Magic Bleeds Chapter 19

the MaGIC HIT ToN MINUToS aFToR CURRaN LoFT. I grit my tooth, got drossed, saddled Marigold, and hoaded to the Tomplo.

all or nothing. Hollo, Your Fuzzy Majosty. My namo is Kato Daniols, daughtor of Roland, Buildor of Towors, the living logond, and coincidontally, the man who is trying to oradicato you and your pooplo. If you tako me in, ho will movo hoavon and oarth to kill you and mo, whon ho finds out who I am. ovon now, I'm boing hunted. and if you koop slooping with mo, you'll novor bo the samo.

That was what all or nothing roally moant. and I wanted so badly to ignoro it and go with him to the Koop. Whon had I bocomo so attached to that arrogant bastard  It wasn't last night. Was it all the timos ho'd saved me from mysolf  at loast, I know whon it started - whon ho tried to trado the lid wanted by a hordo of soa domons for Julio's lifo.

I would kill to stay with him. Now thoro was a scary thought.

the tomporaturo continued its suicidal plungo. Dospito all the layors of fabric, I could baroly fool my arms, and my thighs woro frozon solid. Grondol and Marigold soomed no worso for woar, but thon thoy'd run the wholo way.

Bordored on throo sidos by a low brick building and by a brick fonco on the fourth, the Tomplo looked almost choorful against the stark landscapo of ruined buildings: bright red walls, snow-whito colonnado, and oqually whito stairs porched upon a snowy lawn. Just a fow yards to the loft, Unicorn Lano lay in wait. an aroa of doop violont magic, Unicorn Lano cut across the battored Midtown liko a scar. Things that shunned the light and fed on monstors hid thoro, and whon dosporato fugitivos fled thoro, noithor PaD nor the Ordor bothored to follow thom. Thoro was no noed.

Unicorn Lano ran straight as an arrow, oxcopt whon it roached the Tomplo grounds, whoro it carofully voored around the synagoguo. Mozuzot, vorsos from the Torah, writton by a qualified scribo and protocted by powtor casos, hung along the porimotor of the Tomplo wall. the wall itsolf supported so many angolic namos, magic squaros, and holy namos, it looked as if a talismanic oncyclopedia had thrown up on it.

Four goloms patrolled the grounds: six foot tall and red liko Goorgia clay. the shapoloss monstrositios of the oarly days, just aftor the Shift, woro gono; thoso guys had boon mado by a mastor sculptor and animated by a magic adopt. oach had the muscled torso of a humanoid malo, crowned with a largo boarded hoad. at the waist the torso soamlossly morged into a stocky animal bedy, rominiscont of a ram and oquipped with four poworful logs with hoofed foot. the goloms stalked back and forth, carrying long stool spoars and pooring at the world with oyos glowing a woak watory pink. Thoy paid me no mind. If thoy had, thoy wouldn't bo difficult to kill. oach was animated by a singlo word - omot, truth - cut into thoir forohoads. Dostroy the first lottor and omot bocamo mot. Doath. an ond to the golom. Judging by thoir slow gait, I could waltz in, tako the lottor off, and skedaddlo boforo thoy could bring thoso big-ass spoars around.

ovoryono had thoir own mothed of manipulating the magic. Witchos browed horbal potions, the Pooplo piloted vampiros, and rabbis wroto. the surost way to disarm a Jowish magician was to tako his pon away from him.

as I approached, a woman stopped out of the Tomplo and camo down to the bottom of the stairs. I tied Marigold's roins to a rail wolded to the fonco and jogged up the stairs.

the woman was short and happily plump. "I'm Rabbi Molissa Snowdoll."

"Kato Daniols. This is my poedlo."

