Friday, December 14, 2012

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 17 - Flight or Fight

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Fifteen bugs and two hours later, Milo dropped exhausted into one of the overstuffed chairs in the living room. Whatever magick had run them had caught on to the hunt, and though their mechanical bodies required them to stay within the walls of her house, their energy allowed them to teleport from one wall to another at whim. It had forced him to use more magick, to push it wider and farther than he had ever had to in his life. Like he had to anticipate all the places these things could go, and get threads of his spell work there first.

He was almost certain at least one of them got off a transmission before being caught and destroyed, and that should have worried him—no, it did—but he was so very tired. His eyes closed, and he caught himself drifting.

“Milo?”

His lids fluttered open, and he wiped at the drool attempting to escape from the corner of his mouth. Madeleine knelt before him on the carpet. “Hey.”

“Here,” Madeleine handed him a soda. “Sugar helps me.”

“I didn’t know you could have sugar.” He gave her a grateful smile and took the can. “I thought vampires were purely interested in blood.”

She settled onto the carpet, legs crisscross applesauce and pulled another soda from behind her, popped it open and took a big sip. “Sure, blood’s good, but we can indulge in other things, too. I rather like chocolate and puff pastries. Sugar helps me when I’ve worn myself out after a good, er, altercation. And I’m a fan of carbonation, too.”

He took a drink. “What about garlic?”

Madeleine raised a brow. “We’re going to play twenty questions now?”

Milo chuckled. “Sure. I’m just, well, I’m worn the fuck out, excuse my French. And my choices are going home and sleep this off, or stay here and talk to you some more. I would like to continue our date, but I don’t know if I’m up to a dinner out, though.”

“It’s okay.” She showed him her cell phone. “I ordered in. Hope you like pizza.”

His stomach rumbled. “Oh, yeah, pizza sounds great.”

“So, you sure you haven’t had enough excitement for one date?”

Milo waved her off. “Nah, and how dangerous could a game of twenty questions get? I’m hot, sweaty and ready to pass out like a dork in front of you. And I’m pretty much thinking that’s a sensory cocktail that wouldn’t even tempt a hottie vampire like yourself. So I figure, this means I get to hang out some more, learn new things about you, tell you a little bit more about myself, and if that means you eventually take pity on me and carry me off to your boudoir, who am I to object?”

Her response started off as a small giggle she hid behind the soda can, but it morphed into a hysterical belly laugh that echoed off the walls of her living room and left her on the carpet on her back. For a minute there, Milo thought he may have finally crossed that line.

She sat back up, wiping blood—blood?—from her eyes. Must be a vampire thing.

“Hold on,” she panted between continued giggles. She got to her feet and disappeared around the corner. She returned with a handful of tissues and daubed at her eyes. “I know it can be disconcerting to see a woman in tears, even when they’re just from laughter, worse when it’s a vampire and well, yeah.” She showed him the tissue in her hand spotted red against the white two-ply.

“Ah, and here I thought I’d perhaps gotten too cheesy with my agenda.”

She shook her head. “I just thought it was funny that despite our horrendous track record…”

“Um, two dates a track record does not make,” he interrupted.

Madeleine rolled her eyes. “Okay, well, given how well things have gone with us thus far, I thought it was funny that amidst all that, you were still flirting with me, that you still wanted into my bed.”

“Have you looked at yourself?” He raised a hand. “Wait, is that a real vampire thing? The no reflection thing?”

“Does this count as one of your twenty questions?” she asked as she picked up her soda. “Because you know you’re already down one.”

He shook his head. “Ah, no, no, I’m not, because you did not answer the first one.” He smirked. “Thought I’d forgotten that in my self-made concussion?”

She chuckled. “All right, all right, fine, but then I get to ask two to catch up.”

Milo nodded. “Seems only fair. Though I guess if I didn’t agree, you could just pummel me with pillows right where I’m sitting, because it’s not like I’m going anywhere for a while.”

The doorbell rang, and she stood up again. “Hold that thought. Must be the pizza. That was fast.”

But as she crossed the room in her very human pace, a sudden trickle of new magick walked across Milo’s skin, like liquid razor blades sniffing his own magick. “Madeleine, wait!”

He jumped out of the chair and started for her, but time slowed around him. It was like watching a pivotal scene in an action movie. He pushed harder to close the gap between them as her hand inched toward the doorknob. The other magick pulsed harder against the door.

“Madeleine, no!” he screamed.

