25 years ago

“Find them and kill the boy!” Her grandmother’s voice roared through the large manor.

Amelia clutched the boy tightly to her chest as she sped down the dark hallway. Her footsteps silent on the rug covered stone. She hazarded a quick glance down at the boy in her arms. What she could make out through the dirty wool blanket she wrapped around him wasn’t good. His skin had turned a pasty white, and his lips were nearly purple. There was a  thin trail of blood that ran down his face from a cut just below his hairline. It wasn’t a lot of blood, but Amelia could feel the tingle of power there, power just waiting to be tapped.

Mia gritted her teeth. The blood called to her. Its song was like a siren’s call, hypnotizing and all consuming. She wanted so much to give in to its lure, to just close her eyes and fall in to the madness. The only thing stopping her was the bundle cradled in her arms. If she were to give in to the blood lust now, his life would be sacrificed. She would take and take until she bleed him dry. Once she gave in, nothing would stop her, not even taking the life of the one she yearned so much to save.

The sound of pounding footsteps came from down the hallway behind her. Shaking her head, she forced herself to pay attention to what was in front of her. She didn’t have time to fall under the blood’s siren song. She knew it wouldn’t be long before someone would spot them. Ducking in to the first open door she came across, Amelia pressed her back against the hard stone wall, keeping her breath as shallow as possible as she listened to the footsteps as they drew closer.

“Where did she go?” One of her pursuers demanded harshly. Amelia immediately recognized the voice as that of her cousin Delilah. Amelia had many cousins. Nearly everyone in her who lived in the manor was related to her in one way or another. But Delilah was her father’s sister’s daughter. They had been raised together.

Delilah wasn’t the strongest blood magic user, but what she lacked in power she made up in other gifts. Delilah was a Tracker. She could scent magic. She could follow a trail ten days old. Amelia had never heard of another tracker talented enough to track a scent more than three days old.

The only thing that was saving Amelia at this moment was that the manor was saturated with her grandmother’s magic. Even a tracker as talented as Delilah wouldn’t be able to scent Amelia even if she stood right in front of her.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” Delilah’s older brother Marco snapped back at her, “It was your job to watch her. What the hell were you doing?”

“She said she was thirsty. I only went to the bathroom to get her a drink. My back was turned for ten seconds at most. She was supposed to be drugged. How was I to know she would get away? I don’t even know how she got those chains off,” Delilah snarled back as they passed the open door.

“She’s a goddamn blood-letter. You should’ve never taken your eyes off of her,” Marco growled as they hurried down the hall pass Amelia’s door, “She probably turned her blood in to a blade and sliced through the chains. Blood-letters don’t need a weapon when their whole damn bodies are weapons.”

“How did she get to the boy anyway? There were two guards at the door and two more inside the room. Not to mention that grandmother warded the room herself. Yet, no one saw her enter and the wards are still up,” Delilah complained, her voice softer as they got further away.

“Just because you couldn’t do something like that doesn’t mean Amelia couldn’t. Her magic is strong. She could have easily brushed past the guards and breezed through the wards without being seen. Grandmother trained her well.”

“Yeah, well she trained her too damn well. Now she’s using everything she learned against us,” Delilah growled, “But my question is why? Why is she doing this? Risking everything to save a child whose not even one of us? He’s not of the Blood. He’s a nothing. He may have power, but she could easily bleed him dry and take that power for herself. I don’t get it. Why is she giving up everything for this one child?”

Amelia listened to the sounds of her cousins’ footstep fade as they got further away. She leaned her head back against the wall as she wondered the same thing. Why was she risking everything to save this boy? Her grandmother was furious, beyond furious. She wouldn’t kill Amelia though. No, Amelia was too important to her. But there were a lot of things that could be done that wouldn’t kill you. Amelia knew that all well. There were scars on her body that had come from her grandmother’s punishments, scars that would never fade, not from her body or from her mind.

A shiver ran down her spine just thinking about the horrors her grandmother liked to visit upon those who disobeyed her. What would she do to someone who betrayed her? Amelia didn’t know, but she knew it would be terrible, too terrible for words.

So why was she risking punishment for this boy? He wasn’t related to her. Like Deliliah said, he was a nothing. Just another toy her grandmother had found. He wasn’t worth the pain she would suffer when they find her. And they would find her, Amelia reminded herself. She wasn’t stupid enough to think she could escape. Her grandmother was too powerful. As strong as Amelia was, she was nothing compared to her grandmother. She didn’t stand a chance. Yet still, she couldn’t abandon the boy. She couldn’t let them have him. Already his arms and back bore the scars of the blood knives, too many scars for one so young. She still didn’t know why, but every part of her being refused to allow him to suffer any further. She wouldn’t let them have him back.

Clutching the boy tighter to her, she closed her eyes. She needed to calm down and think. If she was going to get him out of here alive she needed to think. By now all of her cousins and her grandmother’s men were searching the grounds for her. All the exits would be blocked. She needed to think of some other way to get out of here.

