Today, I’d like to thank J. Elizabeth Hill for being a part of Vampire Month. If you don’t know the amazing @jlizhill, I recommend you all head over to her blog and stalk, I mean, follow her, while you’re off following her, stop by Amazon and pick up her books, (not vampire but still enticing). She agreed to write a vampire story for us. Part 2 tomorrow.
I’ll shut up now and let you get to reading this awesome story.
The Blood Spell
By J. Elizabeth Hill
Jansen grinned at the strange weapon in his hand, using his body to keep it hidden from his prisoner. The dagger was one of a kind, specially made for him. Two slender, double-edged blades sprouted from the guard. The gap between them narrowed but they never actually touched. The hilt was wrapped in black leather. To Jansen, the dagger was a work of art, but it was also the most important tool in his plan to overthrow the Bloods. Finding someone who could design and make what he’d dreamed up hadn’t been easy or cheap. Humans weren’t permitted to make weapons anymore. Yet another way the Bloods kept them weak.
This wasn’t the time to dwell on that though. There were more important things for him to do. He turned to face his prisoner, who had finally returned to consciousness. Jansen’s eyes bore into the Blood, and he was gratified by the way it squirmed, even if it wasn’t from anything he’d done. Not yet.
The creature sat in a chair, though it wasn’t tied there in any usual sense. Instead of ropes, a device of gears, inward-pointing spikes and metal bands wrapped around it like a vest. Its arms were trapped at its sides by the contraption. Heavy chains ran from the device to large iron rings set into the floor.
Jansen sneered at its clothing. A fine, dark green waistcoat, and loose-sleeved, white shirt that buttoned at the wrists and had a high, stiff collar. Sleek tailored pants disappeared into black, polished knee-high boots. Even its long silver hair, which belied an otherwise youthful appearance, had been sleek when they captured it. Of course, the contraption had made holes in the fine clothes, and the beast’s blood stained a few places, but it was minor. So far.
Dust swirled in the shafts of sunlight that streamed from holes in the corrugated metal roof of the one-room shack as he walked a few steps closer to the Blood. Everything humans had left these days was filthy. Even the inside of this hovel was littered with piles of garbage. This was the start of changing that though. He’d live with the dirt and worse to free humanity from this enslavement to the walking dead.
Both of them were distracted for a moment by a foot scuffing on the packed dirt floor. Jansen looked over at Wallen, the only member of the Rebellion he trusted enough to bring in on this. Should he send the older man away? No, he needed someone there with him, to steady him if he went too far in this interrogation.
Besides, Wallen ran their spies. He needed to be there, in case it said something they could capitalize on. That alone was worth the possibility of being distracted, and the other man might be old, but he wasn’t a fool.
Jansen returned his attention to the Blood in the chair. This was such a rare opportunity. Capturing any Blood was hard enough. The very things that made them such good predators doubled as defenses. Most were careful. They were all strong and fast enough to tear apart even a group of humans who came after them.
Surrounding them didn’t help much, and their keen senses doing so difficult.
To take this one was nearly a miracle.
A loud crack from outside caused Jansen to jump. It took him a moment to place the vaguely familiar sound. Gunfire. It had been a long time since he’d heard the sound. Some idiot had probably found an old pistol, a relic from the time before the Bloods rose and took over the world. The human constables who kept the peace in the ghetto of Pavros would deal with them. They might be traitors to their own species, working for the Bloods, but they were good at dealing with lawbreakers. That was fine for now, as long as there wasn’t a building by building search as a result of one moron showing off.
When Jansen looked back, the Blood grinned, revealing fangs, a sight that never failed to revolt him. Memories of similar ones grazing his neck still haunted him.
“You’ll be caught,” it whispered.
“No one gets away with this sort of thing. When Lord Dametri finds out you’ve taken me, he’ll hunt you down. Your punishment will be severe.”
“Keep telling yourself that, if it brings you comfort, human. But our Blood Lord has longed for a good hunt. Sadly, I doubt you’ll give it to him. Most of your kind are so complacent these days that it’ll be easy to pick you out of the rabble.”
“We’re not as tame as you think, Cantor.”
Wariness crept into the Blood’s eyes, giving Jansen a triumphant thrill. Outside, voices called and boots clattered across the broken cobles. There was a shout and another shot fired. Then crackling, followed by several screams. The smell of burning flesh filtered into the shack. Constables didn’t bother with projectile weapons. The Bloods provided them with weapons charged with magic. Evasion was nearly impossible and they were always lethal. Humans had no defense against such weapons anymore, since the Bloods had hunted the mages to near-extinction.
“So you know who I am.” Cantor’s voice was still soft. “What is it you think you can get out of me? If you think I’ll betray Lord Dametri, you’re wrong. And when he gets hold of you, he’ll make your death slow and painful. He doesn’t suffer his retainers being interfered with, much less harmed.”
“Yes, I’m sure he’ll be most concerned when the Blood he’s put in charge of his security vanishes for a while. Can you imagine what he might think?” Jansen smiled.
“Nothing much,” Cantor sneered. “He’ll ask me some questions, trying to figure out where this dump is and how to find you and that’ll be it.”
“Are you sure?” Jansen leaned in close to the Blood’s ear, his short, wild, brown curls falling into his eyes. “What if he thought you’d told us something? Or everything?”
“My Lord would never believe I betrayed him, not on your word.”
“Oh, I have people to sing my song who will be believed.”
He forced himself to remain as calm as possible as the creature held its now-worried silence. It wouldn’t do any good for this creature to realize he was nervous. He needed to break its confidence, make it think he held all the cards.
“You’re not the first we’ve captured.”
Cantor’s eyes went to Wallen. The older, grey-haired man would nod in confirmation, though neither human would have divulged that none they’d taken and interrogated before had been nearly so important in the power structure of the city. At last, the Blood returned its gaze to him.
