Mia didn’t wake up until late the next morning. She had spent most of her night meditating after she returned from the Devil’s Pot. It had been a trick she used after she had first escaped to center herself. She imagined her magic as a red mist. She gathered the mist in to a bubble and put up barriers around the bubble. She had been taught to imagine a brick wall as a barrier to block others from entering her mind. She used the same idea but instead of a brick wall, she imagined a thorny briar wrapping around the bubble, that way it would keep the magic in and the mind searching for her out. Sort of like a double bladed sword, it could cut either way.
Mia dragged herself out of bed and headed to the kitchen, her long night shirt brushing against her bare knees with each step. Goosebumps ran up her arms and legs from the chilly apartment air. A cup of hot coffee would be good to warm her up. Setting a pot on the stove, she poured in some water to heat up while she rummaged through her cabinets looking for the instant coffee.
The canister was nearly empty but there was enough for one more cup. She would have to remember to buy more the next time she went to the grocery store. She normally didn’t make herself coffee; usually she would grab a free cup from the café at Books and Beans with her free meal. The coffee there was the good stuff. None of the cheap crap, which was all she could afford. But today she was off and this was going to have to do.
Once the water was boiling, she poured enough in to the mug to fill it up. Grabbing a clean spoon from the dish rack she stirred the coffee around until it had completely dissolved, before taking a big gulp.
It was still really hot and the liquid burned her mouth, but she endured the pain. Right now she needed the caffeine and the heat. She needed a clear head and she needed to think. What was she going to do now?
Setting her coffee cup on the kitchen counter, Mia opened the refrigerator to see what she had in there to eat. She frowned as she looked at the contents, a half empty jar of mayonnaise, a head of wilted lettuce and a bowl of day old soup, leftovers from her lunch the other day. She really needed to go grocery shopping.
She wouldn’t get paid till next week, but she should have enough money to spare to put food back in her fridge. Pulling the soup out of the fridge, she threw the ceramic container into the microwave to heat up while she changed clothes. She would go grocery shopping after she finished her soup.
Pulling a clean pair of jean, a long sleeve shirt, and a pair of socks out of her duffel bag she quickly changed her clothes. She hung her long night shirt on the hook on the back of the bathroom door and headed back in to the kitchen.
The microwave was already beeping as she walked into the room. Grabbing a pot holder off the kitchen counter, she opened the microwave door and took out her steaming bowl of soup. She had just set it down on the bar that separated the kitchen from living room that also served as her dining table when there was a knock on her door.
She contemplated on whether or not she should open the door. After the night she had, she really didn’t want to deal with anymore drama and she had a feeling if she opened that door that is what she was going to get. As she stood there thinking about it her person began pounding on her door once more.
“Mia Carlisle, open up,” Ronan’s voice came through the wood muffled but clear. With a sigh, Mia took a longing look at her bowl of soup before she headed to the apartment door. She unlocked the deadbolt but kept the chain lock on as she opened the door the few inches it allowed. She still remembered all too clearly what the man thought about her. She didn’t really feel safe trapped in an apartment alone with him.
“Yes?” She said hesitantly, as she peered through the gap between door and wall.
“You’re coming with me,” Ronan said as he pushed on the door, she felt a flutter of magic before the steel chain holding the door closed fell apart, split right in two down the middle. Mia hardly had time to notice as Ronan pushed his way into the room.
“I hope you plan on replacing that,” Mia said as she crossed her eyes and glared at the large man.
“I don’t have time for your games, I need you to come with me immediately,” Ronan said as he grabbed her arm none too gently.
“Do you mind?” Mia said as she pulled her arm free from his grasp, “I was just going to eat my breakfast.”
“We don’t have time for you to eat. We’re already late. I have a crime scene to get to and you’re coming with me,” Ronan said as he reached out for her again.
Mia gasped, she had almost forgotten about the blood magic from last night. She had been too busy trying not to fall to its lure that she completely forgot what it meant that someone was raising so much magic. Someone, or more likely, multiple people had probably lost their lives for that much magic to be gathered.
“Stop playing around. We need to leave now,” He said as he grabbed her arm and began to drag her out of the apartment.
“What do you need me for? I didn’t have anything to do with it?” Mia said as she began to fight him, afraid at what might happen if she left with this man. Would she come back at all, especially if he thought she was responsible for the crimes or would he hand her over to the Guild to do what they please?
“I really don’t have time for these games. I have a major crime scene that I have to get to and you need to come with me. I need an expert on blood magic, and right now, you’re all I’ve got,” Ronan said as he released her. “If this wasn’t something so big, I wouldn’t even bother with you. But right now we’re in over our heads and we need some help. So will you please just come with me?”
Mia frowned, but she could see the desperation in his eyes and hear the tremor of fear in his voice. Just what had Marco done to scare this man?
“Let me just grab my purse and keys,” Mia said, “I’ll be right back.”
She quickly hurried back in to her apartment, she ran to her bedroom and grabbed her arm sheath and two daggers. She didn’t have time to put them on know so she threw them in her purse. She grabbed her gray hoodie and pulled it on, before snatching her keys off her dresser.
