Ádan knew what he had to do. And that he had to do it alone.

They had promised together and Ádan meant it. There was just this one piece of old business that had to be taken care of. After, he would tell Korin. He would make the full confession. No more keeping secrets. But Ádan didn’t want to argue about this, or listen to Korin’s reasons why Ádan shouldn’t be here.

In this one time, in this one case, Korin would be wrong.

Ádan crept up the stairs, wrapped in shadows. He made no sound. When he reached the study, he found the door open, and Loukanos inside. The wizard’s back was to him. Whatever Korin had done to break Loukanos’s magic, it had worked. Before, Ádan hadn’t been able to breathe in this house without Loukanos knowing. Now, he had no idea Ádan was there.

Korin was willing to trust that Loukanos would remain harmless, that fear and respect would keep him away. Korin saw the best in everyone. Even this creature. Ádan liked that about Korin, and never wanted him to lose that faith. On the other hand, Ádan also believed it was his job to protect Korin from monsters.

Ádan didn’t understand what Korin had done, what he and the knife had changed in Loukanos to take away his magic. Korin seemed to believe it was permanent, the change he’d wrought. But it was a big world full of plenty of magic none of them could even anticipate, and smart as Korin was, he couldn’t see every possibility. None of them could. Which was why Ádan wasn’t willing to trust that Loukanos wouldn’t come back.

The simple truth: Loukanos had to die.

But he wouldn’t do this from behind. He wouldn’t stab Loukanos from the shadows like some back-alley assassin. The wizard would know who killed him. And why.

“Hello again,” Ádan said.

Loukanos stiffened, then visibly schooled himself. He turned to face Ádan, no particular concern on his face. “Hello, Ádan. Come on Korin’s bidding to make certain I leave the city as he ordered?” He sneered the last word.

“Korin doesn’t know I’m here.”

Ádan let that sink in, saw the dawning awareness in Loukanos’s eyes.

“Korin may trust that you’re harmless, but I don’t. I can’t let you leave. I can’t risk what would happen if you ever got your power back.”

Loukanos spread his hands. “You’d kill a helpless old man?”

“Yes.” Ádan spread his own hands, showed them as empty. “And I’ll do it with the very magic you taught me.”

Ádan remembered vividly exactly how it had felt when Loukanos had set off the magic inside him. The twisting, ripping, tearing. The pain. His fingers curled into claws as he focused energy as he’d been taught, reached inside the monster standing before him, and ripped Loukanos’s insides open.

Ádan made it quick. Partly because he didn’t feel like listening to any last words Loukanos might have to give him, any empty threats or warnings or pleas. But also because, despite everything, Ádan couldn’t find it in himself to torture the man. Even this man. Cold-blooded murder was far enough over the line.

Loukanos collapsed to the ground, gasping. His eyes rolled back. His heart fluttered and skipped. Ádan felt every tortured breath, every fading heartbeat. Until there was nothing more. Loukanos was dead.

The house was still. Until the voice spoke in Ádan’s head, feminine and powerful. Welcome, my darling. I’ve been waiting.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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