If you enjoy dark urban fantasy books featuring haunted antiheroes in the tradition of Snape, Walker Boh, and Constantine, you’ll love this story about a human changeling prince fighting to overcome the tragedy of his tortured past.
Grab your copy of the first novel in this urban fantasy trilogy today at: https://geni.us/shadecursed
Shade Cursed, Chapter One
I was rather perturbed that the vampire resisted being abducted. It wasn’t as if I intended to kill the bloodkin, after all. Besides, higher vampires were known to be a very hardy species. If it survived conscious vivisection—and it would, probably—I had every intention of eventually setting the thing loose.
Preferably, I’d do so somewhere far, far away from my tower. Then I wouldn’t have to hear Luther, the local coven leader, blathering on about how it was unethical to perform experiments on sentient beings. Nor would I have to deal with the Vampyri Council, who tended to get very cross when rogue wizards waylaid their couriers.
Hmm… perhaps I should kill it, after all.
I gave an involuntary shake of my head, as if the physical act were proof that I disagreed with my fae-trained instincts. Logically speaking, I did disagree, as killing the vampire might create more problems than it would solve. Yet, my deepest intuitions informed me that ending the vampire by burning him to ash and scattering his remains to the winds was definitely the safest course.
Due to my unnatural inclination toward evil, of late I often questioned the motives behind even my most mundane decisions. I was perfectly content with my own moral ambiguity, until I came into contact with my own kind. Then, I fell in love, and suddenly found myself wanting to reclaim that part of my humanity the fae had erased through years of conditioning and torture.
To be honest, I didn’t know if it was the fae brainwashing that engendered such dark proclivities or my shade. It was easier to blame it on the fae, but having a shadow wraith grafted onto one’s soul did tend to make an individual a bit peckish for the occasional foray into incivility and violence. One could take their pick, as the two made up what was by far the darker side of my conscience.
But there would be time later for droll introspection. At present, I had a higher vampire to capture. Although it wasn’t a local coven member, a missing courier would bring Vampyri troubleshooters to town. That would cause friction with both the local coven and Queen Maeve. Of course, whomever the Council sent would have no idea that I was at fault—but Luther and Maeve would suspect me immediately.
No, it would be catch and release today. Once I mind-wiped the vampire, no one would be able to connect me to the abduction. And if I needed more organs for my experiments, I could always track down a revenant or a ghoul. The yield would be of a much lower quality, but such was the price of being a changeling prince in exile.
Satisfied with my decision, I swept the dark, dusty warehouse with my gaze, simultaneously forcing the shade within to enhance my eyesight. The creature offered only slight resistance to my command, undoubtedly distracted by the prospect of feeding on the vampire’s essence. I had no intention of allowing my shade to gorge itself on a vampire’s energy, as the wraith would be unruly for days after. But, for now, I’d let the spirit draw its own conclusions about this hunt and deal with its disappointment later.
A subtle shift of shadow in the rafters above informed me where my prey currently hid. The shade didn’t allow me to see in the dark in the same manner as a night vision spell, but it was just as effective. When it loaned me its sight, my eyes picked up both thermal and magical radiation in the infrared spectrum. The effect was similar to a negative exposure image, and it made it much easier to spot things that were hidden from normal eyesight.
Obviously, the vampire was intent on an ambush. It wasn’t the most clever or original approach, but it made sense for one with this monster’s talents. Many mature higher vampires possessed one or two tricks, minor magicks that made it easier to hunt human prey. Common examples included the ability to glamour weaker beings, to turn into mist, to shift into an animal form, and the like. Master vampires possessed even greater abilities, such as Luther’s teleportation talent, a skill that had likely been passed down from his maker.
Such gifts only developed as vampires grew older, and not every vampire inherited their maker’s skills. Moreover, each subsequent generation weakened the bloodline, making it less likely that such skills would emerge. A first-generation vampire—one who had been made by a master—was almost guaranteed to display some gift of magic once they matured. However, a third- or fourth-generation vampire rarely possessed any skills beyond the superhuman speed, reflexes, and strength that all their kind possessed.
