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  • The Invisible Ring(Black Jewels,Book 4)(95) by Anne Bishop
  • “Taking all the same risks with none of the strength to back them.”

    “So we stay and take the risks overland.”

    Jared rubbed his forehead, trying to quiet the headache that was starting to bloom. “So we stay.”

    “Serving in a First Circle’s not easy, is it?” Blaed said dryly. He shifted in the saddle. “A trained guard would know how to defend against an ambush.”

    “A trained guard would know how to create one, too,” Jared countered. The headache was pounding in time with his heart. “You’re sure about Thayne?”

    “I’m sure about Thayne. And we all agreed that, while a child could be misled enough to drop the buttons for someone to find, none of them is old enough or strong enough to handle a connection with the spells tangling up Garth.”

    “That narrows our choices, doesn’t it?” Jared sighed. “Does taking an innocent life get balanced somehow by destroying an enemy? I couldn’t sleep last night, so I kept asking myself what my father would do if he were here.”

    “Did you get an answer?”

    Jared snorted. “No. Not from him anyway. But I know what my mother’s answer would be. Then again, she’s a Healer, and Healers feel quite strongly about life.”

    “So do some Queens,” Blaed replied.

    Jared shortened the gelding’s reins. “Yes, may the Darkness help us, so do some Queens.”

    Jared climbed among the tumbled boulders, looking for a place that would give him a little privacy. After a minute, he found a spot cupped by surrounding boulders that rose a little higher than a man’s waist. Anyone who noticed him would think he’d just climbed up to take a look around. In fact—he unfastened his trousers and grinned at the wet rock in front of him—someone had already found this place.

    The grin faded. As he took care of business, he studied the people gathered around the wagon.

    Hell’s fire, why had the back axle broken now? Was it an accident caused by the stress of traveling over rough ground or a deliberate act to delay them in the worst possible section of this track?

    As Jared straightened his clothes and turned to climb down, he caught a glint of metal among the rocks.

    His heart slammed into his throat as he stared at the brass button.

    Then a prickle between his shoulder blades made him look up.

    The dust cloud coming down the road made no sense— until he realized a sight shield hiding horses and riders hadn’t been extended far enough to cover the sign of their passing.

    Looking in the other direction, he saw another dust cloud rapidly approaching the wagon.

    *Blaed!*Jared roared. *It’s a trap!*

    Blaed didn’t turn, didn’t answer. For a moment, Jared wondered if he’d been wrong to trust the Warlord Prince. Then Blaed ran to the front of the wagon while the others scattered among the boulders.

    Taking one deep breath to steady his hard-pounding heart, Jared turned south again, raised his hand, and created a Red shield that spanned the road, extending it upward until a rider wouldn’t be able to unleash his power without hitting the shield.

    The sound of boots scrambling on stone came from behind him.

    Whirling, Jared saw the three marauders just before one of them unleashed a bolt of Purple Dusk power directly at him.

    Throwing a Red shield around himself, he flung himself to one side, gritting his teeth as the boulder that had been behind him exploded. Chunks of rock hit his shield hard enough to make him feel the blow.

    Before the marauders could strike again, he unleashed the Red in two short bursts. The first blast shattered the marauders’ shields. The second tore through their bodies.

    Jared scrambled through the boulders, reaching the road at the same time the marauders reached the Red shield. It sizzled as they unleashed their Jewels against it.

    They’d come on foot. A good move, Jared realized as he extended the shield so that it formed a barrier along the top of the boulders on either side of the road. A few dead horses would have made an effective barricade.

    Jared started backing away, extending the Red shields as he moved toward the wagon.

    Strikes against the side shield pulled his attention away from the men in the road. As he turned to strengthen that side, he saw a dozen more marauders suddenly appear.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire