Magic Rises Chapter 13

Curran flung the door open and charged into the hallway. I slammed the door shut behind him, just as Derek tried to run after Curran. The boy wonder spun on his foot at the last moment, avoiding the collision. Desandra was our first priority. If she died, Maddie and our chance at the panacea died with her.

"What's going on?" Desandra rolled off the bed.

I barred the door and pulled Slayer free. Derek yanked off his clothes. Fur dashed up his frame.

In the hallway a chorus of vicious snarls broke into yelps of pain and deep growls. Something howled. The hair on the back of my neck rose. I flipped the light switch. Bright yellow light flooded the bedroom.

"What's going on?" Desandra yelled.

"I don't know. Get behind me."

Something smashed into the door with a loud thud. The boards creaked.

Another thud hammered the door.

I backed away, Slayer ready. Next to me Derek bared his monster teeth.

The door boards snapped with a sharp crack, the sound of splintering wood like a gunshot. Two bodies tumbled into the room, one gray, one gold. Curran landed on his back, a scaled yellow beast on top of him. The beast raised its feline head and snarled at me, stretching two enormous wings. Two green eyes stared at me with a hot, terrible hatred.

Curran's mouth gaped. He jerked the beast down and bit into its shoulder. The giant lion fangs cut into the flesh like scissors. Thick red blood wet the scales.

The beast howled in pain and raked Curran's side with its hind claws, trying to rip his stomach open. Blood drenched the gray fur. The two cats rolled, clawing and snarling.

The balcony door exploded in a glittering cascade of shards. A second amber beast shot into the dark room.

"Down!" Andrea barked from the doorway.

I shoved Desandra into the corner. Andrea's gun barked, spitting thunder and bullets. Boom! Boom!

The beast jerked, each shot knocking it back.

Boom! Boom!

She kept firing. The bullet tore through the creature's flesh.

The magic wave crashed into us in an invisible flood. Tech vanished from the world in an instant. Lights went out, the sudden darkness pitch-black and blinding. Andrea's gun choked on the bullets.

The lavender feylanterns flared into life, spilling eerie purple-tinted light into the room.

Andrea spun to the side, and a spotted bouda shot past her and leaped onto the creature, tearing into it with a yowl. Raphael.

The beast shook, an amber blur, and batted Raphael aside with a clawed paw. The bouda landed in a roll and ran back at the beast.

I lunged at the orange monster. Claws raked my thigh, ripping my jeans and skin in a hot flash of agony. I ignored it, thrust, sinking Slayer deep between its ribs, and withdrew. Derek jumped, clearing the wings, and clung to the beast's back, clawing into its spine. The creature howled and spun, its wings straight out. I ducked under the wing and the massive tail took me off my feet. My back hit the wall. Ow. The world swam.

No. No, you sonovabitch, you won't kill a pregnant woman today. Not on my fucking watch.

I bounced onto my feet and slashed across the creature's flank. The beast shook, trying to throw Derek off its back. Derek hung on. On the other side Raphael snarled, biting and clawing.

Desandra lunged at the beast, grabbed a wing, and wrenched it to the side. Bone snapped.

The beast spun again. I dropped, ducked under, and sliced a deep cut along the beast's gut. Innards spilled out in a hot bloody mess. I stabbed the scaled flank again and again, trying to cause damage. Die. Die already.

A massive shaggy shape shot into the room and a thousand pounds of furious Kodiak crashed into the beast like a runaway train. The impact drove the creature back into the bed. The heavy piece of furniture flew, knocked aside by their bodies. The beast crashed against the wall. The Kodiak's enormous paw rose like a hammer. The thick bones of the beast's skull crunched, an egg dropped on the pavement. Wet mush splattered the wall.

The Kodiak moved, and I saw Curran rise at the opposite wall, his arms locked on the winged creature. Covered in blood, his eyes glowing, he looked demonic. The Beast Lord strained. A rough growl ripped out of his mouth. The left arm and a part of the orange creature's chest moved away from the right side and its head, the bones wrenched apart. Blood gushed from the gap studded with broken bones.

The beast flailed, screaming. Curran bit into its exposed throat, grabbed its head, and ripped it off the body, hurling it to the floor.

