Dark Magick Rising – Chapter 21

Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes

Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved

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CHAPTER 21

By the time Wen left the library, his gut felt as if it were twisted in a knot.

With a sigh, he pushed open the door to his and Wesley’s rooms, wanting nothing more than to seek a few moments of peace in Wesley’s presence. So it hit him hard when he realized Wes wasn’t there. The room sat empty and silent but for the crackling of flames on the hearth. Which meant Wes must still be with his mother. Wen couldn’t fault him for that—he deserved his time with her.

But that didn’t stop the twinge of sadness Wen experienced for not getting to spend all of his brief remaining time at Kellesborne tonight with the man he loved.

Knowing his time was short and he couldn’t waste it, he pulled out his travel pack, noticing as he did that Wesley had emptied his earlier. Like birds passing mid-flight…Wesley just got home, and now Wen had to leave.

With a sigh, he set about loading his pack. As he opened chests  to retrieve items he’d need for the next few days, he couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Wes’s clothes next to his own. It warmed his heart to know Wesley had started the process of settling in. He just wished he could be here to help. But the world in which they lived wasn’t going to give him that option right now. 

As if thinking about Wesley made him magickally appear, the door creaked open behind Wen. He turned in time to see Wesley enter, but the smile he’d hoped for wasn’t there. Instead, a look of concern wrinkled Wesley’s brow. 

Of course… he’d probably picked up on Wen’s emotional state long before he got here.

“Oh crap,” Wesley murmured, when he saw what Wen was doing. 

“I know.” Wen sighed. He set down the items he’d been holding and crossed the few steps it took to reach his mate and pull him into his arms.

Wesley came willingly, wrapping his arms around Wen’s waist and resting his chin on his shoulder. “Now I know how you felt that night you came back to the tent and found me packing,” he murmured against Wen’s neck.

“I’m sorry. It’s not by my choice, I promise.”

“What happened? And where do you have to go?”

“There was an attack on Gabaxis.”

“Gabaxis?” Wesley said, leaning back to look at Wen with eyes gone wide. “Al and I were near there only a little over a week ago. It’s a peaceful town. Who attacked it? Never mind, stupid question. The sorcerer, obviously. But why? And how do we know about the attack?”

“You’ve met Bessel and Jain haven’t you?”

Wesley nodded.

“They were scouting near the Charn River Valley a few days ago when a huge detachment of Byram’s troops passed through there. So Jain and Bessel followed them, to find out what they were up to. The soldiers marched straight into Gabaxis and decimated the town. They killed everyone.” Wen felt sick inside just thinking about it. “Bessel said they didn’t discriminate, they even murdered the old and the young.”

“Holy gods.” Wen felt Wesley’s horror rippling along their link. “Why?”

Wen shook his head. He had no answer to the question.

“That’s outright cruelty for the sake of cruelty. But I guess we already know the sorcerer doesn’t give a damn about any lives except his own,” Wesley said darkly. 

“The townspeople tried to defend themselves, but they stood no chance. Like you said, it was a peaceful place. Mostly farmers. The detachment that hit it was five-hundred soldiers strong.”

Wesley’s eyes went wide. “Five hundred? My gods, why so many? Gabaxis is tiny—there couldn’t be more than a couple hundred residents total. And where in hel did that many soldiers come from?”

“That’s what Lord Rizik, Iann, and I are going to find out. For Byram to have that many soldiers lay waste to a small, defenseless town… It’s hard to even wrap my mind around it.”

“Remember that feeling I’ve been having since before Lord Hareldson was taken? About bad things on the horizon? It just keeps coming, doesn’t it?” Wesley murmured.

Wen had no response because it sure felt that way. 

Wesley took a step away and sank into one of the green and silver chairs. “This is the beginning, isn’t it? Of all-out war? He’s starting with a crushing, unexpected blow, just like he did a hundred years ago.”

Wen nodded and sighed. “Looks that way.”

“What could possibly have been in Gabaxis that the sorcerer wanted so badly?”

Wen picked up the items he’d set down when Wesley entered the room, and put them in his pack. “This wasn’t a random strike; it was clearly premeditated. According to Bessel they left a hundred soldiers behind before the rest marched on, so they obviously chose Gabaxis with the purpose of establishing it as some sort of base of operations. But why there, I don’t know.”

