Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
“We need to speak to Lochlann,” Wesley told Lilia the next morning when she met them in the doorway of her main treatment room.
“I’ve been expecting you. He’s awake, but I’ll warn you, he’s not happy.”
“Not happy in what way?” Wen asked, his brows drawing together.
Wesley knew Wen was worried about Lochlann’s agenda, but Wesley’s main concern at the moment was Lochlann’s temper flaring again. He didn’t want Lilia to be subjected to it. When he’d checked in on Lochlann yesterday, Lilia had assured him he’d sleep through the night, so Wesley had sent Tim on his way, since the draeganjhere could ill afford to have a guard tied up here all night. He’d hoped he and Wen would be here this morning before Lochlann awoke.
Apparently not. Damn it.
“He doesn’t want to stay here, in spite of the fact he can barely move,” Lilia said, answering Wen’s question. “I had to threaten to put him back to sleep again if he tried one more time to get out of bed. He’s so weak, I could get a sleeping draught down his throat before he knew it.”
“I’m sure he took that well,” Wesley mumbled.
“About as well as you might expect.” A half smile curved Lila’s mouth. “On the other hand, he hasn’t tried to get up since then. Still”—her expression quickly sobered—“I’m not going to be able to keep him here much longer. Right now I can manage him, but as his strength returns, I won’t be able to so easily. I know you’re worried about him leaving his room, Wesley, but short of tying him to the bed, I won’t be able to make him stay here.”
“You won’t have to,” Wen assured her. “That’s why we’re here. To get to the bottom of what happened yesterday and see if he can be trusted. If he can’t, then we’ll find him other accommodations as soon as he’s well enough to move.”
Wesley wondered if that meant they’d lock him up somewhere. Did Kellesborne have a dungeon? He’d never thought to ask.
Lilia sighed. “I confess, he’s not an easy person to deal with. When I was treating his little brother a few weeks ago, he did everything he could to take that poor, sick little boy away, completely disregarding the fact that leaving the castle with him could have made Neric worse, might even have killed him. If his sister hadn’t put her foot down and refused to budge—I mean, physically refused to move out of the doorway for him to get through—I don’t think he would have stopped. And just between us, if he hadn’t had an audience, I’m not convinced he wouldn’t have gotten physical with his sister and shoved past her anyway.”
“Sounds like the confrontation he had with his sister yesterday,” Wesley said. “It turned ugly, and Jarrad had to step in to break it up. Things got out of hand.”
Nodding, Lilia said, “I saw Risa yesterday evening. Her arm, thankfully, is just bruised. No greater damage. But the fact he did even that to her concerns me.”
“Us, too,” Wen said. “Which is part of why we’re here.”
Wesley could see on her face, and read, how troubled Lilia was by Lochlann. She was one of the nicest, gentlest people he’d ever met, and he suspected the fact Lochlann would have risked a small child’s life, not to mention harmed his own sister, was beyond her ken.
“He’s certainly got a temper,” she said. “And he’s not fond of humans.”
Wen, instantly in protective mode, which was one of the many things Wesley loved about him, asked, “Did he say something disrespectful to you? Did he try to hurt you?”
“No, no, nothing like that,” Lilia said. “But he made it clear when he and his brother and sister first arrived that he doesn’t think much of me—hence the trying to leave. He didn’t want me to treat little Neric because I’m human.”
“Has he said anything since he’s been awake today? Anything unacceptable about you, or about anyone else? Maybe about Lord Rizik?” Wen probed.
“Aside from glaring at me and refusing to listen to me, no. He’s been mostly silent and brooding this morning. Why would he say something about the draegan lord?” Lilia looked at Wen intently as she asked.
Wesley sensed a protective instinct in her concerning Lord Rizik that felt almost…sisterly, was the best way he could describe it. He supposed it made sense in that they both loved Lord Rizik’s grandmother, as Lilia lived with and cared for her. Plus, Lilia and Lord Rizik spoke nearly every day and often shared meals, so, in a way, that probably did make make them much like a family.
Wen must have picked up on some of her worry as well since his tone was reassuring when he responded to her. “Since Lochlann’s not fond of humans, as you say, and Lord Rizik is half human, it’s my job to be certain Lochlann hasn’t said or done anything that could be construed as a threat to the draegan lord.”
“Ah. Well, thankfully, no, he hasn’t mentioned Gaige. As I said, he’s mostly been silent.” She pointed down the corridor. “He’s in the first room on the left if you’re ready to see him. I need to go check on Sele, but I’ll be around if you need me for anything else.”
She gave them a smile and turned away, but then quickly stopped and looked over her shoulder. “The one person in the altercation that I haven’t seen, Lieutenant, is your brother. As bad as Lochlann looks, I can’t imagine Jarrad didn’t sustain some injuries himself. Is he all right? I was surprised he didn’t come see me.”
