Home > Marked by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #4)(2)

Marked by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #4)(2)
Author: Jasmine Walt

By the time I got to the first floor, I was staggering, my legs burning like mad from the pain. They were probably only second-degree burns, which meant they hurt like hell because they hadn’t killed my nerve endings. Even though they were healing thanks to my shifter heritage, it was going to take some time. Luckily, the people here were already roused and heading for the exit, having heard the commotion from the upper floors.

“There now.” A man hooked an arm around my shoulder, supporting me. I glanced up, startled, and found myself staring into the face of a thirtyish human with spectacles on warm brown eyes. “An old lady like you shouldn’t be the one trying to evacuate everybody. You look like you’re in pain. Let’s get you out of here before you get hurt any worse.”

“T-thank you, young man,” I quavered, leaning against him. I allowed him to gently lead me outside. This was perfect. Nobody was going to suspect me now, not as an injured old woman being practically carried out by a helpful human. We followed the crowd out into the lobby and through the front doors.

I stiffened at the sight of two men in khaki uniforms standing outside. Swords drawn, armbands gleaming bloody red beneath the moonlight, there was no mistaking them. They were Resistance soldiers, operating in public view right here in Solantha. Things were worse than I had imagined.

“It’s okay,” the human murmured, squeezing my shoulder a little. “We’re going to be fine.”

We passed through the front doors, right beneath the watchful gaze of the two soldiers. Gawkers and survivors lined the sidewalk, a growing crowd, and I twisted around to face the soldiers, deciding to use the situation to my advantage.

“You stupid boys,” I shrieked, shaking my small fist at them. “How dare you set fire to this building, instead of fighting the mages like real men? Do you have any idea how many innocent people you endangered tonight?”

“Shut your mouth, old woman,” the taller soldier growled, his eyes flashing in the moonlight. The sword in his hand twitched, and my human escort began dragging me away in earnest.

“You almost killed a baby,” I yelled as he hauled me away, and the crowd began to murmur in agreement. Those murmurs soon turned into angry shouts, and I smiled inwardly as I disappeared into what was rapidly becoming a seething mob. Not that I was into mobs, but I wanted the population to understand just how corrupt and ruthless the Resistance had become. The less people trusted them, the harder it would be for them to take over the Federation.

“Nice play,” the human murmured in my ear as he pulled me to the back of the crowd. “But I would have appreciated it more if you’d waited until we were clear of their swords before you started insulting the soldiers.”

I turned to face my ‘rescuer’, a warning bell going off in my head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I sniffed. “Those young men needed a talking to, and that’s what I delivered!”

“I’m Forin Olmos from apartment 309,” he murmured. “The one directly across from yours. I saw you come out and transform, and I followed you down here to see what you were up to.”

“Fuck,” I muttered, dropping the old-lady voice. I leveled a glare at him. “I’m not going to have to knock you out, am I?”

Forin snorted. “I’m on your side. I don’t support the Resistance, who thinks nothing of killing the rest of us to get at you, and has just attempted to burn down my apartment. Besides, I don’t agree with how you’ve been treated. You’re a hero, Sunaya Baine, and you need to be free so you can keep doing your thing.” He released me, and I gaped at him in astonishment. Nobody had ever said that to me before. “Now go.”

Nodding, I turned away, then fled into the night.


Since running through town in the guise of an old woman would draw suspicion, I ducked into the first dark alley and allowed my disguise to drop for a moment. Leaning my back against the wall, I slid to the ground behind the safety of a dumpster, then pulled up my pant legs to check the damage on my legs. The sensation of the leather scraping against my shins was painful, but not as much as it should have been. Patches of skin had been burned away, leaving the areas raw and bloody, but they were already scabbing over.

I debated whether to use my magic to heal the wounds the rest of the way, or if I should allow shifter nature to take its course. I would be able to move faster without the pain, but since I didn’t know the proper Loranian words or the techniques involved to invoke a proper healing spell, it would drain more energy out of me than was wise. I had no idea what else I would encounter tonight, and I was already using enough magic on my illusions as it was.

The clouds above me parted, allowing the nearly full moon to shine down, and a wave of energy swept through me, reminding me I didn’t need to draw on my own magic for this. I could shift to heal my wounds. But I had to be careful.

Retreating to the back of the alley, I checked to make sure there was no one nearby, then shifted into my panther form. White light engulfed my body as the change took place, and I gritted my teeth against the pain as the transformation sealed my wounds shut. But when the light finally faded, I felt a million times better, my burns completely healed.

I gave myself ten minutes to rest, senses alert for any kind of danger. But nobody was looking for me here, and at this time of night, most people were in their beds. I caught a few whispers, the sound of feet clopping against pavement, but no one came in this direction. Relatively assured of my safety, I shifted back into human form, then cloaked myself in the illusion of a pimply teenage boy and headed out again.

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