Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(13)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(13)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

Many of the participants were staying at the hotel, and although the restaurant was pretty big, the lines for it and the pub were long. We drove back to Alexandria and ate at a place near the harbor.

So, I got back to my room late, but Oriel wasn’t there yet. I watched some of the news shows on TV, and it was depressing. In spite of all the problems in the world, including an earthquake in Japan, most of the shows were about politics and the ongoing uproar about magic. I turned it off, took a bath, and went to bed.

Oriel slipped in beside me sometime during the night, but he was sound asleep when my alarm rang, and I had to get up to go to the conference, so we didn’t get a chance to talk.

Mid-morning, the ley lines went crazy. I was in one of the smaller meeting rooms listening to a mage from Los Angeles talk about the disruption of the ley lines. It was immediately obvious who was a mage and who was a witch. But the wards cast around the building using the Knights’ rubies held.

Those who didn’t have their own rubies were essentially trapped inside the building, so the lines for dinner were even worse than the previous evening.

Since all of the mages in our party had a ruby, we left the chaos and drove up to Georgetown for dinner at a fancy restaurant overlooking the Potomac.

We parked under the freeway a couple of blocks from the restaurant. On the way back to our cars, we were confronted by Knights. Considering the size of their force, I suspected we had been followed from the conference.

But since none of us were affected by the ongoing churning in the ley lines, I wondered who they thought we were. Maybe they thought we were all witches.

The mages in our party all cast our personal shields. Ian, Michaela, and I drew our swords. A four-foot sword of flame sprouted from Josh’s hand. Then twenty doppelgangers of our party suddenly appeared. I glanced to my right and saw three Jolenes standing beside me. It was a little more unnerving to see two of me standing next to me. I had never seen Kevin cast his illusions, but I had seen such tactics when I trained with the Hunters’ Guild.

“May we help you?” the three Frankies asked in unison. The quality of the illusion impressed me—audio as well as visual.

“Michaela, Jolene, James, to the center,” Langermann said softly to the witches—the three members of our group who couldn’t shield.

Josh held his flaming sword straight up, and a fountain of fire poured out of it, lighting the scene for everyone within sight.

And there were a lot of people out on the street. Some of them were smart and hurried away, but most of the passersby stopped to gawk. Seeing magic on TV was quite a bit different from having a demonstration live and in person. I wondered how many of them understood what was happening, or how dangerous the situation was.

The Knights hesitated, several of them shuffling their feet and looking back and forth at each other waiting for someone to make a decision. It was obvious that they hadn’t expected our reactions. No one seemed inclined to answer Frankie.

Finally, one of them said, “Show us your registrations.”

“What registrations?” Langermann asked.

“The law requires all magic users to register.”

“Are you with the Paranormal Affairs Department?” Frankie asked. “I don’t recall any requirement that magic users have to show their documents to random people on the street. And besides, what makes you think we’re magic users?”

I heard a titter of laughter from some of the onlookers. Perhaps Josh’s pyrometric display tipped them off.

Although Congress had passed a law requiring magic users to register with the government, there weren’t any penalties for not registering. The law specified fines, but the new government department hadn’t published any regulations or fine schedules. They had yet to even define what magic or magic users were.

“Go back to Europe!” someone across the street shouted. I assumed he was yelling at the Knights. I certainly didn’t look European.

In the distance, I heard sirens. After a brief discussion between themselves, the Knights began retreating. Josh extinguished his sword, and the doppelgangers disappeared. By the time three police cars showed up, the Knights had melted away into the darkness.

Our party also broke into smaller groups and merged into the crowd. Although people got out of our way, very shortly we were indistinguishable from everyone else. When we all got to the cars, we loaded up and drove away.

Chapter 10

“Erin, wake up!”

A note of urgency in Oriel’s voice brought me instantly awake. “What’s going on?”

“An assault force of about a thousand Knights is attacking the hotel where your conference is being held.”

“When? What time is it?”

“The attack started shortly after midnight. It’s one o’clock now.”

I grabbed my phone and called Frankie. It rang six times before she answered it.

“Yes?”

“Frankie, the Fae sent word that the conference hotel is being attacked by a large force of Knights.”

Silence, then, “Shit. Notify the others. My room in fifteen minutes.”

