Unlike Leader Dude he wasn’t on fire. However he had thrown back his hoodie and without it obscuring his features she could see his skin was black. Not African-American black either; pitch black. As in the same color as a glistening black liquid made from petroleum, there was even a white patch on his forehead where it was reflecting the moonlight. For obvious reasons, she couldn’t make out much else about his features in the dark, but that alone was pretty freaky.
Distracted by Hoodie’s appearance, Jessie reached out with her recently injured arm intending to get to her feet and attack. The motion hurt badly. She gasped, and slipped back into a sitting position. Hoodie used the distraction to launch another attack. He flung his arms up and shot a second bolt of blackness at her.
Jessie tried to leap out-of-the-way like she had with Leader Dude’s fire, but this time she didn’t manage it. Her footing was uncertain, and she slipped managing only to propel herself about three feet backwards before landing on her back. I’m going to die, Jessie thought looking at the cloud of evil magic rushing at her. Only, about five feet from her, it veered to the right, sort of tightened up, and then swirled out of existence like it had been sucked away through some invisible drain.
For a moment, Jessie thought Hoodie must have, somehow, pulled his punch. However, she looked up at him and found shock was visible on his unnaturally dark features. His eyes were wide at least. Something else had interfered with the spell. Jessie realized she could feel a dull tug on her own magic, and thinking about that she looked down at the forest floor and spotted the dull gleam of metal. There was a part of the infrastructure of the Pando Magical Generation Plant between them. It had sucked up the magic exactly as it was designed to. Though, admittedly, it was intended to draw magic out of the great tree rather than save young women from death spells.
Deciding she probably wasn’t going to get that lucky two times in a row, Jessie got her feet under her then turned and sprinted into the forest. It wasn’t dignified, but it was smart. Whatever other powers Hoodie had, running fast in dark forests didn’t seem to be one of them. Jessie was able to lose him almost immediately and after another two or three minutes she felt safe enough to crouch down in a patch of thick darkness near some deadfall and a particularly thick tree and collect herself.
When Archmagi Thomas had installed the combat spell she was now using in her DNA he had intended for it to be on all the time. The spell made its users faster, stronger, more agile, and more predatory than any normal human, but it also made them loyal. He’d probably intended to leverage that loyalty to make her into a puppet. That hasn’t happened; he’d died. However, there wasn’t really a way to turn off the combat spell. Her mind always focused magic now, and that magic always went into the spell written in her DNA.
Fortunately, Jessie had ended up in the care of Archmage Charles. Despite the profession he shared with Thomas, Charles wasn’t power mad. He’d done his best to help Jessie. He hadn’t been able to undo anything Thomas had done. However, he had been able to write other spells into Jessie’s DNA. When she didn’t want the combat spell, she was able to direct her magic into one of them. Some of the spells were useless energy wasters, but others were quite useful.
Injured and hidden in the darkness, Jessie focused on bringing one of those useful spells to the forefront. It was a strange sensation. When she’d tried to describe it, she’d said it was like trying to flex a muscle, that had grown stiff and half numb, that she never normally moved anyway. That wasn’t really quite right, but at least it got the impression of something that was a part of her responding in a distant and sluggish way across. With that effort, a healing spell became active.
Unlike a great many spells, which could be detected visibly, the healing spell didn’t come with any sparkly special effect. However, it definitely felt like something. There was a sudden rush of warmth through Jessie’s body. A bunch of little aches she hadn’t even realized she had until they were gone vanished almost instantly. Then there was a sharp jolt through her shoulder as it was forced back into the socket. That came with a moment of burning liquid pain, the spell was for healing not anesthetic, but the pain faded pretty quickly as the soft tissue that had been damaged was repaired. If there had been any torn flesh or broken bones, the spell would have taken much longer to repair the damage or even failed outright, but the shoulder injury was minor.
Then Jessie’s head started to clear. That was the other reason Charles had built the healing spell into her body. It was capable of undoing the strange things that the combat spell did to her. Jessie suddenly realized she’d been acting like a lunatic. She’d been dashing around the forest, leaping from tree to tree like Tarzan, and fighting sorcerers for fun. Had she lost her mind?
Answer, yes. Or at least she’d mislaid it temporarily.