Read Hunted by Magic Online

Authors: Jasmine Walt

Hunted by Magic

Hunted by Magic
a New Adult Fantasy Novel
Jasmine Walt
Blue Bolt Publishing

Copyright © 2016, Jasmine Walt. All rights reserved. Published by Blue Bolt Publishing.

This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents described in this publication are used fictitiously, or are entirely fictional. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, except by an authorized retailer, or with written permission of the publisher. Inquiries may be addressed via email to
[email protected]
.

Cover illustration by
Judah Dobin

Cover typography by
Rebecca Frank

Edited by Mary Burnett

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1

D
isappeared
.

No, no, that can’t be right,
I thought to myself, clutching the sheets as ice crystalized inside my veins. People didn’t disappear. Not really. They went missing, sure, but they didn’t just vanish off the face of the planet. The idea that Iannis had disappeared, along with an entire dirigible of people, was impossible. He wasn’t gone. He couldn’t be.

“Sunaya.” Lakin’s hand was gentle as it pressed against my arm. His yellow-orange shifter eyes narrowed in concern. I could feel the weight of all my friends’ eyes on me as well, who were gathered around my bed. “You’re shredding the sheets.”

I tore my gaze away from the messenger who’d delivered the news and looked down at my hands. Sure enough, my panther claws had extended, ripping through the comforter and sheets of my infirmary cot. Taking a deep breath, I slowly uncurled my fists from around the once-pristine white cloth, then tucked them beneath my armpits – I was ice-cold, something that was highly unusual for me. I didn’t know if it was because I was still recovering from a near-lethal dose of silver poisoning, or because of the news I’d just heard.

“Disappeared?” Director Chen demanded, voicing the words I was too stunned to utter. “That doesn’t make any sense. A dirigible is too large a contraption to simply go up in thin air, not without the assistance of extremely powerful magic. The Resistance doesn’t have access to that kind of power.”

The Resistance.
Guilt flooded me. By Magorah, but this was all my fault. I’d failed to warn Iannis about the threat Rylan had delivered to me, the warning that I shouldn’t accompany Iannis to the bi-annual Convention if I valued my life. I should have told him right away, but the Shifter Royale investigation had taken nearly all of my attention. Every time I’d had a chance to talk to him over the past few days, I’d been distracted with what seemed like, at the time, extremely urgent matters. I felt like the biggest idiot in Solantha for allowing this to happen.

“Clearly the Resistance
does
have that kind of power,” I snapped, finally finding my voice again. “If not by magical means, they’ve found some other way to intercept that dirigible. If it didn’t make it to the Convention with so many powerful mages aboard, something terrible must have happened. We have to find it.” I pushed back the covers and struggled out of bed.

Director Chen held up a hand, and a gust of magic-laced wind smacked me flat back against the bed. “If by ‘we’ you mean myself and the Council, then yes, I agree we have to find it. But you are still recovering from an attack on your life, Miss Baine. If you come before the Council in your current state, no one will take you seriously. I suggest you stay here and regain some of your strength first.”

“Like hell I will,” I snarled, vaulting up off the bed, but Director Chen blasted me again, and I fell back against the pillows once more. Without another word, she swept out of the room, her bright silk robes billowing behind her. The messenger was quick to follow, and Fenris, after shooting me an apologetic look, jumped up and hurried after her as well.

“Much as I hate to say it, Director Chen is right,” Annia remarked, concern in her dark eyes as she leaned forward and patted my shin from her place near the end of the bed. “The fact that you’re still lying in bed instead of going after her tells me you’ve got a bit of resting up to do.”

“Fuck that.” But she was right, I admitted silently to myself as I struggled up into a sitting position. I was as weak as a newborn cub. “I’ll be fine as soon as somebody can get some food into me. And when I am, I’m going after Iannis.”

“Why?” Noria demanded. “He’s a powerful mage and can take care of himself. You don’t need to risk your life for him, Naya.”

I lifted my chin to pin her with a glare. “He’s also my teacher, and I owe my life to him. I can’t leave him out there in danger without at least trying to help. Just because he’s the Chief Mage doesn’t mean he’s invulnerable.”

“Yes, and
you
aren’t invulnerable either, as you’ve just proven once again.” Noria stood, tossing her mane of fiery curls. “I think I’ll go get that food for you. Maybe once your belly is full, you’ll be able to think more clearly.” Shoving her hands into the top pockets of her multi-pocketed jeans, she spun around and left the room.

“Noria!” Annia called sharply after her younger sister, twisting around in her chair to get up, but Comenius placed a hand on her shoulder.

“There’s no point in talking to her about it right now,” he said. “You know how she feels about mages in general. She’ll just dig her heels in.”

“Com’s right.” I sighed, dragging a hand through my mass of curly black hair. Despite the fact that she had a mage boyfriend, Noria was passionately anti-mage. She hated the unequal balance of power even more than I did, and was a huge fan of the Resistance, the freedom-fighter organization that wanted to overthrow the mages and level the playing field for shifters and humans. “Maybe when she comes back, she’ll have cooled off a little.”

“I’m sorry about her.” Annia turned back, an apologetic look on her beautiful face. She was a more elegant version of Noria, her skin smoother, her hair straighter and darker, her curves more refined. “I thought that after this whole fiasco with the kidnapped shifters, she’d open her eyes to the fact that mages aren’t the only ones capable of evil. But she’s not ready to see that yet.”

“She has true conviction,” Elania, Comenius’s lover and a talented witch, said in her throaty, accented voice. She’d been sitting silently next to Comenius the whole time, her hand on his thigh in a show of support. “Conviction can be a blessing because it gives us focus, but it can also blind us to certain truths.”

