Hi all, sorry for the long wait. I've been job searching, and I re-wrote this several times to practice some new writing techniques. It occurred to me that I could just practice that on the sequel, so I could post this.
"I didn't need reconstructive surgery." Rahkesh growled irritably as he stared into the mirror.
"You managed to tear my ear. My EAR! I didn't even know I had ears in that form!" Rahkesh barked.
The laughter from the vampire reclining on his couch was a deep rumble, and just a little smug. Rahkesh hissed in annoyance.
"You couldn't possibly have kept your claws out of my ears?!"
"You couldn't have kept your ears out from under my claws?" Namach asked back. Rahkesh twisted a little so the mirror showed him a view of his living room. The tall ancient vampire was seated on his couch drinking some famous person's blood from a diamond and emerald glass. Heavy black leather military-ish boots, dark red pants and a creamy v-necked shirt with tiny diamonds and gold thread worked into it. His wavy black hair was unusually long and seemed to meld into the shadows. Rahkesh was tempted to ask if he had conscious control of his hair length, then decided he didn't need to ask.
"I wasn't conscious." Rahkesh retorted. He looked back in the mirror again and saw Namach taking a sip from his glass, and he got an evil idea, "I wonder if thunderbirds have electrically charged earwax?"
Namach actually coughed as he tried not to inhale the blood while laughing. Rahkesh smirked to himself and finished with the tiny scar left behind on his ear.
"Say that around Strawlime and he'll be trying to get that, as well as his current list of potions ingredients, from you." Namach warned. Rahkesh grimaced, Potions Master Strawlime wanted to chop him up for experimental parts. Rahkesh had just that evening found a very polite request on his desk (and how did Strawlime get in?) asking for just about every type of bodily fluid imaginable, and even a few he'd never heard of. Birds had skin oils?
Once he was sure that the Necromancers Guild had everything well in hand Namach had returned Rahkesh to Akren. The healers had had a merry time working on some of his worse injuries, specifically the internal damage from his crushed ribs. Rahkesh couldn't quite remember the last time he'd felt agony like that. Magical full-body pain was one thing, having ribs snapped concentrated it, and that was almost worse.
After Rahkesh had woken the Akren teachers had promptly sent him home to deal with the rest of his injuries on his own. Namach had shown up ten minutes after he'd arrived to make sure he had no lasting damage from the death magic and to wait and watch while the magic moving around his bloodmagic runes evened out the tiny bit of death magic he had absorbed. Of course the vampire hadn't yet said a word about Rahkesh's out-of-control animagus, and probably wouldn't since there was little point in trying to train it when he'd be changing soon anyway.
He and Daray are too alike. Sygra complained from her spot in the morning sun. Or was it evening? Rahkesh had no idea. The Necromancers Guild's mountain top hall had been in a location where it had been daylight. At Akren it had been very late night. Now there was sun, and he wasn't sure how long he'd been out. They both insist on using that couch.
It is a nice couch. Rahkesh pointed out. He did good work with regards to comfort. Appearances, not so much. The poor thing looked a decade old, a little warped, sagging, battered, and rickety. It was actually only a year old and quite solid.
Yes, but the other vampires don't kick me off it.
They're wary of being bitten by you. I doubt you could harm him, and he did drop you in the sun didn't he?
Yes. But he still took the couch.
Are you sure you don't have a bit of an obsession?
Did you just compare me to Daray?
Rahkesh didn't respond, it was better to let that one drop. Satisfied that his ear didn't look like it had been mummified he leaned in to examine his forehead where the lightning bolt scar had once been. It was basically gone; if he looked really close there was a faint outline. A good tan would cover that. Or just a little very special magical makeup. And no one would see it anyway unless they were right in his face. Rahkesh applied it with a spell, since he messed it up with a brush.
As he drew back from the mirror the pain in the back of his neck spiked and Rahkesh winced. Reaching back he ran his fingers over the back of his neck. He remembered very clearly Namach's fangs sinking into the skin there. That Ice Dragon had some impressive teeth on it. Twisting a bit he pulled the hair off his neck.
Rahkesh's shout made Namach turn and try hard not to smirk when he saw in the mirror that Rahkesh was looking at the back of his neck. He wasn't going to say it at the moment…but he really did do some fine work with his fangs. Always a matter of some pride to a vampire.