Wesley wished he could say he was surprised, but he wasn’t. Not after he’d searched for Jarrad empathically last night and found nothing. Which meant Jarrad had probably taken a guard shift or some other duty outside the castle, as he’d threatened to do. Wen had promised to talk to him today, and Wesley had every intention of hunting him down and speaking to him again as well. But gods knew where they’d find him and in what state he’d be when they did.
“I haven’t spoken to him today,” Wen told her, “but I’ll be sure he’s okay.”
As soon as she’d gone, Wen and Wesley shared a concerned look. “I’ll try to find him as soon as we’re done here,” Wen said, obviously reading and echoing Wesley’s worry.
Wesley nodded, grateful. He hated the thought of Jarrad battling his inner demons all alone.
Needless to say, less than a minute later, they both stared in shock when Wen opened the door to Lochlann’s room and they found none other than Jarrad himself standing next to the bed. He must have entered when Lilia was busy elsewhere.
“Didn’t see that coming,” Wesley murmured under his breath.
“Nor did I,” Wen whispered.
Jarrad’s back was to them as he faced Lochlann, but Wesley instantly felt a ripple of strained anger. Yet it was tempered with…shame? Whoa. Had Jarrad come to apologize to Lochlann?
What radiated from Lochlann on the other hand, was nothing so tame. And from the sight of his swollen-eyed glare and the fury pulsing off him, he was not accepting Jarrad’s offering.
“Get out,” Lochlann said hoarsely, his eyes bulging. “All of you.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Wen said in a firm voice, approaching the bed.
Wesley followed him, moving to stand next to Jarrad.
“We’re here to have a conversation with you,” Wen told Lochlann, “and we’re not leaving until we do. That said”—he turned to Jarrad—“we can wait until you’re finished, if you want us to step out until then?”
Jarrad looked both surprised to see them and embarrassed. But then… Wesley was taken aback to feel another flash of anger from Jarrad, and this time it wasn’t only for Lochlann.
“I’ve already said all I have to say.” Jarrad’s words were directed at Lochlann, but Wesley sensed they were meant for Wen and him as well.
He turned on his heel and stalked to the door.
Wesley’s gaze shot with concern to Wen, and Wen, as usual, seemed to understand. He nodded as if to say, “Go on.”
So Wesley followed Jarrad out into the corridor. “Jarrad, wait.”
Jarrad was already several steps ahead, but he stopped, though the resigned sigh he huffed out indicated he wasn’t happy about it.
“How are you?” Wesley asked, approaching him.
“I was trying to do the right thing, Wes,” he said, without turning to face him. “But he’s a prick.”
“Yes. He is. But that doesn’t mean you were wrong to try to apologize.”
“Mostly, all I wanted to do when I looked at him was beat on him some more, so, yeah, I’m pretty sure coming here was exactly the wrong thing to do. And if you’re following me to try again to convince me to come back to training, that’s not a good idea either.”
“I’m not here for that. I followed you because I’m worried about you and I genuinely want to know how you are.”
“I’m great.” Jarrad finally turned to look at him. His face wasn’t in as bad a shape as Lochlann’s by any means, but the cut on his lip still looked raw and his lip was swollen, along with his cheek, which was a sickly blue-purple color that had partially blackened his eye as well. “Now that I’ve answered your question, are we done here?”
“Why are you so angry at me?”
The fight seemed to ooze out of Jarrad and his shoulders slumped. “I’m not angry at you. I’m just…” He dragged a hand through his blond hair, leaving it standing on end. “It’s not you, okay? I’m just wondering why I even bother to try.”
“Try anything. The sun’s only been up for a couple of hours and I’m already oh-for-two today, and about to be oh-for-three because I’m not going to be able to tell you whatever it is you want to hear. Like I said yesterday, I’m better off somewhere far away.”
Oh-for-two today? Obviously Lochlann not accepting his apology was one, but what else had happened to Jarrad this morning? Wesley couldn’t help but wonder if it had something to do with the secret lover again, though he had absolutely nothing to base that on. He had been so wrapped up in everything else going on, he hadn’t checked to see if the person was back in the castle or not today.
“I care about you, Jarrad. Wen cares about you. So does the rest of your family. We’re here to help however we can. Please don’t shut us out.”
Jarrad’s face twisted with pent-up emotion. “I know you mean well, Wesley. I do. But right now, I really need to get out of here.”
“No. Please. Just let me go.” And with a final agonized look at Wesley, he turned and took off down the corridor without looking back.
Wesley wanted to go after him, but suspected he’d only make things worse if he did. His heart hurt for his friend nonetheless.
