Blood mage 3, p.1

Blood Mage 3, page 1

 

Blood Mage 3
 



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Blood Mage 3


  Chapter One

  “HC, hit the deck!” Ariette bellowed from her position on the red shingled roof of the ranch house.

  I immediately tumbled to the ground, and I ducked to avoid the huge lightning bolt that arced out from her Hand and zipped past my position. The enormous giant behind me let out a soft grunt as the lightning bolt cracked against his chest, but he continued to barrel forward as if the attack was nothing more than a bee sting.

  I dodged again right as a foot the size of a small car pounded the ground, inches from where my body had just been. I somersaulted forward, brought myself back to a standing position, and turned around to face the giant behind me.

  The thing was absolutely massive and completely grotesque. He stood nearly a hundred and fifty feet tall, with torn up denim shorts wrapped around his waist and ratty shoes on his feet. The monster’s smashed-in face looked like a combination between a human and an ugly pug, complete with beady black eyes and bubbles of saliva that dripped from his huge, blubbery lips.

  Our giant friend here was on a rampage, and we had to stop him before he trampled out further. Right now he was fairly contained, but once he got to the outlying farmhouses on the edge of Jefferson City, he was going to destroy crops, people’s livelihoods, and homes.

  Even more importantly, if we didn’t stop him, people were gonna get hurt.

  The people of Jefferson City weren’t really helping the situation, either. For some reason, the citizens had decided to stay in the general vicinity, not more than a half a mile from where the giant rampaged. They were lined up, watching the show as my team and I did our best to stop the gargantuan creature from destroying everything in its path.

  All that was missing was the popcorn.

  I never would have imagined this is how we’d be spending a Friday afternoon. Just as the team and I had been ready to call it a day, a frantic human woman had called the guild with a report of a giant headed toward the outlying farms and ranches at the west end of Jefferson City. Giants were peaceful and dumb, but they were also extremely destructive due to their sheer size. The creatures hardly ever ventured outside their village on Kaul Mountain, but today, apparently, this one made an exception.

  “Look, we’re just trying to help you!” I hollered at the creature. “Right now, you’ve only destroyed some property, no biggie. Worst case scenario, you’ll just get picked up and relocated back to your home. But if you keep going, if you end up causing a famine or killing somebody … then it gets much, much worse for you, my friend.”

  The giant paused and looked like he was taking in my words. These things were dumb as a box of rocks, but surely they’d understand simple concepts like “getting in trouble” or “punishment.” The dopey, stupid grin spread wider across the giant’s face, and he pointed over toward a small cluster of houses behind me.

  “Home?” he asked through a mouthful of slobber.

  “No, that’s not what I--” I started, but my words were cut off by the quaking of the Earth as he advanced forward with great, lumbering steps.

  I let out a frustrated grunt and then backed up quickly as I called on my Hand of Blood. My hand vibrated intensely as the rush of the blood in the giant’s veins pounded against the cells in my palm.

  However, I was in a bit of a dilemma, here.

  There was so much blood in this giant, and he was going to be next to impossible to control. I easily could have just ripped it out of his body, foot-by-foot, but I really didn’t want to kill the big lug. He was just a gentle creature who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t deserve to die. However, I felt the energy from my hand draining quite quickly, and my mind snapped back to finding a non-lethal solution before it was too late.

  Another lightning bolt smacked the giant right in the back of his head, and Ariette let out a cackle of joy. That is, until she noticed she still hadn’t fazed the giant.

  “Son of a bitch!” she growled.

  The creature bounded toward me with an overly excited grin on his face. As his large, saliva-filled lips spread upward, he revealed two rows of rotted, half-decayed teeth. It was a face only a mother could love, and even that was stretching it.

  “Come on, come on,” I muttered to my Hand as I threw a peek over my shoulder and looked for anything around us that could be useful. There was a massive boulder not too far behind me, set in the middle of the field, and it looked like it was larger than my entire body.

  Then it hit me.