"Oh fuck! What the hell did you do?!" Rahkesh shouted spinning around, fingertips sparking. Namach was behind him so fast he couldn't see him move. Grabbing Rahkesh Namach spun him back around to face the mirror. Rahkesh snarled and thunder rumbled outside. Namach sent freezing air over his face like a slap and Rahkesh winced and reigned in the stray magic.
"Stop that." Namach told him firmly. Lifting Rahkesh's hair he examined the crisscrossed mess of scars.
"Tell me that isn't permanent." Rahkesh hissed furiously. Namach sniffed at the scars, ran a finger over them, and tried very hard not to start purring. Vampires were predators after all; they liked the smell of furious humans, and the tiny bit of fear in there smelled delicious too.
"You're not that powerful Thunder, no, this one is permanent." He informed his student and didn't hide his smile when Rahkesh hissed at him. He was using a little magic to keep Rahkesh still for the moment, he didn't really want to have to hurt him but right now Rahkesh was almost ready to attack him. "The good news is that it is really only scars, not much magic involved."
"Not much? What those scars have your magic in them?!" Rahkesh hissed, breaking Namach's magic and spinning around.
"I suspect other vampires will be able to sense it…so you're probably pretty well safe from any of the others…unless they want to challenge me. Hasn't happened in a long time, last imbecile…well you won't want to know, I thought it was fun, I don't think he appreciated the art involved." Namach said, smiling in remembrance as he walked back to the couch and sat down.
Rahkesh gritted his teeth for a moment before forcing himself to relax. Namach was a master of putting more than one meaning into anything and this was no exception; the vampire had just told him not to make a fuss over the scars on his neck and that he would not accept any more temper from Rahkesh right now. Damn him. Damn him straight to hell, Rahkesh was not spending the rest of his life with a set of even mildly magical scars on his neck courtesy of a vampire King. He would just have to find a way to remove them.
Well, since there was nothing he could do about it at that moment, and he was going to remove the scars eventually, and they would keep the world's magical vampires off him…Rahkesh brushed his hair back down and checked to make sure the mess of thin crisscrossing white scars didn't show. Fortunately they were just on the back of his neck and invisible unless someone was actually looking at the very back, and they were high enough up that his hair would cover them easily, though not if he cut it really short.
Casting some quick cleaning charms to get the last of the blood from his torn ear off his clothes and the counter Rahkesh checked his ear one last time before going to join Namach. Picking Sygra up he let her wind around his neck again and cast another cleaning charm to get a few stray blood drops off his latest cream and gold carpet (the previous one having been torched while practicing wandless magic).
"The magic flows from that wand are unlike anything I've ever felt." Namach said. Rahkesh glanced at him and thought the vampire might be smelling the magic. Weird. "Have you tried to determine how much magic leaks off it?"
"Not yet." Rahkesh admitted. Whenever you cast a spell if it was visible it meant it was leaking magic off into the air around it, which was the reason spells were visible. The more control over the magic the tighter the spell and the less magic lost. During a fight that was important, sending brightly colored spells around might look cool but it was amateurish and that lost magic was likely to cause you to tire faster. Better control took more practice and experience, but it meant better endurance. Thinking back to his magic work at Hogwarts Rahkesh could easily find the difference. At Hogwarts no one had ever told the students to try to sense and control the magic they were using. They just said the words and tried to focus on what they wanted to happen and concentrate really really hard. Which was actually counter productive to some extent.
"I'm not sensing much falling off your spells, but what does come off smells a little like your blood and feels very different."
"Probably. The ancestor was an Earth tree you know. Some elves died in a fight here and their remains caused a change in the trees that grew up on the bodies. The rest of the elves eventually found them and collected all the trees that had been changed and took them away. That was maybe a hundred thousand years ago, possibly longer, well okay, probably closer to five or six hundred thousand years ago, but at some point it's all the same really. They've been infusing the species with their magic and consciousness that long."
"So they'll be able to sense this easily then?" Rahkesh asked, holding up the white wand.
"Oh yes. You're lucky Xanthius isn't here."
"Am I hallucinating or are you looking forward to them coming after me?" Rahkesh asked sharply.
"Well you might very well be hallucinating, after the last twenty-four hours it wouldn't surprise me." Namach smirked at Rahkesh's snarl.
"A non-answer." Rahkesh replied, as he put his magical earrings back in. Sygra hissed and rubbed against the new scar on his ear. It would probably fade in a new days but she seemed annoyed that he'd managed to get hurt and she hadn't been there.
