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Authors: Shanna Swendson

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Urban, #Contemporary Women

No Quest for the Wicked

BOOK: No Quest for the Wicked
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NO QUEST FOR THE WICKED

 

Shanna Swendson

NO QUEST FOR THE WICKED

 

Shanna Swendson

Copyright © 2012

All Rights Reserved.

 

AGENCY INFORMATION

NLA Digital Liaison Platform LLC

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Writers struggle to support themselves. Please help them by buying their books from legitimate sources. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

Also by Shanna Swendson

 

Books in the Enchanted, Inc. Series:

 

Enchanted, Inc.

Once Upon Stilettos

Damsel Under Stress

Don’t Hex with Texas

Much Ado About Magic

No Quest For The Wicked

 

CONTENTS

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

 

About The Author

 

Chapter One

 

I’d reached the part of my mission where stealth was most essential. One wrong footstep, one breath that was a little too loud, and the game would be up. The door ahead of me was ever so slightly ajar. It looked as though anyone could walk right through, but the door wasn’t what kept out intruders. Anyone who tried to pass through that doorway would wake up in a body-shaped dent on the opposite wall.

Anyone, that is, who didn’t have my particular qualities. For me, that slightly ajar door was the most challenging obstacle. I’d need to open it wider to get through, but there was the risk that would make enough noise to give me away. I slid my toe into the gap, shivering as I crossed the powerful wards. Moving my foot slowly forward, I eased the door open, bit by bit, then I paused and held my breath, listening carefully. The scratch of a pen confirmed my fear that the room was occupied.

At this time in the morning? How early did I have to get up?

At any rate, it was time to make my move. I slid my body into the gap in the doorway, edging sideways into the chamber. I’d made it all the way into the room when a crunching sound made me freeze. I glanced down and saw that I’d stepped on a wadded-up piece of paper. After holding my breath a few seconds without noticing any reaction from the room’s occupant, I kept going, watching more carefully where I stepped.

I’d almost made it to the paper-and-book-strewn table in the middle of the room when the occupant said, without looking up from his work, “Katie, what are you doing here?”

I let out the breath I’d been holding in a disappointed sigh. “I was hoping to beat you here and surprise you with breakfast. But since you were already here, I thought I’d surprise you with breakfast. Now, I guess I’ve just brought you breakfast, hold the surprise.”

“I’m surprised, really,” Owen Palmer insisted, sitting up straight and stretching his back. “Mostly because I thought it was lunchtime.”

I moved behind him to rub his shoulders. “It’s seven in the morning. Have you been here all night?”

“Would you believe me if I said no?”

I came around the table to get a good look at him. “Well, you’ve changed clothes and shaved, so I might believe you this time. How early did you get here?”

He took off the cotton gloves he wore for handling rare books and rubbed his eyes. “Oh, I don’t know. I did go home yesterday, and I got some sleep, but then I got up early and thought I might as well get to work.”

“If you think it’s lunchtime at seven, how early is ‘early’ to you?”

He blushed sheepishly, then changed the subject. “Did you bring coffee?”

“Coffee and cinnamon rolls.”

“I think I can manage a break,” he said with a grin. He shoved his chair back and stood, then hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thank you.”

We went from the sterile workroom that housed the fragile, old, and incredibly dangerous magical manuscript Owen was working on to the outer office that served as break room, where I’d set out the breakfast I’d brought. After serving him and myself coffee and rolls, I asked, “How’s it going?”

“A lot faster now that I’ve got the idiosyncrasies of the language figured out. I got a couple of pages translated yesterday, some really interesting stuff about the Eye of the Moon—this incredibly powerful magical jewel that’s been lost for ages. I think I found the directions for locating it.”

“Really?” My spirits rose. “Does that mean a quest?”

“Not anytime soon. The directions are pretty cryptic, and I suspect they apply to situations and locations that nobody would recognize today. It goes back to Merlin’s time.”

Perhaps I should explain that Owen was a wizard. Or had been a wizard. I wasn’t sure what his status was currently, since he’d lost his powers a few months earlier in a big magical battle. He still had all his training and knowledge as a wizard and probably knew more about magic than any wizard alive other than Merlin himself, but he was as lacking in magical power as I was, which meant he was so utterly lacking in magic that magic didn’t affect him.

Although I was pretty sure he was still unhappy about that, he was taking advantage of the opportunity to study a rare manuscript that was so dangerous that no one with any magical power or susceptibility to magic was allowed to go near it.

“Too bad. A quest would have been kind of fun,” I said. Certainly more fun than spending another day at my desk.

“The Eye is the sort of thing that should probably stay lost. I wouldn’t want it falling into the wrong hands.” He gave a little shudder as he took a sip of coffee.

“But you’re finding good stuff—I mean, other than things that are too dangerous to share, right? This is worthwhile work?”

“I think so.” He paused, then gave me a crooked grin. “And I’m about to get a lecture on obsession.”

