Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(16)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(16)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

The captain was talking on a field radio, and we all waited for him to finish.

“So, you’re from the conference at the Fountainhead Resort?” he asked when he finally turned to us.

“Yes, although we ran into a problem trying to go back there last night,” Ian said.

He looked us all up and down. McGregor and I were obviously wearing matching uniforms, and glamour Oriel had donned made him look like a British explorer from an old-fashioned African safari movie.

“May I see your rubies?”

That was a question I didn’t expect. He was a mage, though, and unless the government had found another way to mask the effects of the corrupted ley lines, he had to have a ruby of his own simply to function.

McGregor and Oriel held up their hands, showing their rings, and I pulled my pendant out from under my shirt.

“And how did you come by those?” the captain asked.

“Honestly,” I replied. “I took it off a dead Knight’s sword.”

The sergeant barked out an inadvertent laugh, caught himself, and turned away from us. His captain scowled at him.

“Names?” the captain barked. I zeroed in on the nameplate he wore. Roberts, A.

We introduced ourselves, and the officer nodded. “We were told to look out for you.” He glanced around, taking in the horses. “Where did you pick those up?”

“They were pastured within the radius of the airstrikes,” Ian said, “so we rescued them. I’m sure the owners will be grateful, but have them give any rewards to charity. Really, it was the least we could do.”

Captain Roberts rolled his eyes, then asked, “You were close to the resort, then?”

“We reached the boundary, then were warned about the airstrikes,” Ian said. “We pulled out about ten minutes before the first jets arrived.”

Roberts questioned us for a few more minutes, then directed us to the diner. “Stay in there until I have transportation to take you back to the city,” he said. “We’ve ordered an evacuation for twenty miles around the hotel, but we have reports of bands of Knights attempting to escape the area, and I can’t guarantee any of the roads are safe.”

Chapter 12

The diner was working and full of customers. Oriel had cast illusions over McGregor and me and changed his own glamour before we entered the place, so we didn’t attract much attention.

We had to wait ten minutes for a table, but that gave me plenty of time to stare hungrily at people’s breakfasts and read the menu.

The conversations were all about the military’s presence and the unusual events of the previous night. The jets, the missiles, and the magical battle had not gone unnoticed. From what I could gather, at least half of the people in the café had evacuated from the area near the resort when the fighting started. It was pretty interesting to hear normal humans discuss magic, and it seemed the opinions as to whether the Knights were a force for good or evil were split pretty evenly.

I was about halfway through my banana-nut pancakes with a slab of ham when a fireball whooshed past the window and hit one of the AAVs. To my surprise, even though the fireball enveloped the vehicle, it didn’t catch fire. Obviously, it was protected by some kind of ward.

The gunner on top of the vehicle swiveled his gun around and cut loose with a round of machinegun fire. From where we were sitting, we couldn’t see the attackers, but fireballs, energy bursts, and lightning flew in both directions.

Then a couple of Knights pushed into the room. We were too far from the front door, and there were too many people between us and the door. The emergency exit at the back of the building would let out in the direction the attack was coming from.

My companions and I leaped up, and they followed me toward the kitchen. In contrast to the pandemonium in the outer room, the kitchen staff was calmly going about their business, since there weren’t any windows there. That ended when the kitchen’s outer door on the side of the building exploded, revealing a Knight with a drawn sword standing in the doorway.

“Can’t a girl even eat her breakfast in peace?” I muttered as I hurled a ley missile at the intruder.

The cooks all dove for cover, and I drew my main gauche as I rushed forward to meet the Knight. The ley missile had staggered him, and he allowed me to close before he could react. I drew power from his shield into mine and ducked under his sword. My right hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat while I drove the dagger between his ribs.

He fell into the feet of the man behind him, who stepped back. A knife flew past my shoulder and buried itself in the Knight’s chest. I assumed it came from Oriel. The Hunter training McGregor and I had undergone taught us how to throw knives but discouraged doing so. Once you’ve thrown a weapon, you didn’t have it anymore.

I stepped on both bodies getting through the door and found four more Knights outside. Beyond them, a ball of white energy from someone out of my sight sped past toward the gas station where the soldiers’ vehicles were parked. I hoped they had considered extending the wards around their AAVs to encompass the gas station and its underground tanks.

