A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1)
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“Yes,
I accept your commission.” I paused to examine him more closely.  He was
actually shivering.  I nodded in approval.  The wards I had under the house
were very minor, but it appeared that constant contact or proximity would be a
decent deterrent.  Still, Eric wasn't paralyzed or convulsing so perhaps I
should try something more serious.  Of course, I didn't actually know anything
more serious in my caster or circle repertoire, which was a part of my problem. 
Perhaps I could enhance the effectiveness by using materials more conducive to
the magical energies.  My ancestral alchemy knowledge would help with such
modifications.

“I
will need some help though.”  The vampire looked suspicious.  Obviously he was
waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I suppose I should have held off on accepting
the first offer.  Perhaps I looked desperate.  “These practitioners are most
likely operating on top of the minor nodes scattered through the city...”

“What's
a node?” Eric interrupted.  I looked at him blankly.  I expected Conrad to be
magically clueless, but I have to admit that I thought the vampires would know
more.  Most of them are at least minor psychics, with many of them having
significant skills.

“They
are areas in the city where ley lines...”  I held up a hand to forestall his
question on what ley lines were.  “Lines of magic energy cross and power
collects.  Mages can tap into this energy and the barriers between dimensions
are thinner.  Some call them dragon lines though the terms aren’t precisely
equivalent.”

“So
we find these points and we find these people controlling these creatures.” He nodded
in satisfaction.  I shrugged; his explanation was close enough to make him
happy.  I doubted the summoners lived there; chances are they just went to the locations,
cast their spell, and left.  Not when they had to know that people would be eventually
looking for them.

“I
will need some of your more psychically talented people to help me locate and
identify these areas.”  He looked at me blankly.  Oh, good grief.  “How old are
you?”

“Thirty-five,
why?” he asked, puzzled.  I had kind of meant the length of time he had been
undead, but this obliquely answered my question.

Vampires
couldn't be that different from the ones I knew.  Opening up my senses, I
examined his aura and then bounced a wave of psionic energy off him that was
intended to detect those having psychic potential.  He shuddered and swooned.  My
scan is equivalent of me screaming at the top of my lungs ‘Hey, are you a
psionic?’ I suppose when combined with the effect of the wards, it may have
been a little overwhelming for him.

I
waited for him to recover himself, and once again idly tapped my finger on the
armrest.  He was a minor talent.  With a little training, he would most likely
be able to do a few parlor tricks.  He was also completely dormant, which meant
that was useless to me.

“Ugh,
what happened?” Eric asked, as he looked at me blearily. 

“You
don't look well.  Perhaps you should go back to your master and tell him that I
accept his job.  However, I need to use some of his older vampires to detect
the areas the magic users are using.”  He looked at me as if he was going to
argue, but I held up my hand again.  He was feeling sick, but frankly I just
don't think he was that powerful of an undead.  He shut up and let me finish.  “He'll
know what I mean.”

I
ushered the disoriented vampire out of the house and was slightly gratified to
see him gag and stagger a little bit as he walked over to his hover car.  My
wards weren't much, but at least it was a sign I was getting somewhere.

I
was about to go inside when I felt the adrenaline rush and tension that told me
something dangerous was about to happen.  I sighed; my tiny talent in clairvoyance
was telling me the night was getting more interesting.  I concentrated a bit
and telekinetically swung the door closed behind me and drew the bars shut. 
Then I waited on the street outside my house.

About
a minute later, I saw a beam of light spear towards me.  My senses told me it
wasn't dangerous; however, I did recognize it.  A laser targeting system. 
Supposedly a human wouldn't see it, but whatever allows me to see the invisible
and in complete darkness works on that too.

Trying
to get an idea of where the source was I nodded.  Concentrating once more, and
dipping deeply into my mental energy reserves, I moved myself as close to the
source as possible.  The world wavered around me for an instant, and then came
into focus with a snap.  An excruciating burning sensation engulfed my chest. 
It took all my trained concentration to fend off the external force that was
energetically trying to bend my path like a piece of iron to a lode stone. 

