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

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

I’d told her where I was going this morning and told her to stay at Cutting Edge. Instead she came here and waited until she saw me so she could dramatically ride for the castle ahead of me. Why me? Why?

“I’m going to kill her.”

“She’s your Herald,” Derek said. “That’s your color. Blue for humanity.”

My what?

He made a big show of moving a few feet to the side.

I looked at him.

“In case your head explodes,” he said helpfully.

“Not another word.”

He chuckled under his breath, the rough lupine laugh of an amused wolf. Laugh it up, why don’t you?

My father had had two warlords in the modern age. The first, Voron, left his service to save me, because my mother’s magic convinced him he hopelessly loved her. Hugh d’Ambray was the second, and during his training under Voron, Hugh served as Roland’s Herald. According to Voron, that was the way my father had done things thousands of years ago, before the magic disappeared from the world and his wizard empire collapsed. First, you became Herald, then you became Warlord. Now Julie had decided that she was my Herald. I never told her any of this. She must still be talking to Roland. I didn’t know how, and when I had asked her about it a few weeks ago, she denied it.

Apparently, she’d lied.

I gritted my teeth.

Nothing good would come from Julie talking to Roland. He was poison. I had busted up one of their conversations before, and I did my best to keep more from happening. Logic, explanations, sincere requests, threats, groundings—none of it made any difference. Nothing short of a direct order would do, and I wasn’t ready to burn that bridge yet. Not only that, but that direct order would have to be worded in such a way as to prevent any loopholes. I would have to hire Barabas just to write it out.

Julie was talking to my father and I was powerless to stop it. My father kept coming into my territory, taunting me, and I couldn’t stop that either. And now Julie was riding into his castle to announce me.

I raised my head and sat up straighter. Cuddles picked up on my mood and broke into a canter. Derek shifted into a run, keeping up. Julie and I would have a long talk when we got home. I didn’t want a Herald, but I wouldn’t leave her without backup either. I would ride into that damn castle like I had a Herald announce every moment of my day, complete with fanfare and banner waving.

Four guards in leather armor stood by the entrance of the castle, two men and two women, all trim, grim, and looking like someone had found some attack dogs, turned them into human shape, and groomed them into paragons of military perfection. They bowed their heads in unison. Four voices chorused, “Sharrim.”

Great. This would be a wonderful visit; I just knew it.

I rode into the courtyard and dismounted next to Julie, who stood at parade rest holding the stupid banner. A small stand waited next to her. They brought her a stand for her flag.

A man approached and knelt on one knee. I had seen him before. He was in his fifties, with a head of graying hair, and he looked like he had spent all of his years fighting for one thing or another. Having people kneel in front of me ranked somewhere between getting a root canal and cleaning out a sewer on the list of things I hated.

“You honor us, Sharrim. I have informed Sharrum of your arrival. He is overjoyed.”

I bet he is. “Thank you for the warm welcome.”

“Do you require anything of me?”

“Not at this time.”

He rose, his head still bowed, and backed away to stand a few dozen feet to the left.

Around us, the soldiers manning the walls tried not to gawk. A woman exited one of the side buildings, saw us, turned around, and went back inside.

“You’re grounded,” I said under my breath.

“I don’t have a social life anyway,” Julie murmured. “Barabas called the house before I left. He says not to burn any bridges.”

That was Barabas’s standing legal advice when it came to my father. If I burned this bridge, it would mean war.

“Where is he?”

“He’s at home,” Julie said. “Christopher had a nervous breakdown and burned a book.”

That made no sense. Christopher loved books. They were his escape and treasure.

“Which book was it?”

“Bullfinch’s Mythology.”

What could possibly have set him off about poor Bullfinch?

To the right a man and a woman walked out on the wall from a small side tower. The man wore a trench coat despite the heat. Sewn and patched with everything from leather cording to bits of fur, it looked like every time it had been cut or torn, he’d slapped whatever fabric or leather he had handy over the rip. There was a particular patch on the left side that I didn’t like.

His face was too smooth for a human, the lines perfect, the dark eyes tilted down at the inside corners. His hair was cut short and tousled as if he’d slept on it and hadn’t bothered brushing it for a couple of days, but it was a deep glossy black and looked soft. He was clean-shaven, without so much as a shadow of stubble on his jaw, but somehow managed to look unkempt. The color of his face was odd too, an even olive hue. When most people described skin as olive, they meant a golden-brown color with a slight green undertone. His olive wasn’t darker, but stronger somehow, more saturated with green. The hilt of a sword protruded over his shoulder, wrapped with a purple cord. The same purple showed beneath his coat.

The woman towered next to him. Easily over six feet, dark skinned, with broad shoulders, she wore chain mail over a black tactical outfit and carried a large hammer. The body beneath the chain mail was lean: small bust, hard waist, narrow hips. She was corded with muscle. Her hair, in short dreadlocks, was pulled back from her face. Shades hid her eyes. Her features were large and handsome, and fully human, although she looked like she could punch through a solid wall. A purple scarf, gossamer light, hung from her waist.

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