Forbidden Magic is a historical Shadow Sprawl story, continuing the current story arc.
Artwork by Samuel Pray created using Photoshop.
Alexandrious dismounted, keeping low to the ground as he hurried forward, his skin tingling with the play of power that rippled through the air. He edged forward, using the natural cover to keep from being spotted, but there was no way to be certain that he would avoid those who were watching out for him. No, not him, anyone who might come to the aid of the Daughters.
Aiden moved with him, one hand on the hilt of his bronze sword, steps silent, tension twitching a path across his shoulders. Neither man said a word, knowing the final member of the party would protect their horses and belongings both. They needed that protection, if all went wrong, Alexandrious would do everything he could to bring his wife with him, regardless of who else was lost in the process.
His gut tightened and his fingers dug into the earth, grit burying itself beneath her nails as he inhaled deeply. Something felt out of place. No, more than that. Outright wrong. Magic, that was present and he’d expected it, but this. That didn’t taste like anything vampire in nature, no it was human. Human male. Except, that didn’t make sense. The First Son’s didn’t use magic. That was a mark of darkness, something reserved for their kind and the other creatures who walked the earth, not the First Son's.
Had they forged an alliance with another race, or one of those rare human magic users?
He threw off the thought. That was insane, the First Son’s didn’t work with anyone outside of their own bloodlines. They were purists, dangerously driven to kill his kind, but there had to be a reason, an explanation for the magic.
That, at least, made some sense. Humans, vampires, and some other races, kept slaves. Sometimes the wives and daughters of conquered tribes, other times children sold into slavery. A slave with other bloodlines, one that would be able to tap magic and use it against the Daughters, made an odd sort of sense, yet there was still something missing within all of this. Details he was missing and wouldn’t be able to put together until he tracked the power back to its source.
Aiden arched an eyebrow and nodded toward the rise. Beyond it, he could hear sounds of fighting, arrows slicing through the air, bodies striking the ground and cries of pain and fear. Women’s cries.
No, more than women. Human males cried, screamed and grunted. Blades clashed, bronze against bronze and stone. Blood, sweat and fear mingled, tainting the air but he could still taste the magic. Bitter, strong, it threatened to gag him until he swallowed past it and edged closer to the rise. He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts before crawling forward enough to see over the top of the rise. Six figures struggled near the entrance of a cave. Two women, the rest men? Two of the men had arrived just as Alexandrious settled in to watch what was going on, at least that was the impression he gained as they joined the fight.
“How many do the First Son’s have with them?” Aiden leaned in, keeping his voice low.
“I’m not sure. Four at the entrance, but more over to the left. Power coming in from all fronts, not including the magic being used by the women.” Magic, he should be able to locate the source of the magic, but it flickered and pulsed. “Give me a moment, I need to find the one using magic against the Daughters.” What if there was more than one? He scowled, pushing the thought aside. He’d deal with that when and if it came to pass.
A woman screamed, but the sound one of anger not pain, and he didn’t give into the urge to look down and see which of the two women had made the sound.
Energy flickered through the air, but with his eyes open he could barely make it out. Little more than a shifting of colors, mainly black, blue and a sickly green. He scowled, trying to follow it back to a source, any source, but the energy continued to shift, dancing nauseating patterns through the air until he shuddered and closed his eyes. If he couldn’t trace it one way, he’d try another.
His brow furrowed as he searched through the air. At first he remained calm, reaching out to find the source but as it flicked and eluded his grasp, tension knotted across his shoulders. It didn't make sense, though he was no where near as skilled with magic as his mate, he'd never failed in a search before now.
Had his wife been able to trace it?
Of course she had, but that didn't help him now. With a low growl, he opened his eyes and turned his attention back to the cave and the two women fighting for their…
Fear wrapped itself around his heart. His wife, his beautiful pregnant wife was at the front of the battle, defending the entrance. She shouldn’t be there, the children she carried were too important. She was too important. Yet there she was. Standing tall, proud and strong, fighting back with everything she had, all of her power, courage and grace. Cold sweat coated his palms, leaving a line down the length of his spine as he fought against the urge to rush into the middle of things.
