Lisa Shearin - Raine Benares 02 - Armed & Magical

By Katie Ward,2014-10-31 10:38
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Lisa Shearin - Raine Benares 02 - Armed & Magical



    Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30

    About the Author

Praise for

    Armed & Magical

    “Fresh, original, and fall-out-of-your-chair funny, Lisa Shearin’s Armed & Magical combines

    deft characterization, snarky dialogue, and nonstop action—plus a yummy hint of romance—tocreate one of the best reads of the year. This book is a bona fide winner, the series a keeper,and Shearin a definite star on the rise.”

    —Linnea Sinclair, RITA Award-winning author of Games of Command and The Down Home Zombie Blues

    Armed & Magical is the kind of book you hope to find when you go to the bookstore. It takesyou away to a world of danger, magic, and adventure, and it does so with dazzling wit and

    clever humor. It’s gritty, funny, and sexy, a wonderful addition to the urban fantasy genre. Iabsolutely loved it. From now on Lisa Shearin is on my auto-buy list!”

    Ilona Andrews, author of Magic Bites

    , like its predecessor, is an enchanting read from the very first page. IArmed & Magical

    absolutely loved it. Shearin weaves a web of magic with a dash of romance that thoroughlysnares the reader. She’s definitely an author to watch!”

    —Anya Bast, national bestselling author of Witch Fire

    Magic Lost, Trouble Found

    “Take a witty, kick-ass heroine and put her in a vividly realized fantasy world where thestakes are high, and you’ve got a fun, page-turning read in Magic Lost, Trouble Found. I

    can’t wait to read more of Raine Benares’s adventures.”

    Shanna Swendson, author of Damsel Under Stress

    “A wonderful fantasy tale full of different races and myths and legends who are drawn soperfectly, readers will believe they actually exist. Raine is a strong female, a leader whowants to do the right thing even when she isn’t sure what that is . . . Lisa Shearin has themagic touch.”

    —Midwest Book Review

    “Shearin serves up an imaginative fantasy . . . The strong, well-executed story line andcharacters, along with a nice twist to the ‘object of unspeakable power’ theme, make for anenjoyable, fast-paced read.”

    —Monsters and Critics

    “Lisa Shearin turns expectation on its ear and gives us a different kind of urban fantasy withMagic Lost, Trouble Found. For once, the urban is as fantastic as the fantasy, as Shearinpresents an otherworld city peopled with beautiful goblins, piratical elves, and hardly a humanto be found. Littered with entertaining characters and a protagonist whose self-servinglifestyle is compromised only by her loyalty to her friends, Magic Lost is an absolutely

    enjoyable read. I look forward to the next one!”

    —C. E. Murphy, author of Coyote Dreams

    “Lisa Shearin has the potential to become the Janet Evanovich of fantasy. She writes with afun, unpretentious style, and she has mastered writing with humor.”


    “[An] edgy and fascinating first-person adventure. In her auspicious debut, Shearin populatesher series with a variety of supernatural characters with a multitude of motives. Followingalong as this tough and feisty woman kicks butt and takes names is a most enjoyable way tospend your time.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews

    “Nicely done. I actively enjoyed the characters and their banter.”

    —Critical Mass

    “Fun, fascinating, and loaded with excitement! Magic Lost, Trouble Found is a top-notch read

    of magic, mayhem, and some of the most charming elves and goblins I’ve ever encountered.Enthralling characters and a thrilling plot . . . I now need to cast a spell on Ms. Shearin to

ensure there’s a sequel.”

    —Linnea Sinclair, RITA Award-winning author of Games of Command and The Down Home Zombie Blues

    “A friendly romp, a magical adventure story with a touch of light romance.”

    —Romance Reviews Today



    Ace Books by Lisa Shearin


    Armed & Magical

    Lisa Shearin




For Derek,

    husband, business manager, arm candy.

    In loving memory of my mother, Jeanette Starnes.

    You gave me my love for books and the written word. I wish we’d had more time. I miss you.

For my dad,

    Joseph Starnes,

    who proudly tells everyone that his little girl writes books.

    Love you, Dad.





    To my amazing agent, Kristin Nelson. You always go above and beyond the call of duty, and I can

    write secure in the knowledge that you’ve got my back. Thank you for everything.

    To my wonderful editor, Anne Sowards. Thank you for believing and for giving my books a loving


    To Linnea Sinclair, romantic sci-fi author extraordinaire, book-promo genius, mentor, and galpal. Thank you for always being there for me.

    To Aleta Rafton, astounding cover artist. Thank you for bringing Raine to vibrant life.

    To editorial assistant Cameron Dufty and Ace publicist Valerie Cortes. Thank you for all ofyour hard work.

