Immortal Dissent, page 1
A Dual Magical History
By Mandi Jourdan
Copyright © 2017 by Mandi Jourdan.
Cover design by Mandi Jourdan.
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At the turn of the seventeenth century, shortly after the construction of Briarcrest outside Dover, a large-scale attack was mounted on Magekind by a group of Born vampires. On the night of Friday, 13 October 1609, Born raided the homes of members of the fourteen Council bloodlines, killing some, immortalizing a few (which they did not stay long enough to destroy a second time), and Changing many others.
When the night had passed and it had become clear which mages had not been reborn immortal but had been infected with the blood of their enemies, the surviving Council members and those selected to fill the seats of their fallen mothers voted 10-4 in favor of executing those Changed in the attack.
The following witches and warlocks were executed at dawn on Sunday, 15 October 1609:
Eve Borden, Sean Borden, Daniella Chastain, Joseph DeMornay, Sara Harper, Lisa Laurent, Anna Lemieux, Cristina Lemieux, Circe Mycroft, Katherine Silva, Io Swann, Robert Swann.
The above were blessed and commended to the gods, according to logs of the event, before their hearts were pierced with silver blades tipped in the blood of Mariana Capulet, the Born prisoner of the Council. The combined poison of their creators’ blood and the silver effectively ended the lives of all twelve unfortunates.
This execution set a precedent for the handling of Changed mages that continued well into the nineteenth century, when the Council officially banned such practices, as they were deemed inhumane and unbefitting Magekind. However, the stigma of Changed family members endures, and it has become common practice to disown or send away mages infected with vampiric blood to, as Wilhelmina Chastain put it when tried before the Council in 1902 for the abandonment of her teenaged son, “preserve the honor of [our] bloodline[s] and cut away the disease inflicted by our enemies before it [could] spread and threaten Magekind as a whole.”
Chastain was acquitted of her charges, effectively allowing this practice to continue without the threat of judgment.
From The History of Hostilities Between Magekind and the Vampires
Artemis Johanssen IV
Her every muscle ached and her throat seared. Was this what it was like to become immortal?
Io lifted her head and let it fall to the floor again. She couldn’t find the energy to keep it raised long enough to examine her surroundings, which left her to settle for what she could take in with her stinging eyes.
No candles were within her line of sight and no light entered from beneath the door, but Io could still make out the figures lying on the wooden slats of the floor. She recognized Eve and Sean Borden, Lisa Laurent, and a man facing away from Io whose coat was ripped nearly in two.
She caught her breath, and her throat burned as strongly as though she’d swallowed fire.
Her husband stirred and turned his head toward her, his eyelids fluttering. She almost hadn’t recognized him when she’d seen only his coat. Robert was meticulous—he never would’ve allowed such damage, if he’d had a choice.
He was bound with rope.
“What happened?” he mumbled.
Io fought against the heaviness of her muscles and reached for him, but her arm moved only a centimeter before the thick ropes restraining her halted her motion.
She knew her heart should be pounding, but she could feel nothing.
This is impossible, she thought. I… I refuse to believe it.
Io tugged at her mother’s skirt.
“Mama, do the Changed eat food?” she chirped.
“No, love. They only feed on blood.”
Io frowned, staring down at the garden path beneath their feet and the encroaching green weeds for a few moments before looking up at her mother’s pale face again, eyes wide.
“Do they breathe?”
Euterpe Swann shook her head with a quiet sigh. “They have no need to, but they can if they choose. I suppose it would make them feel more human. Still, I cannot imagine why they would wish to remain connected to their humanity, after they have lost it.”
“Can they get it back?”
Euterpe stopped walking and knelt at her daughter’s side. She gripped Io’s upper arms and drew her closer, her dark eyes serious.
“Io, I need you to understand: the Changed have no desire to regain their humanity. They are as far from human as it is possible to be—farther even than the Born. The Born still have beating hearts, and the Changed do not. The Born can survive on food as well as blood, but the Changed must kill to live. They must be stopped at any cost. They must be destroyed before they can destroy us.”
Io considered her mother’s words for several moments, and her frown deepened.
“Why do they want to destroy us?” she asked at last.
Euterpe kissed her daughter’s cheek. “They know mages are strong, and they know we will not allow them to kill as many humans as they want to. They fear us.”
I am not one of them, she thought. I cannot be one of them.
“Do you remember anything?” Robert asked softly.
Io closed her eyes. “The last thing I recall, we were being attacked.”
A scream from the other side of the house pulled Io from her bed and to her feet. She hurtled down the corridor and into her mother’s room to find that the elder witch was restrained by what could be none other than a pair of vampires, their lips bloodied and their gazes hard.
