RTB – Of Blood: 1. Visions of Blood & Shadow

Title: Visions of Blood & Shadow
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: urban fantasy, m/m & m/f content
Rating: adult
Word count: 131,700 (526 manuscript pages)

Summary: A little girl is dead and her grieving father seeks retribution, unaware as yet that it was a premeditated murder. His decision to find the man responsible pulls dozens of people out of their everyday lives and begins a series of strange events that culminate into a confrontation that will decide the fate of the world.

Visions and portents abound in “Visions of Blood & Shadow” where a group of people are drawn together by a series of seemingly random circumstances that are anything but. Beginning with the death of a child and a father’s drive to find vengeance at any cost, events culminate into a life or death meeting to prevent a madman from causing the end of the world.

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Now, it’s your turn, isn’t it?”

He suddenly found himself faced with Alane, her intense eyes burning holes into his brain. He shifted a little uncomfortably in the chair. His thighs were sweaty and he could feel fur tickling his back, urging him to Change.

I want you to See for me,” he said.

She nodded and sat down cross-legged in front of him. “I figure I might as well get comfortable, since I think I’m going to have to go deeper for you than I did for Kiernan.”

What do you mean?” he asked.

Twin lines appeared between her brows. “What you want to know is hidden deeper in the mists than what he needed. Also, you have this kind of natural shield around your mind that I’m going to have to breach, which means a bit of delicacy.”

So… how are we going to do this?” Marcus asked, wanting to look away from those eyes, but not able to force himself. He was caught in her gaze, wondered if his soul were being swallowed by her eyes and he just hadn’t noticed yet.

Alane smiled comfortingly. “It’s fairly simple. We’ll drink down the Witches Brew, then I’ll go lie down on my bed and you will lie out here on the couch. The Brew will put us both to sleep, which will loosen your shields a bit, making it easier for me to get in.”

What’s the Witches Brew?” he asked.

Alane nodded over at Kay, who rose and went over to a cabinet against one wall. She opened it and pulled out a crystal decanter filled with a greenish-brown liquid.

This is the Witches Brew,” Alane said, accepting the bottle and shaking it gently, the liquid sloshing thickly. It was nasty looking stuff; his stomach burbled just to see it.

It doesn’t look very appealing,” he observed. “Do we really need it?”

She shrugged. “Sometimes, no, but if we don’t use it, the experience won’t be as strong as we’ll need it to be for me to See what I See.”

Marcus tossed his head. “Whatever. Give me the sludge and let’s get this over with.” He would do what he had to.

Are you sure?” she asked, examining him closely.

He nodded. “Yeah. Let’s do this.”

All righty then,” Alane said, unstopping the bottle and reaching out for his empty Bloody Mary glass.

He watched as she filled the glass half-full, then filled her own glass. The liquid poured slowly, glopping into the bottom of the glasses and just kind of staying there. It seemed to have a chunkiness all its own; no floating bits, just a sludgy nastiness.

It sat there in the glasses, thick and vile, like vomit, heavy and gross. As he watched, unable to look away, bubbles rose through the liquid, breaking against the surface with a kind of sucking noise.

He didn’t want to drink that crap, but he knew that he would. He had forced himself to do much worse things in his life. This couldn’t be all that bad.

Here goes nothing,” he said, raising the glass to his lips and tipping it back. Slug-like, it poured into his mouth, sliming its way across his tongue, etching itself into his taste buds. He swallowed.

Burning fire down his throat. Light flashed behind his eyes. His stomach felt as though it were melting and flowing straight into his brain. Thousands of bugs crawled their way across his skin; his hair itched and writhed its way across his scalp.

Streaks of color pulsed up the walls. His nose itched and twisted around to touch the back of his head. His hands quivered and twitched, his nails shooting out long and thin with razor edges that sliced his fingers until blood sprayed out everywhere.

