Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 36

By this time, Michael, the security man, had joined the older gentleman and was watching him like a dutiful puppy, awaiting his instructions.

“I can’t hold him off if he uses blood.”

Gracie said this in a low voice and I knew she was speaking to me, but I wasn’t sure what to say in response.

More to the point, at that moment Namid’s voice reverberated in my head. Blood magic is dark magic.

Maybe. But hadn’t he also told me that a blood spell could be forgiven if it was cast in desperation? Well, I was desperate to save the lives of these children and their mother. Could there be any better justification for casting such a spell?

Fitzwater smiled at the security man. “Forgive me,” he said.

Michael frowned, canting his head to the side. I think he meant to ask why the older weremancer had apologized. He never got the chance.

As soon as Fitzwater laid a hand on Michael’s shoulder, the security man’s eyes rolled back in his head, his knees buckled, and the rifle dropped from his hands. Still, somehow, despite the fact that Michael was six inches taller than Fitzwater and had to have fifty pounds on him, the older man held him upright with that one hand.

The other he stretched out toward us, his wrist cocked at a shallow angle so that I could see his palm.

Not good. Not good at all.

I did the only thing I could think of. Power might have been all around us, but blood was right there beneath my skin. I raked the underside of my left arm with the fingernails of my right hand, opening up three ragged gashes. Blood welled in them, and as the first tendrils of Fitzwater’s power caressed my skin, I cast.

I clung to that image — tendrils — and imagined my own spell as a thin steel wall slicing down through those leading threads of his magic and blocking the rest.

Fitzwater staggered at the touch of my conjuring, his eyes closing for a second. As the bulk of his assault slammed into my warding, I reeled back and almost fell. I sensed the wall I’d summoned bowing under the force of his casting, and I feared it wouldn’t hold. He had drawn more blood, and he was better at this than I was. I squeezed more blood from the wounds on my arm and cast the spell again. I’m sure the second crafting saved us. That and a spell Gracie cast to bolster my warding.

After perhaps forty-five seconds, Fitzwater opened his eyes once more, the look in them murderous. How could I have ever thought him charming?

He released his hold on the security man, allowing him to crumple to the ground, limp as a broken marionette. I noticed a small red stain on Michael’s shirt where Fitzwater’s hand had been.

“Holy shit, Mike!” the other security man said, running up the hillside to his friend. “What the hell happened to him?” He dropped to his knees beside Michael and felt for a pulse. “Jesus! He’s dead.” He glared up at Fitzwater. “What the hell was that? What did you do to him?”

“You should not have interfered, Mister Fearsson,” Fitzwater said, ignoring the man beside him.

“What are you going to do?” I pointed at Mike’s friend. “Kill him, too? Use his blood like you used Mike’s?”

The second security man backed away from him, scrabbling on all fours, like a bug.

“If you must know, I was planning to kill you.”

I had an idea of what was coming and I cast, hoping that my warding would be enough against Fitzwater, thinking that at least this once he wouldn’t have access to blood.

I should have known better.

A small rock flew from in front of him and hit the security man square in the forehead. Sandy Koufax couldn’t have aimed it better. Blood gushed from the wound it opened, only to vanish just as quickly.

Twice in the past year, I had been controlled by dark sorcerers, and that was two times too many. Etienne de Cahors had used such magic on me several times, and very nearly made me kill myself with my own firearm. Patty Hesslan, another of Saorla’s minions, tried to compel me to summon Namid so that she could kill us both. I hated these spells, and since the summer had been learning magic that would allow me to combat them.

But I was still a long way from perfecting those castings.

Fitzwater’s spell crushed my warding as if it were no more than tin foil and fell upon my mind with the weight of a boulder.

“Come here,” he said, the words reverberating in my mind.

I started toward him, unable to resist.

“Make him stop,” Gracie said from behind me, “or I swear to God, I’ll kill him before he gets to you.”

I didn’t have to see her to know that she had the Ruger aimed at me, which was good because I couldn’t have turned even if I wanted to. Fitzwater’s control on me was complete. I tried to cast a warding around my mind, as Namid had taught me, but my spells were no match for those of this silver-haired nightmare.

“And why should I care if you do?” he asked.

“Because then I’ll have access to his blood, too.”

I had covered about half the distance between us when Fitzwater held up a hand, stopping me. I stood utterly still, unable to do more, feeling weak and pissed at myself for still not knowing how to defeat these damn spells.

“What do you propose, Gracie? Are you prepared to surrender yourself to me? Are you willing to tell me where it is? You know that we don’t want to hurt you, or your children. We want you to join us, and we want what is rightfully ours. Come back with us, and all is forgiven. I’ll even let your friend here live.”

“You don’t want to hurt us. You want to enslave us.”

“What an ugly thing to say.”

“Get out of here,” Gracie said. “And don’t come near us again.”

Fitzwater shook his head. He was staring past me at Gracie, his eyes narrowed, and now he smiled again, though his charm had long since vanished. “I don’t think you’re going to shoot him at all. Even if you were capable of such a thing, he’s probably warded, as you were earlier when James fired that dart at you.”

He beckoned me forward with a waggle of his fingers. Helpless to do anything else, I started toward him again. I expected a bullet in the back of the skull at any moment, but maybe Fitzwater knew Gracie better than I did. She didn’t fire.

Silver-hair ordered me to stop once I was beside him, but he didn’t go for my blood right away. Apparently he thought I was more important to Gracie than she was letting on.

“Last chance, Gracie. Come with me quietly, by your own volition, or allow Mister Fearsson to die, and come with me anyway. It’s your choice, but my patience wears thin.”

I couldn’t move — not my hands or my legs. I couldn’t use my Glock to blow the bastard’s head off. I couldn’t even speak, and I’m not sure I would have known what to say if I could. But I could move my eyes — that had always been the case with these spells. For some reason I could direct them where I needed to.

And right now that meant looking down at the gouges I’d made in the skin of my forearm. They were bloody again. There wasn’t much, but the scratches had darkened as blood seeped into the rough channels. And I didn’t need a lot.

Namid was going to be really ticked at me.

Seven elements this time. Fitzwater, me, his control spell, my mind, a shield around it, Gracie and her kids, who needed me to break free, and the blood on my arm. I knew that a blood spell could defeat a control spell; I’d done this once before, although not against a weremancer as accomplished and powerful as Fitzwater.

As soon as I released the magic building inside me, he whipped his gaze around.

“What are you doing?”

He reached for me, and I jerked away from him. I didn’t have full control of my body, not yet. But I had won enough freedom for myself to stagger away, putting a bit of distance between us.

His hand brushed the front of my shirt, but nothing more. He didn’t touch me, which, I was sure, saved my life.

“No!” He growled the word, his face contorting.