Rule of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 4
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Correk found Perrom near the Dark Market not bothering to blend in, walking toward the vendors who ringed the outside of the tent. “I didn’t believe your wife when she told me I could find you here.” Correk jogged to catch up to his old friend.
Perrom turned, surprised, his four pupils moving in different directions to see who noticed Correk calling to him. He raised a finger to his lips. “I’m here as a customer. It’s good to see you.” He grabbed Correk in a hug, slapping him on the back. “It’s easier to get to know the different players as a buyer. Merchants tend to say too much all the time, letting things slip,” he said in a hushed tone.
A tall broad-shouldered merchant with a small booth near the front of the market was loudly yelling hello to everyone who passed by him. Correk looked over at the young Wizard as he playfully slapped a customer’s wallet out of their hands.
Perrom watched the Wizard as he shook his head, smiling. “They put the newer merchants out front. They put Louie out front because he’s annoying and that way no one inside has to listen to him.”
“If he’s that annoying how did he get a place in the market at all?”
“He’s uniquely gifted at finding small artifacts that pack a punch.”
“Ah, a clever thief.”
“He manages to get in and out of strange and dangerous places on Oriceran without a scratch. He’s either clever at hiding how powerful he is or he was born under a lucky star.”
Correk stepped closer to the table and picked up a metal armband with a ruby set in the middle. “This is quite old.”
“No, you’re old,” said Louie, his blonde curls bouncing as he nodded and pointed at Correk.
Correk arched an eyebrow and stared at Louie.
“I told you his people skills were a bit odd.” Perrom smiled. “But he’s right. You are getting older.”
Louie laughed and pointed at Perrom. “You feel me, right!”
“How much for the armband?”
“Ten gold coins. Worth every one of them. Almost lost an arm retrieving it.” Louie stood back, his hands on his hips. Correk put the piece down and walked away.
“You’ll be back. They always come back to Louie!”
“He’s not going to bargain with you. Somewhere under all of that bluster is a shrewd businessman as well as a nimble thief. Besides, I hear he has a crew he splits the profits with.”
Correk could still feel the buzz in his fingers from the armband. An ancient and powerful artifact. “I can come back.”
“Louie is one of the merchants I’ve been getting to know. He’s good at blending into the background and just listening. Bigger players forget that he’s there. I’m hoping he’ll share some of that with me. Doesn’t hurt that I’ve gotten my hands on more electronic parts.” He pulled out a solderless breadboard from his leather pouch. It was in a package with a red Radio Shack printed on the front. Perrom smiled. “I can make a circuit. It’s fascinating. What brings you here? You home to stay?”
“I’m here to find out if you’ve heard anything else and to make sure I have as much energy as I can keep with me on Earth.”
Perrom frowned. “It’s gotten worse, then.” He took in a deep breath blowing it out quickly.
“I’m looking for the mastermind behind the new followers of Rhazdon’s old cult.”
“There are more rumors about something being off with the old Gnome and I’ve seen him a few times passing through the Dark Market on his way to the large tent in the back. That place is invitation only. I don’t rate one yet. No one will give me any details. Most are too afraid of him. You think he’s the traitor? Makes sense except he’s a Gnome. Not exactly a super power. Maybe he has an ally in that large tent. I mean, who goes to the Dark Market with good intentions?” He looked down at the electronic part in his hands. “Okay, good point. It’s a hobby. But none of this comes as a surprise to you.”
“It’s the artifact I found.”
“The infinity symbol.”
“It’s the mark of Rhazdon and now, his followers are playing hot potato with Prince Rolim’s necklace. They’re even managing to stay one step ahead of the Silver Griffins and even an Atlantean agent they’ve hired. That shouldn’t be possible.”
“Dark magic can be like that. It has a strong power all its own. Unpredictable though. At some point it always burns the user.”
“We had an encounter with an old dark Wizard who kicked our ass without breaking stride but we don’t think he’s in charge.”
“And if someone like him is willing to follow whoever dreamed up all of this. Wow…” Perrom’s eyes widened.
“Whoever this is, they’re almost as powerful as Rhazdon was in his day. All the stories I’ve heard. Even if someone had Rhazdon’s old artifacts, any of them, they’d still have to be able to use them without blowing themselves up.”
“That’s not the Gnome. Gnomes aren’t that powerful even with an artifact. They’re usually smart enough not to play with them. Although this guy seems to be going against type.”