“Is that… by Lilith, it’s the Lady Shandria.” Aiden tensed, one hand moving down to the hilt of his sword. “We have to…”
“Wait.” His gut knotted, it killed him to say the word when every instinct screamed at him to run, to sweep down and rescue his wife, but doing so would put them all at risk.
“What? They’re in danger.” Aiden edged back from the top of the rise. “This is your wife, your children, we can’t just…”
“We wait, assess, then make a move. Rushing in will get them all killed. I won’t put my family in even more danger.” His throat tightened, mouth dried as he spoke, yet it was the right thing to do. “There’s magic involved, magic I can’t trace and if I go in there, if we go in there without finding out who is behind the attacks, they will all die. Not just my wife and children, but all of the women down there and their children. It’s not a mistake we can afford to make.”
Ignore the danger. Go down there. Get her to safety.
The demand clawed at him from within, tugging on him to move, to throw himself down the slope and kill everything and everyone that stood in between himself and his wife. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, focusing on his breathing for a count of ten before he opened his eyes again. “We have to find the source before it’s too late.”
Sweat beaded across her brow, rolling down into her eyes, leaving them stinging even as she turned to deflect another round of arrows. The shield flared and crackled with each new blow, be it from arrow or magic, forcing her to pour more energy into the protection of the cave. Trembles ran through her body and her nerve endings burned, but she couldn’t step back from the protection, not now.
“We have to find the source.” Agriana grunted, hands lifted as she wove a second shield layer.
At least now the woman understood what was happening, which was a small blessing. “I’m trying.” Each time she reached out, trying to trace back to the magic user, she found a maze of power blocking her way. There had to be an answer, a means of tracking the… she frowned, taking a step back, double checking that the wall she had built would hold. “I think… yes, I’m going about this the wrong way.”
Shandria didn't respond, her focus turning inward. There was an answer waiting for her, something she'd been taught a long time ago, before her parents had left them all behind. For years they'd believed Lilith had chosen to live with the Daughters, but now that hope had been stripped away from them, from her. Had that hope become a wall blocking her from the very knowledge she now needed?
“The key to using your magic is understanding where it comes from.”
Shandria sat cross legged at her mother’s feet, eyes wide as she listened. “I know where it comes from.”
Lilith sighed, her large dark eyes focused elsewhere, not on her daughter. “No, my little love. You don’t, but you will.”
Lessons, there had been so many lessons, yet that one had been among the most important, even if she hadn’t known it at the time. With eyes closed, shield in place and the memory of her mother’s words replaying through her mind, Shandria reached down, deep within, to find the kernel of magic that housed the spark that connected her to magic as a whole. Not just the magic she used, but all magic.
She frowned, struggling to push past barriers she hadn’t even been aware of, until her mental hands cupped themselves around the small glimmer. Bright silver, flickering in and out of existence, the full realization of what was happening struck her. This wasn’t just about tracking the magic, but understanding that whatever they were facing had partially cut her off from her abilities.
The how didn’t matter, pushing past it was the only matter of importance right now. She smiled, holding the glimmer, stroking it with slender mental fingers, feeding the energy spark until it pulsed and throbbed in her grasp. Her hands shook as sounds filtered in past her focus. Cries. Strikes against the shield and for a moment she was tempted to turn away, to pour her focus back into the protective wall that kept them all safe.
No, don’t let it happen.
Threads, slender, barely visible, snaked out from the shimmering energy, all of them bright and warm save one. A dark, ink black thread curled around the others, trying to force them back into the source. A thread that grew thicker the further out from her spark it traveled.
It’s not coming from me.
Her jaw clenched and somewhere she felt it, a shard of pain slicing through her physical body, but even that was muffled, kept distant by time and power. How badly she’d been hurt she neither knew nor cared in this moment, instead she kept her focus on the darkness, following it out, beyond her body, moving out of the cave, her body flickering, mist like as she moved, searching for the source of the attack.
The black thread shifted as she followed it, trying to hide but she had the thread now, her fingers running close to it without touching it, and whatever it was, whoever it was, wouldn’t escape her this time. She forced herself to chase it, twisting through the surrounding area, vaguely aware of the men and women she passed along the way. Soft trembles worked their way through her spirit form, a reflection of the same trembles that, even now, claimed her physical form. She didn’t have much longer, if she didn’t return to her body soon, it would be too late.
