Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(17)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(17)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“There’s a mage in there,” I said. “When I get close to the house, I can feel the magic.”

Trevor and three of the dhampir took up stations in the backyard. One of the dhampir broke into the black van and hid there.

Josh, Liam, and I mounted the porch. They stood with their backs to the wall on either side of the front door, then Josh nodded to me. We were all shielded, and the idea was that the person inside was more likely to open the door for a pretty young girl than a man.

I rang the doorbell and took a step back, my long Hunter’s dagger held in my left hand behind my leg. There weren’t any sounds that I could hear from inside. After a couple of minutes, I rang the bell again. Just as I was about to push the button a third time, I heard light footsteps beyond the door, and then it opened.

A man I didn’t recognize loomed over me. Sandy hair, blue eyes, a bit over six feet tall, in a skin-tight black Hunter’s uniform showing off his muscular build.

He frowned when he saw me, then opened his mouth to say something, but I didn’t wait. My training took over, and I hurled a ley missile at him. Unfortunately, he was shielded, and the raw ley energy rocked him back on his heels but didn’t vaporize him.

It did vaporize the screen door, though, and I charged through. Our shields hit, and my shield began to siphon energy from his. He staggered backward.

Just as the Hunter regained his balance, Liam hit him with a push of ley line energy that blew the Hunter off his feet and slammed him into the wall across the room. I hurled another ley missile at him but without any noticeable effect.

I heard a loud whistle from behind me, and then heard crashing noises from the back of the house. Josh had given the signal, and I knew Trevor and the dhampir would be coming in through the back door.

The Hunter drew his sword and took up a fighting stance. I thought that was a bad move. The ceiling would hamper him, and his main gauche would have been a better choice. If I could get close enough, I would have the advantage.

Liam hit the Hunter with another push of energy, and I followed with a push of my own, but he was braced for it, and we didn’t move him. I fired another ley missile, but his shield held.

Michaela came into the room from the back of the house, took a quick look around, and fired her pistol at the Hunter from less than five feet away. The bullet ricocheted off his shield and hit the ceiling.

“No!” I shouted. “He’s shielded.”

Her presence did cause our adversary to move away from her so he could keep all of us in his field of vision.

Trevor and two dhampir came in from the kitchen. The women darted down a hallway as Trevor fired a lightning bolt at the Hunter. The resultant thunder shook the house.

“We found them,” a woman’s voice called from down the hall.

The Hunter took advantage of that slight distraction and leaped toward Trevor, swinging his sword. Trevor instinctively raised his arm to defend himself, and the Hunter’s spell-forged sword cleaved through Trevor’s shield and took his arm off below the elbow. Blood fountained from the stump, and the Hunter ran over my friend, heading for the back door.

I jumped forward and grabbed Trevor’s arm in both of my hands. The shock in his face, in his eyes, caused my heart to jump. I clamped down with ley energy, creating a magical tourniquet, and tied off the spell. Then I ran after the Hunter.

He probably would have escaped if he hadn’t tripped over the shattered remains of the back door lying on the floor in the kitchen. I was more careful and followed him out the door into the backyard.

“Run, you coward,” I called in the language of the Illuminati, a dialect of Middle High German. “Traitor!”

The man whirled around and faced me. “Who the hell are you?” he replied in the same language.

“One of the survivors of your treachery,” I said, circling him with my knife held in front of me.

He laughed. “Shall we dance?” he asked, the time-honored invitation for Hunters to cross their swords.

The Hunter brandished his sword and advanced toward me. I hit him with a ley missile that caused his shield to flare. He stepped back, and I could see him gather himself for a renewed attack.

My masters had always counseled me to hide the most potent parts of my magic. They said that I shouldn’t reveal what I had in reserve. I had learned the fallacy of that when confronting the Hunter who had terrorized Westport several months before. I might have been special, but so were all the Hunters. Hans Christian had been older, more experienced and stronger than me. He also had a Hunter’s spell-forged sword that could cut through personal shields, no matter how strong.

I had tried to face that Hunter without my own sword, which I had left to be consumed in the conflagration that destroyed the Illuminati, their City, and all of their magic. It hadn’t gone well, and I had defeated him only by calling on those hidden magics.

The spell was complex, but I had never understood why others couldn’t manage to cast it. For some reason, other people either couldn’t hold the first four runes while they sketched the fifth, or they couldn’t merge them properly. And without that final complex rune, the Word had nothing to act upon. When the Word was spoken, the caster had to feed ley energy into the rune while envisioning the result of the spell, incorporating that energy into a semi-corporeal sword.

