Preview Chapter for Wilting Blood: Fatal Whims

Chapter 6

Gravity and Glass

The iron door of the Arena creaked loudly as Isaac pushed it open. It slammed shut behind him as he stepped forward and into the sand-filled fighting pit, his footsteps creating a soft crunch with every step.

     Captain Cinq had promised him a test if he were to return here in five days after resting, and although Isaac was angered by the captain’s words about his master, Isaac couldn’t resist the prospect of a new obstacle to hone himself against. The stagnation that had infiltrated every part of his life needed to be dealt with, and if that meant playing along with whatever Cinq was planning Isaac would gladly do it. Of course, he would be sure to tune out any more of Cinq’s worries. Mobiel had every right to ignore Isaac, and Isaac knew this. Even accepting the boy as his apprentice was an act of mercy that Isaac could never pay back, actually teaching him about being a Blut Hunter, along with his sword were the greatest gifts he’d ever been given.

     “So you decided to show up after all,” Velonia mused from the stands above. The frail girl had removed most of her winter coverings and now only worse her gambeson. Unlike Isaac’s light armor, Velonia’s was brown and had many pockets sewn into the uniform, each one latched shut with a black button. Her build was as thin as the last time he had seen her without her coats, but he swore that he could see the faintest beginnings of muscle beneath the heavy brown fabric.

     Isaac thought for a moment before speaking back to the girl, free from her fabric cocoon Velonia almost looked pretty. She had undone the ponytail that she usually wore and her black hair now drifted down from her head in long black wavy locks. Isaac’s heart began to beat faster in his chest. Thoughts of women had been far from Isaac’s mind since the night of the Blut attack. He had thought that he was in love with Daphne, but reality had soon corrected his perception and the two never became much more than uneasy friends, their friendship still recovering from the rocky start the two had at the beginning of their apprenticeships. After the deaths of her and Malcolm, grief consumed Isaac, and then all of his focus was on completing his training. There wasn’t much room to think about girls. His routine had become a trap.

     Velonia smiled at him, and Isaac’s brain shut down.

     He tried to speak to her but he was unsure of what he wanted to say so the words fell out of his mouth as a jumbled-up pile of unrecognizable sounds.

     “Some greeting,” Velonia said the distaste apparent in her voice. “I’d have thought you’d have gotten better at talking to women over the past year, not worse.”

     “I-I-I’m sorry.”

     Velonia gestured to the skin under her eyes. “Having trouble sleeping are you?”

     Ancestors, was it that obvious?

    “War shakes,” Isaac replied, hoping that she would be familiar with the word and not wanting to say more lest he makes himself sound like a greater fool than he already has.

     “Ahh,” Velonia continued. “I know of war shakes, they are a common ailment among Blut Hunters. Many Blut Hunters who have severe cases transfer into the Auxillary Legion. I can speak to my father on your behalf if you want.”

     Auxillary Legion? Isaac rolled the thought around in his head. It was his goal when he was a trainee to get into Auxillary Legion and live an easy life. Helping build buildings was a much more preferable fate than fighting the Bluts, but Isaac had seen too much now to run.

     Isaac replied to Velonia with a shake of his head. “Where’s the captain?” he asked.

     “Something came up,” Velonia replied. “He won’t be attending, but he doesn’t need to be here. I’m more than capable of handling this on my own.”

      Velonia approached the banister that surrounded the outer edge of the pit. Like a rag doll, she draped herself over it, her hair resembling a tide of oil dripping from her head.  “We are sparring,” she announced gleefully. “I’m going to show you what Magic can be when properly nurtured.”

     Glass poured from Velonia’s hands and face, falling from her skin like gelatinous rain. The disparate blobs soon unified into three distinct streams of semi-solid glass. It soon formed a pulsating pile beneath the Elemental. Velonia cut off the stream that poured from her right hand, producing a small but sharp shard of glass, and then cut lightly into the skin of her left hand. Blood trickled from her wound and was fed to the growing mass below. The flow of glass then stopped completely, Velonia’s slender bleeding fingers working themselves into bizarre and erratic shapes. The glass responded to her movements eagerly.

     It was Magic production of a caliber far above Isaac’s own and well beyond anything he expected from another apprentice. Even Velonia whom he knew had been receiving what amounted to an early apprenticeship from her father while she was still a trainee.

     Fluidly, the glass blob formed itself into a vaguely feminine humanoid shape. It was smooth and without as much as a single grain of the Arena’s yellowish sand trapped inside its transparent body. The blood that velonia had fed to it was concentrated in the very center of the being’s head, resembling a single red eye.

      “See,” Velonia commanded the servitor, her voice taking on the same uncanny tone that Isaac had heard Franklin use in Ancestor’s Swamp.

     “I didn’t expect you to make a servitor,” Isaac commented, observing the strange sight before him.

     “I didn’t expect you to know what one was,” Velonia replied.

