Home > Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(13)

Hunted by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #3)(13)
Author: Jasmine Walt

“Our magitech balloon is highly experimental, and not ready,” Elnos protested, stepping forward to take control of the conversation. He spread his hands imploringly, as if trying to make us see reason. “We’ve never taken it farther than the bay, and we’re still tweaking some of the mechanism. We have no idea if it would survive a trip all the way out to Mexia.”

“Besides,” Noria added, tossing her head, “I’m really not interested in helping the Mages Guild. With the Chief Mage gone, maybe the Resistance can finally get something done around here.”

“Noria!” Annia snapped. “Without the Chief Mage to rein everyone in, all we’re going to accomplish is turning Solantha into a messy battleground.”

“So?” Noria lifted her chin. “You have to fight a few battles in order to win a war. Fighting for freedom means you have to be willing to suffer casualties.”

“Fine,” I said through gritted teeth, “but that doesn’t mean the Chief Mage has to be one of those casualties.”

Noria turned her scornful gaze on me. “You know, you’ve really changed, Naya. Just a few months ago, you wouldn’t have lifted a single finger to help the Chief Mage or his band of entitled cronies.”

“That was before the Chief Mage saved my life,” I said evenly.

“Alright,” Annia said before we could take the argument further. “Politics aside, you owe me a crapload of favors, Noria, and it’s time for me to cash in now.”

Noria paled. “You can’t be serious. This is what you’re calling in that favor for?”

“Damn straight. I want that bounty, and Naya wants the Chief Mage. We’re killing two birds with one stone, and you’re going to help us by giving me that balloon.”

“And just how are you going to steer it?” Noria demanded. “We haven’t perfected the steering mechanism yet; it still requires a mage to pilot.” Her eyes shifted toward me. “Preferably one who knows what she’s doing.”

I hesitated, but to my surprise Fenris spoke up. “I’m sure we won’t have a problem figuring it out. Elnos, you can show us the basics, can’t you? Between Sunaya and myself we should be able to keep it going long enough to get us to our destination.”

“Sure,” Elnos agreed, ignoring Noria’s death glare. A mage himself, he was the strange exception in Noria’s life, but only because he believed that magic should be equally accessible to all. Hence why they worked together experimenting with magitech – devices that were powered by both magic and technology. “I’ve no problem teaching you the basics. We don’t want them to die, after all, now do we?” He arched his brows at Noria.

“Of course not.” Noria huffed out a breath, crossing her arms again as she pinned Annia with a gimlet stare. “But after this, you and I are square. Clear?”


After a brief lesson from Elnos on how to handle the balloon, we set out to gather supplies. Since Fenris couldn’t get back into the Palace to retrieve anything, he and I had to go shopping for travel gear as well as camping supplies for all of us.

“This trip would be much simpler if we weren’t bringing your friend Annia along,” Fenris grumbled as he plucked a bedroll off the shelf of the only camping store that was even open today. I’d spelled us to look like a couple of human students so that we wouldn’t draw attention. “She’s just a human. If something happens to that balloon and we end up stranded somewhere, she’s sure to be a hindrance.”

“Maybe,” I allowed as I inspected the spoons of one of the mess kits I’d put into our shopping basket. There was a tiny nick on the edge of the implement, and I turned back to the shelf I’d grabbed it from so I could replace it. “But Annia’s a damn good Enforcer, and I could use someone with fighting experience at my back.”

“I’m perfectly capable of defending myself,” Fenris said stiffly, tossing the bedroll back and choosing another.

I rolled my eyes, then grabbed his wrist and turned his palm up. “Not a single callus on these bad boys,” I remarked pointedly. “I’m not going to pretend I know what your past is, but if you’ve done any fighting, it was long enough ago that there’s no trace of it on your body.”

“You’re right.” Fenris snatched his hand back, glaring at me with his yellow shifter eyes. “You don’t know what my past is. As I’ve said, I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.”

“That may be so, but I’m still taking Annia,” I said coolly. “Remember that without her, we wouldn’t have the balloon. So you’ll have to put up with the ‘inconvenience’ of it, or find another mode of transportation.”

Fenris held my gaze for a moment longer, then looked away and sighed. “I suppose I can’t argue with that. It’s just…this is a very sensitive mission, Sunaya. The more people involved, the greater the danger that things can go wrong. Her sister sides with the enemy.”

“I get it, but we need Annia. Besides, I trust her implicitly. She’s not going to fuck us over.”

“For Iannis’s sake, I hope you’re right.”

“Alright,” I said when we were all gathered around the balloon outside the workshop. Elnos and Noria had dragged the contraption to the small lot behind the shop to prepare it for liftoff. It was already inflated, the magical coal activated and burning brightly. “Guess it’s time for us to get on this thing.”

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