Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(8)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(8)
Author: K.F. Breene

“And you are not most mages.”

“You knew that.” Naturals could draw the materials they needed from their environment—they were not limited to the supplies they could carry on their person.

“I meant, both in and out of bed, you are not most mages.”

His face heated. She was trying to bait him with innuendo, but he wouldn’t bite. No, he needed to focus on the elements before him. The metal of the door, reacting with the flint. The earth holding them together. The wood pushing against them.

He willed the elements into a tight weave that would form his intended spell.

Black fog clouded his vision. An image took over of the handle exploding off the door and punching a hole through his chest.

He took a step to the right. Problem averted.

Spell finished, he pushed out a small bit of power to finish it off. Immediately, his premonition came true. The handle burst from the door, flying over the small walkway and out into the cracked and crumbling pavement beyond. On the other side of the door, the handle hit the ground with a dull thud.

“Open sesame,” Solas said with a smile.

He shoved the door open and stepped through quickly, the wood slamming against the interior wall. A blonde woman stood at a tall desk, dead center in the cramped lobby space, with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. She shrieked and threw up her hands.

Magical components called out to him throughout the room, almost as if they were begging to be used. He’d tried explaining this to a non-natural before, and the best explanation was that he could see the potential elements waving to him from their sources. Almost like they had little translucent tags. He grabbed out five—velvet from a chair, paper from a magazine, plastic from the fake plant, dye from the woman’s hair, and the dirt still lingering on his shoes. He willed them together and pushed with his power.

The woman’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell behind the counter.

Directly ahead, on the other side of the shabby check-in desk, waited a closed door draped in shadow. Behind that, a dingy hallway led to a bathroom and another office, unoccupied since Isaias, operating under the name Jonas Smith, had taken over the lease.

“That is surprising.” Solas wandered in behind Emery and filed off to the side, utterly fearless and unruffled. “I thought you said you didn’t kill without reason. Has your sordid life in the Realm changed you?”

Emery kept his voice down. He’d revealed his presence to Isaias, but he didn’t want his former mentor to know anything else. “She’s not dead. She’s knocked out. She’ll come to in about an hour.” He dug out more flint from his pocket and picked up objects as he worked his way to the visible door, the wood lined and faded.

He summoned up the protective magic that every mage was born with. It required no ingredients outside of the mage’s own body. No power or energy other than what was stored. It was the magic of survival, ingrained.

Most mages didn’t know how to manipulate the power. It was a blunt tool called up as a last resort, used on instinct. But most mages hadn’t spent years running for their lives and hiding in places no sane person would willingly go. A man developed a certain affinity for staying alive when he was forced to struggle for existence every moment of his life.

He dropped the ingredients he’d collected, leaving them in a pile at his feet. Working the elements he needed, he half built the weave before anchoring it to the doorway. The black fog came and went in a flash.

The walls blew out.

Emery smiled to himself. Isaias had been expecting him. He’d built spells into the walls in anticipation.

Did he not remember Emery’s natural gift? How had he hoped to hide that particular surprise?

Shaking his head, Emery thought about creating a spell to soak into the wood of the wall, countering Isaias’s spell and causing it to disintegrate. But what a waste of time…

He pulled on the magical threads he needed for the protection spell, entwining them with his survival magic for an extra kick, and wove his work along the surface of the wall. The dirty white paint dissolved into blood red. The color stretched to the corner before wrapping around. He’d covered the whole door.

“He was notorious for wasting his resources,” Emery muttered, anchoring the spell. “Just around the door would’ve been fine.”

“Maybe he feared you’d bring an army,” Solas whispered, thankfully quick at picking up the situation.

“I did.” Emery glanced at her. “Oh, you meant more people?”

A pleased smile curled her lips before red crept into her pale cheeks. She looked away in delighted embarrassment.

For all her hardness, the planes and angles of her personality, she wasn’t immune to flattery.

“We’ll need to get cover just in case he has more power than I expect. The reception desk should be enough.” He gestured for Solas to take cover.

“I was content to watch you work, as I find it fascinating, but I am not going to hide behind a dirty desk in a filthy establishment. I may not be from much, but I do have some standards.” She flicked her hand. The door handle clicked, but not in the warning way of before. It was the click of the lock.

Emery frowned as anticipation built.

“I didn’t know you had control of metal,” he said, still for the moment.

“Any Elemental worth their practice grounds has a secret. Some small talent they keep close to the chest. This particular ability can be useful.” She paused, her eyes steady on his. “I trust I can count on you to keep this to yourself?”

“Given how tenaciously you’d try to kill me if I passed it on, I’d say so, yes.” Emery slowly reached for the handle.

“And given that I know your location…and your enemy.”

“That too,” he muttered. “It looks like his spells aren’t dependent on the lock.” He paused before reaching out to touch the metal. “The spells are dependent on that door opening without the correct element to render them dormant. If I just push it open, my protection spell won’t help us. The walls will still blast.” Something occurred to him, and he spun, looking for the woman he’d put to sleep.

“What element do you need?”

“Not an element in the sense of the ones you wield. I mean…the properties of natural items. The building blocks that make up nature. Sometimes it’s part of an object near me, like the cotton in my shirt or rubber on my shoe, and sometimes it’s the object as a whole, like dirt, flint, or wood. I draw the energy out of the material and weave it into a spell.”

“That is not usual for mages—or anyone. Correct?”

“No, it’s not, unless you are a mage with the highest level of magic. Even if you’re a natural, you still have to learn to harness the ability. You have to practice and train. That was something my brother and I did together. And we’d still be doing together if this…” He gritted his teeth to keep from exploding in rage.

Thankfully, Solas let it go.

Pushing the emotion away, he bent to the woman lying in reception. Elements called to him from each item making up her wardrobe—all except for one. An item from her pocket. A plain gem keychain pulsing with power.

He snatched the keys and headed back to the closed door, his heart heavy. Once there, he paused, staring at the handle in trepidation.

“You do not seem like a man who fears battle.” Solas’s low, feminine hum drifted to him through the heavy silence.

His heart surged in his ears, nearly drowning her out. “It’s not the attack that I’m afraid of. It’s my past.”

He swung the door open before ripping his hand back behind his protective spell. Not a moment later, a stream of spells flew at him—mottled red, brilliant blue, and one orange-yellow. They hit his dual pane of protection and flashed brightly before fizzling into nothing.

Unable to stall any longer, he stepped across the threshold, seeing the undulating strands of magic surrounding him, ready to be used.

Emery’s stomach flipped and lead filled his shoes.

There he was, with deeper lines in his face and more gray in his hair.

Isaias.

The man Emery had met as a boy. The man who had recognized potential in his brother, then him. The man who had trained them through the grief of losing their parents, past the rebellion of their teenage years. The man who had shown Emery how to become a dual-mage with his brother, two naturals of the highest caliber entering into one of the most powerful pairings in the world.

   
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