Woohoo! I have a strong enough internet connection to finally uplaod this!
I expect you will be safe here. I have removed about half the wards and adjusted the others. The only things remaining are the ones that detect a presence. The defensive ones are there, but dormant. They will only be activated if someone triggers the outer wards. This way the magic used is so little that I doubt the demons will sense it. Rahkesh explained to Siraka and Xasseri. The two snakes were still at his little house. Rahkesh, not yet ready to fight, had decided his time would be better spent ensuring his property was safe.
In the event that this new world does exist, I think I would like to go there, if that is possible? Xasseri asked. He may be old, but Rahkesh had learned that Xasseri's wits were sharp and physically he couldn't have been fitter. He also had a healthy sense of adventure and an interest in anything new that was odd to find in an otherwise ordinary nonmagical snake.
It should be possible. Once we know if it exists, and if we will be going there, I will check on the possibility of bringing you. Siraka, would you like to live in this new world, if you could?
I would like to go as well. Siraka said, she was looped around the base of the Dyalnos tree in the sunlight. Siraka was a quiet snake, usually inclined towards being fairly easy-going and content with a good shelter and good food. However she was not always so passive and had a willingness to fight or to explore. Spending time with Xasseri had her slowly becoming more talkative and Rahkesh was sure she and the Xasseri would have a good time exploring a new world…so long as they did not get eaten by anything there. Perhaps he would place a few protective spells on them.
Then I will try to make that happen. Rahkesh promised. It probably would not be too hard, probably. The team sent to investigate the new world had not yet returned and there was now serious talk of sending a second team to find them.
Glancing upwards Rahkesh spotted Sygra in the upper leaves of his blood tree. Anything unusual up there?
No. Though I'm not sure how I would know if there was something wrong…it looks fine. Sygra said, poking her head down between two blood red leaves. Rahkesh nodded, his blood tree had healed well from having some of its wood removed for his wand. There was a healing scar but the gap left was gone and Rahkesh could see nothing wrong with it. Over his head the elegant spread of blood red leaves fanned out across the ceiling, the sunlight filtering through making them glow brilliantly.
Certain that it was doing fine Rahkesh examined the concealment spells on the roof, spreading them thin while drawing magic away so as to make them less obvious. He didn't need the demons to find this place. Who knew what they would do with a Dyalnos tree? It was possible they may be able to even use it against the elves, which would surely mean Rahkesh's death, if the elves didn't kill him just for possessing one of their precious trees anyway. He would relocate the tree back to Akren as soon as the new container on his balcony was ready for it.
Sygra, are you ready to go? Having finished with his house Rahkesh was now ready to attend to his second reason for being home. He had received an unusual invitation, to a wyvern colony in Scotland. The colony was currently a second home for wyverns the demons had attacked in France and Germany. There was a current attack underway in Poland and another in Greece. Why the demons had decided to target wyverns was unknown, but they had annihilated a colony in Turkey the day before. The humans who worked at the colony, mostly trying to keep muggles from finding them and trying to communicate with the beasts, had called in Sygra to try to explain to the wyverns what was going on. Rahkesh had not realized that his familiar's wyvern form was so well known. However, given that she had transformed when fighting Voldemort and again during the first demon attack, he supposed he probably should not have been surprised that wyvern researchers would take note of her existence.
Yes, I am ready. Sygra dropped out of the tree branches and coiled around his neck and shoulders. Rahkesh walked out of the greenhouse and off the property. Just because they were at war didn't mean he wasn't being cautious about his fellow Earthlings. He didn't want anyone following his magical trail through the wards. Outside and two minutes fast walking away he pulled out the portkey he'd been sent and tapped it twice with his left index finger.
The wyvern colony was a large island covered in rocky hills and dense forests. Shrouded heavily in dank gray mist that made the air feel heavy the place seemed other-worldly. And a bit dreary. But Rahkesh could hear the movement of animals in the trees and the field was full of wildflowers, under the dull cloak of gray that hung over everything. The sky was dark gray, but not raining, and the mist and sky blended into the gray rocks, leaving the trees and bushes lying around sticking out as though they were on a rolling gray sea.
Not very pleasant is it? Rahkesh asked. Do you like it?
How would I know what real wyverns find pleasant? A snake would not enjoy this, but perhaps the weather is just bad today. This would be nice with some sun.
How about you transform and let everyone know we're here?
Sygra transformed into her wyvern form and rose high over Rahkesh's head. He paused momentarily to admire the young basilisk. As she was as a snake Sygra was as a wyvern – all inky black scales edged in silver. The faint silvery shimmer all over the deep black made it a bit like looking up at a starry sky. Deep, deep black and a silver shimmer everywhere. And while she was quite young (at least Rahkesh thought she was, he had no idea really) she was certainly bigger than any bird.
I've missssed flying. Sygra hissed softly down to him from not far above Rahkesh's head.
And this from the snake who told me she hated flying on broom or carpet and felt sick in the air. Rahkesh teased.
Don't be ridiculoussss, that was, as you said, as a SNAKE. Sygra retorted, if snakesss were meant to fly they would have wings, they do not, wyverns do. Therefore wyvern are made to fly and therefore as a wyvern I enjoy flying.
Do you know how to let the others know you're here?
Yessss, though I've never met another wyvern before. Sygra sounded a little nervous.
Sygra's dark wings beat and she rose up past the tree tops. Ascending in a slow spiral she gave a few raspy calls. Not the loud raucous scream wyverns were so known for but more of a soft rasping call that didn't sound unpleasant at all and lasted for half a minute before drifting to a higher note and then trailing off and going went low. It was just a contact call, a signal saying "here I am". But the tone was fairly unique to each wyvern and the unfamiliar voice would not go unnoticed. Rahkesh spotted a trail and headed for it. The people he was meeting would be waiting for him somewhere just up the hill.
From somewhere off in the distance a warbling cry went up and moments later Rahkesh saw sinuous winged beasts appearing through the mists. They were fairly far away, but coming in fast. The wyverns looked like wraiths swimming through the mist, becoming more and more solid with every second. He hurried up the path to the top of a large rock outcropping and waited while Sygra settled beside him, winding her tail around the rocks and half folding her wings back.
A short man in jeans, an old gray t-shirt under a dark blue sweater, and with an orange bandanna around his head, came out of the forest ahead of the approaching wyverns. He was soon followed by two more men, one with an orange sweater and the other wearing an orange visor. Rahkesh guessed the orange was to differentiate them at a distance from anything the wyvern might be inclined to try to eat. In this foggy forest the orange made them easily identifiable rather than vague moving forms.
"Good morning, Mr. Asmodaeus, correct?" The man with the orange bandanna asked cheerfully.
"Just Rahkesh, and you sir?"
"Terrance Thornwood, these are my assistants Joshua Farith and Sam Kolberg." Joshua waved cheerfully and wiped his glasses off on his orange sweater, Sam just nodded. Rahkesh nodded to each, Thornwood had a daughter at Akren. Malla Thornwood was in her final year and Rahkesh had only met her twice. She was very well known simply because she was always in the library, the greenhouse, or the potions laboratories. She worked harder than just about anyone at the school and was aiming to become a Master at Potions and Herbology – everyone said she would get both before the age of twenty-five.
"Morning," Rahkesh said cheerfully. "This here is Sygra, my familiar."
"What species of wyvern is she?" Joshua asked.
"I have no idea." Rahkesh admitted, "and neither does she." He didn't know if they knew about Sygra not actually being a wyvern. They probably did since she had transformed several times now in front of crowds of people. But maybe they thought that she was a wyvern first and a snake second. Whatever they knew about her Rahkesh was not going to give away too many more details. The less he spoke of her abilities the more likely everyone was to forget they existed.
"Interesting," Joshua mused, walking around to look at Sygra from various views. Sygra twisted a little, subtly showing off. "Where did you find her?"