  I could use the giant’s own clumsiness against him.

  I ran straight at the giant gray rock until I was just about to smack straight into it, and then I veered hard to my left. My breath came out hot and heavy, and sweat dripped down the back of my neck as my Hand shook violently. I ducked back around behind the boulder as the loud pounds of the giant’s massive footsteps followed me with a child-like lumber. I peeked around the rock as the giant approached, and then I dove out of the way at the very last second as he bent down and reached clumsily toward me.

  The toe of his foot collided with the large gray rock, but it didn’t trip him like I’d hoped. Instead, there was now a massive boulder arcing through the air, and it was headed straight for me. I threw my body to the side as the rock crashed down behind me and sent grass and dirt flying. The air was slammed out of my lungs as I hit the ground, and I gasped for oxygen as I rolled onto my back. Right as I was about to spring up and stand, an enormous, grimy hand came out of the sky like a hand from God.

  “Oh, hell no,” I grunted and rolled to the side.

  I used my momentum to catapult myself along the grassy field and out of the giant’s grasp. I fully expected to hear the thunderous footsteps come after me, but when they didn’t, I rolled to my feet and whipped around, my Hand at the ready.

  I turned to see Ariette as she crouched on the roof, her eyes laser-focused as the monster took slow, bumbling steps toward her. One of the giant’s hands reached out slowly and tried to swipe at her, but the elf leapt deftly off the roof, landed on the ground, and took off toward me at a run. Another lightning bolt arced from her Hand and hit the giant square in the chest.

  With a look of confusion on his face, he brought a slow hand up to touch his chest where the electricity had made contact. It seemed more like a nuisance to him than something actually painful.

  “Ow,” he roared. “You try to hurt me?”

  The giant’s expression turned from one of curiosity to one of anger, and his rotting teeth now snarled like a rabid dog. Then, the giant crossed his arms, pouted, and began to stamp his feet and scream.

  “It’s like watching a hundred-foot-tall toddler,” Ariette’s voice muttered through our communicator.

  “Yeah, a toddler than can crush our bones into dust with the flick of his wrist,” I grumbled and pressed the piece in my ear. “Maaren, are you getting that rope?”

  I tried desperately to wrangle control over the giant’s thick blood, but the massive amount of liquid overloaded my Hand. Instead of bringing the massive creature down, my open palm just vibrated violently and began to smoke like an overused engine. I could feel myself connecting with the giant’s blood, but I couldn’t get enough of a grip on it to do anything.

  “Two minutes away!” Maaren yelled back over the system.

  The blue-skinned hunter had briefly stayed behind to get some enormous rope made out of Fae twine. We were under strict orders not to seriously injure or kill the giant, so I figured this would be the best way to go about a non-lethal takedown. Giants weren’t all that smart. We could use the Fae twine to trip the big lug and then tie up his ankles. According to Ariette, Fae twine was made from the fibers of the Rictonecturn plants taken from land beyond the Hills of the Seelie. It was the strongest fiber in existence, braided seven times
over to form a rope that normally was used by construction workers to move large boulders or by zookeepers to wrangle in the larger beasts in their collection.

  If anything was going to work on a giant, it was this.

  This whole endeavor had become a game of cat and mouse as Ariette and I just tried to hold the creature off until the cavalry arrived.

  “We’ve got to distract him!” the blonde elf yelled at me as the giant stepped forward again and crushed an entire garden full of vegetables in the process. The owners of the farm screamed from their vantage point about twenty feet away as they looked on with horrified expressions.

  “What are you guys still doing here?” I yelled at them. “Run!” A pang of annoyance rose in my chest that they were even still this close, but Ariette and I had to stay focused on the giant, not the foolish human onlookers.

  “He’ll chase after us,” Ariette said breathlessly as we broke out into a run and headed in the direction of Kaul Mountain. “Giants are like big dumb dogs. They like the chase. They think it’s fun. He probably has no concept he’s hurting anyone.”

