Full Summary: It was almost two hundred years ago that Julie's brother died and insanity began to grip the Magical world. After years of searching and endless pain, Julie has learned to live and work alone in the search for what little remains of the man she once called her brother... But as his insanity and destruction unfolds, she quickly learns that she won't be able to save her brother; at least not by herself.
Julie must relearn how to work with both the Magical and normal worlds and establish friendships and connections in order to stop her brother's madness from unleashing the demons upon the earth and shattering what little barrier remains between the mortal and Magical. What's worse is that she has to do all of this before her own Magic kills her...
The concept of freedom was something that Julie never understood; primarily the idea of where it came from. Whether it was reality or spirituality freedom was an idea that could never exist. Everyone was bound by or to something, and despite their claims, everyone was trying to escape. Freedom was just a word invented by mortals long ago, a concept that one man created in the vain hopes that one day all of his binds would fall and that he could look to the sky entirely unencumbered and hope to see the universe for what it actually was. The rest of the world adopted the concept and tittered after its idea like sheep following their Shepherd, now bound by the simple idea of Freedom and forever falling short of its graces no matter what they did.
Perhaps knowing the truth made Julie a bit smug. She accepted her collar and leash for what it was worth and when she looked up at the night sky and saw the stars lighting the darkness she felt as if she could understand. Not even the gods were truly free.
So when Able Idrian stood before her, hands outstretched in a primal display of friendship and peace, and offered freedom from her binds, Julie smiled. Able had mistook her amusement for interest or perhaps acceptance of his claims and continued on his spiel about how he could guarantee her freedom in the world. And just as he turned to gesture to the broad expanse of the stained glass mural of the decrepit church they stood in she pulled out her gun and fired.
Able was dead before he hit the floor with a soft thud, a bullet through his brain and blood haloing his head on the ground.
He had been a man, a simple mortal, who claimed to know how to wield magic. That alone was not his crime as any foolish mortal who had read one too many fantasy books of course believed in its concept. His crime was not even in the slaughtering of rabbits and other vermin to mimic the rituals and incantations of true witchcraft (which he was, admittedly, very good at given that his execution was nearly flawless). Able had been walking a dangerous road but one is not shot dead in cold blood for simply walking back alley ways at night.
His crime had been in the purchase, trade, and mutilation of human slaves for the furthering of his own delusions.
Julie wondered if it was perhaps anticlimactic or ironic that his death was in the abandoned shell of a dusty old church. All around them was rotted and worn wood, broken pews and faded, shattered stained glass murals of imagined deities. Or perhaps they weren't imagined, she didn't honestly pretend to know… Gods were odd creatures in her mind, and perhaps it was because of her knowing too much that she questioned not only their existence but their power as well.
She wondered also if the Gods pondered on her existence. If they laughed at her thoughts or her stature. She was just a human after all, a mortal despite her blood. A woman of tiny proportions even among her own, with a pale face worn with the callouses of knowledge and eyes the faded shade of a dying forest. Did they question how she dressed - a preference for form-fitting corsets and leather and buckles? Perhaps they simply laughed at her mortality, the faded black lines of her veins running up and down her arms and around her eyes, a constant display of the inevitable...
There was the rush of wings from behind her and Julie turned to watch the hawk who had fluttered through a broken window swoop down and land, interrupting her possibly blasphemous thoughts. Human feet touched the floor and in the place of the hawk stood a woman of dark skin and wan features. Her eyes, amber and sharper than the blade of any dagger, watched Julie carefully, "The others are free." She said in a voice thick with a native accent.
There is was again, that word. Julie shook her head before she caught the woman still staring, "Good. Good job." She glanced over her shoulder to the body of Able and then back to the woman, "I believe that's everything then. We're done here." Julie never stayed longer than she was needed; she had only taken brief interest in this mortals actions in the hope that it might lead her down another path of greater import.
The woman frowned, "What of the other buyers?" she spoke and gestured for the door, "There are still others out there."
"And that, A'tira, is your path. Not mine." Julie settled her long-barrel gun in the holster under her left arm and started walking towards the door leading out of the fallen church.
A'tira stalked close behind Julie with an aura of disappointment and anger, "This went smoothly with you. We can-"
"We can do nothing." Julie spoke firmly and turned to face the woman once more, searching those dark and pleading eyes for a moment before she ventured to speak further, "Listen, I know your investment in this situation. But you have to understand, the others are not like you. They aren't going to walk out of their cages and go on to live amazing lives, they don't have the blood you do. Your Ae'shurian bloodline is what allows you to alter your shape, it wasn't strength of will or strong emotion. That's why that man lying there," she pointed, "Was no more a threat to me than a mouse. He didn't even have the blood you do, but trust me he wanted it. He would have given anything to have it."
"What then?" she demanded, her voice suddenly sharp and echoing from the walls, "If you have something to tell me then spit it out!"
