Order Legacy for/from:
Other Books in the League of Illusion Series
Read an Excerpt from Legacy:
The crowd gathered around the young dock worker as he prepared to make his next toss of the dice was an eclectic mixture of London’s wealthiest and poorest. Gentlemen and lords dressed in top hats and long coat tails knocked elbows with scrawny porters and dirty street sweepers in the dark alley behind Black’s card house.
Although a frequent guest of Black’s, Jovan didn’t come to play vingt-et-un or whist but to go out back and watch the dice game of hazard. A game of complete luck and one he’d consistently won at years ago. Now he just watched, an atonement of such for his sins. Of which he had plenty. There was fifty pounds lying in the dirt and he hoped the scruffy boy pocketed it without a problem.
The boy squeezed the dice then, flicking his wrist, he tossed them against the brick wall. He needed a nine to win. One die rolled and settled on the four, the other rolled a little farther. Concentrating on it, Jovan saw it was heading to a six. With his right hand pressed tight against his leg, he moved his index finger ever so slightly, and under his breath he muttered, “Volvo.”
The die did one extra flip and settled on the number five.
“Nicks!” a few of the grizzled men cheered. The others didn’t look as happy to see the boy win.
The portly gentleman smoking a cigar standing on Jovan’s left, patted him on the back and quietly under his breath he said, “That’s a bit of luck there for that boy. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there’s magic in the air.”
He smiled at the man, knowing full well there was indeed magic in the air. Lord Effington was one of a very small number of people in London who knew of the existence of sorcerers and magic.
“Your brother would not approve.”
“My brother would disapprove of everything. I don’t think he’s smiled in ten years.”
As the boy reached for his money, another hand, a rather large and dirty one, slapped on top of his before he could gather his winnings. The crowd looked up into the flushed square face of a hard man named Ruddy, named so because his skin was always flushed with anger.
“You’re a cheat.”
The boy cowered away, too small and fearful to fight for what was rightfully his. So, Jovan stepped forward.
“How did this boy cheat? The dice weren’t loaded, were they?They are your dice afterall.”
The others in the crows looked at Ruddy warily. He was known to call out cheaters and beat them until they confessed to the crime they may have committed or not.
“You helped him.” He pointed his finger at Jovan. “I saw your…finger move.”
“My finger? Truly?” Jovan smiled at the other gamers. They all laughed. “So are you saying I moved the dice with my finger from all the way over here? Without even touching it?”
The crowd laughed again. This made Ruddy’s face even redder.
“Now isn’t there a rule that says that if someone calls another a cheat and his allegations are found false, that someone must pay double his initial bet?” Jovan spun around the crowd, engaging them. “Am I right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Some in the crowd answered.
He turned to the big man. “So that means you owe this boy another two quid.”
Instead of answering, Ruddy rushed at him with his ham-hands swinging at Jovan’s face. But Jovan was smaller and quicker than the lumbering giant. In anticipation of the attack, Jovan spun his walking stick into a defensive stance. As Ruddy swung with his left, Jovan’s stick found the soft vulnerable spot under his arm. Pivoting on his right foot, Jovan sprung around and whacked the thug across the back of the neck, sending him sprawling into the dirt.
Once down, Jovan stepped on the man’s back, and tapped his cheek with the brass-embossed tip of his cane. “You’re going to stay down, aren’t you, Ruddy?”
The giant nodded slowly.
“Good man.” Jovan gestured to the wide-eyed boy. “Gather your winnings, son, but I would play dice somewhere else from now on.”
The boy scrambled for the money just as Jovan’s valet came out the back door of the card house.
“Message for you, sir.” His man handed him an envelope. It was sealed with the Davenport sigil—a crossed pair of broadswords.
Jovan opened it and read the note inside.
“Good news, I hope,” Lord Effington said.
“It’s from my father.”
Lord Effington knew not to press for more. Like many in good society, he knew that Jovan and his father didn’t speak often, and when they did, it usually meant Jovan was in some sort of trouble.
His feet leaden, Jovan swallowed down the bile rising in his throat and stepped across the threshold of his father’s private chambers. The sweet smell of cigar smoke wafted to his nose, overpowering the delicate scent of lilies that were in vases in every dark corner.
His gaze swept the inner room, taking in the low banking fire in the hearth and the family portrait on the wall above the mantel. Painted by some French impressionist when he was a boy, it was one of the only paintings of the entire family—and one of the only times he’d seen his late mother smile.
His father’s mahogany desk stood nearby. Today, no papers littered its usually disorganized surface, just the inkwell and his fountain pen. The high leather-backed chair was empty.
Tramping down the nerves that tingled over his spine, nerves he always seemed to possess on such visits to his father’s home, Jovan pulled at one sleeve of his navy jacket and moved across the den to his father’s bedroom. Given the nature of his illness, he was bedridden. But Blake Davenport was such an imposing man, an impressive figure no matter the circumstances, Jovan never would’ve thought mere sickness would overwhelm him enough to force him to it.