  “Probably?” I chuckled as adrenaline surged through my moving body. “I think Storm has more brain cells than this thing, and she’s only a few weeks old!”

  Just as Ariette had assumed, the giant let out a bubbly laugh, and I heard the stomp of his footsteps as he came after us. A rush of air blew past me, and I turned to see the giant look down at his empty hand, confused and annoyed that he hadn’t swept us up in his grip. A look of absolute dejection crossed his face, and I felt a pang of sorrow for him. He genuinely did not understand why he couldn’t destroy the ranch or why no one wanted to become his toy.

  Their destructive nature wasn’t really their fault. The giants were massive creatures with a teeny tiny, apple-sized brain and no concept of anything other than their basic drives, one of which was to have fun. That was all this giant wanted to do.

  Of course, I wasn’t about to let us become his next play-thing.

  “Ariette, behind you!” I yelled out to the blonde warrior to my right.

  She barreled forward in a roll just in the nick of time, and the giant’s fingers, as big as tree trunks, swiped through the air right above her back.

  “Dolly!” he gargled out sadly when his fingers came up empty once again.

  “You call me a dolly one more time, big guy … ” Ariette’s angry shout trailed off as she stopped and stepped toward the giant.

  “Ariette, not a good idea!” I yelled as I yanked her into a run.

  The giant’s enormous hand reached toward us again, but he missed and accidentally swept up a tree instead. The entire elm came up from the ground with a loud crack as the roots popped out of the ground. Ariette and I charged forward across the green grass of the field behind the ranch house as the giant tossed the tree to the side with a loud crash.

  At that exact moment, the jingle of an ice cream truck bounced across the field from the street on the other side of the houses, and the giant stopped immediately. His eyes lit up as he heard the catchy tune, and he swiveled his massive body around in the direction of the street.

  “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I groaned. “Does the driver not see the massive giant over here?”

  Ariette shrugged. “Times are tough,” she joked. “People gotta pay the bills somehow. Giant or not.”

  “That should totally be added to the post office’s motto,” I chuckled as I halted my momentum and turned back to the giant. “Nor rain nor sleet nor giant.”

  The song of the ice cream truck was like a magnet to the big oaf, and the giant turned away from Ariette and me and started to pound toward the farmhouses once more.

  “We’ve got to stop him before he hits those houses!” I shouted to Ariette.

  She nodded in agreement, and we both took off in a mad dash toward the houses. I sped myself up and managed to race ahead of the giant right as he approached a pretty green fence that surrounded one of the backyards. He didn’t even seem to notice me, though, and took another dangerous step toward the houses.

  “The cavalry has arrived!” Maaren’s voice sounded in my ears, and I heard the giant squawk of Jake, her pet griffin, in the air above me.

  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the griffin and the hunter flew into view, and another sigh when the jingle of the ice cream truck disappeared completely.

  “The driver must have realized he was attracting unwanted attention,” Ariette observed.

  “Yeah, I don’t know what gave it away,” I said sarcastically. “The lack of people coming out into the streets, or the giant lumbering monster heading his way?”

  The giant stopped his momentum and looked around the landscape. His eyes grew wide with desperation as they filled with tears. Then the giant threw his head back, shrieked like a toddler, and started to stamp his feet angrily.

  “It’s about damn time you got here, Maaren,” Ariette muttered.

  “A piece this thick was hard to find!” the hunter chuckled. “Those plants don’t grow on trees, ya know.”

  “Guys,” I whistled at my bickering teammates. “Capture now, bicker later.”

  I put both of my index fingers into my mouth and whistled to get the giant’s attention. He looked up at us, still sniveling, and then began to smile as he wiped his tears away.

  “D-Dolly?” he asked happily.

  “That’s right!” I called out and began to back away slowly. “Come get your dollies, big guy.”

  Ariette and I began to backward run across the grass of the field. The giant barreled after us, each one of his steps like a hundred of ours. Thankfully, our Fae speed was still just enough to keep us ahead of him, even with his unfair height advantage.

