Mercenary Magic Page 47

“Why are you so casual about killing your own family?” she demanded. “Is that your vision of the future: every supernatural for themselves, only the strong survive, and screw all the humans?”

Finn’s sigh was exasperated—and just a touch offended. “I’m not going to kill Kai. I’m just going to drain him. Then the magic inside of him will refill, and I can do it again. And again.” He turned his greedy eyes on Kai. “As many times as I want. Unlimited renewable magic.”

Finn’s mages had clamped onto Kai, holding him still as their leader popped open the Priming Bangles. Sera tried to ram them, but three more mages split off from the main group and tackled her to the floor. She kicked and hit at them—and when that didn’t work, she dug her fingernails into them and zapped them with magic. But more and more mages kept coming. Behind her, the commandos were fighting the mages who had swarmed through the door.

Sera’s lip was bleeding and her head spinning as she crawled her way out from beneath the pile of dozing mages. At least she thought they were unconscious. Foam was frothing out of the mouth of that last one. She hoped he wasn’t dead. Not because he didn’t deserve it. She just didn’t want to be the instrument of his demise. There was a big difference between killing a monster and killing a person. She’d done it before and would likely have to do it again, but she didn’t particularly like it.

She danced around dive-bombing bricks and fireballs on her way to Kai. He wore one pair of the bangles around his wrists. Finn wore the other, his mouth spitting out chants. His words pulsed with dark, sinister magic. The echoes of it stung her skin. She felt dirty. A hundred showers wouldn’t be enough to wash the filth of that magic away. There was something very, very wrong about it.

“Yes. Yes. Perfect.” Finn grinned, high on magic. His bangles glowed brighter with every passing second.

And as his bangles grew brighter, Kai’s dulled. Finn was draining his magic, and from the look on Kai’s face, it hurt. A lot. His fists were clenched, his neck stiff.

Horrified, Sera watched them. She’d never seen anything like this before. The world held no shortage of horrors, but this was pure evil.

Kai began to roar out, the song of his torment beyond horrible. Beyond belief. Symbols drawn in magical light pulsed across his skin, smoke sizzling up from them. He looked like he was on fire.

Sera couldn’t think. She could only act. Not stopping to second guess herself, she rushed forward and planted one hand on Finn’s bangles, the other on Kai’s. Pain and magic ripped through her hands, frying every nerve in them. The burning river of magic shot down her arms, and liquified pain flooded into her chest, dripping down her ribs. As it pushed into her legs, her knees collapsed. Finn tried to throw her off. She couldn’t even stand, but she clenched her teeth and held on, trying to concentrate on disrupting the flow of magic. She had to stop it.

Finn kicked her, but next to the pain wracking her body, it hardly registered. She could smell her hands burning. The fact that she couldn’t feel them was very bad news, but she tried not to think about that. She had to break the magic draining Kai. She pushed against the tidal wave, willing it to shatter.

It laughed in her face.

She couldn’t see anything anymore. She could hardly hear. The tidal wave was drowning her, its salty waters burning her nose and suffocating her breath. She was slipping.

A soft growl, a shadow of its former self, buzzed in the air. Something about it was familiar, but her head was too water-logged to remember what. The growl came again. It said her name. Kai? Sera tried to open her eyes—to find him—but she saw only blackness.

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

“I’m lost,” she muttered, fear filling her. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Break the magic.”

“How?”

“Like before. Reverse it. Flip it inside out.”

“Will that really work? Will it shatter the spell?”

He didn’t answer. He was gone. She was alone again, alone inside the tidal wave. And if she didn’t break it, she would die inside here.

Sera stretched her tired, torn magic out once more. She hooked onto a piece of the evil magic. It took all her willpower not to let go the moment she made contact. Slippery, oily, icy, it tried to slither away. She held on tighter, wrapping her magic around it like a warm blanket. It squirmed and flopped like a fish caught on land. Encouraged by its fear, Sera flipped her magic inside out. The tidal waves stilled—then shattered. As millions of tiny crumbs dissolved into the air, she opened her eyes.

The first thing she saw was the light going out of the Priming Bangles. They clicked open and fell to the floor.

The second thing she saw was Finn push Kai over and then, enraged, turn eyes saturated with magic on her.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Fear

BLOOD DRIPPED FROM Sera’s nose. She wiped it away with the back of her hand, then reached back to draw her sword. Her fingers refused to close around the hilt. In fact, she still couldn’t feel her hands. Retracting them, she stared down at burnt and blistered palms. So much for fighting.

“That looks bad,” Finn taunted. “Do you want me to have one of my mages take a look at it?”

“Your mages will keep their magic to themselves if they know what’s good for them,” Sera spat back. Her body had blocked out all feeling to her hands, but she didn’t need to be a doctor to know they were completely trashed.

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