God of magic 6, p.1

God of Magic 6, page 1

 

God of Magic 6
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God of Magic 6


  Chapter 1

  Winter had arrived in Ovrista during our trip to the Canterrose Mountains to retrieve the final Shodra. Snow dusted the ground, and a cold breeze blew between the buildings. No one lingered in the outdoor markets, and the merchants closed their shops early.

  With that in mind, the Shadow Foxes had set out from the guild hall early that morning, determined to complete our latest quest. Yvaine and Maruk took the lead as we trooped between the different stores. So far, we had acquired a crib, a rocking chair, a stroller, a large supply of diapers, and more clothes than any newborn could wear, all to be delivered to the guild hall the following day.

  Lavinia, to her credit, took it in stride, and managed not to belt either Yvaine or Maruk as they debated the finer points of cotton swaddling versus silk. When we’d made a substantial dent in our to-buy list, and the guild’s finances, Yvaine insisted on one more store. Maruk’s face practically glowed when Yvaine led us to a store so discreet that the only way you would even know it existed was a small plaque by the door that read ‘Esposito and Sons’.

  “Oh, oh, oh,” Maruk exclaimed as he did a little toe dance. “I can’t believe we’re going here.”

  “What is here?” Lavinia asked suspiciously.

  “Esposito and Sons are the finest jewelers in the world,” Yvaine replied. “They have a special design for children, which I’ve always sworn I would do for my own child one day. It’s a bracelet, and as the child grows older, the company will add links, so they can wear it forever. They also offer a wide assortment of charms that can be added. Now, of course, we don’t have a name or gender or anything, yet, but I thought we could pick out something simple to start. Perhaps an animal charm, like a rabbit.”

  “For a newborn?” Lavinia demanded.

  “It will be wonderful,” Maruk sighed. “Oh, and what a wonderful birthday gift to give every year. A new charm.”

  “This is ridiculous,” Lavinia protested, but Yvaine and Maruk were already across the threshold, and they dragged Lavinia along with them.

  I glanced at the rest of the team. Aerin simply shrugged, but both Emeline and Lena looked excited. Dehn scowled, though that was his normal look, so I wasn’t sure if he really didn’t want to visit Esposito and Sons, or if he was just being his usual surly self. I finally held the door open and waved everyone else inside.

  Inside was well lit, no doubt so one could truly appreciate the sparkle of gemstones and the glitter of gold, but it was also very hushed. Thick carpeting and heavy velvet drapes absorbed most of the sound, and customers and staff spoke in quiet, reverential tones only. Yvaine and Maruk were already engaged in a deep conversation with one of the representatives with Lavinia held captive between them. I saw her look desperately around the room, as if she were scanning for an escape route.

  Lena and Emeline lost no time investigating nearby display cases. They oohed and aahed and even squealed at one point. Aerin made her own circuit of the room, though she was less entranced with the beauty of the stones than their prices. I could practically see her brain calculating the value of everything on display, and when she was done, she gave a low whistle of appreciation.

  Dehn took up a position by the door, complete with crossed arms and angry scowl. I saw one of the employees eye him nervously, so I prodded him forward with a hand to the back. He glared at me, but finally moved further into the store. We joined Lavinia, Maruk, and Yvaine, who were examining the various styles of available chain.

  “Now, this, of course, is the traditional Esposito and Sons bracelet,” the clerk was saying as he placed a gold bracelet on a piece of black velvet. “It comes with the traditional E closure and is available in white gold and rose gold as well.”

  “A classic,” Maruk agreed, but Lavinia sighed and stared helplessly at me.

  “This has become a popular model,” the clerk added as he pulled a chain in black metal from the display case and placed it next to the gold one. “Dragon-blood treated gold in a box pattern.”

  “The dragon theme would go well with his heritage,” Maruk mused.

  “But is it too of-the-moment?” Yvaine asked. “Will it still be something he or she wants to wear in twenty years?”

  I noticed that Dehn had wandered away again, and someone who looked suspiciously like a security guard was watching him. I joined him, near a display case filled with pearls.

  “See anything you like?” I asked.

