Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
Wen hated the thought. It made him sick to his stomach. Yet he couldn’t seem to shake it. Gods, he really, really hoped he was wrong, but if not, there was no way in bloody hel he was going to let the sorcerer get his hands on Wesley. Once again he wanted to give Malcolm the benefit of the doubt, but if it came down to it, Jarrad’s feelings for Malcolm were not going to protect Malcolm if he intentionally put Wesley in danger.
As Wen was still gnawing it around and fretting over the possibility, Wesley opened his eyes.
Before he even spoke, Wen felt a wave of irritation coursing off him, prompting Wen to ask, “What is it, love?”
“I can’t find him, damn it. I know he can’t be that far away…there’s no way he could be. Yet I can’t sense him. I just feel so…restricted. So limited in range.”
“You can sense me from a long distance,” Wen said.
“Sure, but that’s you. I can find you at a distance because of our link. I can’t even come close with anyone else. I’ve tried. I’ve been trying for weeks to go farther, but it doesn’t work.”
“Your link?” Jarrad asked.
“We’re linked together, connected, emotionally,” Wesley said. “And that allows me to find Wen more easily than anyone else.”
“But what does that mean—emotionally linked? You make it sound like it’s a…a tangible thing.”
“It is,” Wen said. “Wes can sense anyone’s emotions, but with me, it’s more than that. He can actually feel mine, as if they were his own. And even though I’m not an empath, I can feel his the same way. We can sometimes also experience each other’s physical responses to things. Like, down on the slope earlier, when he was worried we were going to be caught, I felt his heart pounding. It’s like…”
“Like having the spirit of an extra heart in your chest,” Wesley said softly. “You can tell it’s not yours. It just feels like it should be.”
Their gazes locked. It wasn’t something they’d talked about in this much detail before, but clearly they both experienced it in the same way.
“Yes,” Wen breathed. “It’s exactly like that.” He smiled at Wesley and got a smile and a swell of love in return.
To Jarrad, he said, “We’re bound together in some deeper than ordinary way. And we have been since early in our relationship.”
“It’s like you’re true-mated,” Jarrad said softly, his tone one of surprise.
“Except true-mating is only supposed to happen between draegans. But there’s definitely something connecting us. We don’t even have to be near each other for it to work. I can feel him even if I’m away from him, up to a certain point. But because he’s an empath, Wes can feel me from even farther away. And that connection has allowed him to…reach me in surprising ways.”
“How does it work?”
“If I concentrate hard enough, I can see, in my mind’s eye, the thread that joins us together,” Wesley said.
“Like an actual thread?”
“Sort of. It’s made of magic. At least I think it is. I’m not sure anyone else can see it, but it’s definitely there. That thread is what allows me to find Wen when he’s far away because I can see it and follow it to him, wherever he is. It takes a lot of energy to do it when he’s at a great distance, but it works. The first time was…” He winced.
“The first time it happened,” Wen told Jarrad, “was the night the nyctophans attacked us. Wesley felt what was happening to me.”
“We were hours and hours away by wing that night. Leagues!” Jarrad said, his eyes gone wide with shock.
“I know. But he felt it, and then, because he was worried, he found me.”
“Once I found him,” Wesley said, “I wasn’t only able to feel his emotions, I could actually see him as well, lying on the ground with snow falling on him. I thought my ability to find him that night was because he was in pain and afraid and it was all so intense that his emotions projected extra strongly, allowing me to pick them up and get to him. But last night I decided to try it again. I honestly wasn’t sure it would work under those completely different circumstances. But I was able to find the thread, follow it, and…”
“And you saw him again?”
Wesley nodded. “You this time, too. I was able to see the whole room. And then I tried talking to Wen and, amazingly, he heard me.”
“Holy fuck,” Jarrad murmured. “I’m telling you…you guys are true mates. Haven’t you ever watched Lord Rizik and Lord Hareldson? How they seem to be able to communicate with each other in a way no one else can understand? And you can literally feel their love for each other. No offense, but you guys are just as bad.”