The grounds around her grandmother’s manor were warded, but that didn’t worry her. She knew she could break through them. But it would cost her. Breaking her grandmother’s blood wards would take everything she had and it would hurt like hell. If she made it through, she wouldn’t be able to protect the boy. She would be just as helpless as he was. But there really was no other choice. It was the only way out, so she had to do it. And  maybe, if she were lucky, the message she sent out will have reached its target and just outside those wards would be the help she needed.

Taking a deep breath, Amelia opened her eyes and looked down at the boy in her arms. A smile came to her lips as she stared down at him. She didn’t know why but when she looked at him, she felt this warmth blossom in her chest. She had never felt anything like it before. It made her feel warm, secure. It made her hope. For what, she had no idea. Maybe it was for a better future, a better her, she couldn’t say, but it made her think of a different future.

She wasn’t a fool. She knew there was no happy ending for her. Not after all the things she had done. But still, maybe there was a future for her not filled with blood and death. She wasn’t a good person, far from it. Until now, she had never wanted to be a good person. She had loved her life. She had loved the power. She had loved the high that came with blood magic. It had made her feel so good. With her power she could have everything she wanted. If she saw something she wanted, she just took it. It was in her right. She had the power, therefore, she had the right.

But then something had changed. He’d come and it was as if she had awoken from a dream. The blood magic no longer clouded her sight and she was able to see things for what they were. It made her sick to think about all the things she had done, all the lives she had taken. She knew there was no redemption for her, but just maybe, maybe there was still a way for her to choose a different path, one not covered in blood.

Realizing if she wanted to get out of here, she would have to move now. She shifted her hold on the boy, getting a better grip on him she moved away from the wall. She listened intently for any sound out in the hallway. Delilah and Marco’s footsteps had faded long ago but it didn’t mean others wouldn’t replace them. The house was crawling with her grandmother’s men.

Once she was sure there was no one near, she turned away from the door and headed to the window on the other side of the room. She looked out into the dark night. There were no lights outside the house, but then again, they didn’t need them. Their blood magic lent them powers most people did not normally have. All of their senses were heightened so that they didn’t need light to see in the dark. But tonight, they wouldn’t even need to rely on their heightened night vision, they had a full moon to light the night for them.

Knowing it was now or never, Amelia ran her right thumb against the ring she wore on her pointer finger. The sharp blade hidden among the petals of the silver flower nicked her finger. Blood began to well up from the cut.

Amelia looked at the cut. Concentrating, she watched as the blood began to flow freely, much too fast for a cut so small. The blood began to bubble up around the hand. It started off small, the ball of blood no larger than a marble. But the harder she concentrated, the larger the ball grew until it was the size of a baseball, about the equivalent of a pint of blood. Once the ball was the right size, Amelia rubbed her pointer finger over the cut, sealing it.

The sphere of blood now floated in her right palm. A pint of blood wasn’t a lot, not for blood magic. For blood-letters though, it was all they needed. If a blood-letter was powerful enough and skilled enough, they could make any weapon imaginable with just a pint of blood.

Amelia was efficient with most weapons but she preferred to use a sword. Mainly, because a sword was just the right density and length for a pint of blood. The blade she preferred to craft was thin, barely a centimeter thick and about three-in-a-half feet long including the hilt. When in a battle, she preferred a double-edged blade, but because she was carrying the child she decided to make the blade single-edged.

Amelia watched as the blood sphere began to elongate and thin out, quickly taking shape. In moments, what had basically been a ball of blood was now a thin long blade very similar to a rapier but shorter. Once she had the shape fixed, the blade would become unbreakable. It would slice through anything, as she had proven with the iron cuffs her grandmother’s guards had used to chain her to the bed. They should’ve known better, no chains could hold a blood-letter of her class.

Taking hold of the hilt of the blade, Amelia swung the sword through the thick pane of glass. Four quick cuts and the entire pane fell outwards with a light touch. The glass shattered as it fell against the rock path ten feet below. The sound was surely loud enough to draw everyone in the manor to her now.

Shifting the boy on to her shoulder, she held him with her left arm, leaving her right free to defend herself. She hoped it wouldn’t come down to it, but if she needed to fight, she would need her arm free.

Taking a few steps back, Amelia raced towards the window, easily sailing through the opening she had made. She flew over the shattered glass and landed lightly on her feet on the grass lawn that surrounded the manor.

Once she hit ground, she took off towards the woods, hoping to find shelter before anyone spotted her. She could already hear shouts and cries of alarm from within the manor. It wouldn’t be long before they arrived. Knowing she didn’t have much time, she bit down hard on her tongue. Blood quickly began to well up in her mouth.

Although blood magic was not picky about whose blood was used for the spell, most blood magic users preferred to use the blood of innocents, children, virgins, and supposed saints. It was said that the more pure the blood, the more powerful. That was a lie. You could use anyone’s blood for blood magic. It was just the fear they got from the blood donor that gave the user a high. The innocents were usually the most fearful and their blood so much sweeter. Amelia knew this well. She also knew the more powerful the donor, the more powerful the magic. It truly didn’t matter where the blood came from. In emergencies, powerful users were known to use their own blood for powerful spells. That’s what Amelia was doing now.

