Mercenary Magic Page 42

“It’s like masking your magic but in reverse. Push out your wall and turn it inside out. Instead of bottling your magic in, you want to keep other magic out.”

Sera could hardly follow him. The pain was too much. If the entire building collapsed on top of her, it wouldn’t have hurt this much. She reached toward the walls. She didn’t have any magic that could bring down walls, but that wouldn’t stop her from trying. She’d pound it with her fists if need be. Anything to end the pain. Anything to be free.

“Sera.”

Something locked onto her, something strong and horrible that wanted her to suffer. She punched and kicked with all her strength, but the steel trap remained immovable. She couldn’t break out of it.

“Sera, stop,” Kai’s voice whispered in her ear.

“Hurts.”

“I know,” his voice said in soothing tones. “But you can make it stop.”

She looked desperately at the wall—the wall that she couldn’t reach.

“No, not like that. I know you want to keep your magic coiled up inside of you, but that’s what’s hurting you. You need to push it out to make a barrier that will block everything out. You can do this.”

The voice sounded sincere, but dragons were liars. She tried again to break free. When that didn’t work, she reached up to the hard arms crisscrossed over her chest and pulled down on them. An unexpected jolt of magic tore out of her fingers.

“Is that the best you can do?” the voice taunted.

She dug her fingernails into him and hit him with her magic again.

He grunted. “Was that supposed to hurt?”

Sweat slid down her face like burning rivers. She dug deep for her magic, letting it flow to the surface. Her head was exploding in agony, but she fought against the pain. She wound up her magic and shot it into him, putting as much power as she could into it. It was the magical equivalent of kicking someone in the head.

Too bad dragons had freakishly hard heads.

“It tickles.” He spit out something. Blood? “Like the wings of a butterfly.”

Sera clenched her teeth, funneling all her magic into a single concentrated punch. He stumbled back, and because the stubborn bastard still hadn’t let go, she went with him. As they fell, the cork that had plugged her magic for over twenty years popped out. Her magic cascaded out of her, filling her with ecstasy that swallowed the pain. She pushed hard against her magic, flipping it out. The sickening magic vibrations winked out. The aftershocks of her own magical release lingered, slowly fading out.

“Sera, are you all right?”

She peeled her face off the rock beneath her. Except it wasn’t a rock. She was lying on top of Kai, and he looked as smug as a kitten who’d caught his first mouse—or a dragon who’d caught his first sheep. She scrambled away from him, landing on her butt. She was still too dizzy.

“What was that?” she asked, her voice hoarse. She looked away from the wall. With the pain gone, she couldn’t believe she’d ever fantasized about smashing her head through it.

Kai pushed up to sit cross-legged opposite her. “That was all the magic in the room, bounced off the iron bars a million or so times. One of the first things a mage learns is how to block that out, for reasons you can now appreciate.”

She looked at the three commandos, who were standing at the other end of the room, leaning against the wall, their backs to her. “And what’s wrong with them?”

“They’re recovering.”

“From what?”

“From that wave of exquisite magic you released. It was…overwhelming.”

“You don’t look overwhelmed,” she said.

“Of course I am.” His eyes dilated with magic, he lifted his hand to her face and brushed it softly against her cheek. “Are you ready to continue?”

“Are you?” she shot back, not even knowing what possessed her to say it. The dragon sure had a way of getting under her skin like no one else could.

“No, but I’ll manage.” He leaned in and kissed her once on the lips, feather soft, before pulling back. “If you three are sorted, let’s head into the basement.”

“Sure thing, boss.” Tony cleared his throat. “We’re ready.”

The other two nodded, then they all walked toward the staircase that led to the basement—or dungeon, as it very clearly was. Moss was slowly consuming the brick walls, turning them from a warm gold-red color to putrid green. A web of cracks spread across the length of the tunnel’s floor. Flickering wall lamps hung between tall doors that looked like the moat gates of a castle. Nothing about the atmosphere was particularly welcoming, and Sera felt a new wave of claustrophobia rush through her.

“I don’t like how this feels.” She said it so quietly that she didn’t expect anyone to hear.

Proving that a dragon’s hearing was as keen as his magic, Kai replied, “They’ve invited in dark magic.”

“Dark magic? Like a demon?” she whispered.

“I don’t know. It’s…old. And powerful. It could be anything ancient: an artifact, a spell, a demon.”

“A dragon?”

“Perhaps. But if they’d found a real dragon, I think most of the city would know about it. Dragons aren’t subtle creatures.”

“Neither are mages who shift into them,” she muttered under her breath.

Kai said nothing, but the subtle twitch at the corner of his mouth told her he’d heard surely enough.

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