Wesley scuffed a hand over his face. “How long will you be gone?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t know that either.” Wen tied his pack shut and moved the pack over next to the door. “I suspect Lord Rizik is going to want to go farther afield than just to Gabaxis, to find out where the remainder of the soldiers went from there, and to see if there are any other obvious troop movements in the area.”

He turned back toward Wesley, the tightness in his gut twisting again at the sight of Wesley’s worried expression and the slump of his shoulders. Wen returned to him, dropping into the matching chair across from Wesley’s. His elbows resting on his knees, he leaned across to take one of Wesley’s hands. 

“I hate having to leave you already, damn it. I hate it. Especially knowing Byram’s just made this big strike, and gods only know what’s coming next.”

“I hate it, too.” Wesley wrapped his fingers around Wen’s, and Wen felt Wesley’s turmoil churning with his own. “But this is about something bigger than us. You have a job to do.”

“I know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could take you with me. I’d feel better all the way around if we didn’t have to be separated again.”

“It’s okay. Just tell me what you want me to do here while you’re gone. I assume you’ll want me to work into the guard rotation.”

“Actually, no.”

“No?” Wesley looked startled and uncertain.

“I’ve got another job for you. A more important one. Two important ones, actually, but I’ll get to the second one in a minute.”

“O—kay. What is it you want me to do?”

“The draeganjhere is spread painfully thin right now, with not enough guards and far too much ground for the ones we have to cover. Especially under these new circumstances with Byram’s recent attack, where we’re going to have to be even more careful, and work even harder to protect everyone. Most of the draeganjhere are either having to work double shifts to keep things covered, or they’re out scouting.”

“So wouldn’t it be helpful for me to fill some shifts then? And Al as well, now that we’re here?”

“Yes. Obviously, yes. But there’s something even more important than that. We haven’t had time, what with moving here from the camp in the forest, to train. It’s been sporadic, and we’ve had little chance to work with the less experienced people, much less recruit and train anyone new. Before we left the forest camp, we promoted as many of the strongest, most practiced trainees we could to full status in the draeganjhere. But we desperately need to get more people prepared. I think we have many civilians who’d be willing, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it.”

He shook his head and sighed before he continued. “With Lord Rizik having so many other duties now, and me having to be with him anytime he travels because he can’t fly on his own, we’re busy all the time. Plus, not only do we have the entire castle to watch over, along with the immediate perimeter around it, the magick barrier around Kellesborne as a whole is much farther reaching than the one in the forest. Which means the guard camp isn’t exactly close, nor are the guard posts around the outer perimeter. It’s time consuming for me, even flying, to get between here and the outer guards. What all this means is that neither Lord Rizik nor I have the time any longer to run daily training right now.”

“What about Iann? Or your mother?”

“They’ve both been working long hours on everything else that has to get done. The next several days it’s going to be even tighter with Iann gone with Lord Rizik and me, leaving my mum solely in charge of the castle and everyone in it. Training keeps getting pushed aside. And now more than ever it’s hurting us.”

“I don’t understand, then, why you don’t want me to take some guard shifts. That would free up someone else to take over the training for you.”

“Well, that’s the thing. I already do have someone freed up to take over the training.” 

“Good. Who?”

Wen squeezed Wesley’s hand. “You.”

Wesley gaped at him. “What?”

Wen nodded. “You’re the perfect person to do it, Wes. Your skills with the sword and bow are exceptional. You’re experienced—“

“Barely!”

“Trust me, compared to most of the trainees, you’re far more experienced. You’ve clocked weeks of field time at this point—”

“Weeks, Wen. Not months or years like you or some of the other guards. Weeks.”

“Which is considerably more than the trainees.  And you’ve had a lot more training than even most of the experienced draeganjhere, by virtue of the fact that in addition to regular training, you worked with me intensely, one-on-one. You have the skills. You know all the drills. You know what needs to happen.”

Wesley shook his head, looking for all the world like he wanted to hide. “What about Solanis?”

“He’s running the guard camp, which is a full-time job. And before you mention anyone else, I’m telling you, they’ve all already got duties and responsibilities. I can’t stress enough just how spread thin we are because of having to cover the vast area that comprises Kellesborne.”

“There has to be someone more experienced than I am. More senior. What about Jarrad? Surely—”

“No.” Wen sank to his knees on the floor in front of Wesley, resting his hands on Wesley’s thighs. “Listen to me; I’ve been thinking about this for a while, Wes. It’s not just something that randomly flitted into my head tonight. You’re perfect for the job. You’ve earned the respect of the draeganjhere, you’ve proven you can hold your own in a fight, you’re tough, you don’t rattle easily, but you’re also fair, and you know how to bring out the best in people. Lord Rizik told you himself that your command on the mission to find Caleb wouldn’t be your last.”

