“Nothing with magic. I don’t even know magic.”
Amy held up her hands in front of her, “I know! Do you have anyone who uses magic in the group? Or in the city that you’re friendly with?”
“No. The closest we’ve got to that is Lee, but if he’s magical, no one can detect it—”
“No, no… Wait,” Amy began, clenching her fists, and letting her gloved hands fall to her sides. “That’s it. It’s Lee, somehow.”
I raised an eyebrow and tried to meet her eyes. Her helmet made that harder, hiding the upper half of her face. “Are you sure? I’ve been told that wizards can’t detect any magic on him at all. Now, psychics can detect something strange about him, but when they make mental contact, they tend to go insane.”
Holding up her left hand, Amy said, “Hear me out. Your wizards aren’t using blood magic, and I’m not sensing him. Many of the most powerful supernatural entities change the world around them just by being there. Over the years, the Bloodmaidens have come to believe that he’s very powerful. So, it’s not a surprise that he’d affect all of you.”
“And you,” I said. “You’ve been training with him for a year now. That’s a long time.”
She nodded, “That’s right, but…” Her voice trailed off, but then her eyes widened, and she started talking a little louder and with a hint of a British accent. “I know why… Blood magic is more than magic that uses blood. On a symbolic level, blood is life. Thus blood magic is life magic, touching both on necromancy and soul magic. At its core, it’s concerned with life’s essence.”
The accent faded, and Amy finished with, “That’s what was wrong. I have to tune the blood gems I made to each of you and your essences are a little bit off from what I thought.”
“Oh,” I said, wondering how much I should tell her, thinking back to the conversation I’d had with Lee on my eighteenth birthday where he’d told me what he was.
Off to my left, Camille said, “That didn’t sound like you at all.”
I could have jumped out of my skin. I’d completely forgotten she was there.
Amy’s jaw tightened. “One of the past Bloodmaidens very nearly changed how people practiced blood magic all on her own. She developed new theories and techniques that almost everyone uses now while other theories are still too controversial. I used her words to explain it.”
Frowning, Amy added, “I’m a little surprised at how far she went. Please don’t repeat what she said about necromancy and soul magic. As for Lee, all they’d ever tell me was that he was powerful and immortal. I’d guessed that he was extremely powerful since he knew everything about me that the version of him in my world knows, but no one told me that he changed the people around him simply by being nearby.”
“I guess that would knock him up another level of power.”
Amy grinned, “At least.”
Camille looked from Amy to me. “Should I even be here? I think I’m going to go.”
“The past Bloodmaidens seem to think you’re trustworthy, but you don’t have to stay.”
As Camille walked out of the lab, I said, “Is Lee’s essence a problem? Does it mean that the wards won’t work?”
Pulling out a blood gem and dropping it in my hand, she said, “Let’s see.”
Then Amy stared at the gem for a full minute. “I think you’re okay. The wards are holding.”
I looked over the gem. The multi-faceted reddish stone didn’t look any more strange than any other gemstone. “I guess that’s good news. If the wards weren’t holding, we’d have to scrub the mission until you could find better help.”
Amy shook her head. “I don’t know where I’d find people I’d trust enough. At that point, I’d go it alone.”
I looked her over. Between the armor, and the height and muscle she gained with her transformation, I could imagine her doing that. Still… “That sounds like a death sentence.”
Amy shrugged. “Bloodmaidens have fought the Thing That Eats alone and won. I’d find a way. That thing can’t be allowed to keep on living.”
I met her eyes. “I can’t imagine facing it down alone. I admire the intention, but it sounds like a disaster in the making.”
Nodding Amy said, “I know. The drive to destroy that thing? That’s more the Bloodmaidens than me. I agree. It’s got to be destroyed. It does nothing but kill when it’s alive, but I’m not looking forward to it.”
She didn’t cry and she controlled her voice, but I thought I heard fear. I felt like there must be something that I should say, but the only thing that came out was, “I’m not looking forward to it either.”
We nodded in agreement, and she left. I told people how to use their suits, and she customized gems to our mixed essences.
The next morning we were all together in the main room in costume. Amy stood in front of the group. “The plan will be simple. We know where his house is, and we know that he’ll be there. We’ll drop from the jet, and divide into two groups. The outside group will keep any assistance from making it inside. The rest of us will confront The Thing That Eats and either kill or imprison him.
“Every one of us will have a protective ward and a spare. If your wards are damaged, you’ll need to retreat to the ship. We can’t risk leaving it a vessel for its power, and you don’t want to become one.”