Magic currents cursed an.., p.13

Magic Currents (Cursed Angel Collection), page 13

 

Magic Currents (Cursed Angel Collection)
 


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  He looked at me with raised brows, his expression clearly saying that he was positive he was in the right, and I was the naïve human witch who was trying to muddy the situation.

  “The other part of the payoff is that you get what you want,” I said. “You finally get to leave The Colony and return to Heaven or wherever it is you’ll go. But I would be left here, knowing that I’d killed my own mother, my fiancé, my best friend, and countless other innocent witches and warlocks. Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe I’m delusional. But I don’t accept your way.”

  I crossed my arms, and we stared at each other in silence for several seconds. His jaw muscles bulged as he clenched his teeth. His gaze was pure annoyance and frustration.

  “Then you’re a damned fool,” he spat. He threw the cuff with the mini crossbow at me, and I caught it against my chest. “And you’re no better than the other witch who fecked it all up. You mortals deserve your misery. You deserve the curse of the Watchtower!”

  His skin was starting to glow with pure white light, and the faint contours of his wings began to appear as translucent, feathered mirages in the air at his back. But it wasn’t beautiful. It was terrifying.

  I began backing up toward the door. He was still hollering, cursing humans with mounting vehemence. When halos of light appeared in each of his hands, I turned and ran out of the apartment, slamming the door closed behind me a split second before something exploded against it with enough force to crack the wood and rattle the walls.

  I flew down the stairs and out onto the street, and kept running, lest Lorenzo open his window and strike me down with his discs of angel light.

  A few blocks away from his building, I slowed, breathing hard.

  Well, that had gone terribly. Not only had Lorenzo refused considering a solution that wouldn’t kill everyone in the Watchtower, I still didn’t know the remaining steps for breaking the curse. If only I could learn whether it was something I could accomplish without his involvement. I’d just go forward with it myself and get someone else to help me.

  I was still holding the little crossbow, I realized. I tucked it into a pocket so it wouldn’t draw attention.

  Defeated, I headed back to the Royal. I would have to talk to Lorenzo again at some point, but now I had to wait until he’d had time to cool off. Until he wouldn’t try to kill me on sight.

  Remembering my conversation with Eduardo, I sped up. He’d agreed with my opinion that we had to break the curse without killing innocents, and he’d spent years inside the Watchtower. Maybe he could be of some help.

  When I got back to my building, I first went upstairs to check on the girls. Chelle was sitting up playing a game with Nadia and clearly doing much better on the stronger medicine.

  I left them and went to what I hoped was the flat Eduardo was living in with his sister. I got the floor right, but it took knocking on three wrong doors before I found the correct unit. Eduardo himself answered.

  “I need to speak to you about the. . .curse,” I ended in a whisper.

  He opened the door wider and nodded. “Come in. My sister is out, so we can talk privately.”

  I recounted what had happened at Lorenzo’s and showed Eduardo the miniature crossbow.

  “If I just knew how to break the curse, I’d find a way to empty the Watchtower and the House of Light, and I’d do it myself,” I said.

  He thoughtfully tapped his chin with his index finger, and a faint glimmer shone in his eyes. “You’ll need all of those items from Lorenzo’s.”

  I frowned. “Yes, I suppose that’s true.”

  “I believe I could help you with that part, at least.”

  “Really?”

  He gave me a sly look. “Do you remember what my profession was before I became a Hunter?”

  I hadn’t really known Eduardo before, and I’d been young when he was taken. “No, I don’t.”

  “I was a locksmith, officially,” he said. “But I had a side business where I recovered stolen items.”

  “Oh. Oh.” My eyes widened. “So you could get into Lorenzo’s apartment and get those items?”

  “Well, that depends,” he said, drawing his face into a serious expression. “I’m not a thief. Is there something there that belongs to you?”

  “Yes! The blood in the clamshell came from my own veins.”