"In a muggle pet shop," Rahkesh said, grinning a little as all three men turned to stare at him. "She didn't have wings then, just looked like a snake, and then the wings appeared a few months later. You can imagine my surprise."
"Indeed." Sam muttered, "the local colony contains sixty wyverns, we have one hundred and seventy more that escaped the attacks on their colonies. Some of them are injured and we have a large multinational team on site. Because of the injured ones the others are all being a bit overprotective. I don't recognize your familiar's species at all, but hopefully the wyverns here will communicate with her."
In the distance four wyverns began to descend slowly out of the sky. Terrance glanced back at them briefly before gesturing to Sygra to go towards them. "How well can you communicate with her?"
"We have a very good telepathic connection. Fully thoughts in word form." Rahkesh said, and grinned again as the three men stopped to stare at him again.
"Really? Wyverns are capable of forming complete thoughts in that way?" Joshua asked breathlessly.
"Well…I don't know about wyverns much…but Sygra can." And he wasn't going to mention that she was also a snake and he could speak parseltongue. Common knowledge though it may be, they seemed to not be aware that Sygra could also turn into a snake. Or if they did know they weren't mentioning it, and so Rahkesh would not either.
"How fascinating…does she understand what we would like her to do?" Terrance asked.
"Yes. I've explained to her that if possible she should explain about the demons attacking and that fighting together we all have a better chance of winning this war and keeping the demons away. I'm not sure how she'll go about doing it - she's never met another wyvern before."
"Never?" Terrance sounded concerned, "no socialization with her own kind?"
"No. Only with humans, through my mind, when I concentrate, she can understand some English." Rahkesh explained.
The four wyverns circled them in the air several times before the largest folded its wings and dropped slowly down onto a rock pile twenty meters away. It was a massive gray and white beast, gray down the snake part of the body and a gray and white fire-like pattern across the wings. The others rose higher and continued circling.
Ready? Rahkesh asked Sygra across their link. It was not easy to communicate this way, they had to force the thoughts across and had to form the complete sentence before sending it, but the fact that they could communicate telepathically at all was amazing enough.
Yes. Sygra hissed softly to him. I know what to say. She added to his mind. Just leave it to me, wyverns do not like being attacked, do not appreciate being exterminated, and will be pleased to know what is going on and how to fight back.
"Try that again and I'll exchange all of your blood for embalming fluid and see how long it takes you to die." Rahkesh snarled at the vampire pinned to the wall. Rahkesh's curses, glowing ropes of sickly yellow magic, wound around the vampire's neck like tentacles. They were flesh liquefying curses. Rahkesh's latest trick.
He had just returned to Akren that afternoon after finishing up at the wyvern colony. That trip had been an outstanding success. Wyverns were not terribly intelligent, more so than the average chimpanzee but not much more. It had taken nearly an hour for Sygra to communicate everything the wyverns needed to know. Amongst themselves the information transfer had been very fast, and now the wyverns fully ready to fight at the next opportunity. Rahkesh and Sygra had established a very rudimentary communication method between wyverns and handlers using symbols, and left pleased that they had succeeded.
When not fighting Akren students still had classes with whatever Professors were available. After a two hour healing class Rahkesh had eaten lunch with several classmates while studying, before heading back to his rooms. The vampire, Sean Norrin, had ambushed him just around the corner from his rooms. He had actually managed to knock Rahkesh off his feet and into one of the many empty study lounges scattered all over the school…but he hadn't been expecting Rahkesh to take a move he'd learned from Ally and immediately jam the fingers of his left hand straight into his attacker's eye socket. If it worked on an elf chances were it would work on a vampire just fine.
Sean shivered away from the tentacles, blue eye flying around looking for an escape, the flesh on his neck hissing, fizzling, and turning to liquid where they touched him. Rahkesh had torn out one of his eyes before Sean's first three curses had hit. Sean was very, very fast and Rahkesh had flesh peeling off his hip, a broken rib, and his left hand was next to useless, completely numbed. He'd hit Sean with a curse that caused massive nerve spasms, blown up his sinuses, and dissolved the bones in his right foot.
The fight had been quick and almost entirely magical. Sean had figured he had the upper hand, having gotten around any electricity with threadmagic. He'd also managed some impressive threadmagic clothing wards, probably guessing that Rahkesh knew nothing of threadmagic. Well it wasn't much of a guess; everyone who wanted to know could find out that Rahkesh had left that class after failing miserably. Rahkesh had gotten around his clothing wards by sliding his curses under them, so Sean wasn't very smart.
Rahkesh silently cast another healing spell on his hip. He didn't recognize the curse and it hurt, he'd have to go find a cure quickly. "Well?"
Sean shrugged as much as he could with the yellow curses looped around him like snakes. "Everyone knows you're blood is powerful…I had to try." It was a lame excuse and the look on Sean's face said he knew it, and was trying hard to make it real by acting like it was.
"No you didn't." Rahkesh stated and stepped back, sending a spike of magic into the curses.
Sean hit the floor screaming as the trailing curses leaped down along his spine, curled around and slowly dragged back up it from his tailbone to the back of his neck. Rahkesh wound the curses around his neck again and waited for the shaking and screaming to stop. It took a while. There wasn't any permanent damage to the spine, but the flesh over it had been liquefied into a bloody mess.
"Are you going to try that again?" Rahkesh asked with deceptive gentleness.
"How nice of you." Rahkesh sighed. "Do you know what you are going to do?"
Sean blinked at him, blood dripping from a head wound down over his face. "What?"
"From today until you graduate if you so much as hear a whisper of any of your fellow vampires planning to try to go after my blood, you will tell me as quickly as possible." Rahkesh said, drawing a curse just under Sean's jaw while dropping the others until the wrapped around his chest and arms.
"What are you going to be doing from now until you graduate?" Rahkesh asked very gently.
"Telling you about any plans to get your blood, from vampires only." Sean said slowly, looking like he wanted to spit on Rahkesh.
"Very good. What is going to happen to you if you don't?" Rahkesh asked.
Sean waited, eyes slowly starting to fill with fear as he realized that this was not over yet.
Rahkesh smiled and let the curses loose, straight into Sean's armpits.
Whether or not Sean would ever hear anything worth telling Rahkesh about didn't really matter all that much. It wasn't like Rahkesh would know if Sean knew about any future attacks on him. So it was a rather useless demand. Rahkesh could probably have demanded a lot of other things. He had not because he had more than a liter of Sean's blood from the fight, Sean's best knife with a wicked curving enchanted obsidian blade, and since he'd hacked Sean's right ear off that lovely red diamond earring was his now anyway. It was a perfect diamond, flawless, excellent for conducting magic. To use it as jewelry – as Sean had been - was a statement of wealth. Rahkesh could find better uses for it than that.
And if Rahkesh heard of any plot to attack him that Sean would have known about, but had not informed him of, he'd just have to go after the vampire again. Rahkesh would probably be able to get his vampire friends to keep him informed of anything Sean should be telling him but wasn't. Or of any future plans Sean had that he happened to mention to another vampire. All he'd have to do would be to give them Sean's blood.
Except for the little bit Rahkesh would keep, since a vampire's blood did have a lot of uses and you could curse someone with just a sample of their blood. Rahkesh had never tried that. He probably wasn't ready for that kind of magic yet. But some day he would be. And it wasn't like Sean was going to die so soon, unless the demons got him.
Limping back to his rooms, listening to Sean's echoing screams with a grim smile, Rahkesh slammed his door and went to his shelf of healing potions. He was starting to feel his hand again so that curse was wearing off, and he could heal the rib easily enough, but the flesh bubbling and peeling on his hip was a bloody mess and hurt horribly.
Rahkesh chose to use a potion to heal his rib, and then flipped open a book of curses, the edges of the pages filled with his scribbled notes and observations of each. Rubbing a healing potion designed for torn flesh into his hip, and seeing it only helped a little, he picked up another book of curses that did damage to the flesh and sat down to figure out what Sean had decided to use.