The Kodiak melted into a human shape. My brain took a second to process that it was female and not Mahon. George's wide eyes stared at me. She grabbed my hand. "Doolittle is hurt!"

* * *

"Go," Andrea yelled at me. "Go, we got this!"

I ran after George into the hallway. My right side and thigh screamed. Blood soaked my jeans, most of it my own.

Chunks of orange corpses littered the floor: a wing, a scaled leg. I never understood why a dead shapeshifter turned human, but chunks of him torn in a fight stayed in the animal shape. "What happened?"

"Aunt B and Dad," George yelled over her shoulder. "Faster, Kate."

I chased her, slid on gore, and half stumbled, half ran into Doolittle's room. A werejaguar blocked my way and snarled in my face, big teeth snapping.

"It's me!" I yelled into her open maw.

Keira shook her furry head and half stepped, half swayed aside. Blood soaked her left side.

The furniture lay in shambles. Broken glass littered the floor. In the corner Eduardo slumped, breathing in shallow gasps, his human body slick with blood. Jagged gashes crossed his chest and stomach. Red muscle crawled in the wounds-the Lyc-V was scrambling to repair the damage. I crouched by him. Good strong pulse.

George grabbed my arm and pulled me to the corner. A huge honey badger the size of a pony lay on the floor, his head twisted at an odd angle. Oh no.

I dropped by the body and searched for a pulse on his neck. A vein fluttered under my fingertips, weak, so weak. My hand came away red. He was bleeding and with all the damn fur, I didn't even know where.

I began to chant, pulling the magic to me. Whatever little healing I could do was better than nothing. Come on. Come on!

Doolittle lay unmoving. He hadn't turned, which meant he was still alive. It also meant Lyc-V didn't have enough juice to change his shape. He was dying.

No, no, God damn it. I chanted, putting all of my magic into the healing. Without knowing what the injury was, all I could do was hold on to him. I wasn't a medmage, but I had raw power.

George stood next to me, tears running down her face. "Save him. You have to save him."

I chanted, focused on the body and the fragile weak shiver of life inside it. It pulled me in, drawing me deeper and deeper, until it was just me and the weak fragile spark of Doolittle's life. I cradled it with my magic, trying to anchor it.

Magic boiled inside me, sucked into Doolittle's body in a painful whirlpool. It felt like my flesh was ripping off my bones.

"How is he?" Aunt B asked, far away.

A shadow loomed over us. I caught a glimpse of dark fur-Mahon towered by me.

Doolittle's body shuddered. A tremor shook his limbs. Slowly the fur melted. The medmage drew a hoarse breath. Blood slipped from his bruised lips.

Doolittle's kind eyes stared at me, bloodshot and glassy. "Broken spine." His breath came out whistling. His voice was weak and hoarse, barely a whisper.

Shit. Shapeshifters healed broken limbs, but a broken spine was a different story. "Don't talk. Did you bring any tank powder with you, Doctor?" It was the same powder used for the solution in which Maddie rested back home.

Doolittle smiled, a weak sad smile. My heart broke.


"Get the tank."

"What?" George bent over me.

"Find the powder for the healing solution and get the tank ready."

"We don't have a tank!"

"Use whatever you can find." It wasn't the tank that mattered, but the solution inside it.

I heard her tear through the room, throwing debris out of the way.

"It won't help. C2 and C3 are fractured."

Cervical vertebrae. The higher the number, the closer to the skull and the worse the injury. "Don't talk."

"C4 is crushed," the medmage whispered. "Spinal cord damaged. It hurts to breathe."

I resumed chanting, pulling the magic to me in a desperate rush. His neck wasn't just broken. Broken would be okay. The fight had flattened Doolittle's neck. The crucial upper vertebrae had shattered, cutting the link between his brain and his body. He was shutting down.

"Nonsense, Darrien." Aunt B crouched by him. "Of course you can. Kate will heal you."

No, I can't.

"I'm bleeding internally. I can't stop it." His voice dissolved into a hoarse groan.

Heat rolled down my cheeks.

"Don't cry." Doolittle smiled. "Please don't. I had a long life . . . A long useful life." His voice broke into a horrible noise. He sounded like he was choking. "I'm . . . ready."

"We're not!" George cried out.

