Magic Betrayed_Elustria Chronicles, page 1part #3 of Magic Born Series
Table of Contents
The Elustria Chronicles: Magic Born - Book 3
About Magic Betrayed
Also by Caethes Faron
About the Author
About Magic Betrayed
There's a traitor on the loose, and Kat's harboring deadly secrets...
Kat has trained for the last six months to join the Covert Council Service. All that stands in her way are her trials, the final test of her training. If she survives, she'll be a full-fledged agent, able to search for Meglana's hidden talismans and right the wrongs of her mother's past.
Keeping secrets has become a way of life. Kat's the only person who knows a Directorate mole lurks in the Council's midst. With the traitor's identity a mystery, she can't afford to trust anyone, even if it means lying to the people she's vowed to protect.
When the mole almost kills Kat during her trials, she must uncover his identity before he has a chance to finish the job. Her search for the traitor will bring the CCS to its knees, but if she fails, her life and the lives of every CCS agent will be forfeit.
Magic Betrayed is the third book in the Magic Born series and is intended to be read after Magic Born and Magic Unknown.
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Two, no, three mages were talking on the other side of the doorway. I couldn’t get any closer, not without alerting them to my presence. The Covert Council Service had amplifiers, little gadgets that could be inserted into the ear to help overhear conversations, but I didn’t have one with me. If I wanted to know what they were discussing, I’d have to rely on good old-fashioned magic.
Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. With each passing second, a bit of intelligence slipped by, but that kind of thinking wouldn’t help me now. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, emptying my mind. The amber talisman around my neck sent warmth throughout my body, the magic it contained eager to do my bidding. I reached out with my magic, pushing it through the wall and into the other room. It bumped against a curved object: the shield the mages were using to block their conversation from eavesdropping ears.
In my six months of training with the CCS, I had learned about all different shields. This one was intended to block the sound of their voices. If I could manipulate my magic to match the frequency of it, I should be able to break through. This fine-tuned control would’ve never occurred to me months ago.
A little twitch here, a little modulation there, and I was in. Once through the shield, I opened the hand I’d held clenched in concentration until now. With my hand’s movement, my magic opened and absorbed the sound around it.
Nothing but gibberish reached my ears.
These mages must be ultra-paranoid. They not only shielded their conversation, they also used a charm to distort their voices. Only those within the shield could understand it. Time to delve back into my bag of tricks.
Counteracting this kind of charm wasn’t easy, but the fact that I had to maintain my intrusion into their shield at the same time made it more difficult. These charms worked the same way a code did. Find the correct cipher, and you could listen in. All I had to do was figure out the precise charm they were using.
Once again ignoring that with each second I lost valuable information, I stopped trying to guess which charm they were using and listened instead. Common Tongue was full of rolling r’s, but what I heard were a lot of sibilant s’s and the occasional tongue click. I knew just the cipher. I opened my mouth to utter the spell that would counter it, but thought better of it. If they heard me, then all of this work would be for nothing. Instead, I concentrated on running the cipher through the standard translation spell in my mind and hoped for the best.
“So how long do you think we’ll be here?” the man asked.
“There’s no telling,” a woman replied. “I hear she’s good. She better be. I was out on a mission all night last night. I don’t have the energy to keep up this shield and charm for too long.”
“Yeah, we didn’t even delve into this advanced training back when I started. This stuff used to be reserved for people who’d been out in the field for a year or two,” the male said.
“And that’s why our numbers have shrunk,” a second woman said. “Did you hear we lost another one two days ago?”
“No,” answered the male. “Why haven’t they made an announcement?”
“There’s an ongoing investigation,” the woman replied. “They won’t make it known until they know what happened.”
I jerked when a hand touched my shoulder.
“How long have you been listening?” Lilibet asked with a smile. My face warmed at being found out.
“Only a minute or so. How could you tell?”
“You have a very satisfied grin on your face.” Lilibet went through the doorway. “That’s enough. She’s been listening in for a little while now.”
“Geez, thanks for telling us,” Talina said through a yawn as she walked past me. She was the one who’d been on a mission last night. Jessalyn, the other woman, followed her.
