Things hadn’t calmed down much since we’d left. Several of the vendors had actually closed up shop. Hopefully, they’d gone to restock. The shops that were still open were packed with people. Across the second level from the elevator, two walls worth of booths had been repurposed as a bar. I looked down and saw that the actual bar was filled to capacity and spilling people out into the surrounding stalls. They’d made do with turning those into extra seating. They’d likely commandeered more spaces that I couldn’t see from the second floor. Without Ruby around to guide us through the crowd, Eli took charge. He was more forceful than she’d been, making a path by shouldering people and giving static shocks to move them out of his way. It was faster, but it came with a lot more dirty looks than Ruby’s smooth weaving between people.
We arrived at Willard’s booth in time to catch the end of him auctioning an item off. He was down to his last three pieces of merchandise. One was a black umbrella. The next was a metal water bottle. The last was a small wooden box. They were all unassuming items, but that didn’t mean they weren’t powerful. He picked up the water bottle and held it high over his head. The crowd started bidding without him telling them what enchantment he’d put on it. I felt Umbra stir. I didn’t need them to tell me that they’d recovered; I could feel it. Whatever the Bibliomancer had done wasn’t completely healed, so I started drawing the shadows from everyone around us towards me. I wasn’t sure how I knew it would work. It was an instinct. Umbra was drawing small amounts of power from all the witches’ shadows.
“Not a single one of them can feel that you’re drawing energy from them?” I thought.
“No. To be fair, it is a minor draw, and I’ve had far more practice doing this than they have with magic in general,” they said.
“Can you sense the enchantments on the items Willard is auctioning?” I asked.
“The water bottle will never run dry. As long as it remains enchanted, the holder will have clean, cold water to drink.”
“That’s not bad if you’re on the run or going camping,” I thought.
“But worth hundreds less than he’s going to sell it for,” they said. It was true. The final bid was $587. It would take a lifetime of drinking out of that bottle before they managed to make it worth that price tag so long as the buyer continued living in a world of modern conveniences. Willard handed the bottle off. The buyer was so caught up in the excitement they didn’t even ask what it did. These people had more money than sense, it seemed.
The process repeated itself with the umbrella, enchanted to allow the holder to summon the closest rainstorm at will. The box, which could turn anything placed in it to silver, might be able to get the buyer the $750 they paid for it back if they were ambitious and used it well. The crowd at Willard’s booth slowly dispersed. He handed his card out to every person who would take one. Eli and I waited patiently for the last of them to clear out. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d made enough money over this weekend to live off of for a year. That was good. I wouldn’t feel as bad about uprooting him, knowing that he’d had plenty of money to make his landing somewhere new as smooth as possible.
“Welcome back! Where’s the little lady you had with you last time? Did Billie manage to steal her away from you?” Willard asked. I didn’t let his apparent joy influence my demeanor.
“No, she had other business to attend to,” I said. “We spoke to June and Billie. They’re in, but they have some conditions. The only one that you need to worry about is that they want you gone.”
“Gone?” He didn’t look shocked, but his smile faded quickly.
“Out of Georgia,” Eli said. He looked a bit taller than usual, and I felt the faintest of hums from his magic. I didn’t want it to come down to a fight. It’s never a good idea to go up against an Enchanter. You don’t know what they’ve got up their sleeve, both figuratively and literally.
“I can’t even stay in the state, Those vicious girls. Which of them came up with that little clause?” Willard asked.
“It doesn’t really matter,” I said. He gave me an annoyed look.
“This is my city as much as it is theirs. What if I refuse to go?” he asked.
“I don’t think they’d help us,” I answered.
“Ha!” Willard exclaimed. He wasn’t going to make this easy. “You can either go back and negotiate for me to stay, or you can forget it.”
“I’m pretty confident that the two of them would be able to make the blockers without you. It might take a little longer than we want, but I like their timeline a lot better than yours,” Eli said. His power raised the hair on the back of my neck. Willard had to be feeling it too.
“You really think you can threaten me in my own shop?” Willard asked. The canvas tent’s flaps flew at us. I dropped through my shadow. All of the canvas wrapped itself around Eli’s limbs, torso, and neck. I stepped out of Willard’s shadow and tapped him, forgetting my sleeping ring was with Ruby. I tried using the ring I’d taken from Eli to phase through his neck but it did nothing. “Never fought an enchanter before, huh?”
He knocked my arm away from his neck. I stepped back quickly to avoid him grabbing me. I had no doubt that any of the many rings he was wearing would be strong enough to knock me out or worse. Eli’s magic was so strong that alarms started going off. The fabric wasn’t a good conductor, but his electricity was strong enough to catch the flaps on fire. The first set of guards to show up were vampires. They didn’t dare come close enough to do something about us attacking Willard. The fire was spreading quickly up the canvas. They knew better than to get closer until the fires went out. The alarm kept going. Soon enough, someone else less afraid of fire would be showing up to try to help Willard. It was going to be hard enough fighting him. I didn’t need any other supernaturals complicating things. As annoyed as I was with him for cutting negotiations short, I couldn’t leave Eli behind. The fire was casting plenty of shadows for me to work with. I pulled the whole tent through the shadows along with us. The fires kept burning as I set us down in the parking garage that hid the Market.
Willard froze in his confusion and shock. Umbra jumped on the opportunity to restrain him. Eli was still letting off so much magic that arcs of lightning shot out from him, hitting cars. I dropped Willard and myself down one more floor. There wasn’t anything I could do to help him while he was still that lit up. Umbra’s disarmament of Willard left him naked on the ground. I couldn’t say it surprised me. If I was a powerful enchanter, I would work magic into everything I wore too. Unlike the Coven witch we’d taken hostage, Willard looked scared when I got down to his level. I wondered how long it had been since he’d been without even a single enchanted item. He looked from me to the pile of clothing and jewelry and back. I vanished his effects. I needed him to be truly afraid.
“I have no desire to kill you. All I want is the blockers. We can even set you up somewhere with a fresh start. Eli has no such compunctions. If killing you is the only thing standing between him and safety, he will do it and sleep soundly. Do you understand?” I asked. I didn’t really know if that was true but considering he’d been encouraging me to murder his former boss back at the hotel, I felt safe in the assumption. Willard nodded his head in rapid affirmative motions. “Good choice. Come to the Hyatt Regency Atlanta tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come looking for you.”
I summoned his belongings back, except for one of his arm braces. I went back up to check on Eli. Umbra followed me, taking a bit of Willard’s hair as they left the enchanter to dress. Eli was standing away from the skeleton of the booth. He didn’t look hurt. I was expecting him to have a few burns at least, but I didn’t even see ash or scorch marks on his clothes. He’d said that Newton wouldn’t bother trying to find him because his skill set wasn’t that unique, but I had a feeling that wasn’t the whole truth. For him to discharge that much energy and still be standing wasn’t easy. We went back to the hotel in silence.