My lips moved. I willed him to live with each whispered word, but he was fading, slipping through my fingers. Doolittle had saved me more times than I could count. I would keep him alive. Whatever magic I had, it was his. It would have to be enough.

Live, I willed. Please, please live. Please don't go.

He slipped further away from me. I was losing him, just like I had lost Bran.

I chanted, concentrating all my will on that little spark.

The world faded. The noises receded.

My lips moved, whispering the words on, and on, and on . . . It was a very simple chant that most people in my line of work learned. It was designed to boost the body's regeneration, and I poured all of myself into it. Only the next word and the tiny bit of magic it invoked mattered. If only I could claw myself open to get at the magic to keep him alive, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

My lips were numb. I couldn't feel my legs. The bottom half of me turned into a hole filled with pain. Too much magic drained too quickly.

Doolittle's eyes rolled back in his skull.

"Kate!" George yelled.

"Let me through!" Hugh roared in the back. "Let me through, damn it!"

Half a dozen snarls answered.

The chant had consumed me. I'd sunk every iota of my magic into it and now I struggled to break free. My voice was a mere whisper. "Let."

Curran crouched by me.

"Let him." Let him in.

Curran rose. "Let him through."

A moment later Hugh knelt by Doolittle. "Broken neck."


Hugh looked at me, his blue eyes studying me.

"Do you want him to live?"


Hugh rocked back, raised his head, and closed his eyes. Magic pulsed from him, like the toll of a colossal bell. It touched the bloody floor. Blue vapor rose from the blood, streaking upward.

The air around Hugh began to glow. I felt the magic move, a massive heavy current of it. So much power. Holy shit.

I held on to Doolittle with my magic, afraid to let go. I chanted, keeping him tethered to life. The ache in the pit of my stomach grew into a steady burn. A cold painful fire spread from my stomach into my chest and neck.

Hugh's body shook from the strain of the magic vibrating around him, fighting to break free.

Hugh opened his eyes. They glowed, filled with a supernatural, electric, luminescent blue. He spread his arms, palms up . . .

The magic tore from Hugh and spilled onto Doolittle in a deluge. Bones crunched.

Hugh blinked and his eyes looked normal again.

"Done," he said. "He'll live. You can let go."

I fell silent. The magic snapped, shorn. The fire inside me splashed through my head and I had an absurd notion it spilled out of my eyes.

Raphael ran into the room. "We spotted another one. He's injured and heading for the mountains."

Hugh jumped to his feet. Curran spun, half rising, and looked at me.

"Go!" I told him.

He took off, nearly colliding with Hugh as they ran out of the room.

Doolittle's chest fell and rose in a steady, smooth rhythm. He was breathing.

I slumped back and realized my jeans were soaked through. I was sitting in a puddle of my blood.

* * *

I lay back on a pile of blankets, watching shapeshifters through the doorway as they moved around the bigger room, sorting through the wreckage of Doolittle's lab. They'd carried me and Doolittle into the bedroom so we would be out of their way. I lay on the blankets on the floor, while Doolittle was submerged in a healing solution in a tub the shapeshifters had wrenched out of the bathroom. The bedroom door lay in pieces on the floor, and from my lovely perch on the blanket, I could see the entire suite.

Keira, now back in human form, was trying to clear the debris. She said she was still dizzy. I told her to lie down. Instead she tied a wet towel on her head. It must've been one hell of a hit, because normally shapeshifters shrugged concussions off and kept on rolling.

Next to Keira, Derek fished plastic jars with various medicines out of what used to be a cabinet. Eduardo was still out like a light. Desandra walked around in a bloody, shredded dress and heroically tried to pick things up, despite her stomach. I'd expected her to curl into a ball, but instead she rushed around all hyper. Mahon had ushered her into the room shortly after Curran had taken off. From my blanket, I could see Mahon looming by the front door.

Normally the sight of a twelve-hundred-pound bear didn't fill me with confidence, but right now knowing he was blocking the doorway made me downright warm and fuzzy. Especially since keeping Doolittle alive had taken every drop of strength I had. My arms had turned to wet cotton and lifting my head was an effort. Right now if a butterfly landed on me, I wouldn't wake up till the next morning.

