Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(6)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(6)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

A few members of the operation reached Rosie’s before the group Liam and I rode with. When we arrived around dawn, there was a celebration in progress, but I noticed that those who participated in the venture were more subdued than the rest of the patrons in the bar.

Sam had been the focal point of the aeromancers’ circle, and he arrived about twenty minutes after I did. He accepted congratulations, just as the rest of us did, but he wasn’t jovial.

The earthquake was on the news, of course, but the first reports of the avalanche at the monastery weren’t broadcast until I was halfway finished with my breakfast. It took a couple of more hours before the full scope of the disaster became clear. A spokesman for the Archdiocese read a statement for the TV cameras around noon, estimating the loss of life at around seven hundred people. Not all of those were Knights, of course, and unfortunately, Bonato had been asleep in his apartment at Saint Tobias Church in town.

Jordan Blair and Frankie came in around eight-thirty that evening.

“Good evening, Captain,” I said as they approached where Sam and I were sitting at the bar.

“What in the hell happened?” Blair asked.

“Good to see you, too,” Sam said.

“I’ve lived here most of my life, and I have never seen anything like that,” Frankie said. “An earthquake? My God, Sam, there are hundreds of casualties.”

Blair shook his head. “I don’t understand. Surely they had the monastery warded.”

“They did,” Sam said. “But you have to set wards around defined boundaries. The earth beyond and beneath the monastery complex couldn’t be protected.”

“Payback,” Maya Evans said from her seat at a table near us. “We’re tired of being passive while they attack us, kill our friends, and try to take over the world.”

The funniest part of the aftermath was the conservative evangelist preacher saying on TV, “The wrath of God hath smote the heretics of the Knights Magica.” His rant became a part of every national news story about the earthquake, along with speculation as to whether the earthquake was due to natural forces or magic.

Chapter 5

The Knights had no doubts about whether the earthquake and the resulting avalanche were natural.

Later that week, Oriel and I drove out to the place where the mages had formed the circles that destroyed the monastery, and the residual magic was strong enough to make my hair stand on end.

Our counterattack against the Knights inspired groups all over the country to launch their own assaults against the Knights in their areas. By the end of the following week, North America witnessed a full-scale magical civil war.

Alarmed, human authorities declared martial law and called out the armed forces. But what they could do was limited when faced with magic. The army and police mainly tried to protect vital infrastructure and people, but they were basically powerless to interfere with the conflicts between magic users. Until Columbus.

A mage battle erupted on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. A TV video shot from a distance showed what appeared to be two circles, each with a number of supporting mages, throwing fireballs, lightning, and globes of energy at each other. It went on for almost an hour until missiles fired from two U.S. Air Force fighter jets put a spectacular end to things, all caught in living color from different angles by two TV stations.

One of the problems with magic fighting against conventional human technology was distance. A mage, or a mage circle, had to be able to see what they were throwing things at, and the range of a circle was maybe a mile or two at most. The jets fired their missiles from more than two miles away and twenty thousand feet up, which was a close-range shot for such a weapon.

After a few encounters such as that, the mages on both sides got a lot more discreet, and the war evolved into more covert guerilla actions.

It was almost midnight a week after the monastery assault, and I was lurking in an alley in downtown Westport with McGregor, Oriel, Trevor, Steve Dworkin, and one of Oriel’s Fae buddies. We waited for a convoy of Knights. Earlier that evening, three SUVs filled with Knights had left St. Tobias for a raid on the North Bay shifter pack, and we expected them to pass by us on their way home.

I had spoken with the pack alpha, and he said the raid had been a resounding failure. The Knights still hadn’t caught on that Trevor had hacked their secure communications, and the shifters were ready for them.

Many of the streets leading to the church were no longer passable due to previous ambushes on the Knights and the city having given up on trying to keep them repaired. Only two routes were open to the Knights, and we guessed they would use the same route going home as they had used to leave.

Of course, they had a strong guard force in the area around the church, but they didn’t have enough forces to patrol the whole city. Our ambush was set up three blocks away from their perimeter.

Josh Carpenter called Trevor to report that the SUVs had crossed the river bridge from the north bay. A couple of minutes later, Shawna called us to confirm the convoy’s route.

As the first vehicle passed us doing about forty miles an hour, a two-foot-wide crack opened in the street in front of it. The SUV’s front wheels dropped into the gap, and it came to a sudden, crunching halt. The squeal of tires from the following vehicles ended with them crashing together in the middle of the street.