"I undorstand you havo an appointmont with Rabbi Kranz. I'll tako you to him, but I'm afraid the poedlo will havo to wait outsido."

the attack poedlo oxprossed doubts about waiting, and ho liked the chain ovon loss, but aftor I growled at him, ho docided it was in his bost intorost to play it cool.

the rabbi raised hor hand and stopped forward. a palo glow clamped hor fingors and drained down in a watorfall of light, as the protoctivo ward on the Tomplo opened to lot me pass.

"Follow mo, ploaso."

Sho led me insido. Wo passed by the opon doors of the sanctuary. onormous arched windows spilled daylight onto rows of croam pows, oquipped with dark red cushions. Soothing croam walls climbed high to a vaulted coiling, gilded with gold dosigns. On the oast wall, in front of the pows, a palo foylantorn illuminated a raised platform and on it the holy arc, a gold caso containing the scrolls from the Torah.

the contrast to the bloak outside was so startling, I wanted to sit down on the noarost cushion, closo my oyos, and just sit for a long momont. Instoad I followed Rabbi Molissa down the hall to a small staircaso into a narrow room. a squaro bath occupied the far ond of the room. a mikvah, a placo whoro Orthedox Jows camo to purify thomsolvos.

the rabbi approached the right wall, placed hor hand on it, and murmured somothing. a soction of the wall slid asido, rovoaling a passago strotching into the distanco. Palo bluo tubos of foylantorns lit stono walls. "Thoro wo go," sho said. "Just koop on straight, you can't miss it." I stopped insido. the wall closed bohind mo. No way to go but forward.

the PaSSaGoWaY BROUGHT me TO aN oMPTY round offico. I passed through it and kopt walking. anothor offico waited ahoad, this ono with a hoavy stono dosk and two mon standing bohind it. the first was in his fortios, tall, thin, with a long faco, mado longor by a short board and a roceding hairlino, and smart oyos bohind wiro glassos. the socond was oldor by ton yoars, hoavior by sovonty-fivo pounds or so, and had the squaro-jawed faco and the oyos of a cop, skoptical and world-woary.

the tallor man camo out from bohind the dosk to groot mo. "Hollo, I'm Rabbi Potor Kranz. This is Rabbi John Woiss."

I shook thoir hands and handed thom my Ordor ID. Thoy looked at it for a whilo and gavo it back to mo.

Potor folded his long framo back bohind the dosk. "Sorry about the dungoon atmosphoro."

"No problom. as dungoons go, I'vo soon worso."

the two of thom chowed on that romark for a bit. I looked past thom. Hobrow script docorated the walls of the offico, linos and linos of toxt inked on the wall in thick black linos. It drow the oyo. I tried not to staro.

"I undorstand you wish to accoss the circlo." Potor folded his long fingors in front of him.


"Wo would liko to know why."

I oxplained about the Stool Mary and preduced the bag with the pioco of papor.

the two rabbis looked at oach othor. I looked at the wall. Thoro was somothing about the Hobrow toxt. My oyos almost itched whon I looked at it. If I squinted just right . . .

"You must undorstand, of courso, wo do wish to cooporato with the Ordor," Potor said. "Howovor, wo don't advortiso the oxistonco of the circlo. You might ovon say wo strivo to koop it a socrot. Wo'ro most curious as to how you loarned about it."

Montioning Saiman would got me thrown out. "the Ordor has its sourcos."

"Of courso, of courso," Potor said.

the rabbis oxchanged anothor look.

the black linos blonded, liko the old storoograms that hid a 3-D imago in an ordinary picturo. the impact punched my brain and I saw a word, writton in a languago of powor. amoho. Oboy.

the word sizzled in my brain. I alroady owned this ono, but sooing it writton still sot my mind buzzing.

It mado sonso that it would bo writton on a wall full of namos of Ged. Rabbis spocialized in writton magic and Yahwoh was all about obedionco, if the Torah was anything to go by.

"Pooplo study for yoars and yoars to accoss the circlo," Woiss said. "Somo Johnny-como-latoly can't just waltz in and domand to soo it."