For as long as Jovan could remember, Blake had been like stone, formidable and stoic, the strongest person he knew. He ruled his household with a firm hand and even firmer resolve, much like how he governed the League of Illusion.
The door to Blake’s room was ajar. Taking in a deep breath, Jovan pushed it open and walked through. The scent of cigar tobacco hit him square in the face and made his nose wrinkle.
“Jovan, my boy. I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Blake’s usual booming voice had lost some of its vigor but it still managed to make Jovan flinch. “I thought Rhys and I would have to smoke all of these ourselves.”
Jovan nodded to his older brother sitting rigidly in the solid ornate wooden chair next to Blake’s king-sized canopied bed. It had been over eight months since he’d last seen Rhys. He hadn’t changed much. It still looked like he had a stick up his arse, and from the way he regarded Jovan, he was totally laying the blame squarely on his shoulders, as usual.
Pulling up another heavy chair, Jovan sat on his father’s other side. “You ordered me home because you were ill.” His knee brushed the mahogany handle of the bed warmer that was under the covers heating his father’s bed.
Blake puffed on his cigar, ashes flaking onto his brocade smoking jacket. “I am.”
“Then why are you smoking?”
“Why the hell not? It’s one of life’s small joys that I can still indulge in. Your mother’s gone so there goes any enjoyment I would’ve gotten from being confined to this bed.”
Their mother, Madeline, had died over ten years ago, when Jovan turned fifteen, and Blake had never remarried, which some in proper society found unusual. Blake didn’t care much for what society thought. The Davenports had always hovered on the edges of it. They had ample money to be included and even revered but some of their customs weren’t to others’ liking.
“So, where’s mine?”
Rhys flipped open the cherry wood box, plucked one thick cigar out, cut the tip and tossed it over the bed. Jovan put it in his mouth and swiveled it around between his lips to moisten it, savoring the rich flavor. Rhys pitched him the box of matches.
Jovan snapped his fingers. “Accendo.”
The tip of his cigar smoldered to life. Taking a puff, he blew out the smoke in tiny rings.
With an angry sigh, Rhys set the small box down on the side table with a distinctive click.
Jovan blew more smoke rings in his brother’s direction.
“Magic waster,” Rhys muttered under his breath.
Jovan grinned around his cigar. “You’re just jealous.”
The loathing in Rhys’s eyes made Jovan’s jaw clench. His brother had been looking at him like that for a long time, ever since Jovan’s magical ability had surpassed his some years ago.
Jovan couldn’t help the fact he was better at magic than Rhys. He also couldn’t help it that what little magic Rhys did possess, he squirreled away only to be used in dire circumstances and emergencies. The last time Jovan had seen his brother use magic was when they were children and Rhys used to scare him with complicated illusions involving spiders.
On the other hand, Jovan liked to use his magic whenever he could. Why have that kind of power and not use it? It made life so much easier. At least it did for him. Not every sorcerer was as lucky.
Jovan looked at his father. Magic hadn’t stopped the cancer from eating his insides out.
“I didn’t call you two here so you could fight.” Blake sat up higher in his bed, a somber expression on his granite face. “I’ve had enough of it. It’s time the two of you put aside your differences and be brothers again.”
Rhys scoffed. “It’s going to take more than your illness to do something of that magnitude.”
“I’m not just ill, Rhys. I’m dying.”
Flinching, Jovan sat forward in his chair. “You must be mistaken.”
Blake pinned him with his steely gaze. “I wish I were, son. The cancer’s too far gone. The laudanum has done nothing for me but make me sleep. I have a matter of months at most.”
Jovan met Rhys’s gaze across the bed. He had the same sinking feeling pinching his face that Jovan felt in his stomach. Rhys dropped his gaze and ground out his cigar in the ashtray on the small side table.
“Have you gotten a second opinion?” Rhys asked.
“And a third and a fourth. There’s nothing that can be done.”
Jovan jumped to his feet and paced the room. “There has to be a spell or charm that will work.”
“I’ve tried everything, son, believe me. The League’s top healer, a Druid of high ranking, has been to see me many times. Even the elves sent over an elixir, but it didn’t work.”
Jovan whirled around, panic making his skin crawl. “Why didn’t you tell us before now?” He ran a hand through his unruly mess of tawny waves. “I didn’t even know you were that sick.” He glared at Rhys. “Did you know?”
Rhys wouldn’t meet Jovan’s gaze. He brushed at the cigar ash on his dark gray wool trousers. “I suspected.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you’re so wrapped up in your own selfish endeavors that you wouldn’t have heard me anyway.”
“That’s a load of bull.”
Rhys smirked. “It’s just like when mother passed. You were out of the country with Uncle Smith.”
“I didn’t know she was going to die.”
“Yeah, but you knew she was sick. You had to have suspected she didn’t have long. But you just had to take that trip to Paris, to gamble of all things.”
Anger swirled in Jovan’s gut. He wanted to jump the bed and wrap his hands around Rhys’s throat and squeeze. The man was a smug bastard—haughty and controlling. It had probably killed him when he realized he couldn’t control Jovan. That his baby brother was the one thing in his life that didn’t quite fit into his perfect preconceived mold of what his wealthy, proper family should look like.