Sad
to say, but with all this going on I was a little off and fell over ten feet to
the roof of the building across from me.  There was once a time that
teleportation was child’s play.  The rune burning on my chest, pulling towards
its counterpart deeper in the city, made magical teleportation deadly and short
range psionic teleportation arduous and painful.  Recovering as quickly as I
could, I saw, kneeling on the roof's lip, carrying an absurdly long rifle with
a laser targeting system mounted on it almost as large as my forearm, a largish
man dressed in a dapper black suit with matching bow tie.

I
would love to say I landed with catlike stealth and surprised him, but the
truth is I landed pretty much flat-footed after a three meter fall, and I think
the building shook just a bit when I touched the roof.  There was no catlike
grace involved either, but at least I didn't fall over. However, the time it
took for me to keep myself on my feet was used by the other fellow to swing the
ridiculously long gun around and point it in my face.

I
give myself credit enough to believe that if I had been better balanced and not
distracted by the slowly subsiding pain from my torso, I would have moved out
of the way or tackled him or any number of other dazzling combat maneuvers. 
However, my combat brilliance was not demonstrated that night, because all I
did was reach out to that absurdly huge gun and stick my index finger in it. 
At the same time, he pulled the trigger and two things happened.  First, I felt
an incredible amount of pain in my hand, and second, the rear of the gun near
my assassin's head exploded, taking a good half of the man's face and shoulder
with it.

Dancing
around, holding my hurt hand with the other, I may have missed the body of the
assassin falling over the side as I cussed and cursed enough to make a sailor
blush.  Finally gritting my teeth, I looked down at my hand to see the first
knuckle of my forefinger completely missing.  Already the blood had stopped and
it was skinning over.  Damn, I'd never do that again without a force field on. 
It would take me a day to regenerate that part of my finger back.  A huge lump
of iron and silver was melted partially over my hand, all that was left of the
superheated slug.  Apparently, someone thought I was either a vampire, fairy,
or a shifter. Magical residue from the metal tingled as it cooled on my hand. 

It
finally occurred to me that I should check the body of my personal hit man for
clues, so I peered over the side.  I probably should have been paying more
attention to my danger sense since it hadn't actually shut down, but I hadn't
really been in real combat for over a year.  I have excellent physical skills
for even my kind, but I am more of a scholar than a warrior.  Perhaps I should
just watch more horror movies and become more paranoid.  I think this works for
Jeremy.

Anyway,
I peeked over the side and found a large glowing knife heading towards my
face.  Another time I may have tried to decipher the runes on it, but even I am
not obsessed enough to ignore such an imminent danger.  I tried moving away but
frankly was completely unprepared.  The knife stuck and actually sliced into my
skin and deflected off my cheekbone.  Damn, that was some serious enchantment. 
This time the eminent sense of danger dulled the pain enough for me to fall
backward onto the roof.  As I watched the hit man leap over the roof lip, I
used the time to activate my protective force field.  With a barely audible,
snap the psionic energy coalesced and surrounded me in a skin-tight layer of protection.

The
assassin hadn't fared well.  As I saw briefly from before, he was missing half
of his face, exposing fractured cheekbones and his lower jaw was simply
non-existent.  The flesh of his shoulder was completely gone.  How he was
moving as fluidly as he was is still a mystery.  I mean really, how can you
move without any muscles or ligaments?  I swear, after seeing him I will never
animate skeletons; it is far too spooky.  Never the less he was doing it, and he
was doing it well.  I could see the flesh on exposed bones almost writhe, and
it almost visibly knitted together.  Although I pretty much knew it, I still
activated my senses to check.  Yep, he was a vampire.  A pretty old one too. 
And he knew Kung Fu.