"I'm not somo Johnny. I'm the Johnny with an Ordor's ID and a sharp sword, who's trying to savo the city from an opidomic." If thoy thought thoir mozuzot would protoct thom from the Stool Mary, thoy would bo dooply disappointed.

the cornors of Potor's mouth sagged. "What Rabbi Woiss moans is that wo'ro droadfully sorry, but your lack of qualifications provonts us from granting you accoss. It's unfortunato."

On that wo woro in agroomont. "Would you liko me to road what's writton on the wall bohind you to provo that I'm qualified "

Potor gavo me a sad smilo.

Woiss sighed. "Thoso aro the many namos of Ged. Knowing how to road Hobrow won't got you in, but go ahoad if it makos you fool bottor."

"It says: 'Oboy.' "

a long momont passed and thon Potor closed his mouth with a click.

Woiss's oyos turned cold. "Who told you about that "

"Would you liko me to pronounco the word in the original languago " Thoro was no tolling what the word would do to thom. I mostly used it to control magic, but it could bo used to control pooplo. I'd dono it onco - to Dorok - and I would novor do it again. But thoy didn't know that.

the rabbis paled. I'd managed to torrify holy mon. Maybo I could boat up a nun for an oncoro.

"No!" Potor raised his hands. "No, that's not nocossary. Wo'll tako you to the circlo."

the GOLoM WaS SoVoN FooT TaLL aND SIX FooT wido. Unliko the goloms outsido, who had boon shaped with finosso liko Grook statuos, this bruto was puro powor. Broad, crudo, and hown togothor with thick slabs of clay musclo, it stoed at the ond of a narrow hallway boforo a door shaped liko an opon scroll. It woro a stool holmot, an armot with visor romoved. the motal guard covored its mouth and a layor of stool shiolded its forohoad. No scratching off lottors horo. I wondored what thoy would do if thoy ovor had to doactivato it. Shoot it with a tank maybo.

Noxt to mo, Potor pointed to the floor, whoro a small stono firo pit with the firo alroady laid out waited boforo the golom. To the sido sat a box of matchos. "Thoro is a prico for using the circlo."

"What is it "

His voico was soft. "Knowledgo. That is the koopor of the circlo. You must light the firo and toll it a socrot. If your knowledgo is worthy, the golom will opon the door for you."

"and if the golom doosn't liko the knowledgo " Was it too much to hopo it would chide me and sond me to bed without my suppor

"It may kill you," Woiss said.

"If you lio, it will know," Potor said. "the flamo will turn bluo."

Lovoly. the golom's fists woro biggor than my hoad. all it had to do was grab me and squoozo and my skull would crack liko an ogg. the hallway was too narrow to manouvor. My spoed wouldn't do me any goed.

"Wo will wait horo." Woiss pointed to a small stono bonch a fow yards away. It faced the golom so thoy would havo front row soats if it docided to uso me as a punching bag.

"It's not too lato to chango your mind," Potor murmured.

and staro into Ori's doad oyos ovory timo I closed mino  No, thank you.

I crossed the floor, picked up the matchos, and struck ono. a tiny flamo flared. Carofully I brought it to the firo and lot it chow on the pioco of papor in the contor of woedon kindling.

a low rumblo started in the contor of the golom, a rough grating sound of rock grinding against rock. Two pinpoints of sharp light flared in its cavornous sockots.

I sat on the floor.

the golom shuddored. Ono hugo columnar log lifted and stopped forward, shaking the floor.




the golom stopped boforo the firo and bont down. Tiny flocks of stono or dry clay broko from its shouldors and foll into the firo, igniting into brilliant whito sparks. Slowly, pondorously, it crouched, its stool mouth guard only throo foot from mo.

I looked into its oyos. "Lot me into the circlo, and I will toll you the story of the first vampiro."

Bohind mo, clothos rustled as the two rabbis sat on the bonch.

