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Stepping in close behind him, I triggered my switchblade. I grabbed the man's hair, yanked his head back hard, and pressed the blade against his neck. " "You're not in a position to ask questions." Magic swelled, and the handle of my switchblade turned red-hot. " He pointed at his men surrounding the couch, then to himself. He fed Kiki a few milk oats and scratched her behind the ears before mounting his pure black horse. You're exhausted." It was a good idea, but sleeping seemed impossible. His hands itched to hurt the people who held Leif and Yelena. With reluctance dragging at his feet, he Valek finally took Irys's advice and slept. "But if you don't help me recover the Ice Moon from Ixia, he will die." I considered the possibility of Leif's capture. Confidence radiated from him, yet he remained behind a null shield, protected from my magic. He needed to get to the Citadel as fast as possible. He would need to travel to Fulgor, but Onyx required a few more hours' rest before they could leave.Leif had a second to brace before they attacked with fists and boots. Just before he passed out, the woman said, "That's enough. I asked my horse through our magical mental connection. Keeping my eyes closed, I reached out with my senses, searching for trouble. Since it was the middle of the night, I doubted he had come for a social visit. The blanket settling to the mattress and his musky scent were the only evidence of his recent presence. One alley a number of blocks away from the Inn had signs of a struggle scuffed on the cobblestones near the alley's entrance. "My, my." He tsked and spun his daggers in his hands. " The woman laughed--a deep, almost seductive sound. Standing safely behind the semi-circle of fighters, she had pulled the hood of her long cloak up to conceal her face. She might think she had the upper hand, but Valek was in control. As long as she obeys, you will be fine." He noted the woman's speech patterns. No doubt he'd escape, but why go to all that effort? They weren't smart enough to keep him and Leif far apart, which was what he'd do in their place.He's no good to us dead." PART 1 - YELENA Kiki's voice interrupted my dream. His surface emotions flipped from nervous energy to anticipation. It could be from a street fight, but he needed to investigate before the light was gone. Not trusting the door, Valek climbed to the second floor and found an unlocked window. He kept his expression neutral, but inside he chastised his own lack of judgment. Plus, if he escaped, they might use a glass messenger to report his involvement and then injure Leif before he could rescue him. Someday Leif's stomach would get him into serious trouble. The man froze, but called out, "Found her." The others spun, but didn't draw weapons. We have some business to discuss with you." He must be the leader of the group. He had to be nearby, waiting to see what developed. We don't want anyone to see us here." "And the null shield? I could search his soul, but that seemed extreme right now. He twisted away and drew his sword, aiming at my chest. "I know you don't realize it yet, but I am in charge. He asked Onyx to hurry to the Citadel, and the horse broke into a fast gallop. But once he reached the Keep's gate, he shoved his concerns deep within his heart. The only magician I know of who can lie to another magician in his mind. The horse seemed to sense his impatience and pushed himself harder than normal. Valek made sure to find a clean stable and rubbed the black horse down himself when they arrived. "Don't move, or I'll slit your throat," I whispered in his ear. Try again." The comment about the shield was for Valek's benefit. If I had wanted to surprise you, I would be behind the shield as well." Good point. All I'm getting is surface emotions." Which were rather calm for a man with a knife against his throat. I yelped as it seared my skin, dropping the smoking weapon. For a moment, he wished he could communicate with the horses the same way Yelena did, but he knew they were smart. Instead, he stabled Onyx and then joined the morning training session, working on sword drills with the students until Irys appeared and waved him over. By mid-afternoon, Valek and Onyx headed toward Fulgor."Pull up a stool." "I thought you'd never ask." Leif crossed the room in two strides, found a fork and dug in. Seems they caught a killer and need me to interrogate him." Leif's unique magic allowed him to sense a person's moods and feelings. If you knew half the things I did..." Leif shuddered. They discussed food and cooking and recipes--three of his favorite subjects. He wasn't expected at the Council Hall until later. As his heart rate climbed, Leif considered his options. Punching Muscles in the face, he kicked the man on his right before slamming his heel down on the bruiser to his left. Outnumbered, Leif turned to run, but he was tackled from behind. After Valek finished his meal, he walked toward Fulgor's Councilor's Hall. They wore tight-fitting black clothes that covered everything but their eyes.Moaning in pleasure, Leif said, "Now that's a perfect combination of flavors." "Did you come all this way for a meal? His abilities also included, smelling lies, guilt and evil in others. "You'd never leave your kitchen." "Like that Daviian and Fire Warper stuff two years ago? Leif sampled several of Reilly's experiments, giving his opinion on the various flavors. "All right." Sure enough, four large men waited for him in the common room. "Councilor Moon will update you, sir." Interesting. Give me a minute to grab my cloak." Leif bounded up the stairs and retrieved his cloak, machete, and a few extra darts, which he tucked into various hidden pockets. The sergeant led them outside and through the still-quiet streets. Four against one, but he'd have the element of surprise. They dragged him inside a dimly lit warehouse and dumped him onto the ground. In order to maintain the ruse long enough to lead Leif somewhere relatively deserted, the fake guards would have had to start out in the right direction. Even though he was immune to magic, he could feel it, and if it was strong enough, it could slow him down. Sharp swords pointed at him with steady hands, and a few clutched short knives as well. In fact, if you manage to escape tonight, he will be harmed in retaliation for your attempt to interfere.
Waving off the stable boy, Leif rubbed Rusalka down, fed her the promised milk oats, and filled the buckets in her stall with water and feed. A couple people lingered in the main dining room, drinking ale and talking in low voices. "Mister Leif, so nice to see you again." "Hello, Sarah, do you have an empty room I can rent? I snapped my focus back to the man and concentrated. Between the faint moonlight and the glow from the embers in the hearth, there was enough light to discern the bigger shapes in my living room. The Commander had ordered him to set up and maintain one of these safe houses in each major city in Sitia, including the Citadel. Yelena would be livid if she knew, but Valek couldn't disobey a direct order from the Commander.I dug a little deeper into his thoughts and encountered a strong barrier. Halfway down the alley, he discovered drag marks leading to a warehouse door. Ghosting inside the empty building, he didn't encounter anyone or anything on the second floor. As a fire blazed to life behind him, Valek spun and grabbed his daggers. And he'd yet to be locked in a prison that could hold him for long. Fresh air swept in for a moment before the door slammed shut again. Once they confirmed that no one lurked on the ground floor, they searched the upper floors and surprised a group playing cards.