Blood, part 4 of 4

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Richard threw the book away in disgust.  The pages fluttered as the book spun across the room to slam into the far wall with a resounding thud.  He grabbed his hair with both hands and pulled his head between his knees to keep from screaming.  Even then, a guttural sound, somewhere between a moan and growl, escaped his clenched jaws. 

Nothing.

He’d spent months now researching, following every lead he could find, digging into the depths of the most obscure references and causal mentions, trying to find a single piece of hope that he could keep his new found power without it resulting in the crushing loss of health he had experienced as a result.  And all that time spent had resulted in nothing.  There was no hope.  There was no way to continue doing blood magic at the level he desired and stay healthy at the same time.

“So be it.”

He released his head and his eyes, red and wet from frustration and pain, scanned the room to where the book had fallen.  The book wasn’t the problem, it had just been the final fruitless hope and, as such, had borne the brunt of his exhaustion and exasperation. 

Standing and crossing the room, he retrieved the book, closed it nicely, and placed it on the stack of books that now needed to be returned to their owners.  That wasn’t going to be cheap.  Some of these books had come from halfway around the world.  Some had come from further.  But return them he would.  Just because he wouldn’t sacrifice his health for this craft didn’t mean he would keep the knowledge from others.  Perhaps they had more self-control than he did.  Perhaps they were willing to give up their health.

Richard locked up and headed for his car, waving to Bree across the street as he stood at the driver door.

“Glad to see you are feeling better,” she called across to him.

“That obvious?”

“Your color is back and you no longer look like a stiff wind could knock you over.”

Richard laughed and leaned against the now opened door.  “Yeah, I am feeling better, thank you.”

She smiled and nodded and then asked, “Where you headed.”

“Going to the beach.  Trying to get some more of that fresh air and sunshine a friend of mine recommended.”

“Have fun,” she replied, even as she returned her attention to the garden patch she was weeding.

He smirked as he started the car and drove off.

Fun?  That wasn’t really the idea at all.

Power?  Now that was what he was after, what he wanted, what he craved.

Blood, part 3 of 4

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The knife dipped into his flesh, a small pool of blood welling up along the surface of the smooth blade.  He flinched.  He couldn’t help that.  As much as he had been cutting himself the last couple weeks he had not yet gotten used to that initial pinch and burn when the knife did its work.  Richard was beginning to think he would never get used to it.  And, perhaps that was for the best.  Who would he have become if he no longer felt pain when he was cut?

He removed the blade and let two drops of blood fall from his finger to the paper below.  The red splotches mostly soaked into the parchment but some excess ran in tiny rivulets along the words he had penned on the page before cutting himself.  A tingle ran up his spine before he had even touched the age of the page to the waiting flame.  A jittery excitement set his fingers to twitching and he very nearly dropped the sheet.  Taking a calming breath, he carefully passed the page into the flame and then closed his eyes as the spell took hold. 

He was attempting to restore some health.  It was a simple enough spell that he had no doubts would work on someone else.  The test here was if it would work on him.  That was only part of it, though.  He was hoping the spell would restore him to better health than he had been before he’d cut himself. 

After months of tests and trials and success after success, Richard had discovered that he did not feel well.  The power was great.  The triumphs were great.  His exhaustion, his weakness, his growing depression when not working spells were not great.  He was hoping to use the same magic that was causing the problem to fix the problem.

It was foolish.  He knew that.  If the spell worked at all it was likely to only reverse the effects of the most recent injury, the one he had caused to cast the spell itself.  But he had to know.  He had to try.

The feeling of the magic swirled around him, making him feel giddy and light, as if he could jump and the air itself would hold him up.  The pain vanished.  The sadness in his mind was pushed aside.  Everything was right with his world again.

But that feeling did not last.  Sooner than he liked, Richard felt grounded again.  Darkness crashed across his mind.  The pain did not return to his finger.  But the slice on his arm from a spell he had cast earlier in the day began throbbing again. 

He tried to gauge the level of that pain.  Was it less than it had been before he’d cast the most recent spell, the healing spell? 

Richard sighed.  If it was, it wasn’t discernible.  The healing spell may have helped his finger pinprick but it hadn’t done enough to restore him to any sort of fuller, better, level of well-being.