With that near-defeat still a raw wound, I sketched five runes in my mind, held them separately, and merged them into a single complex rune. Then I said the Word to invoke the Sword of Uriel, the spell that had lain dormant for six hundred years until I came along and proved to be able to cast it. A three-foot bar of green flame leaped from my right hand.

My foe hesitated, his eyes locked on the Sword. Then he fired a ball of white energy that lit up my shield like a light bulb. I hit him with another ley missile, and he hit me with another one of his energy balls. Considering the ley lines spiderwebbing the Westport area, it was doubtful that either of us would run out of power, either to throw at the other or to maintain our shields. That meant the battle would come down to our blades.

“Scorpion,” he said. “I thought you were dead.”

“Why would you think I was dead? Who told you that?”

He still hesitated, and my confidence increased.

“Master Rudolf said that everyone in the City died when the Knights Magica launched their assault,” he said. “We assumed that tales of you being seen were false. What are you doing here? Why do you call me a traitor? You must have conspired with our enemies if you survived.”

He was obviously confused. I didn’t have time to try and unravel what he was saying, but I saw a way to use his misconceptions.

“Rudolf told you that? Rudolf is the traitor,” I returned, and saw his eyes widen. “The Council escaped Rudolf’s treachery, his conspiracy with the Knights. Master Benedict has waited for Rudolf to contact him, but in vain. Yes, the Knights Magica destroyed the City. They used Rudolf’s passcodes to get inside. Ask yourself, why was Rudolf the only member of the Council who wasn’t in the City? And once the slaughter was over, where was Rudolf to help us plan our counterattack?”

As we talked, I had gradually decreased the distance between us. He had reach on me, so closer was better. Not being entirely corporeal, my Sword had an advantage. It didn’t need room for me to use it. Deadly at three feet, deadly at six inches.

My adversary suddenly blurted, “You lie!”

I laughed at him, and while his attention was concentrated on our discussion, I leaped forward, my sword sweeping in an arc toward his waist. He took a step back and moved his sword to block me. Too late. The bar of unfiltered ley energy I wielded sliced through his blade and continued through his shield and into his side below his ribs.

Shock registered on his face, even as I hurled another ley missile at him and destroyed his weakened shield. I swung my leg with the energy of the ley line behind it, and my foot connected between his legs, lifting him off the ground and spilling him backward. By the time his body settled on the ground a few feet away, I was standing over him with the point of my sword resting against his throat under his chin.

“Yield and agree to cooperate, and I’ll call for a healer,” I said.

I waited for him to say something, and it seemed as though time had stopped.

Finally, he answered me, his face contorting into a sneer. “Whore!”

That was an epithet Rudolf had hurled at me more than once.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said. I pushed the blade into the Hunter’s throat and up into his brain. “But I’m smarter than to piss off someone who has a sword to my throat.”

I released the spell, and the darkness enfolded us when the bright sword disappeared.

The first thing I did was search the Hunter’s body, taking his main gauche—his short defensive blade—and emptying every pocket and pouch he had. I pulled off his boots and cut out the inner soles, taking the paper, money, and credit card I found there, then stuffing the boots back on his feet. When I was satisfied that I had everything, I turned back to the house.

Michaela was standing at the back door watching me.

“It looks like you’ve done that before,” she said.

“Would you leave anything for the police to find?” I asked.

She shook her head and moved aside so I could pass her into the house. I wondered how much of the fight she might have witnessed. I wasn’t worried about anyone understanding the conversation I had with the Hunter. Even a modern German-speaker would have had trouble with the language, although someone fluent in Swiss German might have understood a lot of what we said.

I found Liam holding Sheila and her sister in the living room. Jolene was tending to Trevor, who sat against the wall near a large pool of blood surrounding a severed hand. He looked drowsy, which I figured was a combination of shock, loss of blood, and any potions Jo might have given him. At least the tourniquet I applied had worked, and the stump was no longer bleeding.

Josh leaned close to me and said, “Jolene gave Trevor a couple of potions and called Lizzy. I don’t know how much a healer can do for him, but you saved his life. He still bled too damned much. I checked the rest of the house, and Jo was correct, it looks like there was just one guy here holding them captive. Did you catch up with the bastard?”

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