Spy Glass Page 11

“Opal?” she asked.

Not trusting my voice, I nodded.

“Why are you here?” She hugged her arms to her chest as if to keep herself from falling apart.

“To visit you.”

She blinked. “Why are you shielded, I thought…”

Stunned, I watched this brittle shell of a woman as she struggled to make sense of the situation. Her blond hair hung limp and greasy; she had aged years in the span of one season and stains covered her white silk tunic.

Her gaze snapped to me with a sudden intensity. “You lost your magic. Are you afraid someone is going to attack you, too?”

“No. I’m not shielded.” But I began to understand. Magic once again surrounded me, seeking. I guessed the magician wanted an update.

My escort spoke for the first time, and I wondered if he could feel the power, as well. “Maybe I should fetch Zebb?”

“No. Absolutely not. He is not allowed up here,” Tama said. “Why did that magician think you’ve erected a null shield?”

She spat the word magician. Coming here had been a bad idea; I wondered if Nic and Eve were aware of the change in the Councilor.

“He must be mistaken,” I said. “You know I have no magical powers. Why would I come here to harm you? I helped rescue you.”

The viselike grip on my arms relaxed from crushing to bruising. Tama melted. She covered her face with her hands, either embarrassed by her overreaction or relieved.

“What’s this all about?” another female voice demanded.

I glanced over my shoulder and recognized Faith Moon, the Councilor’s First Adviser. Light reflected off her glasses as she scanned our little group, assessing the situation. The Adviser’s short brown hair was tucked behind her ears. Her mouth dropped open when she spotted me wedged between the two guards.

“Release Opal immediately,” she ordered. “Dari, bring some tea for our guest.” The woman behind the desk shot to her feet and bolted from the room.

The guards didn’t move. “Councilor?” Left Arm asked.

Tama dropped her hands as if overcome by pure exhaustion. “Yes, of course. Let her go.”

Right Arm unlocked the manacles. I rubbed my wrists. My skin crawled as if I had walked through a sticky spiderweb. Threads of invisible magic clung, but I couldn’t wipe them away. Or could I?

“Opal, please forgive me. I…I don’t…know…” The Councilor spread her hands out in a vague gesture.

Faith wrapped a supportive arm around Tama’s shoulders. “Let’s go back to your office. Opal, please come with us.” She scowled at the three men. “Gentlemen, you can return to your duties.” She guided Tama into a comfortable armchair near the door.

I stood to the side, feeling awkward. The magician stopped trying to reach me. The bands of magic fell away and I sucked in a relieved breath. When Dari returned with a tray of tea, Faith grabbed it from her and shooed the woman out. Two guards bookended the entrance, but remained in the outer office. Faith closed the office door with her hip and set the tray on a table.

Serving the Councilor first, Faith then handed me a steaming cup. “I’m glad you’re here. Please sit down.”

I sank into a chair opposite Tama and sipped my tea. I didn’t know what I should say or do. “If this is a bad time…” I tried, but they ignored me.

Faith knelt next to Tama and clasped her hand. “Talk to Opal. She might be able to help you. She’s been harmed by magic and by Warpers. She’s been betrayed.” Faith gestured to me. “Yet, here she is. And without any magic to defend herself.”

Tama shrank into the cushions, shaking her head. “She wouldn’t understand.”

“Not completely, but you need to tell her what you won’t tell me.” Faith squeezed her hand, shot me an encouraging look and left the room.

The click of the door vibrated in my chest. An awkward silence grew.

Tama finally said, “Did the Council send you?”

“No. I’m here on my own.”

“Why are you in Fulgor? Can I help you with something?”

I would have welcomed her attempt to change the subject and the opportunity to ask for a favor, but not now. Not when she held herself as if she would shatter at the next harsh word. I had no idea how to help her, but I had to try.

I dredged my memories, disturbing the painful emotions that had settled to the deepest layer of my mind. They swirled and polluted my thoughts.

“It was horrible to be betrayed.” I met her wary gaze. “It felt like my heart was rotting in my chest and every breath burned with the knowledge I had been fooled. It was difficult to trust after that. The rot spread throughout my body, leaving behind so many doubts, I stopped trusting myself.”

Tama leaned forward. “How did you conquer it?”

“I didn’t. I survived it. Endured by realizing my friends and family can always be trusted no matter what. And when I feel the rot creeping back, I grab onto one of them and hold on until it goes away.”

She snagged her lower lip with her teeth. “But you have a large family and friends. I don’t. I have Faith.” A weak smile touched her lips at the play of words.

“What about Dari?”

Tama waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “New. My sister killed all my loyal people.”

“So this place is filled with strangers?”

“Yes.”

“Then get rid of them. You don’t need all those guards. They’re tripping over themselves.”

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