She stopped off quickly in her kitchen just to grab the hot soup and throw it back in the fridge. She didn’t have enough food in her apartment that she could let good food go to waste. She would come back and eat it. But her stomach really wasn’t happy about it.
She quickly locked the door knob and shut the apartment door behind her. She didn’t have time to lock the dead bolt, but for now, that was going to have to do. She didn’t think Ronan had enough patience left to wait for her any longer.
He was waiting at the edge of the stairwell at the end of the hall. She hurried to follow him as he headed down the concrete stairs. He was out the building door by the time Mia made it to the end of the hall. She could hear the metal door slamming shut.
She ran down the stairs and followed him. When she opened the heavy metal door, it was to find a large black SUV waiting right in front of her. The vehicle was already running and Ronan was in the driver’s seat.
She hastily opened the door and climbed in. She barely had her seatbelt on before he took off. She was thrown back in to her seat as he sped down Main Street and towards the university campus.
“We’re not going to have much time. Right now Alistair has control of the scene. He was able to get men still loyal to him to hold the scene till back up can arrive. We probably won’t have more than five, ten minutes before others start to arrive. They can’t see you there so it’s going to be in an out. I’m going to get you to the main scene and get you out,” Ronan spoke quickly.
They passed through the outer gates of University campus. The security guard at the gate just waved them through before Ronan could even slow down. He reached in to the back seat of the SUV as he turned up one of the side roads that led towards the athletic buildings.
“Here, put this on. We can’t have anyone noticing you,” He threw a large black jacket on at her. The guild emblem was emblazoned on the back of the jacket. It was a heavy thick jacket that would keep her nice and warm. It was also huge. It would fall to her knees if she were to wear it.
“Put this on to,” Ronan said as he threw a black hat at her as well, “Pull up your hair and hide it in the cap. The less people see of you, the better.”
Unable to pull the jacket on while she was buckled up, she decided to pull the cap on instead. Gathering up her blond curls in a tight bun, she pulled the cap over her head, holding the hair in place.
Ronan drove down a narrow asphalt road that led towards the track and field. The area was furthest away from campus and surrounded by tall pine trees. Through the trees, Mia could see rows of metal bleachers surrounding the red clay running track. In the middle of the track was a grassy field.
The closer they got to the track, the fewer the trees grew and Mia could not make out a group of people standing in the middle of the grassy field. A blue tarp had been laid out on a large space and there were a group of men standing around the tarp talking to one another. Some had clipboards in their hands, while others had cameras. One man who had his back to her was on a cellphone, his stance stiff and his back straight.
Ronan finally reached the field as parked his SUV next to a row of other Guild issued vehicles. He opened his door and was out in a flash. Mia hurried to follow. Released her seat belt and opening the passenger door. She hopped out of the SUV, her sneakers crunching on the red gravel. She quickly pulled on the heavy guild jacket, zipping it up to keep her warm.
Ronan had already taken off towards the group of men, not even bothering to watch if she followed. Swinging her purse over her shoulder she took off after him. The grass was wet and beads of dew wet the ends of her jeans as she followed Ronan. She realized if she planned to stay through the winter, she was definitely going to need new clothes.
Ronan headed straight towards the man who was on the phone. He seemed to be the one in charge. As the man turned toward Ronan, Mia realized it was Mr. Rosen. He nodded tersely to Ronan before turning his attention back to the person on the other end of the phone.
“Listen to me Roger, I have six dead bodies. All drained of blood, all young women under the age of twenty. This is not the act of a serial killer, this is a ritualistic killing. Someone used these innocent women for a powerful blood magic spell and I want to know how the hell none of your supposed sources knew a thing about it,” Mr. Rosen shouted in to the phone.
Six bodies? There weren’t too many spells that needed that much blood. With a frown, Mia moved toward Ronan, who stood at the edge of the tarp, he lifted it up and looked under, a deep scowl on his lips.
She stopped next to him and squatted down to get a better look. Mr. Rosen had been right, all the women were young. They were barely women, a couple of them still looked young enough to be in high school.
With just a glance, Mia could see nothing that these young women had in common. Hair color, eye color, skin color, nothing was the same. Some girls were dressed in sweaters and jeans, while others were dressed in designers labels that Mia couldn’t even hope to afford. None of them had anything in common. At least, from just a visual inspection.
Mia knew she would have to go deeper.
“Could you lift the tarp up a little higher?” Mia asked as she shuffled closer to the first body.
The young woman’s empty blue eyes stared straight up, her gray cracked lips were parted slightly. She wore a sweatshirt with the university logo on and a pair of sweat pants. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She had probably just set out for a run but instead she had walked to her death.
There was no blood splattered on her clothes. If there was anything left, Mia would have sensed it. Like the other girls, this young woman had been drained dry.
“Here,” Ronan said as he handed her a pair of disposable latex gloves. Mia quickly slid them on before she lifted the sleeves of the girl’s sweatshirt. She found nothing, no lacerations, no cuts, nothing. She moved the collar of the sweat shirt and found nothing. She rolled up the girl’s sweat pants to her knees. Her sneakers were still tied tightly and obviously had not been removed. She even titled the head so she could look in to her mouth.
