Authors: Anne Zoelle
Tags: #YA, #Fantasy & Magic
The Protection of Ren Crown
Back Cover Copy:
Barely surviving her first term at college, all Ren wants to do over break is relax and bond with her roommate—not get eaten by a sentient building or attacked on the street. But with increasingly open warfare brewing between the magical factions and Layers of the world, this time, Ren will not fail in making sure everyone she loves stays safe and protected.
That includes doing things like filling her parents' house with personal art heavily embedded with wards, bubble-wrapping her increasingly imperiled roommate, and even making sure that a certain sexy thorn-in-her-side continues to breathe free air.
Finding herself on duty protecting the entire university alongside campus god Alexander Dare...was not what she'd had in mind.
But this time it's not only her life on the line. And Ren will do anything to protect those she loves.
The Protection of Ren Crown is
in the Ren Crown series.
If you'd like information on The Awakening of Ren Crown (Book One), please click
Disclaimer: This 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.
Copyright 2014 by Anne Zoelle
Chapter One: Welcome to the New World
A flying carpet whizzed down the hallway of the Second Layer Depot and two mages followed slowly in its path, engaged in a magical duel with fencing swords in one hand and tasers in the other. They danced past us, alternating between lunges and electrocuted spasms. Bubbles emerged with each clash of steel, then popped boldly in the air, producing an offbeat chorus of a battle hymn.
This was my world now. My insane, exhilarating, dangerously upended world.
“Olivia Price, requesting a refill,” my roommate said crisply into a wall speaker as she pressed her palm to the wall along with an empty glass container shaped like a genie's bottle.
I leaned against the wall next to her and withdrew a pencil from my back pocket. In the air I drew a depiction of the taser-fencing fight. I hadn't quite gotten my air sketches to animate yet, but electrocuted hair was still pretty amusing in its stagnant state.
I forced my hand not to redraw one of the combatants as Alexander Dare, combat-mage-extraordinaire. I would have to add far more blood, destruction, and dying screams to the scene, if I did. Along with more intense, earth-shaking hotness.
“Identity confirmed,” the wall responded to Olivia in a soothing feminine voice. “Olivia Helena Price. Sanctioned for defensive magic use in the First Layer. Refill activating.”
The magic of the device enveloped both Olivia and the container, pulling out a small portion of Olivia's magic and directing it into the container in her hand. A navy blue ribbon stamped with a gold dragon wrapped around the container, sealing itself and the magic within. The unbroken seal would allow Olivia to pass into the non-magic world with active magic in hand.
It hadn't escaped my notice that out of the thousands of mages currently traversing the corridors of the largest transport hub in the world’s Second Layer, that we had been the sole occupants in this alcove each of the three times we had come here for Olivia to refill her container. I had neither a container nor a permit, and despite there being a station
filling containers, I had seen no evidence of anyone else possessing one either.
“Refill complete,” the wall-voice said.
Olivia tucked the container securely in a sling that crossed her torso, then tucked a single wayward brown hair back into her tight ponytail. “Finished.”
I twirled my pencil into my back pocket, and threw the air drawing toward Olivia's bag. A stream of magic directed it to the first empty page of my sketchbook, where it
spread out and sink into the fibers. The possibility that, instead, the drawing would end up as pencil dust strewn inside Olivia's designer bag was too humorous and terrifying to contemplate.
“All magicked back up and ready to scare the daylights out of people in the non-magic world again, Liv?”
“That is not amusing, Ren,” Olivia responded stiffly.
We were staying with my non-magical parents in the non-magical First Layer of the world over winter break, and last night Olivia had reacted a little explosively to someone bumping their cart into ours at the grocery store. The ice cream aisle there would never be the same.
“I should have been cited for that,” she said. “My permit doesn't allow me to just randomly blow things up. That I wasn't cited is a problem that you have yet to grasp. Especially with everything else we've been doing.”
“That the magical cops haven't come for us is a terrible, terrible thing.”
She gave me the look that meant my wit was not appreciated and that I was three seconds away from a magical zap. “It means that either the reporting process isn't working as it should in the First Layer, or...or that they saw the magic and didn't cite me. I
have been dealt with brutally and immediately.”
“And yet, with a nice monetary donation to the store and a judicious use of the daydream enchantment that affects people without magic, you are free as a bird, and falling in line with my diabolical desire to corrupt you.”
She sighed. It ran through her entire body. “Ren...”
I smiled and hooked our arms together. “Library? Then home? It's my birthday. I am exempt from recrimination during daylight hours.”
“Fine.” The word was heavy, but there was a smile tugging Olivia's lips.
It was my new mission in life to make those smiles appear more often.
My old mission... Well, such shadowy thoughts were for the darkness of night. Daytime was for causing mischief. Exactly what my twin brother Christian and I would be doing on our birthday today, if he were still here.
I hip-bumped Olivia, which resulted in a haphazard series of snapped body crashes since our arms were still hooked. Olivia would have crushed me like a bug had I tried to shake her
when we'd first met. But she had become increasingly tolerant of my physical contact and I was determined to desensitize her completely.
She hip-bumped me awkwardly back, restarting the drunken jostle.
I laughed, and my lingering melancholic thoughts departed, tucked away for later. I maneuvered us into a crowded hall leading to the northeast spoke of the Depot. Ducking flying objects—identified or unidentified—and skirting all manner of weird creatures and mechanical constructs, I made another appeal.
“If the magical law enforcement system isn't correctly registering magic use in the non-magical world, then we are seriously squandering—”
“But Will said that after my Awakening, if he hadn't called Marsgrove, we could have gone on a serious magical bender.”
“William Tasky, while brilliant, is not who I would follow on a '
“Hey, Will's awesome.”
And Phillip Marsgrove, Dean of Special Projects at our school, was not
awesome, despite being Olivia's powerful, older cousin. Marsgrove's hatred of me was a sentiment I returned wholeheartedly. Speaking of which...
“We could use my new lockpicks.” I pointed at her bag, where I'd stashed them. “See what hilarious things magical picks will do to ordinary doors.” I had ordered a set of magical picks last week in case Marsgrove found a way to get around Olivia's contract magic in order to imprison me again. “Will would totally be in for helping.”
She gave me a deadpan stare, unamused, as always, by lockpicks and delinquency. Last term, after being illegally enrolled, I had broken into her room each day for weeks pretending to be her newly assigned roommate. All term, I had convinced myself that I was getting away with it too, until the day Olivia had given me an actual room key and a scathing lecture about breaking and entering.
We were forced to separate as we turned into the corridor that led to the Library of Alexandria's port. Mages were entering and exiting the Depot in multitudes of fantastic ways from across the Second Layer, but the most intense magical domains were still travel-restricted to specific ports within the main transportation hub.
“You have skill in picking useful friends, Ren. But a moral compass, or perhaps more accurately, a
compass, William is not.”
“We have Neph for that,” I said.
“As a moral compass?” Olivia scoffed. “Nephthys would follow you to Hell and say that it was lovely,” she said as we entered the gilded Hall of Knowledge. The soaring, domed hall contained two-dozen ports and smelled of parchment and magic.
I pointed at Olivia. “And we would probably have a good adventure there. I'm just saying, we should—”
I threw my hands forward. “You don't even know what I was going to suggest.”
“That we engage in some wild and 'awesome' magical treasure hunt across the non-magical tri-state area using my container magic.”
I paused. “Okay, you knew exactly what I was going to suggest.”
We stepped through the thin, but elaborate port into the largest library in the Second Layer and the strange whirring noise of the magical sensors buzzed in my ear like a swarm of mosquitoes.