With all children returned safely to their homes, or anywhere else they wanted to be taken to, and with all armed soldier escorts returned to base, Jarred collapsed into a reading chair in the first-floor library and welcomed the comfort of the chair and the smell of the books.
He’d barely settled in when there was a knock at the door: Sarah.
“I’ve done it,” she said.
Jarred looked at her blankly.
“Invisibility ring,” she clarified. She held out a simple, plain silver ring.
“Right. That.” He sort of recalled her saying something about making one.
She also had the demon’s sword at her side. “And I identified the sword the demon was using.”
“Wanna hear about it?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said.
“Okay,” she said, taking a seat next to him at the reading table, a simple square piece by the window. She drew the sword from its scabbard—she’d had that made up especially for it when they couldn’t find one in the cinema—and placed it on the table.
It had a silvery blade, and along the ridge in the middle of the blade—he couldn’t remember the term for that, though he was sure there were books in this library on weapons such as swords—ran two etchings that looked like lines of fire, flat on the inside and curled tongues emanating from them. The same was true on the other side, he noted as he turned the blade over.
On the pommel was a phrase: Argáma Fiam’del.
“What the hell does that mean?” he asked.
“Well,” Sarah said, “It’s not Latin. It’s Mage.”
“Mage. As in mages have their own language.”
“Okay, what’s it mean?”
“It means ‘Silverflame’. That unique name they gave it, well, that’s actually its true name.”
“You’re losing me.”
“Every magic item, when completed, comes with a true name, a name that only it has. It’s not the name you would call it every day, those aren’t true names. Like, everyone calls you Jarred, but Jarred isn’t a unique name—lots of people are named Jarred. Your true name is what your soul is named. Know that, and you can have immense power over someone. Or something. This weapon has a true name, and knowing it allows you to control it.”
“And it’s true name is—”
“Don’t say it aloud. Not in the library.”
“Because it’ll ignite?”
“Because it’ll ignite,” Sarah said. “In a library.”
“Ah. Yeah, okay. Good call.”
“So I say its name, I assume while I’m holding it, and it’ll become a flaming sword?”
“Well, you say the command word in conjunction with its true name,” Sarah said. “Since you defeated the demon who wielded it, it’s yours now.”
“Well how about that,” Jarred said.
“I’ll have to teach you sword-fighting, though,” she continued. “You’re not very proficient.”
“How proficient do I need to be to stab things?”
“You’d be surprised. You’ll pull muscles you didn’t even know you had, for one thing. I have to teach you the fundamentals, and you’ll need to practice if you want to get good. Also—”
The whole building shook.
“What was that?” Jarred asked. But he already knew.
Klaxons blared. They were under attack.
Kale burst into the room at that point. “Get your gun: we’ve got goblins in a Blackhawk!”
“What the hell are they armed with?” Jarred asked.
Even a goblin was a credible threat when wielding a rocket launcher.
Jarred grabbed his assault rifle from its place leaning against the table leg and headed for the stairwell. With the lifts dead when they’d first settled into this building, the stairwell was the only way up. Jarred joined a group of soldiers marching upwards with their various weapons, slotting himself and Sarah into the line. They came up to the rooftop, where a pair of Blackhawk helicopters circled the building, firing rocket-propelled grenades and dodging fire from small arms as well as Karen.
As each soldier exited the stairwell they would fire up at the helicopters, but the pilot dodged most of the small arms fire. A rocket hit the roof behind Karen’s gunner, and the concussive force of the explosion knocked him off the seat. It also tore a hole in the roof.
Jarred took over. Sarah came up behind him, and cast a shield spell around the two of them, a yellow barrier of light.
“Shield up!” Jarred yelled. Everyone present knew about Sarah’s shield spell and that it deflected bullets that hit it. At least they were supposed to—it was something Sarah had demonstrated several times in the shooting gallery with plenty of witnesses.
He lined up the spot just in front of the nearest of the two Blackhawks with Karen’s sights and let her rip.
A barrage of bullets the size of pens spewed out of the barrel and into the cockpit of the helicopter. The thing spun, alarms screaming, and went down in a fireball as it collided with the building next door.
Jarred hoped there was nobody living in the corner apartment; he was certain however that they’d let him know about it if they survived.
The other Blackhawk opened fire with its own machinegun, and the bullets pinged against the barrier before diverting, a steady torrent of metal against energy turned solid. Jarred fired back, taking out the shooter—who fell from the side of the vehicle—and tearing into the chassis. The pilot veered upward and Jarred wasn’t fast enough to do much damage to the cockpit. The Blackhawk turned to Jarred, and twin rockets arced toward him and Sarah.
Jarred shot one down, it exploded in mid-air, but the other one slammed into the shield and detonated on impact. The concussion threw him out of the chair and knocked Sarah off her feet. She lost concentration on her spell, and it dissipated.
The Blackhawk broke away and turned tail into the night.
Twenty men and women were dead or dying.
And Karen was destroyed.
Nust the goblin slapped the instrument panel on the rattling Blackhawk as it limped home to the sorcerer, full of sorry excuses and fear.
“Come on!” he shouted at it when it came dangerously close to falling out fo the sky, before righting itself just in time. Raguts complained about not getting a kill. Xet rocked back and forth.
Nust and the other two survivors—who, incidentally, had survived Tesla Squad’s attack on their home in the mall—made it back to base just as a burning smell rose up to his goblin nose.
They hadn’t found the girl, not exactly. But the hair that Dzin, their most accomplished goblin mage—on account of being their only mage—and boss (when that filthy, ugly troll Modok wasn’t bossing them around) had taken from her had at least led them to the right building. It didn’t warn them that there were machine guns on the roof, however. Mages could, if they had your blood or hair or something, cause your blood to turn to mercury or your teeth to slush. But without proper training, non-mages couldn’t do shit; a simple tracking spell, maybe, if they had gear attuned to the target and they weren’t behind pure lead.
Adrian Rode strode out of Custom’s House looking a million bucks, with two mages beside him dressed much more modestly, with plain, casual clothes. Mages being branded terrorists at the whim of some Prime Minister made for a need to be discreet about their skills, so it paid to go casual and blend in with the populace. Of course it would mean sharp suits in a business setting, or evening wear for an evening on the town.
Nust got over-thinkative when he missed his meds. The light-headedness didn’t help either. He needed to dose. Badly.
Adrian took one look at the busted Blackhawk and held the bridge of his nose between his finger and thumb. He took his hand away and just examined the damage.
“You didn’t collect the girl who was stolen from you, and you limp back here with one of the Blackhawks in this condition,” Adrian said. “You’d better have a good explanation for this.”
Nust gulped. He explained what had transpired. Adrian folded his arms over his chest, right hand going to under his chin as he listened.
“So the girl is still in their custody?”
“Yeah,” Nust said. “We couldn’t get to her. There was too much fire, and—”
“Enough,” Adrian said, forcefully but not angrily. The man was cold, after all. “It looks like I will have to get involved myself.”
“Return to your quarters; I will have punishment assignments for you later. I have to get the girl back. That means I have some planning to do.” He turned and headed back inside, saying something about ‘specialists’ as he went.