Threat of Magic – Linsey Hall

The warrior lunged at me, her sword swiping for my neck. My heart lurched as a I ducked low, avoiding her strike. I gripped my own sword, unfamiliar with the new Amazonian weapon, and whirled away from her. She growled and charged, but I was ready. I sliced at her with my blade, narrowly missing her neck. “It’s in the wrist!” shouted Alkaia, my trainer, from the sidelines. “Don’t forget the wrist.” Damn it, Alkaia was right. I was forgetting the wrist. The Amazons—some of the most famous warriors in history—were letting me train with them, and I was forgetting the damned wrist. My opponent came at me again, wielding her xiphos with precision. She certainly wasn’t forgetting to use her wrist, and the short sword nearly struck me. I gripped my own xiphos and danced out of her way, my fancy footwork the only thing saving me from getting a slice to the arm. Because they were immortal badasses, the Amazons trained with real weapons. I had a few nasty slices to show for it.

All around, the training room bustled with people practicing their swordplay. Today, I was up against Lykopis, a warrior who was over two thousand years old but looked only twenty. She wore modern black tactical gear. Her dark hair swung in a long ponytail and her green eyes followed my every move like a snake. I really liked Lykopis, except for the fact that she was probably going to kick my ass. I quickstepped away from her, heading back toward the wall as I considered my options. Speed was the only thing that could make up for my shoddy wrist-work, so I waited until she lunged for me. As her steel glittered, I darted right, going low toward her waist. I moved as quickly as I could, swiping out with my blade and striking her lightly in the side. I pulled my punches, not wanting to hurt her too badly since this was training.

She hissed, darting away from me. Sweat dripped down my temples and I grinned. “Enough!” Alkaia stepped forward, slicing her hands through the air. Her blonde hair hung in long waves, streaked with black to match the tactical gear that all the Amazons wore. “Damn it.” Lykopis scowled. Then she nodded and met my gaze. “Well done.” There was no bitterness or insincerity in her tone. That’s what I liked about the Amazons.

They made a great team. Lykopis didn’t like being beaten—hell, no one did— but she was a good loser when her opponent was one of her fellow Amazons. It still wowed me that I was one of them. I’d only learned about the Amazons a week ago, but they were quick to adopt me as one of their own. I still spent most of my time at the Protectorate castle in Scotland, but I’d managed to steal over to their compound for an hour a day to train with them. The rest of my time was spent hunting for the Stryx, the evil witches who’d become my mortal enemies. “You need to use your wrist.” Alkaia’s words cut through my distraction, and I turned to her. “I know.” “Your mind is elsewhere,” Alkaia said.

There was no point in telling her that my mind was on the Stryx. All the Amazons knew it. I’d spent most of the last four days hunting them, sparing only an hour for training. “I’ll try harder.” I looked down at the short sword that was vaguely leaf shaped. The ancient Greek blade was unfamiliar in my hands, but I liked it. Behind Alkaia, a set of elevator doors whooshed open. Queens Hippolyta and Penthesilea stepped out, their expressions as stern as always. I admired the queens. They’d ruled jointly over the Amazons for over two thousand years, and under their watch, the race of ancient warriors had become some of the most successful mercenaries in the world.

They fought only on the side of good, of course, but any battle they joined was won. The queens strode toward me, each wearing identical black tactical wear. They didn’t look any different than their soldiers, really, but the power that rolled off them was definitely different. These women packed a seriously powerful magical punch, and they were looking right at me. Alkaia stepped to the side, joining me, and Lykopis disappeared toward the locker rooms. The queens stopped in front of us. They were both tall, but it was their magic that made them seem like they towered over everyone else in the room. “How is your training going?” Queen Penthesilea asked. I looked down at the sword. “Good.

I need to work on my wrist, but good.” “She’s exceptionally talented,” Alkaia said. Heat warmed my cheeks. Alkaia wasn’t full of compliments when she was training me, but I’d take them any time I could get them. She reminded me a bit of Jude, my trainer at the Academy. The stuff I did with the Amazons was on my off time, but I liked doubling up. “We have good news,” Queen Hippolyta said. “Tiresias has been spotted near the Black Sea.” “The seer?” The name rang a bell, but I’d been hunting down so many leads for powerful seers that they were getting fumbled in my head. “The most famous seer from Ancient Greece,” Queen Penthesilea said.

