Home > Natural Mage (Magical Mayhem #2)(17)

Natural Mage (Magical Mayhem #2)(17)
Author: K.F. Breene

I stalked out from behind the door. As I rounded it, I caught sight of what I faced.

Forest green and ever so swampy, the group of vampires in their monster forms crowded at the doorway, staring in at me with hungry eyes and gaping, fang-filled mouths. Matted black hair fell down the sides of their gaunt faces, and their bowed legs and stringy arms ended in a set of vicious claws.

“The worst part about you is the way you look, did you know that?” I said through my teeth, my courage waning. “Oh holy crap, I’m not up for this. I’m not made for this kind of thing.”

The magic pulsed above me as if to argue. The sweet song of nature drifted from that lonely plant in the corner.

I balled my fists at my sides.

“Yes, I am,” I said. Arguing with yourself was a sure sign of insanity, wasn’t it?

Maybe insanity would help. It sure seemed to give Reagan a leg up.

“Yes, I am made out for this kind of thing!”

I started the weave without thinking, creating a spell reminiscent of the time I’d mixed glue, sage, and honey together as a kid and somehow made it explode. That jerk Billy Timmons had put gum in my hair, and Veronica and I had played at making a potion to blot him off the earth. Stupid Billy Timmons hadn’t been hurt in the ensuing explosion, but I had blown a divot into the table, burned my hair, and succeeded in getting grounded for a week.

If I mixed in an explosives spell Callie had taught me, ballooning the power, it would surely do more than cut a small divot into those vamps.

It would blow out some walls.

Eat ants, Darius. I’m about to tear up your house.

I weaved the spell tightly, infusing it with my desire to do damage to both the monsters and the house. After I finished, a strange sensation kept me from throwing the spell.

Five.

Four.

A ticking clock, counting down.

Three.

Two.

I pushed the spell forward and braced myself, dropping a layer of survival magic in front of me in case there was backlash.

A stream of murky yellow zoomed at the collection of monsters shifting side to side in the doorway. Two of them pushed back to get away from the magic streaming at them. They were clearly the thinkers of the group.

The spell hit one of the other vampires center mass, plastering onto its chest.

It grunted and wiped at itself, first like a human might do after spilling coffee down his front, then more harried and intense. Its claws ran deep scratches through its flesh. From its agonized squeals, it seemed like the spell was burning away its skin.

“That’s not what I was going for,” I said under my breath, struggling to cobble together a different spell.

Without warning, my original spell exploded, the concussion hitting my wall of survival magic and pushing it back at me. The force took me off my feet and threw me at the wall five feet behind me.

The breath gushed out of my lungs as I hit the hard surface. I slid to the ground, my vision swimming. Wood groaned and something heavy crashed down not far from me.

I shook my head and shakily got to my feet, my ears ringing.

A vampire lay on the ground in the middle of the doorway, its chest torn open and black goo seeping out.

Bile rose in my throat at the carnage, but I pushed it down and sprinted forward. This was life and death. I didn’t have time to throw up.

Another vampire was on the ground beyond the door, an arm blown off but its head and chest fine. It would heal.

I had to remember that. I couldn’t just hit them with a spell and expect to be on my way. They’d get up and chase me with whatever limbs still worked while their bodies stitched back together.

It wasn’t a fair fight.

Unless I purposely stopped their magical ability to heal.

But how?

The vampire on the ground was barely moving, so I leapt over it, planning to bolt for the stairs. Before I could get another foot down, though, a vampire rose in my way. Black burn marks covered half of its body and a flap of skin and tissue hung from a chunk in its thigh.

“Oh, that is freaking gross.” I needed to work on my weak stomach.

Another vampire rose, shaky but with two feet and two arms, all still adorned with razor-sharp claws. Desperate, hungry magic slammed into me, prickling my skin and scraping down my spine.

The closest vampire surged forward, faster than any human, claws and fangs out and ready to tear into me.

“Flipping Frisbees!” I zapped it, following up with a stream of white survival magic, all while back-pedaling.

I’d forgotten about the vampire on the ground.

My heel struck swampy flesh and I tipped, falling backward with a terrified scream. An arm came around me and claws dug into my side, changing the trajectory of my fall. My back hit bony ribs and my top half was yanked toward the fallen vampire’s head. The thing—and right now these newbies did seem like things, not people or former people—hissed like a predator. Then the vampire’s arm constricted, holding me still while its head bent to my neck.

Pure, primal fear woke up every sensory receptor in my entire body. I pulled the organized mass of magic above me down into the fiber of my being. I gave myself over to it completely, and then—

Fangs scraped my neck.

I let go.

A pure sheen of white rolled over my skin and attached to anything foreign touching my body. It latched on to the vampire’s arm and sizzled acid along its claws. The hard bone under me softened, and the vampire started to wail…then to scream.

Magical spears dug into the vampire as I rolled off it, keeping the monster put while eating it alive. It convulsed and spasmed as a huge hole ripped through its middle. Black goo rose in the cavity, but my magic didn’t let up.

Movement made me yank up my head. The surviving vampires were standing in a cluster on the opposite side of their fallen friend. Behind my magic. That stomach-twisting hunger was still very much pulsing from them, but it was interwoven with a new, unexpected strand. The intention was clear enough: command us.

Yeah, sure. Command you as you are reaching for my neck to cure that hunger. Nice try.

I couldn’t go through them, and something told me they couldn’t cross over to me until the white spell fizzled out. My legs felt shaky, and I knew it was because of the spell I’d just unleashed. If I tried to blast them now, the outcome would be weak and they’d easily take me down. I needed to stall our next confrontation until I got my second wind.

That, or I needed to find another way out.

I turned and sprinted deeper into the house. If I worked around to the other side, I’d hopefully find some servant stairs to the kitchen. Or something. In a house of this size and age, it was definitely a possibility.

The next large room I came to had a path through the center to a large archway, which then led to a hallway. I dashed in before immediately slowing down, my hands held out in anticipation. A quick look told me the room was probably empty. Couches, chairs, coffee table, a large Oriental rug, and a fireplace.

A strange pressure settled on my shoulders and a swish of movement in my peripheral vision had me spinning around.

Silence greeted me in the still room. The shadows seemed to laugh at me.

Warning butterflies stirred in my stomach and that same strange pressure bore down on my chest. I felt the itch of watchful eyes between my shoulder blades.

I was being watched.

But the onlooker wasn’t advancing, and he or she was far enough away that I didn’t feel any foreign magic.

Best not to count my blessings.

Quickening my pace, scanning constantly, I finished crossing the room, emerging into a round area with two hallways leading away, one off to the right, and the other mostly straight ahead, both cloaked in shadow. A painting of a boat hung next to a closed doorway on my left, and a short column supporting a vase of flowers stood just inside the hallway to the right.

I licked my lips, knowing time was limited.

If I stayed straight, I would be heading deeper into the house, toward the side that (I was pretty sure) pushed up against the neighbor’s house. My only chance for escape would be the possibility of servants’ stairs.

The hallway leading right would eventually take me to a wall with windows that led to the outside world. Of course, I was on the second floor, and jumping to my death was not on my agenda.

The only other option was back the way I had come.

   
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