“You did great. We were giving it all we had. Good job,” Kellan, the male voice, said. His cerulean hair appeared darker than usual in the dim hallway. As always, he was endearingly positive in his interactions with me. No matter how many times I told him I wasn’t interested in a relationship, he still insisted on being annoyingly cheery around me. “You’ll be ready for the trials before you know it.”
“Wait, what?” I thought my trials would still be months away. “No, I can’t be ready. For starters, the only reason I knew they were in there talking is because I saw their shadows flickering on the wall. That’s cheating.”
“No, that’s gathering intelligence, which is what you’ve been trained to do,” Lilibet said.
“But I took forever to get into the conversation. If this had been a real-world scenario, I could’ve missed everything I was sent to overhear.”
“Hey, you got in there quickly,” Kellan said.
“Kellan, why don’t you leave this to me? Thanks for your help.” Even though she was soft-spoken, Lilibet’s dismissals were firm in their own way. Kellan nodded and went off down the hall.
“Now, what is this all about? You’ve been eager to be certified as an agent since the day you started. If we had let you, you would have skipped the training and gone right into the field. What’s changed?”
What had changed? “Nothing. I want to get into the field more than anything.” What I really wanted was to go Earthside to search for my mother’s talismans, but no one knew about that. “I’ve just been working on this skill for so long that I never thought I’d be cleared to go through my trials. It felt incredibly slow.”
“It will always feel slow, even when it isn’t. Besides, you’ll never be perfect. We don’t expect that. What Kellan, Jessalyn, and Talina were saying is true. We used to not even go this advanced with new trainees. It was a continuing education situation.”
“And I assume the rest of what they said was true. The training is so hard now because there aren’t many of us left.”
“Which is why we need you to pass your trials and get working as soon as possible. I’ll speak with Calista now to schedule them.”
“But you only get one shot at the trials.” We’d reached the real reason behind my hesitance. “If I fail, that’s the end of everything. I’m not like you, Lilibet. I don’t have a dad and a place and a life to go back to if this doesn’t work out.” My current cover was that the Magesterial Council was keeping me under their protection and educating me in magic since my mother died. Given who my mother was, it was easy enough for people to understand and explained my living inside the Citadel without having an official job. The cover allowed me to explore the Citadel unchecked, but I wasn’t eager to see my cover become reality.
“And that’s why I would never recommend you for the trials until you were ready, and you are. You know better than most what’s at stake. We need you in the field keeping the Directorate from finishing Meglana’s work.”
And that was the other reason for my hesitance. Right before I killed Casper, he had said there was a mole in the Council’s midst. If that were true—and everything pointed to that being the case—then I couldn’t reveal everything I knew about my mother’s work without it getting back to the Directorate. I also couldn’t search for the missing talismans. If I did, I’d be leading the enemy to them. When I started my training, I never imagined that I could go six months without figuring out who the mole was.
I couldn’t tell Lilibet that because I hadn’t told it to anyone. I doubted Lilibet was the mole, but there was no telling who it could be, and whoever she passed the information to might not be trustworthy.
“Are you going to be at the trials with me?” Lilibet had acted both as my trainer and handler during my time at the CCS. “From what I’ve heard, they’re so intense that you can die during them.”
Lilibet shook her head. “Even though you always have a handler as an agent, the trials are something you have to go through on your own. We never want you to be in a situation alone, but we need to know that if the worst happens, you can handle yourself. Don’t worry about it. You’ll breeze through the trials.”
“Sure, what’s there to worry about? I could die or lose out on the one thing I’ve been working toward for the last six months. No biggie.”
Lilibet gave me a smile and walked toward the teleportation rings at the end of the hall. “It’s time for lunch. Take the rest of the day off. You’ve earned some rest. Take it easy until your trials.”
My training at the CCS had been intensive, but there was too much at stake with the trials. I didn’t want to become an agent; I needed to. Not only would becoming an agent give me the freedom and resources I needed to uncover the mole and find the talismans Meglana had hidden on Earth, but it would also allow me to atone for the evil she had done, and perhaps I could carve out a place for myself in this world.
