on the cool ground for a moment, gathering my thoughts—and my magic—about me. The atmosphere in these caverns was so damp it felt more like the ocean than it did air, and that went for elemental power, as well. It was like I was lying with my body in the shallows of a beach, everything was so saturated with the sea’s power. So I went ahead and recharged, not taking the power around me for granted.


When I finally sat up, I carefully sent out some short probes while lighting a tiny mage light. When nothing reacted badly, I made the mage light bigger till I could see.


I was sitting on a cold floor that was way too pristine and way too white to be natural. It looked like a solid sheet of marble and stretched as far I could see.


Liberace would love this, I thought, gathering my legs under me and standing, slowly.


When I was on my feet, I peered around the darkness, trying to figure out where on earth I could be. I did, after all, know where I was supposed to be—somewhere under the Sow—but marble flooring was really not what I expected for under-Sow decor.


My mage light rose over my head as I looked around, and I let more magic pulse into it. Too late, I realized that my actions weren’t going unnoticed. My light got brighter and brighter, despite my no longer pumping magic into it, and that’s when I realized that more lights were coming up, all around the room. None of the lights were attached to walls; they all floated, in what seemed to be a long oval, with me at one end. On the other end, I could very faintly make out the shape of either a door or a mirror.


Well, I thought. It’s fairly obvious where I’m supposed to go.


I looked around the darkness for another option, but there wasn’t any. Besides, I thought, when in search of Wonderland, one plays by the rabbit’s rules…


Walking forward, I kept my magics flared out around me, both shields and probes working overtime.


Ouch, I thought, as pain started registering up through my feet. I must have hurt myself when I fell. But it was an odd pain, not from my arch or from my ankle as I would have assumed. It felt like it was coming upward through the soles of my feet. Weird.