Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(84) by Ilona Andrews
“I will come,” Luther said. “With the caveat that if the djinn possesses me, one of you will kill me. My magic reserve is too great.”
Curran looked at Nick.
“Six knights,” Nick said. “Including me.”
“That should be enough,” Curran said.
Mahon and Nick rose at the same time, heading for the phone. I went upstairs to get dressed.
CURRAN PULLED INTO the parking lot in front of the Biohazard building, following Luther’s truck. Derek stirred in the backseat. He had been so quiet and still, I almost forgot he was there.
There was a moment on the drive when I wondered if it was ever not going to be like this. But then I decided I was crazy. It would always be like this, riding to certain death every few months, trying to protect people we would never meet. Some people painted. Some people baked. We did this, whatever the hell it was. I just didn’t want to die. I didn’t want Curran to die. I wanted to save Eduardo.
I wanted there to be a stretch of normal, if not for a few months, then at least for a few weeks.
The magic ran thick tonight. Warm wind bathed me as I stepped out of the car. A change was in the air.
A dark shadow slid across the stars above and a jet-black winged horse flew through the air, circling the yard. Arabian horses were never my favorites. They were loyal to a fault and would run themselves to death for the right rider, but they were a bit high-strung for my taste. But this horse was perfect, from the velvet coat and silky mane to the tapered hooves of her elegant legs. Vast wings, black as midnight, spread from her shoulders. She glided on the air currents, a graceful creature of legend come to life. Even Mahon watched, halfway out of his car.
I caught a glimpse of Curran out of the corner of my eye as he moved to stand next to me. We watched the horse gently land on the pavement, Bahir on her back.
“Do you ever wish it were just normal?” I asked him quietly.
“Yes. But then we would never see things like this.”
Bahir dismounted, light on his feet.
“Where did you find her?” I asked.
Bahir petted the horse’s muzzle. “I didn’t. Amal found me.”
He clicked his tongue at her. Amal shook herself. Her wings vanished.
Atlanta was getting stranger and stranger by the day.
“Come on,” Luther called. We followed him into the building, up the stairs, to the far end of a long hallway, where big double doors stood wide open. A large room spread before us, devoid of furniture. The floor was covered with chalkboard paint. Bronze braziers stood by the walls filled with coals ready to be lit. That had to be the incantation room.
In the middle of the room, in a protective circle drawn on the floor with chalk, Mitchell lay in a small heap. The glyphs around the ward glowed weakly—the spell packed one hell of a wallop. Shreds of fabric littered the floor around the ghoul. A woman sat in a chair by the wall, reading a book.
“Blood,” Curran said.
I glanced at Luther.
“We tried putting him into a straitjacket so he wouldn’t hurt himself.” Luther sighed. “He keeps trying to crack his skull against the floor.”
“What happens during tech?” Nick asked.
“Bars come out of the floor,” Luther said. “They’re down now to keep him from throwing himself against the metal.”
I approached the circle. “Mitchell.”
Mitchell gave no indication he heard or smelled me.
“He won’t respond,” Luther said. “I tried.”
“I tried screaming a while ago,” the woman said. “He’s gone somewhere deep inside his head.”
I glanced at the lines of the circle. It was designed to keep magic in, not out. Hmm. I had never done it before, but it worked for my father.
I pulled my magic to me. It came eager and ready like an obedient pet. I gathered it all around me, packing it tight, and let it fuel my voice, reaching to Mitchell with my power.
Luther startled. “Jesus, Daniels.”
The ghoul uncoiled, raising his deformed head, and rolled to his feet. I walked along the boundary of the circle. The ghoul turned slowly, moving to face me. Up close I could see smears of blood on the paint inside the circle.
“You . . .” the ghoul whispered.
“Can you sense the ifrit? Is he calling you now?”
“Do you know what you are?” I asked.
“Yessss . . .” He ducked his head, but his gaze bore into me. “I am flame. I am smokeless fire. This”—he stretched his arms to me—“is my prison. Kill me.”
I knelt on one knee. He leaned in as close as the boundary of the circle would allow. A mere three inches separated us.
“I can make you whole,” I whispered. “But there is a price.”
“Stop,” Nick said. “She’ll promise you the world and then she will make you her slave. She can’t help it. It’s in her blood.”
“Wait, what is this talk of whole-making?” Luther waved his arms. “What’s going on?”
Mitchell’s gaze never wavered. “I would rather be a slave than be this.”
“If I make you whole, you must help me fight the ifrit,” I told him. “Can you find him once you are whole?”
“Once finished, you will make your home here, in Luther’s custody. You will serve the Biohazard Division for five years.” That ought to give them enough time to figure out what to do with him.
“Swear on the fire that burns in you.”
The ghoul opened his mouth. “I swear.”
I rose, pulled the book out of my backpack, and thrust it at Luther. “I’ll need these supplies.”
He scanned the pages. “What is this?”
“We’re going to evolve Mitchell to his proper state.”
“Oh, okay. Wait, what?”
• • •
THE COALS HAD been lit. I finished drawing the alchemical sign for the ether and was about done with the symbols. Mitchell sat within the two triangles. Just outside the two triangles, a half-gallon beaker of clear liquid, trimethyl borate, waited on a table next to matches and a small vial of my blood. I had drawn it before we left the house.
A gaggle of Luther’s colleagues gathered in the room. I had walked him through the djinn ground-state theory and he had explained it to them. The reactions were mixed to say the least. Voices floated to me.
“You do realize that if this works, we’ve found a cure for ghoulism.”
“Yes, but the cure is worse than the disease. We can’t run around the countryside turning ghouls into djinn.”
“Technically they are already djinn.”
“That’s beside the point.”
“We have no idea what they are capable of.”
“What’s in the vial?”
“Are you saying we shouldn’t do it?” Luther asked.
“No,” a woman said. “I’m saying that it’s illegal, dangerous, and possibly unethical, but we should definitely do it.”
“Yes, what Margo said.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
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