I pulled my Hunter’s uniform out of my suitcase and dialed McGregor. After giving him a quick briefing, I called Trevor and asked him to alert the others.

My mind raced. The hotel itself was warded, and once the occupants organized, they probably could hold off the assault. But the timing was all in the Knights’ favor. I had noticed the second morning of the conference that a lot of the attendees showed up late and looked a bit worse for wear. A lot of partying had gone on the night before. Since I assumed the Knights had spies inside the conference, they would know that, too.

Besides me, McGregor and Langermann were the only people fully dressed, armed, and ready to fight. Even though Ian had trained seven decades before I did, the Hunters’ training regimen hadn’t changed much in centuries. Langermann’s long military service also had taught him to be ready to deploy on an instant’s notice.

“I’ve tried calling several people at the conference hotel,” Frankie said, “but I can’t raise anyone.”

“My contacts don’t use electronic communications,” Oriel replied. “The Knights moved a force estimated to be a thousand fighters into position and launched their attack right after midnight. Three full circles of the Knights’ witches triangulated the property and cast a spell that blocks any communications, both into and out of the resort. The Fae have been watching the place since before the conference started, and they contacted me when the Knights moved in.”

Langermann paced back and forth. “Our group could put a half-circle together, but seven mages hitting the attacking force from behind wouldn’t make much difference against a thousand Knights.”

“So, what can we do?” Frankie asked.

I stood at the window, looking out. It seemed like there were a lot of people on the street for that time of night. “I think Ian, Oriel, and I should go out there,” I answered. “We can try and disrupt things a little, maybe break those witch circles. At the very least, we can let you know what’s going on. Our cell phones should operate from outside the spelled area.”

“I’ll go with you,” Langermann said.

I shook my head. “I think you’ll be of more use here. We aren’t the only delegation staying in Washington. In fact, I know there are at least two more delegations staying at this hotel. We don’t know if they’ll try to attack here as well.” I turned to Frankie. “Can you get hold of your FBI buddy and let him know what’s going on? I would think the government should know about this.”

She nodded. “If there’s a full-scale mage battle going on out there, I doubt it’s very quiet. I’m sure that after Munich, governments should have some kind of plans for dealing with this sort of thing.”

“They do,” Langermann said. “My contacts in the military tell me that they have been recruiting mages and witches in response to the Knights’ threat. They’ve set up some super-secret, fast-response units backed by air power.”

I had never thought too hard about the ward Oriel cast around his vehicles when he was driving. I knew it was protected from magical attacks, such as fireballs and lightning, but I was surprised that we didn’t even feel a bump when he ran over the two Knights who jumped out in front of us as we roared out of the parking garage in the borrowed SUV.

We hit the 395 southbound, and Oriel pushed the big car up to a hundred. A couple of minutes later, we passed a Virginia state-cop car like it was standing still, and the cop didn’t even blink.

“Does he always drive like this?” Ian asked.

“Pretty much,” I answered. “He doesn’t have a lot of respect for human traffic laws.”

“Irrelevant,” Oriel said as he skidded onto the shoulder to pass a car and then pulled back into the traffic lane.

It had taken our group more than an hour and a half to reach the resort from our hotel each morning, but barely forty minutes after we ran over the Knights, Oriel slowed, turned off his lights, pulled into a side road, and parked in a copse of trees a couple of hundred yards farther along. Three shadowy figures stepped out to meet us.

The top of the woman’s head barely reached my shoulder. Cherry-red hair hung in a thick braid past her butt, and her eyes were huge in her face. The men were well over six feet. One had horns like a goat, a mustache and a pointed goatee. His feet were cloven hooves, and his shanks were covered in fur. The other man looked as though he had dreadlocks, but they moved in a way that had no relation to the slight breeze, and his skin resembled smooth bark.

McGregor hesitated. “Unseelie.”

“Yes,” Oriel said, morphing into his own Unseelie form, “the men are, but they’re on our side. Moira is of the Summer Court.”

Past the trees, I could see multi-colored flashes of light, and there was an almost constant rumble of distant thunder.

The woman inspected us, then turned and walked away. The guy with Medusa hair followed her, and the other man stepped aside to let us pass. I fell in line, with my companions behind me.

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