    Chapter 1

    “Once again I’m glad I’m not welcome in polite society,” I muttered.

    Phaelan grunted in agreement. My cousin wasn’t welcome in polite society, either, but for adifferent reason. He was a pirate. Excuse me, seafaring businessman. I was a seeker. Among somemagic users, seeking didn’t rate much higher than pirating. I didn’t care what some magicusers thought.

    There had to be a better way to spend our first day on the Isle of Mid than listening toovereducated mage professors making long-winded speeches, but our guards hadn’t asked us whatwe wanted.

    Our guards were a pair of Guardians from the Conclave of Sorcerers. We were in their citadel’stower, overlooking the town’s main square, where the boring speeches were being made. Weweren’t prisoners, but we weren’t exactly guests.

    My accommodations in the citadel were bright, airy, and more than comfortable, with a sweepingview of Mid’s harbor. Being a member of the Benares family, I kind of expected something alongthe lines of dark and damp, with a view of iron bars. Sometimes it’s nice to be disappointed.Phaelan had opted to stay on his ship anchored in Mid’s harbor. Good choice. At least he hadone.

    Phaelan was here because he’d come with me. I was here because I had to be.

    My name is Raine Benares. I’m an elf and a seeker—a finder of things lost and people missing.I can now add “finder of stones of cataclysmic power” to my resume. I found one last week,and I can’t get rid of it, or the cataclysmic power it gave me as some sort of sick andtwisted finder’s fee.

    The stone with the warped sense of humor is called the Saghred. It’s a black rock about thesize of a man’s fist that fell from the sky a millennium ago, more or less. I ancient times,armies that carried the Saghred before them were indestructible—and their adversaries wereannihilated. You’d think something as small as the Saghred couldn’t cause all that muchtrouble, but you’d be wrong— apparently size really doesn’t matter.

    Every magic user who’d been bonded to the Saghred had gone crazy. Not crazy like an eccentricaunt, but take-over-the-world-and-kill-millions kind of crazy. The Saghred and I were bonded,but I couldn’t sense it now. It was locked in a containment room in the lowest level of thecitadel, under heavy guard, and spellbound under layers of the strongest bindings the Guardianscould weave. But it’d already done its damage to me. I no longer needed the Saghred’s help todo the things I could do now. My magical skill level used to be marginal. I didn’t know whatmy limits were now—or even if I had any limits. I didn’t know if the Guardians were keepingme in the citadel for my own protection or for everyone else’s. I didn’t think the Guardianswere all that sure, either.

    I didn’t want a link with a legendary stone of power. That’s why I was here. One of thosefancy-robed speech-making mages trying to impress new students and their parents with a lot oflong words might be my only hope of getting rid of it. That thought alone was almost as scary

as the stone I was attached to.

    The Isle of Mid was home to the most prestigious college for sorcery, as well as the Conclave,the governing body for all magic users in the seven kingdoms. Classes for the fall semesterwere starting in a few days, hence the pompous speeches. Parents with magically talented kidshad to shell out a lot of gold to send their darlings to the Conclave’s college. I guess thefaculty wanted to assure the parents they’d be getting their money’s worth.

    A tower room in a citadel was the last place I wanted to be. However, my guards lookeddownright content. Vegard and Riston were both big and human, and Vegard was endearinglyhomicidal. The Guardians’ sworn duty was to protect the members of the Conclave and defend theIsle of Mid against any outside threat, but they spent most of their time protecting theConclave’s students and citizens from each other. The Guardians were sorcerers and warriors,and keeping the peace in a city of sorcerers gave them plenty of practice at being both.

    Vegard and Riston’s job today was to guard and protect me. And considering that I was in atower room in the Guardians’ citadel, it looked like a pretty plum assignment. I mean, howmuch trouble could a girl get into under heavy guard in a tower room? Notice I didn’t ask thatquestion out loud. No need to rub Fate’s nose in something when I’d been tempting her enoughlately.

    Phaelan had generously offered his guard services as well, just in case something happened tome that my Guardian bodyguards couldn’t handle. Phaelan’s guard-on-duty stance resembled hispirate-on-shore-leave stance of leaning back in a chair with his feet up, but instead of atavern table, his boots were doing a fine job of holding down the windowsill. I don’t know howI’d ever felt safe without him.

    My cousin looked like the rest of my family—dark hair, dark eyes, dark good looks, equallydark disposition. I stood out like a flaming match at night with my long red gold hair, grayeyes, and pale skin. Considering my present circumstances, I was surprised there weren’t a fewwhite hairs among the red.

