After last month's confrontation with a dragon, Allish Statia has fallen into an easy routine of rehabilitation and training. With her trusted friend and mentor, she's started learning basic mage spells, elemental control, and the intricacies of mage society.
The peace ends when an assassin shows up in her husband's office.
With her unique abilities, Allish is able to drive him off—but when footage of the fight leaks, it puts her in the cross-hairs of every powerful mage in the city. Soon, she is running for her life in a world of dark magic, science, and corruption, and it's going to take every ounce of her new powers if she wants to stay alive.
The front window had been blasted out. Glass lay in shards across the floor, glinting over the laminate like road ice. The ledge outside cut a sheer drop to the street thirty levels below.
Up this high, Allish could see the tops of Parliament’s domes, turned green with age and rain. A set of police lights flashed on the slate-gray drive at the building’s base. From this far, the siren was barely a keen on the wind.
Air gusted through the open pane, ruffling her hair and driving a familiar cold into her skin. Her heart picked up as she turned, surveying the damage.
A month ago, the Mageguard had removed Ivern’s desk from the window—for security, they’d said. From what she could tell, it hadn’t made a difference. The bomb had flipped it over, slamming its heavy wood-and-glass top into the bookshelf behind it, pinning Ivern’s chair under its bulk. Its once gleaming mahogany smoked, blackened by the same blast mark that scored the floor in front. The laminate had burned away, the layers underneath fractured and warped, peeling back enough that she could see a dent in the concrete below.
The air smelled acrid, like burnt plastic.
She frowned. Where was Ivern? Had he left already? Ported out?
No. The room had a tense disquiet that made the muscles of her back coil tight.
She wasn’t alone.
As she walked closer, the Sylph settled in her bones. The spirit’s wild energy shivered under her skin. Allish curled her lips back as she let it ride through her, baring her teeth.
She ran a finger over the desk, feeling the heat left from the bomb. Pockmarks chewed through the wood beneath the soot, and she pricked her finger on a fragment that stuck out of the mutilated surface like a broken blade.
Not much, though. If the attacker had truly meant to hurt or kill, shouldn’t there have been more? She was no bomb expert; she’d only seen a few pictures of terrorist bombs on TV, back when the anti-Mage sentiment had been high, but they had been explicit: modified pressure cookers filled with nails, or pipes with gravel and explosives.
A corner of the desk wasn’t as burned as the rest. Although the glass had cracked, a distinct line curved its way between the charred, ruined surface and a stretch of nearly perfect, unmarred wood. The sight of it chilled her heart.
So he had been here when the bomb had gone off.
But where was he now?
A clunk sounded in the room. Her attention snapped to a door that stood ajar in the far corner.
She’d never paid attention to it before. It was pushed out of the way, and her visits to Ivern’s office had not included an extended tour. She’d assumed it was a closet.
The Sylph collected energy from the air. Allish sidestepped, winding her way around fallen furniture and giving the door a wide berth as she came even with it.
A shudder of power thrummed from the other side. It cut short like a wave against a break.
She froze. The air was still, tense. Shadows edged the gap between door and frame, creating a sharp wedge where the bottom angled away from the threshold.
Rain drizzled against the nearby window. It was so quiet that she could hear every drop.
With a violent gesture, she smashed her Element into the door.
It slammed open, bouncing off the wall with a bang.
Ivern stood in the dark corridor, his skin crawling with storm-dark Mage sigils, Elemental power making the air around him hum with pressure. She could feel it all the way from where she stood, building against her skin like pressure in a thunderstorm. A ribbon of gold snaked toward his neck, alive with magic, its glow illuminating the thread of blood that dripped from his jaw.
His eyes went wide when he saw her. Power crackled into the room, wild energy that spiraled into her skin. He took a step forward, hand rising, reaching out.
Glass crunched in front of her, not two feet away.
That was all the warning she got.
Pain pierced her leg—like someone had driven a hammer into her shin. She screamed, buckling sideways as her bad leg throbbed, a needle-like force wedging through the old break and forcing it apart. Memories flashed through her, fresh as the scar on her skin, bubbling to the surface like old, dead blood. Her leg crumpled underneath her.
But she didn’t fall.
