Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(9)

by Jasmine Walt

Faint conversation drifted to my ears, and though the front door of the shop was too far away for me to make out the words, the cadence of the visitor’s tone was familiar. It took me a second to figure out who it was.

“Fenris!” I exclaimed, and in the next second I was through the door, bounding down the stairs.

“Sunaya!” Elania called after me, but I burst into the front of the shop, eager to see my friend. I’d felt bad about leaving the Palace before meeting up with him again, especially since the Council seemed to have it in for him nearly as much as they did for me. Thankfully, he looked like he was in one piece, standing next to Comenius in the front of the shop, dressed in his customary dark tunic and leggings.

“Good morning –” Fenris began, then let out a small “oomph” as I wrapped my arms around him and crushed him tight to me.

“Good morning my ass,” I chided as I squeezed him. “We both know this is a shitty morning. But I’m glad to see you. I was worried the Council mages had gotten to you or something.”

“As was I about you.” Fenris had frozen when I hugged him, but only momentarily, and his strong arms wrapped around me as he hugged me back. “I’m relieved you made it safely out of the Palace.”

“Let’s head upstairs,” Comenius said, double-checking the lock on the front door. “We can catch up in my living room and finish breakfast.”

I checked my watch as we headed up the stairs, and frowned. “Isn’t it time for you to open the shop soon?”

“I already called my employees last night and gave them the day off,” Comenius explained. “Word of the Chief Mage’s disappearance is spreading throughout the city, and panic along with it, so I decided not to open my doors today. Elania and I have already reinforced the protection spells outside our shops, as have many of the other shop owners.”

“Fair enough,” I said as we walked back into the apartment. We rejoined Elania at the table, Fenris seating himself next to me, and though I was glad to see him safe, I was also perturbed at the prospect that unrest was spreading throughout the city while I was cooped up and powerless to do anything about it.

“Despite living in the Palace all this time, I too was slated for arrest,” Fenris said with a tinge of bitterness. He accepted the cup of tea Elania handed him and selected a cookie from the platter. “I had to slip out of the Palace in disguise. All shifters are in danger just now, as well as anyone else suspected of sympathizing with the Resistance.”

“Shifters?” I demanded, scowling. “Why shifters? Humans are just as big a part of the Resistance.”

“Yes, but the shifter population is smaller and easier to target,” Fenris pointed out. “Not to mention that there are still a number of mages who think that shifters should have remained slaves to the mages, as they were originally created to be.”

I hissed at that – we were born out of magical experiments done with humans and animals, originally bred to be a kind of warrior race, and many of the mages still thought they owned us. If not for the Uprising, where our ancestors had revolted, as well as the assistance of mages who thought our subjugation unfair, we would still be slaves today.

“I should call Lakin, then,” I said, hopping up out of my chair to get to the phone in Comenius’s kitchen. “Make sure he’s okay.”

“You might not be able to reach him,” Fenris warned as I picked up the phone. “He’s probably got his hands full.”

The phone rang for several seconds before it connected. “Inspector Lakin,” a slightly breathless male voice answered, and relief swept over me.

“Boon,” I said, using his first name despite my better judgment – I knew Lakin had feelings for me, so I usually did my best to keep him at arm’s length. At this second, though, I was too happy to hear his voice to care about that. “How are things?”

“Crazy,” he said, sounding distracted. I heard some rustling in the background, like he was looking for something. “There are mages here, both from the Enforcers Guild and the Mages Guild, stalking the streets of Shiftertown with warrants and looking for any excuse to snatch our people off the streets and throw them in jail. My deputies and I have mostly been trying to protect the residents and get people to safety before they are taken.”

“By Magorah,” I muttered, gripping the receiver tightly. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not really,” Lakin said dryly. “They’re looking for you too, and between your bad rep and the bounty on your head, you’d be caught the second you set foot here.”

I gritted my teeth again. Ever since my heritage as a half-mage had become public knowledge, the Shiftertown community regarded me with scorn and hatred. This largely had to do with the fact that most shifters disliked mages in general, so they viewed my half-mage status with a combination of disgust and jealousy, imagining that I enjoyed all kinds of unfair privileges as the Chief Mage’s apprentice.

“Well I’m going to bring the Chief Mage home,” I said after a moment. “So that should help with your situation.”

“All by yourself?” Lakin demanded. “I can’t imagine you’re going with the official search party, since they’ve got a warrant for your arrest.”

“Fenris is coming with me, and maybe Annia if I can convince her. But I’m going either way.”

“How are you even going to find him? You don’t have the kind of resources the Mages Guild does. You might be better off –”

“If you say ‘keeping your head down’ I’m going to reach into the phone and rip your throat out,” I growled.

There was a moment of silence. “You can’t actually do that, can you?” Lakin finally asked in a pained voice.

“I think we’d both rather not find out.” I let out a small sigh. Of course I couldn’t do that – I didn’t even know if such a thing was possible. But for all that Lakin liked me, he was afraid of my magic, and in instances like this it showed. “My talents would be of better use doing something like, say, rescuing the Chief Mage.”

“I would come with you, but Shiftertown is my first priority.”

“I know, and I’m not expecting you to.” Somebody needed to make sure the shifters stayed safe, and there was no one more qualified than Lakin for the job. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”