“I have to get back. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming here.” He hugged his old friend, hesitating to say the one thing that had pushed him to look for Perrom. He was the only person he could think of on Oriceran who would hear him out without calling him crazy. Even then, he was close to leaving without saying a word. I have to say it out loud.
Perrom was already walking toward the opening to the market. “Perrom.” The look on Correk’s face drew Perrom back taking large strides. Correk hesitated again. “You know a little about dark magic. It’s alright. I’ve kept your secret.”
“My wife would kill me if she knew. I figure it helps stay one step ahead to have an idea of everyone’s skill level.”
“Do you… do you…” He finally blurted it out. “Do you think Rhazdon lives?” At last, the thought that kept tumbling around in Correk’s head came out. Perrom’s face dropped all expression and the squares on his skin kept flipping around, matching nearby settings and drawing attention. “Take a deep breath,” whispered Correk, nodding at a nearby Nicht who had raised his bat wings into position.
“That can’t be possible,” hissed Perrom. “You know how much we lost the last time. Don’t even suggest it was all futile!”
“Not saying it won’t change the truth and ignoring the possibility could be worse. Do you think it’s possible?”
Perrom looked Correk in the eye, his jaw set. “For anyone but Rhazdon I’d say no but dark magic technically has no boundaries. It’s the user that can only go so far. If Rhazdon survived that fire then yes, he could still be alive. Don’t let that be so.”
“Tell no one what I said but stay vigil.”
“Who would I tell that would even listen? Are you going to warn King Oriceran? Remember his father…”
“Not without more proof. I have to go.” He put out his fist and Perrom put his fist on top. The old symbol of agreeing to fight side by side in a battle. It was the second time in his life that Correk had used it.
“Always brother. Someday soon we may fight with honor and to the end.”
“Even if it’s the last good thing we do.” Correk grimaced remembering the sight of the old king sacrificing himself.
Perrom pulled back before anyone could see the battle sign. “I will find you even if I have to open a portal if I hear anything about Rhazdon. You have my word. Now go. We’ve stood here long enough.” Perrom turned without another word and hurried toward the open flap of the market.
Correk walked away as fast as he dared without drawing attention. Saying it out loud made it seem like it could be real. Rhazdon may live yet. We need to get that damnable necklace.
General Anderson sat at a long table in front of the Senators that made up the Senate Armed Services Committee in a closed door session that was already classified as no one needed to ever know.
“Yes sir, that’s our understanding,” he said, his hat on the table neatly tucked at two o’clock, the usual spot. He liked order. These days he was not happy with how events were unfolding. “The Latvian government is believed to have been acting on behalf of the Russians with their backing in an attempt to grab the most powerful artifact on Earth at this time.”
“But they failed.” A sour-faced Senator from Virginia scowled at the general, smacking his lips.
“Yes sir. We did as well. The necklace remains in the hands of a group of rogue witches and wizards. Their intentions are at this point unknown but considered negative to our interests.”
“Am I to understand that’s not the only artifact but in fact there are thousands of these things littering the world?” The Senator from Arizona sat up in her chair, drawing her mouth into an angry thin red line.
“Correct as well and a poorly kept secret at this point. Different sites in older parts of the world are being ransacked as foreign governments search for artifacts they can stockpile. Some friendly to us, some not at all.”
“An arms race but with magic,” said the Senator from Virginia, narrowing his eyes.
“That is about the size of it. There are rumors that large corporations are getting into the business but they can’t be confirmed. They’re doing their level best to stay under the radar.”
“So we can’t shut them down.” The Senator from Maine let out a snort and grimaced. “Well, hell, I suppose we’re about to engage in some kind of new age battle in plain sight.” He shook his head. “I thought I’d seen everything. I was clearly mistaken. Your request for funding is approved but remember these are hardworking taxpayer dollars. Make them count and get their first, more often than not. I don’t want to have to explain this one to the public. The backlash on social media would never end.”
“Yes sir,” said the general. He took in a deep breath feeling some amount of relief.
“What about this necklace?” asked the Senator from Arizona. “Is that worth chasing?”
“As yet to be determined.” The general chose to not mention Leira or the warehouse that was a black ops site. No one but himself in this room knew anything about it. Better to leave it that way.
“Then you have your directive. See that we win this race and soon.”
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