City of Spells
Karam stepped forward, her skillfully embroidered clothes cascading down to her ankles in a way that was almost delicate, and so very much the opposite of Karam. Even from where Tavia stood, she could smell the peppermint salve on her friend’s sliced knuckles, something the fighters in Creije loved to use to soothe their injuries and that Karam wore every day, just in case.
“I thought we agreed that you were going to stop being stupid,” Karam said, Wrenyi accent thick on her tongue.
“I didn’t agree to anything,” Tavia said. “Did you follow me here?”
Karam crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you complaining about me saving you?”
“I don’t need saving.” Tavia leaned back in the booth. “I’m a busker, not a damsel.”
Nolan looked between them with a disbelieving scoff. “Are you two finished?” he asked. “Because we were about to kill her.”
For the first time, Karam looked at him, as if she had only just realized— or cared—that he was there.
“We have not been introduced,” she said.
“No,” Nolan said. “We haven’t.”
Karam held out a hand. “Hello,” she said.
And then she used that hand to grab ahold of Nolan’s shoulder and pull him toward her.
Without warning, Karam cracked her head against his.
The buskers broke into a frenzy as Nolan stumbled back, clutching his bloody nose. Quickly, Karam landed a kick to one of the others.
Tavia jumped up from the booth just as Nolan regained his footing, smashing a glass from a nearby table over his head. She shifted the backpack on her shoulder and landed a kick to another busker’s knee.
He went down with a yelp.
“This is why I had to follow you,” Karam said.
She kicked a busker in the chest and as he bent over to catch his breath, she rolled across his back and punched another clean in the face.
“You are so reckless.”
Tavia sighed at the lecture, which was becoming Karam’s specialty these days.
“If you were so worried about my safety, then you could have helped me take Nolan down back in the streets before his buddies showed up,” Tavia said. She swung her fist into the air, catching the cheek of a nearby busker, just the way Karam had taught her.
Karam took out her knife and threw it into the shoulder of another. “I thought you did not need saving,” she said.
Tavia rolled her eyes and kneed one of Nolan’s friends in the groin. “Forget making it slow!” Nolan yelled, pulling out a knife. “I’m going to gut you where you stand.”
Tavia shook her head. “He really does like being graphic,” she said to Karam.
She reached into her pocket for a pair of mirrored glasses and slipped them onto her nose, like she had seen Wesley do a dozen times.
“Here,” she said to Karam. “Put these on.”
Karam wrinkled her face and looked at Tavia like she was starting to lose her mind, but when she saw Tavia’s hands go to her pocket for a second time, it seemed Karam knew better than to argue.
Tavia clutched the charm in her hand, its jagged edge spiking into her palm like tiny needles. “A way to show that if there’s one thing I have,” she said, “it’s style.”
She threw the charm down onto the floor and it exploded into a blinding light. Nolan and the others clutched at their eyes, screaming loud enough to drown out the bar’s music altogether.
She pulled Karam toward the door, where the customers were now blindly running and screaming as their vision temporarily disappeared.
They spilled back out onto the streets of Rishiya and Karam ripped the glasses from her face.
“Not really,” Tavia said, struggling to keep up with her pace. “I think I’d find it boring.”
She didn’t need to look at Karam to know that she was rolling her eyes, but Tavia felt invigorated. She had the magic she ’d come for, so all in all the trip to the city had been a roaring success. And with the warm breeze on her neck and fire of victory in her belly, Tavia felt like maybe all hope wasn’t quite lost.
Karam could call her reckless and the Crafters in the camp could call her a danger, but Tavia had a job to do. She had buskers to lead, and she was going to win this war and save Wesley, whether people approved of her methods or not.