Blood Mage, page 1
The sun threatened to burn me alive as I wiped another bead of sweat from my brow, and the movement almost made me lose my grip on the bulky package I held. Sure, being a delivery boy wasn't glamorous, but it paid the bills. I’d be damned if I was going to let a little hot sun and some heavy packages get the best of me.
I took a deep breath and did my best to ignore the sweat and heat. Then I glanced up the dirty brick wall in front of me until my eyes landed on the address messily spray-painted across the bricks in black paint.
As I made my way down the wide back alley, my boots crunched gravel, glass, and other items that I didn’t want to think about. I dodged smelly dumpsters and strung out homeless people until my eyes finally found those four glorious digits.
I stepped up the two cement steps as quickly as I could and tucked the package into a dusty alcove in front of the screen door.
“Package!” I yelled at the exact same time a collective scream rose from the street on the other side of the building.
I took a quick step back just as a pudgy man in a baker’s apron scrambled out of the screen door. One hand clung to his hat as he tripped down the steps, and I flung out my arm to break his fall. As I steadied him, he turned to me, and I saw that pure terror filled his eyes.
“Run!” he cried urgently, and then he sprinted down the alley away from the door like he was being chased by the Big Bad Wolf.
As he scrambled away, my mind told my legs to run, but my legs were still all sorts of confused about what was really going on. So, instead of doing the smart thing, I watched the flapping apron turn left at the end of the alley.
Half a moment later, my legs finally got the message and started to move, but as soon as I took a step, the wall in front of me exploded outward in a cloud of brick, mortar, and dust. A solid object burst through it and slammed into the bottom of the barbed wire fence on the opposite side of the alley. Dust and particles filled the air, and I squinted in the sudden haze. The object was small, compact, and… alive?
Before I realized what was happening, I was moving toward the dying creature.
Even if his skin hadn't been blue, he was so slender that I knew he was one of the Fae. The hue of his skin meant he was Unseelie, and as I took in his blood-red eyes, I realized I was inches away from a creature who belonged to the Dark Court. And I was betting he was a high-ranking one since he wore a blood red cape similar to the ones I’d seen the elite dark elven guards wear on the news.
I had never seen an Unseelie Fae in person before. The treaty meant that the Unseelie were supposed to stay far away from the world of humans and Seelie Fae. My world had been divided between the Seelie and Unseelie since long before I was born, and the Unseelie lived in their own, separate kingdom on the other side of the Dracun Mountains.
The Seelie were the Court of Light. They brought balance and unity to the world, and they served as a symbol of peace and justice.
The Unseelie were the opposite. They were dark, evil creatures whose sole purpose was to bring chaos to the world.
And I was crouched mere inches from one.
“Are you okay--”
An echoing roar from behind me cut me off before I could say more. The fairy’s eyes widened in shock, and I followed his gaze to the hole his body had just left in the bakery wall.
Through it, I could barely make out a huge, grotesque creature that looked like a cross between a troll and a tree trunk. It wore a torn dirty cloth wrapped around its waist but was otherwise naked. Its bumpy skin had a slimy sheen that caused the mid-afternoon sun to glare off it. There was no neck, just a mouth and flared nostrils tucked between two bulky shoulders. As ugly as it was, one thing was very clear: this monster could tear everyone here to pieces with only its bare hands.
The voice was so weak and quiet that it took me a moment to realize the fairy had spoken to me. I turned to meet his blood-red eyes and realized he’d been impaled through the stomach with what looked like a spike of black metal.
“Oh, my god! I have to get you out of here,” I cried as I reached forward to pick him up. With any luck, we could escape before the troll realized we were here.
“We don’t have time. The metal is already in my blood. Even if you managed to get me to help, it wouldn’t matter.” He wheezed before he shook his head as if trying to dismiss the thought. “You need to take my power! Now!” He emphasized the words with the last of his strength, raised his wrinkled right hand once more, and offered it to me. I noticed his hand glowed like embers, with hints of deeper red striped along his veins, from his wrists to the tips of his yellowed nails.
That's when I also realized what he was trying to tell me. Fae were notoriously allergic to iron, and since he was going to die from the spike, he wanted me to take his magic. No… not just his magic. His hand. He wanted me to take his Hand of Power. What power, I had no idea. But his eyes looked at me imploringly as I deliberated for a split second.
I didn’t know that much about Hands of Power, but I did know two things: I had never even been close to magic before, and I was a human. We weren’t supposed to have magical powers. A human with magic that hadn’t been granted to him by the Seelie guild could get thrown in prison for life. Not to mention the fact that some human bodies couldn’t even absorb a Hand. For all I knew, I could take his Hand and end up being blown to smithereens.
Of course, I could also absorb his Hand and end up extraordinarily powerful. A few humans had done it before. Or so I’d heard.
My deliberation time was cut short as another roar echoed, followed by blood-curdling screams.
Those people needed saving.
“This is the only way.” The fairy shifted his hand even closer to me as he caught onto my hesitation. “Somebody has to… stop that thing. Please.”
