Spy Glass Page 101

We continued the journey south, reaching the Daviian Plateau on the sixth day. Any chance I’d have to seek help from a fellow traveler or local died as we turned west and entered the plateau. No one lived there. The Daviian Warpers had tried, but they were long gone.

The flat expanse stretched to the horizon. Brown clumps of grass dotted the cracked and sunbaked soil. A few stunted trees clung to life.

“Do you have enough food and water?” I asked Galen.

“We’ll let Quartz lead us to water. As for food, I should be able to snare a few rabbits.”

It would take us ten days to cross the plateau. Ten days with the sun’s heat beating down on us, and we were only halfway through the heating season. At least we would be on the coast before the blazing hot season.

In order to find water, I had to communicate with Quartz, using a small bit of magic each time.

Halfway across the plateau, I felt restless and craved…action. When we stopped, I paced around the campfire unable to sit.

Food did not help. Water failed to quench the unrelenting need. Pulling my hair just to feel something different only helped for a second.

Galen watched me with a gleam in his eyes. Eventually the plateau faded from my awareness as the hunger dominated all my senses. It hurt. An ache stabbed deep within me as if a person squeezed a pressure point on my heart.

I huddled on the ground, rocking back and forth. No position eased the excruciating desire.

A cool touch on my skin sent a surge of instant relief. I looked over at Galen. He crouched next to me with his hand resting on my shoulder.

“You desire more magic. Let me—”

“No.” I knocked his arm away and the all-consuming yearning flooded me. I rolled into a ball. Now that I was aware of what would relieve the pain, I felt worse.

At one point, I pulled magic to me, packing it into my body, hoping it would satisfy my hunger. It didn’t. In fact, it was just another link in the chain binding me to Galen.

“Opal, let me help you,” he whispered in my ear.

Shaking with an unstoppable desire, I nodded.

“Relax your left arm,” he instructed.

I let him pry it from where I had clamped it around my knees. His touch no longer cooled. Through my haze of pain, I realized he straddled me. Then metal pricked my arm. A mere annoyance compared to the crushing need. Liquid fire raced through my veins, extinguishing the agonizing desire, leaving me limp and gasping.

Galen leaned over me. He held a syringe.

“Whose blood?” I asked.

“More of mine.” He rubbed his thumb over the spot. I hissed in pain.

He moved away. Spent, I flopped to the ground. Now I truly understood how Devlen felt. How the addiction was to blame. Ulrick, too. He didn’t know what he had gotten himself into when he agreed to switch souls with Devlen.

I considered. This “treatment” had been free. What would the next one cost? Would I be able to resist? If I kept using magic, it wouldn’t matter. Galen would force me to do whatever he wanted.

Twenty-six days. The trip from Ognap to the Lion’s Claw Peninsula lasted a total of twenty-six long, horrible, terrible days. Heading west, we crossed the plateau, cut through the narrow tip of Cowan’s lands, bypassing my hometown of Booruby—those days had been my darkest of the trip, envisioning my family and friends gathered for my flag-raising ceremony—and we skimmed above Bloodgood’s southern border. Galen avoided all major towns and cities.

We arrived at the Bloodroses’ outer wall in the afternoon. Located on the tip of the Lion’s Claw Peninsula, the compound was isolated from the rest of the Bloodgood lands. The narrow finger of land jutted out into the Jade Sea. Blue-green water glinted from both sides of the peninsula. The extra beachfront added to their annual pearl harvest.

The eight-foot-high stone wall contained only one gate. The wrought iron was spotted with rust. Galen called to the two guards on the other side. They opened it without hesitation. The gate’s hinges creaked in protest.

The complex hadn’t changed in the year since I had visited. A few stunted trees and scrub bushes grew in the otherwise barren landscape. The tangy scent of the sea filled the area with a moist mist. Even though clan members moved between the buildings, the only sounds to reach us were the constant roll and crash of the waves and the shriek of gulls as they dived and fought over the discarded oyster shells.

Beyond the massive wall, small cottages built from bamboo were arranged in perfect lines. Past them was a smattering of sun-bleached public buildings. The beaches on each side of the peninsula had a long structure built in the sand. On the northern coast, children dived for oysters, carrying buckets of them into the shade of the sorting area. Adolescents pushed wheelbarrows full of sand and hunks of black rocks on the southern coast. Armed guards watched both. The excuse for their presence had been to protect the clan from pirates and thieves.

It was quite the operation. Pearls, diamonds and breeding magic. My stomach felt as if I had eaten too many raw oysters.

After leaving the horses in the stable, Galen led us to Walsh’s office. He ignored Walsh’s assistant. Her protest died on her lips when he frowned at her. Smart girl. But she did hover in the threshold, lacing her hands over her bulging belly. I swallowed. She looked about fifteen years old—way too young to be with child.

Walsh’s skeletal face lit up when he spotted me. He stood from behind his desk and came around with his arm extended.

“Opal, welcome back. It’s so nice to see you,” Walsh said, flashing stained teeth as he smiled. He wore all white. It matched his long white hair.

Prev Next