"Is she feeling insecure?"
"Probably. Are you looking forward to the elves going berserk?"
"You really don't know when to just let it go do you?"
"My life being in danger can cause that." Rahkesh pointed out, stroking the top of Sygra's head gently.
"Very well. Yes I'm looking forward to it. The elves currently on Earth, minus Xanthius, are the ones they could spare while their best are off fighting elsewhere. They will probably try to retrieve that tree and kill you and they won't bother asking any questions. However they really don't have much to go on. Those trees are partly sentient even as seeds and the tree had a choice between remaining dormant or accepting your blood. They can remain as seeds for centuries without damage. It had no reason to accept you other than sensing in your blood your commitment to continuing to feed it and your magical potential. That tree accepted your blood and allowed you to become part of it because of what it could get out of the deal. If the elves want to argue with that they can, but even as a seed those trees have been bred and altered to know instinctively to wait for elf blood, unless they're in an actual forest."
"Have there been Dyalnos trees growing wild on Earth?"
"Maybe five times that I know of. There are a few dormant seeds floating around still. A few thousand years ago a shipment between planets got diverted and the elves had to drop out of their magical form of travel. Earth was the closest world. I don't know what actually happened but apparently the containers didn't all make it through intact and ended up in the middle of an ocean. Hence seeds turning up everywhere for decades."
"Whatever happened must have been something pretty drastic to cause them to do that."
"Extremely. It is possible that your seeds were collected at some point and someone recognized them, or someone in your family sensed their power. Even as seeds most very plant-inclined people can sense amazing power in them, even if they have no idea what they are."
"Okay, so they're going to attack me. Why does this amuse you?" Rahkesh asked, realizing he'd been diverted. Namach fixed him with a sharp look, not quite scowling, he wasn't that expressive. Rahkesh remained stubborn. Namach leaned back into the couch and went into lecturer-mode.
"One reason? It will embarrass the elves. Once they back up a bit and think it through it really is their fault for not getting every last seed back, and, not doing that, making sure the consequences were very obvious. They even have an elf teaching at Akren, they could have at least made sure our library was up to date on what to do to avoid angering them. And the tree accepted you. Elves don't actually worship trees, but they're very connected with plants and will often defer to their judgment. If they kill you and take that tree back home with them they'll have some very annoyed forests.
Having the elves make a mistake benefits Earth, and you. They hardly ever put a toe wrong and their actions, especially the ones that make not the slightest sense, almost always turn out the best possible future as a result. Humbling them is a good thing to do every once in a while. Plus this incident probably will not be kept secret, and even if someone how no one else knows I would suggest that you make sure everyone from Akren knows all about it. The elves have a formidable reputation to anyone who cares to do even a little research. This minor embarrassment will force them to increase their presence on Earth. The more connections we have with the elves the better, so long as the magical population is educated and knows to be wary.
More connections with the elves is a good thing because the better the species know each other the less chance for misunderstandings, and the better the chance that the elves will see some value in having us as allies and in helping us improve magically. Remember, they want allies. If they didn't they'd have exterminated intelligent life on earth because if the demons get us we are a liability. They want allies, their species has been basically isolated for its entire history, excepting the demons. They've been seeking allies for longer than mammals have existed on Earth.
Them trying to kill you is a mistake on their part and they will recognize that. They are proud and stubborn but they're also honest. We'll wind up with an increased elven presence on Earth, and we'll get to show off your fighting capabilities – they already know mine."
Rahkesh listened intently, trying to follow what Namach was saying. The vampire was clearly thinking big-picture and long-term. But..."why me?"
"If the elves are going to really invest in Earth they'll need evidence that we can stand up to the demons and them. War is not everything, not even to the elves, but right now it is most important. If we appear to be losing to the demons I'm not sure what the elves would do. So you're going to show them what a human can do. They've got plenty of examples for what vampires can do. We have Vierlae and a few others to show off fae magics, the centaurs have Vaire and his Guardians, the merfolk have their sea-mages. The humans have the Akren teams, a few extraordinary Necromancer -Bloodmages like Walcressen, a few extraordinary healers, and Stocklir, and way too many examples of mentally unstable products of human civilization that want to take over Earth. The most recent being Voldemort, there were five others in the last century. The werewolves have almost nothing, but they're not terribly common anyway. The humans really need a warrior with large scale destructive capabilities who is mentally stable and whom the elves can respect and like. And they will like you. They will like you a lot once they know you."