  “That little glass vial you saw might also have a bit of your blood in it. Sounds like a legitimate request to me.”

  A slow grin spread over my face. It felt like I hadn’t smiled in a year. Eduardo grinned back at me.

  “He goes out drinking every night, and he stays out very late,” I said. “If you wait until he’s gone, you should be clear to go in his apartment. But there’s something else I need from you. Could you tell me everything you remember about how to get in and out of the Watchtower, and the House of Light if you know the layout there, too?”

  His face clouded. “I’ve been thinking about this. Getting you in is going to be a problem, Victoria. The doors to the House of Light and the Watchtower only open for Hunters. The entrances to both places are spelled.”

  “Hmm,” I said, thinking. “If I have the full power of my magic when I go into the Watchtower, that would give me the best chance.”

  “You mean remove the warlock’s charm that masks your magic?” he asked.

  “Yes. I’ll need every advantage I can take with me.”

  “But that would leave you so exposed. . .” He shook his head and his brow furrowed. “As soon as the charm drops, every Hunter within ten miles will feel your magic and come straight for you.”

  “The timing will have to be just right,” I said. My mind was racing as a plan began to formulate. “I’ll need a warlock to remove the charm.”

  “This plan is rife with danger. And you still don’t know the full procedure for breaking the curse. What will you do, just hope that the steps come to you once you’re inside?”

  I slumped and let out a long sigh. “You’re right. I don’t have enough. Damn Lorenzo. If he’d only agree to let me spare the innocent people, we could go ahead with this and I wouldn’t have all these worries.”

  Eduardo peered at me. “You say there’s nothing in this world Lorenzo wants more than getting off The Colony?”

  I let out a short laugh. “If he’s said it once, he’d said it a hundred times.”

  “Then maybe that will be enough. If he truly wants to break the curse that badly, you can begin the process by getting into the Watchtower, and he’ll have no choice but to join in and help. Especially if he’s afraid you might do something wrong.”

  I nodded slowly. “It’s a risk, but it’s a calculated one. It might be our best chance. I could go to the House of Light first. My best friend was just taken there yesterday. I’ll have her help me get the women out. Then I’ll go into the Watchtower.”

  “Luck would have to be very much on your side to pull that off.”

  Looking up at Eduardo, I inhaled sharply. “I’ve got it! When I get into the Watchtower, I’ll use the Underground’s recent discovery, the one that saved you, to break the spell on the Hunters. When they come to their senses, they can get themselves out of harm’s way, and I’ll be free to proceed against the Demon Lord.”

  He gave a quiet laugh. “And I’ll make sure to alert Lorenzo that you’ve begun. At that point, you’ll have already rescued the witches and the Hunters, so you’ll be able to do whatever he wants to do to break the curse without worry of killing any innocents.”

  We kept talking for another two hours, thinking of the possible things that could go wrong and honing the plan.

  “There’s still one issue we haven’t talked about,” Eduardo said. “How to get you past the doors of the House of Light and then the Watchtower.”

  I tilted my head with a wry smile, and fluttered my fingers through the air as if shooing away a fly. “Oh, that’s easy. I’ll do a bit of magic in a public place, and a Hunter will come for me and take me to the House of Light. I’ll escape wi
th the other women, and then if I have to, I’ll repeat the process to get into the Watchtower. Either way, a Hunter will be my ticket into the Demon Lord’s lair.”

  Chapter 18

  I WAS FLYING high on the sense of victory and hope I had after talking to Eduardo. He’d promised to swipe the items from Lorenzo’s apartment that night. But later as I came down from the excitement, I started to think of more holes in the scheme. It was going to be complicated. And if anything went wrong, the whole thing would blow up.

  Another issue was the procurement of the Hunter cure from the Underground leadership. I sorely wished I could go to Peter, but he’d been taken and his mind was now under Watchtower control. So instead I went to the only other person I knew who could help me: Erlich, the brewer. I could have gone to Theo at the Lead Feather—he certainly knew me better than Erlich did—but Theo was brand new to the Underground leadership, and I knew I’d have to get the support of a senior leader if I was to have any hope of getting what I needed.