Jovan was the odd man out and always had been. “I’m not going to apologize for living my life. Maybe if you did some living of your own, you wouldn’t already look like a man with one foot in the grave. Christ, when was the last time you even bedded a woman?”
Rhys rounded the bed, his hands fisted at his sides. “You selfish, spoiled ingrate. You’ve never thought about anyone but yourself. Even as a boy you were so self-serving. You’ll never change.”
Jovan readied himself for Rhys’s attack. His brother had an inch in height on him, with a longer arm reach, but Jovan was more muscular and wiry with it. And he had power simmering in him. He would never use magic directly on Rhys—to do that went against all their father had tried to instill in his sons—but the energy reserves crackling under his skin like lightning was enough to give him an edge.
Ever since Rhys challenged him to a fight at a yuletide ball three years earlier, cutting his chin open, Jovan had wanted payback. Even now the scar throbbed in memory of that night. Sure it hadn’t been one of Jovan’s finer moments—he’d more than likely been drunk and belligerent—but it still didn’t justify Rhys’s physical attack.
As boys they’d certainly had their fair share of altercations, wrestling and such, but as men that was the first and only time their argument had turned to violence. It still surprised him that it had been Rhys who resorted to it. His control had snapped like a twig. Not something often seen in his aloof, reserved brother.
Looking at Rhys’s face now, his slate-blue eyes digging into him, Jovan could sense his control fraying at its ends, ready to give at any moment. It wouldn’t take much for Rhys to lose it again. Jovan sure seemed to bring it out in him.
They were nose to nose before Blake bellowed, “Enough!”
Jovan flinched but refused to be the one who backed down first. Childish, most definitely, but still he couldn’t let Rhys have the upper hand. He’d use it to his utmost ability and make Jovan’s life more miserable than he already tried to do.
“I said enough. If I could get out of this bed, I’d kick both of your arses.” Blake started to cough.
Rhys lowered his gaze and turned on his heel to move to the bed. He helped Blake, who hacked violently into a handkerchief.
“Get some water, Jovan,” Rhys barked.
Jovan waved his hand toward the large dresser. “Peto aquero.” The porcelain water jug lifted in the air and floated toward him. Snatching it out of the air, he poured some water into a cup and handed it to Rhys.
Rhys raised it to Blake’s lips.
Jovan hated to see his father like this. It broke his heart. To think a man as virile and fearsome as Blake had been reduced in an instant to a frail, weathered old man. A dying man. His father, a man he worshipped, was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t lift his hand and invoke a spell to wave it all away. At best, he could ease his father’s pain, but he couldn’t stop death from parking on Blake’s doorstep.
A feeling of impotence raged through him, making his knees ineffectual. Before he ended up on the floor, he settled into the chair. Horror-stricken, he watched as his father took small sips of water and settled back onto the plumped pillows again, his face tight with pain, his usual vigorous eyes swimming in defeat.
“The council wants my successor to take power,” Blake announced as he dabbed at his cracked lips with the handkerchief.
“Can’t they just leave you alone for a bit,” Rhys said. “You’ve given them years of your life. I would think they would allow you some time to get well.”
“No, I’m afraid they can’t wait. The Solstice comes soon. The League has lasted for centuries because of our ability to carry on with what is important.”
“There’re all daft fools, if you ask me.”
Blake glared at Jovan. “Well, it’s a good thing I’m not asking you. Those old fools, which I am still head of, have kept this family and all the magical families safe and secure.”
Jovan had heard the speech before. Actually many times before. It still didn’t change his mind about most of the council members. Stuck in the Middle Ages, was what he thought. The purpose of the League of Illusion was to keep the sorcerers’ secrets. To protect the normal mortal population from ever finding out about them. It functioned as their government, providing regulations that enabled sorcerers and all other magical beings to live peacefully with mortals. The members of the League believed that magic was a wondrous tool only to be used by those skilled and disciplined enough to refrain from using it.
A bunch of bloody nonsense. He’d thought that way when he was ten and had come into his powers and he thought that now, fifteen years later. Magic could be used for so many things that the League were too blind or unimaginative to envision.
Unfortunately, they didn’t agree with his arguments, which he’d made on several occasions. Jovan could just imagine what they would’ve done if they’d discovered his use of magic for some other activities. Illegal ones. He’d been reckless and stupid in his youth.
“Sons.” Blake reached out to both of them. Jovan took his outstretched hand, as did Rhys. “I need you both to do one thing for me. The most important thing I could ask.”
“Whatever you need,” Jovan said.
Blake squeezed tight. Jovan could feel the tingle of his magical powers underneath his wrinkled skin. It still had spark, and Jovan knew that his father wouldn’t go down without a fight. He wouldn’t let him.
“I need the both of you to forget about your past problems, and come together to grant me my last wish.”
Trepidation filled the room like a thick cloying fog. Jovan could taste it on his tongue. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for what his father was about to say.
“You need to find my successor before the Solstice. Without him to lead this League, I fear it will fall. Find Sebastian, find your brother, and bring him home.”