Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(6)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(6)
Author: K.F. Breene

Sacrifice, probably, intended to boost the power level of a spell. I hoped it wasn’t one I would soon be running into.

Dare to dream.

With my eyes on the house, I bent to my bag and pulled back the zipper. My sword greeted me. I strapped it on, followed by my knives and gun. Once done, I walked the sidewalk in front of the house, feeling the vibration of magic. Somewhat powerful but straightforward. No flair, and no complexity.

Next door, curtains ruffled in a window. I was being watched.

Busybody.

I thought back to the file again. Had it said anything about the magical nature of the people in the neighborhood? I couldn’t remember, but if they were mages, or even witches, they’d expect me to coat my blade with a spell. Few, if any, mages could pump raw power into a weapon and then use it to unravel a spell. Which meant I needed to put on a show to hide my abilities. So annoying.

I dug into the leather pouch and extracted an empty casing. Pinching it together so no one would know it had already been used, I held the ball near my sword. It was an effort to keep myself from looking around guiltily as I muttered a few curse words. That would pass for spell casting, I hoped.

Once done, I dropped the casing and surged fresh power into the sword. My blade passed through the spell, steaming. Nothing to it.

Before I could charge forward, the front door burst open. A spell gushed out, sizzling the air.

I dove to the side and rolled onto the mage’s dirt yard. Hopping up quickly, I ran at him, sword held in front of me.

“Melt!” he bellowed—or something similar, anyway. I wasn’t paying much attention to the words.

A stream of crystalized blue rushed toward my face.

Holy balls!

I pushed more of my magic into the blade and sliced through the middle of the stream. The hex crackled as the magic fell away and slithered along the ground. Snakes boiled up, hissing. One struck at me and hit my leather boot. Fangs didn’t puncture my skin, thank god.

“What the hell kind of magic are you practicing in there?” I stomped through the vipers, keeping my blade juiced up. Another stream of magic came at me, frosty blue this time. He was losing power. That was good news for me.

I dug my hand into my leather pouch and pulled out another rubber casing, this time with a spell inside. I didn’t have many of these, since they were expensive, but the ones I did have were powerful.

I cracked it open and threw it at him. Nothing happened at first, then a starburst of pure white light exploded against his chest. The spell burned through his clothes and met his skin with a sizzle. I bet that hurt.

He screamed and dodged into his house, most likely heading for more magic.

Chapter Three

I ran after him. “Don’t do anything stupid…guy!” I probably should’ve paid more attention to his name.

Black rings stained the brown carpet throughout the dingy interior. Yellowed wallpaper peeled away from the walls. Bedsheets with tears and holes hung over the windows, streaming weak light in odd patterns through the dusty air.

“This place looks like a meth lab,” I mumbled as I paused in the entryway.

“They’ve come before.” His voice bounced off the walls and crawled along the floor. “In twos and threes, they’ve tried to take me alive. They’ve tried to take me dead. But I am Chartross the Almighty. No one will stand in my way!”

I stuck a finger in my ear and wiggled while extending my jaw. My ears popped, breaking the spell that had amplified his voice. That’s better.

“That was a very showy spell, Chartross the Almighty. Let’s have a look behind the curtain, shall we? I bet I’ll find a little man with a plastic ring from a cereal box. Is that what you are, Big C? Seen one case, seen ’em all.”

Something crunched under my boot. A piece of chalk lay crumbled in the middle of an unfinished pentagram. The carpet had been ripped away, revealing the discolored hardwood underneath. Unfamiliar characters had been scrawled near each point, along with stick figures contorted in extremely uncomfortable looking positions.

“I think you’ve got the wrong idea about how to make a circle, buddy.” The house rumbled. Miniature statues, all naked, rocked on the small table next to me. The smallest two fell over and spun across the tabletop until they finally clattered onto the floor.

A gun in one hand and my sword in the other, I peered into the nearest doorway. Small piles of garbage littered the corners. A funky smell tickled my nose. More patches of carpet had been peeled away, and shapes were drawn in paint or blood in each open patch. A hole had been blasted through one of the walls. Movement caught my eye. I could just make out the side of a face through the gap, and from the angle, it was clear his body was facing the door of the room he was in.

Criminals were rarely very bright.

A voice echoed through the house, the words sounding like gibberish. The walls shook and the floor rolled as waves of magic washed through the house. The power level was mediocre, but the spell itself seemed intricate and advanced. I’d never run into that dichotomy.

I leaned away from the door and looked down the hall, ignoring the arch of the living room behind me. At the back of the house, I glimpsed the kitchen. Before that, sharing the wall to my right, there was another door, this one shut. I knew what lay behind Door Number Two, and only a fool would traipse in willy-nilly.

I was only a fool when there were no other options.

Thanks for the hole in the wall, Big C. Now that I know where you are, it’ll be easy to extract you.

To throw him off my scent, I walked toward his door with heavy footsteps, stopping five feet away. “This is not the way to make friends, Big C. Come on out and we’ll talk it through. There’s no reason why we can’t compromise.”

There was eight hundred dollars’ worth of reasons why we couldn’t, actually, but who needed details?

“You insignificant human!” His spell-encased voice boomed through the house and wrapped around my head, stealing my breath. My lungs started to burn, lacking oxygen.

I didn’t bother cutting through the spell. I let him pour his power and focus into it, sapping his energy even more. It would be a painful few minutes for me, but since I didn’t need oxygen to live, it would be worth it.

I quickly backtracked and ran into the first room. My feet thundered across a spot of hollow wood.

Mental note: see if there is anything cool hidden in the floor.

I kicked away a small black pot. Liquid sloshed out. Smoke rose into the air and one of the few remaining patches of clean carpet started to burn away. I sheathed my weapons and bent to look through the hole in the wall. My mark stood in front of a large cauldron. Purple steam curled above the metal lip and wound around his body. The look and feel of the spell said it was his try at body armor. The casting was all wrong, though. Both the color and the way the spell moved said it wouldn’t fully solidify.

The character of this mage was starting to come into focus. He worked magic he didn’t fully understand, with power he couldn’t totally harness. Self-taught, probably, and not very intelligent. No wonder he harassed his neighbors—he couldn’t keep his creations under control. Doofus.

I braced one hand against the wall and punched through with the other. His head snapped up and he flinched toward me. I curled my fingers around his shirt and dragged him closer to the wall. His body hit wood and he grunted.

“Wrong entry point, Big C,” I wheezed. I might not need air to live, but it turned out I did need it to talk. The things you learned.

Annoyed, I ripped out my sword and cleared away the sticky suffocating spell before yanking him toward the wall again. His head banged off the hard surface. That would hurt.

“Let’s work together, Big C, and this’ll go a lot smoother. I will be taking you out of here, and I’d like to do that with you still alive. It’s your call.”

I ripped chunks of wood out of the wall, making the hole bigger. He seemed relaxed.

When did marks ever relax when I had a hold of them?

“Don’t do whatever it is that you are planning to do, buddy,” I said. “It won’t work out well for you. Trust me on that one.”

“Telco matzo burn!” he shouted.

A blast of heat surged through the hole and raked across my face.

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