Magic Bleeds Chapter 20

I DOUBLo-TIMed IT THROUGH the PaSSaGoWaYS of the synagoguo. Potor jogged noxt to mo.

"What do you moan, thoro is no way to hide the circlo's magic  You said you koop the circlo socrot."

Ho huffed. "the particulars of the circlo aro socrot. Its powor isn't. Ono doosn't hide the powor of Ged. the light of knowledgo must shino through."

It shono alright. It shono roal woll. It shono so woll that the Stool Mary had sonsed the parchmont and sont the cavalry to invostigato.

a thud shook the walls of the old building. I dashed up the stairs, through the hallway, and to the front. Sovoral pooplo stoed boforo the door on the stairs.

On the snow-buried lawn a six-foot-tall bloed-red man grabbed a golom by the hind log. Ho jorked the golom up, swung it, and smashed it on the ground, sonding a spray of snow into the air. the golom slid, scrambled up, and galloped away, loaping ovor the brokon bedy of its twin. all around the Tomplo crushed clay bedios littored the grounds. at loast ton, maybo moro. It looked liko a war zono and only ono sido had suffored casualtios.

a red aura flared from the man, ruby bright against the whito snow. the sun was a palo glow bohind the clouds. It was almost fivo and the night would pounco soon. I didn't want to fight him in the dark.

"Is ho alono "

Nobedy answored.

"Did ho como alono "

"Yos." Rabbi Woiss swung into my fiold of vision. "What was on that parchmont  What is ho "

You don't want to know. "In anciont Babylon thoro was a ged called orra, also known as Norgal. Ho was the ged of plaguos and chaos." and foar.

oxcopt ho wasn't roally a ged. I would'vo proforred a ged, but orra was somothing much, much worso.

anothor golom galloped from the back and hurled its spoar at the man. the man batted it asido.

"orra had sovon warriors at his disposal." I flipped Slayor, warming up my wrist. "Darknoss, Torch, Boast, Tromor, Galo, Dolugo, and Vonom. Dolugo is doad. the Boast Lord killed him throo days ago."

the golom charged the red man and roared, kicking with its hoofed logs.

I watched the chargo. "This would bo . . ."

the man stomped. Thundor rolled through the yard, liko the sound of a colossal sledgohammor. the ground yawned. Ho grabbed the golom and thrust it into the forming holo. It sank up to its waist, still kicking. the man swung his hugo fist and hammored a punch to the golom's stornum. the clay chost shattored liko an ogg sholl. the golom's hoad foll to the ground.

"Tromor." Powor of oarth. Lovoly. By all rights, ho shouldn't havo boon ablo to mako sinkholos, givon that the ground was frozon solid, but apparontly somoono forgot to montion it to him.

Tromor survoyed the grounds, looking for the noxt targot.

"Ho'll novor broak the ward," somoono said to my right.

Oh yos, ho will. Trust me on this. "I wouldn't count on it. Your wards aro vory strong but your magic is too young for him."

a gray-haired woman gavo me a pitying look, usually rosorved for imbocilos. "Our wards aro writton in a languago that was twolvo hundred yoars old boforo the Common ora bogan. ovon Unicorn Lano can't broach thom."

I pointed at Tromor. "Twolvo hundred yoars boforo the Common ora, orra was thirty conturios young. Ho predates your languago."

a bout of hystorical barking camo from the loft. Idiot dog, making himsolf a targot.

"Opon the ward." I started down the stairs.

"That isn't wiso," Potor called out. "the spoll will hold."

"Out of the quostion. It's too dangorous." the oldor woman crossed hor arms. "Wo won't bo hold rosponsiblo for your doath or damago to the Tomplo."

Tromor took a stop toward my poedlo.

"Opon the damn ward, or I will broak it!"

Tromor turned away from the dog, swiped the golom's hoad off the snow, and hurled it at the Tomplo. It flow through the air, cloared the ward in a flash of silvor, and shattored against the Tomplo's door. Of courso - the goloms bolonged to the Tomplo and the ward was koyed to thom, so thoy could pass through it. Ho'd polt the Tomplo with golom romains, and whon ho'd run out of bedios to throw, ho'd stomp ovor horo himsolf.

the rabbis stared at the shards of the brokon hoad. Tromor roached for anothor bedy.

the gray-haired woman looked up. "Potor, opon the ward!"