    Phaelan leaned forward, looking down into the square. “What’s he saying?”

    “That’s Loran Abas, professor emeritus of chanting,” Vegard told him.

    My cousin blinked. “There’s a class for that?”

    “Afraid so. Trust me—you don’t want to hear what he’s saying. Though if you’d like, I canfix it so you can.”

    Vegard didn’t say if that fixing would involve magic, but I suspected it did. Phaelan wasn’ta big fan of magic.

    “No, thanks.”

    We were about four stories up, and the window was just an opening in the fortress wall, so Icould hear snatches of what some of the professors were saying, but that was about it, and thatwas fine with me.

    The blond Guardian shrugged. “Your choice, but you’re missing out on some of the finest-quality droning bullshit you’ll ever hear.”

    Phaelan’s expression never changed. “My world will go on without it.”

    “Sat through more than your share of those?” I asked Vegard.

    “Stood through is more like it—at attention. Over the years, I’ve learned to block out thevoice of virtually anyone. It’s a gift I’m glad to say I have.”

    “It also makes it easier to hear the audience’s comments,” Riston added. “That’s theentertaining part right there.”

    I looked back down at the sea of humanity, and elves, goblins, and dwarves. A tall and leanlymuscled elf in the steel gray uniform of the Guardians stood on the raised stage just behindArchmagus Justinius Valerian’s chair at his right hand. Mychael Eiliesor. I couldn’t make outhis expression, but I was sure it was a perfect, polite, professional mask.

    Mychael Eiliesor was the paladin and commander of the Guardians. He was also an enigma, wrappedin a riddle, coated in yum. The yum was apparent to any female with working eyes. What wasn’tapparent was what was going on behind Mychael’s tropical sea blue eyes.

    I liked Mychael. I think Mychael liked me, but he wasn’t about to let liking me get in the wayof his duty. As paladin, protecting the Saghred was his responsibility. And since the Saghredand I were psychic roommates, that protection extended to me. He took that job very seriously.Regardless of how Mychael felt about me, he wasn’t taking any chances. That caution took theform of Vegard and Riston, tower rooms, and plush and all-too-secure accommodations. The words“gilded cage” came to mind. I didn’t like cages; it didn’t matter what they were made of.

    Archmagus Justinius Valerian rose and approached the podium as the final speaker. The archmagushad absolute authority over the Isle of Mid and everyone on it. He was also the mage Mychaelhad deemed most likely to help me sever my link with the Saghred.

    The audience greeted their archmagus with cheers and whistles. I didn’t know if the cheerswere for Justinius, or because he was the final speaker, or both. Either way, the wall of soundwas almost deafening.

    A slow grin spread over Vegard’s face. “This is usually good. In our younger days, if weweren’t on duty, we’d meet at the tavern across the street to listen to the old man.”

    I must have looked unenlightened at his source of amusement.

    “We did shots at every sarcastic remark,” Riston clarified.

    Vegard grinned. “We got so drunk.”

    The archmagus stepped up to the podium. The other speakers had used notes; Justinius Valerianused his brain. As to sarcasm, his speech had plenty to go around. The old man spared no one.The loudest cheers from the student section came after snarky comments aimed directly at them.The worse the abuse, the louder the cheers. I smiled. They were probably doing shots downthere, too. The students loved him.

    I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of an upper-floor window as a vantage point. Nearlyevery window of houses, shops, and businesses around the main square were filled withspectators. The window directly across from ours had been empty.

    It wasn’t anymore.

    Oh hell.

    The archmagus’s voice faded into the background as Banan Ryce gave me a casual salute.

    Banan Ryce was commander of the Nightshades. Nightshades were elves—they were also assassins,kidnappers, blackmailers, or whatever they had been given enough gold to do. I knew Banan;

he’d met me. Let’s just leave it at that.

    Thanks to my Saghred-enhanced skills, I knew that Banan’s salute was more than a greeting forme; it was a signal, and his people in the crowd below responded. Some moved into position;others were already where they needed to be to do whatever it was they were going to do. I knewexactly which ones were there at Banan’s bidding as surely as if they had a bright red spotpainted on top of their heads.

    I stood. “We’ve got trouble.”

    I felt Vegard and Riston’s power flare behind me. It would be way too little, far too late.

    Vegard tried to shield me, with both body and wards. “Where?”

    I didn’t let him do either. “Everywhere. At least thirty Nightshades. They’re all over thesquare and they’re moving. That’s Banan Ryce in that window there. You know him?”

    Vegard looked, saw Banan, and spat an obscenity that described him perfectly. Sounded likeVegard knew Banan, too.

