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

by Jasmine Walt

“Just go,” I muttered in Comenius’s ear. He was normally quite level-headed, but like most Pernians, he had a deeply buried stubborn streak. “I’ll meet up with you soon.”

“You’d better,” Comenius warned, squeezing my shoulder once more. “Stay safe, Naya.”

“You too.”

I waited until the guard had escorted them down the hall and the sound of their footsteps had faded before I headed downstairs toward the Mages Guild, where the Council room was located. My bare feet padded against wood and stone – whoever had left my clothes by my bedside hadn’t seen fit to do so with my shoes or weapons. My weapons were spelled to return to me eventually, but the shoes were not, so I was a little annoyed that they were gone. Servants and mages went about their business, but there was a tightness in their expressions, and a few glared at me with more hatred than usual. Clearly the word that trouble was afoot was spreading, though it didn’t seem that everybody knew the full story yet. The whole Palace would be in a panic if they knew their Chief Mage had vanished.

I hurried past the lobby of the Mages Guild, then took the hallway to my right, which I knew led to the Council room even though I hadn’t been there before. If the Mages Guild logo emblazoned in gold across the heavy wooden door hadn’t been enough, the cacophony of arguing voices beyond it would have told me I’d found the right place.

I pushed open the door and stepped into a long, rectangular room. Portraits of past Chief Mages covered all but the far wall, which was lined with windows overlooking the manicured gardens. Thick carpet cushioned my bare feet, a welcome change from the chilly stone. Two chandeliers dangled from the ceiling, one directly above me on my half of the room, and the other one above the large, round table on the other side, where the eight senior mages sat along with Director Chen. Fenris, ever the shadow, sat directly behind her seat in wolf form, and if not for the fact that her chair was faced sideways to me, I wouldn’t have noticed him at all. Only one chair was empty, and my chest tightened as I realized it must be Iannis’s seat.

All talking had ceased the moment I’d stepped in through the door, but the silence didn’t last. “Miss Baine!” Director Chen exclaimed, jumping to her feet and frowning heavily. Fenris hastily scrambled backward to avoid being trampled, and I ignored him as he turned a reproachful glare my way. No doubt he thought I should still be abed. “What are you doing here?”

“The same as you.” I planted my feet wide and stood my ground as I faced the Council. “I want to rescue the Chief Mage.”

“You will have absolutely no part in this rescue mission!” One of the Council members, who I recognized as Omonas ar’Candar, jabbed a long, slightly crooked finger at me. Unlike some of the elders, he did nothing to hide his age – light glinted off his bald head, and the beard that brushed halfway down his navy robes was pure white. “You have been a bad influence on Lord Iannis, leading him to flaunt convention and ignore laws that have kept Canalo safe for many years. You had better pray to your god that the Chief Mage is still alive, because if not, you shall be tried and executed for your unsanctioned use of magic as you should have already been!”

The other mages were quick to chime in, shouting at Director Chen, ordering her to remove me. I saw a hint of regret in her dark eyes as she moved toward me, but her ivory face was stern, and I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to kick me out.

“Wait.” Fenris stepped in front of me, in human form, and I blinked – I’d been so focused on Omonas and his cronies that I hadn’t noticed he’d changed. “Sunaya may not be a member of the Council, but she’s a trained Enforcer and has experience tracking down missing persons. She could be an asset in this emergency.”

“What she is is a liability,” Omonas snapped. “And might I remind you, Fenris, that you are not a member of this Council either? Frankly, I don’t know what you’re doing here. Shifters have no place in the Mages Guild.”

Fenris stiffened. “I have always attended such meetings.”

“Only because Lord Iannis permitted it,” another mage sneered, turning in his chair to face Fenris. “But he is not here right now, so I don’t see why you should be here either. There is nothing that the two of you can do that we are not capable of.”

“Actually,” I argued, remembering the charm I wore around my neck, “I do have a way to –”

“Stop.” Fenris’s voice echoed sharply in my head, and my vocal chords froze. I tried to speak, and panic shot through me as nothing came out but air.

“What’s wrong, Miss Baine?” Omonas taunted. “Cat got your tongue?”

I gritted my teeth, unconsciously taking a step forward – I hated that expression.

“We’re just about to leave,” Fenris said, clamping his hand around my arm in a vice-like grip. I shot a glare at him, but since I couldn’t speak I had no choice but to go along. “Good day, Councilor.”

“I’m sorry,” Fenris said as he dragged me into one of the guest rooms in the east wing and shut the door behind us. “I couldn’t let you tell them about the serapha charm. If they find out that Iannis gave you such an intimate gift, they would see you as an even bigger threat than they already do.”

The tightness on my vocal chords eased, and I rounded on Fenris, fury crackling through my nerves. “Just what the hell was that?” I demanded. “How did you manage to stop me from speaking? Is it some kind of charm you’re using?” I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Fenris was a wolf shifter – he shouldn’t have been able to freeze my vocal chords, not without some kind of magical device, but I hadn’t seen him use anything.

“I’ve picked up a thing or two from Iannis, but that’s not important just now,” Fenris said coolly. He sat down in an ornately carved rose-colored chair in front of a vanity. “We must use the charm to see if Iannis is still alive.” He remained calm outwardly, but I could tell that fear for Iannis bubbled beneath the surface of his cool exterior.

“Right.” I pulled out the charm, a white tanzarite jewel with iridescent flecks hanging from a silver chain, from beneath the neckline of my shirt. As I focused on the pale stone, it began to glow blue. I let out a huge breath of relief.

“He’s alive,” Fenris said, his yellow eyes narrowed in concern as he stared at the charm, “but judging by the lackluster glow, he is not well.”