  “I hate these kinds of places,” Dehn admitted. “Everyone always looks at me funny, like that guard over there.”

  “Probably because you look like you’re here to rob the place,” I pointed out.

  Dehn looked down at his armor, which, to his credit, was plain leather today. We’d talked him out of wearing his usual spiked armor, but he still had a large mace looped to his belt. The knife handle sticking out of the top of his boot didn’t help hide his true nature, either.

  “I choose to be prepared,” he finally grumbled.

  “Hey guys,” Aerin said quietly as she sidled up next to us. “I think that woman over there just pocketed a necklace.”

  I looked in the direction that Aerin nodded, and saw a ladona woman with sleek black, almost purplish hair and a pair of blood red horns. She wore loose-fitting clothing that could have come from Lena’s closet, except that it was black, and didn’t tinkle when she moved. She was studying a set of earrings held up by the employee and then pointed towards another display case. A short discussion followed, and then the employee moved across the floor, carrying the earrings. The ladona woman followed, but in a move so fast I almost missed it, she placed her hand over a small ring that sat on the velvet and scooped it into the folds of her pants.

  “Did you see that?” Aerin hissed.

  “Damn,” Dehn uttered in excitement. “That was good. Let’s get her!”

  “Wait,” I called out, but Dehn was striding across the floor, and the security guard was hot on his tail.

  “This can’t end well,” I muttered.

  “Hold it right there!” Dehn proclaimed as he stomped up to the ladona woman and the employee. Both looked at him in stunned surprise.

  “Freeze!” the security guard ordered. He had pulled his sword from its scabbard and was pointing it at Dehn.

  “Aw, geez,” Aerin sighed.

  “What are you doing?” Dehn demanded angrily. “I’m not the thief here! She is!”

  “What--?” the woman stammered, though her gaze was steady and not at all uncertain. I saw her gaze shift towards the front door, and then towards a small door near the back with an employees only sign.

  “I’m a member of the city guard,” Dehn huffed, “And I’m going to arrest this woman for theft.”

  The security guard looked back and forth between Dehn and the ladona woman. The employee seemed uncertain as well, and I saw Dehn reach for his mace.

  “Check her pockets,” I suggested as I approached the scene. “I saw her put a ring in her pocket.”

  “And a necklace,” Aerin added helpfully.

  “Liars,” the ladona woman protested. “You’re just saying that because you hate ladonae.”

  “Lavinia,” I called out. “Do I hate ladonae?”

  “Most certainly not,” Lavinia replied.

  Everyone in the store was now staring in our direction. The security guard started to move towards the ladona, but she suddenly leapt across the display case and crashed into the employee. She practically threw the woman into the security guard, and the two toppled to the ground.

  The ladona woman ran towards the door to the employee area, and I chased after her. She pulled the door open and darted through. I was on her heels, and I had to duck when she suddenly swung a heavy metal rod at my head. She took another swing and then droppe
d the rod and ran deeper into the building.

  This area wasn’t nearly as well-lit, and the floor was hard concrete. It was packed with shelves and boxes. More of the rods stood in a bin near the door. I could hear her footsteps moving to the far end, and I could just see her mana as she weaved between stacks of supplies.

  “Where is she?” Aerin asked as she joined me at the door.

  “That way,” I replied as I pointed towards the woman’s rapidly receding mana.

  “Right,” Dehn growled. He took off straight towards the ladona woman and knocked boxes and supplies out of his way as he went. Aerin shrugged and followed in his wake, and I bolted after the two of them.

  I heard a heavy door slam just up ahead, and Dehn muttered a curse. We reached the far end of the room and found a heavy security door. Dehn tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge.

  “She’s locked it somehow,” he groaned as he threw himself against the door.

  “Stand back,” I ordered as I drew on my mana. I felt it flow from my center, and up into my arm. I raised my hand and directed the energy into the door. It shuddered for a moment, then fell backwards, off its hinges. There was a squeal of protest from the rod the ladona woman had shoved through the door handle, but it never stood a chance. We stepped into the alley and scanned for any sign of the woman.