    I could see into the collective minds of the Nightshades. Their intentions were as clear as ifthey had yelled them up to me. They were going to collapse the stage. They weren’t aiming forthe stage itself or the dignitaries seated on it; they were going for the supports under thestage. The stage was a good dozen feet above the street. The Guardians posted around the baseof the stage would be crushed under the combined weight of falling wood and people. The fallfrom the stage might kill some; but the Nightshades were there to ensure their two main targetsdidn’t survive.

    Justinius Valerian and Mychael Eiliesor.

    “Target?” Riston was suddenly at my other side.

    “Mychael and the archmagus. The Nightshades are collapsing the stage,” I said.

    And a lot of people were going to die when they did.

    Vegard saw Banan’s people moving. “Riston, alert—”

    Riston was already charging down the stairs. “I’m on it!” he yelled back.

    I dimly heard him shouting orders. Everything below had melted into slow motion. Banan’s menstopped, and I felt their power quickly building. Armed Guardians were pouring out of thecitadel, but they wouldn’t get there in time. The spells of Banan’s people weren’t silent,but there were too many of them. If only a handful of them survived, it would be enough to dowhat they’d planned.

    Kill the archmagus and the paladin, and take a lot of innocent people with them when they didit.

    I didn’t think; I just reacted. I could move small objects with my mind; the same went forstopping. That was what I could do before the Saghred. From my vantage point, the Nightshadeswere just small objects in need of moving and stopping. I didn’t have to break them, just

    their concentration. I struck, and the ones who hadn’t bothered to magically shield themselveswent flying. None of them landed on their feet, and some of them were thrown against buildings.None of those got back up. That maneuver alone cut Banan’s numbers by half.

    Banan laughed and applauded in the window across from me. Panicked screams came from below. Thestage was collapsing on itself. My hand instinctively shot out to stop it. Four stories up made

    no difference. I’d always used gestures when moving anything bigger than myself; it helped meto focus my magic. The stage wasn’t a small object. The screams faded in my ears, and all Icould hear was the hissing in and out of my own breathing. I didn’t know how long I’d be ableto keep the stage from falling, but I suspected it wouldn’t be long. What I was doing was mindover matter. Problem was, my mind couldn’t get past how heavy that matter was. And I was doingit alone. No Saghred, just me. The new, improved, really scary me.

    Mychael was helping Justinius Valerian off the stage. I had no idea how Mychael managed tosteady them both on the pitching and collapsing platform, but he was paladin for a reason. Outof the corner of my eye, I saw a crossbow bolt fly toward them. Valerian saw it, too. Heviciously spat something at it and the bolt reversed direction and hit the sniper in the chest,sending him off the rooftop and down to the street.

    The stage was coming down whether I wanted it to or not. Gravity would only be defied for solong. My hand shook violently as I let what was left of the stage come to rest on the cobbles,praying that everyone around the perimeter was out of the way. My breathing was ragged and Iheard gasps and whimpers I dimly recognized as mine.

    “Good job, ma’am,” I heard Vegard say. His voice was tight with awe and maybe fear.

    Phaelan looked a little wild-eyed. “Shit.”

    Yeah. I felt the same way.

    I leaned over and rested my hands on wobbly knees, trying to get my wind back. I could barelylift my head, let alone another stage. I looked out the window.

    Banan Ryce was on the street and in a big hurry to get somewhere, and it looked like thatsomewhere was away from me. He vanished into the student section.

    I pushed Vegard and Phaelan out of the way and stumbled down the stairs. Black speckles dancedon the edges of my vision and I felt woozy. I pushed that out of the way, too.

    “Stop!” Vegard yelled.

    I didn’t stop, but I didn’t get away from him, either. I’d just lifted a stage; he hadn’t.

    He stopped me with a hand on my arm. I noticed that it was a very respectful hand, no hardgrip.

    “I’m going after him.” My strength was coming back, and my rage had never left me. “I’m aseeker. I can track the bastard.”

    Vegard hesitated, clearly torn between duty and getting his hands on Banan Ryce.

    “Go.” His voice was more growl than words. “We’ve got your back.”

    I didn’t stop to ask who besides Vegard had my back. I assumed it was Riston and Phaelan.Truth was, I didn’t care. I’d have gone after Banan Ryce alone. It wouldn’t have been smart,but I was too angry to worry about smarts and my own safety right now.

    The square was chaos. Wading through a crowd of panicked people was bad enough, but multiplythat times ten when those people were magic users. They were scared, they were angry, and theywere looking to protect themselves. The magical distortion from their shields should havenegated any tracking I could do. It didn’t. Banan Ryce’s magical scent rode the air. Time toremind the bastard just how good a seeker I was, new powers or not.

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