RULE OF MAGIC, The Leira Chronicles Book 4
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
The green Mustang was parked on Viewpoint Drive a few houses down from the rancher painted the colors of a dreamsicle. Pale orange and not quite white. The tall palm tree in the front yard rustled in the wind as the large fronds lifted, pointing toward the east.
“This is where the magical rainbow ended? Doesn’t seem like much.” Felix Hagan narrowed his eyes, looking at the broken shutters on the front of the house. “You’d think someone who knows how to use dark magic would fix up the place.”
“The necklace leaves a strong trail for anyone magical to follow. This kid definitely had it for a while but it’s not here now. But it hasn’t been long.” Leira centered herself and drew up enough energy to see the bright, glittering trail mixed in with the teenager’s weak, twisting path. The darkness was already doing its best to pull him in closer.
“They’re keeping the necklace moving to stay ahead of us and the Silver Griffins. It’s not going to be easy to catch someone with it in their possession,” said Correk.
“Like they’re playing a giant game of Whack-a-Mole with us.” Hagan grimaced as his stomach gurgled.
“The mastermind behind all of this chose this kid for a reason. I want to know why. That’s the very thing that may help us finally get ahead of the necklace. Lois has it from a reliable source that there’s some kind of meeting happening today with the local followers. We wait and we follow.” Leira stretched, arching her back. They had already been there for hours. The tip from the older witch didn’t include an exact time or place.
“Good old fashioned stakeout. I like it,” said Hagan blowing on his coffee.
It was early in the morning and nothing else was stirring except for a young woman walking a small white chihuahua. Leira watched as the dog took a few steps and sat down till the woman gave a couple of tugs on the leash. The woman gave up a half a block later and picked up the dog.
“We should take Yumfuck on walks. It’d be good for him.” Leira watched the woman tuck the dog into her jacket till only its head was showing.
“Yumfuck takes himself on walks when we’re not around.” Correk stretched out in the backseat, drinking a cherry Dr. Pepper. He was wearing his cowboy boots, his feet propped up on the far door handle.
“What would that even look like? Would you put a tiny harness on him like he’s a toddler?” Hagan shifted in the passenger seat in the front. His dark blue PDA jacket rustled as he turned. “Tell people he’s some kind of South American cat? I’ll bet people would buy that.”
“Did you remember to keep him in his nest this time?” Correk searched through the bag next to him. He pulled out a plastic sleeve of frozen Thin Mint cookies and slid one into his mouth, letting it slowly melt on his tongue. “Yaaauuummm.”
“You’re starting to sound like Yumfuck.” Leira reached over the back of the seat and took one of the cookies. Correk arched an eyebrow.
“Okay, so you got me on these,” she said. “It’s a Thin Mint. Love for them is universal. At least I occasionally eat a vegetable. You should try a carrot or a beet. Think of it as research into something actually grown on Earth.”
“I ate a potato last night.”
“Chip. You ate a chip. Doesn’t count. At some point, if you fry anything it doesn’t count as food anymore.” Leira was still distracted by the trails of energy. Something wasn’t right. She could feel the darkness pulling at the young man’s energy. It had a familiar taste to it. That thing from the world in between.
“That a rule?”
“It’s true.” Hagan grumbled, looking out the window. “Heard the same thing myself recently.”
Leira took a long look at him.
Correk slid another cookie into his mouth, staring at Leira as he bit down on the cookie. “I was supporting the small trio of girls in their quest.”
She looked back at him and let out a snort. “Those little girls saw you coming. Miniature little geniuses leaning into a badge for marketing. They set up by the Wag-a-Bag and are catching all the early morning party people trying to get coffee.”
“This is my first magical stakeout. I gotta say, not as exciting as I pictured.” Hagan lifted up off the seat and hitched up his pants as he peered out the window looking for anything unusual. “Just how much magic does this kid have?”
“That’s the third time you’ve done that. What’s different about you? Why aren’t you eating?” Leira narrowed her eyes, licking the chocolate off her fingers. She glanced at his coffee as her eyes widened. “No cream, either. You’ve finally gone and done it! You’re eating healthy!”
Leira gave him her best dead fish look.
“Thanks, that’s sweet.” Hagan smiled. “I appreciate that. You know just how to say you care without the rest of it.”
“Very touching. Like watching two icicles slowly melting,” said Correk.
“Ignore him. Okay, spill it, Hagan. You’ve raised hiding food to the level of a cat burglar and now you voluntarily quit cold turkey. What happened?”
“I passed that treadmill test, but just barely. Doc said if I kept eating the same way, in a few years I was gonna have some real trouble.”
“That was a few years ago, wasn’t it?” Leira reached into the backseat for another cookie.
Correk arched an eyebrow again and slowly moved them out of her reach. “No. I offered to get you your own and you turned me down. I warned you about that the last time we got pizza.”
Leira pinched his leg.“I don’t want a whole box. I just want a few of yours. They’d be happy to sell you more.”
Correk sent out a pea-sized fireball as Leira ducked.
“You two are killing me.” Hagan frowned as he glanced back at the cookies. He turned toward the window till he couldn’t see them anymore. “If you must know, it was only last week. I made the mistake of taking Rose with me. We get home and next thing I know she’s got out our wedding photos out. She was propping up pictures of a younger, thinner me all over the house. My life was flashing before my eyes everywhere I went. She saved the fat me for the door of the fridge.”