  Behind the giant’s massive head, we could clearly see Jake’s form as he swooped down lower with another loud squawk. The white-haired hunter was astride him with a giant grin on her face and a massive coil of Fae twine in her hands. For a moment, I wondered why Maaren hadn’t just used her Hand of Air to fly without the griffin, but I quickly realized that would have been much too slow. Besides, riding a griffin would have been much more fun.

  “You guys weren’t too bored while you waited for me, right?” the hunter yelled.

  “We were just getting there, actually,” I yelled back at her. “This was an absolute breeze.”

  “Maybe I should get out of here, then, if you guys have it handled?” She smirked down at us as Jake circled overhead.

  “No!” Ariette and I both exclaimed a little too quickly.

  The hunter tossed us another grin that was accompanied by a loud laugh.

  “So, what do you want to do with this, Milton?” Maaren asked.

  “We gotta get him away from the houses first,” I called back, and Maaren nodded as she tossed me the huge coil of Fae twine. I caught it in my arms, surprised at how light it was. It was almost like I caught air. The twine was smoother than the smoothest silk, almost like butter in my hands. It had a soft golden glow to it, like somebody had caught up sunshine and compressed and condensed the light until it turned into this twine.

  And, if Ariette was correct, it was as strong as an iron chain.

  Jake swooped down in front of the giant’s face, and his coal black eyes landed on the griffin instantaneously.

  “Horse?” he questioned, slightly confused as he came out of his daze.

  Fortunately, the sight of Jake intrigued the giant enough to turn away from his current target and toward the flying animal. He began to chase Jake across the field, but Maaren and the griffin stayed just out of his reach the whole time.

  “Here,” I called to Ariette as I threw the blonde one end of the rope. “Spread out. We’re going to trip this guy.”

  “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” the blonde exclaimed and shot off in the opposite direction at top speed. “But how will we get any sort of leverage around his legs?”

  “What do you--” I began, but the Fae cut me off with a sigh.

&
nbsp; “Simple physics, HC,” she laughed. “Even if the two of us are able to hit him in the ankle, we don’t have enough mass to hold him down and trip him. The second he hits the rope, the two of us are going for a ride.”

  “I’ve seen this movie before,” I chuckled as I began to understand what she was getting at. “We’ll have to wrap him up, and then his own weight will bring him down.”

  Ariette grinned at me coyly. “Exactly,” she confirmed.

  We got out into the center of the field to pull the thick Fae twine tight between us. Out here in the open, the massive being wouldn’t damage anything other than the plants when it fell. As soon as the rope was stretched completely taut, I turned to watch the giant as it chased after Maaren and Jake about a hundred yards away from us.

  “Get ready, Ari,” I called in my comms unit. “This is going to be hard. Okay, Maaren, bring him back around here.”

  “My pleasure,” the hunter answered, and Jake swung around majestically in the bright summer sky. He made a beeline for Ariette and me, and the giant lumbered around slowly to follow his “horsey.”

  As he got closer, I clenched my hands so tightly around the twine I felt the burn as it cut into my palms. I prayed to whatever divine being there was that Ariette and I weren’t about to be squashed or thrown around like ragdolls.

  That’s when the giant stepped right in front of the rope with his grimy feet. Ariette and I dashed forward until the rope was against his ankle.

  I held out my Hand of Blood and focused all my energy into my open palm. At such a close range, with all of the energy surging through my body, I was finally able to get a hold on the creature’s feet. I grunted in agony as the giant fought back against my magic, but I wasn’t going to let this bumbling behemoth go anywhere.

  At the same time, Ariette dashed in a circle around the giant’s planted ankles and began to tie him up with the Fae twine. Every fiber of my being ached as the creature angrily tried to break the grip of my magic, but I held the course. Ariette’s Fae agility made it so that the creature was wrapped up in a matter of seconds, and then she released her grip on the rope, dashed forward, and began to jump up and down to get the creature’s attention.

 
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