“He’s been missing for centuries—a real hermit, that one. But he’s been spotted by our sources. Right in the Black Forest, near the Black Sea. By the shore, we think.” I grinned. “And he might be able to help me find the Stryx.” Both queens nodded, their smiles broad. Four days ago, after the Stryx had released three Titans from their prison in Tartarus, all five of them had disappeared. Poof, gone, no trace. We had no idea what they were up to, but Titans were the magical equivalent of nuclear weapons.

They were giants with magical gifts to rival the gods, and we didn’t know what the Stryx wanted with them. It was safe to assume that whatever it was, it’d change the world as we knew it. And not in a good way. As a result, everyone was on the lookout. The Protectorate was dedicating all of its manpower to finding them. Maximus, my sorta-boyfriend who considered it his life’s work to make me swoon, said that the Order of the Magica was doing everything they could to find them, as well. The Amazons were helping on the condition that I showed up at their base of operations to train for an hour a day. I was one of them, and even though I wouldn’t live here like the rest, they wanted me to learn their ways. In return, they helped me hunt for the Stryx. And this was our first real lead.

A seer powerful enough to shed some light on the problem. Queen Penthesilea dug into her pocket, then handed me a small black stone. “This will take you to the Black Forest. It is dangerous, so you must be careful. You will find Tiresias on an island in the lake.” “We suggest that you bring backup,” Queen Hippolyta said. “There are dangerous things in that forest.” “I will.” I gripped the transport charm tightly. “Thank you for this.

” “Thank you, Rowan.” Queen Penthesilea nodded. “You are the one fated to defeat the Stryx. We will do everything in our power to help you succeed, for the alternative is catastrophe.” Ancient queens had a tendency to speak in dramatic language, but in this case, she was right. The Stryx were as deadly as an army of giant cobras who could teleport right into your bedroom. With those final, ominous words, the queens swept out of the room. I sighed, sagging. “Do you need backup?” Alkaia asked. I glanced at the clock over the bank of elevators, noticing that it was nearly four.

“No. I’ve got just the person in mind. But thank you.” In fact, I was late for a date with him. In fairness, the word date was pretty generous for what we had planned. Not that we didn’t want to go on a real one, but the most we had time for these days was a quick drink while comparing notes on our hunt for the Stryx. Alkaia nodded. “Well, good work with the xiphos. And be safe out there.” “I’ll do my best.

” I hurried from the room, catching one of the elevators that would take me to the bottom floor of the huge building that served as the Amazon’s headquarters. It looked like any of the other fancy glass buildings in Istanbul’s business district, though most people had no idea what it housed. The sun was low in the sky as I stepped outside, and I dodged left to avoid being run over by a businessman who hurried to some place that was clearly very important. Maximus and I had agreed to meet at a little bar near the Amazons’ building, and it didn’t take me long to get there. I stepped inside the dimly lit interior and spotted him immediately. He sat at a little table in the corner, his powerful form dwarfing the small piece of furniture. Damn, he looked good. His hair was rumpled and his eyes a bit tired, but that was par for the course with the all-out manhunt going on. Though he looked relaxed in his jeans and battered brown leather jacket, there was a coiled strength in his muscles. He could be up and fighting in the blink of an eye.

I strode toward him, weaving between the little tables and chairs. When I stopped in front of his table, his gaze rose to meet mine. A devastatingly sexy smile dragged at the corner of his lips. “You look good.” “So do you.” “No, I mean, you look really good.” Warmth flushed through me. He’d noticed. Before I’d gone to train with the Amazons, I’d changed into my date outfit. As much as I might like the idea of a dress—something I’d really gotten a taste for at Cinderella’s ball a while back—my life wasn’t currently suitable for dresses.

