Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(15)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(15)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“Airstrikes,” I announced. “We have about ten minutes to clear the area before the missiles start falling.”

The Fae all turned to face me, then looked at each other. They immediately took off, back the way we had come.

I ran full-out, thankful that I kept in shape, but lost sight of all the Fae except Oriel in the first minute. The glow of magic—lightning, fireballs, energy attacks—reflecting off the clouds above provided enough light to see the trail, which was a blessing.

We passed the large house with its stables, but then Oriel directed us to turn left.

“The Knights have found our car,” he said. “We need to go this way.”

I wondered how the Fae communicated, but that wasn’t the time to ask. Maybe he had set a ward or some alert on the car.

We threaded our way through a dense patch of woods and came out on the other side to find a pasture with a dozen horses. I hadn’t seen any activity in any of the houses we passed, but the horses had noticed the noise and weird lights from the magical battle. They were restless and gathered at the far end of the pasture. The Fae had already crossed the fence, and as I watched, the horses roused and began walking toward the redhaired woman.

“I wouldn’t want to leave these gentle ones where they might get caught up in the fighting,” the woman said with a grin as we approached her and the other Fae. She leaped onto the back of a white horse, and her friends each mounted a steed of their own.

“Do you know how to ride?” Oriel asked me.

“I was raised by people born in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” I responded, moving toward a strong, young black horse with my hand held out so he could smell me. I scratched his forehead, then grabbed a handful of his mane and pulled myself onto his back. Wheeling him around, I saw the three Fae galloping toward the far fence. Their horses soared over the six-foot fence as though they had a little magical help.

“Well, that’s not something I’m going to try,” I said. “Where’s the gate?”

We left the gate open, and the riderless horses followed us out onto the dirt road. Oriel urged his mount to a gallop, and the rest of us followed him.

A few minutes later, four streaks of light passed over us, coming from the north. The ground shook from explosions near the conference hotel seconds later.

“There’s your airstrike,” McGregor said.

“I hope they’re accurate,” I said.

McGregor shook his head. “I doubt those missiles can get through the wards on the hotel. But the Knights’ personal shields won’t hold up against high explosives.”

About a minute later, four more streaks raced toward the hotel from a slightly different angle, followed by more explosions. The horses were truly freaked out, and it didn’t take any effort to keep them galloping away from the loud noises. Frankie was right about the planes. They were so far away that we never heard them. We saw only the missiles emerging from the clouds.

The dirt road curved away to the west, away from the battle and away from the highway. We had ridden for half an hour and slowed the horses to a walk when several Knights stepped out in the road in front of us. A quick glance over my shoulder showed more Knights slipping from the trees to block our retreat.

Oriel didn’t hesitate, spurring his horse forward and then leaping it over the line of men in front of us. The horse rose smoothly, well above the men’s heads, just like the horses ridden by the other Fae cleared the fence earlier.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have whatever magic they used, so I simply pulled as much power as I could from the ley lines and sent a strong burst ahead of me. Although the men were shielded, the powerful burst knocked some of them aside and others off their feet. I dug my heels in my horse’s side, and he leaped forward. McGregor’s horse and the others with us followed, scattering the Knights like chaff.

One of the Knights hurled a fireball, and a horse behind me screamed. That sent my mount racing ahead at a pace that had me hanging on for dear life. I finally managed to slow it down, but only a couple of minutes later, a flash of lights behind me caused me to look back. The lights of two vehicles were closing quickly.

“Ian!” I called.

“Aye, I see them. Let’s see if they manage to follow the horses through the trees.”

Oriel wheeled his horse around. “Let me go first, I think my night vision is a little better than yours.”

He turned his horse into the forest, and McGregor and I fell in line behind him. It was very dark, but I got my night-vision goggles out of my pack and slipped them on. By the time I heard the vehicles’ engines behind us, accompanied by car doors slamming, we were at least fifty yards off the road and moving at a good pace.

Lightning crackled, the electricity hitting trees, but the magic wielder continued to hurl bolts after us. Oriel picked up the pace, angling away from where we had left the road.

McGregor stopped and dismounted. I reached out and grabbed his horse’s mane, pouring power into my hand for enough strength to control her.

“What are you doing?” I hissed at him.

“I need to feel the earth. Go on, I’ll catch up with you.”

