Authors: B. V. Larson
|Blood Magic BOOK|
|Larson, B. V.|
Books by B. V. Larson
HYBOREAN DRAGONS SERIES
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(Haven Series #5, 2nd ed.)
B. V. Larson
Copyright © 2010 by the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.
Translated from the
the compendium of Kindred wisdom:
This is my first entry into the sacred Teret. Herein, I will attempt to inscribe what wisdom has come to me during my centuries.
As both clanmaster of the Talespinners, and Queen of the Kindred, I’m a unique case in our histories. No Talespinner has ever been selected as monarch. This puts me in the delicate position of both creating history and recording it at the same time.
Let me first speak concerning my rise to the monarchy—it came too late. The Kindred must be ever watchful, ever suspicious of frivolous deviations from tradition. That is our nature and our way. However, as I reflect now, I believe we waited too long to select a new monarch. As is always the case when a new monarch is chosen, I am taking the reins of power in a fitful era. Since the Pact between the River Folk and the Shining Folk was broken, we have entered a time full of strife and change. In the future, I implore my distant descendants to watch more closely for rising new dangers. We must select a monarch and awaken from our natural slumbering state when the world sees fit, not when we do.
Secondly, I will detail the plans for my reign: I hope to be a Queen apart from those who lived before me. I do not hope to be a builder, but rather a
builder. One who is remembered for having grown our cities deepward beneath the Earth’s crust. One who leaves behind marvels of sculpted rock that will cause gasps of admiration for generations to come. I do not make idle boasts here! With the aid of Pyros, the Jewel of Flame, I shall do as I have described. Already, I have achieved a great deal of mastery over the Orange Jewel, at the cost of being left with only scraps of hair and unburnt skin. But my personal sacrifices are well worth it. I shall uplift our folk, and those folk who we count as allies, into a Golden Era.
Lastly, my mind turns to thoughts of war. Our enemies are legion. They must not be allowed to stand. I am no warrior, but no one will say upon my passing that I was afraid to lift an axe.
And so I say to my subjects: If you are of the Mechnicians, ask not what to build. Simply build that which ticks inside your mind.
If you are of the Talespinners, ask not what song to sing. Voice the tune that burns in your stout heart.
And if you are of the Warriors, ask not which enemy to slay. Take up your axe, my Kindred, and
slay them all!
—Queen Gudrin of the Talespinners, written circa the Fifth Era of the Earthlight
A Single Candle
Piskin stood on the dresser, watching the other two occupants of the room as they slept. His arms were crossed. One wrist ended in a stump, the other ended with fingers that tapped at his elbow.
He was in a foul mood. He had wasted a great many days with these two, and he was determined to change his fate this very morn.
Dawn broke outside the room’s sole window. A fresh breeze ruffled the curtains and allowed the first beams of pink light to stream inside. It was a cool day of early spring and birdsong could be heard.
The maid Mari slept fitfully upon the white-sheeted bed, a picture of loveliness. Under different circumstances, Piskin would have been as anxious as a new father. In times past, he would have been urging the birthing process to hurry so he might take the infant’s place at her breast all the quicker. But alas, with a hand missing and with promises made to the likes of Oberon himself, such an easy way through life was closed to him.
Complicating matters was the room’s last occupant, the troll. Piskin’s eyes slitted like those of an angry cat when he gazed upon the black furry mass that lay curled upon the floor around a bedpost, snoring ever so softly. One would have thought the little monster was the maid’s loving hound.
Piskin had serious obstacles that stood between him and gathering the Red Jewel. Two of them, to be exact. To achieve his goals, he needed the blood of a half-fae. Oberon had told him that only such blood would cause the hound to come to him. To coax the bloodhound, he needed to fill a bowl with the blood of Mari’s half-fae child. Said child was yet unborn, but this was easily solved with a bit of knife-work.
The first obstacle held back his hand: The ash leaf ward. She wore it as if it were a string of fine pearls. She even slept with it on, more was the frustration.
There are ways around a ward, naturally. He could cause her death without directly touching her. A stout walking-stick, well-placed as she descended a tall flight of stairs, might do the trick. Pregnant women were off-balance naturally and a goodly fall could expedite the birth if not outright kill her. If the brat were stillborn, so much the better. He needed its blood, not its bawling. Such a fall might damage the ward as well, which was withered and dry.
But he was unable to even attempt such maneuvers due to the second obstacle: The troll. The vile thing wouldn’t take the clear hint that it was an unwanted third wheel in this relationship. Try as he might, Piskin had yet to dislodge it from the maid’s presence. The troll slept nightly at the foot of the bed, body curled around the bedpost, claws twitching if Piskin so much as took a step toward the maid. As good as his stealth was, the troll’s senses were better. One would think that having spent a decade in a stovepipe would have dulled its senses and mind. One would think, in fact, that madness would have taken any normal creature so tormented for so long.