So I’d gone for a sparkly pink top to add a bit of color to my black jeans and black leather jacket. My Mighty Magical Magenta lipstick finished the look. Honestly, not only was I a sucker for hot pink lipstick, I was a major sucker for ridiculous names, and Mighty Magical Magenta fit that bill perfectly. “Thanks.” I sat. “But I’m afraid I have to cancel our date.” He nodded, expression somber. “I was actually here to say the same.” For the briefest moment, an icicle of fear stabbed me. He wasn’t bailing on me, was he? I mean, I was cancelling because we had to go hunt a seer.

But him…? He seemed oblivious to my concern though. Men. “Did you find something?” I asked. “Does the Order have a lead?” The waitress interrupted then, setting two glasses on the table. Hot Turkish coffee wafted up, smelling sweet and strong. Thank fates it wasn’t Raki. I definitely didn’t have the time or the stomach for a hangover like my last one. “Do you need anything else?” she asked. I just wanted her to go away. She was prolonging my angst.

“That’s fine, thank you.” Maximus didn’t sound like he was in any hurry. She snapped her gum and left. I leaned toward Maximus, brows raised. “Well?” “There have been developments with the Titans,” Maximus said. Part of me relaxed while the other part of me tensed up like a mouse in a snake pit. “What kind?” Nervously, I sipped my coffee. “The Order of the Magica has a department dedicated to measuring the amount of dark magic in the world. Normally, it’s relatively stable. Slight fluctuations as demons escape the hells and arrive on earth, but usually nothing we can’t handle.

” “Let me guess, the amount of dark magic is increasing.” “Exponentially. It increased as soon as the three Titans escaped from Tartarus, but it has continued to grow.” I shivered. “What do you mean, it’s continued to grow? The Protectorate has guards on the closed entrance to Tartarus. No more of them could have escaped. It’s not possible.” My skin chilled. “Unless there’s another exit?” He shook his head. “We don’t think so.

The mages at the Order think that the Titans are growing stronger. With their ties to Tartarus broken, their magic is expanding.” “Shit.” They’d already been insanely strong. As tall as houses, with magic to rival the gods. “Their dark magic is increasing so much that it’s upsetting the magical balance of the world. With so much dark magic in the air, more evil will spread. To supernaturals and humans.” “Wait, what do you mean?” “If people have a devil and an angel sitting on their shoulder, the devil is about to get a lot louder. It will be like a plague that influences people to commit evil deeds.

More robbery, chaos, abuse, murder. If the Titans’ powers are allowed to grow unchecked, the world will fall into darkness. All of the good in people will be stamped out.” “Oh fates.” I leaned back in my chair. That was bad news. There were already enough people out there doing evil shit. They kept the Protectorate plenty busy. But if all the good people started doing evil shit, too? “That will turn the world into hell,” I said. Maximus nodded.

“And it won’t take long, according to the Order experts.” “Has it started?” Maximus nodded sharply. “We monitor the human police radio. They’re already responding to more calls. Violent ones. And black magic neighborhoods like Darklane are bustling with even more supernaturals than normal. They’re drawn to the darkness.” Crap. “How long do we have?” He shrugged. “A week? Honestly, it’s hard to say.

If a thousand humans without access to guns are inclined to start knife fights, it’s bad. If a thousand humans with guns or access to nuclear codes are inclined to start a fight, it gets much worse.” So the world could be a hellscape in a week. Fantastic. “Does the Protectorate know?” “The Order sent someone to inform them.” I nodded. “Okay, right. So we’re looking at basically no time to solve a giant problem.” “The usual.” “Well, it’s good I have a lead, then.

The Amazons have located a powerful seer. An ancient Greek who is apparently still alive but doesn’t show himself often.” “Where is he?” “The Black Sea. Near the Amazons’ original homeland.” I set the transport charm on the table. “They gave me this. We can go find him.” “Right away.” I nodded and stood, picking up my coffee and throwing it back. It’d grown cold without me noticing, but I was going to need the energy.

I doubted we’d have much time to rest until we saved the world. If we could save the world. Maximus left a few bills on the table. Then nodded toward the door. “Shall we?” “Let’s go kick some Titan ass.”

.

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