“That was hardly a command. It was just Al and me.”

“During which time you got the job done that you were sent to do, far more quickly and thoroughly than anyone expected you to.”

“Yeah, but there was a lot of luck involved in that,” Wesley said. “It was sheer happenstance Caleb walked into that tavern.”

“There’s no such thing as luck or happenstance in matters like that. You were on his trail, you knew he was in the area, and when he did walk into the tavern, you were smart as hel in how you lured him into a trap. Not only did you get Caleb, you also managed to teach Al a thing or two.”

“You’ve been talking to Iann,” Wesley accused. “And the whole mentoring Allend thing was Iann’s agenda, not mine. I didn’t even know that’s what he intended until we got back and he told me last night.”

“And yet you did do exactly that for Al, whether you knew it or not. Iann also told me that Al’s deferring to you, willingly following your lead, trusting you completely, which is something Al doesn’t do easily, by the way. That’s what I mean about you being the right person for this. You have a quiet strength that makes people want to follow you. I saw it even when you were training—as your skills improved and your confidence increased, the others watched you and used you as the benchmark toward which they strove.”

“I… What?”

“It’s true.” Wen smiled and gently squeezed his legs. “Wesley, you can do this. I have complete faith in you. You’re more than qualified, and you have all the traits of a strong, compassionate leader. I know I can put this responsibility in your capable hands and I won’t have to worry about it.”

“Are you commanding me to do this?”

“No. I’m asking, as the man who loves you and respects your abilities. This is an unbelievably important job, and you’re the person I want for it because I know you’ll do it right. Because there’s no one I trust more to handle this, not even my brothers.”

Wesley swallowed hard. “Oh gods. When you look at me like that and say those things, you know there’s nothing I won’t do for you.”

“Is that a yes?”

“I’m…I’m not at all comfortable with it, but…” He sighed. “Fine. Yes. If it’s what you want, I’ll do it.”

Wen let out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding and gave Wesley a quick, hard kiss. “Thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. I’ve been worrying about the lack of time and lack of training almost constantly. It means everything to me that you’ll take this job.”

Wesley sighed again, but nodded. “Just keep in mind I’m completely new to Kellesborne and don’t know my way around at all. I got lost trying to find my mum earlier. I don’t even know where to hold training here, or what weapons are available to use.”

“Jarrad can show you the training courtyard, and there should be plenty of spare weapons down in the armory. I’m going to assign Jarrad and Allend to work under you, as your assistants. They’ll take some guard shifts as well, and so can you if you have time and choose to, but training will be your full-time job. You’re in charge. Any and all decisions you make will be final. I’ll put up a notice about it before I leave tonight.”

Wesley let out a shaky breath. “All right. But I suspect there are going to be some hard feelings from more experienced guards.”

“I don’t think there will be. I think you might be surprised at the level of respect you already command.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s wishful thinking on your part, but I won’t belabor it any longer. Like I said, if this is what you want, I’ll do it.”

Wesley was unsettled and feeling insecure, but Wen knew once he got his feet under him, he’d not only realize he could handle this new responsibility, he’d excel at it. Because that’s what Wesley did—he excelled at whatever task he was given. He’d be an excellent leader and guide for the trainees. 

Plus…Wesley hadn’t been around the past several weeks to hear the stories being told of his heroism the night he and Wen had dispatched the sizable crew of Byram’s soldiers. Wen knew Wesley had told Iann and Jarrad there had been ten or eleven soldiers—that would have been his guess initially, too—but later, after Wesley had left with Al, Jarrad had told him that when he and Dale and a couple of other guards had gone to dispose of the bodies, there’d been fourteen soldiers total. Seven of them up on the ridge had Wesley’s arrows in them, and Wen had seen Wesley slay at least another two with his sword. He suspected that Wes’s ability to sense people’s emotions, had allowed him to find and target the soldiers on the ridge, even in the dark. Wesley may have only recently begun to recognize he could sense people at a distance, but Wen had a feeling he’d been using that particular talent even then, whether he realized it or not.

Word had quickly spread when Jarrad and the others had spoken of what they’d found, and, unbeknownst to Wesley, he, and his prowess with weapons, had become something of a legend. And now, once Al began telling others the story of Wesley slaying the sabeen with only one arrow, his reputation would almost certainly continue to grow.

