Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(7)


by Jasmine Walt

My time was coming soon, in a matter of weeks. Normally I didn’t concern myself overmuch with it, as I just found a reasonably willing male to take out my sexual energy on when the time came. But I’d never had my heart tangled up over anyone before, especially not someone like Iannis. When we’d first met, the attraction I’d felt had been instant, and I’d fought so hard to deny it that I’d blamed it on my hormones. But as time passed, I knew my impending heat was only partially to blame – the growing feelings in my heart had little to do with the growing heat in my loins, and in the past I’d always been able to distinguish between the two. The presence of someone in my life that I both wanted, needed, and couldn’t have in more ways than one, was really fucking with me. Sometimes I wished that I’d never met the Chief Mage, because then at least I wouldn’t be torn into two over the issue.

But I had met him, and even if I was conflicted, my life was in many ways better for having him in it. And besides, I owed him a debt that even rescuing him might not repay.

“Sunaya!” Elania greeted me in her throaty voice as she glided into the room. She’d changed and freshened up since I’d seen her in the infirmary – her thick, lustrous black hair was piled up atop her head in a complicated weave, her eyes were rimmed with fresh kohl, and the flowing red dress she wore matched her lipstick perfectly. Beneath one slender arm she held a long, rolled up piece of parchment, and in the other hand she carried a small wooden case. “I am glad to see you are looking better.”

“Thank you.” I stood up to embrace her – I figured as Comenius’s new girlfriend, and a helpful one at that, it would be smart of me to warm up to her. “The tonic you and Comenius whipped up worked wonders.”

“Of course it did,” she said, winking as she embraced me. The dark, exotic scent of spices and woman surrounded me, and I filed it away in my memory banks. “There is nothing I make that doesn’t do the job it is intended for.”

“Well I sure hope that confidence of yours extends to finding the Chief Mage.” I sat back down. I glanced at Comenius as he rejoined me, noticing the slight flush on his cheeks and the hint of lipstick on his mouth that he hadn’t quite managed to wipe off. Jealousy burned briefly in my chest – not at Elania for her relationship with Comenius, but rather that the two of them were happy, and didn’t have to fear judgment or flaunt convention to be together.

“We will find him,” Elania assured me as she dragged a scoop-backed armchair a little closer to the coffee table that separated the space between us. She set the roll of paper onto the table along with her small wooden case. The case contained various pouches and bottles filled with liquid and powder and herbs, as well as several rocks – some pieces of crystal and other semi-precious stones. She spread the rolled-up piece of parchment out on the table, then placed four chunks of crystal at the edges of the parchment. I recognized it as a map of the Northia Federation. Not a very detailed one, as it didn’t show all the different towns and cities, just the borders delineating the fifty states that made up the Federation.

“Are those stones supposed to mark cardinal directions?” I asked, pointing at the crystal.

“No. I’m just using them to hold down the parchment so it doesn’t roll back up again.” Elania’s red lips twitched as she reached for a black velvet pouch inside the purse. “Sometimes we read meaning into things that are not there.”

“Indeed,” I said dryly. I actually felt a little foolish, but I wasn’t about to show her that.

“It’s alright, Naya.” Comenius patted my knee briefly as he regarded Elania fondly. “Elania has many years of training, and you’re still starting out.”

“Thanks for the reminder,” I muttered, unable to keep the edge out of my voice. I didn’t mind that Elania was more competent than me – that would be like being annoyed at the sky for being blue. Rather, I was frustrated that I was so behind in my magical education to begin with. If my father, the mage who I’d inherited my powers from, had bothered to stick around long enough to teach me how to use my birthright, I would be able to rescue Iannis on my own.

Then again, if my father had raised and taught me like he was supposed to, I likely wouldn’t have ever crossed paths with Iannis in the first place.

I watched as Elania tugged on the drawstring of the pouch, then poured a fine white powder into her hands. A cloud of dust poofed into the air above her hand, and my nose wrinkled as the scent wafted toward me. It smelled like magic, and something human, like…

“By Magorah,” I exclaimed, “is that human bone?”

“Very good,” Elania acknowledged as she scattered the powdered bone across the parchment, careful to cover the entire surface. “An ancestor’s shinbone, to be specific. The bones of a dead witch hold magical properties, so we grind them up for use in certain spells and incantations, such as the one we are about to do.”

“Interesting,” I murmured, sitting back against the sofa – more to put some distance between myself and the disconcerting spell than to relax. I found what she was doing a little gruesome; not just the act, but the meaning behind it. We’d buried my mother after she’d died, returning her to the soil from whence she’d come so that she might serve as nourishment for other lifeforms. The idea of stripping her bones from her carcass and grinding them up to be used in spellcasting sent a shiver down my spine. I wondered if this was something mages did as well, and resolved to ask Iannis about it, if I managed to rescue him.

When I managed to rescue him, I corrected myself silently.

“Alright,” Elania said softly. She dusted off the last remnants of bone from her palm, then held it out and looked up expectantly at me. “I will need your necklace now.”

I hesitated, my fingers toying with the charm. “The Chief Mage said that I shouldn’t take it off.”

“It’s alright, Naya,” Comenius said gently, his hand on my shoulder. “Elania won’t do anything to harm your serapha charm. She’s just trying to help.”

Nodding, I pushed my mass of curls over my right shoulder, then reached behind me to unfasten the necklace. My fingers trembled, so it took me three tries, but I finally got it off. As I handed it off to her, my chest ached a little, similar to the time when I’d first separated the tiny piece of my soul that I’d put into the matching charm Iannis had worn. That’s how serapha charms worked – you gave the other person a small fragment of your spirit, so that you were bound to them and would always be able to find them via the charms so long as they continued to wear them. The necklace I wore held a piece of Iannis’s soul, so it stood to reason that Elania could use it to locate him.