"Wonderful, I'm supposed to set some sort of example?" Rahkesh asked, feeling just a little panicked. Sygra raised her head and nudged his cheek, and reminded him that any elf who wanted to hurt him was going to have to get past her. And wasn't her species also an elven creation?
"No. You're going to show the elves what humans can do. Not what's common, but what the best of them can become. And you're young, even better, you're not half trained yet. The elves may be immortal but they're surprisingly favorable to wild, powerful, independent, honorable young individuals whom the elders can respect. You have Ferraidar to thank for that, before him they were not like that, not to such an extent. He's the original elven rebel and they adore him. And so I expect they'll like you, even while they'll be driven crazy by your independent nature."
"What about this transformation you refuse to tell me about?" Rahkesh asked, "I know, I know, you have good reasons." He added quickly at the hair-raising growl and actual glare he got this time. He knew he was pushing the vampire's patience on that issue, but he wanted it over with and not knowing made him nervous.
"With any luck the elves will find out about that wand at the same time you finally transform. It'll take a miracle to make those two events coincide but that would neatly solve a lot of problems. Don't worry over it. You'll be fine, their reasons for attacking you over that are a bit sounder than for being angry about the tree, but not by much."
Rahkesh dropped his head, groaning. Why did he think that this would hurt very much?
When he looked up Namach had vanished. Figured.
Focusing a little Rahkesh searched around for his rather dim connection to Nicodemus, wondering what Nic was up to.
There you are. Nic said when he sensed Rahkesh at the edge of his mind.
Were you looking for me?
I felt…some sort of disturbance. Nic asked in a carefully curious/concerned tone.
Sorry. The Necromancers Guild needed me to transform into a thunderbird for them, to provide some specialized magic for their most recent attack on the demons. I got a little carried away.
Oh, yes, I remember, they explained their plans to everyone. Did it go well?
Very well. Rahkesh said, smirking across their link.
You sound smug.
I got to help kill…well at least a few thousand demons. So, yes, I am smug. How is your training going?
I think we will be able to help a great deal. Nic slowly decided, in what Rahkesh figured was probably just typical Chachapoyaroan understatement of the facts. They sometimes did that.
Can you show me?
We do try to keep some secrets. Nic said, and began blinking images across too fast for Rahkesh to see.
I think you're trying to tease but some of those images were definitely upside down.
No they weren't. Nic sent the full memory to him. Rahkesh blinked hard as everything spun. Then realized that gold magic was everywhere and the spells were making him see the world upside down. Makes it hard to fight. Then the practice dummies spontaneously combusted. A moment later fake demons and charging Chachapoyaro warriors met in a dense forest and Rahkesh watched as the second line of war-mages ripped off the demons magics so the first line could slice them apart. We will be as ready as possible.
Any updates from the MLFC on a possible time?
Maybe three days. Maybe four. Most of the fighters are taking today off to be with their families.
Is anyone filling the shelters?
The major population centers are being cleared out. Since we know that they intend to go after the densest magical communities first that ought to mess up their plans. They want to kill as many as possible the first day…actually they will probably attack at night...then pick off the survivors while chasing down smaller populations and groups.
Wonderful. I'd better never hear Daray complain again about getting bored. Rahkesh sighed. Nic just chuckled.
We'll manage. The demons can only come at so many at a time. This will be a slow war, but we'll endure. And they aren't any cleverer than we are.
Never said they were, and does it make me truly insane to be looking forward to this war just a little?
No. The wait before the fight is the worst. Anyone who has seen one battlefield isn't going to rush to see another, except when it's inevitable and the wait is driving you crazy. Ah, Stocklir has just arrived with…demon skeletons?
The demons enchanted the corpses of their dead. They'll attack, if you shatter them each fragment become an entirely new animal. They have to be melted or burned to dust.
Not magical powers though? Nic asked as he walked over to the elderly human female.
No. Actually they're good practice. Have fun.
And you get some rest, your mind feels tired. Nic replied with some concern.
Only if you will. Rahkesh replied. Nic hadn't slept much during their fight with the Inca; he liked to plan all night.
The other Generals insist as well. Nic sighed. I like battle preparations. He said in an almost-whine.
You're clever…when well rested. Rahkesh said, smirking. And I thought you were the older and theoretically mature one here.