Why on earth had Sean decided to attack him now, when the demons were invading and everyone had better things to be doing? It didn't make any sense and while Rahkesh would never claim to understand the workings of the vampiric mind they were usually a bit more logical than that. Sean must have assumed that he could win while not having either of them wind up too damaged to fight; to do otherwise was a risk to Earth as even one missing fighter right now might make a difference. And Rahkesh could do an awful lot of damage against the demons, even if his thunderbird form had proven to not have such fantastic endurance. Surely Sean had thought of that. And so he had probably used curses he knew how to fix.
Rahkesh skimmed the first book and put it aside. Limping over to his shelf he pulled out a potion for removing damaging magic from the body. He hated to use this; it literally pulled the magic right out, usually leaving a serious wound behind. But this curse was only for making skin bubble and peel so the damage left wouldn't be too extreme. And he really needed to get this curse off him. It was starting to spread down his leg.
Would a pain relieving potion help?
I already took one. Anymore and my reactions will slow a bit. However I can rub one all over that leg first. Rahkesh replied as he looked through his shelf for that potion. And maybe a nerve numbing hex. He really hated using this potion, but right now he didn't really have time for find the exact counter-curse. Assuming Sean hadn't made this one up on his own. Rahkesh was pretty sure he hadn't since he'd seen Ally do this curse wandlessly once on a pushy vampire, but she wasn't around right now to ask about countering it.
Did you spell that silly excuse for a leech so the wounds take a long time to heal?
No. I think he understands that he will not be fighting me again anytime soon. It didn't take that long to defeat him. I'll watch his behavior for a few days and see if he looks resentful enough to attack.
He will not. However hard he may have tried to hide it and act like it was no big deal he smelled thoroughly defeated.
Some day I will do some bloodmagic so I can smell like you can.
Or you could learn to use your basilisk sense of smell in human form.
That would involve transforming only some cells in my nose and making my brain be able to know what they mean. Rahkesh pointed out, watching as the potion yanked the magic out of his leg, and removed a big section of skin. Cursing softly in parseltongue he healed it with another potion and a few spells while directing the mess of black potion, heavy with destructive magic, into a strongly enchanted jar. It was useless for most things. He could only use it for hurting himself; the magic and potion had both been worked on him. However the destructive magic it contained might have a use if he some day found a way to separate from it the attachment to himself. And so it was saved, as he saved virtually everything magical.
That done with Rahkesh cleaned the blood off the carpet and chair and took out his cauldron and a potions book. He had a few things he needed to brew before transfiguration class.
Since the war started classes had been rearranged, with far more three or four hour seminars offered. Students could choose which ones to attend. While everyone's schedules had been worked out so that they still had all their usual classes, at different times and on an irregular basis, the workload was a bit less and the extra seminars had become fuller. This one was on speeding up how fast a transfiguration happened, something most everyone would probably think useful in battle. It was part of the ordinary transfiguration curriculum so the students likely to be present were those who hadn't taken transfiguration beyond the second level or so. After the class Rahkesh planned on eating dinner in his rooms while brewing more potions. He had several ideas for seriously messing with the demons.
Twelve technicians sat at their consoles, watching an array of hippocampus hair screens, computer screen, enchanted gemstones, and bloodmetal runes done on obsidian. They were the midnight to 8am shift, and had been waiting patiently for days without so much as a spark off any of their communicators or sensors. Nothing. The team sent to investigate the new world had vanished across the magical boundary without a trace.
Outside the doors and down the hallway another rooms was filled with people, all talking loudly. They were the politicians, generals, and sorcerers responsible for sending the first team into the new world, and they were the ones who everyone now looked to for an answer as to what could possibly have happened. They didn't have any answers, no one did, all they had was theories. Theories they had been debating for six hours now, and, having come no closer to a consensus, they had now moved on to the next question; what to do now?
It was clear that another team would have to be sent, but only after a thorough investigation on the magical barrier between the muggle world and the magical one they had created overlaying it. This investigation had been completed that day and now the main questions was who to send on the next attempt.
The real problem was that a lot of the best people to send on the next team were also needed desperately to keep up the fight against the demons. All the best options were sorcerers of various species of considerable magical ability, who were currently turning that ability, in whatever way they could, towards fighting off the demons. The best threadmages were all busy on projects needed by the warriors on the many battlefields, as were the best metal workers the goblins had ever produced, so were the Bloodmages, the necromancers, the healers, the mind mages, the stone and feather magic experts, the empaths, illusionists, telepaths, potions masters and obviously all of their best warriors.
That they had already lost a great many of the magical world's best minds during the creation of their new world had been a blow they had expected and had been able to absorb. But if the first recon team was gone…if they were dead…then they had also lost an additional forty beings that the magical world could not really afford to lose. Sending out the last of the best on the next team just wasn't possible. The risk was too great.
And so they had gathered, again, and some hundred and eighty beings were fighting over who should go on the next recon team. They had been at it for half a day with only two names on the list.
Against one wall a truly bored Lord Hadrian had conjured a desk, or just magically relocated the one from his office, and was doing paperwork. Being the Lord of the London vampires came with a lot of power and prestige, and a lot of paperwork if he wanted to keep the vampire population of the city functioning smoothly. Beside him his second in command, Ambrosius, was seated. Arms crossed over his chest, blue eyes half shut, with his chair tipped back on two legs against the wall Ambrosius looked almost asleep. He was anything but; he was the only one accompanying the Master of London tonight and therefore his Lord's safety was his responsibility. Not that Lord Hadrian couldn't take care of himself, if he couldn't Ambrosius might have killed and replaced him long ago, but it was Ambrosius' job to attack anything that threatened his master. If he died, then Lord Hadrian would be on his own.
The massive redwood doors opened and Nvara Aelfly entered, shutting them silently behind her. None of the arguing bunch noticed her entrance. Which they weren't meant too; she had cast an illusion on the doors before entering to prevent that. Glancing around the Headmistress of Akren, the most influential school of magic in existence, noted the chaos and picked out those not involved. Making her way around the room she found Minister Stocklir seated next to Hadrian and talking quietly with Vaire, the guardian of the most powerful centaur herd.
"Good evening Nvara, nice of you to join our…party." Vaire commented as Nvara conjured a chair next to the group. The massive gold and blonde centaur was lying on a thin cushion large enough for his horse's body. His head still came up to the shoulders of the rest of the group.
"Greetings to you Vaire and blessings on your herd," Nvara said with a short nod. "Evening to you Lord Hadrian, Minister Stocklir." Hadrian blinked and glanced up from his work long enough to nod, check to see if the squabbling crowd had changed at all, and, finding that they hadn't thought of anything new yet, went back to his work.
"Evening Nvara. How is Akren?"
"Surprisingly calm now that our more violently inclined students are taking out their aggressions on the demons. We haven't even had a lethal lover's spat amongst the students since the war started." Nvara said cheerfully, referencing one of the most common causes of homicide at Akren.
Ambrosius snickered, and had to give his master an innocent look when Hadrian's eyes flashed over to him. Hadrian was defensive about his alma mater, being one of its first students he had some reason to be.
"I hope you've come with a few fresh ideas because right now…" Vaire trailed off, watching the arguing mess sadly.
"I may have a solution in mind." Nvara smiled, "there is, after all, only one group who have not yet fought in this war and whose people are, for now, safe."
"The Chachapoyaro?" Hadrian asked immediately, looking up from his paper work.
"The Chachapoyaro." Nvara confirmed, "they've been busy getting their population up to speed on what the rest of the world is like and what's going on. They're safe – the demons don't even know they exist! They're secured behind their magical barriers and while they've been training nonstop they have not yet fought anywhere. The guards of their homeland are ready for anything and I'm getting the impression that the Xariath warriors, now that they've fully recovered from their time in hibernation, are eager for battle. We don't need them quite yet. Our own forces will likely need a breather in another week, assuming the demons continue attacking at this pace, but until then we don't need the Xariath for much. Why not ask them to form a team to go and find out what's going on in the new world?"