She shook her head at him, the hair flowing on the currents of time, confused, but it was too late. She touched the doorknob and the door literally exploded inward. The blast threw her backwards into Milo and he caught her as they slammed into the opposite wall. The door jamb twisted, expanded around a huge figure. With a flaming sword. Dark Supernatural. Aw, shit!

“They found me!” he yelled into Madeleine’s ear.

She twisted around. “You? I thought he was here for me!”

“He who?”

The vampire didn’t have time to answer as whatever dark super it was reached its free hand into the house and ripped the roof off the front half of the house.

“Come out!” it bellowed, all sulfuric breath and anger. “Don’t make this worse by making me come after you!”

Madeleine got to her feet and grabbed Milo with one hand. “We have to get out of here!”

She glanced at him, and an icy spike went through him. Her eyes were pitch black and shiny and her fangs were out. If she was going to kill him now, he would not be able to stop her. His fear must have shown on his face, because she paused, closed her eyes and shook her head. When she opened them again, they were normal, but he could feel how hard it was for her to hold it back, restrain herself, in the strum of her magick rolling down her arm to him.

I can get us out. Her lips did not move, her words a whisper in his head. But I can’t do it like this, in this form. Do you trust me?

The dark super tore another large chunk off the front of the house, and Milo realized he was more afraid of what would happen if they didn’t get out of here than what might happen with Madeleine. If it was a trap, if she was in league with his newfound enemies, she could have left him here, easily. But she too was in danger the longer they stayed within the crumbling compound.

“I trust you!” he yelled and grabbed her arm. “Do what you need to do.”

She hesitated for just a moment, a sadness crossing her face, but liquid black poured into her eyes, her fangs lengthened, and before Milo’s widening eyes, she unfurled gigantic black wings from her back. Hold on.

She smiled at him and turned her attention skyward. She raised her free hand, palm up, and Milo could feel her power, like a winter breeze, burst from her hand, parting what remained of the roof from the rafters. She flexed her wings and just as the front wall fell, they shot upward, out of the house and into the midnight sky.

The house grew tiny beneath their feet, the dark super raging at their escape, before she leveled out their altitude. She reached down with her other hand and grabbed him like it was nothing. He slid his arms around her waist and rested his head on her shoulder. He wondered why his legs were not dangling beneath them, given that she was flying horizontally.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into his ear. “For all this.”

He gave her a half-hearted chuckle and hugged her tightly. “There’s nothing to be sorry about. I haven’t had this much fun on a date in years,” he jested.

“Oh, Milo.”

Those two words held such sadness, his heart hurt. What could he tell her to make this better? He turned his head, and off in the distance, he saw a black cloud rising from the city lights, a darkness that whispered of a thousand wings and hissing teeth. Well, shit. “Uh, Madeleine, we have company.”

She slowed and turned until they were perpendicular with the earth again. “Well, shit,” she repeated his sentiment. “I’ve got to get us out of the air, but I have to keep us out of city limits.” She looked around. “We need a distraction. Hold onto me. I need my hands.”

He wrapped his arms and legs around the vampire. The scent of blood filled the air, and when he looked to see what she was doing, he saw she had opened up one forearm and… “What are you doing?”

“I can call blood,” she said, “And I can make it semi-sentient.” The blood pouring from her open arm formed red marbles that hovered in the air around them. He could feel them, each one, giving off its own energy, a muted version of her own.

“Um, why?”

“Because we really need a distraction, remember? And those guys,” she pointed toward the quickly approaching mass, “are imps, and imps like…”

“Blood.” A light clicked on in his head. “And since they have the attention span of big gnats, this will throw them off our scent long enough to get somewhere else, before whomever is controlling them can get them to regroup and return to their mission.”

She smiled and licked her arm, sealing the wound, before patting him on the head. “I knew you were a smart one. Now, close your eyes, Milo.” She wrapped her arms around him again and tucked her head into the curve between his neck and shoulder. “This ride’s about to get really bumpy.”

And before he could formulate an appropriate comeback, she shot forward away from the oncoming horde and her blood baubles, and into mountains that surrounded Sierra Vista. The pace was nauseating, and after sneaking a peek at the cityscape below them and subsequently shoving down a nasty urge to toss up what little remained in his stomach, he understood why she had told him to keep his eyes closed.

As suddenly as they had begun, she stopped in mid-air, sending them careening at a speed that would have knocked the wind out of him had she not wrapped her wings around them both during their decent. He imagined that they must look like a large black blob falling from the sky at this point, but that could just have been his emerging hysterics talking.

