Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(41) by Ilona Andrews
The blood was still gushing. He sagged down clumsily and fell to his hands and knees in front of the Guild’s ruined doors. About eighteen feet down, all of it strewn with debris from his rampage. I had to take this chance.
I let go and rolled down his bloody back, picking up speed. The back ended and I fell straight down, bending my knees and clamping my head. The impact resonated through my feet. God, that hurt. I rolled, dropped my hands, and saw the giant glaring at me, one eye filled with rage, the other a pale milky blob with the spear sticking out of it. His massive hand blocked the light. I had no place to go. I curled into a ball. The fingers slapped the ground on both sides of me. He missed. He missed!
The hand rose again and I scrambled away, climbing over chunks of bricks and mortar. He tried to follow me, but his left arm gave. The colossus fell clumsily, rolling onto his back. The ground shook.
I backed away, toward the Guild’s doors.
His head landed on the pavement. His one good eye rolled back into his skull. He shuddered and lay still. The blood, once a powerful geyser, slowed to a gush.
People burst out of the Guild’s doors. I searched the fear-shocked faces, looking for the familiar features and blond hair. Nothing.
A man limped out, behind everyone else.
“Is there anyone else inside?” I called out.
“No. I am all there is.”
A woman sprinted from the side, running in the opposite direction to the crowd, her face frantic.
“Mom! Mom! Here!”
Julie. I whipped around in the direction of the voice.
A dark-haired teenage girl dashed out of the crowd. The woman threw her arms around her. A man followed.
Oh my God. That was the voice I heard on the phone. My Julie wasn’t in the Guild. This was somebody else’s Julie.
The relief rocked me. I sat on a chunk of the building, leaning against it. My arms hurt, my shoulders hurt worse, and the last echoes of the misfiring power words still rolled around inside me, clasping my insides in fiery internal cramps. It hurt to stand. To sit was an unbelievable luxury and so I sat, basking in the wonderful feeling of not resting my weight on my feet.
I pulled gauze out of my pocket and wiped my eyes. The gauze came back drenched in crimson. My power word had backfired. I had had a power word fail before. Ud, the word commanding something to die, usually didn’t work. To kill something with it, you first had to own your target completely. The first two times I tried it, the pain had been so excruciating that I was convinced I would die. This was worse. Aarh was a simple order to stop. It usually froze the target for about four seconds. I’d never had it misfire on me. Was I getting weaker? Was the giant too large? Was he immune to my magic somehow? I had all the questions and none of the answers. Ugh.
The red stream running from the giant’s neck finally stopped. He had bled out. It was over.
I closed my eyes and sat very still.
• • •
EVEN IN POST-SHIFT Atlanta, a giant was big news. The PAD was first to arrive, followed by a fleet of ambulances, which were still parked around the Guild. The cops examined the giant, determined he was dead but surrounded him with their tactical vehicles just in case, and interviewed everyone. They took my statement and then told me not to leave the scene. MSDU, the Military Supernatural Defense Unit, came next and promptly got into a jurisdiction war with the PAD, because the PAD wouldn’t let them explode the giant’s corpse and incinerate the pieces just in case. The MSDU also took my statement and told me not to leave the scene. When the Georgia Bureau of Investigation showed up, I told them up front that I had no intentions of leaving the scene and that I wasn’t going to answer any questions unless they produced a police captain who accused me of being a loose cannon and demanded my badge. They left me alone after that.
The news crews arrived next in a rabidly excited flood. With the Internet dead and TV erratic, most of our news came via newspapers, but a couple of TV crews appeared anyway and promptly surrounded Lago. He had been standing there with a charming self-deprecating smile for the last twenty minutes.
“Are you hurt?” one of the reporters asked, a little too loud.
“Nothing serious, but yes, my legs are going to be hurting.” Lago winked. “I’m not as young as I used to be. I don’t heal as fast, but sometimes even an old dog has to step up to protect his home.”
I sat on a chunk of the fallen debris in front of the Guild’s doors. My head hurt so much. It felt like someone kept hitting me with a hammer in the back of the head. Every time one of the hits landed, the wave of pain drowned me and my skull threatened to split open, and then for a moment, as the pain receded, an overwhelming relief came until the next blow. I realized that the blows coincided with my heartbeats. Something was wrong with me, with my blood. The magic in it felt like it had been boiling. Every blood vessel in my body had been burned from the inside out. There was nothing I could do. I just had to sit here and wait it out. Once I was done, I would go and see Doolittle. Retired from the Pack or no, he would treat me. Except I was barred from the Keep for the next thirty days. Shit.
The corpse of the giant sprawled about sixty yards in front of me. He had fallen over the far end of the Guild’s large parking lot and now lay on his side, his left arm stretching toward Phoenix Drive, his feet pointing toward the Guild. Most of the law enforcement had camped out to my right, in the street. Random spectators gawked at the giant and wandered through the parking lot despite the PAD’s valiant attempts to keep them out. A few mercs stood here and there, pondering the damage to their vehicles. Alix Simos, whose souped-up Lexus had ended up directly under the giant’s thigh, looked like he had lost a family member.
As I watched, a group of teenage boys ranging in age from twelve to about sixteen approached the giant’s body. One of them, a skinny blond kid, was carrying a long branch.
“Hey!” a female cop barked. “Get the hell out of here!”
The skinny kid jabbed the corpse with a branch.
The female cop started toward them with a look of holy wrath on her face. The kids jabbed the giant again and fled, jumping over debris.
Hey, here is the corpse of something big, scary, and magic that used to eat people when it was alive. I think I’ll go over and poke it with a stick. That would be awesome. I sighed. Teenagers. Some things even post-Shift Atlanta couldn’t change.
A horse-shaped black-and-white creature emerged from the side street, casually clopped her way right past the mercs, police, and soldiers, and nudged me with her nose.
“Hey, you,” I said.
Cuddles nudged me again. I reached into her small saddlebag, pulled out a carrot, and offered it to her. Cuddles swiped it off my hand and chewed with a happy crunch. I petted her cheek. The nausea squirmed inside me, refusing to go away.
I tried to think short, simple thoughts. It hurt less. Curran wasn’t in the Guild. Julie wasn’t in the Guild either. I had no idea where either of them was. I would give the PAD another five minutes and then I’d tell them I was leaving the damn scene whether they liked it or not. If they had a problem with it, I’d sic Barabas on them.
Juke came walking up to me, with Ken next to her. I did a double take. Juke’s face was paler than usual, her features sharpened by adrenaline. She looked pissed off. Ken seemed his normal unperturbed self.
“You’re not dead,” I said. “I thought I saw him bite you in half.”
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