Spy Glass Page 65

I hopped down. Stains and graffiti marred the white marble walls, and weeds grew through the sidewalk’s cracks. Grime coated everything. I hesitated, wondering what to do about the horses. Quartz pushed me forward. They would be fine.

As I followed Irys through the alley, the stench of rot filled my nose. I avoided the puddles of muck and heaps of trash. The passageway ended in a small courtyard. A group of people huddled on the far side.

I recognized Fisk, Master Bain Bloodgood and a few magicians from the Keep. They turned to us. Fisk transformed from worried to confused, but Bain scowled at me in displeasure. I wondered if Irys had communicated with him regarding my immunity. During the trip to the Citadel, I had explained my reasons for keeping it a secret to Irys.

“Why is Opal here?” Fisk asked. His voice had deepened since I last talked with him. He had cut his light brown hair short, and was now as tall as my brother.

The Master Magicians ignored his question.

“Status?” Irys asked Bain.

“The boy inside this dwelling is on the verge of flaming out,” Bain said. “He has pulled a huge amount of power to him, blocking anyone, including me, from getting close.”

“Doesn’t that mean he has control of his power?” I asked.

“No. The barrier he made is out of fear and it is about to rip apart.”

A disaster for magicians. Their magic came from the blanket of power that surrounded the world. If one of them yanked too hard, it will bunch and warp, creating havoc for the magicians, and killing the person responsible.

“How can I help?” I asked.

“You need to go in there and talk to him. Teach him to slowly release the magic back into the source,” Irys said.

Apprehension crawled like little spider legs over skin. “Teach him how? I don’t have any magic.”

Fisk said, “She can’t get in there. Let me try to talk to him again.”

“He’s losing it.” Irys’s face paled. “Think of the magic as a balloon filled with air. Get rid of the air without popping the balloon. Go now!”

In a panic, I ran to the doorway and bounced off a curtain of magic. After a second to recover my senses, I found the magical barrier. Pushing my hands and arms into the power, I leaned my weight forward and shoved my way into the building. I felt as if I swam in invisible mud. Every step was an effort. I fought to draw a breath. Could I drown in magic?

Struggling against the thickness, I searched the house. Damaged tables, chairs without legs and soiled bedding littered the floor. Cobwebs hung, dust motes floated and broken glass crunched under my boots. Not a home, but a shelter for those without homes. It explained Fisk’s presence.

My muscles protested the abuse. My lungs seemed to fill with magic, expanding in my chest and wheezing through my throat. I kept checking rooms until I found the boy huddled in a corner. Although I wouldn’t use the word boy to describe the wild creature who gawked at me with an exhausted terror.

His tangled, greasy hair reached the floor. Bony knees poked through tattered pants. The rest of his ragged clothes were inadequate for the cold weather. I guessed his age to be around thirteen.

He trembled and sweat dripped from his jaw. I held my hands wide, showing him I was unarmed before I crouched to his level.

“I’m here to help.” I kept my voice even, suppressing the desire to pant.

A wary, doubtful look replaced his fear. His lips whitened as he pressed them together, matching his sickly pallor. He clutched what appeared to be an apron and a teapot to his upper body.

“You’re not in trouble. You have grabbed a huge amount of magic. Can you feel it?”

He nodded.

The panic in my heart eased a bit. “Don’t let go. You need to hold on to it a little longer. Can you do that?”

This time he hesitated.

“It’s important.”

His gaze slid to a battered sleeping mat next to him. A bedraggled stuffed dog with a stained pink bow around its neck lay on a dirty pillow.

I played a hunch. “If you let go, who will take care of her?”

Alarm flashed on his face.

“Hold on for her, okay?”

This time he responded with a determined nod, tightening his grip on the items in his arms. The gesture gave me an idea.

“Imagine that the magic around us is tea, and it has filled your teapot. If you don’t pour the tea out, it will break the pot.”

“Too much tea,” he agreed with a strained high-pitched voice.

“You need to send the tea slowly through the spout, releasing it back to the sky. When the pot is empty, everyone will be safe.” I hoped.

He closed his eyes. The magic thickened. It pushed me over, clogged my nose and pressed me flat to the floor. Fear spread inside me. Could I survive a flameout at this distance? My lungs heaved, burning with the effort to draw in air.

Black-and-white spots swirled in my vision like ashes above a dead fire. The room spun and the world ceased to be for a while. Awareness of my surroundings crept in. With each blink of my eyes, the blackness faded and pale colors returned, turning into harsh brightness. Without magic blocking my nose, the powerful acidic smell of urine invaded. I sat up.

The boy was slumped over. His teapot had rolled away, but appeared to be intact. I touched his neck, searching for a pulse. Nothing. Poor kid. I covered my face with my hands, letting regret flow through me.

Eventually, I lifted my head. I had survived a flameout, and the building remained intact. I always imagined major destruction whenever a magician talked about losing control. My visions of collapsed walls and piles of rubble had been way off the mark.

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