No word from Curran. He, Hugh, Aunt B, Raphael, and Andrea had gone off over an hour ago.

Doolittle rested next to me in the makeshift tank. The green healing solution soaked his body. He hadn't said anything or opened his eyes, but his breathing was even.

I wanted him to wake up. I wanted him to open his eyes and chide me about something, anything. I would drink whatever medicine he demanded, I'd promise to stay in bed, I'd do anything just to have him wake up.

Hugh had said he would live. Being in a coma did technically count as living.

I pushed that thought away from me. That way lay dragons.

Barabas strode through the door, wearing a pair of sweatpants and nothing else. A wide gash streaked across his neck and his pale chest. He saw me and came into the bedroom. George followed him, carrying scissors, and pointed at my bloody jeans. "I'm sorry. I have to cut them off."

"I don't suppose I can get some privacy?" I asked.

"No," Derek said.

"Absolutely not," Keira said. "You can be modest later, when we're not under attack."

"This is probably a shock to you." Barabas crouched by me. "But we have all seen naked women before. The sight of your legs isn't going to traumatize anyone."


George took the scissors, stretched my jeans, and cut. The fabric tugged on the wound. I inhaled sharply. Argh. George cut the other side and pulled the blood-soaked denim rag away. "Okay. There are wounds. I'm not sure how severe this is for a nonshapeshifter."


Derek got up and passed George a handheld mirror. She held it. The left corner of it was gone, but enough remained to give me a view of my side. Three long jagged gashes cut the lower right side of my stomach, stretching all the way across my hip down over my thigh.

"Tilt it toward me?"

She did.

The wounds looked shallow. They bled and hurt like all get-out, but none of them would impair my ability to swing my sword. I tried moving my leg. Still worked. Little creaky. Little agonizing. But it still worked.

My face hurt, too. My lip felt swollen. "How's my face?"

George picked up the mirror. "Ready?"

"Hit me."

She raised the mirror. A big bruise blossomed in all of its blue glory on the left corner of my jaw. My mouth was puffy and swollen, and a long cut snaked its way from my hairline down to my right ear. The swelling and the bruise came courtesy of being hit with a shapeshifter's tail. The cut, I had no idea.

"I'm a sexy fiend, aren't I?"

She winced. "It's not that bad."

"It's good that Curran is gone. He might not be able to contain himself. If he decides to ravish me in public when he comes back, I expect all of you to look the other way."

Mahon cleared his throat at the door.

"You've got a status report for me?"

"The attack involved five creatures," Barabas said. "It started here. They busted through the door. One smashed Doolittle's equipment and attacked Eduardo and Keira. They crippled her and then the doctor latched onto her throat. That's her." Barabas pointed at the woman's corpse outside the window, on top of a short tower.

"He never let go," George said quietly. "When I got here, she'd smashed everything, rolled, flailed, rammed the walls with him. Eduardo got knocked out, and Keira would jump out of the way, but Doolittle never let go. I had to rip him away, and then she tried to fly away."

"She was dying," Keira said. "Doolittle had clamped onto her neck and severed the jugular. His teeth kept her wounds open and bled her dry. Thirty seconds more and she wouldn't have been able to fly." She put her hands over her face. "We should've fought harder."

"We're all still here," Mahon told her from the door. "You did your job."

"While Doolittle was fighting, the second and third attackers blocked access to this room," Barabas said. "Aunt B and Mahon took down one in the hallway, and Curran met the third in the hallway and fought it into Desandra's room. The fourth busted in through the balcony into Desandra's room after the fight began. The fifth, we are not sure."

"Injuries?" I asked.

"Doolittle is the worst of it," Barabas said. "Derek has a broken arm. There are some cuts and wounds, but everyone is still alive and moving around."

They hit here first. "Doolittle was the primary target."

"It appears that way."

Curran had said Doolittle wanted to talk to us. He must've found something, something that made him a target.

Barabas sat on the floor next to me, his face serious.

"Whenever you have that face, it means something nasty is coming."

"Do you remember that you asked me to set up meetings with you and the three packs tomorrow morning? Do you want to cancel?"

"Hell no. I want to go and look them in the eye when they tell me they didn't attack our medmage in the middle of the night." Anger flared inside me. I would find the assholes responsible and they would pay. Nobody hurt Doolittle and lived. "He was a noncombatant. We will find whoever went after him and I will personally make them regret the day they were born."