Piskin imagined that with the troll’s nerves burnt away, its long flirtation with death had left it in a sleeping state, like a hibernating beast surviving a very long winter. It had spent years somewhere between life and death. Most trolls, Piskin knew, would have perished permanently after an hour’s contact with flames, but not this one. As if another demonstration of the world’s unfairness toward him were necessary, Piskin found himself haunted by the most fire-resistant troll in the land. This troll was a special breed, and perhaps only a vat of acid would do the trick.
This last thought made Piskin tap a finger upon his tapered chin speculatively. If he could get this beast down to the tanner’s, and somehow tip it into the vats, just possibly his troubles would be done. Often, a creature which was unusually resistant to one form of death was highly susceptible to another. Unfortunately, such creatures were also often aware of the weakness, instinctively. If he took the troll anywhere near the acrid stench of the Fob vats he’d probably balk.
The troll shifted in its sleep. The long white claws clicked.
A new thought spawned in Piskin’s slippery mind. Perhaps, right there within the very thing that haunted him, lay the answer to his troubles. The exit to this foul maze. Perhaps, he could use the troll to his advantage.
The troll protected the maid, whilst the maid was further protected by her ward. There was something, once properly employed, which would destroy one and drive the other.
It was a risk, but Piskin was impatient like all his folk. He was a creature of action, not patience. He plucked up the candle on the dresser beside him and cupped the tiny tongue of flame. Sitting in a brass dish with a glass globe around it, the taper had burnt low during the night, its fuel almost spent. But it would be enough. Very little flame was needed for his plan.
Holding the candle close, he burnt his single good hand. He sucked his teeth, wincing at the stinging heat of the candle in his hand. He hopped to the windowsill and trotted along a ledge to the nearest drainpipe. From there, he negotiated the leap to the roof of the stables, which stood behind the Inn proper.
The hay inside the stables was long, yellow and quite dry. The stable boy lay sleeping in the loft. Piskin smiled to think what a rude surprise was about to unfold upon the oaf.
With stealth and a wide grin, he set about firing the stables. Soon, flickering tongues of yellow light danced over the haystacks. The horses, nickering and sidestepping at first, began to scream and kick.
The mysterious springtime fire of Riverton, which would be talked about for years to come, had begun.
* * *
Oberon continued sulking for weeks after Piskin had made his dark deal and left him. He sat atop the tallest tree in the most tremendous forest in the known worlds: the Great Erm. In that fantastic forest beetles resembled legged boulders and vines grew thicker than tree trunks. The tree trunks themselves were monstrous.
Oberon had retreated from everyone and everything. He entertained no one and allowed none to attempt to entertain him.
Myrrdin, Oberon’s wayward son, had come to visit, but had not been received. He sat at the bottom of the mountainous tree waiting for his sire’s signal to ascend. This signal had not yet been given. Myrrdin continued to wait for a day, and on into the next.
Piskin had managed to climb the tree weeks earlier, but that had not been allowed by design. The very point of this locale was solitude. Myrrdin was too heavy to climb the spidery thread of silver that hung to the bottom of the tree, and Oberon was too stubborn to allow his son to come up. And so Myrrdin sat at the distant foot of the trunk, while his sire sat on the very top. For a full day and then a second, this impasse continued.
Oberon had expected his arrogant son to use Vaul’s powers to ascend. It would be a simple matter for the wielder of the Green Jewel to coerce one of the fantastic growths of the Great Erm to carry him upward. But Myrrdin did not. Nor did he leave in a huff, the second most likely option, after growing tired of being ignored. Myrrdin’s patience, more than anything, caused Oberon’s curiosity to grow. What might Myrrdin have to say that would make him wait so patiently, so politely, for his sire’s attention? What news might he bear? What thoughts had his twisty mind conceived?
At the finish of the second day, Oberon relented and allowed the silver rope to drop downward, until a thick enough portion lie in Myrrdin’s presence. Within a few minutes, the slightly-winded, half-fae wizard stood on the platform with his sire.
“Milord,” said Myrrdin, speaking first as Oberon said nothing. “I’ve come with news from abroad. Have you listened to the gossip of the wisps?”
“Nay,” said Oberon, “I’ve listened only to the sigh of the winds and the rains. No wisp has been allowed into my presence.” He left out all mention of Piskin on purpose, not being sure of Myrrdin’s loyalties. If Piskin were to be successful, which seemed highly unlikely, the Wee One needed at least the element of surprise.