     Annoyed, Isaac drew his sword. He maneuvered his hand so that the sigils touched his palm and felt the comforting suction of his Magic being channeled into the blade. Hepatica’s blade sprung to life in brilliant white light.

     “Nice toy,” Velonia said with a laugh. “I thought you would have more than a little short sword like that.”

     “I don’t want to hear anything about toys from someone who’s literally fighting me with a doll,” Isaac spat. “You’re no better than Instructor Hans.”

     “You call this a doll!?” Velonia snapped. “This servitor is Magic made art! Far from a mass-produced Artifact Magic golem”

     “Just shut up and fight me!” Isaac yelled back sick of hearing Velonia’s voice.

     Was she capable of this feat when they were trainees? He imagined what it was like for Velonia, watching the struggling Mages of their class try and complete whatever agonizing task Hans had planned for them that day. Did she laugh to herself when they failed, or when they gawked at the Magical prowess of Malcolm? She was beyond it all. Protected by her father from the worst of it, but still required to be enrolled in the program in order to become his official apprentice.

     The servitor lunged at Isaac, one of its hands forming into a solid ball of glass.

     He dodged out of the way and went for a slash at its head. The construct swatted his blade away with its normal hand and went for a kick.

      It hit Isaac in the chest and he fell backward into the sand. The servitor wasted no time in shaping the ball into a club and going for another attack.

     Isaac rolled out of the way just as the club came down creating a soft thudding sound when it hit the sand.

     “After all that harping on about being nothing more than a tool, that’s the best you can do?” Velonia chided, her fingers still moving as if playing an invisible piano.

     Isaac parried a club strike. “I don’t want to hear your voice!” he yelled.

     Velonia smiled.

     This creature of pure Magic was stronger than him. Velonia had found a way to use servitors to make up for her physical weakness. Even for a girl, Velonia had always been exceptionally weak for as long as Isaac knew her. He had seen her struggle with tasks a child could complete. What exactly was wrong with her he did not know, but obviously it had no impact on the strength of her Magic.

     Isaac slashed again at the creature, and it blocked Hepatica with its arm. The magically sharpened blade would dig into the glass with every strike but any trace of lasting damage would be immediately repaired by more of the flowing glass. Velonia’s control over this thing was terrifying.

     The construct swept Isaac’s feet out from under him and he heard Velonia laugh as he fell for the second time. It had been too long since he fought anything other than a training dummy, but he had fought Bluts and slain Ulfbert. He could beat what amounted to an especially angry window.

     A large black dot blossomed upon the back of the Construct and a second on the wall of the Arena behind it. The servitor was pulled backward by the dots before stopping in mid-air. Isaac could see Velonia, still draped over the railing, her hands were splayed flat and her face was red with effort as she fought his Magic with her own.

     This was the opening Isaac needed he grabbed at the gravity around his body with his prosthetic hand, tearing some off and lightening himself. He stood back up and ran at the construct with new speed. Isaac freed the thing from his gravity spots, surprising Velonia and causing her to jolt it forward with her Magic.

     Isaac reapplied the weight to himself and then some, then he slammed the edge of his sword into the servitor’s chest causing glass shards to erupt outwards. One flew past him and opened a thin slice across his forehead. He kept pushing the blade in deeper, straining with every muscle of his body until he cut clean through the glass with an arc of light.

     The feeling of triumph was brief as Velonia mashed her hands and pulled the creature and its shards back together. The whole mass of glass undulated as she worked to right it.

     “A lucky shot Shwarzchilde,” Velonia said, floating another orb of fresh glass into her creation.

     “Luck has nothing to do with it,” Isaac replied, dodging under a swipe from the newly remade servitor.

     “Maybe you’re right,” Velonia sighed with no small amount of sarcasm. “But mercy does”

     The construct’s free hand moved at a blinding speed. It grabbed a hold of Isaac’s shirt and lifted him into the air, despite his increased weight.

     Isaac swung Hepatica into the construct’s arm, causing a spider web of cracks to erupt throughout it.

     The servitor observed him for a moment with its blood eye. Dropping him before he could swing at its weakened arm again.

     Isaac returned his weight to normal and tried to roll away.

     “An arm for an arm,” he heard Velonia say before the servitor delivered a mighty kick into Isaac’s left side. Crushing his artificial arm, and knocking the air out of him.

     Isaac rolled across the sand trying to speak. To tell her about what she just did and the immense pain it would cause him to fix it. He tried to stand up, teal dust pouring from his shirt sleeve, but was unable to before the construct struck him again. This time it grabbed onto the back of his head and shoved his face into the sand, causing him to drop Hepatica.

     “You have some skill,” Velonia noted, licking the blood from her still-bleeding finger. “But I can’t help but wonder how much stronger you would be if your master actually cared about training you.”

     She had been holding back. No, she was still holding back. The construct was being controlled by her Magic and Velonia only had to augment how much she put into it to give it more strength. If she was trying to kill him he doubted he’d still be alive.

