Chapter no 35

A Darker Shade of Magic

For all the digging he’d done through the ruins of the Ruby Fields, Kell had failed to notice the alley where he’d been attacked—and where he’d left two bodies behind—only hours before. If he’d ventured there, he would have seen that one of those bodies—the cutthroat previously encased in stone—was missing.

That same cutthroat now made his way down the curb, humming faintly as he relished the warmth of the sun and the far-off sounds of celebration.

His body wasn’t doing very well. Better than the other shell, of course, the drunkard in the duller London; that one hadn’t lasted long at all. This one had fared better, much better, but now it was all burnt up inside and beginning to blacken without, the darkness spreading through its veins and over its skin like a stain. He looked less like a man now, and more like a charred piece of wood.

But that was to be expected. After all, he had been busy.

The night before, the lights of the pleasure house had burned bright and luring in the dark, and a woman stood waiting for him in the doorway with a painted smile and hair the color of fire, of life.

“Avan, res nastar,” she purred in the smooth Arnesian tongue. She drew up her skirts as she said it, flashing a glimpse of knee. “Won’t you come in?”

And he had, the cutthroat’s coins jingling in his pocket.

She’d led him down a hall—it was dark, much darker than it had been outside—and he’d let her lead, enjoying the feel of her hand—or in truth, her pulse—in his. She never looked him in the eyes, or she might have seen that they were darker than the hall around them. Instead, she focused on his lips, his collar, his belt.

He was still learning the nuances of his new body, but he managed to press his cracking lips to the woman’s soft mouth. Something passed between them

—the ember of a pure black flame—and the woman shivered.

“As Besara,” he whispered in her ear. Take.

He slid the dress from her shoulders and kissed her deeper, his darkness passing over her tongue and through her head, intoxicating. Power.

Everybody wanted it, wanted to be closer to magic, to its source. And she welcomed it. Welcomed him. Nerves tingled as the magic took them, feasting on the current of life, the blood, the body. He’d taken the drunkard, Booth, by force, but a willing host was always better. Or at least, they tended to last longer.

“As Herena,” he cooed, pressing the woman’s body back onto the bed.


“As Athera,” he moaned as he took her, and she took him in. Grow.

They moved together like a perfect pulse, one bleeding into the other, and when it was over, and the woman’s eyes floated open, they reflected his, both a glossy black. The thing inside her skin pulled her rouged lips into a crooked smile.

“As Athera,” she echoed, sliding up from the bed. He rose and followed, and they set out—one mind in two bodies—first through the pleasure house, and then through the night.

Yes, he had been busy.

He could feel himself spreading through the city as he made his way toward the waiting red river, the pulse of magic and life laid out like a promised feast.

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