Steve launched a fireball into the pileup before anyone inside could unfasten their seatbelts. Although all the Knights were shielded, a personal shield had to allow air to pass through it. Thus, sitting inside a sudden inferno would have been extremely uncomfortable.

When I trained as a Hunter, we were taught to tighten our shields immediately to block air flow, and to get the hell out of a fire as quickly as we could. The lack of oxygen would kill you as dead as magic could. That worked pretty well in a training situation. Trapped inside a burning vehicle after your brains had been scrambled by an unexpected crash didn’t lend itself to calm, reasoned action.

Some of the Knights bolted out in a panicked rush. Some more managed to stumble out after them. The rest sat there stunned, and when the gas tanks exploded, they cooked. None of us involved in the ambush felt an ounce of sympathy, hardened by the often-savage nature of the magical shadow world and the barbarity the Knights had shown against their enemies.

With McGregor and me in the lead, we attacked the survivors. Our spelled Hunters’ swords sliced through the Knights’ shields. Oriel and his Fae friend had spelled daggers, and with their powers of illusion rendering themselves invisible, they wreaked havoc on individuals who separated from their fellows. Steve tossed more fireballs, and Trevor hurled lightning to add to the confusion.

None of the Knights escaped. I counted seventeen bodies when the fighting was done. A couple of the bodies were shredded, and I thought of a tale I had heard about vampires attacking Fae.

We scavenged the rubies from the Knights’ swords, and then we merged back into the shadows. Everyone on our team hurried to get away from the scene, and I started running toward where Oriel had parked the car he drove that night.

I turned to look back and saw Oriel and his friend become visible, standing over one of the bodies. I slowed to wait for them, but they were taking their time. Then they both squatted, and Oriel’s friend searched the body. About the time I was ready to abandon them—I didn’t have any power of invisibility—they stood and raced in my direction. When they reached me, I turned and ran with them to Oriel’s car.

We drove to my place, and both Fae came upstairs with me. When we got inside and I recast my wards, I turned to the Fae I didn’t know and said, “Hi, I’m Erin. I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

Oriel shot me a look. He knew human conventions but often seemed to forget them.

“This is Reginn,” he said.

That startled me. Surely… “The smith?” I asked. In Norse mythology, Reginn was a blacksmith versed in dark magic. I could feel Reginn’s magic and realized he was possibly the strongest mage I had ever met, Lizzy’s mother, Roisin, included.

“Yes,” Reginn answered.

“My uncle,” Oriel said.

There was a knock on the door. Since I hadn’t buzzed anyone into the building, I approached the door with caution and peered through the peephole. I didn’t recognize the woman standing there.

“It’s probably Tiana,” Oriel said. He looked through the peephole. “Yes. Can you let her in?”

Tiana was a little taller than I was and looked a lot like the woman called Elvira on late-night TV—black hair, pale complexion, blood-red lips. She gave me the once-over and managed not to sneer, but I could tell it was only through an effort to be polite. The feel of magic poured off her like the heat from an overheated radiator.

Then the three of them ignored me and started animatedly discussing our ambush that evening. It took me a few minutes, but I finally figured out what they were talking about.

“That guy was Fae?” I interjected.

“Woman,” Oriel replied absently.

“She was undercover?” I asked.

Tiana shook her head. “Nay. Not that I know of.”

“We think she was a collaborator,” Oriel said.

“I thought the Fae opposed the Knights Magica.”

Reginn gave me a condescending smile. “The Fae are individuals, and there are those who agree with the Knights that humans are cattle, created to serve. I’m sure the Knights don’t understand that they are included in our definition of human.”

“Even among the Summer Court,” Tiana said, “there are those who would like to see you and the Knights destroy each other. Many in the Winter Court would take pleasure in actively encouraging it.” She shrugged. “While I don’t have a great deal of use for humans, the world would be an immensely more boring place without you. You’re so creative and funny.”

“And destructive,” Reginn said.

I suppose I should have been offended, but I was still slightly shaken up by Reginn. If he was the smith of mythology, he had to be at least a couple of millennia old, and immensely powerful. He was also on our side. I searched my memory for the name Tiana in mythology and came up blank, but I couldn’t imagine that the adjective ‘young’ had applied to her in a very, very long time.

   
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