Ignoring how tired she felt, Amy walked toward the front door, spear in hand. The door stood open and she stopped just short of walking through, waiting off to the side. In the background of her mind, the voices murmured about different ways to strengthen herself. She didn’t have time for any of them.
Phil lay on the porch, neck at a strange angle, but beginning to push himself off the concrete. William Harcourt stood over him, seemingly unafraid, possibly unaware of how powerful these creatures could be.
Phil’s head twisted, his neck straightening, teeth out, ready to attack.
Except before he could, Harcourt shouted a series of harsh sounding words. After the first, Phil’s arms went out, and his chest hit the concrete. Then blood exploded out of his skin, drenching his clothes, and spattering everywhere except where Harcourt stood.
What was left looked exactly like the vampire remains inside—dust and desiccated chunks.
She didn’t know how he’d done it. She could imagine doing it, but it would take at least as much power as she’d put into destroying the others—except that he wasn’t tired. Amy wondered if he was that powerful, or if he was simply that skilled.
“You aren’t ready to learn it yet,” a voice said. Amy recognized it as Sybil, a Bloodmaiden as famous for her innovative magical techniques as for being the Bloodmaiden of her time.
Harcourt turned toward her. “So how long have you been doing this?”
Amy stepped into the doorway. “Fighting vampires? Only tonight. I felt someone using blood magic, and I thought I’d find out who.”
He tapped the remains of Phil’s body with his shoe, and a piece of Phil’s chest crumbled into dust. “This isn’t the first time you’ve been out. You’ve become better at hiding the burst of magic that takes place when you change, but not so good that I haven’t felt it. When did you start?”
She looked him in the eye. She was taller than he was after the change. “Soon after we got here. I wanted to look around. It’s better than sitting at home watching the television.” She tapped her armor. “This was made to be used.”
He shook his head. “You’re not ready. You’re barely trained both in magic and in the powers you’ve inherited—“
“And whose fault is that?” She asked, keeping her voice low.
He continued as if she hadn’t said anything. “—And this world isn’t safe. There are real dangers hiding behind the facade. Some of the dangers aren’t even hiding. I assume you’ve seen the ‘superheroes’ and ‘supervillains’ on the news. I’m telling you for your own good not to reach their attention. Nothing could be more devastating than if certain parties realize that you’re here.”
As he spoke, Amy realized that everything he was saying was ridiculous. If he honestly feared that she wouldn’t have the skills to protect herself, he’d be teaching her how to protect herself better. This was nothing more than an excuse to keep her from learning much of anything.
“No,” she said.
Frowning, he looked up at her. “What do you mean, ‘no’?”
She walked out the door, onto the porch, and since Harcourt was standing in front of the steps to the walk, she jumped off the porch, landing in the mixture of grass and knee high weeds that passed for the lawn.
She turned back to face him. “I’m not going to stop. I saved a woman’s life last week. A half-human, half-alligator thing was stalking her, and I killed it. I don’t know what it was, but that doesn’t matter. She’s alive, and she wouldn’t be if I listened to you. Consider yourself fired from being my tutor. I’ll figure magic out by myself.”
Harcourt’s mouth hung open, but only for a moment. “Don’t be naive. You can’t hope to figure out magic without assistance. There are dangers that will leave you no second chance, and that’s especially true when you’re the Bloodmaiden. You can’t—”
Amy had already decided to fly away, but another voice said, “Excuse me, but I have another option.”
This voice came from the lawn across the walkway. Amy turned toward the sound only to find that a man stood there. Shorter than either Harcourt or her transformed self, he wore a dark green hooded robe and carried a staff. The belt around his waist held many pouches of a variety of sizes and shapes. He had dark skin, and his eyes darted between Harcourt, Amy, and the vampire remains near Harcourt’s feet.
Harcourt stared at him, putting his hand into his suit jacket, and pulling out the revolver Amy knew he kept there. “Who are you?”
“Most people know me as Reliquary.” He stared at Phil’s remains. “And that is a remarkably dead vampire. I see that you’ve removed all the blood from his body. Amazing. It seems that someone’s found a good use for blood magic.”