"Nvara have I told you recently how brilliant you are?" Stocklir asked. The old woman hopped up from her chair and pushed her wait through to the center table, where she at once raised her wand and conjured a string of firecrackers.
When everyone could see again and their ears stopped ringing Stocklir shooed them all back to their seats and presented Nvara's idea – the Akren headmistress having left during the commotion to summon the Xariath Generals herself.
I envy you. I can't wait to see this new world. Rahkesh thought hard, focusing intensely on Nicodemus. Their mental connection was wobbly at best right now, given the distance and lack of practice.
He felt a response somewhere, but couldn't read the thought. Annoyed Rahkesh tried again, and again, having difficulty forcing his mental shields to stop over reacting. This wasn't some unknown beings attacking his mind, he really had no reason to react this way except blind instinct. Finally he slowly lowered his mental shields, noting as he did that he had almost worked himself into a panic. He needed to practice this more often.
You need to practice that.
I know. What did you say?
It's a pity you can't come with us, this magical world was your idea.
I didn't have anything to do with the actual work.
Neither did we really.
No, but I would rather be fighting anyway. A pause as Rahkesh flipped a page in the newspaper sitting on his desk. Things have gotten pretty bad.
Bad enough that the Amadan fae have already killed off all of their own children. And the werewolves are arguing over whether or not to do the same. The Vascari and Okata are struggling with the same choice. Their children give off more accidental magic than most other species. But it won't be long until everyone has to make that decision.
Unpleasant, but that is war. Nicodemus pointed out. He was as coldly logical as the vampires sometimes.
It still feels wrong somehow. Rahkesh sighed.
Murder usually does. Murder of innocent children…obviously that is wrong. Just as obviously there is no other option. Not unless we can get everyone into the new world very soon.
I know. There is a lot of debate going on amongst humans as to whether or not to consider it a crime to kill those too young to stop their magic from giving their location away. Most humans are outraged at the idea and don't want to hear any justification. It is something the politicians are struggling with. It goes against every moral rule and every law, but I don't see any other way.
I suspect most will hold out as long as possible, hoping for the new world to be ready.
They should! But when it does come time to decide. What do we do? If too many die fighting to save the children, the children get enslaved anyway and now the demons grow stronger. The shelters haven't got room for all the human children, even if it was just us, never mind all the other species. But to kill the children the adults can continue to hide long enough that some will survive and get into the new world, where they can rebuild and continue the fight. It's the only solution, but that doesn't mean it isn't murder.
We'll just have to go find that magical world then and start moving people in.
As quickly as you can.
Of course. Try to make sure there is someone left when we get back. Nic said. Rahkesh smirked a little and let a tiny bit of his thunderbird animagus across.
We're far from finished, and if all else fails the shelters are all good for at least five years.
We leave in four hours, I will let you know when we return.
Good luck, and stay safe, we have no idea what's in that place. Rahkesh said with a telepathic hug. Nic's telepathic presence faded. Rahkesh closed the newspaper detailing the ongoing arguments about what to do with children too young to conceal their magical presence. It was depressing. He hated feeling helpless like this. Glancing down at the potion on the stone side table he saw that it was just starting to turn color and picked up his silver ladle to begin stirring again.
"How was your day?" Daray asked over Rahkesh's shoulder. Rahkesh hissed a few parseltongue curses at him and the vampire backed away, hands up, a tiny grin playing around his lips at hearing the parseltongue. That was always a sure sign that Rahkesh was startled and ticked off.
"The day I find out how you keep getting in here I will set a very, very nasty trap. And feed your roasted remains to a wyvern colony." Rahkesh told him, waving the long handled silver ladle at the vampire's nose. Daray's eyes crossed as he watched the potion coated instrument move back and forth.
"You can't really roast a vampire." The Ateres youngest stated as though pointing out the blatantly obvious.
"I can try."
"What is that?" Daray changed the subject with his usual lack of subtlety. Rahkesh dropped the ladle into the iron cauldron on his table and glared. "What?"
"A shrinking solution. One that will be all over you the next time you sneak up on me."
"A shrinking solution?" Daray asked as though he had not heard the threat. He had, he just didn't care. Yet. He might when that shrinking solution wound up all over his freshly cleaned laundry.
"It shrinks things." Rahkesh drawled slowly.
"I would assume so." Daray replied in the same tone. "Why?"
"For use on pesky vampires."
"Ah. How is Sean?" Daray purred as he leaned against the wall, looking delighted.
"Hurting, I would imagine." Rather a lot actually. Severe flesh-melting burns in the armpits would last a while.
"And?" Daray asked, one eyebrow rising. Rahkesh scowled, he knew from Silas that Daray had used potions to alter his facial muscles to be able to do that.
"I am sure it is painful."
"He'll be in pain for a few days." Rahkesh fought to keep from smiling. Baiting Daray was fun.
Daray sighed and crossed his arms as he dropped, uninvited, onto Rahkesh's couch. Naturally, his favorite perch was already occupied by Satan, who Rahkesh hadn't noticed before. The bat moved aside and jumped onto Daray's shoulder. "Thank you Rahkesh, I got that part. I'll explain the question a bit better for your human ears; what did you do to him? What did you get for winning after he attacked you?"
"Flesh melting curses, his blood, a knife, and an earring." Rahkesh said, not moving enough to even blink.
"What on earth has you so pissy?"
"You appearing from thin air and sneaking up on me."
Daray picked at imaginary lint on his shoulder, "I am brilliant at that sort of thing," he admitted with a drawn out sigh. Daray's black eyes were glittering at him and Rahkesh suspected the vampire was trying very hard to not break out laughing.
"Will you continue to be as smug when this shrinking solution winds up in your toothpaste?" Rahkesh queried as innocently as he could while grinning diabolically.
"You would not." Daray said with no concern at all, "all of my lovely lady friends would be ever so upset at the lack of fangs…and you don't want them all angry at you, do you?"
"Daray you've had fangs your whole life, who knows, you might like not having them." Rahkesh snickered at the way Daray's eyes narrowed and his lip curled in disgust.
"Not to mention you might finally have some luck with our resident lion fae, all of them." Ally added as she stepped into the room from the balcony in a swirl of blond hair.
Rahkesh rolled his eyes heavenwards.
"Does no one around here understand that doors are used for entering rooms and as things to be knocked upon to announce one's entrance?" He asked, uselessly of course. Half the time Akren students just used windows or some sort of magical transport.
"Doors? What are these doors he speaks of?" Daray queried at Ally. "He can't mean that wooden thing that has so many vicious enchantments that it tries to bite me every time I walk past? He can't possibly mean that. If that is what we are supposed to use should it not then be free of enchantment? If only so that we are not forced to find alternate means of entrance?"
"The door bites you?" Ally asked, ignoring the rest of it.
"It has teeth." Daray pointed.
Ally and Rahkesh looked, at perfectly plain, ordinary door made of heavy solid wooden planks stuck together with wooden nails.
"Teeth?" Rahkesh asked. He had never put such an enchantment on his door. His invisibility cloak on the other hand…
"On the knob."
Rahkesh got up and went to his door, Ally leaned over and poked at the door knob.
"See? It has teeth!" Daray said, pointing again. Ally and Rahkesh slowly exchanged looks. Ally backed away, giving the plain wooden door a suspicious look. Rahkesh carefully placed one hand on either side of the door and closed his eyes, searching out his own magics…and then another's.
"Daray…I think you and Silas may need to have a talk."
"Silas…oh he didn't." Daray hissed furiously.
"I'm afraid so, it's only keyed to you." Rahkesh said.
