The Raging Fires

The Raging Fires by T. A. Barron Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Raging Fires by T. A. Barron Read Free Book Online
Authors: T. A. Barron
tapped my wrist. At first I noticed nothing. Suddenly I spied the puncture, smooth and round, in the sleeve of my tunic. A thin ring of charcoal surrounded it. Something seemed to have melted—not ripped—right through the cloth.
    “The fang,” he declared, “struck here. A finger’s width to the side and you would have died. Without question. Because even the tiniest contact with the fang of a kreelix will destroy the power, as well as the life, of any magical creature. No matter how strong, or large.”
    Pensively, he ran a hand through his mane. “That was why the ancient wizards and enchantresses tried so hard to avoid face-to-face battles. Especially with weapons that held their own magic, which simply gave the kreelixes more to dine upon.”
    “Like my sword here.”
    “Yes, or like the great sword Deepercut you rescued some time ago. One of the island’s oldest legends tells how Deepercut was hidden, buried somewhere, for more than a hundred years—just so no kreelixes could find it.” He chewed his lip. “Now you see, my boy, why I didn’t want you to wield your staff. For it carries, I suspect, more magic than a dozen Deepercuts.”
    I glanced toward the magical staff lying among the leaves. “How then did they fight the kreelixes? If they couldn’t do it face-to-face?”
    “That I don’t know. But I can promise you this: I intend to find out.” His eyes narrowed. “In case there are any more left.”
    I blanched. “So how did you stop this one?”
    He glanced gratefully at the Cobblers’ Rowan. “Thanks to your friend over there. And your talented sister.”
    All at once, I understood. “Rhia! So you did it! Using tree speech! You spoke to the tree, and it snatched the kreelix from behind.”
    She gave a nonchalant shrug. “Barely in time, too. Next time you try to get yourself killed, at least give us a little warning.”
    Despite myself, I grinned. “I’ll do my best.” Then, as I glanced at the giant, bat-like form hanging limply from the branches, the grin disappeared. “Even a tree as powerful as this one couldn’t have held any creature that could fight back with magic. So why didn’t the kreelix? Surely, if it lived on others’ magic, it must have had some of its own.”
    “Magic?” Cairpré rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Not as we normally think of it. But it did possess something. What the ancients called negatus mysterium, that strange ability to negate, or swallow up, the magic of others. That was the scarlet flash— negatus mysterium being released. If directed at you, it can numb some of your magic, at least temporarily. But it won’t kill you. That part is left to the fangs.”
    He scooped up a handful of leaves, then let them drift back to the ground. “Yet the kreelix’s own powers ended there. Leaping, Changing, Binding—all the skills you’ve been trying to develop—the beast itself couldn’t command. So it had no power to strike back once caught by the tree.”
    I indicated the corpse. “Or to keep you from using my sword to finish it off.”
    “No,” answered Rhia, her face clouded. “Before any of us could try to get the sword, it used the blade on itself.”
    Cairpré nodded. “Perhaps it feared us so much that it chose to slit its throat before we could. Or perhaps,” he added darkly, “it feared we might learn something important if it had lived.”
    “Like what?”
    “Like who has kept it alive, and in hiding, all these years.”
    I shot him a questioning look. The poet’s face, already grave, grew more somber still. He fingered the air, as if turning the pages of a book that only he could see. “In ancient times,” he half whispered, “there were people who feared anything magical—from the merest light flyer to the most powerful wizard. They saw all magic as evil. And, too often, wizards and enchantresses would abuse their powers, justifying such fears. These people formed a society—Clan Righteous, they called themselves—that met

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