Poison Study Page 93

The distant sound of music vibrated in the air. Pulsing, the magical harmony soon rose to a crescendo and encompassed us like a warm blanket. The prison cell and filthy straw dropped away from our awareness. Whiteness draped in snowy silk surrounded us. On this plane we were equals, partners. Our souls bonded. His pleasure was my ecstasy. My blood pumped in his heart.

Utter bliss came in short snatches, although, Valek and I were happy to try again. We had merged, our minds had become one. I drew in his essence, feasting on the feel of his body in mine, exhilarating in the caress of his skin against mine. He filled the hollow emptiness inside my heart with joy and light. Even though we lay in the grubby straw and faced an uncertain future, a deep hum of contentment vibrated throughout my body.

Chapter Thirty-One

Reality and the rank odor of a decomposing animal intruded. Darkness had descended.

“Let’s go,” Valek said, pulling me to my feet.

“Where?” I asked, adjusting my uniform.

“The Commander’s room, so we can take him back to the castle with us.” Valek brushed the straw from his hair and clothes.

“Won’t work.”

“Why not?” Valek demanded.

“As soon as you touch him, Mogkan will know.” I explained about Mogkan’s link with the Commander and how he had established that connection using Criollo.

“How do we break the bond?” Valek asked.

It was time to tell him about my magic. I felt light-headed, as if I stood on the edge of the world. Taking a deep breath, I related the encounters and conversations I’d had with Irys, and how she might be able to help us.

Valek stood still for a full minute, while my heart thumped madly in my chest.

“Do you trust her?” he asked.


“Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”

My head spun. So much had happened and we still needed to stop a powerful magician. Death was a real possibility. I wanted Valek to know how I felt.

“I love you.”

Valek wrapped me in his arms. “My love has been yours since the fire festival. If those goons had killed you, I knew then that I would never be the same. I didn’t want or expect this. But I couldn’t resist you.”

I molded my body to him, wanting to share his skin.

He took my hand. “Let’s go.”

We raided the guardroom for uniforms before slipping into the hallway. Wearing Brazell’s colors of black and green, we hoped to avoid discovery as we stole through the manor.

Valek needed his bag of tricks, so we headed toward the barracks. While I retrieved my cloak, Valek slid inside the empty wooden building. The soldiers had gone to search for us.

I paced in the shadows of the building, chanting Irys’s name in my mind. We needed a plan of attack. We had to move tonight.

Shouts and curses emanated from the barracks. Running inside, I found Ari and Janco with their swords drawn and pointed at Valek.

“Stop,” I said.

Spotting me, Ari and Janco sheathed their weapons, smiling.

“We thought Valek had escaped without you,” Ari said, giving me a bear hug.

“Aren’t you supposed to be with a search party?” Valek asked as he pulled his black bag from under a bunk. He had changed into an ebony coverall with numerous pockets.

“We’re too sick,” Janco said, his best smirk in place.

“What?” I asked.

“The charges against you were obviously fabricated, so we refused to take part in the hunt,” Janco said.

“That’s insubordination.” Valek extracted a long knife and some darts from his bag.

“That was the point. What’s a fellow have to do around here in order to get arrested and thrown in the dungeon?” Janco asked.

I stared at Janco in amazement. They had been willing to risk a court martial in order to help me. He had meant what he had inscribed on my switchblade.

“Which direction did the search parties go?” Valek asked. He placed weapons in various pockets and strapped his sword and knife onto his belt.

“Mainly south and east, although a few small groups were sent west and north,” Ari replied.



“And the manor?”

“Minimal coverage.”

“Good. You’re with us,” Valek ordered them both.

They snapped to attention. “Yes, sir.”

“Prep for covert ops, but keep the swords. You’re going to need them.” Valek finished dressing as Ari and Janco got ready.

“Wait,” I said. “I don’t want them getting into trouble.” My heart started to skitter around in my chest and a nauseous wave threatened to send bile up my throat as fear of what we were planning to do overcame me.

Valek squeezed my shoulder. “We need their help.”

“You’re going to need more than that.” Irys’s voice came out of the darkness. Three men simultaneously drew their swords. When she stepped into the weak lantern light, Valek relaxed, but Ari and Janco brandished their weapons.

“At ease,” Valek ordered.

Seeing their reluctance, I said, “She’s a friend. She’s here to help.” I looked at her. “We discovered Mogkan’s extra power source.”

“What is it?”

I told her about the mindless captives and how they had been chained in circles, and then explained my theory that Mogkan had wiped their minds to seize their power. Horror and revulsion touched her face. Despite her rough exterior, her concern went deep. She managed to regain her no-nonsense frown, but Ari and Janco looked a little green, as if they were going to be sick.

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