Bella led me downstairs and out into the courtyard in silence. It was hard for me to think of Bella as my own age, she still looked so much younger than me. I could see the difference in how she carried herself though. Her walk had once been bouncy and full of life, a gift from her nymph heritage. She now carried herself with a purpose, tightly controlled. Like me she had been self-conscious about losing control of her heritage, in her case releasing pheromones that could get most guys in a very aroused state. The ability would come out whenever she was threatened or excited, or scared.
Now those traces seemed so much more faint. Still so much the girl, but more a woman. I've spent so much of the last few years trying to burying my life, it was hard to imagine seeing the two most important women in my life come back to me in the span of just one. Well in some senses at least. On tonight of all nights. I watched Bell as she walked ahead of me towards the portal outside. The colors of magic still flowed and I gazed on at the central spire as the surrounding towers fed into it. So much power.
Looking at Bella, I can't say I had been surprised by her first field of magic, Elementalism. Being scared and afraid of what you can do at such a young age often times leads to a need for protection or a fear of the unknown. Elementalism used the surrounding environment, including vegetation or any of the four elements as its primary resource. You could augment personal shielding or create fortifications. It is a similar school to Holy magic, in that you can do healing and protection, but offered a broader range of protection against Evocation.
Some folks argue that Holy magic isn't really a school of magic at all, just merely abilities granted to those who follow the faith by a higher power. That God, or whatever being you worship, channels his powers through you like a conduit, much like Users here can, like at the Church. You can only learn holy magic from the Church and faith plays a large role in your powers so it may be a decent theory. It's the only school of magic not taught at the Academy, well that and Dark magic as it is outlawed.
Elementalism is sometimes called Life magic, it has such a broad range of powers. It is the opposite of Dark magic, but it can lead to the same results if left unchecked. The difference is that you can control Life magic with a strong enough mind and willpower. In the end, Dark Magic will take its toll one way or another. It's just not meant for human conduits.
Don't get me wrong, every school can do the same basic spells, limited offensive and defensive capabilities, it's in specializing that you make the money. The shields an Evoker can cast won't work for shit if someone casts Evocation magic on them. That's why you need an Elementalist. Why Bella chose to learn Evocation was another matter. With her natural abilities most assumed she would go into Divination, including myself. Her nymph biological make-up would lend to that. That species can get inside your head to find out what you like, what your fantasies are. It's just a bit more of a stretch to get into Divining. I could guess though, like me, she was scared of who she was and what she could do, so she pushed that part of her far away.
As she began to channel I watched the sigil light up and the portal begin to form. I needed to quit fucking daydreaming and get back to the matter at hand. We stepped outside the grounds I walked over to the panel van. I fished in my pockets and pulled out the keys, jangling them, breaking the silence between us for the first time since leaving her room.
"Seriously Alex? You want me to drive? You still haven't learned how to fucking drive? How did you even get out here?"
"One, I DO know how to drive, I drove it out here. It's just that I never got all that good at it. Two, that's why I live in the city. So I don't fucking have to! That's why everyone lives in the city!"
I tossed her the keys as she sighed, though I could see that once familiar smile creep out beneath. I reached into my pockets for one of those shitty smokes I had picked up earlier and hauled into the passenger seat. Bell got into the drivers side and adjusted the seat.
"Christ... what stinks in here?"
I took a few whiffs, kind of surprised that I hadn't noticed it before.
"Must of been that fuckin' ogre they were hauling around earlier. I really didn't notice it."
"You need to quit smoking, that shit is fucking up your senses. They also say it will kill you you know."
She said that last part with another tilting laugh and I joined in. It had been a long time since I laughed like that and I wondered if she was trying to adjust the mood with her powers. I guess it didn't matter really, things had been a cluster fuck today already so I guess a laugh couldn't hurt.
"Gimme one of those."
She grabbed the smoke and lit up making a face at the taste and that brought on another laugh. She slid into reverse and backed up, before turning down the dark road back to the main drag. We smoked as we discussed the details, including my father's cryptic warnings and the spell power that it would take for a demon to get through the wards at St. Augustine's. As we turned onto the main road, Bell stopped talking. Her eyes narrowed and I could sense her channeling. Immediately I reached for my gun when the roof of the van exploded.
The van pitched wildly and spun 360 degrees but somehow Bell kept it on the road. I looked at Bell, her face covered in blood, but I could see her grit her teeth and I felt the van lurch forward as she slammed on the gas. I could feel blood running down my face as I cleared my gun. There was a sound of heavy breathing as I grabbed the back of the seat and looked into the rear of the van.
"Hey Bell... I found out what that smell was."
Somehow, there was a fucking troll in the back of the van. He must have been planted when I was inside and had waited until I was clear of the Academy. Attacking me there would have been suicide. Wait until I get to the main drag and no one at the Academy would give two shits. Bell glanced over her shoulder, eyes widening.
"SHIT! We also got at least one User out there!"
Over the shoulder of the troll I could see a large flatbed truck speeding up behind us. With my Sight I could see the strands of red and black that surrounded the vehicle. The troll, on the other hand, wanted to say hi.
The thing was a mixture of mottled green and black, it's whole body covered in oozing, pussy sores. It's long ears and point face ended in a huge mouth will rows of yellow pointy teeth. It lurched up, using one of it's four arms to grab the side wall of the van. Without most of the roof and rear doors it had more room to maneuver. Yay for me.
