Dark Magick Rising (Draegan Lords Book 5) by M.L. Rhodes
Copyright 2019 by M.L. Rhodes, All Rights Reserved
Thanks, everyone, for your patience and your nice messages last week! They were very much appreciated. I’m still not 100%, still can’t sit for long periods of time, but my back is improving daily. It’s certainly waaay better than it was this time last week, so yay! 🙂
The chapter below, in its original version, got ridiculously long and unwieldy this week as I was working on it, so I finally had to make the decision to break it into two chapters. Which was just as well because I decided the second half of it would be better served in a different point of view anyway. And since I hate to change point of view in the middle of a chapter, it made it easier to start a new chapter with the switch. So it’s all good. Better, actually. But that means you only get part of what I had originally intended to post. LOL! Nonetheless, you’ll get the rest of it next week. Things are definitely moving toward a climax (for this book…not the series, obviously). The end is in sight! 🙂
Wesley heard and felt Wen’s awe. But what startled him was that he could also see it, radiating out from Wen’s heart.
Who knew Wen’s awe was yellow and looked like sparkling rays of sunlight skimming along the bridge’s surface? He couldn’t stop staring at it in fascination.
The bridge itself was colorful this time, too.
But as he studied it more closely, he realized, no, he was wrong about that. The bridge was actually transparent, or nearly so, glowing faintly white. Not unlike how it had appeared to him the past two times he’d seen it. The color came from all the emotions traveling between Wen and him. Not only did each emotion have its own color, each one was its own separate thread. And the emotion threads were twining around the bridge, around each other, in a constantly shifting rainbow.
All of this must have been there previously as well, he just hadn’t been close enough to make out the intricacy of it.
::It’s never looked like this before, with all the color. Can you see the colored threads?:: he asked Wen.
::I see them. Damn, Wes, this is…unbelievable.::
::Do you think it’s so vivid like this because we’re close and touching one another, or because we’re both concentrating on it at the same time?::
::Some of both? I don’t know. I kind of feel like this is your domain and I’m just…an astonished onlooker::
::Not just mine. This is ours. All those strands of color are our emotions. This is how we connect, how we’re linked.::
::Um, there’s something else.::
:: If you haven’t already noticed, we’ve switched to using mindspeak,:: Wen said.
Shock rippled through Wesley, and he could see that, too, like little zips of bright silver, skipping along the bridge. ::We’re using mindspeak and we’re both—::
::In human form. Just like last night.::
::Except, you know, completely not like last night,:: Wesley said. ::There was a shimmery, thin thread between us last night, not this…this… I don’t even know what to call it?::
::Our sparkling rainbow of magick?:: Wen said with a soft, gravelly chuckle, and Wesley saw more yellow, twined with a bright, cheerful turquoise, dance along the bridge.
Wesley smiled. ::That’s sounds as good as anything.::
::But here’s the real question for you…:: Wen said, growing serious, which Wesley could also see, as Wen’s emotions began to radiate a dark, night-sky blue. ::We can see all of this, but now what? You need to be able to utilize all our magick to find Malcolm. Any ideas how, because even though I thought this would work, and I still do, I’ll admit…my plan was skimpy on details. As in, there were no details.::
An excellent question, and one for which Wesley wasn’t sure he had an answer.
::You suggested earlier that we might need to meet in the middle of the bridge,:: Wen continued, ::but looking at all this, how do we do that?::
::Honestly, I’m not sure. Try sending me some soothing magick again. If we can see it, then maybe we can figure out how the magick works.::
::Okay. Doing it now…::
At first Wesley didn’t notice anything different as he closely watched the bridge. He knew Wen was using soothing magick on him because he felt it washing over him with its usual warm, honey-like sensation. But he couldn’t see it at all. Nothing new appeared. Which seemed…odd. Especially since everything else was so bright and obvious.
But then…as he allowed his range of vision to widen, and he stopped trying to focus on the swirling colors, it hit him.
::Oh! Oh my gods. Do you see that?:: he asked Wen.
::I don’t think I see anything different.::
::The magick doesn’t appear like the emotions do. Whatever we’re feeling at any given time shows as one of the colored threads, so I was expecting the magick to do something similar. But that’s not it—it’s not like that at all. Our emotions are constantly shifting and changing…that’s why it all looks like it’s continually in motion because, well, what we’re feeling is always in motion. But the magick…it’s not.::
::What do you mean?::
::I mean, even though I can feel the soothing magick you’re using, we can’t see it like we can the emotion. I think that’s because the magick’s always there. You’re not creating the magick and sending it to me over the bridge, you’re just…utilizing it. Magick is what connects us, and it’s a constant.::
::I’m still not following you, love.::
::Don’t you see? The emotions twine around the bridge, back and forth between us as we’re experiencing them. But the bridge itself isn’t just a conduit. It IS the magick. Even if we’re far apart, it stretches thin, but it’s still there, linking us together, making us…well…one. One magick being::
::One?:: There was no mistaking Wen’s genuine confusion.