Old? Ha! Just you wait, your Headmistress wants to try a joint training day if the demons don't show up on time. Old. I'll give you old, none of you will be walking out of that fight.
Bring it on. Rahkesh snickered, and closed the connection. It was only much later while trying to sleep that he began to wonder if he should have told Nic about the coming fight with the elves and how serious it was likely to be.
"I hate the smell of such old death." Sabien Ateres complained quietly as he circled the gold altar. Just as a precaution both he and his wife were in dark angel form at the moment. They were consciously brightening the fire coming off their wings to light the room, since an ordinary torch might react with something.
"I think that's just the mold in the corners. These are too old to really stink." Elara Ateres told him, nudging one skull with the toe of her boot. Elara's pearly white skin and bright red hair glowed against the giant dark wing and blackened walls of the stone room. Sabien, in contrast, appeared no more than a shadow. If there was anything hiding in here, it would go for her, they always did. Which was amusing since she was stronger than her bull-like mate.
There were eleven very old skeletons lying atop golden slabs in a circle radiating out from the altar. The skeletons were black, burned nearly to ash and in some cases just a little melted. By the doorway the four humans from the German National Aurors were shifting uneasily and eyeing the gold runes on the walls. The German Ministry was working again, having been rebuilt fairly effectively by those who had fled the country and then returned. This set of aurors had left when their country had decided outlaw every nonhuman sentient magical life form. They had returned to rebuild and had done a very good job of it so far. But discovering a hidden room with a portal to the demon realm below the third cellar of a local winery was more than they felt they could deal with.
This altar was clearly meant for large numbers of demons. It was not an entire cave like the mass portal in Mexico, but was rather more like what Sharahak had encountered. It would form an actual tunnel rather than using a form of teleportation. It was a gold ring some seven meters in diameter with all sorts of runes out around it. These had bowls and cups and spikes and had probably held the living internal organs of the sacrifices to provide the death magic to open it. This meant that it was also a two-way portal. Most of them were. This struck the Earthlings as odd since it was a liability – letting your enemies open the doorway.
The doors opened again and seven werewolves entered. The German packs had evacuated early and suffered few casualties. Many of them had returned recently, to change what was left of their country.
"Has it been used recently?" the alpha asked as soon as the two vampires acknowledged her.
"No." Sabien assured her, "this one hasn't been used in many centuries." There were still a few live demons floating around Earth somewhere and the MLFC suspected they had located a portal and would be the ones to finally snap the magics the elves had left to delay the demon invasion. "You're late."
The alpha grinned, her fang-like teeth glistening. "The first group of sorcerers just departed for our new home."
"That is good news. It is there then? Our teams managed to build it?"
"Well there's something there that we can travel to." One of the other werewolves explained cautiously. "Whether or not we've got a viable world is what they're trying to figure out. The good news is that the magical barrier is working perfectly."
A plume of sparks shot out of the center of the golden ring.
Werewolves, vampires, and aurors leapt out of the way, wands drawn. But nothing happened, and after several minutes the group relaxed again. Nothing, this time.
"I do hope that team gets back with good news, and soon." Elara said, touching the gold. "It's warm. The demons must be testing the elves' wards."
"We'll set a guard rotation, five at a time." The head of the German aurors suggested. "Unless there's a way to destroy it?"
"Probably not without opening it. The ones that have been destroyed were all more or less useless from overuse." Elara explained "We could try, but it might not work, and we might damage that enchantment and let them through sooner."
"Better that they come through portals we know about." The alpha werewolf pointed out. "If we destroy the ones we find then they'll just appear where we don't know about them. This way we can at least prepare some traps and enchantments of our own."
"Vampires should never be allowed to play with explosives." Rahkesh told Ally, "nor should they ever be left alone with unknown chemicals." Between Ally and Rahkesh, face down on the ground, Daray glared murderously. Hanashi and Silas were working on repairing his back. The smooth sleek skin was a mass of charcoal and bits of ash.
"Werewolves should not be left in charge of quality insurance of anything." Daray snapped at them. "It's amazing they can keep their own fleas under control, much less the magics stopping explosive chemicals from decaying."
Ally snickered "I'm sure the alumni responsible will be interested in hearing your theories. And I don't think it's their fault no one thought to check on this weapons locker in sixty years. Their spells were only guaranteed for fifty years."