"Excuse me. Cousin dearest and I need to chat." Daray said, stalking out of the room with Satan on his shoulder. Behind him Ally and Rahkesh blinked at each other and shrugged.
"Didn't Silas just redo the enchantments on his own door?" Ally asked, "and hasn't Daray been very careful about not touching them?"
"Yes…but if he's angry…" Rahkesh trailed off. Ally stayed silent, turning to listen in the hallway.
Daray's shriek made them both wince and slam the door shut, hands over their ears.
"Welcome back to Akren. How was the wyvern colony?" Ally grinned, rubbing her ears.
"Everything went fine." Rahkesh said, turning back to his potion. "The wyverns will be with us in the next fight. They are very, very, angry. We still don't know why the demons were attacking them, since they didn't take any prisoners. But whatever the reason the wyverns are ready to fight. I suspect they will be very formidable. They are extremely agile in the air and being able to spit poison or sticky acid ought to surprise the demons. They'll probably only be sent to fight around their colonies, but that does offer some help to what's left of Europe."
"Excellent. Haedil just returned as well. He was with a bunch of alumni gathering griffins and other magical animals. There is quite a menagerie living in Mount Hydra. They've got just about everything capable of fighting. Except dragons. Those are being assembled at several other locations. And chimeras, those are off elsewhere too." Ally explained. "I've been off enchanting gargoyles all day. Half the alumni are out fighting right now, and the Headmistress made an announcement earlier that classes are all still being held and we will be spending most our time learning, not fighting."
"Did she really say that?"
"Yes. Apparently someone thought that we should all be on a permanent rotation and Nvara got pissed off about it. She claims it serves Earth better to have the next generation training rather than fighting."
"Probably true, we had a lot of casualties the first day." Too many, in the first twenty-four hours Akren had lost eight students. Of the Alumni only one was actually dead, though seven were seriously injured and had initially been counted as dead, causing a minor panic.
"The next History of Sentient Magical Life lecture series starts tomorrow night. Professor Kurinan is holding it, care to go?" Ally asked.
"It's a requirement for graduation isn't it?"
"Yes, but we've got until our last year to take it." Ally reminded him. Rahkesh nodded, thinking that he didn't actually know when his last year of schooling was going to be. Students were accepted as young as fifteen, and schooling ended at twenty-one. But Rahkesh had spent a year tossed back in time a thousand years. Never mind that time in the Room of Requirement that had been so essential to preparing him for Akren. He had entered after his sixth year at Hogwarts, at the age of seventeen. He should have had four years at Akren, but he didn't know if his time in the Room of Requirement and back in time with the Chachapoyaro had changed things. He had never thought to discuss it with the Headmistress…he should have and he would have to soon.
"I'll go, who else is coming?"
"The usual suspects, our darling little fanged Ateres, plus Rianae, Justin, Tyler, Haedil, and Hanashi. Oh and Matolo, his new alpha Liam Rusvar, the three Crowlack siblings, Tabor Welden, and Valerie. None of the werewolves from Halax's pack will be there because they're in a fight with Liam's pack over changing room assignments and some such stuff."
"How did you know all that?" Rahkesh asked, since when had Ally been the school gossip?
Ally gave him a pitying look, "there's a sign up sheet on the wall outside Professor Kurinan's office. I signed you up with the rest of us, there're only thirty seats in Kurinan's favorite lecture hall. And the werewolves were just getting into a fight when I left."
"Oh, thanks. Is Professor Kurinan the really old dryad with the pale green skin and the mangled left ear because he got in a fight with a whole pride of lion fae when he was a student here?"
"Yes, that's him. And he only teaches in stone lecture halls because he doesn't approve of using trees for building. Everything in that room is stone. Why they couldn't get plastic seats I have no idea, the stone is cold."
"Plastic can melt under a magical discharge." Rahkesh reminded her, plastic was rare in Akren, or in any part of the magical world, for several reasons, but the ease with which magic melted it was one of the main ones.
"Right, smells really bad. The lecture is at eight tomorrow night. But you necromancy students might be called off to a meeting before then."
"What for?" Rahkesh asked, he'd heard of nothing.
"Not sure…just some interesting stuff that happened while you were away today."
And suddenly Ally's eyes were crinkled at the edges and sparkling with mirth. Rahkesh eyed her warily, happy laughing Ally meant something crazy had happened.
"Interesting how?" Rahkesh asked cautiously.
"The necromancers spent the day out on Falx Field raising a dead army."
Falx Field was a massive expanse off the far end of the Akren mountains. About fifty square kilometers, most of it covered in white falx, a short magical plant appearing to be a cross between grass and fern that was actually gray but turned white in midwinter. Nothing ate white falx, or lived anywhere that had a lot of it, but it could be used to connect and hold on to death magic. Which was probably why most animals and even other plants avoided it. Rahkesh had never been to Falx Field, but he understood it was a location created some time ago by a few bloodmagic and necromancy students as a location for the school to stage massive rituals to raise the dead.
"I'm sorry I missed that." Rahkesh was still waiting for whatever was so amusing about this.
"Have you ever raised the dead?"
"Then don't be sorry. I went to watch and it…well it wasn't exactly what one would expect. In fact it went horribly wrong."
Rahkesh paused over his potion. Necromancy gone horrible wrong was not a good thing. He glanced over at Ally and was not surprised to find her bright eyes dancing with amusement and thoroughly wicked grin on her face.
"There were some more advanced necromancy students out there today. Professor Namach decided they were probably about ready to try raising recently slain corpses. They used muggles, I don't know where the bodies came from. It didn't go well."
Rahkesh quirked an eyebrow at Ally, she was drawing this out intentionally. "That sounds ominous."
Ally's grin broadened.
"Namach must have overestimated them. The student's happy little zombies got a little too happy and ate each other." Ally's grin just about reached her ears. "Really, they ate each other and we wound up with a pile of zombies gnawing on each others' limbs in the middle of the field. The actual necromancers were laughing so hard they couldn't stand and the saber tooth tigers they were raising got loose. There were thirty of them, rotting flesh and all, running around pouncing on everything in sight. Thank goodness the containment magics held. Namach was just went and told the necromancers to get out and made the students try to fix everything. Most of them are just about unconscious from exhaustion. The necromancers will be working all night but I think the students will have a few more classes before Namach tries that again."
"Oh, now I really wish I had been here for that." Rahkesh sighed, grinning at the mental image. He also really wished he was far enough along to start raising the dead. That was maybe a year away, even at his advanced pace of study.
"You'll be starting soon, I think Namach is hoping to pick out the most advanced students and move them along as quickly as possible."
"Thanks for the warning." Rahkesh sighed. Well, for once he wasn't overcome with too much to do. With Voldemort gone a whole section of his worries had evaporated. Now with his hand fixed he only had school work, fighting the demons, and whatever odd transformation he might go through that might somehow make the elves want to kill him. Really it didn't seem like so much…apart from the part about him being terrified of the demons winning this war before the new world was ready.
"I'm sure it'll be fun." Ally said, "how about raising a deceased thunderbird?" Rahkesh looked up from his potion again to stare at her incredulously. "Just for fun?"
"You're out of your mind." Rahkesh stated, "but I already knew that. No. I am not raising a thunderbird…it wouldn't matter if I wanted to since they're not…well they're not like other creatures."
"They're alive aren't they?" Ally asked.
"Sort of?" Rahkesh didn't really know how to explain this since he wasn't so sure himself. "They're created from storms. Their souls just sort of materialize and become part of the storm, they die when the storm does. Unless they become powerful enough to instead switch to a solid bird form. Then they can fly away when the storm dies and try to find a new storm. If they can't find one quick enough they either die, or generate their own. Those are the really problematic ones. They generate a storm by burning up their own energy, and in doing so they lose their solid body. If the storm doesn't become self-sustaining for a while then the thunderbird dies. If they've judged the conditions right and generated their storm in the right place then they gain energy and can survive until that storm dies, at which point they either die or move on again depending upon how much energy they have."