Wesley scrambled to try to find a new way to explain it so Wen could understand.
::What if, because we’re magically joined at all times, it’s not really a matter of sharing our magick, so much as realizing that because of the magick binding us together, all of the magick is already a part of us. I was totally wrong about us needing to meet halfway across the bridge. I think all we really have to do is focus on which part of our joined magick we want to use at any given time.::
::But how is that remotely possible? You can do things with your magick that there’s no way I can do. For example, you’re an empath and I’m not.::
::But in a way, you are. You feel my emotions.::
::That’s different. I feel yours because of our bond, which makes sense, but I can’t read other people’s emotions.::
::And I’m saying…what if you can? What if there is no yours and mine anymore? Think of it this way…what if all of our magick is gathered in one collective pot, and either of us can draw from that pot anytime.::
::Except…once again, I can’t read other people’s emotions, Wes. Nor can I heal with my blood. Nor can I shift into a water form, just as you can’t shift into a winged form. All of those things are magick, but they’re unique to each of us::
He made some good points. ::Okay, maybe there are some physical limitations. Like we can’t change into different forms from our own, and maybe the blood thing is unique to me because it’s a physical trait. But we already know I can use your soothing magick. We know I can understand and use mindspeak with you. And you can read my emotions. None of those are based on anything physical…they come from, I assume, a more generalized magick.::
::Maybe. The physical trait limitations make sense. But let me say it one more time…while I might be able to pick up your emotions, I can’t read anyone else’s.::
::How do you know? Have you tried?::
He felt, and saw in ripples of dark red and brown, Wen’s frustration. ::Well, no, because I can’t, so why would I try?::
::Because you assume you can’t, you’ve never had a reason to try. But I’m saying that if you did try it, if you had the intention to do it, in theory you could draw from the pot and be able to.::
Wesley opened his eyes to find Wen gazing at him in the the darkening evening.
“I don’t think it is. We need to know whether or not it works. Try it.” He nodded toward Jarrad, who sat on the boulder staring at them, wide-eyed.
Wen looked at Jarrad, then back at Wesley. “Wes, I’m not…”
“Just try it,” Wesley said gently. “Please.”
“What in hell is going on?” Jarrad asked. “You guys were dead silent, almost to the point of it being creepy, for a long damn time, and now you’re suddenly awake and staring at me.”
“Shush,” Wesley told him, keeping his gaze focused on Wen.
Jarrad huffed out an annoyed breath.
“He’s a perfect way to test it,” Wesley said softly.
“What?” Jarrad rasped. “Test what?”
Wesley shushed him again even as he felt Wen’s resistance crumbling.
“Fine. I’ll try. Do I concentrate on our connection?” Wen asked.
Wesley realized they still had their hands over each other’s hearts. “No. We’re always connected. That’s my point. I think all you have to do is focus on him, on what you want, and trust that the magick is there for you. You just need to…want to do it.”
Wen drew in a long, shaky breath, then released it, his gaze fixed on Wesley. Then, slowly, he closed his eyes.
Wesley focused his own senses on Jarrad, as well, though he didn’t have to concentrate too hard since Jarrad was practically vibrating with a whole, tangled mess of emotion at the moment. He really was the perfect test for Wen because Jarrad wore his heart on his sleeve and his emotions almost always radiated out from him in waves.
“Reach out. Want it. Believe that you can do it,” Wesley murmured to Wen. “Remember that evening we were flying back to the castle and you somehow tapped into my memories and could feel how it feels for me when I read people? That should give you an idea of what you’re looking for.”
He knew the exact second Wen succeeded, because not only did he gasp out a sudden expletive, his heart began pounding hard and fast beneath Wesley’s hand on his chest.
Moments later, his eyes fluttered open and he stared at Wesley, then looked at his brother.
“Bloody hel, Jarrad.”
“What?” Jarrad asked again, taking a hard swallow.
“Gods, I’m so sorry.”
“You’re…what?” Jarrad whispered, looking like he was at the end of his rope.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been more understanding.” Wen voice was hoarse. “I should have been. You’ve been dealing with so much. Wes told me, but I…I just had no idea how bad it was for you.”
“And…and you do now?” Jarrad asked, looking between Wen and Wesley, obviously unsure what was going on.
“O—kay. Um…what’s happening?”
“We’re figuring out how our shared magick works,” Wesley told him.
“So you can find Malcolm? You haven’t yet, have you?”
“Not yet. But Wesley will find him. There’s no doubt in my mind he will.” Wen’s voice shook as he said the words.
Jarrad probably hadn’t noticed the tremor in Wen’s voice, but Wesley did, and knew it was a testament to how deeply unsettled Wen was by their discovery and probably by Jarrad’s intense emotions.
“Are you okay?” Wesley asked him, wrapping both his hands around the one Wen still had resting on his chest and gently squeezing.