After Lilibet had disappeared, I stepped into the rings, anxious to get to my room where I could do some of my own practicing.
As I closed my eyes—because even after six months, I still had to close my eyes to teleport—my stomach let out a loud growl. I’d skipped breakfast in my hurry to get to training on time this morning. A quick detour to the mess hall to grab something to go was in order. I could eat in my room while I tried to figure out how to keep myself alive at the trials.
CCS agents and trainees weren’t allowed to have teleportation rings inside their rooms, not even the kind built into tables for food delivery, so that meant every time I got a gnaw of hunger, I had to trek to the mess.
The CCS mess wasn’t as nice as the dining hall in the Citadel. After all, it would never see dignitaries or officials like the main dining hall did. However, most CCS personnel preferred it since we were free to speak more openly about our work. Certain missions were still too confidential to discuss over lunch, but at least in the mess we could be open about who we were and what we did.
“Kat!” Kellan waved from a table where Jessalyn sat with him. Jessalyn was an analyst, and Priya, another analyst, sat next to her.
I had planned on grabbing something and heading straight to my room. Training for the CCS in Elustria hadn’t changed the fact that I didn’t enjoy being social, but I thought better of blowing off Kellan’s invitation. Sure, he annoyed me, but I also needed to keep my eyes and ears open. The CCS had taught me that intelligence was worth social discomforts.
I returned Kellan’s wave and joined him at his table. He had graciously kept the seat next to him open.
“Congratulations on being ready for the trials!” Kellan said with his usual enthusiasm. “It’s a big step. Are you excited?”
I filled out my order form and sent it through the teleportation ring in the table. “Yeah, nervous as hell, but excited too.”
“There’s no need to be nervous. You did great today,” Jessalyn said. I got along well with her. She took the work seriously without taking herself too seriously.
“I wish I knew what to expect.” Secrecy shrouded the trials, making them even more nerve racking.
“Well no one’s going to tell you anything,” Priya said. “Not only are we sworn to keep the trials secret, but to be honest, most of us consider keeping our lips sealed payback for having it done to us.” Priya was less gregarious than Jessalyn. She had a no-nonsense attitude. She was there to work, not make friends or socialize. I respected that.
“Like Jessalyn said, you’ll do fine. Before you know it, you’ll be getting your first assignment and meeting your handler.” Kellan bit into a drumstick from the fried fowl that was on special today. It looked and tasted just like chicken.
“Wait, you mean Lilibet won’t still be my handler?” That possibility had never crossed my mind. We worked so well together, and she’d been with me from the beginning. My chicken arrived, and I dug in as I waited for an answer.
“Well, I mean she could, but if you get assigned Earthside, I don’t know that Lilibet will follow. She has a nice cover here at the Citadel, plus her dad’s here. She’s always worked closely with the Council. I can’t see that changing. She might be your handler from here, but most agents like having their handler closer.”
“I never thought about it.” Everyone assumed I’d get an assignment on Earth. Not only would Lilibet’s
“You might want to start getting used to the idea. I doubt they’ll assign you anywhere else. Your knowledge of Earth customs and culture is too valuable.” Kellan had a strong affinity for all things Earth. I was convinced that was why he liked me. He didn’t know me well enough to like me for any other reason. He had been recalled from Earth to the Greenhouse—as we called headquarters due to the main entrance being through the greenhouse—for the last month. Every few years, each agent had to rotate into the Greenhouse for a stint. It allowed for ongoing training and evaluation and gave everyone an opportunity to see our operations from a different perspective.
“So I hear someone’s ready for the trials.” Darian joined us at our table. “Lilibet must be crazy. I don’t know how you think you’ll pass after being raised as a human. It’s practically like being a pidge.”
Thank goodness none of them knew that I was a pidge—the child of a sorcerer and mage. I’d been able to keep that information secret from the Council. If they knew, I’d be even more of an outcast than I already was. Pidges were so shameful that my family had no interest in making it known that my father was a sorcerer.
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