His red eyes pleaded with me. Suddenly, he let out a thick cough that sprayed my shoulder with dark blue blood. He didn’t have much longer.
“Please,” he gasped.
Before I could even follow my own thoughts, I made the most impulsive decision of my life. Every cell in my body was cold, and every piece of me vibrated with the deep, instinctual wish to run. But instead of giving in to my fear, I reached out with my right hand and grasped the rough palm of the dying fairy.
“What is your name?” he asked as he locked his blood-red eyes onto my hazel ones.
“Uh, Milton. Milton Bailey,” I replied.
His pupils dilated as I watched, and a shimmer covered them. “Hello, Milton. I am Oragon. Use my power well.”
Then, the dying fairy let out a deep sigh, and an immense heat rushed through my blood. It was as if every cell in my body was on fire. My head felt like it was swelling and collapsing at the same time as my vision suddenly sharpened. I could see every molecule and every atom of everything in front of me. There were colors I’d never seen before that appeared before my eyes. All of my senses were heightened, and a rush of adrenaline flowed through me.
I felt invincible.
I inhaled sharply, and the smell of the garbage now divided into several distinct smells: rotting fruit, human defecation, melted plastic, burning croissants. What’s more, the air I inhaled seemed to fill my lungs more fully than ever before.
The fairy coughed again, and as I turned back toward him, he began to dissolve into sparks of crimson light.
“Go, human,” he whispered as the last few sparks of his being vanished into nothingness. “Save them all.” His words hung in the air, and I nodded to the lost life I was now forever connected to.
I stood up, my limbs steady as I stepped through the blown-out bakery. The back wall was completely caved in, and bits of broken brick, rubble, and other debris littered the inside of the room. The bakery’
“I guess that’s where the spike came from,” I said as I stared at the broken remains of the metal tables. I wondered for a second if the troll stabbed the fairy with it on purpose or if it had been a happy accident, but the table looked like it had been stamped flat and then had one of its legs wrenched off, so I guessed it had been done on purpose.
Even with my newfound power, I’d have to be careful.
I walked out into the deserted street in search of the monster. I wasn’t sure what the fairy’s power was, but he clearly felt confident in my ability to stop this thing. For the first time in my life, I moved on pure instinct and trusted the magic that now coursed through my veins. It made me feel more alive and stronger than I had ever been before.
The colors were so much brighter now, but the improvement in my vision made it a little difficult to see under the bright sun. My ears picked up something my eyes couldn’t see, and I turned to follow the noise.
There, about a block away, was the monster, shiny and grotesque in the daylight. Saliva dripped from its mangled mouth as it loomed over its next target, and I ducked my head to the side so I could see who he was about to kill.
A little girl stood in the monster’s shadow, and her pigtails bounced as the breath of the evil creature washed over her. Both of her eyes were squeezed shut as if to block out the nightmare until she woke up. She clutched a ragged teddy bear with a patch on its belly like it was her only savior.
Except there was also me. I raised my right hand as I willed it to glow, to show me its new power, but nothing happened. The little girl let out another squeak as troll-2.0 stepped toward her.
Just as one clumsy arm swung toward her tiny figure, the scent of blood hit my nostrils, and I glanced to my left to see a poor soul lying in a pool of his own blood with his dead eyes wide open. The sight of his mangled corpse made me furious in a way I couldn’t quite explain, but I realized his blood was a blessing. My hand vibrated as I took in the metallic scent and remembered the color of the sash and cape my magic donor had worn.
That was it.
The Hand of Blood.
I snapped my attention back to the monstrous creature and saw that its arm was mere inches from the child now.
“Hey, Ugly!” I hollered. That got its attention, but this thing didn’t seem too interested in me. He looked up and barely noticed I was there before he glanced right back down at the terrified kid.
As a twisted smile covered the monster’s face, I reached out toward it with my newfound power. In an instant, I felt connected to the creature. No, not to the creature, but to the blood within him. My magic surged within me, and without even pausing to think too much about it, I instinctively jerked my hand violently backward.
My movement tore every last drop of blood from the creature’s body, and the silver liquid flew across the empty street before it splattered the windows of the storefronts, the streets, the walls, and everything in between. They would definitely have a mess to clean up in the morning.
There was a loud crash as the troll’s body tumbled to the pavement in front of the kid it had been about to tear apart. Her eyes were still squeezed tightly shut, and she mumbled something incoherent as I approached.
“Hey, kid, it’s going to be okay,” I said in my most reassuring voice to the small child, but she didn’t even open her eyes.
Right as I was about to step toward her, a loud mechanical screech pierced the air. The little girl opened her eyes at the sound, took one look at the dead mountain of monster flesh, and then raced down the street.
“Mom!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
I wanted to call out after the girl, but honestly, I couldn’t blame her. The monster was even more terrifying up close. Its skin was unnaturally shiny and covered in huge bumps. There was no nose on its face, just two huge pits that I guessed were its nostrils. The entire left side of its body was torn apart, and its two dull black eyes stared blankly at the sky. This thing was scary, the type of scary nightmares are made of, but not the type of scary you should see when you’re awake.
