Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(8)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(8)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

One of the nightmare figures that did resemble a cross between a human and a grizzly bear picked up one of the Knights—shield and all—and tried to bite off his head. The shield prevented that, but the Knight still screamed in terror. The grizzly guy, frustrated by the shield, stabbed the Knight with a long knife that penetrated his shield, then bit off his head. I recognized the knife as one I had helped Oriel make.

The two Knights facing me hesitated. I stepped toward the one on my right, swung low, and took off his leg at the knee. Whirling toward the other guy, I blocked his overhand strike just before it would have hit my shield.

We both took a step back. I circled to my left, forcing him to turn to keep me in front of him. Something dark and amorphous, straight out of a horror movie, grabbed him from behind and pinned his arms to his sides. I drove my sword into his chest. He dropped his sword and his shield, then the monster dropped him and spun away with lightning speed, looking for its next victim.

The fight ended quickly, and I was left with a dozen bodies and six Unseelie Fae. A couple of them each grabbed a Knight and trotted off into the night. I had a terrible feeling that I didn’t want to know what they planned to do with the corpses. In an eyeblink, the Fae turned into some rather unusual-looking people.

Oriel changed back into his human form and approached me. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go home and take a shower.” He needed one, and a change of clothes. Luckily, I had found that washing his Fae-made wardrobe in cold water took out all of the bloodstains. At least he didn’t look as though he’d bitten anyone.

Tiana stood by my car. “Nice sword work.”

“Thanks.” I briefly wondered which of the monsters she was, then shied away from the thought.

She held up a spelled sword Oriel and I had made. Blood ran down the blade. “I like this.”

“Glad I could be of service,” I said, feeling a bit numb, and climbed behind the wheel of my car.

“Where did they come from?” I asked Oriel as I put the car in gear.

“I spotted the Knights lurking when I showed up,” he said, “so I called some friends to help us deal with them.”

“Have they been hunting vampires?”

“Huh? No, just Knights. Why?”

“Gabriel Laurent called this evening and said someone—not the Knights—has been killing his minions.”

Oriel was silent as we drove to my place.

Before I went on my run the following day, I called Michaela and told her about Laurent summoning me.

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked.

“I would appreciate it.”

“No problem. I’ll ask around and try to find out what he’s talking about.”

That evening, several people I suspected of being Knights in civilian clothes came into Rosie’s for dinner. I pointed them out to the rest of the staff, but in spite of my forebodings, they behaved themselves, and even stayed for an impromptu jam session by a few musicians.

They left about an hour before I got off my shift. Steve walked with me to our cars, but we didn’t encounter any problems. When I got home, however, I could tell that someone had tested my wards.

The following morning, I received a call from Frankie.

“Erin, can you make it down to my office at eleven?”

“I guess so. What’s going on?”

“Some people from Washington and Salem are here. They want to discuss the lawlessness in Westport, and I wanted you to tell them about the Knights abducting you.”

Great. “Did you already tell them about me?”

“They already knew. Michaela said she will come.”

So, I showered, put on some light makeup, and dressed in a nice top and a knee-length skirt. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look as young and innocent as possible.

Frankie had given me an access code so I could park under the courthouse where her office was, which meant I didn’t have to spend half an hour looking for a parking space. I took the elevator up to her office, and the receptionist led me to a conference room.

Other than Captain Blair and Frankie, the only person in the room I recognized was a guy I had seen on TV—Allen Friedman, an investigator with the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. He had been in Westport on and off since the Knights had blown the shadow world’s cover, and his visits usually drove Frankie to drink.

Michaela showed up a couple of minutes after I did, magnificent as always. All the men in the room went goggle-eyed, and I had to hide a smile. She sat down, and Frankie introduced everyone. In addition to Friedman, there was a general, an FBI agent, and two more congressional aides from Washington. A colonel from the Oregon National Guard, a state police captain, and an aide to the governor were there from Salem.

Of all the visiting dignitaries in the room, only Friedman could have walked into Rosie’s. Although he looked like a normal human, he was Fae. I wondered how Frankie could have missed it.