  “Where did she go?” Aerin asked as she took in the litter-strewn area.

  I spotted several empty boxes stacked near the back of a restaurant and trotted over quietly to investigate. I thought she might have slipped behind or inside the boxes, but there was no sign of her. And then I saw a very wet, very fresh footprint on the topmost box and I looked up. There was a small piece of black fabric caught on a nail at the edge of the roof.

  “She’s on the roof,” I called out as I started to climb after her. Aerin joined me, and the two of us scrambled to the top. “Dehn,” I added when I saw that the halfling was struggling with the boxes, “go back to the street and see if you can spot her from there.”

  “Right,” he agreed as he kicked at one of the boxes. He ran towards the jewelry store, and I turned my attention back to the rooftops.

  “There!” Aerin cried out as she pointed towards a figure running across a nearby rooftop. We took off again, as fast as we could, but we couldn’t close the distance between us. The ladona woman was incredibly fast, and she moved between the rooftops with remarkable ease.

  I was panting hard, and about to give up, when the ladona suddenly jerked back from the edge of a roof. A fireball appeared in the spot where she had been standing, and I grinned at Aerin.

  “I guess Dehn found her,” I said.

  “Good thing he brought some back up,” Aerin replied. We made the leap across to the next roof, and the ladona woman looked at us warily. Her eyes were nearly as black as her hair, and her skin reminded me of a perfect mocha. We locked gazes as the three of us slowly circled each other.

  “Who are you?” she finally asked.

  “We’re the Shadow Foxes,” I answered.

  “I’ve heard of you,” she murmured. “Just my luck that you would decide to visit Esposito’s on the same day.”

  “I don’t suppose you would make this easy for everyone, and just surrender,” I said hopefully.

  “To that ugly halfling?” she snorted.

  “Well, us,” I said as I waved a hand at Aerin. Aerin smiled at the ladona, but I noticed that she’d pulled a knife from her belt.

  “Pffft,” the ladona replied with a dismissive glance at the elf. She regarded me with a saucy smile. “Well, I might consider surrendering to you.”

  I stopped my approach and watched her carefully. Aerin tried to move to cut her off, but the ladona vaulted past her and onto the lip of the roof.

  “But not today,” the woman answered as she gave me a nod. Her mana was glowing at full force, and I saw her drive her heels into the roof. She launched herself into the air before Aerin could so much as flinch. Without thinking, I reached out and closed my fist around her mana. The woman let out a strangled cry and fell towards the road below.

  “Ha!” Dehn cried out triumphantly. Aerin and I ran to the edge of the building and peered over the side. Dehn and Emeline stood over the ladona woman, who lay in a tangled heap. She was bleeding, and one of her arms hung at an angle no arm was ever intended to be in, but her mana still glowed strongly in her chest.

  “The store has called for the city guard,” Emeline called up. “We can turn her over to them.”

  “Sounds good,” I yelled back. I looked around the street, and then at Aerin. “Any suggestions on how to get down?”

  “The tree?” Aerin asked. There was a small, willowy tree in front of the building next to the one we were standing on. I wasn’t sure the thing would be able to support me, but Aerin promised to fix anything that might break during our descent.

  We scrambled down the tree, which bent under my weight, but didn’t collapse. I could see now that the woman was unconscious, but Dehn and Emeline were still standing back far enough to be out of weapons range. Emeline had a fireball ready to launch, and Dehn’s mace was poised for another attack.

  “Can you at least do something about the arm?” I asked Aerin. The break was so nasty that I wanted to cringe in sympathy pain.

  Aerin nodded and knelt beside the ladona. I heard the sound of chimes and saw the golden light that always accompanied her healing powers. The woman’s eyes flickered, and then she sat up slowly.

  “Just sit still for a moment,” Aerin suggested. “That was a nasty break.”

  “What did you do to me?” the ladona demanded quietly as she eyed me. Her stare was hard and calculating, and not the fiery death stare I’d come to expect from Lavinia.

  “He’s an air mage,” Aerin replied. “He knocked you out of the air when you jumped.”