     The helplessness of his situation began to dawn on him. She can repair the servitor and supply it with more material at a whim and strengthen it just as fast. There was no way he could beat this, even if he were to project his Magic at it the gravity beam would cause the glass the explode outwards and fill him with shrapnel.

     No, he couldn’t let her beat him.

     Even if you are fighting a losing battle you must still try to win. Dying without courage, without trying is pathetic and disgraces the Ancestors. Velonia had no idea what it was like to truly struggle in a fight. Protected by both her father and her glass, she was able to avoid danger for the entire time that Isaac had known her. While he and the other apprentices were dropped in the middle of the woods and told to find their way back despite the hungry tree wolves that prowled the branches, she stayed happy and safe in Roserum. Training her Magic with no real risk as she tempered herself in her father’s flames, making a home for herself in his shadow.

     Isaac admired Mobiel but did not wish to continue to better himself as a Blut Hunter only because of him. He was an inspiration and a guiding light but at the end of the day what drove Isaac was his disgust and hatred for the Bluts, and for himself. He had lost his arm resisting their plots and would gladly give his head if it meant that he could further wound the ambitions of the Blutsaugers.

      Velonia on the other hand seemed to only move according to Cinq’s will. A puppet just like the one she controlled. Not motivated by anything other than her father’s approval. Sharing her father’s dreams not because she agreed with them but because they were her father’s dreams.

     Isaac pulled as much gravity onto himself as he could. Only stopping when he felt like he was in danger of crushing his ribcage. The amassed element swirled around him like smoke, pitch black but broken up by flashes of white. Then he commanded it to release.

     A shockwave ripped across the Arena. The wave destroyed the hand the servitor was holding Isaac with and sent a massive web of cracks throughout the rest of its body. Velonia was hit by the blast knocking her back from her perch and onto the ground behind her.

     Isaac stood up. A crimson streak of blood ran down from his nose and another wept from his forehead, both of his eyes were bloodshot, with the right one being almost entirely red. He smiled a massive grin at Velonia.

    Intense blinding pain shot through every inch of Isaac’s body as he activated his tattoo. His brain felt like it was going to boil as the teal mist poured forth from the symbol, and his heart felt like it was being desiccated as the mist took form. Isaac could feel his eyes catch fire as the arm solidified and then the pain was gone, leaving behind the new arm and an echo in his nerves. He gasped for air, almost falling forward but catching himself as the pain subsided. Nothing Velonia could do to him could hurt him like his choice to regrow the arm, and in a way that made him invincible.

     He scanned the ground until he found Hepatica resting in the sand. Isaac placed a small gravity spot on its handle and another on his palm. The blade flew into his hand and erupted into white light once again.

      “You’re insane,” Velonia screeched at him from her perch. “Look what you did to yourself!”

     Isaac widened his smile, blood from his forehead and nose dripping onto his teeth. “Call me whatever you want,” Isaac replied. “I know you knew how much having to regrow the arm would hurt me. Tell me, do you think you would have aimed for my arm if Captain Nadine were here?”

     Velonia, ignoring his question, reached her hands out and fed her Magic back into the construct. Its cracks began to repair and the pieces of its broken arm started shifting themselves back into place.

     Isaac plunged his sword into the blood eye of the servitor. Velonia yelped and covered her eyes as the glass head of the construct fell apart.

     “You said “see” Correct?” Isaac asked, wiping the blood off of the blade with his shirt. “I know how servitors work, I had a run-in with one before. They need the Magic-user’s blood to function. You were seeing through the blood weren’t you?”

     “Yes,” Velonia replied, still rubbing Hepatica’s light from her eyes.

     “You are a very strong Elemental, Velonia, but you don’t know what it’s like.” Isaac began. “You never had to truly worry about your place in the legions. You were always predestined to become Captain Nadine’s apprentice. You never trained with us other trainees or shared in our worries of what was to come because you always knew that you’d be fine. Private lessons with Cinq made you who you are today. You had Magic skills that made Malcolm look like shit in comparison by the time of our Selection, but nobody knew. If only you could understand the disgust that we felt toward you when we heard your family name. You were never one of us but you watched us suffer knowing you’d be safe.”

     “My father wanted me to see what it was like,” Velonia retorted, moving her hands from her eyes and glaring at Isaac. “He said I needed to understand the “dark necessities” of the Blut Hunter Legions for myself. His wisdom is why I can do what I do and why I dream of a day when we won’t need to train orphans for war. Why should I need to shake in fear every night to understand that?”

     Isaac laughed. “You are just as devoted to Cinq as I am to Mobiel! You only think you’re any different from me because you’re his adopted daughter!”

     Isaac raised his false hand in the air as he turned to leave. “I know what I am. Nothing but an orphan saved by the random benevolence of a captain. You’re not much different Velonia, no matter how much Magic you can command.”

Published by Admin

I am the author of Urban Monarchs as well as the editor, writer, and host of the Dice and Effect Podcast

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