Poison Study Page 87

Stealing into Irys’s mind was as easy as slipping on a pair of gloves. Her thoughts flowed into my mind like silk. I reminded her of her younger sister, Lily, and she longed to be back home with her family, not sneaking around in cold, horrid Ixia. The situation in the north was getting dangerous; she would be safer in Sitia. But for how long? she wondered. As a master-level magician, she couldn’t allow the abuse of power that she had felt emanating from this area to continue. Kangom, who called himself Mogkan, was producing Theobroma at alarming quantities. He had also rigged a way to intensify his power.

Irys’s thoughts returned to me, and I felt a tug on our mental connection.

Yelena, what are you doing in my mind?

I’m not sure how I got here.

Haven’t you figured it out by now? You’re focusing your magic when you fight. That’s why you instinctively anticipate your oppo nent’s moves. I felt you at the castle when you were fightingyour friends. Now that you have learned to harness your power, you have taken the next logical step by expanding it beyond the immediate area.

My surprise broke our link. I stopped, panting in the cold night air as Irys emerged from the woods.

“Does that mean I’m not going to flame out?” I asked.

“You’ve stabilized, but you won’t get any stronger unless you receive the proper training. You don’t want to waste your potential. Come south now; your pursuers are miles away.”

“The Commander…”

“Is ensorcelled. Nothing you can do; his mind is probably gone. Mogkan has been feeding him Theobroma. I’ve smelled it since I arrived.”

“Theobroma? Do you mean Criollo? The brown-colored sweet that Brazell’s manufacturing.”

“That sounds right. It opens a mind to magical influence. It relaxes the mental defenses, allowing easy access to someone’s mind. We use it as a training tool in controlled situations where a fledgling magician is close to the subject. The Commander has a strong personality, very resistant to magical suggestion. Theobroma breaks down that barrier, which helps when a student is learning, but using it on the Commander to gain control of his mind is the same as rape.” Irys pulled her cloak tight around her shoulders. “Even with Theobroma, a magician shouldn’t be able to reach the Commander’s mind from this distance, but Mogkan has. He has found a way to boost his power.”

Irys rubbed her arms with her hands, trying to warm up. “I’m guessing Mogkan’s visit to the castle was to lock himself into the Commander’s mind so he could lead him out here.”

“What can we do to break the lock?” I asked.

“Kill Mogkan. But it’ll be difficult. He’s very powerful.”

“Isn’t there another way?” I recalled my conversation in the woods with Valek about murder as a solution. My formula, he had said, and it still annoyed me. He’d probably never been in the lose-lose situation I was always finding myself in.

“Block Mogkan’s power supply. That might work. He’ll still have his magic, but it won’t be enhanced.”

“What would his extra power look like? How do we find it?”

“My guess would be that he’s either recruited a number of magicians to pool their power, or he’s devised a way to concentrate the power source without warping it.” She paused, considering.


“Diamonds?” A cold knot of anxiety churned in my stomach. There was so much I didn’t know about magic.

“Yes. Very expensive, but they will gather and store power like a hot coal holds heat. He might be using diamonds to enhance his magic. He would need a man-size circle of diamonds, and that’s not easily hidden. If we could find this circle I might be able to use it to block his power or, at least, redirect it long enough for you to awaken the Commander.”

“What if the source is a group of magicians? How would I recognize them?”

“Unfortunately, Ixia doesn’t have a uniform for magicians,” Irys said, her voice sharp with sarcasm. “Instead of searching for them, look for an empty room with a wagon-wheel design painted on the floor. To link magical power, each magician must be perfectly aligned along the edge of a circle.”

“I can search the manor, but I need help,” I said. “I need Valek.”

“You need a miracle,” Irys replied with a wry twist to her lips.

“Can you direct Valek here?”

“He’s already on his way. You two have forged a strong connection, although I don’t know if it’s of magical origin.” Irys pursed her lips. “I’d better go before Valek arrives. When and if you discover the source of Mogkan’s extra power, chant my name in your mind. I’ll hear your call because we, too, have created a bond. Our mental link grows stronger each time we communicate. I’ll try to help you with the Commander. But no promises. I’m after Mogkan.” She disappeared into the forest.

While I waited for Valek, I paced on the packed dirt and tried to think of a way to find Mogkan’s power source. Irys’s words about needing a miracle were, indeed, an understatement.

To distract myself, I focused on my surroundings. The tread of many feet had rubbed out the grass and trampled the earth until it was worn smooth and shiny. I remembered digging my heels into this same hard dirt the last time I was here, when Reyad dragged me to the manor house to punish me for disobeying him and winning the amulet. I had pressed that prize so tight against my skin it had left a mark. Then I had hidden it to keep it out of Reyad’s cruel hands.

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