“A lecture? From me? Never. But tell me this: Do you know what day it is?”

He got a horrified deer-in-the-headlights look in his dark blue eyes. “Wait a second … I know it’s not your birthday because that was in May. It’s September, so it’s not a major gift-giving holiday I’ve missed. I haven’t forgotten anything special, have I? That’s not what this is about, is it?” He indicated the breakfast.

I took pity on him. “No, that’s not what this is about. I was just seeing if you knew it was Thursday, though I’d also have accepted a calendar date. The breakfast was because I thought if I caught you before work, I’d stand a better chance of seeing you before you fell into that manuscript.” I frowned at him in sudden concern. “You haven’t been taken over by the manuscript, have you? Your powers aren’t coming back without you realizing, so the evil thing can suck you in?”

With a laugh, he said, “No, nothing like that.”

“So this is just normal obsession?”

“I’m not acting obsessed, am I?”

“Either that, or you’ve turned into a vampire, and you’re just pretending to be obsessed so you’ll have an excuse not to go out in daylight. And I’d prefer the obsession because I’m not into vampires.”

“Okay, so I’m a little obsessed,” he said with a shrug. “But this is an exciting opportunity, and I don’t know how much time I’ve got. If my powers do come back, I won’t be able to continue, and I’d hate to have to stop halfway through the project. I’m trying to get as much as possible done, just in case.”

Owen was the only one who seemed to believe that his powers would come back, but I knew well enough to keep my mouth shut about that. If holding on to that hope helped keep him going, I didn’t want to take it away from him. “That’s why I’m not complaining,” I said, reaching over to pat him on the knee. “I’m just checking on you.”

“I do appreciate the company,” he said with a smile that made me melt. “I sometimes feel like I’m in exile down here.”

“Hey, I’m glad to do my part.” I glanced at my watch. “I can even stick around awhile, if you like. I’m still way too early for work, and this isn’t a busy day for me.” The truth was, ever since we’d defeated the evil wizards behind our only competitor, there wasn’t much for me to do as director of marketing for Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. A trained monkey could market a near-monopoly. Heck, my ditzy assistant Perdita could probably do my job while filing her nails, chatting on the phone, and inventing new coffee concoctions.

He reached over to grab a container of wipes and cleaned his hands. “Sure, come on in and I’ll show you what I’ve been up to.” With another grin, he added, “I’ve got proof that I really haven’t been using this as an excuse to avoid you.”

I wiped my hands, too, knowing that bringing sugar or anything sticky into the manuscript room would be bad, then followed him back to his worktable. He pulled over a second chair so I could sit next to him, then sat down and put on the cotton gloves. He showed me a page covered in his textbook-perfect handwriting. “This is what I was working on yesterday.”

I leaned over and read all about the Eye of the Moon and what it could do. “Yikes, I agree, that needs to stay hidden, and it’s a good thing nobody with power can read this thing.”

“Oh, they could read it, but they’d probably go insane.”

“And is the whole thing written in verse like that?”

“Pretty much. It’s all riddles and metaphors. Once I have it transcribed and translated, it’ll probably take a committee of scholars years to figure it all out.”

“That’s if Merlin lets it go that far. What if it’s not just the manuscript itself that’s so dangerous? What if the magic
on
the manuscript is to protect the really dangerous information it contains?”

“That is a possibility. I suspect Merlin has a plan for what to do with my translation.”

“I hope the plan isn’t that anyone who knows what it contains has to be locked away for his own safety.” I squinted as I read the page. “‘Soaring while locked away in the clouds and under the narrow seat.’ Maybe it’s under a throne? One in a tower? No, that’s not vague at all.”

“It actually sounds better in the original language. I’m no poet, so I’m going for accuracy instead of beauty in my translation.” He pulled the manuscript closer and pointed to the page. “See, here’s that part.”

The paper was yellowed with age, and the ink had faded to a dark reddish-brown color. The lettering was spiky, looking like something on a heavy-metal album cover, and I didn’t recognize so much as a single letter. Even though the magic in the document couldn’t affect me, I thought it
looked
evil. “I can’t believe you spend all day with this thing. It wouldn’t have to affect you magically to drive you nuts. What is it, written in blood on human skin?”

“It’s not human skin,” Owen said mildly, but I noticed he didn’t say anything about the blood. Ew. If I were him, I’d be wearing rubber gloves under the cotton ones. Then he leaned closer to the evil document. “Wait a second, this can’t be right.”

“Maybe the inkwell bled to death,” I said as a chill went down my spine.

“No, it’s not an error in the manuscript. It’s
changed
. This is the part I translated yesterday, the stuff about the clouds and the seat. It says something different now.”

“It’s rewriting itself?” I asked, leaning closer to look, even though I couldn’t tell what might be different about the manuscript. “That’s not entirely unheard of, though, is it?”

“No, and if any book could, it would be this one. But the events in this book happened so long ago that it shouldn’t be changing.”

BOOK: No Quest for the Wicked
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