“As bad. Thanks,” Wen said, shaking his head, but he and Wesley shared another smile.
“I’m just saying, what you’re are able to do…it’s rare.”
“Well, unfortunately for us today, when it comes to finding Malcolm, it doesn’t help,” Wesley said. “With anyone besides Rowen I can only sense emotions in the usual way, and only up to a certain distance. At Kellesborne, I can find someone as long as they’re in the castle, or maybe close by on the grounds, but not beyond that. So that’s about the range I have here as well. Which isn’t terribly useful. If I could just go farther…”
Wen brushed a hand over Wesley’s hair. He felt Wes’s frustration and wished he knew how to help.
But the conversation about their bond caused a sudden spark of an idea.
“What if…” He sank into a crouch in front of Wesley. “What if you were able to use my magick as well?”
“What do you mean?”
“Yeah, what do you mean?” Jarrad asked.
“Not only can we feel each other’s emotions, we can also sense each other’s magick, share it sometimes.”
“Like how I can do soothing magick for you,” Wesley said. “It’s your magick gift, but…”
“…you can utilize it. Yes, exactly. It’s been small things like that, that have happened spontaneously. But what if we could share it for bigger things as well? Intentionally?”
“How would we do that? I mean…” Wesley blushed and sent a quick glance toward Jarrad.
Wen smiled because he knew exactly what Wesley was thinking, that usually their magick merged during or shortly after they were intimate. Or at least that’s when they mostly noticed it.
“It doesn’t have to only happen from that,” he said. “That’s when we’ve felt it spike, yes, but that’s not the only way. Our bond itself, which is always there, is magick, too.”
“Okay.” Wesley forehead furrowed. “But again I say, how would we do it?”
“When you’re searching for me, like last night, what do you see?”
“I told you…a thread. It’s thin, translucent, shimmery. Last night I could see it more clearly than I could the first time. You were closer, so that might be why.”
“How is it connected to us? I mean, it is attached to both of us, right?”
“It is. You’re going to think it’s sappy, though.”
Wen bit back another smile. “I won’t.”
Wesley blushed again, and Wen knew he was aware that Jarrad was listening intently to every word. “It’s connected at our hearts.”
“That…actually makes a lot of sense,” Wen said.
“I know. That’s what I thought when I saw it last night.”
“I’m telling you,” Jarrad said. “I think you’re true mated. Not only the stuff you’ve already said, but now you’re telling me you can share magick? Think about it… Lord Rizik became more powerful after he and Lord Hareldson mated. He can’t shift into winged form, but aside from that, he’s got full draegan lord magick now. Different from Lord H’s, but certainly lord-worthy. That has to be from Lord H sharing his magick, right?”
“He’s not wrong,” Wen said to Wesley. “Magick sharing is a true-mate ability.”
“So, what if you guys just haven’t yet fully tapped into what you’re capable of?” Jarrad said.
“I think that’s basically what I was getting at before. That maybe there’s more to what we can do. We just have to figure out how to…” He shrugged.
“Open the door to it?” Wesley said.
“In a manner of speaking, yeah. So, last night, you followed the thread to me. Then what? Did you just start talking to me?”
“Actually, no.” Wesley’s brows knit again. “I touched you. I reached out and put my hand on your chest, over your heart, where the thread entered you.”
Wesley huffed out a soft breath that was almost a faint, self conscious laugh. “And then I hoped real hard it would work because I didn’t think it would. Then, after that, I said your name. I honestly wasn’t expecting an answer. So, when you did respond, I almost fell over.”
“So did I, when I heard you.”
“How did you hear him?” Jarrad asked. “Because I didn’t hear anything.”
“In spite of the fact I was speaking out loud because him contacting me like that caught me off guard…it was mind speak.”
“Like we use in our winged form?” Jarrad’s surprise was evident again.