But this vampire—this creature was something special. It had a bit of shadow magic, limited but similar to my own, which was why I didn’t spot it instantly in the dark. The vampire could cloak itself in shadow, a talent I’d never known a vampire to possess. That made it unique among its kind and quite useful to me from a magical research perspective.
That’s why I needed to capture this particular vampire. It obviously came from a very strong bloodline, and based on the talents the vampire displayed, it was a first-generation bloodkin. The opportunity to acquire such a specimen would likely not come along again for quite some time. Knowing what was at stake, my pulse quickened as I walked beneath the vampire’s hiding spot.
No sooner had I exposed myself than the vampire dropped silently from its perch. As the shadowy figure fell, I waited until the last millisecond to act. As a human, I did not possess the enhanced reflexes and speed of even a newly-made vampire.
Ah, but when I allowed my shade to act of its own accord, it did.
The bloodkin had almost landed on my back when I loosed the shadow wraith on it. Instantly, multiple tendrils of dark magic erupted from my shoulders and back, oily black appendages reminiscent of a cephalopod’s limbs. Three of those shadowy members acted like spider’s legs, physically moving me out of the way. Four others whipped around the falling vampire, wrapping up its legs and arms and pinning them to the creature’s sides.
For several moments, I couldn’t clearly see the being I’d captured, as it chose to remain in its shadow state. Impressed by the abilities of this particular specimen, I resolved to run tests on the limits of the creature’s magic at a later date. The fact that the vampire possessed such a potent talent spoke to the quality of its bloodline. I decided that choosing to capture this vampire had definitely been the right decision.
That was, until the shadowy figure dissipated into smoke, slipping out of my grasp.
* * *
Incorporeal talents as well. Now, that is unexpected.
Knowing that the vampire could reappear anywhere around me, I used my shadow tentacles to carry me away from the center of the warehouse. Once I had my back to the wall, I instructed the wraith to exude darkness so I could blend into the gloom around me. Then, it was simply a matter of waiting for my prey to make its move.
“Wizard, you came after the wrong fucking vampire,” a high, nasally voice whispered from every corner of the room. “When I catch you, I’m gonna sever your spinal cord and drink you dry. That’s what you get for fucking with the Vampyri.”
Oh, do shut up.
I had always found it to be incredibly annoying when predatory supernatural creatures blathered on about how they were going to kill me. It was droll and entirely uninspired, although I understood why the vampire was doing it. Vampires lacked endogenous adrenaline production, making adrenaline-laced blood a sort of delicacy to their kind. Thus, they often toyed with their prey, instilling fear through intimidation and injury before they fed.
Little did this one know, it took a lot to get me riled. I was a human changeling, after all, raised in Underhill amongst the fae. When you grew up around monsters, terror was commonplace. And when you were raised to be the Dark Sorceress’s Hound, well—after years of suffering under her most painful tutelage, I found very little to fear in lesser beings.
Besides, the trick the vampire was using to throw his voice was simple legerdemain and nothing more. And while the vampire had surprised me when it went incorporeal, that was only because I misjudged the limits of its powers. I had assumed the creature could only achieve a solid shadow state; it had never occurred to me that it might turn into shadow-smoke as well.
No matter—I was no stranger to such magic. I’d been bonded to a shade at a tender age, mastering my wraith’s magic by the time I reached puberty. Moreover, I’d also been trained in conventional magic, the same spells and incantations that made the typical fully-trained mage a force to be reckoned with.
And, I am anything but a typical mage.
I’d never locate the vampire by ordinary means, and thus it was time to consider another approach. Although the creature could evanesce into a gaseous form, he’d still have to keep his substance separate from other gasses. Else, it would dissipate entirely and never be able to coalesce into its solid form again.
Thus, I merely needed to determine where the vampire’s gaseous form currently resided. And the simplest way to do that was to ensure that my magic was everywhere that the vampire was not.
Against my better judgment, I closed my eyes, concentrating on my connection to my shade. It was fortunate that the spirit was being cooperative today; usually I had to subjugate the wraith in a contest of wills when accessing its powers. It was incredibly tiring to do so, even on the best of days, and it typically left me quite drained after I released the entity’s magic.
