Sacrificial Rights

For thousands of years, the supernatural have lived beside us, sometimes in secret, sometimes right in front of us. In order to maintain this balance, the laws of the unseen world must be followed and enforced. As a wizard, Alex Borden is one of those enforcers.

A rogue vampire nest is ravaging the magical underworld of Seattle, and in order to stop them, Alex must confront a psychopathic vampire, the bureaucracy of the unseen world, and the laws of the mortal world, all while searching for a missing friend.

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1. Chapter 1

The door whipped around on its hinges, slamming into the wall at the far end of its arc with a blinding flash of white light and a thundering clap. It was pitch black inside the room, the shadows covering all that lie within it. It was a gift and a curse all the same, part of me terrified from the primal fear of the dark mixing with the otherworldly knowledge of the type of things that go bump in it, and part of me thankful for the shadows that hid the source of the repulsive aroma that invaded every nook and cranny the room had to offer. It was of death, the odor, screaming at all that came near it that a life had been extinguished and forgotten in hideous ways.

            I froze at the idea of what lay within and paused in the doorway, simply staring into the seemingly swirling darkness. Every part of my body screamed, my primal instincts pounding my mind. Justin ignored my stillness and walked in, moving like he didn't care about what was ahead, as if he was simply doing a job and intended to go home that evening and watch the game like nothing had happed. He vanished into the dark; tendrils of shadows wrapping around him and swallowing him whole like a hungry beast. There was a moment when all was quiet and Justin seemed to have disappeared forever in the void before me when a pale, white light flickered to life, scattering the darkness to the corners of the room. The runes carved into Justin's drumstick gleaned the same soft light, culminating in the small, luminous orb at its tip.

            I followed him in, trying not to look at the mangled corpses scattered about the floor as he lifted it above his head, better lighting the wrecked pub. Body parts and table fragments sat equally, strewn about the floor, blood pooled and scattered and splattered everywhere. Scarlett clashed with the ashen concrete walls and the oak floors as if the very building itself were rejecting the slaughter that had occurred inside of it. Justin muttered something under his breath, a swear maybe, in Spanish. I inhaled, trying to take a deep breath, but gagged on the smell of blood, and instead closed my eyes, willing an ounce of energy into the umbrella clenched in my right fist. I felt the symbols carved into the wooden hilt absorb my power and ignite the tip, my own light flaring up from the end.

I knelt down and looked down at the poor body below me, a chunk of pink flesh torn from the space where an esophagus would be, a pool of blood as thick as maple syrup sprawled out underneath it. It was repulsive and serene all the same, this dead woman's body lying there mutilated, but completely unmoving, at a perfect rest. I swallowed, resisting the urge to vomit as I examined the wound. It was jagged, rough and brute, as if her throat had been ripped out through sheer force. Her clothes were soaked in the crimson ichor.

I closed my eyes, half out of the searing need to run away and hide from the gore, and half to focus myself as I extended my senses, reaching out to her and feeling for energy. She had a buzz about her, a tingle that only someone with the Gift could have. It wasn't as strong as it would have been for someone like Justin or myself, but it was there. I wasn't surprised; the Turnpike Parlor had been the spot for the less-gifted Gifted of Seattle. It was a refuge for them to come and drink with others that were similarly talented. It was a sanctuary. Or, at least, it used to be.

"I've got a practitioner over here," I reported to Justin, who was across the room, examining another one of the seemingly countless bodies.

"This one's got teeth," he called back.

I pinched the bridge of my nose, clamping my eyes shut, and swore. "We got here too late. We could've stopped this."

"No, we couldn't've. Look at this place. It's a fucking mess. This guy had friends. A lot of 'em. We'd probably be just as dead."

