Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(5)


by Jasmine Walt

I strode out, my mind already on the next plan, as I had absolutely no intention of following her suggestion.

3

I managed to catch Cirin Garidano, the Finance Secretary, in his office. He was hurriedly packing a satchel with documents and reports from his desk drawers and filing cabinets. His long, dark hair was a little ruffled, the skin around his eyes tight with stress, and the collar on his robe was slightly askew.

“In a hurry?” I asked, leaning against the doorjamb.

“Miss Baine.” The Finance Secretary didn’t even look up at me, which told me he already knew I was there. “To what do I owe the dubious pleasure?”

“I need your help.”

“I’m in no position to offer any assistance to you.” Grabbing a sheaf of papers from a file, he riffled through it, then pulled out a document and stuck it in the satchel. “I must leave immediately if I’m to make it to the Convention on time.”

“Yeah, I know.” I ventured further into his office, then shut the door behind me so that no one passing by would unwittingly hear our conversation. “I want to come with you.”

This time the Finance Secretary did look up at me, his eyebrows climbing across his high forehead. “To the Convention? What business do you have there?”

“None. I need you to drop me somewhere on your way to the Convention, though.”

“I’m not a ferryman, Miss Baine, and I’ve no time for extra stops.” The Finance Secretary put one last thing in his satchel, then snatched it up. “I don’t blame you for wanting to flee the city right now, but –”

“I’m not fleeing the city,” I snapped, annoyed now. Why did everyone think I was just going to tuck my tail between my legs and cower in a hole while Iannis’s life was in danger? “I’m going to find the Chief Mage, but in order to do so I need transport.”

“Find the Chief Mage?” The Finance Secretary narrowed his dark blue eyes. “Just how do you plan on doing that?”

“I’m following a hunch.” My fingers twitched as I resisted the urge to touch the serapha charm tucked beneath my shirt. The Finance Secretary had been fairly helpful to me so far, assisting me in the recent investigation by giving me access to a ledger with important information, but that didn’t mean he was my friend. “My hunches are usually pretty good.”

“In that case, you should confide your hunch to the search party Director Chen and the Council are organizing, and let them follow up on it.” The Finance Secretary picked up his satchel and made to move past me. “In the meantime, I have a dirigible to board. Good day.”

“Wait!” I grabbed him by the sleeve of his dark purple robe. “Please, Secretary Garidano. You have to take me with you. You know how much is at stake if the Chief Mage isn’t found.”

The air heated up around the Finance Director sharply, and I hurriedly released him, backing away before he burned me to a crisp. He turned his head, and his dark blue eyes blazed with a fire very similar to what I saw in Iannis’s violet eyes during the few times his fury was ignited.

“Miss Baine, I cannot help you with this,” he said tightly, a muscle in his jaw twitching. “In case you haven’t realized, the attack on Lord Iannis’s dirigible, if that is what happened, was likely timed to ensure that no one from Canalo is able to vote at the Convention this year. If I do not make it there on time, the attackers will have achieved their aim. Lord Iannis would consider my timely arrival more important than your need to involve yourself in the search.”

“Fine.” I fisted my hands at my sides, but nodded tightly. I’d been so consumed with wanting to get Iannis back that I’d failed to consider the consequences resulting from the attack on him. Iannis was the Chief Mage first, my master second, and I knew he would want the Finance Director to arrive at the Convention on time. “I take your point.”

“Good. In the meantime, be careful. In fact, you’d best leave the Palace as quickly and quietly as you can. I suspect the Council will be eager to incarcerate you as soon as they get the chance.”

He swept out of the room then, his robes billowing about him as his warning sunk into my bones, filling me with nervous energy. Quickly, I cast an illusion spell transforming myself into one of the many maids the Palace employed, then waited until I heard no footsteps outside before stealing back into the hall. Getting thrown into jail wasn’t going to help me rescue Iannis. I’d already done that song and dance, and there was no way in hell it was happening again.

“Just where do you think you’re going, young miss?”

I stopped short outside the side entrance of the Palace as a guard stepped in front of me, blocking my path to the street and relative freedom.

“I’m headed out to the market to fetch some supplies for the kitchen.” I blinked innocently up at him as tightened my grip on the wicker basket I’d grabbed on my way out.

“I’m sorry, but nobody can leave.” The guard looked apologetic, but he didn’t budge. “There’s trouble’s brewing in the city, and it’s not safe for the Palace staff to be out and about.”

I shrugged. “Okay then. But the Council has called a huge meeting and is demanding food, and the kitchen is short on a few supplies. I’ll just tell them that you wouldn’t let me leave...” I leaned in to read the guard’s name tag. “What did you say your name was again?”

“Oh, alright, alright,” the guard snapped. He glanced nervously over his shoulder before stepping aside. “Go on, then. Let the damn councilors get their canapés.” Derision briefly twisted his features before he schooled his expression again.

“Thank you.” I smiled sweetly at him, then hefted my basket a little higher over my shoulder and headed for the street. That guard was the first human I’d run across in the Palace who had shown open disdain for the mages, and I couldn’t help but wonder just how many of the humans employed there shared his feelings. It would be all too easy for the Resistance to infiltrate the Palace using these people, to make these bitter human workers the eyes and ears that allowed them to plot the airship attack against Iannis. The thought filled me with chills, and I cast a glance over my shoulder at the Palace, wondering just how many enemies were lurking in our midst.

One problem at a time, Naya. One problem at a time.