Magic Claims by Ilona Andrews


“Well, of course it blew up, Kate.”

It was a beautiful September morning. I sat on a big log cut from a beached tree. A fire blazed in front of me, laid out in the firepit on the beach. Beyond it, the Atlantic Ocean lapped at the sandy shore. The water was an opaque aquamarine, the sky was a beautiful blue, and the flames in front of me were ruby red, fed by the mix of herbs and magic. About two feet off the ground, the fire faded into an image of my aunt.

The Rose of Tigris reclined on a carved wooden chaise decorated with lifelike Catalina mariposa lilies. Her white gown cascaded over her large body in artful drapes, setting off the warm golden tones of her bronze skin. I resembled her, but everything about her was…more. I was five foot seven, muscular, and strong, and she was over six feet, more muscular, and stronger. Our faces were very similar, but her eyes were darker, her lips were fuller, and her features were bolder. Her glossy brown hair spilled over one shoulder in a luxurious mane, clasped by a golden cord. She looked like a living painting that had blossomed from the ruby flames of the fire call, an ancient empress in repose.

We hadn’t spoken for two months. She had been occupied with something she couldn’t or wouldn’t share. It wasn’t the first time she’d vanished from my radar. Once she was gone for nine months, while her subordinates made flimsy excuses, and when we finally reconnected, she told me that I was an excellent mother. Not that I didn’t appreciate the compliment, but it came out of nowhere.

Since we finally got to talk, I decided it would be a great opportunity to clear up the exploding cephalopod issue. I had accidentally blown up a kraken. It had been… unexpected.

“Karsaran targets the highest concentration of magic within a living organism,” Erra said.

“Yes, which for vertebrates would be bone. In the absence of bone, it will target blood, which has the next highest concentration of magic. I understand all that.”

“Then what’s your question?”

“Why did the kraken explode? I expected it to split, maybe to burst, but it detonated like it had swallowed a land mine, and then it rained kraken for about ten seconds.”

She laughed softly.

In the distance, about five hundred yards out, a swimmer cut through the waves, moving fast, parallel to the shore.

“Oh great and powerful aunt, please enlighten this stupid one…”

“It exploded because you don’t practice. You’ve been playing house for what, six years now? Seven?”

“I do practice. I practice every day.” I had incorporated working on my bloodline powers into my exercise routine.

“Not in combat, you don’t. You have no idea how much power you need to feed into a command to gracefully split a kraken along its blood vessels, and therefore it ends up exploding and landing on your face.”

“So what do you suggest? Hunting down some krakens to calibrate?”


“Seems cruel.”

Erra gave me one of her patented ancient power stares, reached over, and slapped an invisible ball in front of her.

“Is that you smacking my head?”

“You are playing a very dangerous game. You’ve been trying to hide from who you are. First, you tried to do it in Atlanta, and now you’re trying to do it here.”

“You know why we left Atlanta,” I said quietly. The city had slowly smothered me. I felt like I couldn’t even breathe there, much less raise Conlan. “I wanted to give your grandson a chance at a normal life.”

Erra waved her hand. “I do. I agreed with your decision then and I still agree with it now. Atlanta was too complicated. Too messy. Too many eyes and too many powers screaming bloody murder every time you sneezed. You needed to start fresh, away from all that. But you haven’t exactly hit the ground running.”

I counted off on my fingers. “Property cleared and warded, house repaired, Conlan enrolled in school…”

My aunt leaned closer. “You’re puttering around on this beach, fixing this ruin, and trying to lull yourself into a false sense of security. Do you honestly think that you’ve solved your problems, child? That if you just stay in this little fortress on the edge of the continent, the world will forget about you, and you can have a quiet life? Even if you ran away to the most remote peak in the Himalayas, it wouldn’t matter. Sooner or later, they will come for you, and you won’t be ready.”

A familiar discomfort rolled over me. “Why would anyone come for me?”

“For your power, for your blood, and for your son. If they take the boy, they can control both you and your husband. If they kill even one of you, they can make a name for themselves. And it won’t be a run-of-the-mill enemy. It will be the kind of power who thinks they can take you.”

For the past few years, a small voice in the back of my mind kept nagging at me. It started the day after I banished my father. I’d woken up to a sun-filled morning. Curran lay next to me, warm, sleeping peacefully, his muscular arm draped over me. Conlan was in his crib, making little growling noises in his sleep. I opened my eyes, looked up at the white ceiling, and thought, “Who will I have to fight next to keep us safe?”

I’d punched that voice back down, because I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, over the years, it kept piping up here and there. I thought it would go silent once we were out of Atlanta, but it only grew stronger.