Poison Study Page 96

“What an incredible day!” Mogkan exclaimed. “I get to kill the famous Valek and the infamous Yelena at the same time.”

I triggered my switchblade. Mogkan laughed. He sent me a magical command to drop my weapon.

Just as my hand released the blade, I heard Irys’s voice in my head. “Yelena, what’s wrong? Did you find the medic?”

“I need help!” I cried in my mind. Power swelled inside me, pushing to break free. I aimed a finger of power toward Mogkan. His sword dropped from his hand. Terror gripped his face as the magic swaddled him like a baby, then tightened like a noose. He was paralyzed, rooted to the floor.

“You rat-spawned daughter of a demon!” Mogkan cursed. “You’re a blight on this earth. An incarnation of hell. You’re just like the rest of them. The Zaltana bloodline should be burned out, erased, exterminated…”

Mogkan raged on, but I ceased to listen. Valek picked up my switchblade. Mogkan’s curses grew louder and more frantic as Valek approached him. A blur of movement, a shriek of pain, then Mogkan was finally silent. His body sank into a heap on the ground.

Valek handed me the bloody knife. With an exhausted bow, he said, “My love, for you.”

Chapter Thirty-Two

Igasped, remembering. “janco!” grabbing valek’s arm, i dragged him with me, explaining between huffs of breath. Still wearing Brazell’s colors, although torn and bloodstained, we roused the medic, who, with peevish annoyance, fussed about protocol and proper authority until Valek drew his knife.

My stomach heaved when we entered Reyad’s wing. The hallway leading to the captives’ room was gruesome. Soldiers littered the floor, pieces of arms and legs were scattered about as if someone had hacked their way through them. The walls were splattered with blood and pools of scarlet dotted the floor.

The medic wanted to stop at the first man, but Valek yanked him to his feet. Stepping carefully around the bodies, we reached the doorway. Just inside, I saw Janco lying on his side with his head in Ari’s lap. He was unconscious, which was a good thing since a sword had skewered his stomach, the bloody tip poking from his back. Ari’s gore-splashed face held a grim expression. A crimson-coated ax, the weapon responsible for the carnage in the hallway, rested next to him. Irys sat cross-legged in the center of the circle of emaciated people. Her brow glistened with sweat. Her expression was distant. The chained women and men viewed the scene with dispassionate eyes.

The trip to the infirmary was a chaotic nightmare. Everything blurred together like a whirlwind until I found myself lying in a bed next to Janco, holding his hand. The medic did his best, but if the sword had pierced any vital organs or if there was internal bleeding, Janco wouldn’t survive. Twice during the night Ari and I despaired that we would lose him.

My own wound had been cleaned and sealed with Rand’s glue, but I hardly noticed or cared about the throbbing pain. I aimed all my energy and strength toward Janco, willing him to live.

Late the next day, I woke from a light doze.

“Sleeping on the job?” Janco whispered with a weak smile on his ashen face.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Surely if he was strong enough to insult me, then he was on his way to recovery.

Unfortunately, Irys couldn’t say the same about the Commander. Four days after Mogkan’s death, he still hadn’t regained his spirit. His advisers had rebounded from their brief ensorcellment, and they had commandeered Brazell’s manor while waiting for the Commander to return. They assumed temporary control of the Military District. Messengers were sent north to General Tesso of MD-4 and west to General Hazal of MD-6, requesting their immediate presence. The Generals would have the authority to determine what the next step would be in case the Commander failed to revive.

Just as confusing was the fact that none of Brazell, Mogkan and Reyad’s victims woke to Irys’s probing. She had tried to enter their minds, to break through to where their self-awareness was hiding. Irys reported that their minds were like abandoned houses, fully furnished, with embers still smoking in the fireplace, but no one home.

Irys and I resigned ourselves to the knowledge that the victims would live out their days unaware of their new comfortable surroundings in Brazell’s guest wing. I mourned over the loss of my friend Carra. Irys had sought out the rooms used by the orphans, and reported that May was still there, alive and well. I planned to visit with May as soon as Janco regained some of his strength.

“It’s obvious that the children in Brazell’s orphanage were kidnapped from Sitia,” Irys explained, visiting me in the infirmary at Janco’s bedside.

“Mogkan’s ring of child thieves spaced their abductions far enough apart to avoid detection. Magic is usually stronger in women, and that explains why there are more girls. The kidnappers targeted bloodlines where magic was present, although they took a gamble with children that young. There’s no way to be sure the power will develop. Mogkan and Brazell must have planned this for a long time.” Irys raked her fingers through her long brown hair. “Finding your family shouldn’t be too difficult.”

I blinked at her in shock. “You’re joking. Right?”

“Why would I joke?” She was unaware of the emotional tailspin she’d caused me.

She was right, joking wasn’t her style, so I thought for a moment. “Before he died, Mogkan said something about the Zaltana bloodline.”

“Zaltana!” Wiping away her usual serious expression, Irys laughed. It was like the sun coming out after weeks of rain. “I think they did lose a girl. My goodness, you’re in for a real surprise if you’re part of the Zaltana clan. That would explain why you alone didn’t cave in under Mogkan’s spell.”

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