Disclaimer: If you recognise it, it's not mine, if you don't, well that might not be mine either.

Salvation in the Devil's Triangle

Chapter 10: Hooray for Grudges

Alex was quick to fall back into the routine of school and he was glad that news of his escapades over the break hadn't seemed to have made it to the ears of the students. It would have been embarrassing, not to mention the blow to his developing reputation.

Classes had begun again and Alex was pleased that he was no longer behind, even in arithmacy, runes, and blood magic, the classes which he had been allowed to skip levels in, he found he was still on track. Charms and transfiguration as usual he was on track with, while continuing to be much better at the practical than the theoretical. Alex had decided to switch to magical defense instead of non magical for the term, much to Claire's disappointment, though their sessions continued so it wasn't as though he was going to get out of fighting shape.

Alex continued to have to deal with the grudge that the Gröthemer family had against him, it seemed as though he would have to beat them all into submission if he was going to get any rest. He just waited for the day when he would be bested by one of the older vampires who had yet to pay him any head and he would pay the consequences, hopefully he would live through the experience.

To that end, Alex was once again studying ahead in his favorite subject: blood magic and he was working on his first ritual. This one was the first of a series of seven that would increase his stamina, he was also planning one for increased strength, and one for speed; however he was having trouble due to the fact that his blood had yet to settle due to his changing genetics. Because of this he had to weave a much more flexible design to his runes that would normally not be necessary, but that would hopefully make sure that his blood magic would stay bonded to him no matter what changes his genetics put him through.

His sessions with Professor Xiloscient had continued and Alex was beginning to feel as though he hadn't gotten the short end of the stick as much as he had previously believed. Since they were done with preliminary testing all that was left to do was to continue to monitor his condition, and while he still had to endure some rather uncomfortable tests it was not as bad as before and they were able to spend more teaching him healing charms which he already knew would be immensely useful in the future, he couldn't do much beyond healing simple fractures, bruises and the like, but it was a start.

As much as he had felt like a loner bookworm at the beginning of his first term, that feeling had completely left. He still spent the majority of his time studying, but the knowledge that he had even just one good friend in his new world was enough. Claire could be abrasive at times, and had a tendancy to get distant when emotional, but he had his down falls as well and he knew that they grew closer with each passing day. He began to wonder if he would begin to collect near death experiences here that would allow him to bond closer to his friends as he did before. Maybe it would work out better this time than it had before.

On the subject of friends, he hadn't made any more, but he had found himself a rival. Darius Gälanodyl was at the top of his blood magic class before Alex had arrived and was determined to keep that title, as determined as Alex was to take it from him. The young elf was extremely knowledgeable and talented and had a gift with blending nature magic into his rituals that Alex found inspiring. Alex knew next to nothing about nature magicks, but Darius, as an elf, had been taught them from a young age and could now manipulate his element: earth to do most anything he could think of and was developing blood magic to further develop his abilities, Alex found himself rather envious, but didn't know where to start or who to ask about learning even what his element was. Because of this Alex set himself to work even harder and prove his flexibility and creativity with blood magic.

To this end Alex had decided that in addition to the stamina, strength, and speed rituals (which were rather basic, but still necessary if he wanted to compete with vampires and others with increased physical abilities, such as elves), he would also begin to design a ritual that would prove his superiority not just to the professor and Darius, but to himself. He had begun to take great pride in his prowess in blood magic and he didn't want to lose the feeling.

Alex spent many hours in the library researching until he finally discovered the perfect ritual, or rather the idea for the perfect ritual, as far as he knew no one had ever attempted something like it, though the theory had been previously established. Probably, no one else had felt they had such a need, but Alex's recent experiences had caused him to be much more wary of the weakness of needing a wand. And so Alexander Grey designed a ritual to bond his wand to him.

While seemingly simple, the magicks involved were quite complicated. Alex wanted to be able to call his wand to his hand from any distance, which meant the wand would have to be teleported somehow. While this effect could be achieved through many means, some could be blocked by various wards and such, so Alex chose to tie his magic to the magic of the wand. In essence what he was doing was changing his wand into pure magic and forcing that magic to become a part of his own. If the ritual worked as it was supposed to then Alex would be able to manifest or banish his wand on a whim, though there were a few magicks that would still be able to stop it they were very few.

