Home > Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1)

Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1)
Author: Ilona Andrews


“Wake up!”

He sensed the kick coming through his sleep and curled into a ball. It didn’t hurt as much this time. Émile wasn’t really trying.

“You have a client.”

He rolled up, blinking. He should’ve hidden deeper in the drum that was his nest. The drum lay on its side and was long enough that Émile couldn’t land a good kick. But it was so nice and sunny, and he’d fallen asleep on the rags in front of it.

He looked at Émile and the man next to him. The man had dark eyes. He’d learned to watch the eyes. Faces lied, mouths lied, but the eyes always told you if the man would hit and how hard. This man was large. Big hands. Powerful shoulders. Next to him Émile looked skinny and weak, and he knew it too, because he forgot to sneer. All the street people called Émile Weasel, because of the sneer, but only when he couldn’t hear. Émile was mean. He ran the street and when someone tried to stand up to him, he’d fly into a rage and beat them with a rock or a metal stick until they stopped moving.

Émile jabbed his finger in the direction of the man. “Fix him.”

The man held out his left arm and pulled back the sleeve of his leather jacket. A cut snaked from his wrist all the way to the elbow. Shallow, only through the top layer of the skin. Easy to fix. He eyed Émile. Usually Émile made him say nonsense words and drag it out, so it would look mysterious, but the man was watching him, and it was making him uneasy.

He reached out and touched the man’s arm, letting the magic flow. The cut sealed itself.

The man squeezed his forearm, checking the spot where the wound used to be.

“See? I told you.” Émile bared his teeth.

“How much?” the man asked. His voice had an accent.

“How much what?”

“How much for the boy?”

His heart sank. He scooted deep into the drum, where he’d kept a knife hidden under his rags. He knew what happened to boys who were sold. He knew what men did to them. Rene was sold. Rene had been his only friend. Rene was fast and when he stole from the market stalls, nobody could catch him. He’d healed a boil on Rene’s back, and since then Rene shared. They’d hide in his drum and eat the bread or pirogi Rene had nicked and pretend they were somewhere else.

Two weeks ago, a man took Rene away. Émile had sold him. Three days later, after dark, he saw the same man leading Rene on a chain like a dog as they walked into a house. Rene was wearing a pink dress and he had a black eye.

Émile had promised not to sell him. That was the deal. He healed clients and Émile gave him food and protected him.

“Not for sale,” Émile said.

The man reached into his leather jacket. An envelope came out. A stack of money hit the dirt in front of Émile. A thick stack. More money than he had ever seen. Émile’s eyes got big.

Another stack.

He was trapped in the drum. There was nowhere to run.


Émile licked his lips.

“You promised!” he yelled.

“Shut up.” Émile squinted at the man. “He’s a magic boy.”

Another stack.

“Take him,” Émile said.

The man reached for him. He shrank back, his hand clutching the knife hidden under his filthy blanket. He wouldn’t be walking on a chain.

The man stepped toward him, his back to Émile.

“Drop the knife,” the man said.

Behind him Émile’s face turned ugly. He lunged, a dagger pointed at the man’s back. The man turned fast. His hand fastened on Émile’s wrist. Émile screamed and dropped the dagger. The man pulled him over.

“Take him!” Émile squealed. “Take him!”

“Too late.”

The man locked his left hand on Émile’s throat and squeezed. Émile clawed at the man’s arm with his free hand, flailing, trying to get away. The man continued squeezing.

Magic told him the little bone in Émile’s throat broke. It nagged at him, like an annoying itch. He would have to mend the bone to make it go away, but the man kept squeezing, harder and harder.

Émile’s eyes rolled back in his skull. The annoying buzz of magic disappeared. You can’t fix the dead.

The man let go and Émile fell, limp.

He gathered himself into a ball, trying to make himself smaller.

The man crouched by the drum. “I won’t hurt you.”

He slashed with his knife. The man caught his hand, and then he was yanked out into the sunlight and set on his feet.

The man looked at his knife. “A sharp blade.” He held it out to him. “Here. Hold the knife. It will make you feel better.”

He snatched the knife from the man’s hand, but he already knew the truth. The knife wouldn’t help. The man could kill him any time. He would have to bide his time and run.

The man picked up the stacks of money, took his hand, and together they walked out of the alley into the market. The man stopped at a stall, bought a hot pirogi, and handed it to him. “Eat.”

Free food. He grabbed it and bit into it, the sweet apple filling hot enough to burn his mouth. He swallowed his half-chewed bite and took another. He could always try to get away later. Eventually the man would look away and then he would run. Until then, if the man bought him food, he would take it. Only an idiot gave up free food. You ate it, and you ate it quick before someone punched you and took it out of your hands.

They walked through the marketplace past the ruins of tall buildings killed by magic. Magic came in waves. One moment it was here, and then it wasn’t. Sometimes he would go to Sainte-Chapelle on the day of the service to beg by the doorway. Everyone coming out of the church said the world was ending and that only God would save them. He always thought that if God came, he would come during magic.

They kept walking, all the way to the park, to a man sitting on a bench reading a book.

“I found him,” the man with dark eyes said.

The man on the bench raised his head and looked at him.

He forgot about the food. The half-eaten pirogi fell from his fingers.

The man was golden and burning with magic, so much magic, he almost glowed. This magic, it reached out and touched him, so warm and welcoming, so kind. It wrapped around him, and he froze, afraid to move because it might disappear.

“Where are your parents?” the man asked.

Somehow he answered. “Dead.”

The man leaned toward him. “You don’t have any family?”

He shook his head.

“How old are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hard to tell because of starvation,” the man with dark eyes said. “Maybe six or seven.”

“You’re very special,” the man said. “Look at all those people out there.”

He didn’t want to look away from the man, but he didn’t want to disappoint him even more, so he turned his head and looked at the people in the market.

“Of all the people out there, you shine the brightest. They are firebugs, but you are a star. You have a gift.”

He raised his hand and studied his fingers, trying to see the light the man was talking about, but he saw nothing.

“If you come with me, I promise you that I will help your light grow. You will live in a nice house. You will eat plenty of good food. You will train hard and you will grow up to be strong and powerful. Nobody will be able to stand in your way. Would you like that?”

He didn’t even have to think. “Yes.”

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

“I don’t have one.”

“Well, that’s not good,” the man said. “You need a name. A strong name, the kind that people will know and respect. Do you know where we are?”

He shook his head again.

“We’re in France. Do you know who that man is?” He pointed to a statue of a man on a horse. The man had a sword and wore a crown.


“That’s Hugh Capet. He was the founder of the Capet dynasty. The kingdom of France began with his reign. The descendants of his bloodline sat on the throne of France for almost nine hundred years. He was a great man and you too will be a great man, Hugh. Would you like to be a great man?”

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