Mercenary Magic Page 23

“What do they do?”

“They help young or inexperienced mages focus their power. For centuries, children in the Drachenburg family have used them during their early years, when their magic was starting to blossom.”

“Did you use them?”

“No.” He looked offended. “They’re for our underpowered and undisciplined children, the ones who need a jolt to bring forth their magic. The child wears one pair, and a more experienced mage wears the other, using the bracelets to help the child direct his magic.”

“I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

“Our set is the only one of its kind,” he replied. “But I still don’t understand why someone would go to so much trouble to steal it. We created the bangles to deal with mages of feeble magic born into the family line. We had to find some way to give them a boost. We couldn’t have any Drachenburg weak mages running around.”

Sera frowned at him. “Yeah, because that would be totally embarrassing.”

“It would be dangerous. Being a weak mage born into a powerful family makes you a target of that family’s enemies. Or pirates and scoundrels looking to make their fortune kidnapping members of wealthy families.”

“Oh.” Her hands slid down from their perch on her hips.

“But here’s the thing. The bracelets don’t give a mage power he doesn’t possess. They just teach him to draw on every bit of magic in him. Most mages can access only a fraction of their total magic.”

“How much?”

“Under half. Usually a third or even a quarter.”

“And these bracelets allow mages to draw on all their potential magic?”

“Not quite. It’s not a panacea for low magic. A mage can’t put them on and suddenly have access to all this magic he couldn’t get to before. It takes years of conditioning, and you have to start young, ideally before puberty,” he said. “Any one of the other dynasties would love to get their hands on our bangles to use them on their own unpowered children, but they wouldn’t go about it so directly. And it’s not thieves after the bangles because by now whoever is behind this has spent more money trying to steal them than they are worth on the black market.”

“What if something else was stolen too?” Sera suggested. “What if they weren’t after these bracelets at all?”

“But used that to cover up something else they’d stolen.” He turned to Dawson. “Are you sure the Priming Bangles were the only item stolen?”

“The team that took inventory said everything else is still there,” replied Dawson. He’d looked happier back when Kai was ignoring him.

“Do it again. You personally. Start now. I expect a report by the morning.”

Alone, that would probably take him half the night, but he didn’t protest. He didn’t say a word. He just nodded, turned, and walked down the stairs into the underground building. Sera waited until he was out of earshot before telling Kai off.

“You could’ve had someone help him. It’s not his fault the guard house was sabotaged.”

“I’m not punishing him,” he said. “I want him to do it because I’m not entirely sure there aren’t spies and traitors amongst us. I can’t afford to trust the other guards.”

“But you can afford to trust him?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” she asked, even though she was sort of—uh, make that really, absolutely certain she didn’t want to know.

Kai just looked at her, saying nothing.

“That bad?”

“Let’s just say that Dawson has seen what happens to people who betray me,” he said, cold fury in his eyes.

A bolt of lightning shot down from the sky, blasting a garbage can clear across the parking lot. As it fell, flames consumed the metal, melting it into a shapeless blob even before it hit the ground. Wow. And, oh yeah, holy shit.

“Should I be worried that you’re going to set me on fire?” she asked him.

“It depends. Are you going to betray me?”

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Good. I’d stick to that plan if I were you.”

The look in his eyes told her he wasn’t joking. If she did something he saw as a threat, he’d barbecue her on the spot, no questions asked, no mercy granted. The problem was that her very existence was something he’d see as a threat.

“Let’s go,” he said, heading toward his car. “We have one more stop to make before we can call it a day and start again tomorrow.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll see.”

She tried not to let the delighted grin on his face worry her.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Dragon Born

WHERE DID EGREGIOUSLY wealthy dragons get their grub? From posh restaurants that verified your bank account balance at the door, of course. Ok, not really, but it was pretty damn close.

Illusion was one of these restaurants. It sat along the shore of the Presidio, the city kingdom for the magically inclined. And it was all ‘pretty’ magic here in the Presidio. No beasts in sight—well, not unless you counted the three-headed dogs and acid-spitting toads that guarded the gates of the magical elite. Truth be told, they weren’t half as bad as the monsters holding their leashes.

Kai led the way through the door, stepping foot into that restaurant like he owned the place. Which was actually a distinct possibility, come to think of it.

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