“Yeah. When I’m winged out, Wes and I can talk that way.”
“But he’s not a draegan.”
“Again I say, holy fuck.”
“But we’ve never been able to do it when Rowen’s in his human form,” Wesley said. “Until last night.”
“While you were focused on the magick that connects us,” Wen said. “So my question is…what if we’re both focused on it?”
“And do what?”
“Well, magick is focused intention. Even for draegans, though there are magick words in Draega, we don’t have to speak them. We can just concentrate on what we want to happen.”
“Like putting up or taking down a magick shield?” Wesley said. “I’ve never heard you say anything when you do it.”
“Or unlocking locks,” Jarrad added. “Same thing.”
“Right. Or soothing magick,” Wen said. “I decide to use it, and I do. It’s all about intention.”
“So…if we’re both concentrating on me being able to search farther out, then our combined magick might actually allow me to go farther?”
“In theory. I think we should give it a try. Because I think Jarrad might be right…it’s possible we’ve only just begun to discover what we can do if our magick is joined.”
“Okay, well, I’m willing to attempt it if you are.”
He didn’t sound certain. To be honest, neither was Wen, but what did they have to lose?
He sank the rest of the way to the ground and sat cross-legged like Wesley, facing him.
Jarrad took a step back as if he expected…what? Sparks to fly or the ground to rumble? Wen might have laughed at the idea if he weren’t half expecting something similar himself. The truth was, Wesley’s magick as an ondaen was already more powerful than his, and with the added boost of his draegan magick in the mix, he had no idea what might come of this, if it even worked.
“Do you remember the night you were stabbed?” Wesley asked quietly. So quietly Wen had to concentrate to hear him. “Earlier that evening I told you I felt like I was stuck on a rope stretched across a deep chasm of fire, and that there was no way to get off it without burning to death. But you said I wasn’t there alone, that you’d come get me, no matter what.”
Wesley had been hurting so much that night. Wen knew now he’d been hurting because he’d discovered he was an ondaen and felt like he couldn’t tell Wen about it.
“But then, later, when I told you to let me go,” Wen said, “after I’d been stabbed, you wouldn’t. You said I was the one on the rope and you were coming to get me.”
Wesley nodded. “No matter where we are or what happens, I’ll always come out on the rope to get you. And I know you’ll do the same.”
“Okay, so, what if, in a weird sort of way, that imaginary rope isn’t unlike the thread that connects us? It’s something we can travel along to help and support each other. What if we imagine that rope is a bridge? A shimmering bridge that stretches between us.”
“Like the thread?”
“Yes. Rope, thread, bridge…what if they’re one and the same? All day long our emotions travel back and forth over the bridge, allowing us to feel each other, to stay close. It’s second nature. Every time I hurt, you reach across the bridge with soothing magick to make me feel better. When you hurt, like the night with the nyctos, I reach across it to soothe you. Our magick is different, how we reach is different, but we’re both able to travel the bridge in our own ways.”
“That makes complete sense.”
“What you’re talking about doing now is, I think, for us to not simply reach across the bridge one at a time—here’s some of my magick for you, or here’s some of yours for me—but for us to truly share our combined magick. And the only way I can think to make that happen is for us to travel the bridge at the same time. Maybe meet in the middle.”
“But we’re sitting right next to each other…doesn’t that automatically make the bridge shorter?”
“Probably, but I still think it there’s and we have to cross it, whether we’re close or far. Less distance to travel, but we still have to pass over it.”
“What if we were able to keep shortening it until…”
“Until the bridge no longer exists?”
“Until it’s no longer necessary.”
“Whoa. Okay. I have no clue, though, how to make that happen, short of being more physically close, and…” He blushed again and it was pretty damned adorable how they’d been intimate for months, but Wesley still couldn’t talk about it outside their bed chamber without being embarrassed. “So…” he continued, with the faintest hint of a smile, “we probably should start with something more manageable for the time and place.”
