Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)
Benedict Jacka

Chapter 1

It was midwinter.

A cold wind blew down the street outside, beating at the houses and rattling the windows. The night was overcast, the air a few degrees above freezing. It was the early hours of the morning, and the noise of the clubs and bars had faded to a distant murmur until the loudest sound from the city around us was the whine of the wind.

Inside, the warmth of the living room held back the cold. Variam was sitting on the sofa with Anne tending to him. Luna was pacing back and forth beside the table, while I was leaning against the wall next to the mantelpiece, my arms folded and my head down. There was a tension in the air.

“You should have got out earlier,” Luna said, still pacing. Invisible to normal sight, the silver-grey mist of her curse swirled and snapped around her. Luna’s curse is tied to her emotions; being around her when she was angry used to be dangerous. She’s better now, but the movements of her curse still broadcast her emotional state to anyone with the skill to see it.

“Didn’t have time,” Variam said.

“We said to evac when the alarm was raised.”

“We needed a couple more minutes.”

“You do this every time. I told you the militia were coming in—”

“Well, they weren’t the problem, were they?” Variam twisted around to face Luna. “If we’d—”

“Vari,” Anne said.

“Fine, okay.” Variam turned back to where he’d been before. Anne placed one hand on Variam’s left shoulder and the other on his wrist, and went back to studying the limb, eyes slightly narrowed.

My eyes rested on Variam’s arm. The sleeve of his coat was brittle and shredded from where the ice blast had hit, and the skin beneath was swollen and tinged an unnatural bluish-white. I wanted badly to ask Anne whether he’d be okay but knew it’d only distract her. I’d never yet seen Anne run up against an injury she couldn’t heal, but there’s always a first time . . .

“What the hell was Talisid thinking?” Luna asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“There wasn’t supposed to be any magical security. He said—”

“I know,” I interrupted. “We’ll get into it when he picks up.”

Luna is my apprentice, half-English and half-Italian with wavy light brown hair. Although she’s an adept and only twenty-four, she’s got more battle experience than most mages ten years her senior. She’d been on backup duty for the mission this evening, and she’d done her job well, but from the look in her eyes I knew she wanted to take her frustrations out on someone. Still, she kept quiet.

Anne straightened slightly from where she was sitting. It was only a small movement, but both Luna and I turned towards her. “So?” Luna asked before I could open my mouth.

“He’ll be fine,” Anne said in her soft voice.

I felt some of the tension go out of Luna, and to my eyes, the tendrils of mist around her slowed. “How bad is it?” I asked Anne.

Anne and Variam make an odd pair. Anne is tall and slender while Variam is small; where Anne is soft-spoken and shy, Variam is confident and quick. When the two of them are together, it’s Variam who usually stands out in the conversation, while Anne’s content to stay in the background. Despite that, it’s Anne who might be the more powerful of the two. She’s a life mage, and due to various events that she doesn’t like to talk about, she was forced from a young age to become very good with her magic. It’s given her more than her share of issues, but it’s also made her the best healer I know.

“The skin, nerves, and blood vessels are frozen along the left side,” Anne said. “But there’s no serious tendon damage and the muscles are okay. It’ll take me ten minutes or so.”

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