Read ARC: Assassin Queen Online

Authors: Anna Kashina

Tags: #fantasy, #Majat Code, #Majat Guild, #romance, #magic, #war, #Kaddim

ARC: Assassin Queen

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

Blades of the Old Empire

The Guild of Assassins

ANNA KASHINA

Assassin Queen

THE MAJAT CODE BOOK III

To VKB

1

Empathy

Kaddim Nimos rushed through the stone hallway, staggering under the weight of his dying comrade. Xados, draped over his side, grew heavier by the minute. Sharp smells of blood and poisoned flesh pulsed from the man

s injured shoulder in sickening waves, a stark reminder that his injury was no ordinary battle wound. Nimos grasped tighter, his comrade

s moans mixing with the rasp of his own labored breath. Their only hope lay in speed, just a few more steps down the long hallway, through the gaping doorway at the far end. And then

Nimos shut his mind to the thought as he pulled on.

The large chamber greeted them with a familiar chill, sending relief through Nimos

s exhausted body. His eyes fixed on the Reincarnate

s cloaked shape, rising from the massive throne-like chair at the end of the room. The Kaddim leader

s gaunt face darkened, his bony hand briskly gesturing to a low platform at the center of the room. Power charged the air around it, a nearly palpable aura that evoked an unsettling mix of dread and reassurance. Nimos staggered forward and lowered Xados onto the stone slab.
Please, let it not be too late.

The Reincarnate

s upward glance pinned him like a saber point.


This looks like a spider bite, Kaddim Nimos. One of Lady Ayalla

s.”

Nimos swallowed. The Reincarnate

s voice hinted accusation, as if Nimos was personally responsible for the wound. He needed to explain, but talking required steady breathing he couldn

t yet manage after the crazy run. He bowed his agreement instead, his eyes trailing to the mess of Xados

s shoulder.

It seemed unthinkable that this kind of destruction could be caused by a mere bite from such a small creature, even if scary enough to bring shiver at the memory. How could the little buggers possibly be so deadly? Nimos had wasted no time pulling Xados out of the battle and bringing him through the time vortex to the Kaddim

s hidden stronghold. Yet, even back then he knew for certain that all this haste would not help to save Xados

s life. And now, as he laid his eyes on the sickening sight, he wondered if it was too late to save anything at all.

The Reincarnate kept his hands steady as his fingers worked invisible lines in the air around the wound. Nimos watched Xados tremble under the touch of the magic that, he knew, had nothing to do with healing. He could almost see the traces of power left by the Reincarnate

s movements

like a net, holding the disintegrating body together. Prolonging the agony just enough to
… to…


How did it happen?

the Reincarnate asked.

Nimos heaved a breath, wishing he didn

t feel so exhausted.


The Majat. Their new Guildmaster, Mai, is a problem.

“How so?”

Nimos struggled to steady his voice.

He sided with Prince Kythar Dorn, who rendered the Majat warriors immune to our control. We cannot stand up to the Majat

s Gem-ranked warriors if our magic is ineffective.

Especially the ones of their top, Diamond rank.
Nimos shivered. Prince Kythar

Kyth, to his friends

possessed an inborn gift of elemental magic, one that could destroy their entire brotherhood if the Prince had succeeded in mastering it fully. And now, his alliance with the Majat created an additional problem. The Majat Guildmaster, Mai, leading his elite Gem-ranked fighters under Kyth

s protection, was an obstacle the Kaddim hadn

t counted on when they started this war.

The Reincarnate frowned.
“Haven

t you seeded a rivalry between Mai and the Prince, Kaddim Nimos?

Nimos shrugged. He did. In fact, he hardly had to try. Kyth and Mai were in love with the same woman. Even a fool could work off this advantage to make sure the two could barely stand each other. Who would have known that Kyth and Mai would be able to put aside this kind of a disagreement and march together into battle?

Clearly I failed, Cursed Master.

“Still. The Majat don

t form alliances.

Nimos looked away. They didn

t, not in the known history of the kingdoms. Perhaps it was indeed his own fault for trying to do more than he could handle. Through his scheming, the Kaddim

s strike against the Majat had landed too close to home, with Xados at the center of the action

as well as the ensuing chaos. And now the Majat were up in arms, and the Kaddim didn

t have enough power to withstand them. If Mai and Kyth were to discover the location of this stronghold and descend on the Kaddim in full force

He caught the Reincarnate

s gaze, belatedly remembering that the Cursed Master

s own magic made Nimos as transparent as an open book. He bowed his head, part in submission, part out of exhaustion.


Besides, this still doesn

t explain the spiders,

the Reincarnate said.

Nimos kept his eyes on an oozing yellow streak soaking into the folds of Xados

s robe. Even the Reincarnate

s magic, which, he knew, was now working through his comrade

s body to stabilize it, couldn

t halt the process for long.


The spiders come from Prince Kythar

s side,

he said.

His foster brother, Alder, is Lady Ayalla

s favorite.”

The Reincarnate

s lips twitched.

She has many favorites, Kaddim. I heard she beds nearly every man who passes through her realm. What makes this one different enough to control the spiders?

Perhaps his sexual prowess?
Nimos bit back the sarcasm.

I am not certain, Cursed Master. Alder is completely ungifted when it comes to magic.

