Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(9)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(9)
Author: K.F. Breene

The man who had betrayed them. Then disappeared.

One question had been burning in Emery’s mind these last few years, begging for an answer.

“Why did you do it?”

Isaias’s shoulders straightened for a moment, but then sadness crossed his features and he hunched back down on himself. He didn’t bother getting up from the rickety old chair behind his busted and decrepit desk.

“Why did you do it?” Emery repeated, stepping farther into the room. “Conrad trusted you. I trusted you.”

“It wasn’t my fault.” Isaias put up his hands. “You have to believe me.”

“You sold Conrad out, and then told them how to get past our wards. Then you just left.”

“I had to! It was safer for you that way.”

Emery gave a humorless laugh. “Safer for me? I’m the Mages’ Guild’s number one most wanted. You chased me out of my home. You chased me out of safety.”

The old mage shook his balding head. His jowls jiggled with the movement. “You have to believe me, Emery. It wasn’t my fault.”

Blackness crept through Emery’s mind at the sight of his mentor’s guilt-ridden face. “Tell me why,” Emery said, his demand sounding more like a plea. “Tell me why.”

“They said they wouldn’t hurt you boys. They just wanted you out of the way, that’s all. You have to realize, Emery—the Mages’ Guild doesn’t like anyone they can’t control. Conrad was gathering supporters. And he had you, another natural waiting in the wings. He was amassing power, don’t you see? Amassing power with the intent of overturning the system. I had to warn them of what Conrad planned. What he wanted to do was madness. Don’t you understand how much money we stood to lose if Conrad took over? How much power?”

The world dropped out from under Emery’s feet. Weightless, all he could do was stare at his former mentor in confused disbelief for a moment. “How much we stood to lose?” he asked incredulously. Painful pressure ripped at his heart. “We? As in…you?” He gulped, the action difficult. A humorless smile pulled at his lips and he narrowed his eyes. “You’re kidding, right? You just told them what they wanted to know… You weren’t actually…one of them, were you?”

Isaias’s eyes tightened. His mouth worked for a moment, nothing coming out. Finally, he found his voice. “I should’ve told you. I should’ve. That was wrong of me. But it wasn’t important back then. My job coincided with what you boys needed. We were working together. Why ruin that? Then, when the guild called me in, I had no choice. I thought they’d force you to disappear. Peaceful resolution for everyone. I had no idea they’d kill your brother, Emery. You have to believe me. I thought they’d just scare you boys.”

Emery held up his hand to stop the conflicting babble of someone he’d once thought of as a father figure. His limbs slowly numbed, like his mind.

He’d expected a confrontation that would turn his stomach, but he’d thought Isaias would admit to buckling under torture. Or maybe because he’d somehow thought he was helping. Emery had never expected, not once, that Isaias had sold them out because it was his job. That Isaias had befriended them, helped them, trained them…for the guild.

He’d been the enemy from day one.

“Did Conrad know about this?” Emery asked in a wispy voice.

“No.” Isaias waved his hands. “But I had intended to tell him. When the time was right, I was going to explain the truth.”

“But how…” Memories flashed in bright lights before Emery’s eyes. “How could this have escaped him? He had high clearance in the guild.”

“He had no reason to go looking.” Isaias spread his hands. “And even if he did, his clearance wasn’t high enough.”

Emery pulled air from his lungs, still unable to get enough. Memories continued to barrel into him. The dark days and sleepless nights after his parents died. The pain and the fear. Conrad and Emery were given the choice to live with a few distant relations, but no one really wanted them.

Then, out of the blue, they went to the store to pick up some lunch and ran into a man claiming to be a friend of their parents. What a strange and wonderful coincidence. He claimed he’d stopped by the store on his way to the social worker’s house to meet them. From the word go, Isaias said all the right things, knew all the right facts, and then he threw the perfect curveball.

They were different, he said.

They were special.

They had magic.

He was a light in their darkness, serving up candied words when everything else tasted like dirt. And what do you know—like the very magic he spoke of, he was approved to take custody of Emery and his brother when they were barely teens, until they could stand on their own. To train them. To shape them.

So the guild could use them.

It had all been a lie. Plotted, planned out. They’d been raised to be instruments.

Looking at it through this lens, the events that had placed Conrad and Emery in Isaias’s custody looked a lot less like fate, and lot more like the contrived circumstances of an extremely powerful organization.

Emery let out a shaky breath. “You told them how to break into Conrad’s and my home. The wards you insisted on helping us create, even though we didn’t need you at that point.”

“You were scrappy. I knew that even if they got in, you’d get away!”

“Just like you probably thought Conrad would get away, too.”

A shadow crossed Isaias’s visage, and just like that, Emery knew.

Isaias hadn’t thought Conrad would get away at all. He’d known what the guild would do to him, and he’d served him up on a platter. Then he’d sent them after Emery, the flunky, next.

Isaias was the reason Conrad was dead. He was the reason Emery had no life. No future.

The kicker was that Emery had had a chance to go with his brother. The invite to see somewhere new—a distant land—had been extended, and it was only because Emery was working on something that he’d declined.

He could’ve helped his brother. Given him a much-needed ally.

Saved him.

It was hard to breathe. Hard to think.

“And now you’re hiding,” Emery said in a whisper. “Why is that, I wonder?”

“Because the guild wants him dead,” Solas said from just outside the doorway. “The guild in the Brink are corrupt. Everyone knows that. If you are no longer necessary, you are executed. Although…maybe they left him alive to monitor him in the hopes he’d lure you to him. Like he has done.”

“They wouldn’t be able to find him.” Emery shook his head, his mind racing. “I could barely find him, and I know how his mind works.”

“The guild probably didn’t predict that,” Solas said, crossing her arms. “He is a loose end. One that wronged you horribly. Tie it up. Send him to his maker.”

“The new plan is already in place,” Isaias said with a manic twinkle in his eyes. All pretense of pleading dropped away. Rage took its place. “With Conrad out of the way, the setup was easy. The rewards plentiful. Dark magic has its benefits. And I could’ve stayed and reaped those rewards if Conrad had just listened to me. If he had gotten off his high horse and seen what was possible. You should blame your brother, not me. He killed us all.” His mouth twisted in distaste and he pinched a casing and threw, still fast despite his age. Or maybe Emery was just horribly slow right then.

A stream of black blistered through the air. Emery lifted his hand to shield himself, but he needn’t have bothered.

Hot air rushed in front of his body, filling the space between him and Isaias. It spun like a tornado, sucking up the hex, and then twisted upward, toward the ceiling. Plaster and paint flew from the sides. Wood groaned.

“Shall I end this?” Solas asked with sparkling green eyes. So much electricity filled the air that Emery’s hair stood on end. “A lightning bolt would be efficient.”

“How did you gain the favor of a weather Elemental?” Isaias asked with widened eyes. He clutched another capsule.

“She is much more than just a weather Elemental,” Emery said, siphoning power from the mini-storm. He pulled elements from within the room and bent them to his will. A tight weave wrapped around his old mentor, pinning Isaias’s hands to his sides. “And I was in the right place, at the right time. Leave him, Solas. Let the guild deal with him however they will.”

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