I let out a breath. “This seems to be escalating. I don’t know if we’ve got any enemies from the magical end of things, but we’ve got spies. You said it was a fairy or from Faerie, but do you get any sense of place? Like maybe Turkmenistan’s got it’s own fairy tales?”
Amy frowned. “I don’t know this world’s history or magic very well. I’d never even heard about Turkmenistan before this year, but wouldn’t that be like Afghanistan or Pakistan? So jinn, maybe, but I don’t think it was a jinn. It didn’t feel like it had that kind of power.”
Putting my arms on the table, I crossed them and leaned forward. “Something small, and not so powerful?”
Amy didn’t say anything, but then she nodded. “I can’t say it for sure, but that feels right. Whatever it was, didn’t put up any resistance. It fled.”
Haley turned away from staring at the books on the bookshelves next to the refrigerators. They appeared to be written in scripts that didn’t even come from this Earth. “Is that the kind of thing you learn here?”
Amy shrugged. “I try to. I’ve got family texts from home, but the teachers here can’t teach me how to practice directly. I have to adapt anything I learn because people don’t use blood magic here.”
Haley nodded as Amy talked. “Do you know it isn’t used here, or could it just not be popular?”
Amy threw up her hands. “God, I wish I knew. I’ve tried to find out, but I don’t know who to talk to or no one will talk to me. Your country has a school for wizards–”
Haley’s jaw dropped. “It does?”
Amy barely seemed aware of the interruption as she continued, “And it’s full of assholes. I applied to go there. They wouldn’t let me in, and when I called to ask why, the receptionist wouldn’t tell me. I got so angry I drove all night, walked straight into the president’s office, and asked him.”
I couldn’t think clearly enough to say anything more than, “Wow. What did he–”
Amy answered before I finished. “He told me blood magic was depraved, and could only lead to the worst sort of abuses, and if I continued down that road it would lead to my damnation.”
I took a breath and thought about it. “That seems a little harsh.”
She leaned back in her chair, and shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s complicated. You know how I told you that the purpose of the Bloodmaiden was to protect my kingdom? And that if there were twins, they both had the Bloodmaiden powers, but one got the title? There’s more to it. I didn’t tell you everything.”
“Uh…” I said. “You don’t have to–”
“No,” she said, “I need to get this out. My family isn’t nice. You don’t create an empire by being nice. My family went beyond most emperors because we could. They were called the Bloodlords. You’ve seen ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ right? Do you remember when the villain kills someone with a hammer, and the blood flows down a drain? My family had a building made for collecting blood.
“I only use my own blood, and blood willingly given, but they would use anyone, willing or unwilling, and for some purposes unwilling works better. They had a kingdom to run so most mornings began with a slave’s death.
“After an uprising that removed them from power, they changed our magic, allowing the family to use it without shedding blood. I don’t know why, but part of the price for that is that when there are twins, one comes back with the Bloodlords’ original magic.
“So that’s me,” she said. “I’m here because people are afraid that I’ll create a an empire that runs on blood drained from my enemies.”
I shook my head. “That’s history. It’s not you.”
She didn’t seem as comforted as I hoped. Amy met my eyes, and said, “The last time a Bloodmaiden came back from exile thousands died even after she won. I know that my ‘parents,’ the servants who were sent into exile with me have been trained to kill me if I show signs of coming back. It doesn’t matter that I won’t, if people treat me as if I will.”
Amy took a deep breath. “If you still want my help, let’s talk about what you want me to do.”
“We do,” I said. “Mostly I think we need to protect my lab better, and maybe work out ways to track anything that tries to spy on me.”
We lost the next hour to planning. At the end of it Amy said, “I’ll drop by your lab on Monday.”
“Great,” I said.
As we all stood up from the table, Haley said, “Nick and I were going into Denver for lunch, we’d love it if you came along.”
Amy smiled, but waved us toward the door. “No, the two of you don’t need me along, but thanks for invitation.”
When we were in the hallway out of the common room, Haley looked backward toward the doorway.
“We might not need her along,” Haley said, “but I think she needs us.”
“She does have her own friends,” I said.
“Do you think she’s ever told them all that?”
I thought about it. “I don’t know.”