Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(10)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(10)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Yeah, sure,” he said casually.

Crap, crap, crap. I started the van and pulled out of the garage, heading west toward the 101 freeway entrance on Sunset. I felt Cruz staring at me the whole time.

“Okay,” I finally said, “what do you want to know?”

“That guy was a...a...”

“Werewolf,” I supplied. I couldn’t blame him for the hesitation. Pop culture has built this whole supernatural thing up to the point where it’s practically a cliché. Even the werewolves think it sounds silly to say werewolves. “Yes. I haven’t met him, I don’t think, but he must be part of the local pack.”

“There’s a pack?” He was already beginning to sound dazed.

“Yes. Our pack is small in proportion to the city’s population, but this isn’t the most werewolf-friendly town, as you might imagine. Better than New York, though.”

“Okay...I’m assuming if werewolves are real, there’s other stuff, too.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How does it all work?”

“Dude, I don’t know. It just does.”

His voice was skeptical. “Please don’t make me threaten you again. It’s just kind of tacky.”

I sighed. How had Olivia first explained this to me? “Fine. Back up a second. The first thing you need to know is that there’s magic in the world. Not bunnies-being-pulled-out-of-top-hats magic—I mean like this completely wild, powerful force. The second thing is that Darwin got a lot of stuff right. Thanks to evolution, every species in the world is part of an enormous family tree, the fossil record. It would take up, like, the side of a mountain, but in theory, you could map it all out. Are you still with me?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. At certain points on that enormous family tree, when a species branched into two, it was actually branching into three. So, there would be the first branch, the second branch, and the magical branch.”

“You’re talking about speciation,” Jesse said.

I pointed at him. “Yeah, that’s the word I can never remember. Anyway, it didn’t happen all the time, and nobody really knows why it chose certain species to branch out, but that’s magic for you.” Even the smartest people in the Old World barely understand the surface of it. “At the beginning of the world, there was an imbalance—the energy of the world contained too much magic, not enough non-magic. Then those creatures who were built entirely of magical energy—spirits, mostly—began to die away, and magic started to settle down.”

I was half expecting him to fight me on it, but he just looked at me patiently, so I went on. “Okay. At some point, evolution led to man, but there was a whatchamacallit, a magical speciation. There were humans, and then there were also humans who had the ability to manipulate the magic itself. Conduits.”

“Like what? Wizards?” His voice was skeptical.

“Don’t give me the face. I’m just telling you what was told to me. Those conduits were powerful—almost too powerful. Some of them decided the power was too much, and they made a point to use as little of it as they could. Eventually, their magic...diminished and changed. Those people eventually were called witches. Wait, shit, that’s my exit.” I jerked the van onto the Pasadena Highway.

“And the other conduits?” he prompted.

“I’m getting to it. You have to understand that these were spectacularly powerful beings. Magic was part of their blood itself. And the remaining conduits divided into factions. There was a group of them who kept craving more and more power, and they eventually discovered that they could use magic to steal power by stealing one another’s blood. Something to do with blood symbolizing life force in spells. Then they all got afraid of getting killed by each other, so they started to experiment with the line between life and death.”

His eyes narrowed. “Bernard, please tell me you’re not talking about vampires.”

“I wish I could,” I said, sighing. “But you’re right—that group eventually evolved into your basic modern vampire.” He looked stricken and a tiny bit exhilarated, as though I’d just confirmed the existence of Batman. “But there was a second group of conduits, and they rejected the greedy ones and took to the wilderness, using their magic to transform into eagles and bears and wolves, predators who loved to run and fly and hunt...Look, we’re gonna be there in like ten minutes; how much magical history do you really want here?”

“I want all of it,” he said stubbornly.

“Argh. Fine. The shape-shifters, the ones who loved the wild, found that the more things they shifted into, the more magic they had to use, and the harder it became to return to humanity. Pretty soon, it started to hurt them to be men and women again. They tried rejecting the magic, living just as humans, but that was even worse. So they cast a great spell, restricting themselves to a dual nature. They picked wolves.”

“Why wolves?”

I shrugged. I had some personal theories about pack bonding and loneliness, but hell, he could make his own guesses. “I don’t know why; I’m sure there was a reason. The point is, afterward, both groups—the wolves and the vampires—they adapted to what they needed, like any other species, but both reproduced through blood contact. If any werewolf blood touches a human, infection. If any human swallows vampire blood, infection. Then there’s this whole history of tension between everyone, which I’m skipping for time”—he started to protest, but I waved him off—“and because you still haven’t gotten to the big question.”

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