Something about this strange hybrid monster, with its silver blood and gnarled features, made me feel very uneasy, and as that realization hit me, a massive turquoise van raced onto the street and nearly tipped over as it rounded the corner.
It was the absolute weirdest vehicle I had ever seen, hands down, even though it sort of reminded me of those big white vans people used to tell their kids to stay away from. The roof had what looked like an air conditioning unit sitting on top, and antennae stuck out haphazardly like porcupine spikes. The entire vehicle seemed to shimmer like an illusion on the asphalt on a hot summer day, and I realized every window was pitch black, including the windshield.
Which was probably why the driver seemed to be having so much trouble navigating.
As the wheels on its left side hit the ground hard, the van screeched across the pavement until it came to a jarring halt in front of the deceased monster. The long door on its side rolled open a few inches, and the most beautiful creature I had ever seen leapt out as the van screeched away again.
“Holy fuck,” I muttered as my jaw fell open.
She was gorgeous. A little short for an elf, but slim and light, with lean muscles on her arms and legs that screamed “badass.” Her long blonde hair was tied back in an intricate braid, and the end of it barely met her slender hips. It was the kind of platinum blonde human women go through bottles and bottles of hair dye for, but I knew this color was natural because, well, she was an elf.
The woman was clad in a tight black fabric that covered her from the tops of her thighs to her shoulder blades. It looked like a tank top and shorts had been sewn together specifically to fit her leggy frame, like an extra-long leotard. The strap of a quiver landed between her full breasts, and she held her bow raised and ready to fire.
She turned toward me with an arrow nocked, and her ocean blue eyes landed on my face. They were penetrating, and the contrast between her saturated eyes and nearly translucent skin gave her beauty an almost eerie edge. Her full, luscious lips opened as her mouth moved, but I was too busy imagining what our lives would be like together to hear what she had to say because, well, in my head we were married, had three children, two dogs, and a weird bird we didn’t really like but got so our oldest daughter, Esmae, could learn some fucking responsibility because she needed to set an example for Mabel and Charlotte because they really looked up to their big sister, and--
“Hello? Human. I’m trying to talk to you here. Human!” Her roar shook me out of my thoughts, and I instantly snapped my head up to meet her eyes. I registered the fact that there was an arrow pointed directly at my heart and found my voice.
“Can I help you?” I added an edge to my words so she wouldn’t catch on to the thoughts I’d just had. “Also, how do you feel about birds? I’m not really a fan, personally.”
“What are you babbling about? I don’t give a fuck about birds,” she said before shaking her head in annoyance. “I need you to tell me what’s going on. That’s why I’ve been yelling at you for half a minute. What happened here?” She glanced around, and I finally took in the mass destruction the creature had caused.
Bodies were thrown everywhere, some still resembling humans and Fae, others so twisted and mangled it was hard to tell what they had been when they were alive. There were pools of blood in the street and cars stopped in odd places, many with doors still hanging open from the passengers who desperately tried to run. Windows on storefronts were shattered, and those that were still intact were smeared with blood and internal organs. This thing, whatever it had been, seemed to have one singular purpose: destruction.
“Well, I was back there delivering some stuff, and I heard screaming. When I came out to th
“Uh-huh.” The elf stared me down for a moment before she slung her bow over her shoulder and turned back to examine the monster.
The warrior circled the creature as she surveyed its lifeless form. One finger dipped into the hole in its side, and she brought it close to her nose to sniff the blood. A strange expression crossed her face, and she stepped back to pull out a camera with about fifteen lens-focus-dials on it to take a quick picture. The moment she finished taking her snapshot, her right hand went up to her ear, and she started to speak.
“Yeah, you get that pic? ... Nope, don’t know what it is. Sorta looks like a troll though. Apparently, it came ripping through here and destroyed the whole damn place… There’s this guy standing here, so I’m going to ask… Yep, I’m on it.” She turned on her heel and strode toward me with a suspicious look etched on her beautiful features. Her icy blue gaze penetrated my soul, and my heart began to race.
Man, this chick was my badass dream girl for sure.
“What’s your name?” The lean figure stopped not two steps in front of me with her arms crossed over her cleavage. The close proximity almost made me want to take a step back, but if she wanted to be close to me, I wasn’t going to stop her.
“My name is Milton. What’s yours?” I narrowed my gaze as I tried to be half as intimidating as she was.
“You do this?” She ignored my question, and her eyes glanced sideways at the mountain of deceased monster.
“I did.” I placed my hands on my hips, puffed out my chest, and lifted my chin. “I only wish I could have done it sooner.”
“Right.” Her eyes narrowed at me once again, and I tried not to get lost in the dancing blue and turquoise in front of me. I really had to control myself so as not to let my own eyes travel a few inches south. She didn’t strike me as the type of girl who would appreciate being ogled, and I wasn’t in the mood to piss off a warrior elf with a bow and arrow strapped to her back.
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