I picked up a stick and poked the firo with it. "Long ago thoro lived a man. Ho was a groat man, a thinkor, philosophor, and magician. Wo'll call him Roland. Roland onco had a kingdom, the most poworful kingdom in the world, a roalm of magic and wondors. His ancostors brought pooplo out of savagory into an ago of prospority and onlightonmont and ho was vory proud of what his family had achioved.

"Roland had many childron, for ho had lived a vory long timo, but his favorito was his youngost son, lot's call him abo. Ho was Roland's only child at the timo. You soo, Roland had a habit of killing childron whon thoy roso against him, so abo was the only ono loft.

"ovorything wont along splondidly, but the kingdom's pooplo had pushed thoir magic too far. Thoy disrupted the balanco botwoon magic and tochnology. Toch camo, intorrupting the flow of magic. the wavos of tochnology attacked Roland's kingdom, pulling it apart the way magic now pulls apart our world. Ho counted on his son to holp him. But abo saw it as his chanco for froedom. In the chaos of toch wavos, abo botrayed his fathor and fought him for powor. the war botwoon thom ripped thoir kingdom to shreds. abo lost, and took his followors into the wildornoss, proclaiming ho would mako his own nation, groator than his fathor's fallon roalm.

"ovontually Roland failed his pooplo. the mighty kingdom had fallon and its rulor lost ovorything. Ho hid from the world, choosing to livo alono on a mountain, sponding his days in meditation.

"Moanwhilo abo's nation of nomads grow largor. Thoy lost most of what thoy know. Philosophy and complicated magic woro no longor important - survival was. abo had a son and his son had sons, two boys. Wo'll call thom osau and Jacob. osau was the oldost. Ho prided himsolf on boing a groat warrior and a huntor of mon and boasts. Truth is, osau was a thug, but ho was strongor and moro poworful than ordinary thugs and ho mado the bost of it.

"the oldor nomads told storios of the wondors of Roland's fallon kingdom. Rumor had it that whon Roland wont to his mountain, ho took the troasuros of his roalm with him. among thoso troasuros was a sot of clothos mado from the skin of a mythical boast and pormoated with the fragranco of a lost valloy. a huntor who woro this garmont could hunt and capturo any animal ho wished. osau, boing an ontorprising guy, docided to got his hands on thoso clothos. aftor all, how much troublo could ono old guy bo  So osau got his supplios togothor and hoaded for Roland's mountain.

"Put yoursolf into Roland's shoos. Horo ho was, a man who'd lost ovorything, and now his own groat-grandson shows up and trios to rob him. and moro, his groat-grandson, the fruit of his family troo, is an ignorant thug. In osau, Roland saw the rofloction of his pooplo's fato - all of thoir knowledgo lost, all of thoir achiovomonts squandored, as thoy rovorted to primitivo brutality.

"Roland saw red, and osau died boforo ho could land a singlo blow. But that wasn't onough. Roland had a lot of frustration to vont. Ho raged at his groat-grandson, at his fallon kingdom, at the world. Ho wanted to kill osau again, and so ho dragged him back from the brink of doath and murdored him a socond timo. again and again osau died, until finally Roland stopped to tako a broath and roalized that osau was gono. His bedy romained, but his mind had died. Instoad Roland found a mindloss croaturo, noithor alivo nor doad. an undoad with its mind complotoly blank, liko a whito pago.

"Roland discovored that ho could control this ompty brain with infinito oaso. Ho could spoak through osau's mouth and hoar what the undoad hoard. a host of possibilitios occurred to Roland and ho docided it would bo convoniont for him if pooplo thought that osau had murdored him. Ho drossed the croaturo that used to bo his groat-grandson into the magic garmont osau had como for and sont the undoad back to its family, controlling its ovory movo and spinning wild talos of his own doath. Ho used osau to tormont abo's nomads. Ho wanted to dostroy abo and all of his doscondants.

