The stained-glass windows around Lord Dressen’s arched doors glowed bright. Without hesitation, Cole guided them through the keyhole of the grand door, a condensed black mass snaking into the foyer.
Dressen appraised their arrival like a king from his throne, seated in a high-back chair at the center of the room. He tapped his forefinger on the armrest.
Cole grasped their accumulated essences and forced them to form a giant billow, rising beyond the second-floor level. Confusion flashed from his brothers’ emotions as they lost control of their elements. As expected, James swelled in protest, and Vincent emitted a spangle of quick strobes through their bulging cloud.
Cole snapped their forms together just beyond the threshold. The instant scowls hidden by their disembodiment took form, relaying the message he wanted to aim at the pompous fiend.
They. Were. Not. Happy.
A heavy scent of licorice accompanied a flash of ebony in the lord’s eyes, and Cole couldn’t hold back a second glance. Images from his dream littered his mind. He pushed the thoughts aside and tightened his hold on Linda’s waist. She leaned into him beneath his cloak.
“You requested a harvesting to be delivered by midnight.”
Lord Dressen stood. “I did.”
Cole looked into his eyes as he listed the original requirements of the bid. “A curfew breaker from the city’s east side. Approximate age, twenty-five. Approximate height, five feet five inches. Complexion, light. Will bent to total compliance. Position to be filled, upstairs—maid.” He emphasized the final word and pulled aside his cape to reveal Linda standing wide-eyed before him.
A growl rumbled in Dressen’s chest as he clenched his fists. “What is this?”
“A refilling of your harvest order.”
“That isn’t Anna!”
Cole tilted his head. “The order didn’t specify the subject’s name to be Anna.”
Dressen’s face flushed red. “I wanted Anna then and I want her now!”
“Are you telling me you had a certain person in mind when you placed this order?”
Tension poured from his brothers. James’ anger pulsed beneath a tight band of composure, and Vincent’s rage boiled. Heat coursed under Cole’s skin as he held fast to indignation.
Silence hung in the air.
James’ hand eased into Cole’s periphery and took Linda by the arm. Her stunned gaze didn’t veer from Dressen as she followed his lead to stand behind him.
Dressen lifted his brow, and he closed the gap between them with meandering steps.
“Are you telling me that an ancient, all-powerful wizard such as Cole Shilo hadn’t come to that conclusion upon receipt of such an order?” He cocked a grinned. “I was sure you instilled her with that little extra prize precisely for that reason.”
Cole frowned. The binding? Surely, he didn’t speak of that. He filtered through his mind to connect any oddity other than innocence, lack of depth, or indecision—all traits that could fall under the bid of total compliance.
Dressen pursed his lips. “I was delighted with the results. But do tell me. What does Unsigh mean? The experience is phenomenal.” He waved a dismissing hand. “Short lived after she says Colhart, but…” He chuckled, and then a sudden accusatory flare crossed his face. He stepped directly in front of Cole.
“Colhart.” He folded his arms across his chest. “Tell me Sir Cole. You’re not native to Terra. What is your given name?” There was no quizzical tone in his question. Total knowledge filled every word as he pronounced each syllable.
Cole squared his shoulders. “Colhart Nixtoro Krylu Shilomacj.”
A grin lit Dressen’s lips. “Colhart. Nixtoro. Krylu. Shilomacj.” He turned and paced a small distance then looked back at the three and nodded. “It seems the Wizards of Shilo Manor have taken on their own rules for the services they perform to the Lords of Terra.”
Vincent flared red. “We’ve done no such thing!”
Sparks danced around his tight fists, and he marched a step beside Cole. James followed suit, creating an undeniable stand of support beside him.
“Adding to an order to dispel complete satisfaction?” Dressen stepped back to them and grabbed Cole’s wrist. “You wanted her? How about a vision of what you’re missing?”
As he forces Cole’s palm to envelope the pearl, images overtook his inner eye: Anna’s hooded gaze, dark hair askew on the pillow. The scent of rose soap swam in the air. He buried his face in the soft locks at her neck and grazed her skin with his teeth. His touch glided down the curve of her hip as her thigh pressed hard against his side.
Heat swirled through Cole’s biceps, charged down his torso and rammed at his groin. Legs weakening, he wavered as the enhanced experience overtook him. James grasped his shoulders, bracing his stand.
Edged rapture burned in Cole’s core as the vision continued. Anna’s hands flew to his back. Her fingers and thumbs pressed together, forming the triad. With a cry in her breath, she uttered the words intended only for him. The command echoed in his mind and resonated in his heart. Her passion flew through him, fire blazed, and waves of ecstasy forced instinct to take his body. Gasping, he doubled over.
A growl punched from Cole’s lungs, and he whipped his hand from Dressen’s grip. “Enough!”
The lord’s anger boomed through the room. “You want her! You wanted her and in your haste to get her back you made one fatal mistake.”
Cole clenched his teeth to gain control of his state. He glanced at the lawman’s glare and then shifted his gaze to the lavender pearl pressed tightly between his fingers. Spells, potions, the attention he poured into the creation of the gift filed through his mind. He’d followed each precise detail of his father’s records. Where could he have failed?
“I suspected your involvement from the onset. I suspected, but couldn’t prove. Not until I realized I held the answer in my pocket.”
