Edge of Pathos (The Conjurors Series Book 4) (5 page)

BOOK: Edge of Pathos (The Conjurors Series Book 4)
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Chapter 7

Henry and Thai burst
into Valerie’s bedroom the next morning. Luckily, she was dressed, and she drew
Pathos from her sheath, ready to fight.

“What’s wrong?” she
said, her mind snapping into alert focus. “Did you find out what Reaper’s doing
during this truce? Is it too late to stop him?”

“Sorry, Val,” Henry
said. “Everything’s okay.”

“Better than okay!
I’ve figured out my power!” Thai said, smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.
“I can amplify other Conjurors’ powers!”

“What do you mean?”
Valerie asked, sitting down as her blood pressure returned to normal.

“I was mentally
searching for contacts in Arden who might know Al, the Grand Master of the
Stewardship Guild,” Henry explained.

“Good thinking,”
Valerie interrupted, surprised. Henry rarely participated in the war effort,
instead vanishing for hours at a time only to come home exhausted and sleep for
days.

“That’s not the
important part. Thai came and slapped me on the back, and suddenly my mind
became more focused than it ever had,” Henry explained. “It was like skimming a
book, except that I was touching different minds, quickly looking to see if
there was a connection to Al. I did it in minutes, and I thought it would take
days.”

“No offense, but are
you sure it had to do with Thai? Maybe the effect is in your mind, and you
imagined that Thai was helping.”

Henry huffed
impatiently. “I know what it’s like to tap into others’ powers. Remember when
the whole Empathy Collective helped me search for my dad? We all joined minds.
And you and I have shared magic before, too.”

“It’s not only
Henry,” Thai continued, speaking fast from his excitement. “Remember when Cyrus
shot that fireball out of his hand? I was touching him.”

“We ran super-fast
together when we were holding hands, racing to the Society of Imaginary
Friends, too,” Valerie remembered. Her joy and amazement at Thai’s power filled
her up. “Thai, this is incredible!”

“I know! I thought
maybe my only power would be that I cloned myself and made Tan. But there’s
more to my magic than that. Think how much I’ll be able to help defeat the
Fractus now,” he said.

“Your eyes are huge
right now,” Henry said to her with a rare smile.

“Thai’s right. This
could change the game,” she said.

Thai picked her up
and swung her around, still exuberant. “Those Fractus are toast!”

Even
Henry was laughing now, and Valerie let herself be carried away in the moment,
because who knew when they’d have another one?

Still riding the
high from Thai’s news, Valerie, Henry, and Thai went to track down the person
Henry had found who was connected to Al.

“So who is this
friend of Al’s that you think we can convince to help us?” Valerie asked Henry
as they walked to The Horseshoe.

“Her name is Willa,
and she’s a master in the Literary Guild,” Henry said.

“Is she Al’s
daughter? Friend?” Thai probed.

“The only family of Al’s
that I could find when I reached out with my mind was a sister in the Guardians
of the Boundary who is firmly aligned with the Fractus. Other than her, Al
knows a lot of other Grand Masters and, of course, Conjurors in his guild, but
no one who I sensed had any power over him.”

“I’m really curious
now,” Valerie said. “How come you think he might listen to Willa?”

Henry reddened a
little. “I didn’t want to probe through her mind like a complete creep, but I
think Al has been trying to date her for a long time. And she finally accepted
before everything went down with the Fractus.”

“Love. No more
powerful reason to change your mind,” Thai said.

Valerie couldn’t
miss the intensity in Thai’s gaze, and she forced herself to look away. “Is
Willa sympathetic to the Fist?”

“That’s the best
part. Reaper imprisoned her dad for years, and the poor guy died in a cell in
the Black Castle,” Henry said.

“That’s awful,”
Valerie whispered, remembering the bleak jail in the castle’s basement.

“She may hate the
Fractus as much as we do,” Henry said.