Taking a seat, Richard put his head in his hands for a moment, trying to stave off the tiredness lurking in the darkness in his mind.  He had come to a crossroads of sorts and he knew there was only one decision he could make here but making it was going to be extremely tough.  He could not continue to live like this as much as it would pain him to give up the power he had found.

Sighing again, Richard looked up and took in the sputtering flame sitting on the table.  The ashes of the spellwork scattered across the surface of the table.  A drop of blood he hadn’t noticed was drying among the mess.  He’d either missed the page with a drop before he’d finished the spell or it had fallen from his fingers while giving the paper to the fire. 

When he felt strong enough, Richard stood up and headed outside.  The fresh air and sunshine would do him some good, and then he’d need some food, and some rest, and then…  Well, then he would have to decide what he was going to do next.

Blood, part 2 of 4

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“Haven’t seen you out much recently, you okay?”

Bree, his neighbor, had caught him standing on his porch, blinking away the startling sunrise as she passed by on her morning walk.  Richard held up a hand in apology and when his vision had cleared and his head had stopped swimming he replied, “Just been busy with projects inside.”

“You look paler than normal.  Are you coming down with something?”  She continued before he could respond, “You know it isn’t good to be locked inside all day.  Humans need fresh air and sunshine.”

Richard chuckled, “Yeah, I know.  That’s why I’m outside now.  Had a powerful urge to get some fresh air.”

Bree looked towards the sun kissed horizon.  “Sure seems like it is going to be a beautiful day.”

“I hope so.”

Without another word, Bree turned her focus back to the sidewalk in front of her and moved on.  She did wave a hand in parting, though, and Richard called after, “Talk to you later.”

Then he went back to focusing on his breathing.  He was paler than normal.  He’d lost too much blood with the last spell he’d cast.  It had been a whopper, and it had worked, but it had taken so much out of him that he he’d vomited and then barely gotten the wound to stop bleeding.  He’d gone too far and he was scared.  Not of the power.  He relished in that.  But, he hadn’t meant to spill so much of his blood.  He didn’t want to do that again.

Finding the balance between the power he craved and ensuring his own safety was proving difficult.  With candle magic, the cost of the spells had never varied as much as he was finding it could with blood magic.  That was problematic.  He liked consistency in general.  But when it came to magic, even minor deviations from the norm, from what he practiced, from what he expected, could have huge consequences.  He was tempted to give up blood magic and go back to candles. 

Richard shook his head.

He couldn’t do that.  Now that he had tasted this much power, he couldn’t give it up just like that.  He would just have to practice more, study more, and figure out the why behind all the little deviations so he was never caught off-guard, so he never spilled more blood than was safe.

He stayed on the porch for a few more minutes.  As Bree had said, he needed some more fresh air and sunshine.

Blood, part 1 of 4

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…..

This is a prequel to the Gravity story I posted last month. Not sure if there is more to this character, but I’ll guess we’ll find out Tigger over the next couple of weeks.

He’d stumbled into blood magic one afternoon while trying to work a simple candle spell.  He’d met someone and was going to go on a date with them but wasn’t ready to fall in love again.  Not yet.  Not while the wounds of his last love still oozed.  So, he was trying to cast a spell that would keep his heart in check.  He knew he fell too hard too fast.  That was part of who he was.  So a first date could quickly turn his life upside down.  The spell he’d planned on attempting was supposed to mitigate that risk.  But, then he’d cut himself accidently while lighting the candle and the blood had fallen on the words to the spell.  So, when he read them and burned the paper, his blood burned with it.

He’d felt something then.  It wasn’t like what he’d felt before when working a candle spell.  It wasn’t the slight tingling of the hairs on the back of his neck like a soft breeze briefly strolling through his room.  It was like something had plucked at guitar strings within his body and he vibrated with them.  His whole body jittered.  His mind burned.  And then the feeling subsided as quickly as it had come. 

His thoughts had started to put the pieces together, even then, as his eyes drifted from the candle to the knife to the wound on his hand that still pooled with the dark red blood he’d spilled a moment before.  Whatever he’d just done it had been the most powerful spell he’d just worked and his blood had to be part of it.  Had to be.  He didn’t have time to ponder it more then.  He had to get ready, shower, shave, clean up his car a bit, and then head out for the night, whatever may come.