He returned to Lochlann’s room to find the same furious glare on Lochlann’s face that had been on it when he left, but now he also got a walloping blast of Wen’s frustration.
Oh boy. This was going well. It looked and felt like he was going to be oh-for-two today, between Jarrad’s rejection and now this. Except, unlike Jarrad, Wesley wasn’t giving up.
With determination steeling him, he approached the bed to stand by Wen’s side.
“What did I miss?” he asked.
“Not a damn thing,” Wen said, his voice edged with anger. “He’s refusing to talk to me. At all. Won’t answer a single question I’ve asked him.”
“Interesting, since yesterday, from what I’ve been told, he couldn’t shut his mouth.”
Wen grunted in acknowledgment.
“Well, maybe I can get him to speak up,” Wesley said. “Did you tell him about his sister and brother?”
“No. No, I didn’t. You want to give him the news?”
“I’d love to. Because I suspect he’ll find his words when I tell him that his sister and little brother are no longer living with him.”
Lochlann’s gaze narrowed and his brows knit as he deigned to look at Wesley.
“That’s right,” Wesley said, addressing the man directly, now that he had his attention. “Risa and Neric have moved out of your rooms and into another part of the castle. You’re no longer welcome to come near either of them, and you’ll no longer have any say in what they do. Risa will continue to attend weapons training, by her choice, and she and Neric will be staying at Kellesborne permanently. Again, by her choice. There will be no more intervention, of any kind, from you.”
Lochlann growled and started to speak, but Wesley held up a hand and cut him off. “I’m not done. Risa and your brother are under the protection of the draeganjhere now, and if you so much as think about trying to approach them, you’ll be stopped, with force if necessary. And if you ever lay a hand on Risa again, or anyone else in this castle, I promise you, you’ll wish Jarrad’s beating was the worst thing to happen to you. Are we clear?”
“You have no right to speak to me about anything,” Lochlann snarled.
“He has every right,” Wen said. “Wesley’s in command of training here at Kellesborne, and you not only interrupted that training yesterday, you manhandled one of his trainees, namely your sister, while trying to force her to leave against her will. You also spoke openly about your hatred for our human allies, including our leader, who’s half human, and the humans who work and train alongside the draegans every day. And if that weren’t already enough, you then provoked and threw the first punch in a fight with one of the training instructors.”
“He shouldn’t have stuck his nose in my family’s business.”
Wen studied Lochlann with thinly veiled disgust and shook his head. “He wouldn’t have had to interfere if you’d hadn’t stepped so far out of line. As long as you’re living in this castle, you will respect those who are working night and day to protect your life as well as the lives of the almost four-hundred souls who live here.”
“Yeah, and most of them are humans. He’s human,” he sneered in Wesley’s direction.
“There’s no place in this rebellion for anyone who thinks one race is better than any other,” Wen ground out. “We’re a resistance exactly because all of us have been treated like slaves by the high sorcerer. We’ve all lost people we care about. We’ve all lost homes. We work together to overcome our common enemy. What you have to decide is whether you’re going to be an ally to this resistance or an obstacle.”
“And if I don’t want to rub shoulders with humans?”
“Then, unfortunately, you’ll not be welcome at Kellesborne since this is a diverse community with a code of respect and tolerance for all.” Wesley felt the buzz of Wen’s barely restrained anger as he spoke.
“Fine. I didn’t want to be here in the first place. I never wanted to come here. But I’m not leaving without my sister and brother.”
“If you leave, it will be alone,” Wesley told him. “Risa and Neric are no longer your responsibility. You’ve proven you’re unfit for that job.”
“You might also consider,” Wen added, “that if you should find yourself at cross purposes with the rebellion, and on the opposite end of a draeganjhere blade, you may very well be facing your own sister, since she fully intends to join the guard.”
“My sister would never hurt me. She wouldn’t dare.”
“You sure about that?” Wesley asked. “You didn’t seem to have any problem hurting her yesterday.”
“Mind your own business, filthy human scum!”
“We’re done here,” Wen snapped. “We’ll give you some time to think over your choices, while we discuss what to do with you. In the meantime, you won’t be leaving this room. A member of the draeganjhere will be posted outside the door at all times, and only Lilia, myself, or Wesley will be allowed in here. Also”—he lowered his voice and spoke succinctly—“if I find you’ve so much as looked cross-eyed at Lilia or been anything but kind and respectful toward her for saving your brother’s life and, now, patching you up as well, you’ll be escorted to a room you won’t find nearly as comfortable.”
With that, Wen stalked to the door, much as Jarrad had done earlier, his long legs covering the ground in only a few angry steps.
With one last assessing look at Lochlann, Wesley turned and followed.