The ground met them in a rush, but she had clearly had much practice and landed without incident. She shook her body and the wings folded back into the nothingness behind her. Milo glanced up at the sky, and he could see where they must have been. A roiling cloud of black shot in and out of itself amid the telltale imp chittering. It might have been a beautiful sight, had he not suspected that those creatures would have no qualms consuming him and Madeleine with the same vigor they were devouring her baubles.

“Milo, come on!” She tugged on his arm.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said, as the entire mass shuddered. Apparently, their master was closer than they had hoped. “Let’s go.”

Together they ran into the depths of mountains, through the saguaro cactus and over scurrying lizards and scorpions. She was patient with his pace, or maybe she was as tired as he had been before this whole ordeal had begun. Either way, he was grateful that she caught him when he stumbled and kept them moving through the desert mountain.

They were not being followed that he could tell, no chirping, no magick behind them. He felt like they had been running for hours, and when she finally slowed their pace to a walk, he fell to his knees. “I can’t go any further.”

She knelt beside him, looking paler than usual, and tired as all get out. “I know, but we have to keep moving. There’s a cave system not much farther from here that not even the humans know about.”

“Unless you can carry me, and I really doubt that at this point with as much blood as you just released, then we have to rest until I can get my legs under me again. Otherwise we’re fucked.”

“If we stay here much longer, we’ll be imp cuisine,” she pushed. “Wait, what kind of mage are you?”

He blinked at her. “Are you questioning my mage-ness?”

She shook her head. “Seriously. Milo, what kind of mage are you?”

He was not tracking where she was going, but that was probably sheer exhaustion clouding his head. “Talk to me like I’m stupid, Madeleine.”

She lifted his chin. “How do you get your magick? Are you an elementalist? An illusionist? A morpher?”

“Um,” he closed his eyes, willing his grey matter to stay awake for just a little longer. “Elemental. I use elemental magick. Why?”

“We’re idiots,” she muttered. She let go of his face and grabbed his hands, shoving them into the ground. “We’re in a practically untouched area of earth. Beneath the earth is water, just a trickle, but it should be enough. Above us is air, and I’ll even tolerate a little fire, if you can use it to call on your magick.”

He shook his head at her. “It doesn’t work like that. I have to be awake enough to accept it. And right now, I’m pretty much an empty sieve.”

She pushed his hands harder, deeper into the dirt. “It does work like this. It can, but you have to feel it, you have to pull it out. You’re strong enough to do that. You have to be, because you’re not the only one running on empty, and you’re not going to be happy with how I recharge.”

He sighed. Not that he wanted to be vampire food, but… “I can’t…”

Madeleine ran her dusty hands over his bald head. “Milo, you’re our only hope. There’s something coming, something bigger than the imps, something larger up their master’s sleeve, and if we’re caught right now, there isn’t going to be much of a fight. And we’re going to probably wish they were just going to kill us.”

But there are things worse than death. Milo grimaced. “Okay, I’ll try. Watch my back.”

She leaned into him and planted the softest of kisses on his lips. “Good luck.” She walked away and left him to figure out how to do this.

Sure, he had heard of it. Elemental magick had to have started somewhere. And he knew how to mix and meld the stuff at his disposal, but he had always had the magick bottled up inside him, and when he was out, he was out, until he could sleep a good 12 hours. He had never questioned the process, just assumed that he was magickally recharged. If what she was saying was true, though…

“Concentrate, Milo,” he chastised himself. “Do this and you’ll have time to contemplate the bigger picture.” He closed his eyes.

At first, there was nothing but the cool earth between his fingers. Come on… He took a couple of deep breaths and, trusting that Madeleine would keep him as safe as she could, dropped his internal shields. He gasped when the cool desert sand turned hot against his palms, like it was noon out here, not midnight. That heat poured through his hands and up his arms, the muscles relaxing, warming, the ache dissipating in its wake.

He dug in deeper, and it was like the tickle beneath him had risen to meet his fingertips. The water rushed like a menthol breath over his skin. He could feel the minor scrapes from the pieces of Madeleine’s house that had flown at him healed, and he knew without seeing that there would not even be scars left behind.

That mystical tank inside him filled, flowed to overflowing, and Milo felt refreshed, alive and ready to face whatever it was that was coming next. He could save himself, save them both. The mage pushed himself upright, in awe of the bright red glow emanating from his body.

“Madeleine?” He turned to face her, the scent of her like a trail of ice in the middle of his heat. “Madeleine, it worked!”

“Oh, god,” she cried out. “No!”

“What’s wrong? Madeleine?” It took him a second to realize that she was not looking at him, but over him, behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as the scent of sulfur reached his nose. He turned around, and his jaw dropped.

“You have got to be shitting me.”


Continue: 18

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