So, no, Wen had no qualms about putting Wesley in charge of training new soldiers, and no fear whatsoever that the other guards would think he’d been unfairly given the command.

“If you run into any problems or you’re unsure about something, check with my mum,” he told Wesley. “She gives good advice. But I don’t think you’ll need to. I think you’ll find you’re as much a natural at teaching the skills as you are at the skills themselves.”

“I’ll try not to let you down,” Wesley mumbled under his breath.

“You won’t.” Wen smiled and pushed the long, stubborn lock of Wesley’s hair that seemed to perpetually fall over his eye back behind his ear.  “And now that that’s settled, it brings me to the second job I have for you. This one is different. And secret. You and I are the only two people who will know about it, if you agree to do it.”

He sensed he’d piqued Wesley’s curiosity. “What is it?”

“I have something I’d like for you to do that involves your special abilities.”

“Which abilities?” Wesley asked with a hint of caution in his tone, and Wen understood why.

“Your empathic ones. If you’re comfortable with it.”

Wesley let out a slow breath, but Wen could tell via their emotional link that he was already overcoming his fear of these new responsibilities and a determination to succeed had begun to set in. That was the Wesley he knew and loved. 

“What do you need me to do?”

“Someone, supposedly a civilian, let slip to Jax about Lord Hareldson being gone. Jax doesn’t know who it was—someone he hadn’t met before—so it has to be somebody newer who joined us after Jax was banished. And while it may not seem to be an issue that someone told Jax what happened—everyone in camp knew by the next morning that Moh’dredion took Lord Hareldson—I can’t quite put aside a nagging sense that how this person told Jax about it wasn’t quite right.”

He had Wesley’s full attention now. “Not quite right in what way?”

“Iann initially thought someone in the great hall had let slip to Jax about it, but Jax told me tonight after the meeting, when I asked him about it—because I wanted to be sure I’d soothed anyone who’d overheard—that the woman, a human, actually came into his room in Lilia’s healing area, to tell him the news about Lord Hareldson.”

“So, whoever she was, she sought him out specifically to tell him this? Why would she do that?”

“Exactly. Especially someone who isn’t a draegan. I could see perhaps a disgruntled draegan, who’s less than happy about Lord Rizik being the lord now, since he’s only half draegan, seeking out Jax if they knew his history and his anger toward Lord Rizik. But why would a human care? And why would that human go straight to Jax with the information as soon as Jax woke up?”

“Do you think someone’s stirring a plot against Lord Rizik? Someone who might know how much Jax dislikes him and so this woman planted a seed with Jax, hoping for exactly the reaction Jax had?”

Wen shrugged. “That’s exactly the question that’s bothering me. Could it have been innocent? Yes, I suppose. This woman could have simply been there visiting another of Lilia’s patients and when Jax asked for Lord Hareldson, she might have overheard and was just trying to be helpful by telling him. There could be nothing more behind it than that.”

“But you don’t want to leave anything to chance?”

“I don’t. We have too many people living in close quarters here, too many new faces that we don’t know well. Lord Hareldson always had an open-door policy, allowing anyone fighting against the sorcerer to join us. And I know Lord Rizik has also tried to honor that. But with the sorcerer’s reach growing longer and more aggressive, and with Lord Rizik’s visions, and even Jax himself indicating the sorcerer has spies everywhere…”

“You want to be sure we don’t have any here.”

“Exactly. Even though Iann is technically in charge of hunting for spies, this particular situation is, I believe, better suited to your talents. Especially now that your ability to read emotions is growing stronger. So my question is this… Is it possible that you could keep your senses open as you move about Kellesborne, as you work with the trainees, interact with people in general, and maybe…I don’t know…see if you pick up anything that doesn’t feel quite like it should?  I realize it puts you in a tricky position, and I know I’m asking you to basically invade people’s privacy. But we’re at war, and I’m concerned about so many unknown people wandering around.” 

Wen shook his head before he continued. “I just see so many potential risks. And you’re in a unique position of being able to do something no one else in the castle knows you can do except me. Nobody would suspect you, which means nobody would feel like they have to keep their guard up to protect their emotions around you, since they have no clue of your abilities.”

“Yes,” Wesley said, nodding. “I can absolutely do this.”