“Conviction or not, I have to say I agree with Noria a little, and definitely with Director Chen,” Lakin admitted. “Wouldn’t it be better to wait until you’re more healed before rushing out into who knows where to go after the Chief Mage?”

“I can’t wait that long.” I let out a shaky breath, my hands fisting in the shredded covers to keep them from trembling. “I’ve already lost Roanas. I’m not going to sit back and let the Resistance take Iannis too.”

“Neither of those things were your fault,” Comenius said, giving my shoulder a comforting squeeze. Roanas had been my mentor – he’d taken me in off the streets after my aunt Mafiela had kicked me out of the jaguar clan and raised me as his own, teaching me how to fight as well as fend for myself. I’d loved him as I would have loved my father, had he stepped up to take care of me instead of disappearing without a trace. When I’d found Roanas in his living room two months ago, dying of silver poisoning, the loss had been nearly unbearable. My anger and bitterness against the Mages Guild coupled with my thirst for revenge were the only two things that kept me from descending into grief, and the wound was still fresh enough that I dared not give myself too much downtime to think about it. As my master, Iannis helped fill the hole in my life that Roanas had left behind, but my feelings for him ran along a different path.

No matter what, I couldn’t lose Iannis too.

“Civil disturbance in Shiftertown square,”
a tinny voice announced.
“Please report immediately.”

“Shit.” Lakin tugged the chain around his neck, pulling out the medallion that was normally hidden beneath his coat. The golden disc, stamped with a fang and edged with tiny runes, was the mark of his authority as the Shiftertown Inspector. “I have to go.” He leaned in and briefly brushed his lips against my forehead. “Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone, okay?”

Shocked by the unexpected touch of his lips against my skin, I said nothing as he swept from the room. Silence descended upon the infirmary for a few moments, until I realized that everyone else was staring at me.

“What?” I snapped, turning to Comenius, whose eyebrows were arched higher than everybody else’s.

“Nothing.” Comenius’s eyebrows lowered a fraction. “Just wondering if there’s anything new in your life you’d care to share with us.”

“No.” Scowling, I crossed my arms over my chest. “There’s nothing new going on in my life aside from the fact that my master is missing and I’m stuck in this stupid bed.” Lakin had made his interest in me clear in the last week or so, but I’d already told him to back off. After the way he’d balked when I’d tried to disguise him with my magic, I’d realized that the two of us could never be a thing. My magic would always get in the way of any relationship I had with a shifter – I could no more deny it as a part of me than I could deny the panther that was a part of my soul.

“You’re wrong.”

“Huh?” Comenius scowled at me. “Wrong about what?”

“Wrong that it’s not my fault.” Tears stung at my eyes, and I blinked them back as I met Comenius’s cornflower-blue eyes. “Not long after I defused the bomb on the Firegate Bridge, Rylan called me. He warned me not to accompany the Chief Mage on his trip to the Convention if I valued my life, and that if I warned him the Resistance would punish me accordingly. Of course I’d planned to tell Iannis anyway, but there was just so much going on that every time I tried, something more important came along and sidetracked me. I think I did try to tell him right before he left, but I was so out of it that I couldn’t get the words out right.”

“So this
is
the work of the Resistance, then.” Annia’s expression turned thunderous. “Just wait until Noria gets back here so I can tell her that. If she still hasn’t changed her mind, I’ll make
sure
Mom puts her under house arrest. There’s no way she’s joining up with them, not after this.”

“I do not know your sister well, but from what I’ve seen, a curfew is hardly going to stop her,” Elania observed dryly. “She is too strong of spirit, that one.”

The scent of freshly-cooked meat caught my attention, and I lifted my head, hoping that was Noria coming back with the food. Footsteps sounded outside the hall, but only a servant entered the room, bearing a platter piled high with brisket, new potatoes, and green beans. My growling stomach sank as I realized that though Noria had indeed sent word that I needed food, she hadn’t bothered to stick around.

“By Magorah.” I raked my hands through my hair. “We’re losing her.”

“I’ll go talk to her.” Annia jumped to her feet. “Don’t worry about it, Naya – she’s my responsibility, not yours. You just eat and focus on getting well.”

“Thanks.” I gave Annia a wan smile, then accepted the platter from the server and dug in. “I’m getting out of bed as soon as I’m done with this food,” I warned Comenius in between mouthfuls. “There’s no way I’m letting Director Chen shove me out of this rescue mission.”

Comenius opened his mouth, but Elania spoke smoothly over him. “Perhaps we can help you along in your recovery. Surely the Mages Guild has supplies that Comenius and I can use to mix you a strengthening tonic?”

I swallowed a mouthful of brisket to hide my surprise. I hadn’t expected Elania to be so helpful. “They do, but I’m not certain they’re going to be willing to hand them over.”

“Oh, I can be very persuasive.” Elania blinked as she got to her feet, and my eyes were drawn to the long, black dress that emphasized her curvaceous form. Comenius’s were too, which was probably why he didn’t protest when she curled her fingers around his upper arm and pulled him up with her. “Come, darling, and let’s leave Sunaya to eat in peace. We may as well make ourselves useful instead of just sitting here.”

“Alright.” Comenius shot me a worried look as Elania pulled him from the room. “You’ll be here when we get back, right?”

“Yes,” I agreed, and settled back, albeit reluctantly, to wait. Com’s herbal teas were always effective, and Elania was very popular for her potions. Much as I didn’t want to sit in bed, I knew whatever they whipped up for me would be worth the wait.

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