"Though it probably would have made more sense to assign a few potions students to checking everything." Hanashi grimaced. "Everything in here is labeled by chemical names, not common ones, and I don't know all of it." Daray growled softly in pain as Silas cut away a hunk of flesh that had been burned to charcoal. The only thing to be done with this level of chemical contamination, even in a vampire, was to cut it all away and then use flesh regrowing potions.
"That is why we let the vampires go in first." Rahkesh replied, careful not to sound too cheerful. A healthy sense of self-preservation and a good knowledge of how much a vampire could handle before their immortality became only theoretical had led to him challenging Daray to go in first. He wasn't scared of the dark after all, he was supposed to be a creature of the night. Daray scowled at him and showed both fangs. "Terrified." Rahkesh drawled calmly. "Ready to try growing all that skin back?" Daray grimaced and sighed, dropping his forehead onto the stone floor. Ally poured the goopy sickly yellow potion onto a rag began gently rubbing it into the burned skin. Rahkesh reached out to Daray telepathically.
Next time something explodes, transform. Those scales ought to protect you.
Hanashi doesn't know.
She's not dumb and she can keep a secret. If she couldn't Silas wouldn't spend so much time with her, and if he did Cyala would complain. Rahkesh pointed out. Cyala only paid attention when her family members were spending a little too much time in the company of someone she didn't know. Silas had probably sent in a full report on Hanashi. Which made Rahkesh all the more certain, if that was possible, that he did not want to ever become a vampire.
"I suppose we should finish the inspection while that heals." Ally gestured to Daray's back. They all glanced back into the darkened storage space. The walls had been blasted into lumps of charcoal and black sludge covered the floor. The sludge was gurgling, even though it wasn't moving, and creating tiny puffs of baby-blue fluff on its surface.
"Hazardous waste disposal for all of it." Silas sighed, "I hate writing up the report where we have to explain how we managed to create it."
"Vampire walking to loudly created sonic vibrations which caused ripples in canisters with rotting sound absorption equipment, causing unstable liquids to come into contact with pieces of the canister that hadn't been touched by liquid in sixty years, upon which the enchantments had broken and caused the glass to turn crystalline and full of microscopic holes." Rahkesh thought out loud, "there, got it all in one sentence...sort of."
"Maybe we could send samples of…whatever was created, to Professor Strawlime?" Silas asked.
"First we'll have to figure out what kind of container can handle that stuff. Then we send it to Professor Clarence for a chemical analysis. He's going to be pissed. He's already got all sorts of reactive stuff from everyone's attempts to destroy portals." Hanashi said. The black sludge gurgled ominously.
"What if it's sentient?" Ally asked. The sludge gurgled and a new puff of powdery fluff appeared.
"How sweet, it gave you a gift." Rahkesh said dryly. The baby-blue fluff dissolved hissing into clear liquid. Rahkesh cast a spell Tyler had taught him. "Water?"
"Weird." Ally twitched her wand across the walls, getting no sign of any chemicals. The sludge gurgled and more baby-blue stuff appeared.
"I wonder if it will all turn to water eventually?" Rahkesh thought, this would save them all a lot of time. More baby-blue fluff dissolved into water as he spoke.
"So if we just sit around long enough it all become water?" Ally asked. The sludge gurgled its opinion and a pile of blue fluff fizzed out.
"I could go for that. We could just take turns keeping watch." Rahkesh said. The newest fluff dissolved.
Ally thought about that for a moment. "And the rest of us can go memorize all those command codes we're supposed to know by tomorrow." A spurt of blue fluff rippled out of the black sludge.
"Or the two of you could just keep talking." Daray growled out. "The stuff is reacting to your voices." The sludge on the floor turned green. All of it. "Uh oh. It reacts to me too." The sludge went yellow.
"Cool." Silas snickered, "it must like you guys".
The sludge exploded into purple fire. Rahkesh had a shield up before the flames got close but the heat got through and sent them all running from the room. Behind them a wall of purple flame climbed to the ceiling. At Silas' feet Nuri hissed and spit at the flaming mess.
The flames vanished.
Silas opened his mouth to speak but Daray got there first, slamming his cousin's jaw shut Daray held a finger to his lips and glared at everyone. Cautiously the group walked up to Rahkesh's shield and looked in.