You didn’t need words for blood magic spells, but sometimes it helped the user concentrate. Amelia was beyond that stage. Instead, all she needed to do was think what she wanted the blood to do. Like now, she asked for speed and stealth. The spell responded, using her blood as payment.

Suddenly the world around her began to pass by her in a blur as she sped towards the woods. She was under the cover of the trees in seconds but she didn’t stop there. She sped through the dark woods, darting between trees and over fallen logs. Her footsteps silent in the quiet night.

As fast as she was and as quiet as she was, she knew it wouldn’t enough. Already she could feel the others casting out for her. They had probably brought up the other captives from her grandmother’s dungeon to use for their spells. Amelia felt bad for them, but she knew there was nothing she could do for them. They had been there too long. Most of them were so weak they couldn’t even lift a finger. They would probably die after this night. Normally that wouldn’t have bothered her, but tonight it did.

She knew of nothing else to do but hope that their souls found peace in death, for surely they had not found them in her grandmother’s care.

Just a little bit more, and she would reach the end of her grandmother’s territory and the edge of the blood ward. She prayed silently to a god she had never believed in that the people she had sent the message to were out there waiting, if not, the boy was as good as dead.

Amelia began to slow down as she reached the invisible line that marked the end of her grandmother’s property. The ward stretched out about 250 acres. It was huge. It had also taken the lives of more souls than she liked to think about to build. And every year her grandmother bled out at least ten more poor souls to reinforce it.

But because the ward was so huge, Amelia wasn’t sure where the help would be if they had come. She had picked the one spot that she thought was where they most likely would have been, but when she arrived there was no one there. She didn’t have much time left. Her pursuers would be here in minutes. It was now or never. She had to hope that if they had come they would sense her when she broke the ward. If they could just sense her location, maybe they could get here in time to save the boy.

Gently shifting the boy from her shoulder back in to her arms, she lay him down against the roots of a large red wood tree. She quickly covered him in fallen leaves so that he would not be easily found. It was as she was covering him that he began to stir. The spell she had placed on him to keep him unconscious was starting to wear off and he was beginning to wake. She had hoped he wouldn’t. She had hoped to spare him any further trauma.

But she could only watch hopelessly as his eyes began to open. Large golden eyes blinked at her. There was no innocence left in them, no more fight. All she could see now was acceptance. She leaned over him, brushing his white blond hair away from his face.

“I’m sorry,” she told him softly. It was all she could say. There was nothing else she could offer him. She watched as his little hand reach out to her. He was still weak and his hand shook at he reach out to touch her face. The small fingers that brushed against her cheek were ice cold.

Amelia reached up and placed her hand over his own, her lips lifting into a gentle smile. He said nothing but just stared at her. There was no accusation in his eyes, no fear, just acceptance of his death. She hated to see that look in his eyes. She wanted to erase it and go back to the time when he had first arrived and there had been fiery rebellion blazing there. But ten days in her grandmother’s care was a long time, especially for one so young.

“Hold on and I will get you out of here, I promise,” She told him as she gave his tiny hand a squeeze. He said nothing but solemnly nodded. She couldn’t tell whether he believed her or not, but he acknowledged her words, at least that was something.

The sound of loud voices and crashing footsteps broke the moment. She took his hand and set it back down at his side. She began to cover him with leaves once more, but he stopped her. She watched as he picked up her hand in his and struggled to lift it to his head, towards the cut that had begun to bleed sluggishly.

Her eyes widened as she understood what he was trying to tell her.

“I can’t,” she said as she shook her head, “Taking blood from you will do things to me. Things I may not be able to control.”

He looked at her steadily for a long moment before tugging on her hand once more. She pulled her hand back gently yet firmly.

“You don’t understand. You’re too powerful. If I take your blood, I won’t be able to control myself. I may hurt you on accident because I won’t know what I’m doing. Using blood magic is like a drug. When you use it you’re on a high. You don’t notice things anymore. If I can’t control it, I will kill you,” she told him.

“Please,” The words were no more than a hoarse whisper but they tore at her heart. The voices were getting louder. She could tell he heard them too as he glanced behind her. As she was, she may be able to defend them for a little while, but she wouldn’t last long. She had already used a lot of her magic and blood to get them this far. She wasn’t sure how much more she had in her.

He began to tug on her hand again as those large golden eyes turned back to her. She stared down at him, trying to figure out once again why he was so important to her. She still didn’t have the answer, but as she stared in to his black flecked golden eyes, she knew she would do everything in her power to protect him.

With a deep sigh, she let him lift her hand to brush up against his forehead, smearing her fingers with his blood. Amelia gritted her teeth as the magic in his blood sung to her. Power, there was so much power in that small body, power like she had never known. She could feel it, coursing through her body, lighting her blood on fire. With on last desperate look into his golden eyes, she let the magic consume her.

The world around her disappeared, and all that was left, was the song of the blood. Amelia closed her eyes, and let the music take her over.

Next: Chapter One

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