“Rose should interrogate prisoners. She manages to seem loving while playing with your mind. Eventually you want to help her put you away.” Leira glared at Correk. He was putting spray cheese on a Thin Mint. “Dude, that is nasty.” She rolled her eyes and turned away.
Hagan looked out the window, sipping his black coffee.
“If it helps, you do look better,’ said Leira. “What’d you do with your doughnut stash? I feel like a food pusher, now.”
“Hmm, not bad.” Correk pulled out another cookie.
Leira listened to the sound of the cheese spray and squeezed her eyes shut. “Take a look in the back seat. It’ll help your diet.”
“No thanks. I want to remember junk food in a good way.” His stomach gurgled again as he let out a sigh. “I brought the whole pile to the precinct when I went to say goodbye. Looked like a hero, so thank you for that.” Hagan grimaced, throwing up his hands. “Time to turn a page.” He stole a glance at Correk. “Oooh, fuck me that is bad. Don’t ruin the memory of food for me. Hey, isn’t that the little pisser?”
Leira opened her eyes, leaning over the steering wheel. “Finally. What is he doing?”
The young man took a furtive glance around as he pulled out a wand and mumbled something, pointing his wand at the four corners of his house.
Correk sat up, swinging his legs around as he dropped the cookies back into the bag. “He’s doing a kind of glamour spell but in reverse. The house will glow brightly from a block away for anyone with an invitation. Apparently, the meeting is here and is imminent. That spell doesn’t last very long.”
A blue Lexus pulled up in front of the house and an older man with neatly slicked-back silver hair got out, buttoning his long cashmere coat.
“One lone wizard. Things are getting interesting.” The palms of Leira’s hands grew warm. She could feel the wizard’s energy pulsing in the air. “He’s got chops.”
“He doesn’t look like anybody’s flunkie.” Hagan set his cup down in the holder between the seats. “Is the necklace with him?”
Leira pulled in energy through her feet as her eyes began to glow. She sent out a stream to investigate his energy. It was strong and full of a shimmering darkness. That’s a first.
“Never felt such a strong… It’s like he’s built a wall around his intentions… Really hard to detect much of anything.” Leira let her magic coil around, looking for the telltale signs, opening herself up to feeling just a trace of the man’s inner thoughts.
“Don’t…” Correk leaned forward and put a hand on Leira’s shoulder but it was too late.
The man stopped suddenly and sharply turned his head, scowling in the direction of the Mustang. He swiftly lifted his arms, sending out a pulse of energy just wide enough to hit the Mustang and nothing else, making it rock hard on its wheels. Leira clamped her hands on her head as the force of the magic slammed down on her, throwing her back against the seat.
Hagan hit the passenger side door hard, his head banging against the window, knocking the wind out of him. He wheezed once or twice trying to draw back in some small amount of air, trying to keep his attention on the man but it was too hard. His chest felt like it was going to explode. “What…the…fuck.” His eyes watered as he pressed his palms hard against his stomach.
Correk closed his eyes, shutting out every distraction. He drew on the reserves of his own energy, fighting off the crushing pulse. Every muscle was straining as he raised his arm, the bicep rippling from the effort. He put out a hand toward Leira till he found her shoulder, connecting himself to her energy, guiding the blue and silver stream around the Mustang, shutting out the dark pulse.
At last, the car stopped rocking. Hagan felt a gush of air fill his lungs making him lightheaded. Small bursts of light flashed in front of his eyes as he blinked rapidly, trying to get it to stop.
Leira felt her shoulders lift and she was finally able to take her hands off her head and focus. Correk’s magic was calming and she was able to feel him gently steering her.
“What the fuck just happened?” Hagan was finally able to get out a complete sentence.
“Leira alerted a wizard with very powerful dark magic that we were intruding on his plans. He retaliated with a simple but effective energy pulse.” Correk finally sat back against the seat. His entire body ached.
“Was that the fucking bogeyman?” Hagan wiped the drool off his chin, still trying to get his bearings.
Leira let the magic gradually lessen and the glow fade from her eyes. “Sorry about that. I had no idea.” She looked out the window. The man and his car were gone. “I’m gonna go ahead and say the kid is gone, along with the wizard. Did you know him, Correk?”
“No, but I recognized the energy or at least his kind. He’s very powerful and has been practicing dark magic for a long time. They tend to have short tempers and can retaliate in ways we may not even see coming. Believe it or not that was just a warning shot.”
“A warning!” Hagan swallowed hard. “Feels like someone tried to hollow out my guts with a spoon!”
“He’s not the one who’s behind all of this. I could feel it in his energy. The little I got out of him.” Her thoughts were coming to her in pieces as she worked to recover from the blast. “He’s following someone else.” Leira knitted her brows together, worried. “If that’s a new follower of Rhazdon’s old teachings…”
“Then how powerful is their new master?” Correk finished her thought without saying what he already knew. It has to be the traitor among the prophets.
Leira’s phone buzzed and she looked down to see who was texting her. “It’s General Anderson. There’s a case. Correk, we’ll drop you off, first. Figure out our next step with the necklace later.”
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