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Authors: Victoria Hansen

The Bonding

BOOK: The Bonding
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Table of Contents

The Bonding

Victoria Hansen

Copyright (C) 2015 Victoria Hansen

Layout Copyright (C) 2015 by Creativia

Published 2014 by Creativia

eBook design by Creativia (www.creativia.org)

Cover art by http://www.thecovercollection.com/

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

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author's permission.

Chapter 1

“Get up” Eliada said abruptly. Kiri looked up from the sword she was honing, unsurprised by her employer's rudeness. She had already been subjected to it for several years. Obediently, she rose and sheathed the sword.

“Pack us clothes. We have work to do.” As Kiri turned to the wardrobe and began placing dresses and cloaks into a travel satchel, Eliada continued to pontificate. “We depart immediately for the border of Koral. We will meet there with operatives from their government. The creature Shara has been released from stasis and is believed to be headed in that direction.”

The satchel dropped from Kiri's fingers. “What?”

“I'm afraid it's true,” Eliada said with a sigh. “I have seen the empty platform myself. She is assumed to be heading to Koral to release her consort. We have to stop that from happening.”

“My lady, isn't that a job for an army?” Kiri asked hesitantly.

“You of all people know better than that,” Eliada replied sharply, “Use your brain, Kiri. If many people are near her, she is much more likely to take them over. Any army coming against her is likely to become her army within moments. No, the only known antidote to her mind control is the bond between sorcerer and swordmaster.”

It was true. Kiri's own grandparents; her grandfather a Koralian master swordsman, and her grandmother, a powerful Laiconian mage, had been the ones to devise and implement a method for neutralizing Shara and her equally terrifying consort Gorn fifty years before. Because of the magical connection between them, they had apparently been immune to the powerful mind control the creatures used over everyone who crossed their path. Fighting through a veritable army of drones, they had succeeded in placing in the mouth of each creature a magical leaf that rendered them completely immobile. It had been a terrible and dangerous business, a war that had cost tens of thousands of lives. And now it was all beginning again. Of course, Kiri had no bond with Eliada, so she wasn't exactly sure how they were supposed to help. Perhaps the sorceress was so arrogant that she truly believed she would not be affected.

“Pick up that satchel and stop daydreaming,” Eliada snapped. Kiri hurried to comply. Her lips tightened, pulling unpleasantly at the scars on her face. She sighed and scooped up the satchel, quickly finishing their packing.

Within less than an hour, the two women were underway, Eliada walking lightly with the aid of her magic staff, Kiri, burdened with the satchel and bristling with weapons. A nimbus of fine magic around Kiri hid her true appearance from curious onlookers and disguised her as an elderly servant woman, silvering her chestnut braid, turning her scars to wrinkles, and making the bag on her back into a hump. Only those with finely tuned magical abilities would be able to detect the rouse.

Eliada's home lay so near the border that it only took them a couple of hours to cross onto Koralian land. From there they turned north along the main road and walked to a brightly lit inn.

It was a noisy, boisterous place, filled with lively, slightly off-key music and laughter, where ale and spirits flowed freely, and food, simply prepared, but steaming hot, could be had for a low price. Kiri followed her mistress to a table in a relatively quiet corner and an attractive young serving man offered them ale from a pewter pitcher. Eliada accepted, with a suggestive smile for the young man, but Kiri refrained. It was critical that she not cloud her senses with alcohol on a mission this important. She did accept a bowl of hot soup, however, and sipped the beefy, vegetable laden broth gratefully, while scanning the room.

* * *

This must be them
, Davin thought with an internal sigh. Only Laiconian witches had the effrontery to meet with government officials dripping magic like jewelry. He had always disliked such extravagant displays of power. They jangled his own magical awareness like an overly cloying perfume. He wondered which one was the witch. From this distance, with both of them draped in magic, he found it difficult to determine the source. Indicating to his counterpart with a nod of the head, Davin spoke in an undertone. “Those must be our contacts, Jarrell.”

“Who?” Jarrell though a genius with the broadsword, was a magical null. No ability whatever, not even to sense magic in others. He relied on Davin for magical protection, just as Davin depended on Jarrell's sword arm.

“The two ladies in the corner.” Davin gestured subtly.

“Hmmm, said Jarrell, with a lascivious expression on his face, “That blonde looks tasty. Perhaps this mission won't be so bad after all.”

“Don't get your hopes up,” Davin replied dryly. “These two are so bloated with magic, they could be men and you would never know it.”

Jarrell's expression turned sour. He rose, his eyes narrowed suspiciously, and moved towards the two women with one hand on his sword hilt. Davin rose quickly and walked beside his friend toward the pair. It had not been bad, really, being paired with Jarrell. The swordsman was strong and certainly more than competent. However, his love of women was, in Davin's opinion, overblown. He was himself no prude, but Jarrell could hardly pass a woman without making advances, and more than once, Davin had been left to smooth things over with those who had been tossed aside after a single night. Silly wenches. Davin wondered why they couldn't spot Jarrell for what he was before they raised their skirts for him.

The closer Davin got to the women in the corner, the more overpowering their magical aura was. It was chokingly thick. In fact, instead of men, they could have hidden horses under it, or even a small battalion of soldiers.

“Are you the Laiconian representatives?” he asked coldly.

“Yes,” replied the blond. Jarrell was right, she was pretty. Unnaturally so, though such distinctions would likely be lost on his lusty friend.

“Come with us,” he ordered.

“And you are?”

“Davin Colorian, chief of magical law enforcement from the capital. And this is Jarrell Jasyk, my swordmaster. I have arranged a private room where we can confer. Please follow me.”