"How does a soul just materialize?" Ally asked curiously.
"I've been asking every professor who might know. Namach knows, so does Xanthius, I think Vaeryes does, and none of them will tell me. Apparently it has to do with what happens to souls after death, and we don't get to know that secret until-"
"-half way through our second year. Yes, I know. It drives me crazy." Ally complained. "You'd think the whole world would want to know and the knowledge would get out somehow."
"It has." Rahkesh pointed out. Everyone knew a little bit about what happened to your soul after you died, he'd even been able to read up on that back home in London. Hogwarts had even had a book on it in the Room of Requirement.
"But not the details. The only people who get to know that are Akren alumni and the Necromancers Guild, and we have to swear a magically binding oath not to tell anyone, and we're not even allowed to do that until two months from now." Ally complained with a sigh.
"Anyhow, I don't think it would be possible to summon a thunderbird's soul." Rahkesh said, "since it would need some sort of backwards magical/electrical magic."
"Which you can produce." Ally reminded him.
"If I want to die."
"Hmm, that would be rather sad I guess." Ally mused, grinning.
"I'm not trying it just because you think it would be entertaining."
"That's okay, I'm sure Professor Namach will have you give it a try someday. Just remember to invite me." Ally chuckled at Rahkesh's sour look. Being a guinea pig for the most powerful creature on earth was not a roll Rahkesh would ever have chosen willingly, but it was one he occasionally had to endure just because there wasn't any other option. That his own magic usually improved from being agreeable to trying bizarre new things was an added benefit, but not one he counted on.
There was another person he could have asked, Professor Janamaski taught bloodmagic, soul magic, and necromancy classes, usually when Namach was busy looking after the vampires and unavailable. But she was in the middle of a five-year trip to Australia that had been extended into readying the local Bloodmages and necromancers for battle. And Rahkesh doubted she'd have told him anyway.
Rahkesh drew the knife up over his right shoulder, down to the center of his chest, and pressed in just enough to draw a few drops of blood. The tiny scratch over his shoulder and chest barely hurt; it hadn't gone deep enough to bleed at all. The mirror hovering in front of him, held in place wandlessly, showed a very faint pinkish line with two lightning bloody bolts drawn through it. There was another identical line coming over his other shoulder. Rahkesh connected the two at the center of his chest then caught the blood drop on the point of his knife and dragged it in a small circle right in the center of his chest. From the bottom of that he drew more fine scratches downwards in a braid that separated above his belly button. He wound one scratch over each hip while the third looped in another circle. Connecting the scratches to others already on his hips he lifted the knife and neatly scratched three runes onto each cheek.
He could feel the magic being pulled over the designs drawn all over him, could feel the magic wrapping into the scratches and could feel it finding his purpose, his intention, and solidifying into it. Rahkesh lowered the blade, leaving it across his legs. He was seated cross-legged on the floor.
Lifting the runes off the floor using only the magic and blood flowing from him, through the runes, and back, he wrapped it around himself, and broke it. The result was a bloody rain that Rahkesh swirled and held suspended. Not wandlessly, but with the magic in his blood. Eventually the droplets scattered, shattered, and spread until he was inside a cloud of solid red. Rahkesh focused and the blood snapped inwards, coating him from head to toe. Finishing with his eyes closed to avoid getting them filled with blood Rahkesh pulled the blood back into the scratches.
A few minutes later he closed the door to the chamber and pressed his hand to the palm print on the wall. Hearing the cleaning enchantments go to work he turned away and cleaned his knife in the basin he had left out before placing the knife back in its plain deer hide sheath.
"Perfectly done," Namach said from beside him. Rahkesh hadn't heard the door open, but his ears were full of the little bit of blood he hadn't managed to get back in via the scratches. He cast a cleaning charm, not bothered about standing around nude in front of the vampire. Doing bloodmagic in rooms with windows meant getting used to that fast. Akren students didn't bother with modesty much, as evidenced by the frequent complete lack of attire at the hot springs. "Perhaps not so perfect, but you got most of it." Namach amended when he saw that Rahkesh had still had blood in his ears.
"I always leave blood in my ears." Rahkesh complained. Namach had yet to miss any of his rituals so he was not surprised to see him there. The ancient vampire was dressed simply in heavy black pants and a dark red top with a black jacket over it. Bloodmetal was in evidence everywhere and bloodmagic runes ran all over the outside of his jacket in bright red runes. His black hair was unusually long and hanging loose, black leather arm guards covered his forearms, coated in bloodmetal.
Rahkesh was a little surprised that the vampire warlord wasn't dressed for battle, but perhaps the arch demons were taking the day off. Rahkesh tilted his head to the said and growled impatiently as he tried to get flakes of dried blood out from behind his ears. Namach grinned, fangs showing just a little. Odd. Normally vampires kept their fangs retracted and looked like they just had normal teeth. Namach just left his fangs as they were far more often than most, but it was still odd to see them.
"Make sure you clean it out before leaving. Your blood smells far too delectable for most of the vampires around here to resist." The ancient vampire advised, eyes glittering as he sniffed the air softly. "Far too delectable, have you been getting attacked more often lately?"
"Twice in the last week." Rahkesh said, Sean had been one, the other hadn't even been a fight. Rahkesh had thrown him out a window with a simple banishing spell. Funny how so many people forgot those worked even if you used a shield you still got banished, along with the shield.
"I'm not surprised. I've rarely smelled blood so fine as yours." Namach said with a sigh before turning and taking Rahkesh's robe off the hanger, handing it to him the vampire watched, eyes glittering with a bit of a glow, as he put it on. "I suggest you put some scent blocking enchantments on that robe, something permanent that will not irritate your skin after a rough ritual."
Rahkesh tossed the robe on, grabbed his wand and used a strong scent concealing spell. That would have to do for the moment. "Thanks for the warning."
"There were…are…ten students watching that ritual. I think they were hoping for another display such as the times you use lightning. Eight of them are vampires and while I trust our Ateres sons to not be so foolish as to attack you the others may. Having you walking around smelling strongly enough to make a vampire's eyes roll while wearing only a robe seemed a recipe for disaster." Namach said, he frowned at Rahkesh, "perhaps something a little stronger" he cast a ward to hide Rahkesh's smell with a flicker of his fingers. "Much better."
"The smell of my blood bothers you too?" Rahkesh asked curiously. He had thought Namach beyond that sort of thing.
Namach turned around and caught him with a glowing silvery-eyed look that made the hairs on Rahkesh's neck stand on end…and then the hairs all the way down his back and arms did the same. That look was entirely predatory, and disturbingly hungry. Involuntarily he took two steps back, eyeing the vampire warily
Dark magic swirled around like a suffocating heavy cloak and Namach's fangs showed in another grin, his eyes sparkling darkly. Rahkesh's skin broke out in goose bumps and went cold, and he wanted to back up again but there was a wall behind him.
"Bothers? No…" Namach drawled, a tiny smile curling his lips. "Bothersome is the smell of a zombies blood. No Rahkesh, your blood is one of the most…enticing…things I have ever scented." His nostrils flared a moment and Rahkesh managed, barely, to not grimace. "With great power and age comes a far stronger sense of smell…and fortunately for you a far stronger sense of self control and self preservation." Namach left the room abruptly, leaving the door open.
Rahkesh lifted Sygra from her spot on the bench and wrapped her around his shoulders and neck, his familiar's presence suddenly very comforting. He had only rarely wondered just how close Namach sometimes came to attempting to drink his blood. The ancient usually kept that part of his nature…not concealed, but not quite so…overpoweringly intense. He didn't usually bother to remind anyone so obviously that they were all just potential prey to him.