"Do you need it point blank? Those slaves you just freed, most of them have been beaten and torn, and that's not even the ones born into that miserable life. Do you know what's in store for them, A'tira? They don't know how to live normal lives. Most of them will go into prostitution, some will go walking back into that life looking for a new master, some of them will likely commit suicide, there might be one or two who maybe manage to get jobs scrubbing the floor of some two-bit tourist trap hotel. Do you know why? Because they're humans and humans are fragile. You had blood to protect you, they don't!"
The strike was expected. A'tira closed the distance between them and threw the fist of a bear at Julie to knock her onto her back. The woman just rolled her jaw and licked at the blood dripping down from her nose to her lip as A'tira loomed over her with a face full of fury, "You know nothing but your pessimism," she spat, "You who are self-exiled because of the very blood you speak of. You who have no faith in those around you, who treat humans like they are stupider than cattle. I have heard the whispers about you and about your brother. So don't you dare speak to me about the weakness of the humans or the strength of my blood!"
Julie spat out a few drops of blood on the torn rug beneath her and used her tongue to tease at a loose tooth, making sure it didn't try to fall out before she formulated her answer. "The fact remains, this is your place. Not mine. I don't take my glory freeing slaves from the perverted and the lazy." She pulled herself up onto her feet and ran her fingers through her short, blonde hair, "So keep doing what you're doing. Good luck, I mean that." She turned and walked away once more and this time A'tira let her.
The path out of the church was quiet and cold, and Julie did her best to put the words out of her mind.
Nightfall in Amsterdam was a place of mysterious beauty. The canal lined pathways were lit by dim street lamps and the water offered a constant ambiance that was both relaxing and unnerving. The few people that were out at such hours refused to look up at those they passed by and everyone seemed to avoid the direct light as if not wanting to be seen. Julie blended in easily among those people with her long jacket and cold attitude.
None of the shops or businesses on the lane she walked had signs; they didn't need them. This part of the city wasn't made for tourists who needed neon lights and pamphlets printed in American English. Anyone native would know how to discern one shop from the other, they would be able to smell the ale and the smoke from half a block away of the dingy little pub that doubled as a brothel of questionable origin.
She followed her known path and hugged close to the walls of the steep buildings rising up at least six stories. Her hand slipped out and wrapped around the railing connected to a set of old stairs leading down into complete darkness. At the bottom was a door that normally, when opened, led to the crusty hovel of Mr. Gerskin, a man who had lost two wives to suicide after his drunken tirades had grown to be too much for them to handle. Julie's only solace was that the man was sterile after an incident with his drug-dealer's dog had led to the digestion of his family jewels.
However as Julie stood before the door to Mr. Gerskin's home she paused and pulled off the glove of her left hand and rested her palm against the warped wood. There was a slow burn of gold that emanated out from her palm and consumed the wood to reveal a door of solid black, a greater material known as Drösan. In the lack of light it was nearly impossible to see the endless carvings on the door save for when the golden burn passed over them.
Once the door had been engulfed she glanced up the stairs to ensure she was alone before pushing the door open and stepping inside. When the door closed again behind her it was wooden once more.
Once inside she heaved a grateful sigh and shrugged off her jacket, tossing it onto the tattered old armchair beside the door. The smell of must was strong in the room as if it hadn't been cleaned in ages, which it truly hadn't. The carpet was a dingy mustard shade so worn in some spots that the stone below was visible. The walls were hanging with shredded wallpaper, Julie thinks she remembered it to be a floral pattern once, she couldn't be bothered to recall.
There were no windows and only one door out, the only appliances were a refrigerator that barely ran cooler than room temperature and the blessed coffeemaker which had been broken and repaired so many times that she was unsure of how it still functioned. She had affectionately nicknamed the machine 'Zombie.' The whole of the space was one large room kitchen, living area, and dining area, where every piece of dilapidated furniture was somehow duct taped together. Perhaps one of the only American inventions worth her time, and she kept a healthy supply of the material tucked away in her cabinets.
Off the main room was a small bedroom and a bathroom with a toilet that flushed so loudly she was proud of herself for not blasting the damned thing through to the next dimension. She was well aware that her space was quite a dump, but she liked it that way. It was cozy, familiar, and altogether welcoming when she walked in the door and found herself blissfully alone in her little den.
She turned on the hanging lightbulb over the three legged table (the forth leg being substituted with a three-thousand year old ancient Chinese dragon statue) and pulled out the single chair that went with it. With a flick of her wrist, Zombie began to bubble and churn to life on the counter and with another wave a newspaper appeared in front of her.
(Meanwhile, in a tiny abode in Boston, Mrs. Alvarez had been just sitting down at her couch to read her paper when she noticed it was missing from her coffee table. "Damnit Bob!" She cursed at her husband, "Would you stop throwing away my papers? All I want to do after I get home is sit down, relax, and do the crossword."
"Oh here we go again Margaret. How many times do I have to tell you that I haven't touched your stupid papers!" her equally frustrated husband responded in kind.)
She sat back, opened her paper and began to skim the articles for anything worth her time. Mostly she was just overjoyed to be…
The sound of an explosion from the other room made her eyebrows twitch up curiously.