  “That didn’t feel like any air magic I’ve ever encountered,” the ladona noted.

  “Well, I never had any formal training,” I explained as her gaze drilled into me.

  “Oh, look, here’s the guard now,” Aerin said merrily. Six soldiers had turned onto the street with their weapons at the ready.

  “Rufus!” Dehn shouted happily as he waved the men over. “Here’s the thief!”

  “Dehn,” one of the soldiers replied in an exasperated voice. “I should have guessed it was you when they said a halfling was involved. Though the store employees weren’t clear on whether you were the thief or not.”

  “Oh, for shit’s sake!” Dehn proclaimed as he threw his arms in the air. “I was chasing the thief!”

  “He was,” Aerin agreed. “In fact, we wouldn’t have caught her without him.”

  The one I assumed was Rufus looked at us and then at the ladona.

  “Check her pockets,” I suggested. The ladona shot me a death-glare.

  Two of the soldiers grabbed the ladona’s arms and held her still while Rufus patted her down. He found the ring, the necklace, a diamond pendant, and a pearl hair clip.

  “I told you!” Dehn declared triumphantly.

  “Right,” Rufus replied. “Well, at least one of you needs to come with us so we can get the paperwork done.”

  “I’ll go,” Dehn offered. “I want to make sure she doesn’t escape.”

  “Of course you will,” Rufus sighed. He apparently was more than familiar with Dehn. He shot a sad, hound-dog look at the rest of us. “Anyone else?”

  Emeline nervously twisted a lock of her hair and turned towards me. I shrugged and glanced at Aerin.

  “I didn’t see her take anything,” Emeline stalled.

  “I did,” Aerin admitted.

  “So did I,” I sighed. “We’ll go with you. Emeline, find the others and tell them we’ll meet them back at the hall after we finish.”

  “Say, where is everyone else?” Aerin asked as she watched the pedestrians who were now gathering on the street.

  “Oh,” Emeline stuttered, “Well, Lavinia started to run after you, but Maruk and Yv
aine grabbed hold of her and wouldn’t let her go. You know, because of the whole… um…”

  “Pregnancy,” I supplied.

  “Right,” Emeline agreed. “She was really angry, so Lena opened one of her little vials, and Lavinia sort of, well…”

  “They put her to sleep?” I asked, incredulous.

  “No, no,” Emeline reassured me. “She’s just… really happy.”

  “And I’m missing this?” Aerin protested.

  “I don’t think the effect is supposed to last that long,” Emeline replied.

  “Let’s go,” Rufus finally interrupted. The soldiers had bound the ladona’s hands behind her back, and they now tied a rope around her neck.

  “Is that really necessary?” I asked as they pulled her down the street using the rope around her neck.

  “She’s a criminal,” Dehn said. “It’s what they do with all criminals.”

  Aerin and I followed the slow parade back to the city guard building. A few people stopped to stare, but most scurried by with barely a second glance. When we arrived, we were greeted by a few more soldiers, who took the prisoner to a holding cell.

  We each sat down with one of the guards and told him our tale while a clerk wrote everything down. We swore that everything we said was true and then signed the clerk’s neatly written transcript. Rufus had reappeared by that point, though he didn’t look very happy.

  “Not talking?” I guessed as the soldier uttered an oath.

  “Not a word,” Rufus replied. “Well, thank you for your help today, anyway.”

  I shook the man’s hand, and we’d just risen from our chairs when a portly gentleman with a red nose swept into the station. The members of the guard snapped to attention, even Dehn, though he did so with less enthusiasm.

  “So, I hear we arrested a jewel thief,” the man said as he brushed away a few errant snowflakes that had dared to land on his cloak.

  “Aye, sir,” Rufus replied. “With the help of the Shadow Foxes.”

  “The Shadow Foxes?” the man repeated. “Isn’t that the guild Aloysius Dehn joined?”

  “It is,” Dehn declared as he stepped forward.

  “Oh, and there you are,” the man said as he squinted at Dehn. “Well, I knew you’d be back in here one day, but I always thought it would be due to some bar fight you were in.”

 
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