Rule of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 4
By Martha Carr and Micael Anderle
Leira walked Correk to the guest house while Hagan took a walk to calm his nerves. He was still rattled and looked a little pale. “I’ll be fine. Just need to shake it off.”
Leira slipped through the gate as Correk followed her. The patio was still quiet and Estelle was nowhere in sight. Leira knew better though than to assume Estelle wasn’t watching from a corner by a window somewhere. The bar owner had a knack for seeing everything.
“Leira! Glad I caught you!” Craig popped up from behind the far end of the bar, holding up a credit card. “Forgot this last night! Was having a better time than I realized. Don’t worry Estelle told me to go get it. I wouldn’t put a toe in that woman’s territory without permission. Very good at following orders. You coming to softball practice? You too, Correk! The Ice Cold Pitchers could use a decent third base player.”
“Craig!” Estelle snapped a towel in his direction from the door of the restaurant. The cigarette clenched between her teeth was already mostly ash. “Git! Too early to be running on like that. They’ll be there. They’re family!”
Craig cracked a smile and winked at Leira as he raced by Estelle at the door. She cracked the towel at him again as the ash fell to the floor and she brushed it away with her foot, leaving a gray streak. She turned back to give a wave to Leira and Correk.
“Love the pin. That’s new.” Leira pointed at Estelle’s head. There was a silver and gold metallic butterfly comb tucked in her tall, red bouffant.
“Felt the need for a little something this morning.” Estelle shut the door and threw the bar towel over her shoulder, retreating into the kitchen.
Leira turned to Correk, the words tumbling out of her. “Did I just put all of us in danger back there? I feel like I sent up a flare and told some big bad dude we’re following him.”
“Like it or not, he probably already knew all about us.”
“Then why the enormous blow back? Was it because I magically felt him up?”
“Partially, and like I said in the car that was a tap on the shoulder for that wizard. He was giving us just a taste of what he could do.”
“Dear God…” Leira’s voice came out in a whisper. She turned and walked toward the guest house stopping abruptly at the door. “Is it possible I missed the necklace’s trail and it was in the house?”
“Not likely. It’s far too powerful to mask. But I suspect they were headed to wherever the necklace is being kept and he was making sure they’d have a chance to get away and we’d think twice about following them right away.”
“I would have followed him if the general didn’t need us. I’m still going to go back and read the trail he left behind to see where they were headed.”
“Be very careful. I’m not going to bother to tell you not to do it. But he will certainly have left traps in his wake specifically designed for someone with your power. They’re not taking any chances with this necklace.”
“Royal elven power poured into something for millennia…”
“It should have been fine inside the walls of the Light Elves castle.”
“Till it wasn’t.”
Light flashed across Correk’s eyes for a moment. Leira knew she hit a nerve.
“I know the prince was your friend. I didn’t forget that,” she said, softly. Leira gently pressed against the scar on her belly. It was still tender. “But there’s already been a lot of destruction from the loss of that artifact. How is it any different from what the Gnomes have locked in their vault? Even the Silver Griffins see it my way. They locked it up in their vault.”
“The difference is obvious. The Light Elves stored the power to be used for good. The intention was always different. The energy held in the necklace is different.” He spit out the words, clenching his jaw.
“An important distinction with a similar ending. Set aside in case it was ever needed. I do understand. Humans do the same thing all the time. Weigh the risks. It’s the damned unintended consequences that bite you in the ass. I’ve never asked you but are there other artifacts like this still inside the castle?”
“No, none this powerful. It was one of a kind. One…of…a…kind.” He drew out each word.
“I get it. Positive energy. We’ll keep searching and we’ll get the damn thing back. Some day it may turn the tide for something else and we’ll all be grateful it exists. Time is funny that way. Look, I’ve got to go. Case is calling. I just want to go in and check on Mom and Nana and then I have to get back to the car. Make sure Hagan is taking long, deep breaths. Are we good?” Leira squeezed his arm, sending out a low, soothing jolt of energy.
Correk arched an eyebrow at her. “Trying to make nice?”
“More like returning the favor. You’ve helped me stay steady more than once. Estelle’s right. We’re all family. I’m still going to say what I believe is true but it doesn’t mean I was trying to wound.”
Grief passed across Correk’s face. “That’s the thing about living a very long time. A lot happens but I learned like every other Elf to stop thinking it was happening to me. Still… the pain can linger.”
Leira looked at Correk and hesitated but decided to give in to the idea and grabbed him in a short hug, squeezing tight.
“A little aggressive Berens but appreciated.”
Leira punched him in the arm and rolled her eyes. “Now I know we’re good.” She opened the door and dropped her purse on the red velvet chair, as she walked toward the kitchen. “Mom? Nana?” She called out but the place was quiet. The troll was sitting on a large frond of a potted fern Eireka brought home. He was happily eating Captain Crunch from a box nestled among the leaves, watching an old episode of Star Trek. Captain Kirk was up to his waist in tribbles. Yumfuck let out a trill and made a loud crunching sound as he bit down on a mouthful of cereal.
Correk sat down near the troll and held out his hand as the troll poured cereal into his palm.
Leira glanced down. “Classic kind? I didn’t even know they still made that stuff. How did you get it? I know I said the spell this time. What else have you been into?” She went back into the kitchen and glanced around but nothing was pushed to the side. A sure sign of troll foraging. She saw the note on the counter by the coffee pot and scooped it up.
‘Gone apartment hunting with Nana. Gave the troll the cereal. Don’t worry. He can handle the sugar. Be back by dinner time. We’ll be fine. Took an Uber. Love, Mom.’ So fucking normal. “Thank goodness I have a homicide to go to,” she muttered. She folded the note and stuffed it into her pocket, the sapphire ring on her hand catching on the lining.
She went back out into the living room and grabbed he purse from the chair.
Correk was tossing cereal into his mouth as the troll guzzled a Fresca out of a can.
Leira put her hand on the door. “What’s with the throwbacks? Wait, don’t tell me. Nana and Mom did the shopping. Weirdly touching. Careful with that cereal. It has its own little payback. Scrape the hell out of the roof of your mouth. I will be back by dinner.” She shook her head. “Can’t believe I need to let people know that.”
Correk gave a crooked smile and waved at her to go. He had his own things to attend to. Leira headed out the door and he listened to Craig shout goodbye before he conjured a ball of light between his hands and opened a portal to Oriceran. A light breeze moved through the living room rustling a pile of papers. “You keep this between us. I’ll be back in a few hours,” he said to the troll who gave him a side glance as Correk stepped through to the forest and closed the portal behind him, sending a spray of sparks across the living room. The troll let out a raspberry and filled his mouth with cereal.
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