Alex became rather obsessed with his projects, so much so that he forgot what blood magic rituals contained. If wouldn't be inanimate object or plants or animals that his knives would be carving the runes into, it was his skin. As much as he was aware of how the rune arrays had to be placed at certain parts of the body, how utility, pressure points, and the like played a point he forgot about the pain. The pain and the risk of death. One wrong rune in a ritual and you could die in some of the worst ways possible, or worse live with the worst of consequences. Alex forgot about these things until the night of his first ritual when it all hit home.

Alex need not have worried, his preparations had been perfect, his design suited his magic well and the chamber the school maintained for these sorts of things had been well chosen. Everything from the location to the design to the position he sat in to the time of year affected the ritual in one way or another and Alex had been tireless in his research to find the exact ones for his rituals. Alex downed the strongest pain relief potion he could without its magic adversely affecting the ritual and hoped for the best.

Alex would spend the entire rest of the term designing and performing the four rituals he set out for himself, and even Darius would admit the prowess he would show in his wand binding ritual, but for now he had more immediate concerns.

Velocity Gröthemer was the head of the vampires from the house of envy that resided a Skölm and a sixth year. The constant fights between her house and Alex had begun to annoy her as she believed that they were waiting their time with a puny human like him, even if he was beating them. So it was early march that Alex received and official challenge from her.

Alex had expected the challenge, but that didn't make him ready to face it, but there was no way to turn it down, the vampires would find it insulting and assault him without issuing a challenge or fighting fair, so he accepted.

The terms were simple, which Alex liked, all powers and weapons were allowed, if he won, the envy vamps at the school would leave him alone, if he lost he would go through Nessie. Nessie was one of the guardians of the school and few students had survived the task of stealing one of her eggs, though it was still one of the pastimes of the school.

Alex walked into the dueling chamber staff in hand and wand tucked away in his magic. Ever since performing the ritual, Alex had, had a much easier time with staff combat as he didn't need to hold onto his wand at the same time.

Velocity was already waiting for him, a smirk on her face. She was taller than Alex, her long blond hair was up in a bun to keep out of the way and her sharp, green eyes didn't leave Alex from the moment he entered the room.

The pair stood opposite one another ten paces apart and made ready. Alex stretched a bit before holding his staff diagonally from himself in a position that Claire's maker: Elizabella had shown him and waited for the signal to begin. One of the spectators rose and gave the starting signal and Alex watched as Velocity launched herself at him almost faster than he could see. He wondered for a moment if there was a ritual to increase the speed at which his mind interpreted his sight and he parried he barehanded bow with his staff.

Velocity made up for her failed initial attack by landing a blow to Alex's solar plexus and sending him across the room. Alex broke the fall with a roll and was soon back on his feet. He called his wand to his hand and sent a stunner and a bone breaker at his opponent, both were dodged and Alex quickly banished his wand again when the fight once again became close quartered and he had his work cut out for him blocking the elder vampire's strikes.

Alex made another attempt to take the fight into the magical realm only for the envy vamp to pull out her own wand and send a stunner his way, he shielded and sent a jelly legs hex and a stunner of his own, however the second incantation didn't leave him with enough time shield against her volley of bone breakers. Alex tried to dodge, but was unsuccessful, and caught one each in his left leg and arm. It took but a moment for Velocity to rush over and deliver the finishing blow to his temple.

A half hour later he woke up to a throbbing headache and the familiar sight of Claire helping him to his feet. She had already fixed his bones and bruises and the two quickly began a discussion of the fight.

"I thought it went rather well considering the circumstances, maybe you should try to tie your staff to you as you did your wand," Claire commented as they walked back to the dorms.

"Maybe, but that would only work if I had a magical staff, on the other hand I have been meaning to learn staff magic anyways," Alex mused, "Anyways, I'm off to bed, I have a giant sea monster to steal an egg from and I want as much time to prepare as possible and I don't see Velocity giving me much time to study."

Alex was correct; the next day he received notice that the challenge was to be completed that weekend, so he set in to do as much research as possible before he had to swim out into the unknown.