Blood trailed down Euterpe’s neck and spilled from the corner of her mouth.
“No!” Io cried. She hurled herself at her mother’s attackers—Curse them, curse every last one of them!—and pulled her dagger from its sheath at her thigh beneath her dressing gown. Before she could strike, a blow to the back of her head dropped her to her knees.
Mother is immortal, she thought, clinging to whatever hope she could despite the sickening way the room swam around her. She knew that when a mage killed a vampire, he or she was guaranteed to pass into only a more powerful form upon the death of his or her mortal body. Euterpe had lost her mortal life already, and she had been reborn an immortal witch. Io knew the only way to destroy an immortal was to infect her with the venom of a Born vampire and burn her alive.
The last thing she saw before she felt the unbearable stabbing of teeth into her neck was the pair of vampires hauling her
“They attacked the whole village. I ran for Mother’s room,” she whispered.
After the death of her father, she’d assured her mother that they would be safer together, that her mother should live with her and Robert for the sake of strength in numbers.
If she had not listened to me…
“I found you on the floor, bleeding,” Robert muttered. “One of them was standing over you, and two of them had just… Io, I… I am so sorry. There was nothing I could do to save her.”
Io fought the sting of tears briefly before allowing herself to wonder whether she could truly shed them, if what she feared had truly come to pass.
“We are not immortal, are we?” asked Robert, his lips curved downward.
Io shook her head stiffly, and the movement dizzied her. She opened her mouth to reply, but the words died in her throat when a door burst open across the room to reveal a pair of figures standing in the doorway. Behind them, lights flickered out in the night.
“Thank the gods,” said Eve Borden feebly from beside Robert. Io had no idea how long the woman had been awake or how many of the others—she quickly counted nine besides Robert, Eve, and herself—were conscious. “This looks like Circe’s barn,” Eve continued. “The invaders must have left us here.”
One of the women on the threshold shook her head, and Io’s stomach turned as she recognized the newcomer as one of the Council witches, though she did not know the woman’s name. Io had paid little mind to who served on the Council; she would not be required to take a position on it, as long as her mother survived.
Nausea surged through her stomach.
“That was not the vampires,” said the witch.
“What do you mean?” asked Robert, turning to face the speaker with visible effort as he struggled against the ropes binding him.
“The Council has decided to bless you and commend you to the gods,” said the woman. She and her companion stepped into the room, and Io’s fingernails bit into her palms as tension shot through her like lightning. The woman gestured to someone unseen outside the room, and a moment later, a group of witches and warlocks entered. The first seized Eve from the floor and hoisted her to her feet, prodding her roughly out the door despite her protests.
Commend us to the gods, thought Io.
One by one, the captives were lifted from the floor and either led or carried from the room, which Io realized in the light entering from beyond the door was in fact her neighbor’s barn.
A warlock pulled Robert to his feet. Robert struggled hard and pulled free only long enough to lose his balance and stumble, and Io lunged toward him on reflex. Her bindings pulled back against her, and she fought against the dizziness fighting to overcome her and pushed herself up onto her knees.
“Do not make this harder than it is, child.”
The first witch to enter gripped Io’s shoulders and dragged her to her feet as the warlock managed to return Robert to his.
“Let us go,” Io insisted. “Let us go. We are your sisters and brothers—we are not a threat to you.”
“You are the Changed. Of course you pose a threat to us.”
The witch pushed her forward. Io’s legs threatened to give out at any moment, but she forced herself to remain standing in the hope that she could find the right moment to run.
When the boards beneath her bare feet gave way to wet grass, she realized the flickering lights belonged to a series of torches held by the people of her village. She recognized a few: cousins, family friends, and Robert’s brother, none of whom moved to free either of them. Dozens of men and women watched as the twelve captives were led toward a makeshift pyre comprised of logs and furniture.
What will the fire do other than dispose of our bodies? Io thought bitterly. She’d been educated as a huntress her entire life—she knew only silver and the blood of the Born could dispose of the Changed.
As she surveyed the crowd, she caught sight of a handful of mages readying silver arrows dipped in crimson liquid.
In a panic, Io looked to her brother-in-law, who shifted his gaze to the ground.
“You can’t do this to us. You can’t do this to us!” she cried, attempting to wriggle free of her captor’s grip. “We are you! We are mages!”
The finality in her captor’s tone sent a sickening pang of dread through her, and she said no more. Her feet slipped beneath her unsteady weight, and she knew they would’ve been covered in a sheen of sweat if her body were still functioning as it always had.