The Sylph took over, pulled her sideways like a limp puppet. Air twisted around as she flew, rushing over her head. Magic pulsed inside her like an electric heartbeat.
She landed, crouched on the floor, bad leg bent underneath her, fingers like claws on the broken laminate and the cold concrete below. Her wild eyes focused on a man who had appeared close to where she’d been standing.
He had a pale complexion, with a side-swept head of hair so blond, it reminded her of sunlit flax. The light was behind him, putting his face in shadow, but his pale blue eyes cut through the dark to her. Sigils danced on his skin, burning a bright, golden white.
A Light Mage.
Weren’t they supposed to be healers?
The man’s white military fatigues and gun harness suggested otherwise.
As she watched, the room warped around him. Invisibility enveloped his form as if he’d drawn a curtain. He broke off his stare, taking a step to the left before he completely vanished.
Then, he was gone.
But the Sylph knew exactly where he was. He might have been able to lie with light, but she could still feel him breathe.
“Allish, run! Get out of here!”
Ivern had reached the door, but a line of bright golden sigils held him back, pulsing as he strained against them. The threshold crumpled and cracked as he threw his power against it.
She stumbled to the side, away from where the assassin had gone. The Sylph tracked him to her left, his feet silent on the broken floor. He hadn’t been wearing boots. His shoes had been soft-soled, with a split between the big toe and the rest, like a modernized version of traditional ninja footwear.
He stepped between her and the office’s exit.
Her mind whirled. Where were the Mageguard? They should have been here by now.
Except for her, Ivern, and the assassin, the office remained empty.
She scrambled for her Element as the man advanced. The Sylph’s magic slammed into her like a flood, urging her to do something. As she stepped back, she realized the pain in her leg had lessened, barely more than a throb now.
Had it all been an illusion?
It certainly hadn’t felt like one.
She stilled her breath. The air thickened around her as she back-stepped, bumping into a chair with her heel. She couldn’t see him, but she knew exactly where he was.
He slipped within a meter of her, and a spike of panic snapped through her. She raised her hand and slashed down with her Element.
Blood cut through the air in front of her. Two large gashes that opened up without a body attached to them. The assassin grunted in pain, backtracked. Golden light lined the wound, wrapping it with the healer’s touch she’d associated with Light Mages.
A second later, he’d re-cloaked himself. She tracked him across the room, back toward the blast site.
But she wasn’t finished with him yet.
The Sylph rose in her. Fury straightened her back, curled her lip, stopped her leg from shaking. Her fingers tensed into claws, itching for blood. Wind blasted her back, tore her hair loose from its tie.
Power crashed through her.
She leapt forward, vaulted the overturned chair, and sprinted after him.
Behind her, Ivern broke through the assassin’s wards. Energy smashed into the room.
The desk blasted backwards at her power, burnt wood cracking and shuddering. Her Element struck against the assassin’s shield like sharpened knives. Golden light burned into the air where she touched. He turned the rest of her attack aside, and the wind splintered the bookshelf behind him.
The Sylph snarled, bared her teeth, channeled power like a storm.
Light bent in front of her, made the space shiver.
For a second, she saw his eyes—bright, blue, calculating.
Then, he was gone.
The air in front of her felt suddenly empty.
Allish frowned, searched her senses. Had he ported? The Sylph’s wild energy snapped through the room, making the air howl and scream. Her hair whipped around her, sweeping across her bare shoulders.
Glass crunched to her right.
She snapped around, sprinted for the opening. She could feel him now, the void of air where a person was. She could almost feel the breath inside his lungs. If she could just touch it—
He leapt from the window into open air.
Her jaw dropped, eyes widening as she realized what he’d done. There was no rope, no harness, no parachute. Nothing to support him.
She felt him fall.
The world dropped away as she came to the ledge. Sheer walls of white stone and clear glass angled straight down with nothing to grip. The street below looked so small that the cars might have been metallic ants. Rain skittered across her skin, spitting from the clouds.
She hesitated—but only for a second.
Her stomach flopped as she jumped, air rushing to greet her fall. Her pants flapped and shivered as her Element cocooned her. She searched with her senses, pinpointed the assassin’s location.
But even a second was enough of a lead for him to escape.
Light flared far below her, burning as bright as magnesium and falling like a star.
A second later, it winked out.
The assassin had teleported.