“That’s not possible. I’d know. The whole staff would know and there’d be a hunt on for you.” The slight tremor in its voice belied the confident tone.
“Because Dametri doesn’t keep secrets, does he?”
Silence. Reflexive swallowing. Had the thing actually become paler still? It looked away.
“Not something like that. He’d warn me, for the security of- for my safety if nothing else.”
There it was. The crack.
“You mean for the security of that tower. Lord Dametri cares about Lord Dametri, that’s it. You’re fooling yourself if you believe otherwise, Cantor. And once he hears even a whisper that you’ve told us the secrets of the tower, he’ll have you killed.”
Another silence, then its eyes met his. This close, Jansen could see the red flecks in its irises. “No. I won’t betray him and he won’t believe I did, no matter who you send with this story of yours.”
So it was going to be the hard way, then. Jansen preferred it that way.
He turned a small wheel on the vest-like contraption. The gears around it moved, causing the bands of metal encircling Cantor contracted a small amount. The spikes pierced its flesh, drawing fresh rivulets of blood to stain the white shirt and green vest. More were driven into its neck. Blood welled up, then slowly rolled down the pale skin, scenting the air with copper, salt and sweetness. Always, their blood smelled sweet in a way human blood didn’t.
The growing panic in the Blood’s eyes eased when Jansen’s fingers came off the disc. Silence reigned inside and out. The constables were gone and the already-fading smell of burnt flesh suggested they’d taken any corpses away with them. No hope for Cantor. Jansen smiled, watching this sink into the Blood. Then he stopped. Victory wasn’t his yet. Torture wasn’t why they’d gone to the trouble of capturing Cantor. There was more he needed from it than information.
“Get this thing off me.” The imperious tone was typical of Bloods, but the creature’s eyes darted around too much for Jansen to believe it was anything but frightened under that attempt at a cool demeanor.
“But we haven’t finished our conversation yet.”
The eyes settled on him again, wider than before. “I’m not saying anything more until this has been removed.”
Jansen blinked. He’d expected this Blood to hold out a lot longer before even suggesting it might cooperate. Why the sudden change? Was it trying to lead him into a trap, betray him to Dametri? He couldn’t allow himself to fall into Dametri’s hands, and not just because he’d never survive if the Blood Lord realized who he was.
“Jansen, look at the blood.”
He looked at Wallen, intending to ask him to step out, but when their eyes met, Jansen found real concern there. “It’s not supposed to do that, is it? Did your contact mention this?”
Jansen looked at Cantor again and was stunned. Everywhere the metal thorns pierced the Blood’s now perfectly still body, tendrils of smoke rose lazily into the air. Worse, the blood continued to seep. The smell was faint, but acrid. What was going on? “No, she didn’t.”
Jansen made a decision. He couldn’t risk Cantor being damaged too much by the device, no matter what promises that mage had made. Rolling up the sleeves on his shirt so they wouldn’t catch on any of the machines gears or pieces, he knelt beside the chair. Before he could begin inspecting the device, he noticed the Blood’s eyes. Wider than ever and terrified. He followed its gaze and realized the hand holding his dagger now rested on his knee, forgotten in his concern over the device. He stuffed the dagger, no more than the length of his hand, into the sheath in the back pocket of his overalls.
Cantor didn’t relax. It flinched back when Jansen reached out and turned the dial back. The spikes didn’t move. He stared at them, frowning now. She’d told him he’d be able to remove the device when he was through with it.
“Are you going to get me out of this or not?”
Was that a pleading note he heard from this creature? “And what do I get in return?”
“I won’t betray Lord Dametri.”
“That’s not what I asked.” Negotiating was good, but the smoke coming from Cantor’s blood was getting worse. How long did he have to dicker with this thing?
For a moment, it was silent and when it spoke again, the words were clipped. The Blood was in pain. “I could give you information on my species.”
“You assume we don’t know everything already.”
“You don’t. I assure you, you don’t. I know things you couldn’t possibly know unless there’s another Blood you’ve trapped and blackmailed into helping you. You need what I can tell you.”
He thought quickly. The offer was tempting, especially with the desperation in its voice. In setting up this little scheme, he’d realized how little they knew about their masters. But weighed against all they could learn if he went through with his original plan for Cantor, he wasn’t sure if it was worth the trade.
Wallen’s question reminded him he didn’t have forever to make the decision, or to figure out what the device was doing to Cantor, in case he wanted to keep using it. Jansen traced a finger along one of the spikes but it felt like ordinary metal to him. His finger was unmarked when he pulled it back and inspected it. Then he touched the blood welling up around the spike in the creature’s neck.
He yanked his hand back immediately as the skin began to burn, nudging the spike enough to shift its position. The Blood shrieked and shoved back in the chair.
The chains kept it from going far, but Cantor screamed again. Jansen stumbled back, confused, then realized its movement had pulled the spikes into its back.
“What in hell’s going on?” Wallen moved toward their agonized captive, but Jansen held up his free hand without looking. Instead, he stared at the smoking, bubbling blood on his fingertip. He rubbed it against the front pocket of his overalls and stared in amazement as a hole appeared in the fabric. His fingertip was an angry red. This had never happened before.
Cantor thrashed as wildly as the contraption and chains would allow, finally flipping the chair out from under itself and kicking it away. The creature knelt among the chains before growing still again.
Jansen watched it closely, trying to decide if it was okay or if he needed to do something to keep the Blood from being further damaged. The moment he saw that the wisps of smoke were thicker now, he decided.
“The heavy bolt cutters, Wallen. Quickly,” he snapped when the other man didn’t move immediately.
“I told you, I don’t have any.”
Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story. . .