Mercenary Magic Page 46

“Oh, but the bangles are so much more than that. They have an ancient history. An ancient purpose. And you will help them fulfill it.”

A ring of fire blazed up, trapping them inside with Finn and his lunatic army. Kai’s eyes panned across the barrier, the crackling flames reflecting in them. He lifted his hand. Snowflakes began to fall.

“I wouldn’t,” Finn warned. “I’ve instructed my mages to start killing your comrades if you interfere. Good as you are, Kai, there are a lot more of us than there are of you. And you can’t block all of our magic. Stand down if you want those four to live.”

Kai’s eyes narrowed to angry slivers as he met his cousin’s stare. But he lowered his hand. The snowflakes hissed, dissolving into steam.

“Good,” said Finn. “As I was saying, the Priming Bangles have an ancient history. Our family has an ancient history too. And you’re the first of us in generations with the power of the dragon. You’re as close to pure, undiluted magic that I’m going to find.”

He waved four of the mages forward. Kai watched them surround him. He didn’t move, but the look in his eyes froze them in their tracks.

“He won’t bite. Kai is actually a very simple person, driven by a few very simple instincts. One of the strongest of these is the instinct to protect.” Finn clinked the bangles at him. “It must conflict horribly with the bloodlust. Dragons are such moody creatures.”

Taunt strings of lightning slid up Kai’s arms.

“See what I mean?” Finn told his captive audience of madmen. “Once you understand how his simple mind works, you can control him. He won’t fight us. He knows his friends will die, and he couldn’t stand the guilt of letting that happen again.”

The lightning fizzled out, and Kai’s arms dropped to his sides. The dragon—the powerhouse mage, the confident and cocky man—he looked totally and completely defeated.

Finn gave his shoulder a patronizing pat. “Vampires draw their power by drinking the blood of others. The Priming Bangles are like that for magic: a conduit. Our family has been using them to allow experienced mages to boost our novices’ magic until they learned to draw on their own. A waste of the bangles’ true power! With a bit of old, forgotten magic, I can use them to drain your power. I’ve tested them out, and they work.”

Euphoria drenched Finn’s magic, crazed and insatiable. It broke through the false facade he’d managed to build up around himself—the clueless and underpowered cousin that had fooled not only her but Kai too. Right now, his magic was strong. Not Kai strong, but definitely first tier. He’d mentioned testing the bangles. Maybe he’d played vampire and snacked on a few mages’ magic before making his grand entrance. And now he wanted to use those magic-leaching bracelets on Kai.

“Why?” Sera’s voice was thick with anger, so thick that she could hardly speak.

Finn’s magic snapped out at her, looking for holes in her defenses. She knew this game. She’d been playing it since the day she was born. She made her wall go invisible and her magic blank.

“I don’t feel any magic from you.” He frowned. “And I can’t feel you blocking me. How did you do that?”

She glared at him. So even after gorging on magic, he wasn’t as strong as his cousin. Her trick had never worked on Kai. “You are a poser,” she told Finn. “A fraud.”

“Some are born with powerful magic. The rest of us have to earn it.” He shrugged. “I figured you of all people would appreciate the plight of the disenfranchised. After all, don’t you have to deal with the insufferable behavior of the magic dynasties every day?”

Sera decided not to mention that he and at least two key players in his revolution were members of those magic dynasties. It would have gone right over their heads. So she kept her comments to herself, but she did step in front of him when he tried to slap the bangles onto Kai’s wrists.

“Find another power source for your revolution.”

“It’s not so simple,” Finn said, and he almost looked sorry. But he wasn’t. She knew his type. He’d only fooled himself into thinking he was sorry because that fit his image of what a leader had to be: a martyr who would give up anything, even his own family, for the greater good. “I need a lot of power to boost all these mages, and Kai is the purest source of magic. I can do it without the bangles and without Kai—I’ve done it before, as you can see here—but the results vary.”

So that’s how all those mages had gotten more powerful. They’d leeched magic. That also explained the possessed look in their eyes and why they occasionally seemed more lucid than other times. They’d be most batty right after a magic gorge, and once it started to wear off, their minds settled a bit. Settled, not were sane. Sera hated the Magic Council with the force of a thousand exploding suns, but Finn’s magic-sucking free-for-all was a million times worse. Every single one of his mages was out of their mind.

“The bangles help channel the magic, especially from a powerful mage,” Finn said. “If we tried to drain Kai’s magic without them, we’d likely make the whole island explode. That’s what happened with Aiden in New York, and that overload took a chunk out of the city. Kai is many times stronger than Aiden.”

Kai had mentioned the incident involving another Drachenburg cousin in New York City. If Finn’s failed experiments were responsible for that much destruction, she’d hate to be there when he actually succeeded. He was the sort of person who’d destroy the world if it furthered his agenda.

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