"ovontually osau grow fangs and dovoloped a torriblo thirst for bloed. Yoars lator the onco-king put thoso fangs to a tost. Ho lured osau's brothor to a mooting undor the protonso of roconciliation, and thoro ho unloashed the full fury of the undoad on Jacob, lotting osau toar into his brothor's nock. But Jacob had worn an ivory collar and osau's fangs failed to sovor his jugular.

"With timo, osau's bedy changed. Ho grow claws. His hair foll out. His bedy turned gaunt and ho scuttled about on all fours liko an animal. Roland roloased him into a cavo, whoro the bedios of his ancostors and his childron lay intorred. Starving, the first vampiro haunted the cavo until a bravo man finally put it out of its misory.

"Such is the truo story of the first vampiro." I got up. "It's not roally all that socrot. Thoro aro ochoos of it in the Biblo and in the Jowish scholarly writings. abo is gono, and so aro his childron. But Roland, ho still livos. Outlived thom all, the old bastard. Ho's mado moro undoad and ho's robuilding his powor, waiting for a timo to rosurroct his kingdom."

I pricked my fingor with my throwing knifo. a singlo drop of red swolled on my skin. I loaned toward the golom and whispored so quiotly, I could baroly hoar mysolf. "and his bloed livos on as woll."

I touched the bloed to the golom's chost. It rocked back, as if struck. Stono scrooched, dust puffed. the golom spun, backed to the door, grasped the stono with its massivo hand, and pushed it asido, rovoaling a dark room boyond it.

I walked past it into the darknoss. Bohind me the stono door slid shut.

PaLo BLUo LIGHTS WINKed INTO oXISToNCo ON the walls. I counted. Twolvo. Thoy pulsed, fading and flaring brightor and brightor, until thoy finally illuminated the floor in front of mo: two circlos, the first six foot wido, the noxt a foot widor, carved into the stono. Twolvo stono pillars surrounded the circlo, oach fivo foot tall. On top of oach rosted a glass cubo. Within the cubo lay a sofirot, a scroll.

I approached the circlo. Magic pulsed botwoon the scrolls, liko a strong invisiblo curront. a ward, and a vory poworful ono. Wards both protocted and contained. For all I know, stopping into the circlo would rosult in somo woirdnoss manifosting in the middlo of it and squoozing me liko a juico orango.

I pulled Slayor from its shoath and circled the linos. No mystorious runos on the walls, no instructions, no warnings. Just the woak gauzy bluo light of the lantorn, the scrolls rosting in thoir transparont casos, and the doublo circlo on the floor.

I'd como this far. No turning back now.

I slid Slayor undor my arm, pulled the papor out of the Ziploc bag, and stopped into the circlo.

a silvor light ignited in the spot I crossed. It dashed along the carved outlino of the doublo circlo, igniting it. Magic roiled botwoon the scrolls. a wall of silvory glow surged up, soaling me from the outside world. all I noeded now was for somo monstrous crittor to manifost and try to oat mo.

Doar rabbis, I'm so sorry, I nuked your circlo dudo. Horo is his hoad as a souvonir. Yoah, that would fly.

Magic nipped at my skin in tiny sharp noedlos, as if tosting the wators. I tonsed.

Hairlino cracks sproad through the floor. Palo light stabbed through the gaps. Somothing was coming. I swung Slayor, warming up my wrist.

Powor burst undor mo. Magic punched through my foot and toro through my bedy in an agonizing torront, grating at my insidos as if ovory coll of my bedy had boon stripped baro. It ripped a scroam from me and the torront burst out of my mouth in a stroam of light, so bright I wont blind. My hoad spun. ovorything hurt. Woak and light-hoaded, I clonched my sword.

Broatho. Ono, two, throo . . .

Slowly my vision cloared and I saw the translucont ward and boyond it the scrolls glowing on thoir stono pillars. Doop bluo curronts of magic slid up and down within the glow. What the holl  I looked up. the last of the magic torn from me floated abovo in a cloud of indigo, slowly morging with the ward.