I snapped off several shots to the creatures face as I vaulted over my seat. Bell was chanting as she kept the pedal pressed to the floor but I didn't have time to listen to the details. The bullets hit square and I watched as the troll's face split and burned under the shells impact. Still had those shredder rounds loaded and they made quite an impact. I kept moving forward in the cramped space as I slammed into the creature using my shoulder, driving it back. I could smell it's fetid breath as I got in close. It brought two of its arms up to grab me and drove a third at my face. I quickly drew my feet up and planted one in it's chest. The second foot lashed out at the arm driving it wide.
Propped against its body, I slid my free hand into the folds of my coat, drawing a long silver knife. I could see the troll's regenerative features kick in at he brought his face around to take a bite out at me. Using my first foot I tried to push off, but the trolls grip was to strong. Instead I reversed my position and planted my boot directly into the trolls mouth. I kicked hard, once, twice, until I could feel the crunch of sinew and bone.
The thing finally let out a roar of pain and I brought the knife around. Trolls have incredible healing and rejuvenating properties, they can regrow severed limbs, and even sprout into separate trolls if cut apart. That's why silver is so handy. Loo Mom, not just for Were's anymore! Using my left hand I grabbed at one of the troll's hands and pulled it back. Using the knife in the other I pushed off the troll's body with both feet to create as much tension as I could, then brought the knife across the troll's arm. With a burning hiss the knife melted through like butter. I was greeted with another roar of pain as the troll's arm was cut free. Fuck you fucker, that ain't growing back!
Between the shock and the tension I had put on it, the troll let go and I fell with a thud, the knife falling from my grip. Seeing my pistol out of the corner of my eye I rolled right and grabbed it. Rolling back again I brought up the gun as the troll drove one of it's clawed hands down. I grunted as I felt the pain of the claw sink into my leg and it's poison course through my veins. No time for that now Alex, stay focused!. I fired twice as the creature's head snapped back, then fired again at the hand that was plunged into my leg. The gun clicked empty as I rolled to my feet, though my left leg was already sluggish with poison.
Suddenly it felt as if all the air had been sucked out of my body and I saw the vehicle become surrounded by flames. I risked a glance to Bella, still clutching the wheel, green energy flowing from her body. She had put up a shield, though how strong it was with half her attention driving was the question. I needed to finish of Chuckles here and quick.
I reached into my coat and pulled out a silver ball. With my left I pulled out my spare gun from behind my back and fired off. I only had UV rounds loaded in this one, and while it hurt, the troll could heal from it. With my right hand I shook the ball and flicked the pull cap off. The ball began fizzing as I once again through myself into the creature. Dropping the gun I tightened my fingers into a fist, and drove my knuckles up into the top of the trolls mouth. I was met once again with the tearing of flesh and coursing of poison as its teeth cut into my skin but I succeeded in driving the troll's mouth wide. What are the odds of this move working twice! With the right hand I tossed the fizzing ball into it's open mouth.
Immediately the troll's mouth began melting. Holy water was pretty handy stuff, especially when held in a silver container. It held just enough of the silver's properties on the magically infused water to add it to it's skills. Now, while holy water would hurt a troll, as it would with any Night Walker, a troll can heal from it. With the slight infusion of silver, it had added damage, especially to trolls. By getting it ingested, it would slowly eat the troll up from the inside out. I didn't have that kind of time. The mouth continued to fizz and burn as the agitated holy water sprayed out of the canister. The troll flailed wildly as it's skin and face burned away.
BELLA! GET THE VAN TO LINE UP DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE TRUCK!"
Bella glanced over her shoulder, her face a knit of concentration but she nodded. She jerked the van to the right and I could see the headlights of the flatbed behind us. I reached into my rig until I found the clip I was looking for and retrieved one of my guns. I jerked the barrel open and fed the speed loader in, locking all eight rounds in place. I took aim, held the gun up with both hands, and fired.
With a thunderous clap the gun went off and hit the troll with tremendous force. The troll's head and chest was a gaping cavity as the grenade round did its job. The blast had knocked it back, and another round launched the creature out the rear of the van. I watched as the troll hit the cement with a wet smack, and then watched the flatbed truck bounce up and down as it ran over the troll. Fuck, I was hoping that would have caused more damage. I crawled back up to the front seat, my left leg and hand becoming more inflamed with each second.
"Heya Bell. How we doing?"
Her face was still a mask of concentration as she channeled to keep the shields up and the truck on the road. The engine had started to make a rough knocking noise too. Between the engine noise and the colorful array of red and black magic cast from the flatbed surrounding our shields, we were quickly running out of time.
"Whoever they got over there, he knows about shielding. He's throwing every spell he has it me. I can even feel tendrils of Dark magic creeping around my barriers. You weren't fucking around when you said someone was really pissed off at you. We are going to have to do something soon Alex."
"Must be my charming fucking personality. What say you Belladonna? Wanna take the party to them?"
She met my eye for a few seconds before that slow smile appeared again. I pulled my gun free and wrapped my free hand around the seat belt strap, half standing in the passenger seat. The flatbed sped closer as we lost speed and I could hear Bella start to laugh, that long tilting laugh I use to remember her having when we would sneak out of the Academy.
"Alex, you always did know how to show a girl a good time!"
End of Line.