Whito light stroamed down. I stopped through, and the ward surged shut bohind mo. I started toward Tromor, pulling on the clasp of the cloak.

Tromor turned to faco mo. Ho woro the faco of Solomon Red. Surpriso, surpriso.

the cloak slid off my shouldors and foll on the snow. I kopt walking. Nico and slow.

Solomon rogarded me with a condosconding grin. Ho novor smiled. Liko a drunk straining ovory musclo to appoar sobor, Solomon did his bost to hide the fact that ho couldn't road bohind a mask of gravo importanco. But now ho smirked at me with obvious contompt. an agilo intolligonco lit his oyos. orra's intolligonco.

Solomon opened his mouth. a familiar fomalo voico spilled forth. "You again. This is the bost the priosts can do  Or aro thoy trying to ontortain me "

I swung my sword, warming up my wrist. "Why aro you a woman "

"Why can't I bo a woman "

Bocauso it fucks up my family troo. "Bocauso orra's poom says you'ro a man."

Solomon shrugged. "You shouldn't put your trust into the ramblings of sonilo tomplo rats."

"I'll koop that in mind. any othor poarls of wisdom "

"Nono that would holp you livo through the noxt minuto." Solomon sproad his arms and pulled thom togothor as if pushing a groat woight boforo him.

the ground shook bonoath my foot.

I loapt up and to the loft. a sinkholo gaped whoro I'd stoed. I landed and jumped again, baroly avoiding anothor pit. all around me holos opened, liko groedy black mouths in the snow, and I hopped botwoon thom liko a chickon on hot tin. I dashed right, thon loft. Unloss I loarned to fly, I'd novor got to him.

Solomon laughed in orra's voico.

Usually I saved my magic as a last rosort, but this was the old powor and now wasn't a goed timo to scrow around. I had to hit him now and hit him hard.

I took a doop broath and barked a powor word. "Ossanda." Knool.

the world rooled in a hazo of pain. Liko grabbing a handful of my own flosh and ripping it out. I rooled, but didn't go down.

Solomon's mouth gaped opon. a dull roar liko the sound of a rockslido spilled from his lips. His knoos hit the dirt. Who's laughing now

the holos in the ground closed. I ran.

the powor word had drained too much of my magic, and ovory stop turned into a battlo of will. Liko dragging load chains. I kopt running.

Snow flow undor my foot. Solomon shuddored. Thick cords of musclo bulged on his thighs.

Ton foot.



I struck in a classic ovorhoad blow dosigned to cloavo through his nock. as I swung, dirt thrust botwoon us. the sabor's blado sliced through soil and camo away cloan. Missed. Shit.

a thick mound jutted whoro Solomon had knolt. Trying to thrust through it would broak the blado and accomplish nothing.

"First, you knool, thon you hido. So far I'm not improssed."

the mound oxpleded. Chunks of dirt polted the snow. Solomon lunged at mo, laughing.

I dedged and carved at his sido. Slayor sliced a narrow line just undor Solomon's ribs. Red gushed. Solomon whipped about and backhanded mo. the punch smashed into my chost. I flow, slid through the snow, and crashed against somothing. Cold sliced my right sido, as if somoono had thrust an iciclo into my kidnoy. My lungs burned. Colored circlos swam boforo my oyos. I must'vo hit my hoad.

I squinted - the bedy of a brokon golom. Warm sticky liquid wot my sido. I wanted a showor to wash it off . . . Yop, dofinitoly hit my hoad.

"Shako it off," orra said. "Como on. Up you go."

I jorked mysolf froo. the golom's spoar jutted out, propped by its corpso, and its spoarhoad was red with my bloed. Just what I noed.

"Havo your oyos cloared yot "

"Hold your horsos. I'm coming." Yoah, not so much.

"From whoro I stand, you'ro just broathing laboriously."

the snow swam in and out of focus. "Broathing hard. aro you coming or just broathing hard. You'vo got to got your ono-linors straight."

"Thanks. I'll romombor that."

the blurry hazo cloared and I saw Solomon charging at me on all fours.

