Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(8)


by Jasmine Walt

Elania dangled the necklace over the map and began chanting in a strange language. She moved her hand above the map, making sure to hover the stone over every state in a kind of zigzag pattern without actually touching the surface of the map.

“Ah,” she murmured as the powder covering a section of the map began to turn a cobalt blue. She stopped there, and we watched as the color spread out to cover the southern half of Mexia, one of the southwestern states that jutted up directly against the Federation border, just two states east of Canalo. “Here he is.”

I scowled as I stared down at the map. “That’s easily fifty thousand square miles of territory to search.”

“And much of it is uncultivated Coazi land,” Elania added, looking troubled.

“Coazi?” I tried to match the name with a memory. “Aren’t they a tribe?”

“Yes. I believe the Federation ceded most of the land in this area to them.” Elania handed the serapha charm back to me, then carefully swept the bone dust away from the area so she could mark it off with a pen. “I suggest reading up on the Coazi before you head into their territory. I know no more about them than any of the other indigenous tribes that populate the Federation.”

“Well, now would be a great time to have access to the Palace’s library.” I huffed out a breath as I refastened the chain around my neck. Relief spread through my chest as the stone came to rest against my breastbone, and the strange pain there eased. “I’m sure there’d be a tome in there somewhere that could tell me all about the Coazi, whoever they are.”

“I’ll see if there’s anything I can dig up,” Comenius said gently. “In the meantime, though, you should rest, Naya. The tonic we gave you will only last so long, and your body needs the time to heal itself naturally.”

“No way.” I shook my head, unable to even entertain the idea of falling asleep. “I’ve been passed out in that infirmary bed for who knows how long already. I need to focus on prepping this rescue mission.”

Comenius scowled. “Yes, and you’re already showing signs of fatigue again. You’ll be useless to the mission if you’re not properly healed and rested.”

“Alright,” I ceded reluctantly. The edges of fatigue were starting to drag at me, likely sped along by my use of the illusion spell. Using magic draws on my energy reserves, and if I were to venture out on my own to try and find research books I would have to disguise myself again, which in turn would sap even more energy. Not exactly conducive to preparing myself for a long journey. “I’ll chill out here for a bit.”

“I’ll get you a blanket and pillow.” Comenius patted my leg, then stood up and went into the bedroom. Elania went with him, and I could hear them talking quietly as I stretched myself out on the sofa. If I’d wanted to, I could have tuned in with my sensitive hearing and eavesdrop on them, but Com deserved privacy in his own home. And besides, my fatigue was growing with every second.

As I sat there waiting for him to come back up, I heard a soft thud as something landed on the sofa cushion next to me. Startled, I jerked toward the sound, then smiled at the sight of my chakram pouch and crescent knives sitting there. They’d returned sooner than I’d expected. Pleased, I reached over to grab my weapons so I could strap them to my thighs, but another wave of tiredness washed over me and my hand fell back to my side.

I’ll take care of my weapons later, I thought as my eyes slid closed. Floorboards creaked, and Comenius murmured something as he tucked a blanket around me, but I didn’t hear what he said as I slipped into a fog. Images of Iannis falling from the sky, terror in his brilliant eyes as he reached toward me, rippled through my mind over and over, and I screamed in frustration that I was unable to move, unable to reach him at all.

Sleep. Resinah’s cool voice echoed in my head, banishing the vision. All is not yet lost, child. Now sleep.

4

“I don’t think you should go, Naya. At least not by yourself.”

Scowling, I slammed the thick, dusty tome that Elania had brought in this morning, and scowled up at Comenius. “I’m not abandoning Iannis just because of a couple of paragraphs in an old history text.”

“That isn’t just some dusty tome – it is part of a trusted and valuable encyclopedia,” Comenius argued, sounding highly affronted. We were sitting at his dining table along with Elania, who’d arrived with a basket of freshly made scones and cookies. The food was especially welcome after going without for nearly twenty-four hours, though it would have been nice if there had been some meat too. “According to those couple of paragraphs, as you say, the Coazi are unpredictable in their treatment of outsiders, and they are ruled by shamans, some of whom are as powerful as mages.”

I scoffed. “Give me a break. From what I understand, they’re really uncivilized. Surely they can’t be that powerful.”

“Tribal shamans are not to be underestimated,” Elania warned, setting down her teacup and regarding me with a frown. “Their magic relies heavily on nature and spirits, but it is old and powerful. If you run across a shaman who considers you an enemy, you may find yourself outmatched.”

“Well then I guess I’d better be careful, but that doesn’t mean I’m staying here.” I huffed out a breath. “If Iannis is hurt and lying around in the wilderness, the last thing I need is for these Coazi to find him before I do.”

Comenius opened his mouth, presumably to argue, then froze as the doorbell rang.

“Are we expecting someone?” I asked, my senses prickling. Because we were on the second floor, there was no way for me to scent whoever was at the door.

“I ran across Annia yesterday and asked her to bring some of your things by the apartment,” Comenius said as he cautiously rose from his chair. “Perhaps it’s her.”

“I’ll come with you –” I began as he made for the door, but Elania placed her hand on my shoulder.

“You have a bounty on your head right now, Sunaya,” she reminded me. “Let Comenius answer his own door. He can handle himself.”

“Alright.” Forcing myself to relax, I grabbed a cookie and took a bite. Elania was right – there was no reason to risk myself needlessly, and this was Comenius’s place, not mine. I didn’t really have a leg to stand on if he didn’t want me answering the door.