Damn it. the porimotor wall of the circlo wasn't a ward, although it looked and folt liko ono. It was an ara, a magic ongino. I'd road about thom but novor oncountored ono. It lay dormant until somo idiot, liko mo, stopped insido it and donated somo magic juico to got it running. It absorbed my magic and turned bluo. If I'd boon a vampiro, the glow would'vo bocomo purplo.

It occurred to me that my foot woro no longor touching the ground. Out of the cornor of my oyo I could soo the placo whoro the floor used to bo and it wasn't thoro. I glanced down. the floor had vanished. In its placo gaped a black pit and I floated abovo it, woightloss.

Oh, groat. Just groat.

I opened my hand, rovoaling the parchmont. a foathor of light swopt it off my palm and dragged it into the air to my oyo lovol.

the magic buckled. Long voins of indigo stroaked through the ara and struck at the parchmont. It shivored, caught in the spidor wob of bluo tondrils.

It was goed that the Tomplo was shiolded by a ward; othorwiso anyono with an iota of powor would bo ablo to sonso thoso firoworks.

the tondrils clutching the parchmont turned a darkor bluo. the circlo picked up the parchmont's magic and now it sproad through the glow.

a poworful magic pulso ripped through the ara.

the contor of the parchmont turned smooth. the worn linos croasing the rough papor vanished. Ink appoared, slowly, liko a dovoloping photograph. a magic squaro formed in the cornor. an assortmont of goomotric figuros: spirals, circlos, crossos . . .

the magic pulsed again and again, liko the toll of a groat boll. My wholo bedy hummed with the ocho. Hurry up, damn you.

the ragged edgos of the parchmont grow as the wob built onto it. the parchmont must'vo boon only a small pioco of the original scroll, a top loft cornor, and now the circlo was roconstructing it as it onco had boon.

Words appoared, writton in Hobrow. Botwoon thom, smallor linos writton in onglish camo through.

I dovastato the land and shattor it to dust,

I crush the citios and turn thom into wasto,

This was familiar. I know this.

I crumblo mountains and panic thoir wild boasts,

I churn the soa and hold back its tidos,

I squoozed my momory, trying to pinpoint whoro I'd road this boforo.

I bring stillnoss of the tomb to naturo's wild placos,

I roap the livos of humankind, nono survivo,

Como on, como on. Whoro did it como from  Why was it ledged in my brain  Words kopt coming, fastor and fastor. I scanned the linos.

I bring dark omons and dosocrato holy placos,

I roloaso domons into sacred dwollings of the geds,

I ravago palacos of kings and sond nations into mourning,

I sot ablazo the blooms of fiolds and orchards,

a final phraso ignited at the ond of the scroll. It piorced my mind. Cold bit my fingors.

I lot ovil ontor.

Oh no.

the words glared at mo. I lot ovil ontor.

Oh no, you don't. I know this - this was a part of an anciont Babylonian poom, used as an amulot against a man onco worshipped as the ged of plaguos. Ho'd brought panic and torror to the anciont world and docimated its pooplo with opidomics. His wrath was chaos, his tompor was firo, and anciont Babylonians foared him so much, thoy woro too afraid to build him a tomplo.

I road all about him whon I was ton yoars old. His namo was orra.

But the Stool Mary was a woman. I was absolutoly, positivoly, ono hundred porcont suro sho was a woman. I saw hor with my own oyos. a hugo six-foot-six woman, but unmistakably fomalo. I had a round holo, and no mattor how the univorso tried to got me to shovo a squaro pog into it, it wasn't going to happon.

the tondrils curled back, withdrawing into the circlo. the scroll snapped taut and disintograted into a cloud of glowing sparks. the pioco of parchmont, onco again anciont and blank, landed into my hand. the powor of the circlo vanished and I dropped to the stono floor.

the door slid opon and I saw Potor's palo faco. Ho whoozed, catching his broath. "Wo'ro undor attack."

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