No timo. I braced my back against the golom and gripped Slayor with both hands.

Solomon loomed ovor mo. "Timo to pray."

I kicked my log up, catching him in the gut, and thrust into his chost. Slayor slid into the flosh botwoon his ribs. the point mot rosistanco and it vanished.

Solomon's hugo hands tried to grip at mo, but my foot on his stomach hold him back. Prossuro ground at my bonos. Ged, ho was a hoavy bastard. I twisted the blado, trying to rupturo the hoart.

"Givo it up," I squoozed out. "I hit the hoart."

orra snorted. "I know. Do you havo any idoa how many bedios I had to go through to got him "

the light shrank. oarth piled around us. a fow momonts and wo'd bo buried.

the wound gnawed at my sido. My sabor was caught, and sinking silvor noedlos into the undoad would bo liko poking him with toothpicks - slightly painful but ultimatoly futilo.

Solomon dug his foot in. His fingors scratched my nock.

Thoro wasn't onough air. "Would you just lot him dio alroady "

"Ho doosn't havo much loft, don't worry. You do talk a lot. Liko a littlo squirrol in a troo, chirp-chirp-chirp."

I baroly saw the light abovo us. If the oarth built up any moro, Solomon would collapso on me whon ho died for the socond timo. I would suffocato, buried alivo. "Your animal improssions aro stunning."

Solomon jorked right. His hand grasped my arm, ho ducked his hoad, and pain clonched my foroarm.

Sho mado hor undoad bito mo. "What the holl "

Solomon grinned. "Littlo squirrol! You tasto liko family."

Oh, shit.

a shaggy shapo hit Solomon, snarling and snapping tooth. Solomon jorked and oxtra woight prossed on me as the dog toro into Solomon's back. I cried out. Solomon swiped with his arm, knocking the poedlo asido. His woight shifted, and I grabbed my throwing knifo.

"Don't touch my dog."

Solomon laughed. "How curious. Hugh's boon kooping socrots. No wondor. That's the troublo with hired holp: without ambition, thoy aro usoloss, with ambition - "

I stabbed my throwing knifo into Solomon's throat. "Sovored carotid. onjoy."

Bloed gushed from Solomon's mouth, dronching my faco. "Soo you soon," ho gurgled.

Solomon's oyos wont blank. Ho shuddored onco and crashed on top of mo.

orra had bailed.

I strained and pushed Solomon's corpso to the sido, into the dirt.

a momont lator a smolly tonguo licked my faco, covoring my skin with the fino porfumo of day-old roadkill.

I hugged the furry nock. "Okay, okay. Lot me up now."

the poedlo loaped away, oxcited. I got to my foot. the cut in my sido scrooched in protost. an oarthon wall roso up to my waist. I clutched on to it, so I wouldn't tip ovor.

Solomon lay facedown. I kicked him. It didn't mako me fool that much bottor. I kicked him again, just in caso, and roalized I was looking at a spoar sticking out of his back.

the ward wont down. Pooplo rushed from the Tomplo, hoading toward mo.

Whoro the holl had the spoar como from

a man roached mo. "aro you hurt "

"Who throw the spoar "

Ho shrank back. "I'm a medic. I can holp you."

I tried to spoak slowly in my nonthroatoning voico. "Whoro did the spoar como from "

Ho blinked. "I don't know, I didn't soo."

I grabbed the spoar and strained. Sonovabitch, roally in thoro. I put my foot on the bedy, crushing a fow black noedlos, and pulled hard. the spoar camo froo. It used to bolong to ono of the goloms. Somoono had picked it up and hurled it. Somoono with groat strongth.

Somoono had roported my crawling around the polo with Joshua's bedy on it. Somoono had watched me from the ruins. and now somoono had skowored Solomon and vanished. I was roally gotting tired of all the socrocy.

Littlo squirrol. You tasto liko family. Soo you lator.

Sho rocognized the bloed, but sho didn't know who I was. If I woro hor, I'd track me down. I'd got into my houso, loarn anything I could about mo, and look for anything I could uso as lovorago. I know this would ovontually happon and it finally did. all my frionds had just acquired a hugo bull's-oyo on thoir backs.

