Free Spellbound by Blake Charlton

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Authors: Blake Charlton
joy or relief at their reunion. Dread filled the ghost as he understood. His author’s grief was not for what had happened; he was grieving for something that was about to happen. Suddenly the ghost knew what his author had “discussed” with Nicodemus.
    Shannon-the-author turned back to the ghost. The old man closed his eyes. “Nicodemus,” he whispered, “do it quickly.”
    The ghost turned to flee, but out of the dark flew Nicodemus, teeth bared and fists clenched around unseen wartexts.

    When the lofting kite rose to a height above the Auburn Mountains, Cyrus moved his hands along the suspension lines, and the canopy split itself in two.
    Half of the red sailcloth wrapped around Cyrus and Francesca, covering them from chests to feet. Short lateral wings formed along this encasement. The remaining cloth bulged into a round jumpchute that, blasting wind, pulled them toward the mountains.
    A stiff textual shield formed within the tension lines, protecting Francesca and Cyrus from the rushing air. It was not so loud as to force either occupant to yell, but it was loud enough that both had to speak with conscious volume.
    As they flew, the distant white speck that Cyrus insisted was an incoming warship grew slightly larger. Francesca asked about it, but Cyrus declined to explain until they were close enough to recognize the ship.
    Meanwhile, Francesca watched the reservoir pass under them. They had flown over the main body of water and were now above the narrows—six riverlike projections that wound into the green foothills. She could make out a few single-sail fishing boats on the water.
    At various points in their twisting course, the narrows expanded into wide coves. In these bobbed small lake towns, lashed-together houseboats anchored in deep water to ensure they never drifted close enough to the shore to be vulnerable to lycanthrope attack.
    Now, at the rainy season’s end, the fisher folk followed the water as far out as the base of the Auburn Mountains. In the dry season, Cala drained the reservoir to irrigate the canyon floor, and the fisher folk slowly migrated their lake towns toward the city. When the reservoir went dry, all of the lake towns banded together to form a small muddy township just outside the Sliding Docks. Some would find work in the Water District; others would chance a wagon ride over the Auburn Mountains to work among the fishers in Coldlock Harbor.
    â€œFran,” Cyrus said over the wind. “I really must know: What was attacking the sanctuary?”

    She looked at him. He looked back. She had no idea what had actually happened in the infirmary. Should she tell him what she had seen? Or, at least, what she had believed she had seen? Deirdre had said that Cyrus was trustworthy, but Francesca didn’t know if she could trust Deirdre.
    Besides, Deirdre didn’t know Cyrus like Francesca had known him.
    The whole situation was a disaster. Usually, she would remind herself that confronting disasters was what she did. But an hour ago she had failed in a crisis, killed her patient. Worse, a demonic spell had been wrapped around her in the form of that anklet for years. The world as she had known it had broken to pieces.
    And that, Francesca reminded herself, was all the more reason why she had to remain composed. After a long breath, she smiled tightly.
    Cyrus had always been committed to duty. So long as her plans coincided with his sense of honor, he would make an excellent ally. But how would he react when she explained a demon might be ruling Avel? For all Francesca knew, Cyrus was a demon worshiper. She had to choose her words carefully.
    â€œFrancesca,” she said loud enough to be heard over the wind.
    His veil moved as if he were frowning. “What?”
    â€œIt’s Francesca now. Not Fran.”
    His eyes narrowed. “Francesca, what’s happening in the sanctuary? I need to know.”
    â€œHours ago, lycanthropes

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