"What she said," Keira said. "Nobody touches the medic and lives."

George swung into my view. She held a bottle of brown liquid in her hand.

"What is that?"

"Whiskey." She handed me a wadded-up rag. "Here, I need you to bite down on this."

What the hell? "Why?"

"I'm going to clean your wounds."

"The hell you are." Not with alcohol. It didn't disinfect the wound unless one drenched it, it killed the living cells, and it generally did more harm than good. Not to mention the wound would take forever to heal after being treated with alcohol, and pouring whiskey on an open gash guaranteed scars.

"Kate," George said, her voice suddenly very patient. "You don't have a shapeshifter's immune system. Your wounds need to be sterilized."

"You're not sterilizing them with whiskey. Are you nuts?"

"They always do it in movies and in books. So many people can't be wrong."

I channeled every iota of menace I had into my voice. "George, if you come near me with that bottle, I'll hurt you."

"Right." George looked at Barabas. "We may need to hold the Consort down."

Barabas looked at Derek. Derek shrugged, as if to say, I don't know. Barabas clamped my arms to the floor.

"Do you need me to help hold her?" Desandra called out. "Because I can totally do that."

"George!" I snarled.

She uncorked the bottle. "I'm sorry it's going to hurt. I don't want you to get sepsis."

"Barabas, let go of me. This is an order." I strained, but I had no strength left. I might as well have tried to lift a car.

"It's for your own good," Barabas said.

George stepped toward me with the bottle.

"Let me go, you idiots!"

"I'll make it quick." George leaned over me.

"Stop!" Doolittle said.

Everybody froze.

"Georgetta, put down that bottle."

George sat the bottle on the floor and stepped away from it.

Doolittle had raised himself in the tub and was looking at us. "I don't have the strength to tell you all of the things that are wrong with what you doing. Release the Consort this instant."

Barabas raised his hands. I slumped on my blanket. Thank God. He was conscious. Thank you, thank you, Universe.

"Derek, find a large blue bottle marked STERILE SALINE SOLUTION. Georgetta, look for a green wooden box with clean gauze. Keira, did you hit your head?"

Keira's eyes got really big. "Yes. Among other things."

"Is that rag on your head cold?"

"Ummm . . ."

"It should be cold. Preferably iced. Blurred vision?"


"Did you vomit?"

"A little. I'm fine now."

"You need to ice that rag. Why is Eduardo naked? Did none of you think about the man's dignity? Find him a clean sheet. Has anybody checked his vital signs? There is a pregnant woman here covered in blood and none of you are alarmed by this. Nobody is helping her to get clean." Doolittle surveyed us. "I leave you for a few brief minutes, and you're courting disaster."

Suddenly everyone became terribly busy.

"I'm glad you're okay, Doc," I told him.

"I shouldn't be alive." He looked at me. "It seems it was my turn to be the patient."

"Let's not do that again," I told him. "You're so much better at being the doctor."

Doolittle hesitated. "What kind of healing . . ."

I read the question in his eyes. He had seen me heal Julie. He'd watched my blood sear hers, cleaning it of the virus and binding her to me, and now he wanted to know if I had done something with my magic that compromised his free will. I looked into his eyes and I didn't see gratitude or joy at being alive. I saw suspicion and fear. He was terrified that I had turned him into an abomination. In that moment I knew with complete certainty that Doolittle would rather die than be brought back to life by me.

An invisible wall slammed into place around me, cutting me off. I was still in the room. I still heard people I viewed as my friends move around, talking, but they seemed impossibly far away. I sat there, disconnected and alone.

No matter how much time I spent being a part of the Pack, no matter how much I sacrificed or how dedicated I was, Doolittle's eyes told me that the divide between me and them would always remain. The man who'd brought me back from death time and time again now looked at me with dread, afraid of being tainted.

I forced the words out. "Just strong medmagic. The usual kind. It wasn't me. You were healed by a medmage." Or at least I was pretty sure Hugh would be rated as one had he bothered to apply for certification. "You're still you, Doc." I didn't turn you into anything you're not.

The tension melted from his face.

