Home > Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(14)

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(14)
Author: Ilona Andrews

Barabas squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “How did he take it?”

“Look behind me.”

Barabas glanced at the storm raging in the east. “I knew I should’ve come with you. This is my own fault. Did he say anything about declaring war or coming for you?”

“No. He tried to slap me.”

“He what?” Curran snarled. His eyes went gold.

“He tried to slap me. I blocked it and told him that I would get Saiman back, it would make us even, and then he would have to decide what he would do about it.”

“Did he say anything else?” Barabas asked.

“No.”

The Iron Dog retched and vomited water on the ground.

“So no declaration of war has been made. We can work with this.” Barabas exhaled.

Yeah, right. “I don’t want to work with it.”

“I completely understand.” The weremongoose nodded his red head. “That’s why I would advise you to avoid speaking with your father while we untie this knot and hopefully prevent the city from being plunged into a horrible war with mass casualties.”

“Yes, of course, this is all my fault.”

“Yes, it is,” Barabas said. “All you had to do was walk in there and have a simple conversation with your father.”

Simple? “You know what I don’t need, Barabas? I don’t need you to criticize how I speak to my father.”

The mercs took a step back in unison.

Curran put his hand on my shoulder.

“Be careful, Kate,” Barabas said, his expression unreadable. “Your magic is showing.”

“Do you know where I found him?” I pointed to the Iron Dog. “I took him off a cross. There were thirty more like it.”

“Thirty-two,” a hoarse voice said.

I turned. The Iron Dog sat up, his light gray eyes open.

“Thirty-two people,” he repeated quietly. “It took them three days to die.”

“Because he had refused to kill them, my father made him watch. This is what you’re asking me to negotiate with, Barabas.”

“This is exactly why we need you to negotiate.”

“I’m getting sick of you ordering me around on my own land.”

“Enough,” Curran said.

Barabas took a step back. “We’ll talk about this another time.”

Curran crouched by the sitting man. “What happened?”

“There was a compound five miles to the south,” the man said, his words ragged. “Some kind of religious group. Roland wanted the land. He didn’t say why. He offered to buy it, but they wouldn’t sell it to him. Something they told him must’ve pissed him off, because he ordered me to take my people and clear it out. He said he wanted them buried off the land, somewhere else. I told him I was a soldier. I wouldn’t order my people to butcher unarmed civilians.”

“And if Hugh told you to do it?” Curran asked.

The Iron Dog faced him, his eyes clear. “He wouldn’t.”

Yeah, right. “I find that hard to believe,” I said.

“I’m a soldier,” the Iron Dog said. “Not a Ripper. Soldiers fight other soldiers.”

“He’s telling the truth,” Julie said behind me. “When Hugh needed a massacre, he’d use the Rippers. Most of them are dead now.”

Don’t explode. Nothing good ever came from exploding.

I turned to her.

“The Iron Dogs have six cohorts,” Julie said. “The first five cohorts have four hundred and eighty soldiers per cohort, broken into six centuries of eighty soldiers each. The Sixth Cohort had two hundred and forty people and was known as the Rippers, the shock troops. Each cohort had a captain. Hibla was the captain of the Rippers. This man is Stoyan Iliev, captain of the First Cohort. He was the first captain Hugh recruited himself.”

Great. I’d rescued Hugh’s bestie.

Stoyan turned to me. “I was in the Swan Palace. I saw you kill Hibla. If you’re going to kill me, give me a sword first.”

“Settle down,” Derek told him. “You can’t hold a sword. You can’t even keep water down. She didn’t pull you off a cross so she could kill you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” the Iron Dog said. “If it weren’t that, it would’ve been something else. Of the six cohorts, the Rippers are completely gone and the rest are at less than fifty percent of their capacity. Roland is purging the ranks. Anyone loyal to Hugh has been killed or run off, and the Legatus of the Golden Legion openly hunts people Roland exiles. If you’re not going to kill me, what are you going to do with me?”

Curran looked at me. “He’s yours. It’s your call.”

I sighed. “We’ll take you to the Guild medic. The magic is up and our medmage is good. You have twenty-four hours to get on your feet. Don’t be in the city when the sun rises tomorrow.”

“I won’t,” he said.

“Good. Load him up.” Curran rose and walked over to me. “Come talk to me.”

I followed him down the road.

He dipped his head and looked at me. “What happened?”

“He crucified families, Curran. I could smell their rotting bodies. And then he had the audacity to tell me that this is what happens to people who disobey him. Disobey. Like I’m one of his flunkies who stare at him with adoration and throw themselves off a cliff because he frowned at them. I can’t take it anymore. He sits there and taunts me. I have to protect my land.”

   
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