Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(2)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(2)
Benedict Jacka

“You’re getting slow,” Variam said.

“Regrowing nerves is slow. Unless you don’t want to be able to feel anything along your forearm—”

“He’s just being a dick,” Luna said. “Vari, shut up and let her work.”

Variam rolled his eyes. Green light began to glow around Anne’s hands, spreading into Variam’s arm as Anne’s healing magic took hold. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Anne heal Variam, or the fifth for that matter, and the two of them made it look very everyday and ordinary. All the same, I couldn’t help but think of how close it had been. I’d shouted a warning, but if Variam had been just a little slower to get that shield up . . .

There was a chime from the mantelpiece. Luna’s head snapped up instantly, but I was already reaching for the item that had made the sound: a small blue-purple disc with serrated edges. I picked it up and channelled a thread of magic through its centre.

The edges of the disc lit up and a small figure materialised at the centre, twelve inches tall and sculpted from blue light. The shape was that of a man, middle-aged and straight-backed, with thinning hair. “Verus,” the figure said. His voice was as clear as if he’d been standing in front of me. “How did it go?”

My name’s Alexander Verus. The “Verus” part is my mage name, the “Alex” part comes from my parents, and I go by either or both depending on which society I’m interacting with and how much I like the person I’m talking to. I’m a diviner, which means that I can perceive the sensory data of my short- to medium-term potential futures in the form of if-then conditionals.

I’ve also got some serious long-term problems, most of which stem from my history. Mages are split into two factions, and I was originally trained by a particularly notorious Dark mage named Richard Drakh. The mage I was talking to through the communication focus, Talisid, was from the other faction—the Light Council, the dominant power in magical society—and I’d been working for him on and off for several years. It had been a low-key, freelance relationship . . . at least until last April, when Anne was kidnapped and taken away into the shadow realm of her old master, Sagash.

I went after Anne and found her, and together we fought our way out. But despite all the battles and dangers we went through, it wouldn’t have been even a footnote in the records as far as any other mages were concerned, except for one thing. While I’d been in Sagash’s shadow realm, we’d run into my old master, Richard.

There had already been rumours of Richard’s return. When I told my story, it was treated with the same scepticism as the rumours. I’d only seen someone who looked like Richard—it could have been an illusion, or a construct, or some other trick. Richard had been gone for eleven years, and as far as many of the Light mages were concerned, this was probably just someone trying to trade on his old reputation. But I knew that it hadn’t been a trick. It had been Richard, returned after all this time . . . and worst of all, he hadn’t forgotten about me. He’d asked us to join him.

It didn’t matter that we’d said no. I never came to really know Richard back when I was his apprentice—I don’t think anyone did—but there were some things about him of which I was certain. One was that he was very, very patient. And another was that when he wanted something, he took it. In my mind, ever since that April, a clock had been ticking. I didn’t know how much time was left on it, but I knew that sooner or later it would run out.

One mage who hadn’t been sceptical was Talisid. He’d believed the rumours of Richard’s return even before I had, and in the months since then, he’d begun approaching me more often, asking for my help with operations. Surveillance, reconnaissance, even some covert insertions, all with the same ultimate goal: finding out what Richard was doing, and how to stop him.

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