  By the time I arrived at the brewery where I’d gone so often for Underground meetings, the tasting room was closed. I had to knock on the door and wait for the ruddy-faced warlock to answer.

  “I need to speak to you about neighborhood business,” I said. There was no one around to hear us, but it seemed prudent to use the Underground code.

  Erlich glanced out at the street and then beckoned me inside. As he led me back to the tasting room that also served as our Underground meeting place, the hoppy, familiar smell of the brewing tanks washed over me. It was an earthy aroma that soothed my nerves just a little.

  “Would you like a taste of something?” Erlich asked, gesturing to the row of taps on one side of the tasting room. “I have a brand new ale brewed with a bit of cardamom and lemon peel.”

  I held up a hand, gently interrupting him. I knew how he loved to talk about his beers. “Maybe another time, thank you. But I’m here with an urgent request.”

  I didn’t tell him everything that Eduardo and I had talked about. I didn’t think it was a good idea to let the leadership know about the rift between me and Lorenzo or that I was planning to go into the Demon Lord’s lair alone. Instead, I tried to make the case that it would be of great benefit in the course of the curse-breaking to be able to turn Hunters to our side.

  “I expect the Watchtower will be crawling with them,” I said. “And it very well could make all the difference if we were able to break the spell and make them allies in our efforts. But Lorenzo and I need the cure immediately. We know you and the other leaders are only willing to give us so much time to execute our plan before you go ahead with yours, so we really have no time to spare.”

  While I’d been speaking, he’d wrapped one arm around his middle, above his ample belly, and pressed the index finger of his other hand against his lips. He regarded me for a moment, and I pleaded with my eyes and sent up a silent prayer as he considered my request.

  “Hm, yes,” he said finally. “I do believe this would be a wise course of action. However, the cure involves the use of a potion as well as a magical chant. Because the cure was experimental and it’s still so new, we don’t have it in mass quantities at the moment.”

  I felt my face fall. “How much do you have?”

  “I believe only about half a dozen doses. That is, if it hasn’t been used on more Hunters.”

  “Do you think you can persuade the leaders to give me what’s left? Anything would be better than nothing.”

  “I will consult with the others, and get back to you first thing in the morning.” He held out an arm, and nodded at me to walk ahead of him, clearly aiming to usher me out.

  “Wait,” I said. “Is there any way to get it tonight? We really don’t have the luxury of time.”

  He shook his head and gave me a rueful smile. “We have to be careful. We can’t just round up the leaders and have a chat over coffee. We’re split into two groups who don’t know each other’s identities, remember? It’s the safest way.”

  I felt a growl of frustration try to well up my throat, but I pushed it down.

  “Thank you, Erlich,” I said, not wanting to seem ungrateful. “And if there’s any possible way to rush the process, please know how vitally important this is. It’s truly life or death.”

  “Yes, it is,” he agreed, but he made no further promise to expedite things.

  Knowing there was nothing more I could do to hurry along the Underground leadership, I went back to the Royal. I’d missed dinner by hours, and my stomach was grumbling. But when I went up to the flat, I found that the girls had saved a plate of food for me. I’d never been so grateful for a tasteless chicken breast in my life. As I ate, the girls told me about their days. I tried to focus on their stories of classes, friends, tests, and teachers, but my mind kept wandering to Eduardo, wondering whether he was inside Lorenzo’s apartment at that very moment. Praying that he didn’t get caught.

  Chelle was sleeping in the bedroom, but Nadia reported that the sick girl had eaten a full meal and seemed to be doing better on the more potent medicine.

  I finished my plate and the girls got ready for bed, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I slipped out and went to Eduardo’s flat, but then hesitated. What if his sister was there, asleep? I went back home, scribbled a note on a corner of paper, and then tucked it into the doorjamb of Eduardo’s place. If he was still out, he’d see it when he came back.