Richard went on his date.  He had a good time.  He was sure his date had a good time too.  He liked her but was happy to note that he hadn’t immediately fallen in love with her, and, was certain he never would fall in love with her.  He found that interesting.  Was it because of the spell?  Or was it like a placebo effect?  He had attempted the spell so whether it worked or not, his mind knew he didn’t want to fall, and therefore he wouldn’t?

Over the next couple months, he kept seeing her.  He kept enjoying the time they shared together.  He felt no reason to stop seeing her, even though he still knew to his very core that he would never fall in love with her.  Their relationship, from his perspective anyway, would never get to that stage.  He told her as much but he wasn’t sure she believed him and he knew at some point he’d have to call it off with her.  He was waiting for something, though.  He didn’t know what that was but he’d know it when it came.

In the meantime, when he wasn’t at work or on dates, he researched what he could about the use of blood in spells.  There was, in some regards, surprisingly little on the subject.  It seemed that the foundation was simple enough, but the specifics varied from caster to caster.  So, the spells that needed x amount of blood for one magician would need y for a different one.  There were theories about the food a caster eating impacting the spells they could cast, as if some spells required more fat or less fat in your blood, but they were all still theories from what he could find.

Never one to shy away from putting in the work himself, Richard started trying things, and keeping detailed notes along the way.  It was slow going, though, as each spell required him to spill some of his blood.  He had to let the wounds heal between castings so as not to alarm his friends or coworkers.  It was one thing to occasionally show up with a bandaid on a finger after “cutting himself working in the garden.”  It was another thing to constantly have his forearm bandaged from a wound that wouldn’t seem to heal.  He didn’t need that kind of worry or attention. 

So, he studied and practiced and learned, slow and steady.

Gravity, Part 5 of 5

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The sun warmed his skin and the latte warmed his insides.  A toasted sandwich helped bolster his energy.  The day was beautiful and the street was quiet as he pretended to read his book while letting his gaze shift around.  Richard also searched through the gravitational strings around him.  He didn’t pluck or strum or rearrange them at all, he just studied them.  He was looking for something out of place, where, perhaps, someone was doing something they shouldn’t be.  But, for over an hour he sat at the little table outside the coffee shop and all assaults against him stopped.  Nothing looked out of place.  Nobody walked by that he didn’t recognize from the neighborhood.  He couldn’t spot anyone lurking in nearby shadows.  All was quiet.  All was calm.

Frustration that his plan hadn’t worked began to grow, along with a tremor of fear.  If he couldn’t figure out who was attacking him, then what?  What would be subjected to next?  What if he couldn’t ward off the next attack.  Someone obviously didn’t want me to be successful in what he was doing.  The spells they’d used against him were proof of that.  Rather, the cost of those spells was proof.

The chair across from him at his little table was pulled back and a woman sat down, startling him out of his thoughts, and out of the world of magic where he’d been scanning for things out of place.

“Good morning, Richard.”

“Oh,” he replied, trying to play off his surprise as having been interrupted from his reading.  “Hello, Bree.  How is my favorite neighbor this morning?”

She smiled and said, “Tired.”

“On such a beautiful day?  I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay.   I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.  You don’t mind if I sit with you for a bit, do you?”

“Not at all,” Richard replied truthfully.  Bree was his favorite neighbor.  She was only one of a couple people on the block he actually talked to and the only one he talked to more than general greetings in passing.  “Everything okay?  Something I can help with?”

“I’m glad you asked,” she said, a small smile on her lips. 

She’d been sitting with her hands in her lap but now she raised them to rest on the table in front of her.  She had a large bandage on the wrist of her right arm.  A red stain ran down the middle of it.  The wound was fresh.

Richard gasped and locked eyes with Bree, “You?”

“I threw the best I had at you.  Just to see.  Just to try and prove that you shouldn’t have given up on blood magic.  And you blocked it so easily it was laughable.”

Richard had no idea what to say.  He couldn’t Bree was a magic user too.  He couldn’t believe this person he had considered a friend would use blood spells against him.  His mind reeled.

The smile fell from her face and she grew very serious.  She didn’t look away, though, and when Richard thought about the exchange later he decided that was the key.  “Will you teach me?”

He didn’t miss a beat, “Yes, of course.”