“What we want to know,” Friedman said, “is why there is so much strife going on in Westport. Although the Knights Magica have a significant presence in other places, none of them have become a war zone the way Westport has.”

Frankie took a deep breath. “That’s not what the news is reporting, or the FBI. But the number of magic users is higher here per capita than any city in the country other than Washington, D.C. Do you gentlemen understand about ley lines?”

She went on to tell them about ley lines and how they worked—leaving out the recent disruptions, which we thought were due to the Knights.

“Since Westport has two major lines intersecting just east of the city,” she concluded, “a significant number of mages have settled here over the past hundred and fifty years. Witches and supernaturals followed. The latest group to come here is the Knights Magica, and the locals haven’t responded favorably to their authoritarian tactics.”

“I don’t understand,” the governor’s aide said. “The Knights are part of the Universal Church. It seems as though what’s going on here is an attack on freedom of religion.”

I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

“The other churches in Westport view it differently,” Frankie said. “They are concerned that the Universal Church is trying to establish itself as the only religious organization. The Knights have attacked the mosque here in town, and tried to intimidate the clergy and worshippers at numerous other churches.”

Eventually, the topic turned to the Knights’ behavior and their kidnapping of Michaela and me.

“I think we’ve all seen the video of you,” Friedman said to Michaela. “You murdered several Knights and a priest.”

She smiled, showing her teeth, which was something she rarely did with humans watching. “I escaped, yes. Considering what they did to me prior to that, I claim self-defense.”

Friedman studied her. “What kind of magic do you have?” he finally asked.

“Why, none at all, although you might say I am magic—a creature that shouldn’t exist.” Michaela settled into her chair and surveyed the men sitting at the table.

“Are you a vampire?” the general asked.

“If I were, I wouldn’t be meeting with you in the middle of the day, now would I?”

I loved her answer, which I could tell sparked a lot of new questions in their minds.

“I was born in 1863 and moved to Westport in 1882,” Michaela continued, “so I guess you might say I qualify as an expert on the city’s history. Ms. McLane and I were having lunch at a local restaurant. In the parking lot afterward, we were assaulted and abducted by a dozen Knights Magica. Over the next month, I was held at the Universal Church monastery outside of town, repeatedly beaten, raped, and tortured by a number of fine, religious gentlemen, not to mention suffering through three exorcisms.”

“And do you know why they did that?” the FBI man asked.

“You say you saw the tape. They wanted me to endorse the Knights’ takeover and induce other supernaturals to surrender and accept the Church’s sovereignty. Much easier than slaughtering all of us, and much safer.” She leaned forward, putting her hands on the table. “Do not delude yourselves. The Knights now control the Universal Church, and their aim is global domination. They have taken over the governments of several countries already, and the United States would be their biggest prize. With your armed forces, they would set forth to conquer the world.”

Amusement, irritation, and disbelief showed on the general’s face in quick succession before he schooled his features into a stony mask.

“I find that difficult to believe,” he said.

“You can believe what you like. Your beliefs can’t change reality. There’s an election coming up. I suggest you consider what you would do if Timothy Wheeler wins the presidency,” Michaela said.

Wheeler had won the Universal Church’s endorsement, and his party was running strong, well-funded races for Congress all across the country. None of the visitors looked happy at Michaela’s statement, with the exception of Friedman, whose expression didn’t change.

Friedman turned to me. “And why would the Knights want to kidnap you?”

“They seemed to think I knew something about a group called the Illuminati.”

His eyes widened, then he snorted. “The Illuminati are a myth.”

I shrugged, not believing that he believed his statement for even an instant. “The Knights don’t think so. They spent a month beating and torturing me, asking questions that I didn’t have any answers for.”

Frankie took out a small stack of photographs and pushed them across the table. She had taken pictures of my injuries when I escaped the Knights.

“I personally took these after Ms. McLane was rescued from the monastery.”

The photos were passed around, and I purposely didn’t look at them. I had seen enough in the mirror of what the Knights did to me. Most of the men spent a long time looking at some of the pictures, but a couple of them just glanced at the images, winced, and set them aside.

   
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