They’d reached the
building that housed the Literary Guild. It was white, like all of the
buildings that formed The Horseshoe, but it had tall windows that rose a
hundred feet high.

Inside was a library
with soaring bookshelves. Valerie moved to the center of the room and turned in
a circle, taking in the millions of books that seemed to go on forever.

“She’s up there,”
Henry said, pointing up at a short woman on a floating platform.

Willa selected a
book from a dusty shelf and turned, riding her platform to the ground, where
she stepped off. She was a little plump, and her face had deep wrinkles by her
eyes and mouth.

Willa was already
reading the book in her hands, so absorbed that she didn’t see Valerie, Henry,
and Thai watching her.

“Excuse me?” Valerie
said.

Willa looked up, and
her eyes widened before she turned and ran. Unprepared for her reaction,
Valerie didn’t immediately start chasing Willa until Thai took off after her.

Willa was agile, and
she leaped on a platform and was zooming out the doors before Valerie had even
reached a full sprint. She was shooting across The Horseshoe so fast that
Valerie was sure they’d lose her, when Thai gripped her hand.

How could she have
missed it before? Her power surged in her, easy to access and pumping through
her like the blood in her veins. She moved faster than she ever had, running
with her hand in Thai’s.

She spared Thai a
glance, and his smile was wide as they sprinted together.

“I wondered how I’d
ever keep up with you. Guess I can after all,” he said, barely breathing
heavily.

“Focus,” she
ordered, unable to keep a smile off her face.

Henry flashed an
image of Willa racing past the Empathy Collective, heading toward the woods.
With the image came a feeling—fear. Henry sensed that Willa was running for her
life. Valerie saw her dress blowing, and she and Thai raced toward her.

“Willa, wait! We
only want to talk!” Valerie shouted.

Willa turned, but
she didn’t slow down.

“We’ve got to get to
the bottom of this,” Thai said, and they surged forward, gaining on Willa.

Quickly, they
overtook her, and Valerie tackled her to the ground, making sure to shield her
so that she didn’t fall too hard.

Willa backed away,
shaking. But when she spoke, her voice was steady.

“Killing me won’t
accomplish anything,” Willa said. “It will be a stain on your conscience for
the rest of your life.”

“I’m not going to
hurt you,” Valerie said, releasing Willa once she stopped wriggling. “Why would
you think that? I’m here to ask you for a favor, not to take your life.”

“Then what did you
bring him for?” Willa said, her eyes flicking to Thai. “I know he does Reaper’s
dirty work. When I visited Elsinore, I saw him taking away innocent Conjurors
who refused to support the Fractus in chains to Dunsinane.”

Thai’s mouth turned
in a sharp frown. Willa had mistaken Thai for Tan, his clone.

“This isn’t who you
think,” Valerie said, and explained Thai’s identity.

Willa’s posture
relaxed, but she continued to eye Thai suspiciously.

“Why are you
searching for me, then? I don’t have my father’s power to detect sources of
deep magic, if that’s what you’re hoping. My magic allows me to help things
grow, like flowers. Not very useful during wartime.”

“We’re here because
of your connection to Al, the Grand Master of the Stewardship Guild,” Valerie
quickly interjected.

Willa scowled. “That
traitor?”

“We’re hoping you
can convince him to leave the Fractus,” Thai said.

“Why would you think
that I would have any influence over him?” she asked, her brows lowering in
suspicion.

“We discovered that
you two had a…connection. That he cares about you,” Valerie said.

“How? No one knows
about that. We never even had our first date. I cut him off as soon as he put
his resources behind that monster, Reaper.”

“My brother, Henry,
has the power to touch minds, to see inside–”

“He invaded my mind?
Then he’s no better than the Fractus you’re fighting!” Willa said. “How could
you allow that?”

Valerie was filled
with shame. She’d never considered that breaking into someone’s mind, reading
their most private thoughts, was no better than what Kellen had done to her
when he’d controlled her actions with fairy dust. In some ways, it was worse.

