Chapter no 50

A Darker Shade of Magic

A cloud of black smoke hung in the air of the white throne room, a patch of night against the pale backdrop. Its edges frayed and curled and faded, but its center was smooth and glossy, like the fragment of stone in Athos’s hand, or the surface of a scrying board, which was exactly what the king had summoned with it.

Athos Dane sat on his throne, his sister’s body in her own chair beside him, and turned the stone over in his hand as he watched the shifting image of Kell and his companion pass into the courtyard of his castle.

Where the stone’s other half had gone, so had its gaze.

The farthest London had been little more than a blur, but as Kell and his companion traveled nearer, the image in the surface had grown crisp and clear. Athos had watched the events unfold across the various cities—Kell’s flight, the girl’s cunning, his servant’s failure, and his sister’s foolishness, the wounded prince, and the slaughtered Antari.

His fingers tightened on the talisman.

Athos had watched it all unfold with a mixture of amusement and annoyance and, admittedly, excitement. He bristled at the loss of Holland, but a spike of pleasure ran through him at the thought of killing Kell.

Astrid would be furious.

Athos rolled his head and considered his sister’s body, propped up on its throne, the charm pulsing at her throat. A London away, she might still be wreaking havoc, but here she sat, still and pale as the sculpted stone beneath her. Her hands draped on the arms of the chair, and wisps of white hair ribboned over her closed eyes. Athos tsked at his sister.

“Ös vosa nochten,” he said. “You should have let me go to the masquerade instead. Now my plaything is dead, and yours has made an awful mess. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Of course, she did not answer.

Athos rapped his long fingers on the edge of his throne, thinking. If he broke the spell and woke her, she would only complicate things. No, he had

given her the chance to deal with Kell in her own way, and she had failed. It was his turn now.

Athos smiled and rose to his feet. His fingers tightened on the stone, and the image of Kell dissolved into smoke and then into nothing. Power thrummed through the king, the magic hungry for more, but he held it in place, feeding it only what it needed. It was a thing to be controlled, and Athos had never been a lenient master.

“Do not worry yourself, Astrid,” he said to the spellbound queen. “I will make things right.”

And then he smoothed his hair, readjusted the collar of his white cloak, and went to greet his guests.

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