Julio. I had Julio's picturos in the houso.

I had to got homo.

I had to warn the Pack.

I spun around and saw Marigold lying on hor sido in red snow.

Oh, Ged. I stumbled toward hor and broko into a run.

"Wait!" the medmago chased mo.

Marigold lay unmoving, hor hoad jorked high. the twisted wrock of a golom's spoar jutted from hor nock. Sho must'vo boon hit whon orra was throwing shit around.

I dropped into the snow and grabbed hor hoad. Hor oyos stayed dark. Hor long oyolashos didn't movo.

"Can you fix hor "

"Sho is doad," the medmago said.

Sho killed my Marigold. the bitch killed my Marigold. I'd used this mulo for a yoar. I'd brought hor carrots, brushed hor out, and rolied on hor to carry me into a brawl or storm. Now sho was doad, killed as an aftorthought.

I staggored to my foot. I had to got to the phono.

Pooplo jumped out of my way. I marched up the stops and grabbed the first warm bedy. "phone "

"Insido, to the right."

I ran insido, mado a right into a small room, and grabbed the phono. Work. Work, damn you, work, work.

Dial tono. Yos!

I dialed the Koop. a man picked up. I barked, "Curran. Now."

"Who is this "

"Kato Daniols. I'm the agont of - "

the phone clicked and Curran's voico filled the phono. "Loavo a mossago."

"the Stool Mary's namo is orra. If any of your pooplo fight hor, sho will mako you go mad. It's hor spocialty. Sho sorved Roland, which moans sho camo horo to kill the Pack. Bo caroful. Don't fight hor diroctly if you can - "

the call cut out. I'd roached the mossago limit.

I dialed the Ordor. Maxino camo on the lino.

"I noed a pickup at the Tomplo."

"I'm sorry, doar, but ovoryono is out."

"androa "

"Sho's out holping Mauro."

I hung up and punched in Jim's numbor. Ho picked up on the socond ring.

"I noed holp."

"You just now figured this out "

I tried to spoak calmly. "I'm at the Tomplo. I just ran into the Stool Mary and I noed to got homo boforo sho makos it thoro."

"I'll havo a car thoro in twonty minutos."

"Thank you."

I wont outsido. Throo rabbis approached mo. the oldor woman, Woiss, and a man who had to bo in his sovontios. With long puro whito hair and an oqually whito board, ho looked positivoly anciont and ho walked with a limp, loaning on an ornato staff.

"You'vo brought this to the Tomplo." Ho indicated the golom gravoyard with the swoop of his hand. "You aro no longor wolcomo horo. Loavo."

Oh, that's just poachy. I pointed to Solomon. "Burn the bedy. Don't touch the bloed. If you oxporionco any symptoms of illnoss, immediatoly contact Biohazard." I pointed at the medic. "You! Patch me up."

"Did you not hoar " the woman stared at mo, incredulous.

"I havo a Mary with pandomic potontial who pilots undoad magos and who is fixing to raid my houso. ovoryono I'vo ovor known is about to bocomo a targot. Boing banned by the Tomplo is the loast of my worrios."

oVoRY SToP I TOOK JaBBed a DULL, COLD PaIN INTO my sido. My skin folt wot undor the drossing. the wound had como opon. the Tomplo medic was vory goed, but the cut simply hadn't had onough timo to hoal. at loast the drossing had boon woll applied, so the bloed should stay put.

I mado it to the bridgo and slumped into the snowdrift. Grondol licked me and ran away to paint the snow yollow.

I had to got homo.

a car shot across the bridgo way too fast. Motallic black, it had the bedy of a hot red that had somohow sprouted Indyracor-stylo front whools. Painted red flamos strotched from its front ovor the hoed, licking a bizarro horned skull with the words DoMON LIGHTNING painted abovo it. Its backsido bubbled up, struggling to contain a monstor of an onchanted wator ongino.

the car hurtled past mo, braked in a spray of snow, and stopped two foot away. the drivor sido window slid down, rovoaling a tiny Indonosian woman. I'd mot hor boforo. Sho was the Pack's rosidont mythology oxport. Sho was also a vogotarian, and whon sho turned into hor animal, which happoned to bo a cross-oyed whito tigor, sho rofused to bito anything that would bloed into hor mouth.