Dressen snatched the pearl into his fist. “Every memory relived in stark detail. You expected me to revel in the simple enhanced memories of my life.” He jabbed his fist toward Cole, and the magical gift glowed, illuminating his fingers. “You underestimated me, Colhart Nixtoro Krylu Shilomacj! What made you think I wouldn’t recall every experience touching my senses as I relived the moment I first explored the gift?”
He threw his hand in the direction of the terrace. “I felt the change in atmosphere as you sent her the spell, smelled the ginger in the very potion you used. I heard Anna gasp, run, and I heard you turn straightway and leave when the deed was done.”
Cole’s mind whirled. No Terran should have detected such detail beyond the intended recollection of moments. Nor should they have the ability to share the intricate detail of the memory called upon. Worse yet, none should have experienced the intimate nature of the spell he’d created for Mianna. The memory Dressen shared was indeed the full extent of the gift. He struggled to harness the effects it had on him.
Dressen shoved the pearl into his pocket. “You stole my subject after payment was received.” With a swift turn, he grabbed an onyx pillar and heaved it cross the room. It rammed into the velveteen chair, and both skidded to the far side of the room.
“You crossed the wrong Grand Marshal! The counsel has viewed the evidence. I showed them every bit of the memory. All agree to your guilt and proceedings are underway. You will pay, Cole Shilo!”
Vincent snarled, and lightening charged from his fingertips.
“No, Kid! He’s protected by the covenant.” Cole dove for him as a second burst flew.
The magical charges rebounded off the lord as if invisible armor sealed his body. Scattering in madcap disarray around the room, they struck the marble staircase. Balusters wheeled through the air with chunks of white and black rock. A fracture traveled up the length of the flight. Iron groaned as the inner pitch strained. Marble hammered to the floor, and as the second-floor landing shifted, the grand stained-glass window jarred.
Time seemed to slow as the myriad of shapes and colors cascaded to the floor. Glass shattered in a continuous roar, and Cole squeezed his lids shut in an attempt to lessen the impact on his ears. Frigid air whisked debris around the upper scope of the room. Screams filtered through the din, and he peeked to the second level hallways. Servants peered around the walls and then darted back the way they came.
Rage burned in Dressen’s eyes as his deep voice carried on the torrent. “You dare attack a Grand Marshal? Those you are here to serve?”
James’ jaw flexed as he clenched it tight. His upper lip curled and with a single step, he widened his stance. Cole held to Vincent to brace himself. He could count on one hand the times he’d seen that look on this brother, and each time had resulted in cyclonic disaster.
Drawing his thick arms in an all-encompassing circle, James’ biceps bulged. The wind obeyed his command. Chairs, tables, onyx pillars, and portraits swept from their stays and swirled into a twister.
Dressen’s hair slapped at his brow. His clothes clapped against his body. Leaning into the current, he grasped the left balustrade and clung tight. The netted crystals from the wall whirled to life. Swooping around the lawmaker, they lifted him to the wall. The tiny gems dug deep into the side panels, pinning him eight feet above the floor.
James marched to the trapped sire. “We serve none other than the gods of the realms! Our purpose here is to aid in keeping peace within the spectrum. If force is the only way to accomplish that, then so be it. We will not be used to satisfy the pleasures of noblemen. Set forth your trials. We will not be moved until Gryffin, Taravaughn, and Arylin deem it so. The covenants stand!”
He lowered his voice to a stern warning. “Call your assemblies and bid all to pray for mercy. By condoning your actions, it is the Grand Marshalls who have broken the covenant as you have.”
Dressen’s fingers flexed through the holes in the net. A low growl rode his sneer.
Releasing Vincent, Cole stood tall. “We’re finished here.”
Quick strides brought James to Linda, and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. With a furl of their cloaks, they dispersed into the Smoke of Night. Intensifying their billowed essence to a thick ball of energy, Cole crashed through the doors.
The mansion’s stained-glass face pulverized and as objects crashed to the receiving hall floor, pounding echoed through the estate grounds.
Shilo City’s tall buildings passed in a blur as Cole’s speed fed off their joined anger. His fatigued mind whirled with adrenalin, determination, and purpose.
Zipping over the east side commerce district, Shilo Park came to view. Movement caught his senses, and he spared it meager attention, but an electric charge shot through his essence as he realized the cause and froze. His brother’s elements stumbled into a sloppy halt around him.
Massive wings arched skyward and then beat at the darkness. Treetops bent from the disturbance. A great eagle’s head stretched high, the hooked beak opened, and an ancient cry pierced the air. Birds took flight, and flocks of flutters blocked their view.
Another shrieking roar echoed, and Cole shifted to keep his line of sight. Large talons bit chunks of rock from the north entrance arch. Gravel rained to the footpath. Hind claws dug into the stone arch, and the griffin vaulted to the pavement. The asphalt gave way beneath his weight.
He gazed around the empty city and shook off the sediment of time. With a swish of his long tail, he turned. Dislodged rock crunched beneath his feet as he walked through the open gates. Leaping into the air, the eight-foot wings spread wide.
Cole’s senses stung as he watched the night sky swallow the gargoyle. The only time Gryffin had taken the form of his likeness, eternal consequences had hung in the balance.
Forcing his thoughts to his brothers, Cole darted for Shilo Manor. “The unbinding must take place tonight.”