Home > Dragon Mage (Dragon Point #7)(3)

Dragon Mage (Dragon Point #7)(3)
Author: Eve Langlais

As she stepped back to see if she’d angled it correctly, she heard a noise almost like the flapping of fabric. Probably Frank, the security guard. She hadn’t seen him on his rounds yet.

She turned a glance at the arch leading into this branch of the museum. “Frank, is that you?”

The older man often found her on his rounds to say hello and offer her the newest low-fat, no-sugar treat his wife had made him. He said that by sharing he didn’t have to throw them out and lie to his wife about eating them.

Because she felt sorry for his woebegone expression, she claimed to love the no-sugar, coconut oil mixed with plain cocoa powder monstrosity. She’d then beg to take the whole thing, mostly so she could toss it out for Frank and save him.

The archway remained empty, as did the room with other tables and stands showcasing more of Canada’s history. She probably imagined the noise. It wasn’t as if it were hard to spook herself when working in the museum at night. Being surrounded by all that history, it was easy to let herself imagine things that weren’t actually there.

Ghosts aren’t real.

She should know. If ever a place would be haunted, it would the place where old things came to rest.

Turning back to the bottle, she angled it slightly then added its place card. She’d already uploaded the information for the digital display built into the pedestal. As she went to grab the glass case that she’d place over it, she heard the sound again. A rustling—from above.

Had a bird gotten into the museum again? The last one had caused trouble when it pooped on some borrowed artifacts. She’d not enjoyed explaining to the French curator why one of their marble busts had a very clean area where they’d scrubbed it.

If they had another avian problem, she’d better make sure the bottle wasn’t touched. She set the case over the amphora and clipped it into place before glancing up. Smoke seeped from a vent in the ceiling.

Fire! Oh no. She whirled to look for the nearest alarm, which turned out to be by an exit. Before she could move for it, the smoke blocked her way.

Like literally blocked, moving with sinuous purpose, not behaving at all as it should. The dark cloud rippled and then condensed until it formed a shape.

And by shape she meant a handsome fellow, dressed in a suit, dark hair slicked back, expression haughty.

For a second she eyed the artifacts she’d just laid out and wondered if they had somehow drugged her with an ancient hallucinogenic, because people did not form out of smoke. Yet how could she be high? She’d not directly touched anything, and she’d been wearing her mask the entire time.

Which could only mean she must be dreaming.

The smoky-suit man spoke, his diction perfect and yet stilted. “Step. A. Side. Human.” The word held a definite sneer.

“Excuse me? Why should I move? You don’t belong here.” Even in her dream, she wasn’t about to have a man order her around. She’d worked damned hard to get her position. She shoved her glasses higher and thrust out her chest—wishing she had on something more impressive than her bright pink T-shirt.

“You would dare defy?” For a moment, his shape wavered from man to shadow.

“Who are you?” Although “what are you” was probably the better question.

“We are the Shaitan.”

“We?” She glanced around. “There’s more of you?”

“We are legion.”

“You are spooky. I don’t know how you got in here, but you need to leave. Now. The museum will be open in the morning.” Dream or not, she stuck to the rules. Rules and science never let her down.

“We do not obey the likes of you. Give us the amphora.” He held out a hand—with six fingers. Not the only odd thing about him. His feet didn’t end in shoes, but hooves. Someone was just missing his horns.

And she was obviously hallucinating hard. This entire scenario reminded her of a video game she once played. In the game, the object was to keep the treasure safe from the demons who wanted to use it to open some gate to Hell.

“You want the vase? Why?” she asked as she pulled off the mask.

“We do not answer to humans.”

“And I don’t give artifacts to creepy guys in my dreams.”

“This is not a dream.”

“Then you are definitely not getting shit from me.” She crossed her arms. “Leave. Now. Before I call security.”

“You would dare to threaten us?” He appeared surprised. Then angry. “You will not stand in our way.”

“Actually, I can and will.” To make a point she marched to the glass case and stationed herself in front of it. “This is museum property. Any attempt to take it will be considered theft.”

“It is ours,” Smoky Suit hissed.

“No, it’s not, and even if you had a claim, go through the proper channels. You are not getting that bottle on my watch. My ass will be grass if it goes missing.”

The smoky man cocked his head more than was natural. “We tire of this conversation. You cannot stop us.” He moved closer, not quite walking, more like gliding, as if his feet were on rollers.

Freaky. His cologne was acrid, yet fragrant, much like a burning spice. She held up her hand. “That’s close enough.”

“One thing hasn’t changed in three thousand years. Humans are just as stupidly stubborn. And weak.” He snapped his fingers, and invisible bands suddenly wrapped around her, cinching her arms to her body.

She gasped. “What have you done? Let me go.”

“We think not.” The smoky man’s gaze perused her, the orbs a pure black that didn’t reflect anything. Pure evil. She didn’t need to call upon her decades of reading horror to recognize it. “You’re not an ugly specimen for your kind,” he declared. It was the most frightening thing he had said thus far, followed by a look that didn’t just undress her; it left a dirty impression.

Suddenly terrified—if this was a dream, it was turning into a nightmare—she gasped, “You know what, just take the bottle and go.” She’d rather deal with the consequences of its theft than the weirdness happening, or the inherent threat chilling the blood in her veins.

“You do not command us. We will take and leave as we please.”

“You’d better act fast then. Frank will be doing his rounds any second. Keep screwing around and you’ll have to answer to him.”

“One human against us.” He grinned. “Maybe we should tie our hands behind our back to make it sporting.”

“Would it make a difference?”

“No.” The invisible bands around her disappeared, freeing her. He stepped even closer, the sharp smell burning her nostrils, a chill creeping up her spine.

“What are you?”

“We told you, we are the Shaitan. Surely you’ve heard of us.”

“Nope.”

He frowned. “Impossible. There are stories told about us.”

She shook her head.

“What of our lesser brethren, the jinn and Ifrit?”

“Jinn as in genie?” She giggled. “Those don’t exist. Not outside of the movies and books. The only genie I know is blue and sings. He’s friends with Aladdin,” she babbled.

“Do not mention that traitor and its human!” he boomed. He swelled large enough he had a cartoon bulging body and smoke seeping from his edges.

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