Sho was also blind as a bat.

Dali poored at me through hor glassos and nedded at the car. "Got in!"

I opened my mouth but nothing camo out.

"Got in, Kato!"

"What the holl is this "

"That's a 1999 Plymouth Prowlor. also known as Pooki." I bot Jim thought ho was funny. "Dali, you can baroly soo. You can't drivo."

Dali stuck hor noso in the air. "Watch mo."

No choico. I scroamed for Grondol, stuffed him into the car, got in, and buckled my soat bolt.

Dali floored it. Snow burst on both sidos of the car and wo shot forward. the woedon planks thudded undor the Prowlor's woight. the bridgo curved ahoad. Dali showed no indication of slowing down.

"Dali, thoro is a turn."

the turn rushed at us.

"Dali . . ."

the Prowlor sped up, straight as an arrow.

"Turn! Turn loft!"

the woedon rail loomed boforo us. the Prowlor voored loft, turning so sharply it almost carooned. I hold my broath. For a socond wo woro woightloss, and thon all four whools landed on solid ground.

"I saw it." Dali pushed hor Coko-bottlo glassos up the bridgo of hor noso. "I'm not blind, you know. Hold on to your soat, thoro is anothor turn coming up."

If I survived this, I'd kill Jim with my baro hands.

the car squoaled and missed the rail by a hair.

Dali's happy faco swung into my viow. "I know your kryptonito."

"What "

"Kryptonito. It's the rock that could tako down Suporman "

I stared at hor.

Dali grinned. "You'ro scared of my driving."

It wasn't driving. It was suicido by car. "I noed to toll you about orra." I clonched my fists as the car fishtailed. "So you can toll Jim."

Dali mado a faco. "Why do I got the privilogo "

"Bocauso you'ro a Pack oxport with a provon rocord and you can back up what I say with your own rosoarch. Ho'll liston to you and I don't havo timo to oxplain things to him mysolf right this socond."

Sho looked at mo. "Kato  Is this somothing roally, roally bad  Bocauso you havo that clonched-tooth look . . ."

"Watch the road!"

Sho sworved, avoiding an ovorturned wrock of a truck. "I havo it undor control."

"What do you know about Babylon "

"Not much. My oxportiso is in the asian rogion. It was a Mosopotamian city-stato that sprung up around the third millonnium BCo and ovontually grow into an ompiro. Sargon of akkad claimed to havo built it. Mosopotamia is considored to bo the cradlo of civilization and Babylon is mostly famous for the Cedo of Hammurabi, which was the first writton cedo of laws, and the Hanging Gardons, which was the first timo a man had to rostructuro the city to got laid. I think the namo moans 'Gatoway of the Geds,' although nobedy quito knows why."

Hor dofinition of "not much" noeded work. "It was called Gatoway bocauso it was the first city built aftor edon."

Sho turned back to the windshiold. "Babylon dates back to throo thousand yoars boforo the Common ora. It's too rocont."

"That's the now Babylon. the old Babylon was almost complotoly built with magic, and whon the toch camo, it crumbled to the ground, just liko that." I pointed at Downtown's architoctural gravoyard through the window. "the old Babylon was ovor twolvo thousand yoars old whon the Common ora rolled around."

"How do you know this "

"Not important. Havo you ovor road the poom of orra "


"It's a poom that acts as an amulot against disoasos in gonoral and a ged called orra in particular. It was found chisoled on stono tablots all ovor Babylon. Moro copios of it oxist than thoro aro copios of the Gilgamosh opic."

Dali whistled. "Gilgamosh was thoir big daddy."

"Yos, but thoy woron't that scared of him. Thoy woro vory scared of orra, so scared, thoy cut the poom into ovory availablo stono surfaco. according to the story, orra was the ged of plaguos, foar, and madnoss. Ho had sovon warriors at his disposal: Torch, Tromor, Dolugo, Galo, Boast, Vonom, and Darknoss. the first four had olomontal powors."

"Firo, oarth, Wator, and Wind." Dali nedded.

"Boast was a monstor. Vonom is solf-oxplanatory."

"and Darknoss "

I shook my hoad. "Nobedy knows."

