storm glass - Page 36

“Would never jeopardize a Stormdancer’s life,” Raiden said. “He’s upset and disappointed, but I’ve known the boy since he was little. He’s all bluster.”

“He’s no longer a little boy, and all he ever wanted to be was a Stormdancer. Opal made a valid point. Who wants to take the first shift?” Indra asked her brothers.

Varun volunteered. “Stop by and say goodbye on your way home.” He left in a hurry.

I finally joined Zitora by the horse stalls. She had finished saddling Sudi. The contents of her bags littered the floor.

“We don’t have much food. We’ll stop at the market after we talk to the officials in Thunder Valley. I hope they have more information on Blue Eyes.” She organized our remaining provisions and packed them as I hurried to prepare Quartz for the journey.

The Stormdancers returned from their scavenging in time for us to say farewell. Heli gave me a shiny pink-and-white shell. The almost-flat fan shape was ridged and there was a tiny hole near the top.

“It’s a scallop’s shell. You can string in on a necklace and wear it if you want,” Heli said.

“Don’t you want to keep it for your collection?”

“It’s for you. A small token of my thanks for helping with the orbs.”

I clamped down on my desire to contradict her, remembering Kade’s words.

My legs felt as if they were full of sand as we trudged up the trail to The Flats. I tried to convince myself my reluctance to leave was due to a dread over spending the night out in the open and sleeping on the uncomfortable ground. And not due to missing the company of a certain Stormdancer.

We arrived at Thunder Valley the next afternoon. Tired and sore from a night of restless sleep, I followed Zitora into the town’s administration building. Even through my fog of fatigue, I noted the elaborate candelabra on the mantel in the lobby. The candleholder’s teardrop pattern made with red crystal was a trademark of my uncle’s. I remembered how proud and excited he had been when he was asked to make the piece. It was an honor to be chosen to decorate a government building.

Zitora led me into the security offices located in the west wing of the first floor. She warned me that since the escape of the ambushers the local guards were outright hostile to anyone with magic abilities.

We entered an open common area strewn with desks. Guards either worked at their desks or stood in groups. Our arrival caused a bit of a stir and one man approached us.

“Can I help you?” he asked Zitora.

“Yes. Is Captain Loris in his office?”

“No. He’s on patrol. I’m Lieutenant Coll. Perhaps I can help you…”

“Master Cowan.”

He jerked and stared at me. Three other guards moved closer and spread between us and the door. Everyone’s attention pressed on my skin.

“When will the Captain be back?” Zitora asked.

But the Lieutenant ignored her question. He kept his focus on me. “Is she traveling with you, Master Cowan?”

“Why do you want to know?” The firm authority in her voice caused the man to switch his attention back to her.

“I apologize, Master Cowan, but I need to know her identity.”

“Why?”

The question was weighted. I recognized the signs. If the man had any intelligence or any sensitivity to magic, he would rush to answer her question before she forced it from him with her magic.

“She matches the description of a wanted criminal.”

Zitora’s posture relaxed a bit. “She’s not a criminal. Her name is Opal Cowan. She’s an apprentice at the Magician’s Keep.”

Coll nodded to the men behind us. I thought they would return to their desks. Instead, two of them grabbed my arms.

“Hey,” I said.

“Explain, now,” Zitora ordered Lieutenant Coll.

“Opal Cowan is under arrest.”

12

“WHAT’S THE CHARGE?” Zitora demanded.

Silence filled the entire room. All of the officers in the security department’s common area watched us. My two guards kept a firm hold on my arms. The third man searched me for weapons, removing my sais.

Twelve armed men against one Master Magician. Her power was considerable and she had disarmed four, including two magicians. But twelve? The odds weren’t in our favor.

“Robbery,” Lieutenant Coll said. “After your visit sixteen days ago, a woman reported a young girl named Opal stole a glass vase from her market stand.”

“I bought it for seven silvers,” I said.

“The stand owner said you returned later and snatched a second vase. The woman has two witnesses.”

One of the guards handed Zitora a sheet of parchment. “Here’s her arrest warrant, Master Cowan.”

She frowned at the warrant. I craned my neck but couldn’t read the neat printing.

Lieutenant Coll recited a statement about my arrest and rights. His words wouldn’t take root in my stunned brain, until he said, “Escort her downstairs. Cell three.”

No one moved.

I looked at Zitora. “I didn’t steal anything.”

“I know. It’s an obvious misunderstanding. Release her into my custody, Lieutenant, and we’ll settle this matter.”

“I’m not authorized. You’ll have to submit a request to Captain Loris.”

“As Second Magician of Sitia, I have the authority. Release her.”

Coll blanched, and his right hand hovered near the hilt of his sword. But he pulled it together. “I’m sorry, but I can’t unless I receive an order from my direct supervisor.”