Not that Rahkesh could ever forget that Namach was a vampire, not when he carefully watched his body language around the ancient and usually avoided anything verbal or physical that could be challenging, occasionally rude or annoying, yes, but not challenging. He rarely saw Namach get that predatory, and that was when fighting demons, not when hunting humans. Or maybe when dealing with another vampire, not focused on Rahkesh. Rahkesh didn't particularly like being leered at like potential prey, with all that overwhelming dark magic crushing in on him, making him feel like he couldn't breathe or move or think. It was frightening in a way that made him freeze up and his mind turn off, especially terrifying since he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of stopping Namach. Next time he just wouldn't ask.
Namach was talking with Daray outside when Rahkesh exited, carrying Sygra, his knife, and the bowl with the cleaning potion in it. The ancient was back to being his normal self, which, Rahkesh noted, really was very much a very powerful vampire. Funny how close association with him had made Rahkesh stop noticing so much. He wouldn't do that again.
"Meet me in dueling chamber D5 in three hours." Namach said, looking around at Rahkesh, "that piece went well enough that you should be able to test it today." Rahkesh couldn't help grinning.
"Great…uh…this isn't going to involve any of the loose zombies running around is it?" He asked a little hesitantly. He had just finished his first piece of offensive bloodmagic and the zombies…
"Yes, I'm bringing the ones that are still around. Most of them didn't have enough magic, or weren't well enough done, to stay around for more than an hour. But there are six left. They will be excellent for practicing." Namach said, smiling cheerfully. Rahkesh groaned and Namach's grin got wider. "I'm sure you can handle testing this on a bunch of zombies, I promise I won't let them eat you."
Rahkesh snorted at that and shook his head. "No, but this might be a good time to test the shielding ritual I did Wednesday. Five days…I feel great and I've only tested that shield with simple charms. Would a zombie bite be too ambitious?"
Namach thought about it a few moments, "no I suppose not. But before you let any of them starting trying to eat you I would like to test a few light charms on it to gauge the reaction."
Rahkesh sighed and nodded, wondering if that would hurt very much. As he walked away it occurred to him that this was in fact not the actual Tristan Namach. He was off fighting the demon's still-on-going attack. Or it was him, but not really, since it was a golem…though with Namach it was almost impossible to tell the difference.
"With that last accidental mixing there was a total population of eighty Okapi fae." Professor Kurinan told the class. Most of them were just listening while enchanted quills took notes. This wasn't a normal class; it was required for graduation because the final exams the last year of Akren included a quiz on how all the various sentient magical life forms came to be as they were. Everyone could look over the notes then, though really it was remarkably straightforward.
Professor Kurinan was going over the animal fae, which were descended from fae who had moved their minds into the minds of animals after their bodies had been killed. Not terribly unlike what had happened with Sharahak when he had become a demon. In the case of the fae large populations killed at the same time by war, plague, or natural disaster had moved into the bodies of the nearest animals with the best mental capacity. The result a few thousand years later was population of fae who were just as much animal as fae, with all the instincts of the animals whose bodies they had taken, but with the added ability to turn back into hominid life forms when they wished.
Of course, Professor Kurinan wouldn't be able to tell them about the species Rahkesh actually wanted to learn about; the elves and the Vashora. Very little was known about either and those who knew more (Namach) weren't telling.
"Onto the Vascari. Of all the fae species they are perhaps the most unique, having an exoskeleton which covers the entire body as well as an inner skeleton. While the outer layer is called an exoskeleton I should tell you that it is actually more of-"
Shrieking alarms going off on the arm guards of half the class cut Professor Kurinan off mid-sentence.
"Go on." Kurinan said quickly as the students got up and left.
Picking up his weapons and changing quickly into armor in his rooms Rahkesh spun a circular section of metal on one of his armguards. At once a blip of magic leaped off of it giving him a location and an image. Picking up Sygra and a few extra potions he headed for the doors, pausing only to wait for his friends in the hallway outside their rooms.
"Kenya," Daray said, turning to wait as Ally and Rianae appeared.
"Nice of them to send us all out together," Ally said, tying back her hair. Four long blades were strapped to her back, straps around and across her shoulders held two perfectly muggle looking guns, which were enchanted and carrying the latest version of magical bullets designed for demons.
"Since when were there enough magical humans in Kenya to bother with?" Rianae asked.
"More likely they're onto the next stage and this is an attempt to bring in as many demons as possible." Rahkesh thought.
"Yes, this force will contain warriors to attack us and many smaller groups of demons tasked with hunting down humans to bring back to the demon realm. We'll have to remember to go after any demons seen fleeing the battlefield." Justin agreed. "Ready?"
Rahkesh apparated into chaos.
Demons were everywhere, magic was flying, the air smelled singed, humans, werewolves, veela, vampires, goblins, tiny blips of magic as fairies spun around ripping eyes out. Rahkesh ducked some flying debris and bounced a demon's decapitated head off a shield spell. Chaos, complete chaos.
He picked out a rock pile to put his back against and moved forward, hurling curses at every demon in sight, careful to mark the spells so they would turn aside from Earthlings.
Beside him Haedil was tearing through another wave of demons, the Amadan's magic lighting up the air where his spells splintered off the demon's shields. Past him three vampires were moving as a unit, one going high and making his spells drop down from above, the second going for the ground then bringing the spells up beneath the demons, the third holding a shield and going straight for the demon's faces.
Rahkesh rolled under a leaping demon and drove a knife up into its belly just behind the ribs. The thread magic on the leather grip sparked and the blade slid in deep. He twisted the blade and pulled it out. Kicking the demon aside Rahkesh began casting spells, spinning his wand in rapid movements around head height and directing the spells towards their targets by thought.
Massive blasts and flying pieces of demons signaled Ally's arrival. Hurling demons aside and conjuring water directly into their lungs while simultaneously using a highly illegal curse to pull their bowels out Ally cleared a path to where Daray and six other vampires were covering Silas as he picked out a demon and began to hypnotize it. Beside him Nuri was focused on a second demon. Ally placed her back to Silas and started throwing pain curses at demons. In half a minute she had the group surrounded by writhing screaming demons, easy targets.
Dodging demonic magic Rahkesh picked his way through the fight. There had been a forest here once; the burned stumps and shattered trees were everywhere. Now it had all been burned into a crusty ash.
A blaze of demon magic and a body smashed into Rahkesh. He hit the ground hard and rolled fast, creating a shield and throwing six tendon-liquefying curses. The attacking demons swung away, screaming. Rahkesh turned and found himself looking into the eyes of a young woman in his year; he had met her at the entrance to Akren on the first day.
Blood was pumping out of her throat as though from a fountain. Rahkesh pressed his palm over the gash and blood spurted out between his fingers. He focused on ignoring the warm liquid washing everywhere and began attempting a healing spell.
A roaring demon dropped out of the air, a massive metal spear aimed for Rahkesh's head. Rahkesh drew a taser and detached a shrunken axe from the row of miniature weapons attached to his belt like pins. Enlarging the weapon he brought ti up as the demon swung to the left to avoid the taser. The enchanted axe, a project of the metal magic students, sliced through the demon's skull like it was butter.
Turning back to the dying woman next to him Rahkesh once again began to work on her throat while trying to detach the curse that held her immobile.
From above three demons closed their wings and fell towards him, spitting venom and fire before them. Rahkesh was again forced back from his injured companion as he flicked his knife over a few runes and his bloodmagic sprang to life. All across his body a pale blue glow appeared and some of his bloodmagic runes appeared, faint golden lines swirling over him. This was his first defensive bloodmagic; a simple shield. The venom and fire washed off just millimeters above his skin. The heat hurt, but the shield magic had worked.
Rahkesh moved again to begin healing the injured woman's throat…but her eyes had gone glassy and cold. Pausing, for a moment not comprehending, Rahkesh realized she was dead. Her ripped throat gaped open, most of her blood pooled below her and sprayed across the ground around them, and all across Rahkesh. Rahkesh shook himself, double checked to make sure she was in fact dead, then stood and turned his new wand on the attacking demons.