The sludge had been reduced to a fist-sized lump of goo. Green and purple swirls rolled around inside it and the tiny lump looked to be slowly solidifying. In a minute it was a perfectly round ball of green and purple sitting innocently on the floor. The storage unit was still a mess, broken glass everywhere, shelves crushed, ceiling scorched and the floor missing its paint. The students traded looks.
"We can run some tests on the room, just to be sure it's okay." Rahkesh said slowly. The ball didn't react. "Once we know the place is safe we can rebuild everything, put a new layer of paint on." Still nothing.
"And that?" Silas pointed to the ball.
"Well, we're going to have to get it to one of the potions professors at some point." Ally said. "But moving it might be an issue."
"Maybe I'll go get Strawlime now, ask him about it." Silas suggested. "Come on Nuri, stay away from it." He and the panther headed out of the room.
"Uh Silas." Rahkesh warned slowly as the purple and green ball began to roll after them. Silas stopped at the doorway. The little ball rolled up beside his feet, and stopped. Silas, eyeing the ball warily, took two more steps. The ball kept pace.
"Nuri, how do you feel about me getting another pet?" Silas asked. Nuri hissed.
"You'd better go see Professor Strawlime." Rahkesh said, "we don't know what that is."
"I told you it might be sentient." Ally muttered.
A dragonfly landed on a blade of grass, settling its green jeweled wings to bask in the sun. It was barely dawn, and the sun had only just risen over the eastern ridge. The gilded rays shattered across the surface of a smooth black circular stone. Set into a white cliff the perfectly circular disk was the only thing out of place in the field, with the rest of the morning passing in lazy normality. But this would not last long. Something was happening that had not happened in many thousands of years. The black disk was sparkling gold.
From within the rock gold oozed out and down, draping itself across the cliff. Six meters down the gold hardened where it touched the earth. The oozing liquid metal spread out in layers, dripping down the white rock until the lower half of the cliff became a solid sheet of gold.
The lower edge of the sun cleared the horizon.
With an explosion like ice cracking on a frozen lake the gold split open down the middle. Red fire shot out, scorching everything before it, annihilating the dragonfly as it tried to take flight. The field burned to ash instantly. About twenty meters out the fire stopped, and vanished, extinguishing itself and leaving only a blackened rectangle before the cliff.
As the fire turned in on itself and shrank back the tattered opening in the cliff shivered and its edges rippled. Slowly the gold contorted itself into an arched gateway, inside a flaming tunnel stretched on into a blinding wall of fire.
And it was only the first one.
Claire Stevens, Akren alumnus, Third Tier Bloodmage and bone surgeon, was reclining in her plush office chair, watching rows of gemstones set into the outer surface of a black box, filled with threadmagic. Each stone was "wired" to a known portal with both muggle electronics and with threadmagic. A bank of computer screens to her left showed their readouts of activity, the gemstones showed what the magic was picking up, and the bone and stone carvings on the shelf in between were attached to sensors designed to detect demonic magic.
The middle set of sensors was usually the most interesting. Their demon ally Sharahak was hopping all over the planet to test them. Or he had been. He had settled down in Bermuda after nearly teleporting into a crowd of muggle school children. Claire thought that would have been just too funny. Sharahak had evidently called it a day. Lucky bastard was probably sitting on a beach, admiring the string bikinis.
Claire glanced at the computer screens, which showed row after row of zeros, and looked back down at her newspaper. They were still running with the story about Sharahak, the unfortunate vampire who'd gotten stuck in a demon's body, and then in the demon realm, for a thousand years. Rotten luck, he must have had some seriously bad karma built up from a previous life.
The latest bit of info the reporters were all in a tizzy about was that Sharahak's physical appearance had been disguised for so long. The nitwits couldn't seem to wrap their minds around any of the reasons why keeping Sharahak a secret might be a good idea. He'd been passed off as a vampire, then as a demon of different colorings, and now as he was, when all attempts at concealment had been more effort than they were worth. Sharahak had made it very clear that he would never return to the demon realm, and the demons probably wouldn't think of him as much of a threat – to them he was just an old recluse. And so divulging his real appearance hadn't been an issue. Except for the reporters, who were really just upset that they'd been fooled.
One of the sensors made a bleeping noise. Claire looked up. It wasn't in Bermuda. The sensors were located in a network across every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They had been an idea of the fairies, and had been jointly created by the goblins and a few werewolves. The sensors flashed and made little noises when they detected something.