We have to get out of this. We have to.
Io had no idea whether her bloodline’s inherent gifts would still serve her now that her blood had been tainted, but she had to try.
As the witch pushed her back against a log that had to be at least three meters tall, Io focused all her remaining energy on the witch’s mind. Channeling the gift of the Swann bloodline, she projected an image of herself standing just to the left of where she truly stood and begged the gods for this one shred of mercy.
For a long, terrifying moment, nothing changed.
I am still myself, Io thought. I have to be. Focus.
Another instant passed, and then the witch released Io and moved to tie the air beside her to the pyre.
Io swallowed the relieved breath that sought to burst from her lungs and stumbled backward. More confident now that she realized her powers had not deserted her, she inhaled deeply and sensed how many people surrounded her.
One hundred fifty-two.
I am still myself. I am still a witch.
She concentrated on maintaining a connection to each of their minds and keeping the image of herself in place at the pyre. As she climbed carefully down over the mound of logs and broken tables, she glimpsed her perfect double—the same white dressing gown, the same dark curls—and the other eleven people who hadn’t been fortunate enough to manage decoys. Most of them had awoken now, but a few remained unconscious.
Io caught sight of Robert three people down the line, and she crept along the slick grass toward him.
I will get you out of here, she thought, wishing more than anything that he could hear her.
She didn’t notice that the captors had stepped back from their prisoners until the unmistakable sound of arrows being loosed from their strings hit her ears.
One by one, the captives cried out in unhidden agony as the arrows pierced their hearts.
For a moment, Io forgot the ropes pinning her arms to her sides. She fought to reach for him and found herself frozen as she watched the first of the torches make contact with the pile of wood. Within an instant, twenty others had joined it, and the flames, certainly magnified by the magic of their creators, roared upward.
They will not get away with this.
Tears slid in a torrent down her cheeks, but she didn’t allow herself the time to process what this meant about her nature as she backed away from the flames beginning to consume the eleven people and the illusion tied to the stakes.
She couldn’t raise her hands to her ears to shut out their screams.
They will pay.
She sobbed as she took another step back toward the trees and away from her betrayers—from the mages who were no longer her kind.
Only half of the bloodlust beginning to course through her could be blamed on her transformation.
The Council, the governing body of Magekind, comprised of the eldest surviving females of each pure magickal bloodline, hereby declares the need for a unified school to educate magickal children in the ways of our Race. Hereafter, the instruction of daughters and sons shall fall to their parents until the age of twelve, at which the children will be gathered together to be taught by representatives from multiple mage bloodlines under a singular curriculum. Mage children will be educated in the arts and sciences as well as the history of our kind, the mastery of
In order to better protect Briarcrest School and the children of Magekind from our enemy races, most notably the Born and the Changed, the Council has chosen to form a body secondary to and separate from itself though under the influence of its authority hereafter called the Alliance. The Alliance shall be comprised of members of the seven mage bloodlines agreed upon by the Council to serve as its front line of defence against the vampyre threat, its membership extending into unforeseen time as long as these seven bloodlines exist. These bloodlines are tasked with the defence of our species and dedicating their gifts to the hunting and elimination of any persons or creatures deemed threatening to Magekind: Borden, DeMornay, Johanssen, Laurent, Lemieux, Pike, and Silva. The Alliance shall be led by the matriarchs of each bloodline, who shall be the senior surviving females of each that do not hold a seat on the Council. If a witch becomes the eldest surviving member of her bloodline and must rise to the Council, she shall abdicate her position as matriarch and it shall pass to the next-eldest female of her bloodline.
From The Charter for the Construction of Briarcrest School
for the Magical Arts
Signed by the Fourteen Acting Members of the Mage Council
My movements were small and carefully controlled as I moved backward through the damp street. I would not show fear, though my heart pounded relentlessly in my ears and I knew my pursuers could hear it as clearly as thunder. The tension in my muscles screamed at me that my body was ready to run for safety, but my mind knew that I could not escape these two. I knew enough about vampires to understand that they were not easily evaded.
They edged toward me, their characteristic grace precluded by their desire to wait for my move. Their steps were small and their distance travelled short because mine were. They were stalking me as wild animals might stalk their next meal, and I knew that was exactly what I was to them. The man and woman who moved steadily nearer with feral eyes and animalistic postures did not care that I was Artemis Johanssen, the last living heir to a prestigious bloodline of vampire-hunting witches. They did not care that the honor of my family would die with me. Why should they? For all of recorded history, vampires had killed witches for blood or for sport, leaving a trail of carnage in their wake that would make the most hardened hunter shiver.