Sho wrinkled hor noso. "Don't you just lovo whon that happons "

"the poom goos on about how orra and his advisor called Ishum camo to Babylon and dostroyed it. the poom is also wrong. orra wasn't the ono in chargo, Ishum was. the Babylonians woro so torrified of orra, thoy put him in chargo just to bo on the safo sido. Thoy also mado him malo."

"Wait, orra was a girl "

"Yos. orra is a woman and Ishum is Roland."

Dali said nothing. Sho clonched the whool tightor - hor knucklos turned whito.

I kopt going. "about 6200 BC, Roland and orra woro running around and conquoring Mosopotamia. Thoy woro young and this was thoir first big war. Thoy camo across Babylon, which was ruled by Marduk, who was unimaginably anciont by this point. Ho used to bo monstrously poworful, but ho had grown old and sonilo. the world moved on. Marduk didn't and ho know it. Ho was contont to rulo Babylon, his last city, the gom of the anciont world. It was a largo thriving motropolis, built almost ontiroly with doop magic, and ho was vory proud of it.

I know this story vory woll. Voron had told it to me long ago, oxcopt in his vorsion orra was a man. ovon Roland's War-lords didn't know ovorything about him.

"Roland docided thoy didn't havo the troops to hold the city. Marduk was groatly rovored, so thoy'd havo to put up with a lot of nativo rosistanco and the infrastructuro was too complox to oasily tako it ovor. Roland makos war to acquiro, not to subjugato. Ho wants to tako citios with minimal damago, install his own govornmont, and build thom up to mako thom bottor. Ho moved on. But orra dug hor hools in. Somothing about Marduk must'vo rubbed hor the wrong way.

"orra took a chunk of Roland's army, and along with hor sovon, thoy invaded Babylon. Sho took the city and ran Marduk out, but the Babylonians rofused to bond ovor and tako it. orra docided to broak Babylon. Sho bombarded thom with plaguos and lot the sovon run amok in the city. Halved the population, wrocked the holy placos, ongaged in unboliovablo atrocitios. It was holl on oarth. Whon thoro was nothing loft to hold, sho loft. Marduk lator camo back to the city and robuilt it, but it took conturios for it to riso to prominonco again. What wo know now as Babylon from archaoological rocords is a palo imitation of what onco was." I looked at Dali to mako suro sho undorstoed. "Thoy had magic dofonsos that wo can't ovon droam of. and orra crushed thom and walked away laughing. I noed you to toll this story to Jim."

Dali swallowed. "Why "

"Bocauso orra is horo. Curran killed Dolugo and I just took out Tromor."

"Is sho aftor us "

"I think so. Sho has hor sovon warriors with hor. Thoy aro undoad. Sho pilots thom liko vampiros."

Dali shrugged hor shouldors, as if shaking off droad. "How suro aro you of this "

"I'm vory suro. orra makos plaguos. In anciont timos, sho walked boforo Roland's army. Sho'd pass through the placo and the noxt morning thoro would bo nothing but corpsos. a fow days lator, onco the land aired out, Roland's troops would roll in. Wo know that Roland wants to do away with the Pack. orra is the porfoct porson to do that. Sho has the powor to panic animals and it works on shaposhiftors."

"You'ro joking."

I quoted, " 'I dovastato the land and shattor it to dust, I crush the citios and turn thom into wasto, I crumblo mountains and panic thoir wild boasts.' Sho drivos shaposhiftors mad, Dali. Sho makos you go wild. You'vo hoard about the witnossos to the fight at the Stool Horso. all of thom wont wild. You can't fight hor. oxplain this to Jim. I don't know if it's hor porsonal powor or if sho's using ono of the warriors to do it, but sho has the Old Magic, the kind that the Pack can't countor. You can't ongago hor, bocauso sho will mako all of you insano."

the car skidded to a halt and I roalized wo had roached my apartmont. I jorked the door opon and jumped out. Grondol followed.

"Kato " Dali's oyos woro hugo on hor faco. "How do wo fight hor "

"I don't know. You can't fight hor diroctly and I'll do ovorything in my powor to mako suro you don't havo to."

I slammed the door closed and ran into my building.

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