Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(85) by Ilona Andrews
“Just as an experiment.”
“How do you feel about her doing this?” That had to be Mahon. That low-pitched growl could only come from him.
“We let each other be who we are,” Curran said. “I don’t have to like all of the things she has to do. I love her.”
I love you, too. Just keep this in mind after you see what I am going to do.
I drew the final circle around the glyphs. Wards came in all varieties and this one wasn’t a containment; rather it functioned like a mirror, focusing any magic entering the ward on the creature within it.
Mitchell looked up at me. “Hurry.”
I picked up the beaker of the trimethyl borate and poured it over him, saturating the triangle on the floor.
“She does know it’s flammable, right?” someone asked.
I picked up the vial of my blood and pulled out the cork.
“Drink this when I say.”
He stretched his clawed hands to me.
“There is still time to step back,” I told him.
Mitchell took the vial with his claws.
I struck a match. “Now.”
He gulped the blood. I let the match fall into the ward. Emerald-green flames surged up. Mitchell spun around thrashing, his skin blistering, screaming. I focused my magic on him and felt the magic amplify it. My blood burned through him, sliding down his throat, deep into the pit of his stomach, and awakened a weak spark of fire. I reached for it, as it bathed in my blood, and whispered a power word.
The shock of it tore at my mind. Agony ripped through me. The world turned hazy. I fought it, trying to keep hold on the flame inside Mitchell’s body. If I let my grip slip, it would be all over.
Behind me Curran snarled. Yes, I used a power word. Sue me.
The haze melted. I staggered, but Doolittle’s repairs to my brain must’ve held, because I was still me.
Mitchell was still screaming. His skin sloughed off, his raw flesh hissing in the fire.
I pulled and the flame responded, bending to my will. I fanned it, funneling my magic into it. Mitchell collapsed into a ball.
“He’s dying!” someone snapped behind me.
Grow. Like blowing on a fledgling fire, trying to help it grow hotter.
“This was really ill-advised . . .”
Grow, I cajoled, pouring magic into it. Grow.
“Shush!” Patrice said.
The green flames went out, sucked into Mitchell’s body.
The tiny flame exploded, turning into a white-hot blaze. Mitchell surged to his feet. Bright orange fire erupted from his mouth and eyes and washed over him, consuming his flesh. I let go. His body convulsed, jerking like a marionette on a string. The fire spun into a whirlwind and within it a new body was taking shape, large, quadrupedal, and muscled.
The flames vanished, absorbed into the new skin. A strange furry beast stood before me on four clawed feet, his head a full foot higher than mine. Bright red and dappled with black rosettes, his body was almost canine, lean and powerful like that of a Doberman. A long thick horse mane of jet-black hair ran along his spine. A long leonine tail coiled around his legs. Twin horns crowned his head, curving forward on the sides of his lean face, ready to gore. His features were unlike anything I had ever seen. His long narrow jaws, studded with sharp perfect fangs, hinted at a wolf and an alligator at the same time, while his eyes, large and bright orange with dark oval pupils, made me think of a predatory cat.
The thing that used to be Mitchell shook his head, sending his mane flying. He raised his head, opened his mouth, and cried out. His voice wasn’t a roar or a snarl, it was melodious and high, like the shriek of a bird flying high through the clouds.
“Holy crap,” someone said behind me.
Mitchell leaned forward, his eyes even with mine. His deadly jaws unhinged, showing his fangs and the black tongue inside his mouth.
Don’t flinch, don’t flinch. “Hello, Mitchell.”
“The name no longer fits.”
“Do you want a different one?”
“Yes. Name me, human.”
Make it good. “I name you Adib, after the Wolf Star in the Constellation of Draco.”
“I accept my name. I owe you a debt.”
He lunged at me. It was so fast, I was in midair before I realized he’d tossed me onto his back. I landed astride and grabbed onto his mane.
Curran surged forward.
“I’m okay,” I said.
“I pay my debts.” The ifrit hound raised his massive head. “I can hear the madman’s voice. Follow me.”
He dashed out the door, scattering the mages. I clenched his mane and tried not to fall off.
• • •
TRAVELING BY MYSTICAL ifrit hound sounded cool in theory and entirely plausible, since he was the size of a smallish horse. But horses were trained to carry humans, while ifrit hounds were not. It took every muscle in my body to stay on his back. He ran through the streets, leaping over obstructions, dodging occasional cars, and panicking horses.
Three minutes into our race Curran drew even with us, a huge gray beast that was neither lion nor human, designed specifically for running. That was Curran’s special power—he molded his body at will to whatever purpose suited him. He’d chased me down more than once in this shape. A few moments later Derek caught up with us. He was still in his human form. Above a shadow swooped across the stars and pulled ahead. The ifrit was fast, but beating a winged horse required a whole other kind of fast. A blue spark flared, illuminating the horse and rider. Bahir must’ve carried a feylantern. He flew above us like a beacon. Hopefully Mahon, Luther, and the knights would see him.
Magic scoured me. We had crossed the invisible boundary into Unicorn Lane. Of course. Why would it be anywhere else? Unicorn Lane cut through the center of the city, as if some enormous invisible enemy drew a dagger and stabbed deep into the very heart of downtown Atlanta, and now magic geysered out from the wound. Normal rules didn’t apply here. This was a place of predators and prey where plants attacked you, moss was poisonous, and glowing eyes tracked your every move.
The magic churned and boiled around me as we darted among the dark ruins of once-mighty skyscrapers. Adib turned left, leaped over the remnants of a gutted building, and shot out of Unicorn Lane running northwest along the crumbling Colier Road. Well, that was unexpected.
Colier Road, a simple two-lane street, once ran through residential neighborhoods, but as Unicorn Lane grew, it swallowed the road’s southern end, and Colier became a street that led nowhere. During magic waves, creatures hiding in Unicorn Lane ventured out in search of meat and blood, and the road nicely funneled them directly to their prey asleep in beautiful colonial houses. Anyone with a crumb of brains moved, and over the years, the residential neighborhoods once lining Colier became deserted. Abandoned houses tracked our progress with dark windows.
The ifrit kept running. A large ruin loomed on the left. An old sign flashed by, bent and grimy. PIEDMONT HOSPITAL. That’s right. The original hospital complex stood so close to Unicorn Lane that part of it had collapsed in the Shift. Not realizing the full impact of Unicorn Lane’s existence, the city had rebuilt it a few miles down the road, but then, as the residential neighborhoods withered, so did the hospital, and if they had built it with that algae, the first flare would’ve finished it.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online