The desire to get away swelled in me, so strong that if I could've stood up, I would've walked out. I didn't want to be in the same room with anyone. I wanted to be by myself.

George appeared, holding the saline solution and a green box. "I have the gauze."

"Desandra first," I told her.

George turned to Desandra. "Come with me. Time to get cleaned up."

"But I like my war clothes."

"If you need me to hold her down," I growled, "I totally can do that."

"Fine, fine." Desandra sighed and followed George into the bathroom. They shut the door.

Doolittle looked at me. "Do you need to be restrained?"

"I'm fine."

"Lie back, Kate." Keira walked into the room and picked up the spare bottle of saline solution and gauze.

I hadn't realized I was sitting. I forced myself to lie flat.

"Very well. Saturate the wounds, rinsing them with gentle pressure. Make sure no debris remains," Doolittle said.

"Got it." Keira poured some saline on the gauze and began to gently blot my leg.

"Curran mentioned you wanted to tell me something."

"I kept thinking about that verse from Daniel," Doolittle said. "One part, in particular, stood out to me. It says, I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. Note it doesn't mention that the lion's fur or his claws were gone. Only that the wings had been plucked and they were the difference between the beast and man."

"I don't follow," I said.

"Do you recall how I told you that these things may be able to hide their scales?"


"I've wondered if, since the verse mentioned the wings specifically, they might be the final stage of their transformation. Most common shapeshifters have two complete forms, human and animal."

"And the warrior form," Keira said.

"That's a hybrid form that one has to concentrate to maintain," Doolittle said. "I'm talking about final-stage form that a shapeshifter can maintain indefinitely. I think our orange friends have three: human, animal, and winged beast. I believe that in their animal stage they may look very similar to naturally occurring animal species."

I didn't like the sound of that. "Why?"

Doolittle lowered his voice to a whisper. "Do you recall how I tested the blood from the severed head against all the other blood samples?"


"I had taken fluid samples from Desandra. Blood, urine, and amniotic fluid. I completed my diagnostic run, and since I had exposed every other fluid sample to the creature's blood, I tested Desandra's blood and amniotic fluid just to be on the thorough side. Her blood reacted. Her amniotic fluid did not. One of her children is not what he seems."

Oh dear God.

Keira froze with the gauze in her hand. If we told Desandra that one of her children was a monster, there was no telling what she would do.

"This can't leave this room," I said.

"Agreed," Doolittle said.

I glanced at the main room.

"I didn't hear anything," Derek said.

"Me neither," Barabas told me.

There could be only two possibilities. One, Desandra had had sex with a third man, besides Gerardo and Radomil. That was extremely unlikely. For all of her flirting and outrageous declarations, she never actually came on to anyone, and her distress when she told us about Gerardo throwing her out was genuine. She wouldn't have taken a chance on having sex with some random stranger. She'd slept with Radomil because she knew he would be kind, and she had needed that kindness. That left door number two: either Gerardo or Radomil sprouted wings in his spare time and amused himself by swiping guards off the towers.

If Doolittle was right, the winged shapeshifters could assume human and animal shapes that let them mimic normal shapeshifters. It explained why the winged freaks suddenly started showing up at the castle-they were members of either Belve Ravennati or the Volkodavi, and if they had to fight, they assumed their final form. The million-dollar question was, which one was it? The creatures looked more feline to me, but that didn't mean anything.

"What about the other child?"

"It's a wolf," Doolittle said.

That told us nothing. A child of two shapeshifters rolled genetic dice: he could inherit a beast from his father or his mother. Desandra transformed into a wolf. If she had a child with Gerardo, he would be a wolf. If she had a child with Radomil, he could be a wolf or a lynx. We still knew nothing except that she was growing a monster inside her. Eventually I would have to tell her this. Could this get more fucked up?

At the door Mahon crossed his arms. "Who are you?"

A woman answered quietly. The big werebear stepped aside and a tall woman in her late forties stepped through the door. Dark-skinned and graceful, she looked Arabic. An adolescent boy and a younger girl followed her.

"My name is Demet," the woman said slowly. "Lord Megobari sent for me. To heal." She put her hand over her heart. "Healer."

"That's very fortunate," Doolittle said. "Because I can't move my legs."

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