But he can control the spiders. Three, to be exact.
He looked away. How hard could it possibly have been for the Kaddim fighters to keep away
three
?

His heart sank as he raised his eyes to meet the Reincarnate

s deep, dark stare.

“It

s time, Kaddim Nimos. The magic is stable now, but it won

t be for long. Do what you can.

Nimos

s heart skipped a beat as he stepped toward the dying man. Xados

s frame, partially hidden by the pus-soaked robe clinging to his body, seemed much frailer than he remembered

not large enough for this formidable swordsman and one of the Brotherhood

s best warriors. The man

s injured shoulder looked a mess, bones showing through the peeling flesh, the smells of decay and poison palpable in the still air. Nimos blocked his mind to it as he knelt by Xados

s side.

An unbidden memory rose in his mind. Two young Kaddim initiates on a kitchen duty, showing off their mind control by forcing rats out of their holes into the cooking fire. Xados

s rats always escaped in the end, even if badly burned, but Nimos

s magic was stronger. From time to time he could force a rat into absolute stillness, unable even to squeak as the fire consumed it alive. Later on Nimos, the first of his peers, had learned to do this to humans, feeding on their despair and pain. And now, he was about to experience the same kind of pain firsthand, by blending his mind with a man in his dying agony.

He needed this last conversation with Xados, possible only with the help of the Reincarnate

s magic that could hold back the poison long enough to share Xados

s thoughts. He was the only one in their Brotherhood whose mind magic was strong enough to pull it off.

He hated himself for it as he reached down and put his palms on the sides of Xados

s face.

The pain lashed out like a raging flame, instantly igniting every nerve in his body. The Reincarnate

s chamber fell away, sounds from outside so faint they seemed surreal. Voices, screaming

or was it his own?

He willed himself to maintain the bond. Xados

s mind was still there, nearly intact. As the pain settled in, he started feeling the thought flow, echoing like words spoken aloud.
Our last conversation.

Get the bastards, Nimos. Make them pay for what they’ve done to me.

I will.
Nimos felt Xados

s rage envelop him too, so strong that for a moment it numbed the worst of the pain. Images streamed in like a flood pouring through a breach in a dam. The recent battle with the Majat, their Diamonds spearheading the attack, breaking into the Kaddim

s ring, hacking left and right. The sting of the spider bite. Rapidly flashing disbelief mixing with fear and anger. The dark furry shape scurrying away into the wall of fighters.

I am dying, brother. Damn them all.

Show me what you know, Xados. Help us defeat them.

The image that burst into his consciousness in response was not what he expected, so intense that he nearly broke the link. A slim, boyish warrior with pale blond hair, dressed in dashing black. Mai, the young Guildmaster. His movements seemed flawless as he advanced, his weapon

a double-bladed staff

descending so fast that Nimos heard a whistle of the parting air and the touch of wind on his skin. Nimos gaped, his own memory of being struck by Mai

s staff still too fresh in his mind. The man was not only an inspiring leader. He was a fighting machine. How could they ever defeat him?

Mai is faultless,
Xados said.
The most dangerous man alive… I’ll show you what I know about his fighting style... He and his men…

More fighting erupted, the images so real that Nimos felt, once again, drawn into the battle they just left. He didn

t try to analyze it at all. Xados had spent years at the Majat Guild studying their styles, and he was now pouring out all this knowledge in a matter of minutes. Nimos did his best to absorb the information, move after flawless move, weapon upon exotic weapon, the fighting styles of every Diamond on the Majat force. Twelve Diamonds in active service, flipping in front of him like pages of a burning book.

The pain was scorching, shredding him like a thousand blades. He could no longer tell what was real, the Majat attacking him from all sides, the spiders

gray shadows, each nearly as big as a man

s hand

rushing through the Kaddim ring

Nimos… Stay with me.

I don’t know if I can.
Yet, Nimos

s mind sprang back to alertness as a new image loomed ahead. A woman, slowly taking shape against the surrounding haze.

Watch. She is the key… to defeating Mai.

Nimos gasped as he looked on, gathering all his strength. The image was vivid now, a slim nineteen year-old, all slender curves and wiry muscle, her smooth dark skin accented by pale golden hair.
Kara.
He felt warmth briefly wash over him at her sight, followed by a surge of pain that left him gasping.

She is Mai’s weakness.

Nimos was no longer certain which one of them had this thought. It hardly mattered. Kara had been the focus of his own plotting for so long. He knew everything about her, including the love she and Mai had for each other, yet the knowledge hadn

t helped at all during their recent battle. Kara

s fighting skill equaled Mai

s, making her nearly as undefeatable.

Don’t think, Nimos. Just watch.

Once again, Nimos stood in the center of the battle, the deafening clashing of steel pierced by occasional screams. Smell of wounded flesh hit his nostrils

or was it coming from within this chamber?

He was Xados now, Kara fighting another man right next to him as he reached forward to brush his fingers against the skin of her forearm, bared by her ripped sleeve. The jolt of magic that flew off his fingers pierced her like a needle. She started and nearly missed a blow, then recovered and moved on.

Nimos stared at the contact point, his mind magic detecting a blade of crackling power worming its way into her arm.

I… marked her. She’s yours now, Nimos. My… gift to you, brother.

Nimos trembled, for a moment forgetting the pain.

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