Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
“Please don’t hurt me. I’m sorry! Don’t hurt me!” Phee cried as Wesley, holding him by the elbow, half dragged him along the battlement.
“I’m not trying to hurt you. Just keep up.”
As furious as Wesley was at his betrayal, at how Phee had been roaming the castle and guard camp freely for months, at how he’d fooled Iann, Lord Rizik, Wen, and Jarrad, Wesley couldn’t shut out the young man’s terror. He wasn’t sure when he’d begun to sense it again—or how it had been closed off to him in the first place—but right now it was surging through Phee in thick dark waves that crashed over onto Wesley, nearly staggering in its intensity. Phee was almost as scared at having been caught as he’d been when the sorcerer threatened him.
The compassionate side of Wesley didn’t want to rage at him since no one in this kind of pain deserved to be further mistreated, even from a furious tongue-lashing. But that didn’t mean Wesley wasn’t, by the gods, going to get to the bottom of it all.
Doing his best to keep his voice even, but struggling mightily to do so, he gritted out, “What in hel are you even doing here, Phee? You’re supposed to be following Lochlann for Captain Daneson. Did you just lie to his face about doing that? He’s been worried sick about your safety for weeks, but here you are at Kellesborne, sneaking around atop the damned wall, spying for and talking to the sorcerer.”
“I d-didn’t l-lie. I s-swear.” Phee began crying harder, so hard his words were practically gibberish.
Wesley dragged in a deep breath, doing his damnedest to stay calm. Clearly he wasn’t going to get any answers with Phee falling apart like this.
And it only grew worse. By the time they reached the stairs, he was sobbing in great, gulping gasps, and Wesley hesitated a moment, torn over where to take him
If it were anyone else, Wesley wouldn’t even think twice about hauling him down to the holding cells, which he’d discovered, yes, Kellesborne did have, near the armory.
But he couldn’t ignore the constant onslaught of Phee’s terror, or the way the sorcerer had threatened and tormented him. Nor could he ignore the fact that, at some earlier point, this was the person with whom Jarrad had chosen to be intimate. He wanted to believe Jarrad had seen good in Phee. For that matter, so had Wen. And Iann and Lord Rizik.
All of that gave Wesley pause over how best to deal with the young man.
Plus…if he took Phee down off the wall, other people would be alerted something was going on, especially as loud as Phee was being. And right now, Wesley’s gut told him it was better to keep this private. If there were other spies in the castle, if they saw or heard that Phee had been captured, they could dig in even deeper. Or make a run for it. The vellanjhere had a better chance of finding out if there were others if they could get that information secretly from Phee.
After weighing the options, Wesley decided that, for now, it’d be best to find a quiet spot nearby where he could hold Phee until Wen could get here.
And Wesley knew just where to go.
Instead of heading down the steep steps to the bottom of the wall, he pushed Phee toward the heavy door in the adjacent tower, where lay a round windowless room. Maybe it had been used for supplies or weapons at some point, but right now, it was empty and convenient. As long as the door was unlocked. Which, thankfully, it was.
The room was dark as sin, but it would do for the time being. He pushed Phee inside.
“I’m s-sorry,” Phee sobbed.
“Quiet! You can tell Captain Daneson all about it when he arrives.”
“No! P-please don’t tell him!”
“Not another word,” Wesley warned him. “Stay quiet, unless you want the whole of the castle to find out you’re a spy for the sorcerer. Things would not go well for you if that happened, I assure you.”
“All right then. I’ll be back with Captain Daneson. Until then, not a sound,” he warned again.
A whimpered sob was his only response.
Wesley went out and shut the door, which was when, unfortunately, he discovered there was no lock on it. He had no way to keep Phee inside while he went to find someone to get Wen.
He dragged in several deep breaths to slow his racing heart. If only he could use mind speak with Wen over a distance. But he couldn’t. It only worked when Wen was in his winged form, and there was no way to know when that might be. And although Wen could sense when Wesley was upset—which, right now, Wesley very much was—Wen usually could only pick it up when he was already on his way back up to the castle, not when he was still down at the guard camp.
So, what were his options here?
The first would be to run down the steps and send someone to fetch Wen. But if he did that, there’d be nothing to stop Phee from leaving the tower room and making a run for it to one of the other sets of stairs. And since he had zero reason to trust Phee, he couldn’t risk leaving him unattended.
The second possibility was that he could probably shout loud enough over the edge of the battlement to attract Sharis’s attention and ask her to send word to Wen. But his shouting would likely be heard by other guards as well. And him saying he needed Wen up here as soon as possible, even if he didn’t say why—especially if he didn’t say why—would only pique everyone’s curiosity and concern, and so much for keeping the situation private.
Or, he could wait here until Wen was finished at the guard camp and was close enough to sense him on his return trip. Best case scenario, that could happen a few minutes from now. Worst case, it might be daybreak, which was hours away.
Maybe he should take Phee down to the holding cells after all. That plan still bothered him, though. He would so much rather keep this quiet until Wen knew about it, then he could make the decision what to do with Phee.
Wesley sighed in frustration.
It looked like waiting until Wen could sense him was the best plan. He just hoped Wen would be heading back up to the castle sooner rather than later.
He reached out with his senses to see if Wen might, by some lucky chance, be in flight yet. But as he did, his attention was diverted by something else…
He suddenly realized that the strange buzz he’d sensed earlier…was gone.
Why? And when had it disappeared?
