Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(67) by Ilona Andrews
The vampire sprinted across the glass crater toward the undead maggot thing.
“What’s wrong with it?” Julie asked.
“Too much blood,” one of the navigators said through another bloodsucker. “It’s an almost never-seen phenomenon, but it’s been observed in a controlled study in a lab environment. It takes an average of forty-eight liters of blood consumed in a continuous stream, or the blood of roughly 1.28 Holstein cows, to induce this state in a vampire.”
The giant had too much blood and he was regenerating. They couldn’t drain him fast enough. I couldn’t use a power word on him, but I could do something.
The vampire that left us picked up the bloated undead, slung it over its back, raced back across the glass, and dumped the abomination beside us. The vampire’s eyes had turned dull.
“Ew.” Julie shuddered. “Ew.”
“Ew” didn’t even begin to cover it. Its skin looked ready to rupture. “Why is nobody piloting it?”
“It won’t be able to move for another hour,” the male navigator explained.
“Please relay a message to Ghastek for me,” I said. “Your way isn’t working. Let me help.”
The vampire dutifully repeated the words.
“He says, ‘The situation is under control.’”
“Tell him, no, it’s not. You can’t contain it now. What happens when the metamorphosis is complete?”
“He says, ‘Your concern is duly noted.’”
The undead opened his mouth and paused as the navigator caught himself. “Should I . . . ?”
“No,” another navigator told him. “You shouldn’t.”
A caravan of black SUVs clogged the street leading to the Casino. The SUVs pulled up in a semicircle around the Mole Hole and disgorged Ghastek and a flock of journeymen. I recognized two Masters of the Dead: Toakase Kakau, a dark-eyed woman of Tongan descent, and Ryan Kelly, a large Caucasian man who looked the corporate shark in every way, except for a very long purple mohawk.
The journeymen and the Masters of the Dead thinned out, forming a loose ring around the Mole Hole. A journeywoman next to Ghastek raised a large horn to her lips and blew a sharp note.
Vampires dashed into the crater. A journeyman could pilot one; a Master of the Dead could control two or in Ghastek’s case three. There were about twenty people around the Mole Hole and probably thirty vampires below. Each was marked with a bright smear of fluorescent paint in a dozen colors, some with a cross, some with a ring. Something really weird was going on.
The vampires swarmed Lago, climbing up his legs to his chest and stomach. He roared, throwing them around. They landed on the ground, some on their feet, some in a broken heap. The scales were up to his waist now. His feet began to glow. The glass under him would melt before long.
Ghastek raised his hand. The horn screamed in response.
In my mind, the dull red smears of magic that were the thirty vampires in the Mole Hole turned bright red.
Dear God. They had turned the vampires loose.
An unpiloted vampire went into an instant rage. It would slaughter until nothing with a pulse remained. If the PAD found out, nobody would be arrested. They would shoot everyone here out of principle. This was insane. Now I understood the paint—they’d marked the bloodsuckers so they could quickly grab them again without getting confused.
The undead tore into the giant. He roared, frantically trying to knock them off. Flesh flew as they ripped, clawed, and burrowed into his body. The vampires piled on, maddened by bloodlust.
A minute passed. The giant was still standing.
Another . . .
Two vampires dropped down, their bodies engorged with blood. Lago stomped on them.
“Steady,” Ghastek said.
The giant careened, rolling his shoulders in, as if trying to gather himself into a ball. The vampires nearly covered him now.
Magic exploded like a clap of thunder. With a deafening howl, Lago jerked upright, his arms straight out. The vampires fell off, knocked aside by an enormous force.
“Acquire!” Ghastek snapped.
The horn screeched again, frantic. The navigators grabbed the minds of their vampires.
Smokeless orange flames sheathed Lago’s feet. He turned, roaring, his face no longer bearing any trace of humanity. The metal scales were up to his collarbone now and those at his waist and below glowed orange. The glass under his feet softened, melting. The giant turned in our direction, casting a long look at the city, and raised his foot . . .
Oh no, you don’t.
I drew Sarrat, sliced my left arm, and stabbed the bloody blade into the body of the bloated vampire. My blood dashed down the blade, its magic spreading through the undead blood, like a spark charging down a detonation cord. In half a second, all of the blood was mine. I yanked the blood out of the undead’s body. It hovered before me in a massive round sphere. I thrust my bleeding hand into it, flattening the liquid into a solid disk, two feet across, spun, and hurled it with all my strength and with my magic.
It flew, expanding as it whistled through the air, its edge turning razor sharp, and cleaved the giant’s neck. The impact shattered the now five-foot-wide disk into dust. The giant’s head flopped to the side, his neck three-quarters severed, his mouth contorting silently, his red eyes looking in different directions. Blood gushed out, washing over the torso, and hissed, evaporating as it met the hot scales covering his skin.
There. No power words.
The Mole Hole turned completely quiet and in the silence, the sound of hoofbeats rolled through the night. A huge gray horse galloped toward us, bearing a rider in a gray cloak. He carried a lance tipped with a glowing green spark.
The giant dropped to his hands and knees, his neck jerking, trying to flip the heavy head back into its proper place. The wound on his neck tried to seal itself.
The horse leaped onto the giant, pounding its way through the flames up his spine, to his head. The rider clamped the lance to his body and rammed it into the bloody stump of the giant’s skull. The horse reared, silhouetted against the orange flames. The rider’s cloak flared, his hood falling. Nick Feldman, a knight of the Order.
Oh hell. We were so screwed.
The massive horse jumped, clearing the gap between the giant and the side of the Mole Hole.
The giant’s head exploded. Brain and blood flew, splattering the vampires in front of me and drenching me in gore.
Fan-freaking-tastic. That’s just the cherry on top of the sundae of this day. Curran would kill me.
Nick’s voice boomed through the clearing. “The Order thanks you for your assistance. Kindly disperse.”
Ghastek stepped forward, clearly untroubled by the size of the horse. Two vampires moved in unison to sit on both sides of him like loyal dogs.
I braced myself.
“This is a People matter,” Ghastek said, his voice ice cold.
“The People have no jurisdiction here,” Nick said. “This investigation belongs to the Order.”
“A crime has been committed against a member of the People and we responded to it decisively and with overwhelming force. The People find the Order’s presence and response insufficient to properly secure the body.”
Translation: there is only one of you and a lot of us.
“I am the law,” Nick said. “Impede me and you will suffer the consequences.”
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