Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(3)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(3)
Benedict Jacka

Things were easy at first. We discovered that Richard had returned to his old base of operations, the mansion in Wales. Once he’d set up again, he started to receive visitors in increasing numbers. All were Dark mages. We couldn’t get close enough to risk actually eavesdropping on one of the meetings, but we were able to discover that Richard was trying to build a coalition, uniting as many Dark mages as he could. At the same time, another Dark mage named Morden was making a push to get Dark mages admitted to the Light Council. From several pieces of information that we’d uncovered, we were sure that the two of them were working together. Morden was the public face, dealing with the mages on the Light side of the fence, while Richard kept the Dark mages in line. A few Dark mages had spoken out against Morden’s proposal; all had disappeared without a trace shortly afterwards.

But since October, our investigations had become harder. We’d taken all the low-hanging fruit, and the closer we drew to Richard’s real secrets, the more we risked revealing ourselves. Talisid started sending us further afield, chasing rumours with no guarantee of safety or success. Some of the leads we pursued turned out to have nothing to do with Richard at all, while others turned out to be dangerous.

The mission we’d just returned from had been the second kind. Talisid had sent us to Idlib, a contested city within Syria. He’d told us that there was a lightly guarded warehouse in the eastern district containing a shipment of goods intended for Richard’s mansion. Talisid had been right about where the goods were headed. He hadn’t been right about much else.

“How did it go?” I repeated. “Badly.”

“Is everyone—?”

“Alive, yes,” I said. “Healthy, no. We need to have a talk about your definition of ‘lightly guarded.’”

“The militia—”

“The militia weren’t the problem,” I said. “Although there were a lot more of them than you said there would be. The problem was the ice elemental.”

“What kind?”

“The kind that’s seven feet tall, made of solid ice, and can freeze things from thirty feet away. I didn’t stick around to classify it.”

“You said there wasn’t going to be any magical security,” Luna cut in.

“Did you get a look at the shipment?” Talisid asked.

“Is that all you care about?” Luna demanded. “What, it’s okay if we get killed, just as long as—”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Well, that’s the way it sounded!”

I held up a hand. Luna’s gaze flicked to me, and she shut up. She still looked pissed off, though, and I didn’t blame her. “Talisid,” I said. “This is the second time in a row.”

“I know. I’m sorry. All of the information we have indicated that this militia group was entirely mundane.”

“And it didn’t occur to you to wonder how a mundane group would be selling—?” I checked myself, took a breath. “Forget it.”

There was a moment’s pause. Over on the sofa, Variam was listening in. Anne was still working on Variam’s arm, the green light of her magic casting a soft glow. “You weren’t able to get close enough, then,” Talisid said.

“Oh, we got close enough,” I said. “To some empty crates. Whatever that shipment was, it’s gone. Your intel was wrong about that too.”

“Empty?”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure they—?”

“Yes, I’m sure they were empty, and no, they weren’t anywhere else in the warehouse. We checked. For as long as we could, anyway, until that elemental pulled its Mr. Freeze act. Whoever gave you those timings, they screwed up.”

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