Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9)(10)

“Where is he?”

“He’s at home,” Julie said. “Christopher had a nervous breakdown and burned a book.”

That made no sense. Christopher loved books. They were his escape and treasure.

“Which book was it?”

“Bullfinch’s Mythology.”

What could possibly have set him off about poor Bullfinch?

To the right a man and a woman walked out on the wall from a small side tower. The man wore a trench coat despite the heat. Sewn and patched with everything from leather cording to bits of fur, it looked like every time it had been cut or torn, he’d slapped whatever fabric or leather he had handy over the rip. There was a particular patch on the left side that I didn’t like.

His face was too smooth for a human, the lines perfect, the dark eyes tilted down at the inside corners. His hair was cut short and tousled as if he’d slept on it and hadn’t bothered brushing it for a couple of days, but it was a deep glossy black and looked soft. He was clean-shaven, without so much as a shadow of stubble on his jaw, but somehow managed to look unkempt. The color of his face was odd too, an even olive hue. When most people described skin as olive, they meant a golden-brown color with a slight green undertone. His olive wasn’t darker, but stronger somehow, more saturated with green. The hilt of a sword protruded over his shoulder, wrapped with a purple cord. The same purple showed beneath his coat.

The woman towered next to him. Easily over six feet, dark skinned, with broad shoulders, she wore chain mail over a black tactical outfit and carried a large hammer. The body beneath the chain mail was lean: small bust, hard waist, narrow hips. She was corded with muscle. Her hair, in short dreadlocks, was pulled back from her face. Shades hid her eyes. Her features were large and handsome, and fully human, although she looked like she could punch through a solid wall. A purple scarf, gossamer light, hung from her waist.

“On the wall, the pair to the right,” I said quietly.

Both Derek and Julie kept looking straight ahead, but I knew they saw them.

“That’s human skin on the left side of his coat.”

If things went sour, those two would prove to be a problem.

Forty feet above us, the door of the tower opened and my father stepped out onto the stone landing. Magic clung to him like a tattered cloak. He was reeling it in as fast as he could, but I still felt it. We’d interrupted something.


“Father.” There. I said it and didn’t choke on it.

“So good to see you.”

He started down the stairs. My father looked like every orphan’s dream. He’d let himself age, for my benefit, into a man who could reasonably have a twenty-eight-year-old daughter. His hair was salt-and-pepper, and he’d let some wrinkles gather at the corners of his eyes and mouth, enough to suggest experience, but he moved like a young man in his athletic prime. His body, clad in jeans and a gray tunic with rolled-up sleeves, could’ve belonged to a merc who would’ve fit right into Curran’s team.

His face was that of a prophet. Kindness and wisdom shone from his eyes. They promised knowledge and power, and right now they glowed with fatherly joy. Any child looking at him would know instinctively that he would be a great father; that he would be nurturing, patient, attentive, stern when the occasion required (but only because he wanted the best for his children), and above all, proud of your every achievement. If I had met him at fifteen, when Voron died and my world shattered, I wouldn’t have been able to resist, despite all of Voron’s conditioning and training to kill Roland. I had been so alone then and desperate for any hint of human warmth.

Julie was an orphan. She had me and Curran, but we were her second family.

I stared at that fatherly facade and wished I could pry her away from him. If wishes had power, mine would’ve brought down this castle in an avalanche of stone and dust.

“Have you eaten? I can have lunch served. I found the most amazing red curry recipe.”

Yes, come, have some magically delicious curry in the house of a legendary wizard hell-bent on grinding the world under his boot. What could go wrong? “No, thank you. I’m not hungry.”

“Come, walk with me. I want to show you something.”

I glanced at Derek and shook my head slightly. Stay put.

He nodded.

I motioned to Julie. She thrust her flag into the stand and followed me, keeping about four feet of distance. I was about to rub my father’s nose in the mess he’d made. He would show his ugly side. I’d seen it before once or twice and it wasn’t something one forgot. It was high time Julie saw it, too.

My father and I strolled across the yard, up the stairs, and onto the wall. A complex network of ditches crossed the ground on the left side and stretched out to hug the castle in a rough crescent. Hills of sand and smooth pebbles in a dozen colors and sizes rose on the sides. I tried to picture the lines of the trenches in my head as they would look from above, but they didn’t look like anything. If this was the layout of a spell, it would be hellishly complicated.

What kind of spell would require sand and stone? Was he building a stone golem? That would be a really big golem. Judging by the amount of materials, it would have to be a colossus. But why use pebbles; why not carve him out of rock?

Maybe it was a summoning. What was he summoning, that he would need a space the size of twenty football fields . . .

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