He walked away without looking back, and annoyance rippled through the oppressive bubble of magic that pressed against him. He smiled privately.
This one surely is arrogant, and I so enjoy putting the arrogant in their place
.
She has no authority here and everyone knows it
.

The private room was small and sparsely furnished with a crude wooden table and four chairs. The blonde eyed one chair and then looked at the two men. Jarrell took the hint and helped her into her seat. Davin would not have bothered. He took a seat across from the witch, and Jarrell sprawled beside her. The other woman, an elderly servant by the look of her, did not sit but leaned against the wall near the room's only window.

“What do you know of our mission?” The blonde asked abruptly.

“Nothing,” Davin replied, “but before we begin, tell me who you are, and drop your magic.”

“Why?” she demanded.

He leaned forward and set his jaw into a pugnacious line. “I will not be manipulated. I will do nothing with someone who arrives so blatantly disguised. For all I can tell, you might be hiding anything under that.” He gestured towards her bubble of extravagant magic.

“I am not manipulating anything. This is simply a prudent traveling disguise,” the woman insisted.

What nonsense.
“There is no need for disguises here. If you do not drop your magic, I will arrest you here and now.”

“As if you could.” She sighed as though exhausted by dealing with such an imbecile and his unreasonable demands. Then she let her magic drop.

It was like emerging from the surface of a pond rapidly after diving far too deep. Davin's entire body surged forward, no longer buffeted, and had he not been sitting at a table, he would have fallen. Jarrell even shook his head a few times, although that could have been due more to the rapid change in the appearance of both women.

The blond was still lovely, but no longer so young. In fact, she was very nearly middle aged. He recognized her as Eliada Dulek, a high ranking official of the Laiconian government.
Now that's unexpected
. Davin couldn't imagine they had sent such an illustrious person. Her companion proved to be even more of a surprise. Instead of an elderly servant, before him stood a strong looking young woman in her prime. Her silver braid was really a glistening chestnut, and instead of wrinkles, her face was marred with five deep parallel scars that cut her from hairline to jaw, each a perfectly straight line; one on each temple, one on each cheek, and one down the center of her nose. Oddly, neither exotically tilted brilliant green eye had been damaged. The scars, after bisecting each eyebrow, stopped abruptly and began again on her cheekbone. No battle scars, these. It was clear they had been made deliberately, though he could scarcely imagine someone being mutilated in such a way, and for those lines to be so perfect, she must have remained completely still while being cut.
Now that's a disturbing thought
. Actually, if one could look past the scars, she would have been quite beautiful, but it was impossible. He realized with a jolt that she must be the witch's swordmaster. He had heard of women warriors who sometimes bonded to a witch and protected them, but they were rare and he had never seen one before.

“Well, sir,” Eliada said imperiously, “Do you know me now?”

Davin refused to be intimidated. “Yes, my lady, I recognize you. I'm sure you understand why such precautions are necessary. Border districts can be rugged places.”

“Never mind about border security. We have a greater problem. Shara has been released.”

Davin's jaw dropped and Jarrell nearly fell from his chair in shock. “Oh gods!” Davin exclaimed, “How could this have happened? We were assured your security was the best.”

“We don't know. It's under investigation, but honestly that is less of a concern right now. First we must deal with the situation. Naturally, now that she has been released from stasis, she is going to come looking for her consort. That is why your government was alerted. Now, we have two vital tasks to perform. The first is to find and destroy the male before she can revive him. The second is to contain her if we can. It was felt by my people that sending our best sorceress and swordmaster would be better than sending an army. That is why your counsel has asked you to meet us here. According to them, you are the best that is available in this country. Waiting for reinforcements would likely be counterproductive.”

“That is correct. Besides, he is here in this district.”

It as Eliada's turn to look shocked. “Here, so close to the border, are all of you mad?”

“In a remote and little inhabited corner of this district, there is a naturally occurring crystal cave. We could think of no better way to keep the creature, where his latent mind control could not reach anyone.”

Eliada shook her head. “Still, so close to the border, so close to his consort, no wonder she wanted to escape.”

“There is no way she could have known. Only about five people know the location of the creature, and the crystal would have prevented him from contacting her.”

Eliada shook her head, clearly dismayed. “At any rate, our task is now even more vital. We must reach the male and destroy it before she can find and release it. Even a crystal cave would not be proof against her mind control if she takes human slaves.”

“Right,” I will consult the elders and we can start out in the morning. The location is about a two week walk from here. Of course, if we could use portals, we could arrive much faster. I can open one for myself, but no more. You?”

“Myself and sometimes one other person, but a portal for three is nearly impossible. I wouldn't even attempt it.”

Damn, well I knew it was a long shot.
“We'll have to walk then. Most likely we can get there first if we have enough of a head start. The creature will have to look around for the perfect escort, and that person will have to find out where Gorn is located. When was she released anyway?”

“Yesterday afternoon,” the witch replied.

Davin nodded. “That should buy us a little time.”

“Very good. We shall accompany you. Kiri,” Eliada turned and addressed the warrior woman, “go and arrange a room for the night.”

The brunette nodded and left immediately. Davin couldn't help asking, “Is she your swordmaster?”

“Yes, her name is Kiri Taconowa, why?” the witch demanded, staring shrewdly at Davin.

“What on earth happened to her?” he blurted.

“I am not at liberty to say,” Eliada replied, narrowing her eyes at Davin. “However, it was a great deal less than she deserved. Pay her no attention, for she deserves none.”

Well that subject is certainly closed
. Davin decided not to pursue it, but went out, with the barest nod for his companions, and returned to his room above to contact his supervisors.
What a lovely mess this is going to be
, he thought wryly.

BOOK: The Bonding
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