Wen breathed out another sigh. “Thank you. If there is a spy living among us, or even if it’s just a disgruntled person or a group of them, I’d like to have some warning about it before we wake up one morning to discover Lord Rizik has had his throat slit in his sleep.”

“I’ll keep my eyes and my senses open. Do we know what this woman looks like?  The one who spoke to Jax? Because obviously anyone who fits her description would be where I’d want to start.”

“Jax said she was fairly nondescript. Long dark hair, on the small side. He was still half-groggy from whatever herbs Lilia had used on him when he spoke with the woman, so he probably wasn’t paying that much attention. Plus, I think he was more concerned about the woman’s message than her appearance. For what it’s worth, I did ask Lilia tonight if she had seen this dark-headed woman in or around her treatment rooms, and she said no, nor could she think of who it might be.”

“All right, I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Thank you. Again.” Wen stroked a hand over Wesley’s hair. “Gods, I’d be lost without you, Wes. Having you home is…I can’t even tell you how good it is in so many ways.”

“I’m glad I can help lighten your load,” Wesley said softly. “Just please be careful while you’re gone, Rowen. I know you’ll be flying, and you’ll be high where you can’t be easily seen, but, gods, please be cautious. I need you to come back to me.”

“I will. I promise.”

“You can’t make promises like that in times like these.”

“Yes, I can. And I’m going to. Because I need it just as much for myself as you do. I’ll be back. Hopefully in just a few days. And it goes without saying…” His hand moved to Wesley’s cheek, where he rubbed a thumb over his beard, “you be careful as well. What you’re going to be doing, your side job, is dangerous in its own way. If anyone finds out or senses you…”

“They won’t. No one else has any way of knowing what I can do. Like you said, I’m in the perfect position for it. No one will find out.”

“And if you do discover something amiss, promise me you won’t act on it alone, or at least won’t act on it without caution if it’s time sensitive.”

“I promise. If I find anything, I’ll wait until you’re back. Unless, as you said, it requires urgent action.”

“In the best case scenario, you won’t find anything.”

“Best case.”

“That’s all we can hope for. I’m running out of time here, but there’s one more thing that happened today that you should know. This is also a secret, one only Lord Rizik and the council know about.”

“Then you probably shouldn’t be telling me.”

“Yes, I should. You’re my mate. No secrets between us, remember? Plus, I already told you, I trust you implicitly.”

“Okay. What is it?”

“Lord Hareldson is alive.”

“What?” Wesley voice climbed a notch. “How do you know?”

“Because Lord Rizik found him. In a dream…” He shook his head. “It’s complicated, and I wish I had time to explain it all right now, but suffice it to say it was a dream, but it was also real. Moh’dredion took Lord Rizik to his world, the shadow world, a place called Ballian.”

“Ballian? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Neither had any of us. Once there, he put Lord Hareldson to sleep and he’s forcing dreams on him, playing on his fears, trying to get him to use magick. Lord Rizik was able to enter Lord Hareldson’s dreams, see him, talk to him, that’s how he found out where he was. Moh’dredion wants to use Lord Hareldson to break free of Ballian and enter our world at will.”

“Didn’t he already enter it, though, when he took Lord Hareldson?”

“Yes, but he used up much of his strength to do that. With Lord Hareldson’s magick he’ll be strong enough to open a portal anytime he chooses and feed anywhere, as much as he wants.”

“Feed?” 

Wen knew Wesley was thinking of his own experience with “feeding” on blood.

 “Moh’dredion feeds off a being’s life force,” he quickly clarified. “That’s what gives him power. But beings with magick are even more appealing to him because the magick makes him even stronger. And draegan lord magick—”

“Is the strongest of all.”

“Yes. So Lord Hareldson is resisting him. But he’s growing weaker. Lord Rizik said time moves differently there in Ballian, that for us it’s only been a few weeks, but for Lord Hareldson it’s been much longer. Moh’dredion is wearing him down, and if Lord Hareldson doesn’t use his magick soon, Lord Rizik thinks Moh’dredion will kill him. So he wants to mount a rescue for him. But it’s tricky. And dangerous. And there’s no guarantee it’ll work.”

“When will he go after him?”

“It’s not something that’s going to happen right away because there’s prep work for it, but I know Lord Rizik wants to do it as soon as possible. Probably sometime after we get back.” Wen sighed again. It felt like he’d been doing that a lot tonight. 

“I’m telling you about this, Wes, because the threat from Moh’dredion is possibly even greater than the one from Byram. If Moh’dredion manages to break free of Ballian…gods, I can’t even imagine. So keep your eyes and ears open. For anything out of the ordinary. Anything at all.”