The bedroom door flew open and a puff of smoke billowed out, followed by coughing. A man stumbled out, dressed in a white (now gray) button-down with long black pants. He was pale with green eyes and long dark hair that looked as if it was trying to eat his head. She gave him a cursory glance and sighed again.
"Don't go in there," he coughed, waving his hand to clear the smoke.
Julie wrinkled her nose, "When I said 'light a match' I don't think that's what I meant."
Eric Whatshisname (she once more couldn't be bothered to recall a last name she had only heard once over a century ago and never bothered to ask since) had been an old friend from Julie's youth, and over the last two months, her uninvited roommate. Unfortunately when her old mentor had turned up at her door one night drenched with canal water, reeking of bile, and missing a shoe which he claimed was eaten by a hippogryph, she didn't have the leverage to turn him away. When asked what happened to his old home, the beautiful and lavish office he'd held at the Academy, his simple answer was that it had been swallowed whole by a tear in the universe.
It was far from the strangest thing she had ever heard.
"So," Eric said as he ambled over to the counter and tapped at Zombie to urge him to percolate faster, "Where have you been all week?"
"Looking for the Sun God again?" he asked curiously.
"Nope." She turned the page and kept scanning, but after a moment of silence she glanced up and saw she was being stared at and sighed, "I thought I had a lead. I followed it. The road ended. The end." She settled for an article about an arsonist who had been arrested in a den of 'My Little Pony' memorabilia.
Eric let out a considerate hum of thought, "That's what, three months now and no sign of him?"
"Well we should try making a list." He opened a drawer where a notepad and pen could be found. Julie raised her finger and the drawer snapped closed.
She frowned, "We should sit back and relax. I have a list of suspects I'm working through. You should be talking to the Academy about pulling your home out of whatever anus the universe pulled it into, or at least rebuilding it." She snapped her paper with a touch of finality so that the man would take the hint.
Of course he didn't. "You know it'd be a whole hell of a lot easier if we worked together."
"I don't play well with others." She reminded him.
"You spent weeks with that dragon clan in Oregon not that long ago," he countered, "His last sighting remember?"
She sighed in annoyance and gave in, closing her paper and setting it down. "That wasn't a social partnership. That was the closest I had come to that slimy bastard in fifty years. And the only reason I was working with that Clan at all was because the kid proved useful and gave me Julian's journal. But you know what I did when we were done? I came home. Haven't talked to them since." She sat back with a huff.
"Julie…you seem to forget that I was there too, when Julian came about." Was his firm response.
She frowned at him and held his gaze firmly. After a long moment she finally worked out a reasonable argument, "You haven't worked this in a long time Eric. You haven't seen what Julian is capable of now. He took over a dragon. Not only that but you have duties and responsibilities as a mentor. So you might have been there when it all started, but this isn't your fight anymore."
Eric cinched his jaw and growled out a sigh, "You are one stubborn bitch, you know that?'
Zombie chimed his completion of their coffee and Eric pulled down two mugs, filling them both before making his way over to the table. "So then," he said, changing the subject and setting down her mug as a peace offering, "Africa. How was it?"
"Don't ask stupid questions." She grumbled.
"What was the lead?" he met her hardened gaze with his own and snorted, "What? You can tell me that much at least."
She groaned, "There was a group of medicine-men, old fashioned human witchcraft and hoodoo." She waved her hand, "But one of them, Janier, was rumored to be of Ae'shurian descent. They said that he had real magic. Also said he was a genius with alchemy."
"So you thought Julian jumped into him to help him finish the serums." Eric concluded.
Julie nodded, "Yep. But it turns out that it was just some half-rate hocus pocus." She took a long pull of her coffee and hummed around it happily, "Of course I checked out all of the supposed witch-doctors just to make absolutely sure, went through their research, took most of it, and then killed them all." She caught Eric's upset look, "What? They were slave traders, using people for their spells." She shrugged, "If the people they're killing aren't actually being used in real magic then these guys were nothing but murderers."
"You know, there are so many things that are just…wrong…about that logic." He stated flatly.
Eric sighed, "There's more than one reason I want to work with you again Julie. You've changed, and it worries me. Each time Julian jumps and you lose him, you slip a little further."
"That's because every time Julian jumps he gets more powerful, exponentially more powerful! So pardon me if I'm a wee bit grumpy." She finished her coffee and set the mug down harder than was needed before standing up, "I'm going to bed. I swear if you torched my sheets I will zap your ass so flat that you'll need to order special chairs just to sit down." She stomped to her room and slammed the door behind her.
Hey everyone! Welcome to Blood Magic. To those of you who were reading this and were fans of Dragon Drive, welcome back! To those of you who are new, don't worry, you don't need to read Dragon Drive to follow this story (trust me it's not for everyone).
But to all of you, I promise a very deep and complex story with some of my favorite characters in the Partha universe.
You're welcome to join me on my writing blog or check out my Author's website (see my author's profile here on the site for the links). There's no Blood Magic update list up yet but I'll try to get one up soon for e-mail alerts and story updates. Thank you everyone and I hope you enjoy the ride!