The closest Knight was ready for me, and my long dagger was at a significant disadvantage against his sword. I ducked under his cut and rolled past him, leaving him facing McGregor. He managed to block Ian’s first strike, but I distracted him by stabbing him in the back of his thigh. His leg buckled, and my friend’s sword pierced him below the breastbone.

I unhooked the sword strapped to my back and drew it as it dropped to my side. Rising to my feet, I met the next Knight with blades in both of my hands. It didn’t matter, as Oriel—invisible, of course—stepped between us and slit the man’s throat.

Turning back, I found McGregor facing two Knights, but one of them was distracted, staring at his buddy with the throat wound, who was crumpling to the ground. I took advantage of that to move against him.

The Knight blocked my low cut at his waist, and our swords rang almost simultaneously with the sound of two swords striking to my left. I circled to my right, and the man pivoted to keep me in front of him. Then one of his knees buckled, and as he fought to maintain his balance, I stepped forward and ran him through. The point of a long dagger emerged from his neck at the same time.

As I disengaged my blade, I glanced over my shoulder and saw the man Ian was fighting go down.

The magical battle still raged, with attacks splitting the air back and forth, punctuated with automatic weapons fire, and to my surprise, the soldiers seemed to be holding their own. The restaurant had what I guessed was a storeroom jutting off the kitchen, and that hid us from the attacking Knights. We found ourselves in a place where we couldn’t see the combatants from either side—the soldiers around the corner to the left and the Knights around the corner to our right.

“What next?” I asked my companions. I stared at the face of one of the Knights I had killed. He appeared younger than me, and I doubted he had to shave every day. His blue eyes stared at the sky.

Another fireball whooshed past, and McGregor said, “Personally, I’m not enthralled with the idea of going out there.”

“Me, neither,” Oriel said, “but remember there were Knights behind us when we came out here.”

I looked back through the doorway. The cooks were still cowering under worktables or hiding in corners. None of the Knights we had seen in the dining room had yet come into the kitchen.

“We can try to go back,” I said, although I didn’t really want to.

“We can stay here and wait to see who wins,” Oriel said, “or, we can go back inside. I can cast a ward on the kitchen, and we can ask the cooks to make us another breakfast.”

My stomach rumbled, letting me know how it voted. Then the world rocked with a huge, ground-shaking explosion, followed seconds later by two more deafening blasts.

“What the bloody hell?” McGregor growled.

“The gas station,” I said. “The fuel tanks. One of those fireballs finally hit the tanks.”

We watched debris rain down and heard it hitting the roof of the diner. Then a dozen or so Knights rushed past us toward the gas station. If any of them had glanced to the side, they would have seen us, along with the bodies of their comrades, but they were focused on their destination and none of them did.

When no more Knights came, I crept to the corner of the building and peeked. I didn’t see anyone in the direction the Knights had come from, so I slipped out along the wall, keeping low and holding my sword in front of me. When I came to the back of the diner, I still didn’t see anyone, so I took off for the woods. A glance back showed that Oriel and Ian were close behind me.

As I reached the tree line, a Knight stepped out from behind a tree, aimed a pistol at me, and fired. The bullet bounced off my shield, and I cut him down as I ran past.

We ran for about an hour, heading northwest. Most of the farms and houses we passed showed no activity. I assumed people were either keeping their heads down or they had evacuated.

I finally stopped at a small clearing and sat down on a log to catch my breath. McGregor scouted the edges of the clearing, then came and sat down next to me.

“I’m hungry,” Oriel announced. “Anyone have any objections to roast squirrel?”

“I’d eat my boots if I didn’t need them,” I answered.

McGregor shook his head. “No objections here.”

Oriel nodded and disappeared into the trees. We watched him go, then McGregor stood and heaved a sigh.

“Never had raw squirrel, and I am not particularly eager to try. Guess we should gather some firewood.”

I agreed with him, and by the time Oriel returned twenty minutes later, we had a pile of wood and a fire going.

Oriel had three skinned squirrels impaled on long green sticks. He smiled when he saw the fire, and handed a squirrel to each of us.

“Hold them about two to three feet above the flames and turn them regularly. Should take half an hour or so to cook properly.” He shrugged. “Wish we had some salt and pepper, but I couldn’t catch any of that.”

   
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