Since his friends seemed to have formed a fighting unit around Silas and were doing fine Rahkesh turned and fought his way to the edge of what remained of the forest. Burned blackened trunks of twisted trees coated in hanging smoke. Out here Rahkesh turned back towards the main fight, killing another demon by driving chunks of rocks through its eyes and into its brain. Spotting a dozen demons flying away he turned and began hurling lightning bolts at them, forcing them to dodge back and closer to him. Pulling out his broom Rahkesh took to the air.
His thunderbird form would be of little use here; he would wind up making things as difficult for his own side as for the demons. The demons were not tight groups and there was only so much area he could really cover. He needed a big packed army of ranks of demons to be truly effective, this mess was better met as a human.
Pulling out his bloodmagic knife Rahkesh lightly scratched a few runes on his cheek. His latest bloodmagic, the very first offensive bloodmagic he had done, lit up and he felt the magic surge. Reach out with one hand Rahkesh called upon his newest bloodmagic and felt the air respond. Opening his palm he pushed the air he now controlled out around a demon, then made a fist. The demon screamed in agony as its wings snapped. Rahkesh could hear shattering bones and the demon fell out of the air.
He caught another demon the same way before the remaining ten figured it out and began moving too quickly to catch. He had chosen to do this bit of bloodmagic as his first offensive magic specifically for battle with flying demons. However, as he had only done the first piece of a ten piece set he couldn't move the air very quickly, nor long distance, nor in difficult weather conditions. The fast dodging demons were spinning through the air too quickly. Rahkesh bent low on his broom and went after them. Now high over most of the fight and speeding further away he felt safe unleashing wave after wave of lightning after the demons. They dodged that too, only to be caught in the curses Rahkesh sent behind the lightning bolts.
Dropping the last dead demon of the unit he had been hunting Rahkesh spun and glanced up at the skies, looking for another pack fleeing the fight. Any demons leaving were likely searching out the nearest magical settlements to capture whoever happened to be left. It was essential that the demons not gain any prisoners, not just for the good of the unfortunate beings captured, but also for those still fighting.
The last demon went down under Ally's flashing fire whips, sliced to ribbons and with blue smoking magic pouring from its ruined eye sockets. Ally decapitated it and another fighter quickly snatched up its weapons in a bundle of thread magic, before they could vaporize.
That was a new trick; the demon's weapons all turned to ash and vapor as the demon died, leaving nothing behind. It would make using their own magic against them difficult. But thread magic had advanced a lot in the last thousand years, and the demons had apparently not caught on. Cloth in which every weave and stitch was filled with magic could hold the weapons, if created correctly. Fortunately for Earth the Akren Headmistress Nvara Aelfly and anticipated difficulties in handling the demon's weapons and had gotten the threadmages started on creating large sheets of enchanted cloth three weeks previously.
Rahkesh was coated in blood, reeked of death, and felt like his legs were made of lead. Every muscle ached and his joints protested as he cleaned and put away his knives, tasers, sword, axes, and his two enchanted handguns. He had not shifted into either animagus form this time – the battle had been too spread out over the charred forest. Lightning was ineffective against a dispersed enemy and the chaotic wind and rain just as hard for his own side as on their opponents. He needed demons clumped in a massive army to be truly destructive. Here they had abandoned their strict ranks and attacked on their own. Sixty thousand or so of them, but none tightly packed. Perhaps they were learning. Perhaps not, he had picked off forty or so flying beta demons with lightning bolts from the ground.
One of the demon sorcerers was still glowing, even after it had died. Sparks were flying everywhere as another sorcerer slowly turned into a little heap of grayish liquid. Rahkesh wondered what spell that had been; whatever it was had taken out an armored alpha sorcerer with remarkable effectiveness.
"No arch demons. I wonder where they are?" Daray asked no one in particular as he limped around the corpse of another sorcerer, an adult alpha demon that he had slain in a nasty ten minute duel. This portal must have been a very powerful one.
"No idea. I suggest you ask our resident Ice Dragon." Rahkesh chuckled. Namach was having fun with the arch demon armies, even if they usually tore him up badly.
Silas was surrounded by four of the other Ateres vampires. They had all returned to being vampires, the dark angel animagus closed away for the moment. Rahkesh recognized Grath and Sierra, but none of the others. Sierra was removing the armor from dead demons and packaging it before it disintegrated. Grath had an arm around Silas's shoulders, Silas leaning on him heavily and looking exhausted. The remaining two were locking up eleven demons in threadmagic and metal magic enchanted chains.
"How'd it go?" Rahkesh asked Silas as he limped over to them. His left foot hurt from having a demon tail spike driven through it. All of his best healing magics were still working on fixing that, and the scars on his right hand ached terribly.
"Pretty good." Silas said, "I'm getting faster…though I feel like I'm missing all the fighting because I'm too busy capturing demons. I'm not sure I like that…missing the battles."
"You're doing something far more important," Rahkesh assured him. He knew what Silas was talking about though. Silas had been turned into a vampire by the lesser outcasts of the Ateres family, and the search that had located him in a muggle orphanage had also located Daray. Cyala had taken Daray for her part of the family and turned Silas over to the less powerful outcasts. Silas himself had few truly extraordinary abilities. Daray was practically a bloodmagic savant, very skilled in wandless magic, an exemplary potions brewer, and very capable with large-scale difficult transfigurations. Never mind his current work independent-study in threadmagic and his alpha demon animagus. Silas had his remarkable animagus, and his ability to hypnotize. While he was ahead in most of his studies and doing very, very well, he was still no match for his cousin and never would be – and there was the reason why Cyala hadn't taken him for herself. All of this left Silas always just a little anxious to prove his capabilities.
"I have to agree with that. More information will give us a greater advantage than even a few thousand extra fighters would," Daray pointed out, poking one of the chained sleeping demons with his toe. Rahkesh thought Silas was likely way too hard on himself. He had captured and hypnotized several demons in their first battle too. And so far Silas was the only one aside from Tristan Namach who had succeeded in capturing a demon alive. And given that Namach was, well, Namach, he didn't count. True, there weren't many people even trying, but having eleven down and sleeping at his feet after maybe two or three hours was certainly a respectable accomplishment.
"About that, are any of the last batch talking yet?" Ally asked. Around them the others fighters were gathering the wounded and dead and removing them to tents the medical team had brought in just over the horizon.
"Oh yes," Sierra grinned, "Sharahak has been with them since the first battle ended. Namach isn't putting him into the fights anymore, Sharahak is more useful chatting with our captives. We have Saforin doing the interrogations, with Sabien helping. They're getting very good at it. Sabien likes to play mind games and trick them into talking while Saforin is an expert at torture."
Rahkesh bent down to examine one of the demons Silas had knocked out. A sudden telepathic nudge to his mind startled him enough to almost make him lose his balance.
"Rahkesh?" Ally asked.
"Just a sec," Rahkesh said, concentrating. A few seconds later he recognized Nicodemus.
Nic! You're back?
Just returned. Nic's telepathic voice sounded smugly amused.
The new magical world?
Thriving. Perfectly fine…except for one thing.
What? Rahkesh asked with sudden dread.
The barrier between the worlds, it's constantly fluctuating. We can't get back and forth across it but maybe once every other week. And we can't take but a few people with us. Maybe twenty at a time at most.
Twenty every two weeks! Rahkesh was horrified, at that rate…It'll take years to bring everyone across!
I know. I am reporting to the MLFC in two hours. I would like you to be there please. The original reconnaissance team has a way to allow everyone to sense the barrier. I would like your take on it, from your thunderbird's point of view.
I will be there. Rahkesh promised. Nic's presence faded and Rahkesh blinked a few times before turning to see everyone standing around him, waiting.
"Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"
Rlease Review, my intnernet access is extremely limited but I ought to be able to check in to read reviews every day or two.