Marcus closed his eyes and fell forward onto the floor where he rolled onto his back. The inch thick white carpet suddenly quivered and grew around him, swallowing him. He was engulfed completely; hidden in a forest of carpet fibers, each standing tall and straight, closing him in claustrophobically.

He opened his mouth to scream, but his tongue was so thick and heavy that no sound could escape. His throat felt gravel-roughened, the moist skin scraped and bloody. He had a sudden terrifying image of being trapped in his own throat, pulsing flesh-walls surrounding him, veiny and pink, contracting with the hidden movement of muscles he didn’t have the words to name.

Hands closed around him and lifted him high, carrying him away. He twisted and writhed, but there was no escape but the lights flaring in his brain like multicolored lightning.

He struggled, then finally gave in, fading away.

Marcus Sinclair went with the Witches Brew.

* * *

She watched as Marcus fell to the floor and twisted around and around. His mouth opened in a silent scream; so wide that his face should have been ripped in half. His hands were held out before him, his fingers twisting and curling, piercing blood from his palms. His bones stood out against his flesh.

Raphaela and Cranston hoisted him up and settled him on the couch. Drool slimed its way out of the corner of his mouth and down the side of his face. He was completely out of it.

Raphaela brushed his hair back off his forehead and wiped the spit off his face with her palm. Then she pulled off his glasses and tucked them into her pocket where they would be safe.

She turned on Alane, her expression fierce with anger. “What the hell is in that shit?” she demanded.

Alane looked at her emotionlessly. “It’s the Witches Brew. It hits people like that if they’ve never used it before.”

She picked up her own glass and swallowed the noxious Brew down without the littlest twitch of expression.

A shudder ran through her entire body, but otherwise she was all right. Alane had become used to the nasty, regurgitated lunch quality of the stuff and the way it seemed to burn her insides like fire.

She swallowed hard a couple of times to keep the stuff from clawing its way back up her throat. Lights flared at the peripheral of her vision.

I should go lie down now,” she said, rising to her feet and padding her way toward the hallway and her bedroom. The walls pulsated around her, a sickening multi-colored rainbow. She ignored them.

Behind her, she heard Kay ask, “Do you guys want something to munch on while Alane does her stuff?”

Alane laughed and shook her head as she went into her room, carefully closing the door behind her. She hated being watched when the Visions took her.

She threw herself on her back and settled comfortably, preparing to enter the Nothing-Place where her powers were the strongest. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift away.

She floated up and up, looking back down at her body resting so peacefully on the bed. The pale blue coverlet was slightly mussed around her body. Her hair spread around her head like a black corona on her pillow. Her skin was so colorless that she could watch the flow of blood through her own veins.

Alane glanced down at her spectral hands and saw that they glowed a brilliant gold. The color that showed she was at optimum flow of power, ready to do what needed to be done.

She smiled and flowed through the door and down the hall toward the living room. She imagined that this was what a ghost felt like, able to see everything, but unable to really affect the world around her.

Marcus was lying dormant in his body, curled and still around the bright beating thing that was his heart and life.

Raphaela knelt beside him, holding his hand against her chest. She looked up as Alane passed overhead, as though she could sense the girl’s presence. Her nose flared and her eyes glinted with a golden spark deep inside.

Alane paused to look at her.

Raphaela looked like she should have been a college student or a lingerie model somewhere. She had dusky skin and long black hair, her figure something to draw the eyes of men and keep them on her. She could have made millions on a runway dressed in little silk nothings. Her looks were angelically beautiful, but her aura showed that she had all of the dangerous energy of a predator. There was something frightening there that Alane was going to have to investigate closely when she had more time.

Alane flowed through the still air to hover just over Marcus, then slowly lowered herself down and down.

She was inside Marcus. He glowed around her with a blinding light.

She reached out and grabbed the strands of his personality and wrapped them around herself. She could feel whatever it was that made him, him, that consciousness and life that went far beyond the merely physical. She could feel him all around her, yet at the same time, she was all around him, holding him close and tight. Then she flexed her mental muscles and teleported them both to the Nothing-Place.


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