He got down on his hands and knees, digging his hands into the soft dirt of the forest floor. Realizing what he was going to do, I urged my horse forward, dragging his horse along.

I had gone about twenty or thirty yards when the vibration started. A low rumble began and grew louder. I jumped to the ground, grabbing a handful of mane in each hand and pulling the horses along. The rumble increased, and the ground began to shake. The horses panicked, but I pulled more ley line energy into my hands and forced the animals to obey me.

The ground suddenly heaved, up and down, as though I was riding waves on a boat, accompanied by a sharp cracking sound, louder than any of the explosions I had heard. The horses went crazy, and only my ley-energy strength kept me from losing my grip, but they lifted me off the ground, and my body swung wildly in the air between the two animals. It was only luck that they didn’t bash me against a tree.

McGregor appeared, grabbing me and one of the horses. He settled one horse, then practically tossed me onto the back of the other horse.

“Ride!” he swatted the horse on the ass, and it took off. I managed to hold on, ducking low on its neck and hoping I didn’t get swept off by a low-hanging branch. I did throw a quick glance back and saw McGregor on his horse behind me.

The ground was still unsettled, and the trees swayed as though blown about by a high wind, but there had been only a slight breeze before McGregor’s earthquake.

I emerged from the woods onto a paved road to find Oriel waiting for me.

“What the bloody hell did you do?” he asked me. I looked around and saw the pavement was cracked and warped.

“Not me, McGregor.”

At that moment, Ian rode out of the trees. “Go! Go!” he cried, spurring his mount past us.

There was a bridal path next to the road, and I steered my horse off the pavement and urged it to a canter. To my surprise, two of the riderless horses still followed us.

We rode for two or three miles, crossing a paved road at one point, with Oriel guiding us northwest. Every so often, I could hear jets passing low overhead, but I never saw any of them. We could still see the lights reflecting off the clouds in the direction of the hotel, and the sounds of explosions could still be heard faintly in the distance.

The sun was coming up when we reached a crossroads with a gas station and an all-night diner. That’s where we ran into a couple of armored assault vehicles, or AAVs, and about a dozen soldiers. They perked up their ears and paid attention when we rode in, and as two of them approached me, I understood why. One of them was a mage, and the other was a werewolf.

They swung their assault rifles to point in our direction, and I made very sure to keep my hands where they could see them. It was impossible to cast a personal shield while riding the horse bareback, but I gathered ley energy into a ball in front of me, hoping I could deflect any bullets they might fire.

“Dismount, and keep your hands where I can see them,” the soldier-mage with sergeant’s stripes on his sleeve said.

I threw my leg over and slid to the ground. As soon as I was free of the horse, I shielded.

“Turn around and put your hands on your head.”

We did as he directed, but I heard McGregor speak. “May I ask what this is about?”

“All Knights Magica are being held in protective custody,” the sergeant answered.

I heard someone approach me, then someone attempted to grab my right wrist. I twisted around, my leg sweeping the shifter-soldier’s feet out from under him. I caught him on his way down and pulled him in front of me as a shield, one arm across his chest and the other across his throat.

“We’re not Knights Magica,” I said. “We’re part of a local government delegation from Oregon.”

“Perhaps we can speak with one of your officers,” McGregor said. “I’m sure we can sort this misunderstanding. Erin, let the nice soldier go.”

“He’s kinda pretty. I was hoping I might keep him for a while.”

McGregor turned a disapproving gaze on me and tsked. I shrugged, let go of the soldier, and took a step back. He took a step of his own away from me, then whirled around, his eyes wide.

“See, no cross,” I said, brushing my hand across my breast. “I just look good in black.”

The sergeant keyed the comm unit on his chest and spoke into it. I couldn’t hear the conversation he had with the person on the other end but saw Oriel’s expression change to a smirk.

McGregor was also standing closer to the soldier, and said, “I’m Ian McGregor, my companions are Erin McLane, and Oriel. You can contact District Attorney Francis Jones at the Willard InterContinental Hotel to verify our credentials.”

The sergeant finished his conversation and turned to us. “Please come with me.”

We followed him, with the other soldier following us, to one of the armored vehicles where we found a man with captain’s bars on his shoulders. My eyes were drawn to the black patch each of the men had on the shoulder of his uniform—a silver circle of oak leaves with the rune Tyr—symbolizing warrior energy—and a stylized wolf’s head inside.

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