“If you value your lives and the lives of those you care about, you’ll intervene from a distance if at all. If that creature bites you, you’ll be linked to it, or worse, become part of it.”
She watched me, waiting, I guessed, for my response.
“We won’t, at least most of us. We’ve been warded against it. I know you don’t like the source, but it works, and if you think about it, I’d bet that the blood magic you’re familiar with can’t do that.”
Shaking her head, she backed away. “Remember that I warned you. If we have to, we’ll kill anyone infected by the creature.”
“I won’t… Um… What do I call you?”
Still watching me, she said, “Amothel the Hunter.”
Then she changed back into a hawk and flew away.
I watched the hawk go.
While I was still watching, Camille, Vaughn and Haley appeared. Haley’s voice came over the comm even as they arrived. “What was that?”
I thought about it. “A… shapeshifting elf wizard, I think.”
Vaughn’s voice came through both the speakers and the air as I saw them. “Sounds like a character from an Urban Fantasy novel.”
“Kind of,” I said. “So, you can see how things went for me. I lost The Thing and got threatened by an elf—”
“Threatened?” Haley’s eyes narrowed.
I shrugged, making me wobble a little in the air. “A couple different times. She noticed my ward and implied that she’s part of a group that hunts down and destroys blood magic users. Then she followed it up by mentioning that she’s going to straight up kill anyone ‘infected’ by The Thing.”
“Infected?” Vaughn floated closer to us and I felt the wind that kept him up. “That’s got to be what the bite is all about. Philo was looking pretty bad when we left. A couple boxes showed up though, so I think he’s been sedated along with the rest of them.”
“Sedated?” I stared at Vaughn. “He was fighting on our side.”
“He asked for it. Said he was hearing voices in his head. You know, like Reliquary.” Vaughn looked back toward the warehouses, and I followed his gaze. As far away as it was, it wasn’t hard to see the flashing lights of the police cars, the armored trucks, and the bulky “boxes” that were essentially roving prison cells for supers.
Vaughn turned his head back to the rest of us.
“She was a wizard?” Camille checked the section of sky where I’d last seen Amothel’s hawk form. “Maybe if we explained, she could imprison him with wards until Bloodmaiden or Reliquary gets here.”
I looked at her. “That’s… a good idea. Unfortunately, from what she said just now, it sounds like she’d most likely kill him.”
Haley frowned. “Gravity Star, could you let me down to the ground? I’d like to see if I can catch his scent.”
Camille lowered Haley to the ground. In only a few seconds, Haley found the spot where I’d slammed into The Thing. Then she walked from there to behind a house.
“I think it stayed near the back of the houses…” She jumped a tall wooden fence, walking past an empty swimming pool, and then jumped the fence on the other side of the yard, following the smell for four more houses until she stopped.
She stopped behind a two story, white house with a wooden deck in back. She jumped up to the deck, stopping in front of the sliding glass door. Her grey and black costume stood out in the noonday sun—especially against the background of a white house.
“I can’t find it.” She sniffed the air. “I think he jumped… Maybe that way?” She pointed toward the backyard for a moment, but then far past it. It was vaguely in the same direction as it had come from, but not quite.
“I think it went back into the city, but it must have jumped. I can’t smell anything near the ground, and I’m sure the winds blew away anything higher.”
Vaughn glanced down toward the deck. “Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about preserving smells. I’m just keeping myself in the air.”
As Andronicus, The Thing would have been able to make jumps from one house to another in a matter of seconds, and if I wasn’t looking in the right direction, I’d have missed it.
Not that anyone could see it through my mask, but I frowned. “That sucks. So now what? Do we escort the boxes back, or does everyone want to get back to school?”
Vaughn checked the comm on his wrist. “Oh man, I’ve got a class in half an hour. If we do go back now, I’ll have time for lunch, but only barely.”
Camille looked down toward Haley, and over toward the mass of police cars that were still handling the results of the fight. “I don’t want to go if people still need help, but, I’ve got class too—”
Kayla’s voice broke in on comms—all of ours at once. “Bad news. Philo and Alden were in the same box, and Philo broke out. He was last seen carrying Alden away with him.”
“Philo?” I asked, already having a feeling that I knew what was coming next. “But he wanted to go.”
“He turned into The Thing That Eats.”