Darkness billowed, smoke like, behind a large grey and green rock, swallowing the end of the thread and for a moment the smoke was all she could see. It parted, rippling, just enough so she could see the figure behind the rock.
No, not a man, a child. One who wore a heavy rope collar about his throat. Light danced and arced upward from the boy, vivid now that she was able to see it, sharp edges, brilliant colors and undeniable magic. She frowned, how could a human child hold so much power?
Because it wasn’t fully human. A secondary image flickered in and out of existence as she watched the child, elemental magic, warped and twisted by pain and fear, it shifted shape as she tried to grasp what she was seeing. Grey, green, tinged with black and hints of something shimmering, dancing fire like within the core of the darkness. Not earth magic but storm mixed with fire.
Half-blood, not full, controlled and bound by the men who attacked the Daughters. How that was possible she neither knew, nor cared in this moment, only that the boy was being used as a weapon against them. Behind him, separated by twenty paces, stood a human male, in the garb of the hunters, a black stone dagger in his hand instead of the bronze weapons she had become used to seeing.
The man chanted, his gaze focused on the kneeling boy. A boy whose lips were stained with blood and now coughed, spitting blood stained mucus on the dirt.
“Complete it.” The man snapped.
“I can’t, Master.” The boy protested, shaking his head. “I don’t have the strength.”
“You stupid little…” the man took a step toward him, lifting his free hand, the one that didn’t hold the knife. “Do it, or you’ll live long enough to regret defying me.”
The boy cowered, flattening himself to the earth. “I don’t know how to, Master. I never learned that spell.”
The man scowled, his hand still raised though he didn’t bring it down on the boy. “You know how, it’s in your filthy blood. All of that magic, it’s a part of you.” He shifted his weight, moving his gaze to the dagger.
Blood. The hunter, the First Son, didn’t have to speak for Shandria to understand what would happen next. What she had to prevent, if only to save a child who had no say in what was happening to him. She reached for the magic only to stumble, her form pulled back toward her body. She struggled, fighting against the pull, but it didn’t work, the summons had its claws dug into her, tugging her away from the source of the power.
Shandria slammed back into her body, hitting the ground hard enough to knock the breath from her lungs. Pain followed, burning across her face, left hand and breasts, and she rolled onto her side, shuddering, hands clutched to her stomach, mind reeling as she tried to force her thoughts into order.
“What happened?” Agriana leaned in, helping her back to her feet. “What did you see out there?”
“Djinn half blood. Slave. Forced to…” she coughed, tasting blood before she spat it out, clearing her mouth. “I know what I have to do.” Knew, but didn’t like it. “I need Alexandrious for this.”
“He’s not here.” Agriana snarled, shaking her head even as she pulled Shandria up. “You don’t need him, you don’t need any man, haven’t you realized that yet?”
Shandria smiled, shifting her weight as she settled back on her feet. She wiped at the blood that marked her face and then breasts, looking down at her hand. “It’s not like that, sister mine. I need him not because his magic, but because of his other skills, ones we are sorely lacking here. He is a warrior, one trained in the arts, one who knows what it means to kill another, and he will push where I will not.” A child, she didn’t know if she could kill a child, but to save their own children she knew she would try. “He can deal with one half of the problem, because the Djinn isn’t the only one out there. There’s a human, one with a blade. Abel’s blade. I can deal with the human, or the Djinn, not both. That is why I need him.”
Abel’s Blade, was there any magic that could stand against the blade? She didn’t know, nor was it something she had ever been taught. The blade was something they knew little about, save that it could kill a vampire without taking the head or the heart. No, better to use sword against blade and her husband had trained from an early age in matters of blade and bow.
Agriana turned, throwing up her hands, power flickering across her fingers as she deflected the next series of attacks. “There’s still one problem with your idea, he’s not here.”
She pressed a hand to her chest, cover the slash, the soft trickle of blood soaking into her gown. Despite everything, the pain, the odds they faced, the deaths that had already come to the Daughters, she smiled. ‘Yes, he is.”
“That’s impossible, they’ve have changed their attack if they believed a man had come to aid us.” Agriana snarled, muscles tightening as she took a step closer to the cave entrance. “I know you want to believe otherwise, but he’s dead. He’s not coming to help us. No one is.”
Come to me, my love. I know you’re out there now, I need you. Need you with me.