Marked by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #4)(9)


by Jasmine Walt

“Why is it illegal?” I asked Janta.

“Because grusia is more commonly used in death spells,” Janta explained. “Mostly by witches, of course, as they tend to rely on plants for their magic more than we mages do. The Federation banned the plant nearly three hundred years ago, when the Minister at that time was assassinated through a death spell that involved grusia.”

“Makes sense.” I shuddered a little. “I didn’t know death spells were a thing.” I mean, maybe in the back of my mind I knew it was possible, but I’d never really thought about it.

Janta smiled a little. “I’m afraid you’ll find out that all sorts of things are possible with magic, both good and bad.” She turned away, gesturing for me to follow her. “Come. We have several old gulayas in the library’s artifacts collection that I can show you.”

She led me to a back room lined with shelves filled with containers of varying shapes and sizes. They were all carefully labeled, but when I tried to read some of them, I found, to my frustration, that the labels were written in Loranian. Dammit. I really was going to have to master the language sooner rather than later.

Humming a cheerful tune under her breath, Janta scanned the shelves until she found a long, rectangular metal box. As she touched it, runes flared to life, glowing bright blue and red. I squinted against the glare, my eyes having adjusted to the dim interior of the library, while Janta murmured a few Words. There was a loud click, and the runes faded as the container unlocked.

“Here we go,” Janta said, carrying the box to a table in the center of the room. She opened it and pulled out a smaller box from within labeled “Gulayas”. Inside were seven of the silver, star-shaped charms, most of them as big as my palm, but some of them smaller.

“Oh, this is terrible,” Janta cried as I laid the last one on the table. She was scanning a long piece of paper. “One of the gulayas is missing!”

“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me,” I murmured, picking up each piece in turn and examining it. They smelled like magic, but very faintly, as if only traces remained. But one of them, a small one that was little larger than a gold coin, smelled more strongly than the rest. Was there a chance that it might still be charged? How long did it take for a gulaya’s charge to wear off naturally?

“What do you mean, you are not surprised?” the librarian asked, suspicion clouding her voice. “Nobody is supposed to have access without one of my staff.”

“As I mentioned earlier, I encountered one of these on my rescue mission,” I told her. “Argon Chartis used it to escape when we found out he was allied with the Resistance, and it’s entirely possible he stole it from this very library when he was still Director at the Mages Guild.” I held up the small gulaya. “I need to take this one to Lord Iannis. It might be able to help us with something we’re looking into.”

“Yes, of course.” The librarian had her hand pressed to her cheek, still shocked. “You’ll need to sign the check-out log.”

I did as she asked, then pocketed the borrowed gulaya and strode out of the library. I had no intention of giving the gulaya to Iannis – I was keeping it for myself, at least for a little bit. With the bright red target the Resistance had painted on my back, any ace in my sleeve was welcome. I just hoped that the gulaya, if it was in fact still active, would not whisk me all the way to Garai or some other place overseas where I did not know the language. But then again, any place was probably safer than where I was now.

5

I hurried back to the Mages Guild, intent on cornering Iannis and getting him to give me a useful assignment. But just as I was passing through the reception area, Dira, the front desk receptionist, called my name.

“Miss Baine, there’s a message for you. From an Enforcer Annia Melcott.”

I paused, then veered toward the desk. If Annia was calling me here, it had to be important. The last time I’d seen her, she’d been in a fog of grief over Noria’s decision to join the Resistance, bitter and utterly defeated. I hoped she wasn’t about to do something rash. “What’s the message?”

Dira frowned, reading the message she’d scrawled down when she received the note. “She asked if you could please meet her at your mutual friend’s house. And that it was urgent.”

“Thanks.” I nodded, then hurried down the hall, heading for the finance office. As I half-expected, most of the finance department’s desks were empty, and the few people who were busy at their desks were mages, with the exception of one elderly human accountant. I couldn’t help the small sigh that escaped me. Was everyone deserting us?

Noria did.

Pushing that thought out of my head, I veered left, toward the Finance Secretary’s office, and knocked on the door.

“Who is it?”

“Sunaya Baine.”

There was a pause. “Come in,” he said eventually.

I pushed open the door, then closed it behind me. Cirin Garidano, Solantha’s Secretary of Finance, was more striking and fashionable than the other mages of his stature. Like Iannis, he tended to dress in robes that flattered his broad shoulders and tall frame, and he wore his black hair long, far past his shoulders. Dark, piercing blue eyes were narrowed in concentration as he tapped out a report on his typewriter with long fingers that flew across the keys. I felt my approaching heat more strongly at the sight of a handsome male, but firmly pushed the sensation away.

“Isn’t typing reports something you delegate to a lackey?” I asked, leaning my hip against the door.

He glanced up at me, a faintly annoyed expression on his face. “In case you haven’t noticed, Miss Baine, we are in short supply of lackeys at the moment. Did you come in here to criticize my office?”

“No,” I admitted, shoving my hands into my pockets. “I came here because I need to borrow a car.”

His dark eyebrows winged up. “And what makes you think I’m in a position to help you? The Mages Guild doesn’t use cars.”

I rolled my eyes. “Give me a break. I spend enough time around this joint that I can afford to do a little snooping.” My ability to wear illusions was a big help in sneaking into restricted areas, too. “You’ve got a garage full of them.” I smirked a little at the surprise in Cirin’s eyes. “Guess you mages aren’t so averse to technology after all, are you?”