Kendra adjusted her position and settled in for a bit of meditation. There had been quite a few things happening recently that deserved a closer, more careful review. There had been several demons that she hadn’t encountered before, among them the large ogre that had bit her arm and the slime thing. There had been the ritual that she’d interrupted last night. And it still nagged at her that the vampires here were not quite the same as the ones at home.
She knew that she had interrupted the ritual and prevented it from performing as the vampire with the book had intended. Kendra also knew that magic didn’t always follow neat orderly lines and patterns that made sense to the rest of the world. Sometimes, interrupting rituals made other things happen, things that weren’t expected or planned. Things that could be dangerous.
Kendra started with the ritual. It had appeared to begin with blood sacrifice, almost always a bad sign. She didn’t know how much it would change things that the sacrifice was supposed to be a vampire. That she’d killed the vampire chanting before he’d finished. Sometimes starting the ritual was enough to set magic into motion, especially considering that when she’d fought the vampires, blood had fallen onto the cloth alter.
In the end, she was forced to conclude that she didn’t know enough to predict what would happen.
Next, Kendra focused on the ogre-demon that had attacked Vanessa and her boyfriend. The thing that had bitten her arm when she’d thought it was dead. All the attacks that she had used seemed to affect it normally, if she considered the fact that it had easily been twice as tall and four or five times the body mass. The hide was thicker than human or vampire, but not quite as tough as cured leather. Large, strong, and not terribly intelligent, but a fair level of cunning, and far too many sharp teeth. It was the sort of beast that would be called an ogre, but not quite like any specific demon species in the books. Thankfully it wasn’t venomous, though the teeth were big enough that she doubted there would be any need.
Except that in most of the stories, ogres didn’t sprout from the ground like mushrooms. Some stories claimed that greedy, evil people changed, becoming more and more ogre-like as their evil filled them, chasing away any good that had once been part of them. Sometimes it was the result of a curse, changing someone strong and quick of temper into an ogre instead of a man. But often, they were born, either the result of a breeding pair of ogres or the result of ogres raping and impregnating human women. If that was the case, perhaps the terrible fate that she had saved Vanessa from wasn’t being eaten, perhaps before she was quite dead. She would have to watch carefully for more ogres.
The vampires… there was something a little different about them. She couldn’t explain it, but they felt different. Maybe it was just that this was a different world, that the difference in the way they felt was of no more importance than the fact that their eyes glowed red instead of burning yellow. She would have to watch carefully for any other differences – it was possible that there would be more than the minor cosmetic differences that’s he’d already seen in their eyes, the fact that their brows didn’t wrinkle as much, that they flared as if burned before crumbling to ash.
Of course, she’d still kill every predatory vampire attacking the humans that she ran across, if possible. Watching for differences didn’t mean letting them hunt and kill at their leisure.
There was something near her. A presence that hadn’t been there when she began meditating. It didn’t feel like a demon, didn’t feel like something planning to attack her… but something was watching her.
Kendra opened her eyes.
The man looked perhaps twice her age, with slight crinkles at his eyes that could have come from pain or focused concentration. A white streak as wide as the tip of her thumb at each of his temples stood out against his dark hair, which was cut short. Between the fact that he was floating a few inches above the ground and the astonishingly gaudy crimson cloak with the elaborate gold swirls, held together with a large clasp set with a stone that looked disturbingly like an eye, Kendra had no doubts that this man was a mage. He was in the sunshine, which ordinarily would mean that he couldn’t be a vampire, though Kendra knew that there were rumors of magical talismans and rituals that could help vampires work around that, at least for certain amounts of time.
Few mages were so blatant about their abilities, at least, not among ‘civilized’ parts of the world. Either he was very arrogant, very powerful, or trying to impress her. Perhaps some combination of the three. She would have to be careful. “Is dere a reason you are here, sir mage?”
“There was a powerful ritual started and disrupted last night. Of the mystical signatures at the site, yours was the only one that left. Perhaps you could explain what happened?” He had a thin smile, one that was supposed to inspire trust.
Kendra would have trusted him more if his smile had reached his eyes. “What do you already know about it and why are you seeking more information?”
“It is my responsibility to protect the people of this area from dangerous magics, and mystical threats,” he folded his arms, looking at her. “What were you doing in a graveyard that reeks of blood magic?”
Kendra admitted to herself that this man had a strong sense of the dramatic. He also seemed to have a thick streak of arrogance. He was probably very skilled with magic, but she didn’t know if she could trust him. Of course, many of the magic users back home had been able to sense lies, so she would have to avoid any outright untruths, in case he had that ability… “I saw a vampire. He went to the cemetery and met wit’ a few other vampires. I killed dem and went home.”
“Do you know what that ritual was supposed to do?” the mage demanded.
“I know what the vampire said it was supposed to do, when he was talking to de other vampires,” Kendra replied. “But vampires often lie, so I can not be certain what it was intended to do. As a guide, I was told that magic requiring someone to die was bad.”
“That is a rather useful, if vague, guideline,” he admitted. “What did the vampire say?”
“He said it would bring someone back. Someone he called de great lord of de dead,” Kendra frowned. “Most often, people vampires respect are dangerous, and have been made dead for good reasons.”
“The great… no, he wouldn’t… the sacrifices required…” the mage muttered to himself, drifting towards the ground. “They’d need to sacrifice vampires, and there would need to be multiple ritual invocations…”
“The intended sacrifice was a vampire,” Kendra spoke softly. “Who are you?”
“My name is Dr. Strange,” he gave a smaller smile, though this one reached his eyes. “Hunting vampires is terribly dangerous, miss…?”
“I am Kendra,” she forced herself not to add that she was the Slayer. Capable mage didn’t mean trustworthy mage, and she didn’t know him that well.
The mage reached into a pocket along the inside of his cloak, and produced a card. “If you encounter any other vampires attempting magical rituals, call me. If that vampire was honest about what the ritual was supposed to do, I can’t let that happen.”
“I will remember,” Kendra accepted the card.
When she looked back up, the mage was gone.
End part 30.