Harcourt blinked. “It was effective, wasn’t it?”
Reliquary nodded. “Remarkably so. It’s a pity that the magical establishment is too stuck in their ways to appreciate the options that new approaches offer us. Am I right in guessing that you’re not from this universe?”
Harcourt froze for a moment. Amy could see well enough in the darkness to know that his eyes widened.
Not waiting to find out if he’d lie to preserve their cover, Amy said, “That’s true.”
Harcourt caught her eye, mouth tight, but smiled at Reliquary, and gave him a nod that hinted at a bow. “As she said, you’ve guessed correctly. It’s not something that I’ve made known. Blood magic isn’t appreciated in this world.”
Reliquary smiled. “No. It’s not appreciated at all. Of course, in this world, it’s more often taught by vampires to their human servants and acts as a gateway to becoming involved in necromancy… Let’s say that as much as I think that the magical establishment is hidebound, I understand their fears.
“Nonetheless, I don’t share them.”
Reliquary walked closer to the porch and to Phil’s desiccated remains. He held his staff above the dust. Then he looked up at Harcourt. “As I said before, that was an impressive display of magic. On the surface, it appears to be a simple removal of life from the undead, but it’s more complicated, a multi-layered spell that released what was left of the poor man and destroyed any connection between the remains and replacing spirit. That’s a flexible tool, and distinctly different from what vampires use.”
He turned toward Amy, holding the staff between them. She could sense magic in the staff, and that she somehow had the staff’s attention. It didn’t have a red glow. It had a white-blue glow that emanated from constantly moving parts. She could see the glow whirling around within the staff, sometimes twisting and separating only to rejoin itself.
Even as Amy wondered if the staff were in some way alive, Reliquary said, “What we see isn’t her, is it? It’s an inherited magical construct, created with blood magic, tied to a family line… I don’t suppose you might be willing to show me the basics of your methods, would you? I know a number of magics that you might want to learn.”
Harcourt shook his head. “I’m afraid that I have a duty to protect the mysteries of my craft. We have firm traditions about who we teach.”
Reliquary sighed, but then said, “That’s not unusual.”
Amy took a step, standing next to Reliquary. “I’d be willing. I’m not a master of blood magic, but I do know the basics, and I’d like very much to learn anything you’re willing to teach me.”
Harcourt’s fists clenched. “No!”
Amy looked up at where he stood on the porch. “You’re doing your best not to teach me anything at all. I have better things to do than wait ten years to learn the basics.”
Looking down at her from the porch, Harcourt said, “I forbid you to do anything of the kind. You are my responsibility. Your father placed you in my care.”
“My father,” she said, “gave me instructions too, and you’re making it harder to follow them, not easier.”
Harcourt glowered down at her. “What did he say?”
She said, “I can’t tell you.” Then she turned toward Reliquary. “Teach me. Please.”
Reliquary took a breath and gave a slow smile. “That’s the primary reason I’m here.”
“What?” Harcourt stared.
“I teach magic at a school for superheroes, and I was told by one of my fellow teachers to watch for you. It took some time to figure out where you were, but I did in the end. Your change was an excellent beacon.”
Amy raised an eyebrow. “How would anyone in the school know I was here? Was this a sorcerer?”
Reliquary shook his head. “No. It was one of the combat instructors. His codename is Immortal, but he told me to tell you that Captain Jason Lee vouched for you.”
Harcourt gritted his teeth. Amy said, “Oh.”
Reliquary stepped back from the porch. “I’m glad that we’ve got this sorted out. I’ll be dropping by your house with forms to get you involved in the Stapledon program as well as for college. Once you get to Stapledon, one of my apprentices will teach you the basics, and I’ll be involved in advanced courses. There aren’t as many of us learning magic as the people learning technology, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”
* * *
One month later, she found herself moving again. All of her possessions were packed in the back of the BMW she’d been bought. Both Harcourts had helped her pack, but she had a feeling that William would be grateful to have her gone. He’d barely spoken to her since they’d met Reliquary.
She leaned against the car. It was parked in the circular driveway in front of the house, and she was torn as to whether she should simply leave. It was tempting. She felt almost certain that William wouldn’t be able to leave this alone.
She was right.
He walked out the front door carrying a thick book. It was black, bound in leather, and had no words on the outside, just a representation of the Bloodmaiden’s spear.
He opened the passenger door and put the book inside.
“Hey,” she said, “what was that?”
“It’s yours.” He walked back to the house, shutting the front door.
Letting him go, she opened the book, recognizing the smell and feel of vellum. After flipping through the pages, it became obvious that it was a manual for training Bloodmaidens.
She wouldn’t have expected that. If she’d known it existed, she would have expected him to have mutilated it or never shown her the book in the first place.
She considered walking back into the house to thank him, but then she noticed that the entire last chapter, “Advanced Magics,” had been cut out with a razor.
She put the book back in the passenger seat, walked over to the driver’s side of the car, and drove away.