Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(10)

by Jasmine Walt

“I’ll be fine. It’s you I’m worried about.” Lakin paused. “You’ll let me know when you leave? And when you come back?”

“No guarantees,” I warned. “But I’ll try to keep you updated.”

“Good enough.” There was a weary sigh on the other end of the line. “Stay safe, okay, Sunaya?”

“You too.”

I hung up the phone, and then the doorbell rang again.

“This time it has to be Annia,” Comenius said as he hurried to answer the door.

A moment later, he walked back in with Annia, whose expression was downright thunderous. She had my travel pack slung over her leather-clad shoulder, and she tossed it to me underhand as she kicked the door closed behind her.

“This is officially the worst day ever,” she growled.

“For reasons other than the obvious?” I asked cautiously as I caught the pack. Damn, but it was heavy – she must have stuffed it to the gills. Annia might look slender and willowy, but she kept in good shape and was amazingly strong.

“Yes.” Annia snatched up a cookie and glared at it. “Somebody fucking snuck into the holding cells under the Enforcer Headquarters and slit Danrian’s throat.”

“What!” I jumped to my feet, and my pack slid to the ground with a loud thump. “You’ve got to be kidding. Danrian’s dead?” Warin Danrian was the local manager of Sandin National Bank. He’d been running an illegal fighting ring called the Shifter Royale in which he forced shifters who were indebted to Sandin to fight in the ring. He’d also nearly killed me by injecting a fatal dose of silver-laced drugs into my bloodstream.

“As a doornail.” Annia bit into the cookie with a vicious intensity, her dark eyes burning. “It happened while I was at the Palace with you.”

“Fuck.” I shoved my hands into my curly hair, fingernails scraping against my scalp. “This is my fault. If I hadn’t let him get the better of me –”

“It’s not your fault.” Annia’s voice was firm. “I would have eventually left the Enforcers Guild for some other reason – the assassin was probably waiting until I did to strike. Maybe I’d have gotten more information out of him, maybe not. But either way, somebody wanted to silence Danrian, and that was going to happen no matter what we did.”

“It’s that damned Benefactor.” I sat back down on the couch, taking slow breaths to calm my racing heart. Working myself up into a rage wasn’t productive. “Danrian said he was working with the Benefactor on a larger scheme that was coming to fruition soon. His confederates wouldn’t have wanted Danrian to spill the beans right when they were about to make their move.”

“Did they mean the attack on Iannis’s dirigible?” Fenris demanded, his yellow eyes narrowed. “Or something else, something more?”

“If there is something larger afoot, I have a feeling we’re going to find out very soon,” Comenius said, brows furrowed.

An uneasy silence descended on the room, and we all looked at each other, not knowing what to say. What if some other catastrophe hit Solantha while I was gone? Of course, Comenius and Elania were more than capable of handling themselves, but what about Noria? And so many of the other citizens who were just normal people trying to live their lives?

“By the way,” Annia said, breaking the silence, “I tried to pack everything you need in there, but if you have to go back to your apartment for anything, I’d be very careful. I had to do some serious sneaking to get into your place.”

“Let me guess,” I sighed, sitting down on the sofa so I could open up the pack and riffle through it. Inside were several days of clothes and toiletries, a set of knives, and a pack of jerky, amongst other things. Annia knew me too well. “My apartment is being watched?”

“You got it.” Annia plopped down in the chair I’d vacated and popped another cookie into her mouth. “Half of the Enforcers Guild is camped outside your place, and the other half is running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. The Courier is blaming the Mages Guild for the Chief Mage’s disappearance, and the public is fighting back so hard against all these heavy-handed arrests that several Enforcers have been badly wounded or killed. Many Enforcers are refusing to cooperate with the Mages Guild’s orders, and I can’t blame them. Everyone’s gone bat-shit crazy.”

“Fuck,” I muttered, dragging my nails across my scalp. “We have to get the Chief Mage back before the city devolves into a war zone.”

“I’m all for that,” Annia said around a mouthful of cookie. She swallowed before adding, “Especially now that I can’t do anything more with the Shifter Royale case. Plus, I’ll get to cash in on that reward they’re offering. So what’s the plan?”

“We don’t have much of a plan,” I admitted with a sigh. “Elania cast a spell to pinpoint the Chief Mage’s location a little better, and we’ve determined he’s somewhere in the southern half of Mexia. But that’s about it.”

“That’s a good thousand miles away,” Fenris said, his brow furrowing. “It would take several days to get there even on steambikes. The coal and water charms powering them would likely buckle under the constant stress, and that’s not even factoring in the rough terrain we’d have to traverse as we pass through uncivilized territory.”

“Yeah, and there’s also the fact that my bike is still in Durain somewhere.” I blew out a breath in frustration. I really wanted it back, but the priority was to find Iannis right now, and searching for my steambike wouldn’t help. “I can travel pretty fast in panther form too, but not fast enough over such long distances.”

“What we need is an airship,” Fenris said. “And a pilot to man one.”

“I can do the piloting,” Annia offered, “so if you’ve got the funds to procure a ship we should be good to go.”

I arched a brow. “Since when are you able to pilot an airship?”

Annia grinned. “I dated a freighter captain during my college days, and I spent a lot of time with him aboard his ship between breaks.”

“Spending a few months aboard the ship doesn’t necessarily qualify one as a pilot,” Fenris pointed out, sounding skeptical. “Are you sure you can manage this?”