Guardians of the BoundaryBy: Kristen Pham
The Conjurors Series
No matter how far or how long Valerie ran, she couldn’t outpace her tortured memories. Ever since she’d witnessed Midnight being torn apart cell by cell by Reaper, constant movement had been the only thing that had kept her from breaking down.
She sprinted through the winding streets of Silva, not realizing where she was headed until she was within sight of Midnight’s cottage, which had once been her own home, too. With no one in sight, Valerie collapsed on the doorstep, gasping for air and releasing the dry sob that had been in her throat all morning.
A light flicked on inside the dark house, and Valerie almost jumped in surprise. Midnight had no living family. Who could be in her house? She stormed inside and stopped short at the sight of Oleander, Midnight’s betrayer.
Without thinking, Valerie was flooded with magic. Instantly, she was across the room, slamming her fist into Oleander’s perfect little nose, breaking it. But Oleander was a Master in the Guardians of the Boundary Guild, and she wasn’t easily taken down.
A pulse of electricity zinged through Valerie’s body when Oleander gripped Valerie’s wrist, and she shook as if she’d been shocked by a Taser. When she was released, Valerie dropped to the ground. Oleander stared down at her with a satisfied smile. But the smile vanished when Valerie kicked the Master Guardian’s knees with enough force to topple her over.
Valerie straddled Oleander, pinning her wrists with one hand so that she couldn’t shock her again and slamming her other fist into Oleander’s face. She would have kept fighting, but two strong arms dragged her away.
“You see? She’s a maniac! She ought to be locked up,” Oleander said, holding her hand over her bloody nose. Even bruised, Oleander was beautiful, her long blonde hair shining as if she’d just come from filming a shampoo commercial instead of taking a savage beating.
“Valerie, control yourself,” Skye said sternly. Valerie recognized the centaur from her meetings with the Council, a powerful group of Grand Masters who were very influential in Arden’s government.
“Do you know what she did? She helped Reaper kill Midnight!” Valerie said, struggling to break free from his grasp.
Oleander rolled her eyes. “Midnight and I were like sisters. I would never hurt her.”
“She’s lying!” Valerie yelled, still straining against Skye’s grasp. She was surprised he was strong enough to hold her, flooded with magic as she was.
Skye’s eyes were troubled. “There’s no proof that Midnight is dead. She’s missing. That’s why we’re here, looking for clues. We intend to stop at nothing to rescue her.”
Valerie’s energy vanished as quickly as it came. “She’s gone. I saw her die.”
Skye paled, and his eyes pierced Oleander’s. “I know this girl, and she has always been an honorable young woman.”
Oleander shifted uncomfortably on her feet, but her voice remained strong. “I won’t listen to this. This girl ought to be taken to the Justice Guild for what she’s done today.”
Before Skye or Valerie could reply, Oleander stormed out of Midnight’s house, practically running away.
“She left quickly for one who claims to be innocent of your charges,” Skye said, releasing Valerie and folding his arms. “And you strike me as being in charge of your wits, though I had my doubts with your foolish attack.”
“She deserved worse,” Valerie said, a bit of her rage resurfacing.
“Perhaps. That’s why I’m investigating her. I decided I could learn more if Oleander didn’t know of my suspicions. I thought we might find evidence here of whatever happened to Midnight.”
“You won’t. Reaper turned Midnight to dust before my eyes in her Guild office,” Valerie said, forcing her eyes to remain dry for once.
But Skye’s eyes filled with tears that he quickly blinked away. “I believe you. We have lost a good Conjuror and a friend. She will be avenged.”
“I hope so. But I think things are going to get worse before that happens,” Valerie said, dull certainty like lead in her stomach.
“Then I hope we have someone who can drive out the evil ones among us for good and lead us back to the way of light,” Skye said, his tone loaded with meaning. He ducked his tall form under the low doorframe and before leaving, turned back to face Valerie. “That person will have my unwavering support, should she require it.”