He was wrong. Justin and I were trained. We had a stronger, deeper ability to use magic, and furthermore we'd been taught how to defend ourselves. We could have protected these people. I knew we could've. But it wasn't worth fighting him. Not there, not then. I sighed and stood up, opening my senses again, this time feeling the room. The air hummed with energy. These guys had fought with whatever little bit of magic they had to protect themselves. My blood ran cold thinking of the gruesome battle that the room had experienced just a few hours ago. Could it even be called that? Was it really a battle? No. These innocent people had their lives ripped away like papier-mâché. It was a massacre. A senseless one, at that. These people hadn't been fed upon. If they had, they'd have been sucked dry, and I wouldn't have been knee-deep in blood. No, instead they'd been killed for sport. The vampires that had done this had done it as a display of power, of dominance.

My fist tightened around the umbrella, my fingers wrapping around it, my nails dig into my palms. The uncomfortable feeling in my stomach vanished as it unknotted itself, replaced by a burning in my chest. I wasn't sick anymore. I was angry. Furious at what had happened. It was wrong and disgusting, and every fiber of my existence screamed at me to march out of the little pub and skin whoever was responsible. I wanted to stick my umbrella down their throat and set their insides ablaze. The runes in my umbrella unconsciously lit up a burnt orange as the delicate light vanished and the tip burst into flames with a small spark. Justin turned around and looked at the fire, drawing both of us out of whatever trance we'd been in. The two of us simply stood in silence for several moments, glaring at the dancing flame.

"We have to burn it," I said softly, my eyes still fixated on the flame. "It's protocol."

Justin sighed, but stayed silent for a minute before nodding slowly. "Yeah. Yeah we do." He walked past me, heading to the exit.

I'd always hated burning the bodies. It never felt right. These had been people once. They'd had childhoods and lives and dreams. There was someone out there who would bawl their eyes out because their child or brother or husband or wife had died. Even in death, knowing that their bodies were still there gave me some type of hope, like they were still with us. Burning them destroyed that. But it had to be done. I knew it, and I hated it, but I knew it nonetheless. I lifted my right hand up, pointing the flaming end of my umbrella at the room in front of me and pushed my will into the flames, sending them sprawling forward in a pillar of blazing tendrils, licking and searing everything they touched. The darkness that had once held the room vanished, replaced with the dancing orange of the inferno that I had spread.

I slowly moved my arm back and forth, spreading the vortex of flame erupting from my umbrella as it engulfed everything in its path. Blaring, angry heat filled the room, rippling the air around the white-hot arm of fire that waved back and forth, following my movements like a slow-motion whip. The wooden bar turned a soulless black under the immense heat, crackling and popping as I went. It wasn't long before the bodies caught ablaze, their skin melting and dripping off the lifeless bones in a way that made me stop, the storm of fire erupting from the umbrella vanishing, dissipating from the inside out. I looked around at the burning room, fire leaping from entity to entity, spreading to the places where my will had not. I will admit, that though I hated the act, watching the room become consumed by the yellow and red tongues of flame felt nice. It felt as thought the unrest that the small pub had experienced was over as the fire brought it down in on itself.

My job was done.

I turned and left while I could, the chaotic burning following me to the doorway. Justin and I exchanged glances at the threshold of the bar, closing the door behind me. We walked up the concrete steps to the sidewalk, leaving the basement bar to be burned by the firestorm within. It would consume everything, and then extinguish itself, if the neighbor's fire alarm didn't go off first. We both stood at the curb, just a few feet from my car, staring into the distance. Justin reached into his pockets and rummaged through them, pulling out a cigarette and sticking it in his mouth.

"The oracle won't like this," he said, his words slurred in order to fit through his lips without pushing out the cigarette.

I shook my head in agreement. "No, she won't." I sighed while we stood, in silence for a moment.

"Think this was an attack?"

"No. A rogue nest, most likely."

He blew out a puff of smoke, the little cloud vanishing in the weak summer breeze. "Talk to the baron tomorrow?"

"Not if I can help it. The sooner they know, the sooner they'll send a knight down. If they don't know already."

"That's gonna be a fucking mess."

I licked my teeth thinking about the jurisdiction issues to follow, thinking of all the bureaucracy that was going to get in the way of the justice those people deserved. "Yeah. Yeah it will."

He dropped the half-smoked butt on the ground, crushing it with his shoe before opening the passenger door of my car. "Let's go. We've got a long day ahead of us."

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