  At home, I closed the bedroom door to keep from disturbing the girls, and settled on the tattered sofa with a book that one of the girls had borrowed from the school library. But I couldn’t focus on the words. I kept listening for footsteps in the hallway, and my mind was spinning with thoughts of the Watchtower.

  When there was a soft tap at the door, I nearly jumped out of my skin.

  It was Eduardo, and he had a small pouch in his hand. He came in, and I put a finger to my lips and pointed to the closed bedroom door.

  “I procured the items from the angel’s apartment,” he whispered. He was loosening the drawstring on the bag. He pulled out the arrows, the clamshell, and the small vial. Then he showed me a handful of small glass ampules. “And I got these, too.”

  I looked down at the ampules. “What is it?”

  “It’s the Hunter cure.”

  I stared at him. “I just came from Erlich’s not two hours ago, and he said the earliest I might get the cure from the leadership was tomorrow morning.”

  “I didn’t exactly have permission to take it.”

  My brows rose, and I blinked a couple of times. “I can’t believe you knew where it was.”

  He grinned, his eyes sparkling.

  My lips stretched into a smile, too. “We have everything.”

  “Yes. But you should get some sleep.” He began placing the items back in the drawstring bag.

  I shook my head. “I should go now. It might be easier at this hour, with most of the citizens asleep. Maybe things will be slower and quieter in the Watchtower, too.”

  “We need Lorenzo to be at least somewhat coherent. You’re going to need him once you get inside.”

  I made a grumbling noise in my throat. “True. You checked to make sure he was at his watering hole, then?”

  “He was there, and already three sheets to the wind.”

  I sighed and pushed my fingers into my hair. “I really wish we didn’t have to wait on him to sober up. I’ve half a mind to drag him out of that pub and dunk his head in a bucket of cold water right now.”

  “I don’t think it would do much good, unfortunately.”

  I let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. When do you think I should go into the House of Light?”

  “Let me keep an eye on him,” Eduardo said. “You mentioned that he seems to sober up fairly quickly. I’ll watch for when he goes home, and we’ll give him an hour or two. Then I’ll come here and that’ll be your signal to go.”

  I wrinkled my nose. “It’ll be broad daylight. The day will be in full swing, the streets busy
. It feels safer to go under cover of darkness.”

  “I know,” he said. “But you can use the bustle of The Colony as a sort of cover, too.”

  “I suppose that’s true.”

  He passed the pouch to me. “I should get back to Michelangelo’s and keep watch.”

  “I can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done, and have yet to do,” I said. “If not for you, this wouldn’t be happening.”

  “I’m lucky. I was set free. There’s no way I could stand by idly while people continue to suffer. While innocent men and women are enslaved and murdered by the Demon Lord.”

  His eyes became haunted, and for some strange reason I was almost sure he was thinking of my mother when he mentioned the women who were enslaved. He reached out to squeeze my hand, which clutched the pouch.

  “Get some sleep,” he said again. “We’ll speak soon.”

  Sleep. As if that would happen. I set the pouch on the table as gently as if it contained my own soul. Then I sat on the sofa and looked around the tiny room. I started to reach for the book I’d tried to read before, but the bedroom door unlatched and opened several inches. Nadia’s face appeared.

  I beckoned to her, and she quietly slipped in and pulled the door shut behind her, using both hands to make sure it latched silently.

  “Is it the Underground?” she asked.

  “Were you eavesdropping, Nady?” I gave her a stern, sideways look.

  She knew it wasn’t polite to listen to other people’s conversations, but I couldn’t blame her for wanting to know what was happening. She was old enough to have heard rumors, and to sense for herself when things were more than they seemed. I remembered feeling the same way at her age. I’d tried to eavesdrop then, too.

  “I couldn’t sleep,” she whispered. Her brow creased. “And I’m . . .”

 
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