With a frown she quickly moved to the next girl, taking a quick inspection before moving on down the line. Like the first girl, none of them had been cut anywhere. Mia stood back up and moved back to stand at Ronan’s side.
There was no wounds, no blood on their clothes or bodies, yet there blood had been removed somehow. Mia knew a few spells that could do that, but they were very powerful spells and required skilled magic users. She was talking A-level blood magic users and there weren’t too many of them that she knew who could do this.
Mia also noticed that the girls were complete magical voids, meaning they were either Norms, which would be a shit storm if it were to reach the public, or all the magic had been sucked right out of them. Something she would have to look into. She knew blood could be drained, but magic, she had heard stories but she had never seen it done.
“So, what can you tell us?” Ronan asked.
“Well, this was definitely blood magic, high level blood magic. You’re going up against an A-Level magic user,” Mia told him.
“Is there anything you can tell me that we haven’t already figured out on our own,” Ronan retorted.
Mia scowled at him, “You’re not hearing what I’m saying. The type of magic that did this, isn’t your normal run of the mill blood magic spell. Not just any A-Level blood magic user can do this. The skill it requires is insanely high. To remove the blood from the bodies without any incisions is extremely hard. Much less to not leave even a single drop remaining on their clothing or hair, almost impossible. I’m not even sure I could do this.”
“But you know how?” Ronan asked.
“Theoretically, yes. I’ve never done it before. I’ve seen it done once, I was very young and it was to set an example, a warning to all. One of my grandmother’s disciples betrayed her. I was too young to remember exactly what the woman did, but the punishment was far too harsh for any crime a person could commit in my opinion,” Mia said with a shiver.
“They strapped the woman down to four pegs that had been pounded in to the ground. Her arms were bound with hot irons that burned her wrists and ankles. The woman screamed as they chained, but her screams where nothing compared to the sounds she made as my grandmother bled her dry.”
“I don’t remember the exact words of the spell, and the time I was too horrified to pay attention. All I remember was that the words sounded ancient, guttural in tone. My grandmother walked around the woman in a circle as she spoke the words. The woman began to moan at first. Tossing her head back and forth as her eyes rolled back in to her head so that all you could see where the whites. Soon the whites of her eyes turned red and blood began to pour from her eyes. Then it began to leak from her ears, and her mouth. Then it even began to drip from her pours. By then the woman was screaming and screaming. But she was choking on her own blood as it poured from her mouth.”
Ronan paled as he listened to Mia, she knew she could stop now and he would understand just how difficult a spell it was, but Mia wanted him to truly understand just how powerful blood magic was, and just how terrifying it was.
“When the woman finally grew silent and her body stilled, all that was left of her was a husk. Her skin had no color and was dry and leathery. Her eyes had rolled back down but where now empty. Her mouth hung open on that one last final cry. Above her floated a sphere of blood the size large globe. All the blood that had been in her body moments before now hung above her. My grandmother then took that blood, she bound it to her, she spoke the words that gave her power over it, and then she thrust in body in the empty shell of the woman.”
“The sound that came from that woman’s mouth was indescribable. It hurt to hear. It was filled with so much pain and horror. But what was far worse was what happened when she stopped making the sound.”
“If the woman had hoped death would be her escape, she had been wrong. My grandmother bound that woman’s soul to that body. She bound the woman to the dead body and she bound the woman to her. Now the woman could never betray her again. She had no will of her own. She now had to obey every command given by my grandmother. Her mind was still alive, she knew what she was doing, but she had no choice on doing it. She was my grandmother’s slave and there was no escape. Not even death could free her because she was already dead. In order to keep her body from decaying she needs to drink fresh blood every day. Otherwise she will have to live out the rest of eternity in a decomposing husk.”
“I thought those were just rumors,” Ronan said hoarsely when Mia finished.
“So the same thing was done to these girls?” Ronan asked with a shiver as he turned back to the dead bodies.
“Not exactly, this looks like it was done with more finesse. These women don’t look like they were in pain. There is a chance the killer killed them first then drained them of their blood. If all they needed the blood for was a spell, it would have been easier to kill them first. I’m sure someone would have heard the screaming from far away. It’s a sound you aren’t likely to miss,” Mia said as she pulled off the latex gloves.
“Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing,” Mia said as she crossed her arms over her chest, “There aren’t too many blood magic users that could do this. At least not that many that I know of.”
“There is one thing you may want to look into,” Mia said as she turned to look at Ronan, “Do a background check once you identify these women and see if their Norms, or were they magic users.”
“Because either these women had no magic to start off with or whatever magic they had was drained out of them along with their blood. If that’s the case, well then we’re in deep shit because although I’ve heard theory on such a thing being possible, I have yet to hear of anyone actually accomplishing it. If the person had succeeded where even my grandmother has failed, well then, we’re pretty much screwed,” Mia told him.
“Great,” Ronan muttered with a frown. His eyes locked on the bodies of the six young women.
Next: Chapter Eight