Wen’s fingers wound through his and he nodded. “I will be. I mean, I am. I just…”
Wen huffed out a soft, pained breath. “Once again, I don’t know how you do it. It’s so much to take in.”
Wesley shrugged. “I’m not sure how. I guess I’ve just been dealing with it all my life, so it’s my normal.”
“It’s still a lot,” Wen said softly. He reached out and scuffed a thumb over Wesley’s cheek before he continued. “I understand now. And you were right, totally right. It was there already. The magick.”
“How did you access it?”
“I just sort of opened my senses, acknowledged it was there, and…I felt it. And then, like you said, I concentrated on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t really expecting it to work, to be honest, because I didn’t think I…I had the actual ability, but…”
“But it did work.”
He nodded. “It did. But this isn’t about me having a rudimentary ability to use that particular gift of yours. It was about proving that we could access all the magick, the general magick, as you suspected. Now that we know we can, it’s time for me to bow out beyond supporting you. Finding people’s emotions is your area of expertise. Though, if my ability to track can help somehow, that’s there as well if you need it.”
“That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Go find him, m’caire. Draw on as much extra magick as you need, and go as far as you can with it. I’ll be right here, anchoring you.”
So, Wesley nodded, closed his eyes, and as Wen had said, now that they knew how it worked, knew the magick was there, he acknowledged its existence with the intention of using it to find Malcolm.
Almost instantly he realized he could “feel” more clearly than ever before. Usually searching for someone who wasn’t Wen—because of course Wen was always sharper in his senses than anyone else—people’s emotional auras, from a distance, were like a sort of fuzzy vibration for him. Even if he was familiar with an aura, Malcolm’s for example, and knew what he was searching for, it would still be fuzzy until he drew closer to it. But now, able to utilize both his own and Wen’s magick seemed to give his senses an extra clarity.
He was able to pick up the company of soldiers that had passed them, and as he skated over them, even their individual auras were crisper and he was able to sense far more than he ever had been before when faced with a large crowd all at once.
Since he could pick them up more clearly, he took the time to go back over them in case he might have somehow missed Malcolm before, were he pretending to be one of them.
By the time he moved on, he was certain Malcom wasn’t among them.
He pressed toward the road, where he encountered more people, probably soldiers, in both directions.
Now where? Assuming Malcom would not have headed toward Thrythgar, that meant following the road west or going across it into the massive forestlands that spread for leagues and leagues. Once he was across the road, Malcom could have then gone in virtually any direction.
But…he was presumably on foot, which meant he couldn’t have gotten too far—though he’d already managed to go beyond the range any of them had expected. And, of course, that was assuming the sorcerer hadn’t somehow abducted him and spirited him away.
Still…Wesley decided the road was the best, easiest thing to check first. If he didn’t come across him there or something near the road to the west, then he could work his way north, beyond the road. And if worse came to worst, after that he could look toward Thrythgar in case the sorcerer was involved.
Wesley was already farther than he’d ever been able to go before, but even as his senses reached way beyond his previous limits, he was aware of Wen next to him. When Wen had said he’d anchor him, he hadn’t really thought Wen meant it literally, but now he understood. Their combined magick was shockingly potent, and it would be easy to get lost in the heady power. Wen must have felt it as well, when he tapped into it. It was actually a little scary. Why was it so powerful?
Not that it mattered, really. It just was. And it would be easy to lose himself in it.
But with Wen there, still touching him, it allowed him to stay focused, and assured him he could find his way back as he stretched farther and farther out.
A few minutes later…he found what he sought.
“I know where he is.” He opened his eyes, looking at Wen, then Jarrad. “And you’re not going to like it.”
“Where?” Wen asked.
“Where is he?” Jarrad asked, rising to come stand next to them. “Is he okay?”
“He seems to be fine. But he’s heading back toward where he saw Byram’s soldiers pick up Lochlann. Into the Dormere Mountains. What you call the helys ganhedig.”
“Why would he do that?” Jarrad asked, dragging his hands through his hair. “My gods, why would he go back there and risk putting himself in danger?”
But it was Wen who drew Wesley’s attention and concern. A sudden surge of anger, tangled with a deep, burning sense of mistrust radiated off him.
“Why indeed,” Wen murmured, his lips gone tight, and his eyes narrowing.
“There’s more,” Wesley said, disturbed at Wen’s dark emotions. “He’s headed directly toward another company of the sorcerer’s soldiers. At the rate he’s moving, which is far faster than I would have expected, I predict he’ll reach them within a couple of hours.”
“Oh fuck,” Jarrad whispered.
“We have to get to him first,” Wen said coldly.
Wesley still couldn’t pinpoint why Wen was so angry, but before he could ask, Jarrad said, “We have to risk flying.”
Wen nodded. “Yes we do. Because I’ll be damned if I let him go through with this.”
The last was murmured under his breath. But Wesley heard it. And whatever had Wen upset, it sent a cold chill down Wesley’s spine.