Wen smiled, too. “Meet halfway it is then.”
“All right. So, let’s try it. Let’s hold hands.”
“Is this going to get weird?” Jarrad asked.
“Shut up,” Wen and Wesley both said at the same time.
“Bloody hel, just asking,” Jarrad grumbled, and stepped a little farther away before sinking onto an upraised boulder.
“Keep watch,” Wen told his brother. “Make sure we don’t have any company.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarrad groused.
Wen look at him. “Hey, you encouraged us to do this. And we’re doing it to find your lover.”
Jarrad’s face fell. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m just anxious because it’s getting late, the sun’s setting, and I’m worried about him. But carry on. I’ll keep watch. I promise.”
Wen looked back at Wesley, who held out his hands.
Wen took them, wrapping his fingers around Wesley’s. “What next?” he asked.
“Close your eyes,” Wesley said.
Wen did. He knew without having to see it that Wes had closed his as well.
“Now, concentrate on the bridge.”
“Can you see it?” Wen asked.
“I…yeah, I can. And you were right…it is shorter. Much, much shorter. And more solid than ever before.”
“I can’t see it. How do I find it?”
“Try sending me some soothing magick, and when you do, focus on it and try to see it in a tangible way as it crosses to me.”
Wen concentrated. Soothing magick came to him so easily he barely had to think about it. But trying to see it was something else all together.
“I feel it,” Wesley said. “Can you see it?”
He did. For what felt like ages, though it was probably only a minute or two. “I can’t get anything.”
“Try concentrating on me instead of the magick. Try to see me, with your eyes still closed. Imagine me, what I look like, my shape. Get a picture of me in your mind.”
That part was even easier than the soothing magick. Wen could always picture Wesley in his mind…clothed, unclothed, sleeping, awake, his muscles flexing as he wielded a sword, the way his eyes glistened when he was happy, how his lips quirked up at the edges when he was holding back a secret smile.
“Okay. Now, look at my torso, focus on my chest, the area where my heart is. That’s where the thread…the bridge…connects to me.”
Wen focused. But he saw nothing out of the ordinary. No magickal shimmering anything. He tried and tried, but nothing.
Maybe Wesley’s gift of empathy was what allowed him to see the thread and it wasn’t something Wen would ever be able to do. And if he couldn’t ever see it, then how was this ever going to work?
“I can feel you getting frustrated.”
“I am. I can’t see it, Wes. Maybe I’m not meant to. Maybe this wasn’t a great idea and it’s not going to work because my magick’s just not as strong as yours.”
“I don’t believe that for a second. I’ve never believed it.”
“I know you haven’t, but…”
“Shhh. I know what we’re doing wrong.” Wesley pulled his hands free of Wen’s. When Wen started to open his eyes to see what was going on, Wesley said, “No, keep your eyes closed.”
Wesley grabbed one of Wen’s hands and pulled it toward him. He placed Wen’s palm against his chest.
Ohhh. Wen suddenly realized what Wesley was doing.
“All right. Concentrate on me,” Wesley said, “on where your hand is touching me, over my heart. And then, try to see the bridge…now.”
The weight of Wesley’s hand came to rest on Wen’s chest, directly over his heart.
The moment it did….a powerful, surging vibration shot through Wen, searing through his veins, over his skin, rippling in his organs. It was like…bloody hel…like having an orgasm. Except not. This was…almost better, and even more intimate in a bizarre kind of way.
“Oh my gods,” he breathed, and even his voice sounded shaky.
There, in his mind’s eye, he saw something he could barely wrap his thoughts around…
A sparkling, multi-faceted rainbow of light stretched in front of him, solid yet strangely translucent, and vibrating with…with life? Was it alive? He couldn’t stop staring. The thread, the bridge, was even more beautiful than Wesley had described it. And, somehow, it felt completely familiar.
See it now?” Wesley asked, a rich tone of humor in his voice.
“Holy shit,” was the only way Wen could respond.