The same sensor went off again. Claire pulled out a notebook and checked its location. A valley in…Nepal, far down the slopes near Kathmandu.
Shrieking like an air raid siren the sensor blared to life. Claire, acting on autopilot, slammed her finger tips into the ruby red hand print on the table.
All over the world sirens went off.
Claire's supervisor, an auror from South Africa, came running into the room. The sensor was going berserk, flashing bright enough to blind. Claire was reading off the coordinates into a recording unit.
Then the whole sensor network came alive. Warning sirens fired off and the entire bank of sensors burst into light.
Next the computers set off their sirens, flashing red lights indicating activity at six known portals. The magical detectors followed instantly with identical warnings. Then the computers abruptly went silent. The magical detectors did not, their sirens wailing through the monitoring station. The supervisor turned down the volume and checked the computers, their electronic motion detectors must have been fried.
Claire had already hit the attack signal, sending out an instant communication to every magical settlement on the planet, and every set of armed fighters they had, that the demons had begun their invasion. Next she hit a series of controls, first on a muggle keyboard and then on a magical one, sending the locations of the six activating portals out to everyone.
Claire's supervisor took over the second chair and began using the sensor array to triangulate as closely as possible where the demonic magic was coming from. Seconds later eight more technicians joined them at the other work stations around the room. They already had a plan in place which split the world into sectors, and each of them went to work putting in the commands to find where the magic was coming from in their sector.
Exactly six minutes later every armed services unit received the full set of coordinates, as accurate as possible, of every piece of demonic magic the sensors could pick up. Claire remembered at the last minute to remove Sharahak from the group, while her supervisor removed the laboratories where portals were being studied, those were already being guarded. A total of forty-seven locations remained.
"It's started." Claire whispered.
"Send everything to Stocklir's command post and to Verens evac center." Her supervisor snapped. Stocklir would have updates on who was available to fight where, and her team would send deployment orders. Veren, a veela, was in charge of managing evacuations, local teams would be reporting in to her and she would be coordinating supplies and travel routes.
At Akren Rahkesh dressed quickly and methodically. He, like everyone else, had his clothing and weapons stored in the middle of his room, ready to be put on. The students had been divided into three rotating shifts, which would, theoretically, trade off fighting duties every seven hours. This way they would have fourteen hours between fights, if everything worked right.
Rahkesh's weapon set, like that of everyone else, was highly personalized. His staff, two swords, four knives, tasers, potions, a prototype of a muggle handgun that some creative witch had come up with that might work against demons, his wand, and armored clothing. Other students would be carrying whatever they were best with.
Rahkesh had two possible roles, both of them either solitary or working with a small team. One of them was attacking as a thunderbird or as a basilisk. The other was to work with a group to get to the portal and destroy it, or, alternatively, the demons working it. They would have to evaluate the situation as they arrived. Fortunately Rahkesh was completely healed, had had two days of rest, and was ready for a fight, in any form.
Rahkesh was with all of his friends, and a collection of students from other years. They were assembled in front of the main entrance four minutes after the alarms went off. Professors Darkwind and Masamba were already there.
"Is everyone ready?" Masamba asked gently, as if they were not about to go to war. "Very well then." The tiger fae gave everyone a mental imagine of their destination, a lonely line of hills close to a hundred kilometers northeast of Edmonton, Canada. Darkwind sent portkeys flying to everyone. The students clipped the bands into place around their left wrists. They were word or thought activated. When he was sure everyone had what they needed Darkwind nodded to Masamba. Masamba turned back to the students. "We will assemble on sight under the cover of the trees. Two auror teams, a werewolf pack, a fairy clan, a wolf fae pack, and the local centaurs are joining us. On three, one, two, three."
Good news, I will have some limited writing time and internet access, meaning that I will probably start working on the next fic in about a month, and posting chapters maybe a month later. Check back in early July, if I'm not posting then check back again in early August. I won't be able to put up a note here when the next chapter starts or might delete my fic.
I had a suggestion to start an email list for people who want to know when my next fic starts. My email is If you want to know when I post the first chapter of the third part in this series you must send me an email address. I will try to collect them all and send out an email to everyone, no promises so check back at my page in a few months.
We'll get to Rahkesh's final transformation early in the next fic. Obviously most of the next fic will take place during an active war and will involve a lot of fighting. I may also go and rewrite some pieces of the first fic a bit at some point. No detail changes really, and only if I get motivated and have the time.