By now, I hope that you’ve read, or at least started reading, the first episode of Blood Magic (if you haven’t, you can find it here). Don’t forget to tell your friends, family, and literate beta fish that they should definitely make their way to the site to read it, and please consider leaving a review in the comments section below the story.
If you recall, these episodes go live at the end of each month, so we’re gearing up already for the launch of the second story in the series, titled Here There Be Dragons? Just in case you weren’t eagerly awaiting it because you didn’t get enough Blood Magic in the first episode, here’s a preview of what you might see in the second one.
The night was brighter than Kiluron would have liked. Nights in the Durboin Hills were like that, with few clouds and a billion stars shedding their light, unfiltered, across the rugged grassland. Remaining undetected would be difficult, even if whoever they were infiltrating had been foolish enough to not post sentries. The starlight was enough that they could see their own shadows. Almost, Kiluron considered calling off the infiltration until a darker night could be had, but that didn’t seem likely. It was getting well towards winter now, and the stars only grew brighter with the colder months.
Soon, Kiluron had lost sight of the other scouts. They were going in three teams of two, entering from different sides to increase the odds that one of them would be able to get through and learn something of value, even if the other teams were detected. He only knew where Doil was, creeping along just behind him, doing a decent job of staying silent, though it was evident he lacked training. For that matter, Kiluron wasn’t moving nearly as silently as the scouts surely were. If there was going to be a team that was discovered, it would probably be theirs. It wasn’t a reassuring thought.
They moved down the hill relatively quickly, slowing dramatically once they reached the bowl that cupped Heart City. Kiluron had a knife ready in his hand, the metal blackened with soot to prevent any reflection. He wore no armor. Once inside the remains of the city, it became clear there was more still standing than it had seemed from above; that was good for cover, but it meant they would have to remain in the city longer, and get closer to their target before being able to learn anything. From the edge, Kiluron could only guess at which direction would be the quickest way to the center of the city through the winding, maze-like streets. To his paranoid eye, every wavering shadow cast by the tall grass was a man waiting around the corner to sound the alarm and end their lives.
Moving so slowly it was painful, Kiluron and Doil made their way deeper into the city’s remains, winding around the outlines of once magnificent buildings and down the cracked and ragged remnants of paved roads as they sought the center. Doil cast about himself constantly, as if worried that the city itself would attack them. Recalling the stories and myths that kept even hardened outlaws from hiding in Heart City, Kiluron had to wonder if Doil’s wariness was well-founded. Occasionally, they would come to an intersection, where they would have to make a decision and traverse it as quickly as possible. Intersections were a death trap.
The city had been laid out roughly in a wheel and spoke pattern, with the main roads being concentric circles expanding from the center of the city, connected by other major roads that ran directly from the center of the city to its outer edge. There were countless minor roads between these, however, and Kiluron didn’t dare use the major roads; if the roads were being watched or patrolled, it would be the major roads. Instead, they stuck to the side streets, wending their way as best they could. That task had seemed simple enough when examining the city’s layout from the surrounding hills, but now in the midst of it, the task became far more daunting. Kiluron could only hope they were actually making progress towards the city’s heart.
Their only sign that they were approaching the center of the city was the steady shrinking of the blocks of side streets through which they were winding. Doil noticed that many of the buildings nearer the center of the city had been much larger, based on their remains and the much smaller number of side streets. Kiluron darted out from behind a wall to cross one of the concentric roads, Doil a step behind, and nearly collided with a man in dark clothing. In the darkness, Kiluron saw the man’s eyes widen, his mouth opening to call an alarm as he brought his sword to bear. Kiluron’s knife was faster than the man’s sword, but not his shout. Swearing under his breath, Kiluron yanked the knife, now free of soot, from the man, and sprinted for the cover of the next set of side streets.
Crouching in the cover of what must have once been a basement, Kiluron and Doil paused to catch their breath. No other adversaries were apparent, but the shout of alarm was being taken up from other places now in response to the dead man’s call. Kiluron hoped that the other teams had already gotten in and were on their way out. A successful infiltration now that the camp was on alert was much less likely. Still, they had no choice but to try. Kiluron wondered who the Prime would choose to be the new Sub-Prime if he died.
“Alright,” Kiluron hissed at Doil, “We’ve lost the advantage of surprise, and stealth is all but impossible now. Our only hope is to be fast. We’ll split up – that’ll improve the chances that one of us will get through. I’ll go over this wall and head in – you got to the next spoke, that way, and head inward. Move as fast as you can. Understood?”
Doil nodded, hoping he had it in him to run that much.
“Go!” Kiluron hissed. He vaulted over the wall and started sprinting. Glancing back to make sure that Doil was on his way, he nearly missed a step, recovered, and ran right into a black mass of a person. He tried to pull away, but something hard hit him on the head, and he knew no more.
Can’t wait to find out what happens in the second episode of Blood Magic? Share your speculations on our Blood Magic forum.