However, it was always worth the effort. The creature’s abilities were vastly superior to traditional spell work, in that those capabilities could be used instantaneously no matter how frequently they were exercised. So long as I reabsorbed the shadow stuff I’d expended, I could use the wraith’s abilities over and over again, with near impunity. While I despised my adoptive mother for subjecting me to her cruel experiments, I couldn’t fault the results.
Focusing inward, I stilled my mind and emotions as I reached through the connection that my shade and I shared. In my mind’s eye, it appeared as a dark umbilical cord that connected my spirit to the wraith’s magical energy. Once my mind was completely focused on the connection, I exerted my will through the link, commanding the shade to relinquish full control of its magic to me, its master.
The entity struggled only briefly, relenting quickly in anticipation of a meal. Power rushed through me like a drug, an inky black magic that turned my stomach even as it lit up the pleasure center of my brain. Like always, the magic began to influence me the moment it was mine, permeating every atom of my being with a desire to consume.
Oh, how I wished to do exactly that.
* * *
That was the seductive nature of this type of magic. It was so powerful that one could become drunk on its potential, and it was also entropic to the extreme. Resisting the desire to eat souls was a battle I fought each and every time I accessed the shade’s magic, and one I had to win in order to use the magic without causing harm to innocents.
I’m not a complete monster, after all.
As the magic sought to overpower my will, I exerted a Herculean amount of effort, shoring up my resolve until my self-control slammed firmly back in place. At that point the magic was mine to direct as I saw fit, and I could use it like a scalpel—or a sledgehammer. Currently, what I intended to accomplish was more subtle, but no less a display of magical skill.
After first gathering the shadow magic in my core, I forced it out through my pores like smoke roiling out of a smoldering fire. Wispy threads of blackness spread out in all directions—a fine, almost invisible mist of dark sorcery that soon filled the warehouse from end to end and top to bottom. The feat was a stretch, as I only had so much shadow energy at my disposal, but I managed to extend the shade’s dark energies throughout the space. Now completely in tune with every last speck of that magic, I mapped out the warehouse interior while safely ensconced in darkness.
As a three-dimensional image of the building’s viscera coalesced in my mind’s eye, I searched it for anomalies that did not fit the environment. Soon I located an amorphous blob of mist hovering toward me, along the wall to my left. Having located the vampire, it was now merely a matter of capturing it and getting it back to my tower.
The danger in turning into a mist was that gasses were as susceptible to containment as solids or liquids, so long as the containing receptacle was completely impermeable. Vampires and other creatures who possessed that skill rarely worried about said risk, simply because it was difficult to force mist into a container—especially if that mist was self-aware and capable of movement. Ask any mage who’d ever tried to trap a djinni or efreet, and they’d tell you the same. That is, if they survived the experience.
However, I possessed an extensive library of occult codices and magical grimoires, and I’d studied each one with a thoroughness bordering on the obsessive. One of those obscure volumes contained a wizard’s account of how he managed to capture a djinni in a magic bottle. Why anyone would want to do such a thing was a mystery, as the djinni would be absolutely incensed once it found a means to escape. Likewise, folktales about djinn granting wishes were absurd, as the creatures possessed no such magic and were fickle beyond belief.
Despite the idiocy of such an attempt, the account did provide a template by which I might trap the vampire while in a gaseous state. The trick was to envelope said creature in a sphere of magic first—from there, one could force it into a more permanent receptacle. Thankfully, I had no need for a second storage location, as I intended to force the vampire into submission via other means.
Before the mist that was the vampire’s body could reach me, I pulled all the shadow magic I’d exuded back toward me. But instead of reabsorbing all of it, I used a portion to create a semi-translucent, hollow ball of dark energy that slowly closed around the vampire. Then I made that sphere solid, investing it with wards to prevent the vampire from making his escape.
As soon as the vampire hit the shadow barrier, it swirled around inside, seeking any opening through which it might flee. When the bloodkin realized it was trapped, it changed into its solid, human form in order to scratch and tear at the barrier with its hands and teeth. All such efforts were in vain, as the shadow sphere merely stretched and rebounded with each of the vampire’s attacks. Pleased with the results, I stood back to admire my handiwork.
And that’s how you capture a higher vampire.
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