I
could tell he knew Kung Fu because when I went to slug him in the face with a
psionic enhanced right hook, he bent around my blow and stabbed me in the
back.  I heard my field spark and could tell that just that one blow had almost
taken it down.  I contemplated this as I fell over the side of the building
where I had been thrown after being knifed.  On the positive side, the fifty-foot
drop hadn't hurt me and it gave me time to push more energy into the field
around me.  That dagger was freaking nasty.  Looking up, I saw the silhouette
of the undead assassin as he too leaped off the building straight at me, now a
dagger in each hand.  Thank God only one was glowing with magic.  I tried to
stab at his brain telekinetically while he descended, but this vampire was old
and was completely in control of his psionic defenses.  My attack slid off his
shield like water off a duck.

When
he landed on me, I tried to grapple with him.  I knew I was physically stronger
than him.  If I could get my hands on him I could dismember him like a boy
picks the wings off a fly.  However, did I mention he knew Kung Fu?  He fell
past me, the dagger scraping and sparking off my shield as he wriggled and
twisted to avoid my arms.  We traded blows like this several times, each time
with myself coming up on the short side of the exchange.  Maybe that hand-to-hand
stuff was actually good for something. 

Apparently,
he thought it was good too, as his fourth hit actually took down my psionic
shield.  I backed up as I reactivated my protection.  My reserves dipped as the
energy was sucked from my mind.  The assassin muttered a soft curse under his
breath as he sensed the field form around me again.  His smashed cheekbones had
knit, and a layer of muscle was forming over the bones of his face and shoulder.

It
occurred to me I was losing.  I couldn't reform my shield forever and I
couldn't touch this guy in hand-to-hand.  Unless... there is an old cheap trick
most know, but never use.  If you are willing to take a hit, you can time your
blow to coincide with your enemies.  He hits you, but you hit him.  I had a
shield and he was hitting me anyway; however, I just needed to grab him once.

Putting
thought into motion, I waiting and leaped at him the instant he attacked.  His
knife issued a stream of sparks as it slid across my protection and my hand
almost closed on his wrist... before he brought his other knife up to nudge my
wrist away in a trajectory that bled off my superior strength and positioned
him for a follow up double-strike from his daggers.

This
guy completely outclassed me hand-to-hand.  Grimacing, I reformed my failing
shields again.  I had enough energy for one more significant trick.  It could
be another shield, or I could summon my weapons.  I internally shrugged.  I was
slowly losing with only my defenses.  I may as well try to go out with a bang.

Backing
up on the park area where I had fallen, behind the houses, I focused my energy and
forced it to take physical form in my hands.  I reached my fingers out to the
air as if to grasp hold of the very air and forced the energy into the form of two
flamberges, one in each hand. 

Now
in my own defense I have to say I was very young when I first trained myself to
summon these psionic manifestations.  Nothing seemed more attractive than
wielding two of the largest swords ever created by humankind.  Flamberges are
huge swords, over six feet long and having a wavy, almost serrated edge.  The
only reason I can hold one in each hand is the fact I am far stronger than
anything in human form has a right to be.  The fact that I can actually fight
with them is a quirky story all by itself.  Suffice to say, it was very
embarrassing and probably the first serious blow to my pride.

Nevertheless,
I was now armed with two weapons, as was my assassin.  To be honest, I still
think he was better but now I had a huge reach advantage.  Twirling my swords
around me in a maneuver that would make Conan proud, I stalked towards him.  From
the slight widening of his eyes, I am pretty sure I surprised him, but he still
charged me.  I had to slowly retreat to keep him from getting inside my
defenses.  Armed, I am actually pretty darn good and I actually started getting
strikes in.  Of course, he healed them almost immediately, but I think I was
actually reaching a real stalemate as opposed to simply losing in slow motion.

That
was when a glowing blade appeared to spout out of the middle of his chest.  I
have to admit, I stood there and stared at it, trying to figure out what kind
of a bizarre attack this was.  The only reason I was still alive is that my
vampire assassin was looking down at the sword sticking out of his chest in
surprise too.  When I finally recognized the blade, I moved closer and swung
both swords in a cross cut.  Without my blades being skillfully diverted they
cleaved through the undead creature like a hot knife through butter, dividing
the body into three non-equal parts.

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