Chapter 34: Writ in Blood

At 6 a.m. the next morning, I was already sitting in the kitchen, eating breakfast and poring over Ephraim's book, all the while listening for any sign that Bruce was awake. I needed to talk to him. Desperately.

After I'd gone upstairs the previous night, I read "Pactum Sanguinis" a half dozen times. It was magic unlike any I had ever attempted, and parts of the ritual skeazed me right out, even on repeat readings. I couldn't believe my father had done this with the king. I could barely imagine doing it with Keel. After I'd digested the steps of the spell, I spent another thirty minutes memorizing the incantation, sounding out each syllable and training my mouth to say the unfamiliar, arcane words in sequence, fluidly. Once I was sure I could do it off-book without hesitation, I began to leaf through the rest of the thick volume.

At first, what I was seeing didn't make sense. There were more spells and rituals, but there were also recipes and complex formulae – half mathematics, half... nothing I recognized. It wasn't until I stopped flipping and actually started reading that the true scope of the world of sorcery revealed itself. It was clear from the parts in English that magic was so much more than the base things I'd been using it for. Compared to the sorcery discussed in the book my spellcraft was primitive. No wonder Ephraim had kept the kid gloves on during our confrontation. He'd had no need to take them off.

After sitting up all night reading the book, I felt more conflicted than ever. How could I give this up after being given a peek into my own personal Pandora's Box?

Maybe I could find a way to practice magic on the down-low, if I was careful. I'd have to lie. But what was another lie on top of the enormous one I'd already be living?

The longer I sat there, the more determined I became.

The sorcerers could make me sign away my place in this world, but I would never stop being who and what I was. Magic was in my blood. I could feel it resonating there, just as it had since the moment I'd uncorked it.

By nine o'clock, I ran out of patience.

"What?" came a muffled holler from within as I banged on the basement door.

I opened it a few inches. "It's Mills," I shouted down the stairs. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah, sure," rumbled Bruce. He sounded weird.

When I got to the living room, I discovered why. He had been in bed. In fact, he still was, though he was sitting up and looking at me, naked torso and all. I don't know why his physique surprised me after seeing him take down that vamp; it wasn't like old guys couldn't be cut.

"What's up?" he asked.

"I've been reading this," I said, holding the tome Ephraim gave me up in the air so he could see it.

"He didn't," Bruce said, incredulously, sliding out of bed. I was more than a little relieved to see he was wearing pajama bottoms. He picked up an army-green T-shirt from the floor and pulled it on, before joining me in the living room. "I told him not to give you that book."

"Why?"

"Because it isn't fair to tease you with knowledge like that," Bruce said, sounding genuinely annoyed at my father.

"Why did he do it then?"

Bruce sat down on the denim loveseat and thought about this. "I'm not sure," he said, after a long while. "But I think what it comes down to is not even Mr. Sayre knows what Mr. Sayre wants."

"Or he's just being mean," I posited. I'd taken a seat on the couch across from him; it was kind of funny I'd only been here twice and we already had usual spots.

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