Thai’s hand briefly
touched her back in support, and she straightened. She had to face her mistake
head on.

“I’m sorry,” she
said, not allowing her voice to waver. “I try to be a good leader, but in some
ways I’m still a kid. It was a stupid mistake. I didn’t think. I apologize for
our invasion, and I understand if you don’t want to help us.”

“I didn’t say that,”
Willa said with a reluctant smile. “I can see why the Conjurors follow you. And
I would do anything to see Reaper suffer after what he did to my father. But I
don’t see how I can help.”

“Do you think Al is
a bad man, at heart?” Thai asked.

Willa shook her
head.

“Then talk to him.
You might be the only one he’ll listen to right now. If we can’t find a way to
end this drought, we’ll lose Silva,” Valerie said.

“I know if it were
me, I’d listen to the woman I love and try to see things her way,” Thai added.

“It is rather a
dream of mine to be called upon to change the tide of a war, like a hero of
old,” Willa said, her voice dreamy. “I’ll talk to the fool.”

“Thank you,” Valerie
said. “I will not forget your noble service.”

Willa grinned at
Valerie’s flourish with words.

“I like
you, little vivicus. So I’ll solve this problem, one way or another. You have
my word.”

After a long meeting
with Skye and Calibro about the progress the Fist’s Grand Masters were making
in their inroads into Dunsinane, Valerie walked home alone for the first time
in a long while.

She breathed in the
still night air as she slipped between the buildings that formed The Horseshoe.
She was always on the lookout for attacks, but right now her instincts were
quiet.

Which was why she
never saw the hand that reached from behind to grab her and tackle her to the
ground coming. Fortunately, her magic surged within her without hesitation, and
she grabbed the creature by his wrist and hurtled him over her shoulder. He
landed hard on the ground.

“You’d think I’d
have learned by now,” Mira said.

Valerie saw Mira’s
small brown form in the moonlight and gave him a hand to stand.

“I’d apologize, but
as a Master Knight, you really should have known not to sneak up on the
Fractus’s biggest enemy in the dead of night,” Valerie said, but not without a
little smile. “I hear you’ve joined the Fist?”

“Perhaps foolishly,
I trusted Kellen. He was the best leader of the Knights that we’d had in a long
while. I believe Reaper tortured him, changed his brain, like he did to
Rastelli. He is not the fairy I once knew,” Mira said.

“I’m glad you’re on
our side now.”

“As am I. I spoke
with your friend, Claremont, and have identified a group of Knights who are
considering leaving the Fractus. What holds them back is not that they believe
in Reaper’s cause, but they fear the consequences if they leave. You have to
prove that you can protect them and their families.”

“I don’t know if I
can,” Valerie admitted. “Reaper’s reach is far, and there will be those who
fall, no matter how many I try to save.”

“You’ll have to
think of a better story when you talk to them tonight,” Mira said with a wry
smile.

“Tonight?”

“I’ve gathered a
group at the Guild,” Mira said. “Kellen is at the Black Castle with Reaper.
There will be no better time to win their hearts.”

Valerie nodded.
Passing up the chance to secure such powerful supporters would be a mistake, no
matter how unprepared she was.

When she passed
beneath the arches of her guild, it strangely reminded her of when she’d walked
into the launch chamber in the Great Pyramid, which had sent her to the Globe
for the first time. Power and possibility rippled through her.

As her eyes adjusted
to the darkness in the courtyard, she saw dozens of her fellow Knights waiting
for her. They were murmuring to each other, but quieted when she passed beneath
the arches.

“She’s here,”
someone whispered.

The awe in the voice
took Valerie aback. Not because it was the first time she’d heard it, but
because it was the first time that it hadn’t surprised her, or embarrassed her.
Leading the Fist was part of who she was now.

BOOK: Edge of Pathos (The Conjurors Series Book 4)
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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