“I will.”

“All right. I’d better get moving. I’ve still got things to do before we go.” 

He rose, and Wesley stood with him. 

“Wait, before you leave, I have something for you,” Wesley said, going to one of the chests. He opened it and pulled out a fur-wrapped bundle, then returned to Wen. “This is for you.” He handed the bundle to Wen, who took it, surprised.

“What is it?”

“Open it.”

Wen felt a hint of anticipation, a bit of nervousness, and a whole flood of love rippling off Wesley through their link. Which intrigued him almost more than the bundle itself. 

Wen moved to the table and set the bundle on it, then untied the leather strings that had been wound around it to hold it together. Carefully, he unwrapped the soft gray fur, which he recognized as that of a large mountain hare. 

When he saw what the fur had been protecting, his breath caught. “Wes,” he whispered, raising his startled gaze to meet Wesley’s. “Where did you… How did you get these?”

One of the shy smiles Wen loved so much curved Wesley’s mouth. “I traded for them, while Al and I were traveling. I saw them and wanted you to have them.”

Wen felt the unexpected sting of moisture in his eyes, and when he spoke, it was past a tight, hot lump in his throat. “They’re incredible.” 

He picked up the gorgeously tooled and braided leather arm bracers, running his fingers over the elaborate designs. “And is that…?” His heart suddenly pounded as his thumb traced the blue-silver medallions set in the center of each. “Holy hel, is this elorium?” His gaze once again shot up to Wesley.

“That’s what the craftsman said. He said it’s rare, hard to find these days.”

“It is. More than you can imagine.” And worth a fortune—he wondered if Wesley realized just what a treasure he’d brought home.

“Also, look here.” Wesley pointed to an almost-hidden indentation in the left bracer. 

Wen saw just a hint of silver glinting from it. When he examined it more closely, he discovered it was a cleverly concealed, built-in sheath for a small, silver-handled dagger—even smaller than a vrieg. He pulled out the sharp, thin blade, admiring it, before sliding it back into its hiding spot. 

“I don’t even know what to say, m’caire.” His voice cracked on the words. “This is a kingly gift. How did you manage…? How were you able…?”

That smile again, which caused an aching knot of love and longing deep within Wen. “Remember the sabeen I killed? Al tanned the hide and told me I needed to keep it, because sabeen fur was valuable and highly prized and I should use it to make something for myself.” He winced. “I didn’t think I could ever bear to wear it or use it, but I took it because Al insisted. And then one day we passed through a village and, while Al was trading some of his other furs for supplies, I saw a man who had a tent set up with leather goods. I asked him if he did all the work himself, and he said yes. It was all beautiful. He asked if I was looking for something in particular, and I told him I wanted something for…” Wesley blushed at this point. “For someone special.”

Wen smiled. Damn he loved this man.

“He took me into the back of his tent, out of sight of anyone else, and opened a wooden chest. I’m pretty sure he was a draegan,” Wesley continued, “because Al told me how draegans like braided things, something about it strengthening your magick? And inside that chest the man had several items that had been braided with fine leather. He kind of smiled at me, as if he knew I knew what that meant and he felt safe exposing his secret. I don’t know if maybe he’d seen me enter the market with Al and he had picked up that Al was a draegan or what, but he asked if anything in the chest appealed to me. I saw the arm bracers and they instantly made me think of you—worthy of your loyalty and courage.”

Wen’s eyes burned again, damn it.

“So I traded him the sabeen pelt and he wrapped these up so I could bring them to you.”

As Wesley had been speaking, Wen had strapped and buckled the bracers in place on his forearms over his shirt. He held them out, admiring not only the workmanship, which was masterful, but also how comfortable they were in spite of the fact they were made from heavy, armor-weighted leather.

“Thank you. They’re beautiful.” He looked up at Wesley, then buried a hand in his hair and pulled him into a kiss that couldn’t possibly convey how he was really feeling at the moment, but it came closer than any words could. 

“I love you, m’caire,” he whispered, resting his forehead against Wesley’s, their warm breath mingling.

“I love you. You better come back to me safely.”

“I will. I swear it.”

Click here to read Chapter 22!

Author: mlrhodes

Author M.L. Rhodes writes bestselling m/m romance and fantasy novels. She's also a geek, an introvert, a night owl, a potter, and a damn fine margarita maker.

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