Bloody hel. Had he been sensing the sorcerer’s presence even before he saw him? Certainly Byram had been using some kind of magick to meet with Phee and torture him. And now that he was gone, so was the odd buzz. If it had been created by magick, that would make sense.
He concentrated harder.
No, actually, he could still sense it. It was all around him, as it had been earlier, but much, much fainter. Faint enough that if he didn’t know what he was searching for, and wasn’t focusing hard on it, he wouldn’t have picked it up. Earlier, it had felt like a steady, grating irritant under his skin, but now it was more like a gentle breeze wafting over it, barely noticeable, but there if you were paying attention.
What in hel?
He couldn’t shake the feeling it was related to Byram’s appearance here at Kellesborne, yet if it was a result of the sorcerer’s magick, he shouldn’t still be feeling it. Come to think of it…he hadn’t been able to pick up the sorcerer with his empathic abilities, which now made sense because he knew the sorcerer hadn’t really been here. If he wasn’t really here…then how could he be the source of the magick buzz?
“Ugh,” Wesley whispered under his breath.
Hadlow hadn’t been wrong earlier…this magick stuff was confounding. Sometimes it was all he could do to sort out his own magick, much less figure out how or why anyone else’s worked.
Thinking of his abilities…a strange, unexpected spark of an idea lit in Wesley.
It was far fetched. He honestly didn’t even know if it was possible. But if he was stuck here guarding the door anyway…
“Why not,” he murmured. He had nothing to lose by trying.
Standing in front of the door to physically block it in case Phee tried to open it, he closed his eyes, centered his breathing, and sought out his and Wen’s emotional connection.
He found it easily—it wasn’t really something he had to work at anymore—and almost instantly he felt Wen down at the guard camp. Wen was worried and stressed, which, unfortunately, was a regular state for him these days.
But it wasn’t his emotions Wesley was looking for tonight. Not exactly, anyway. They were going to be his conduit, not his goal. Instead, he concentrated on the actual link that connected him to Wen. He focused hard, until he could not only sense it, but see it in his mind’s eye, like a faintly glowing translucent thread that came from… Whoa. It came from Wesley’s heart.
He hadn’t noticed that detail the night of the nycto attack. Probably because he’d been too panicked and completely overwhelmed by Wen’s pain.
But, tonight, he could clearly see it radiating out from his own heart, which actually made so much sense. It stretched off into the darkness, presumably with Wen at the other end. He just had to follow it.
So he did, as he had the night of the attack. But this time it was easier. He wasn’t distracted by pain and terror, and Wen was much closer, which meant the glowing thread was stronger and brighter.
He followed it across and through the trees, down the mountain, and far more quickly than he’d expected, he saw it, literally saw it, disappearing into the caves at the guard camp. He followed it, down a torchlit winding passage and through a wood door, as if the wood were no more of an impediment than the open air. It was a strange sensation, as if Wesley himself were nothing more than a spirit, slipping through the wood. Which, he supposed in a way he was, since he wasn’t physically there, only…well…spiritually, so to speak.
He saw Wen, standing next to Jarrad, speaking with Solanis. He couldn’t hear the words, but he saw Solanis nod. Then Solanis opened the door through which Wesley had just entered, and left the room.
Wen turned to face Wesley right then, and Wesley stopped.
Instinctively, he reached out and rested a palm against Wen’s heart, directly over where the thread entered him. His own hand looked as translucent as the thread, but he felt the leather of Wen’s padded jerkin, felt the warmth of his body, felt…gods, actually felt his heart beating.
“Rowen, can you hear me?” he said aloud. He had no idea how to actually talk to Wen now that he’d reached him, since he hadn’t really spoken with him, not directly, the night with the nyctos.
Maybe he should try the mindspeak instead, though he wasn’t sure that would be any better since Wen wasn’t in his winged form.
He honestly hadn’t been expecting a response, so it startled the hel out of him when Wen flinched and his heart began to beat more rapidly.
Holy crap…had Wen actually heard him?
“Wes?” he murmured, his voice hoarse with surprise.
Now Wesley’s heart was pounding as well. Was this really happening?His idea had worked?
“If you can hear me, Wen, I need you. Now.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Just come.” Wesley was running out of energy already. Apparently, talking sapped his strength fast. “I’m atop the castle wall, the tower room near the middle stairs.”
“I’m on my way.” Wen’s voice was tense, his heart still raced, and Wesley felt Wen’s concern wash over him.
“And bring a torch,” Wesley said, as an afterthought, though he was afraid Wen hadn’t heard the last part as he was already on the move.
Rather than try to keep up with him, Wesley let go of the connection, and like a reverse slingshot, felt himself flinging back up the mountain until his…whatever he’d extended—his senses?—snapped back into his physical body.
Breathing hard, he opened his eyes and held a hand against his chest, feeling his own heart pounding as if he’d been running the whole way instead of simply standing in one spot.
He sank into a crouch, trying to catch his breath.
He hadn’t traveled as far as he had the night the nyctophans had attacked, but everything had been sharper, much more in focus this time. He’d noticed small details, and, even more fascinating, he’d been aware of other people besides just Wen this time.
Wen had told him that kind of magick took a toll, and he wasn’t kidding. Though it wasn’t as intense as it had been the time before, tonight’s encounter had still left Wesley winded and a little shaky.
But, holy shit. He’d done it! He’d connected with and spoken to Wen.
And now…there was nothing left to do but wait.