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The giggle broke something in me, I was no longer in full fight-or-flight more, but it was as if I had taken a step back, looking over my own shoulder. It didn’t change what I planned to do, but it added… perspective.

As I pulled the dagger from the wound Sigmir had struck into her target, that idle part of my mind took in more information than ‘target, need to kill’. Before, it had just been that - ‘the enemy’ - but now, I took in more; the coarse, mottled grey fur, the solid muscles, the slightly larger jaw with enlarged teeth, almost looking like tusks. And I heard the mortally wounded creature wimper, not consciously, but there was still life in him. Orcs seemed to be sturdy creatures, a feature I would gladly use to heal Lenore.

I brought the bloodied dagger to my face, first sniffing the blood, hoping against hope that I might be able to use that sense to get to the magic insight. No such luck, the only thing I was smelling was the coppery tang of fresh blood, mixing together with the calming scent of pines and snow.

My tongue darted out, licking the blood off, hoping that I could get to the magic like that. I perceived magic using smell and taste - smell for the broader picture, taste for better resolution and control - thus the idea to use those senses and the perception to build a bridge that might allow me to siphon off their power, using it to restore Lenore. But even with the blood in my mouth, the sweet, slightly sharp taste on my tongue, I was unable to make the connection. I knew there was power in the blood, I could literally taste it. But I couldn’t get at it.

Desperate, I brought my mouth directly to the bleeding wound, licking it, sucking on the wound, tasting the blood directly at the source. The wound was deep, gouged into his chest and the moment my tongue made contact, I could feel his power, flowing through him. It wasn’t much, most of it was gone, but what was there, I could feel. Stretching my Blood Magic, I reached for it, grabbed it, and pulled it towards me. I was rewarded with a sweet-tasting load of blood, gushing right into my mouth, bringing with it what little vitality was still in the orc. It was an intriguing taste, not just the normal taste of blood, but there was more in it, the power itself was like the sweetest spice. And I drank it down, taking in the Astral Power and the Vitality, even as a voice in the back of my head screamed that it would become miasma, as soon as the link between Vitality and Astral Power was broken. Normally, I would let the miasma simply seep into the environment, but if it formed within me, I doubted I could do so.

The orc beneath me shuddered, as his body tried to escape but he was far too weak when I had started, so, with that shudder, he expired, what little vitality had been left inside him was now filling my stomach.

I felt the Astral Power surge within me and forced it towards Lenore’s Hallow, letting her drink the life-giving power straight down. But it wouldn’t be enough, it was only a good, first step.

I went to my next target, the one Adra had stabbed who was holding his stomach, trying to prevent his guts from escaping. Apparently, they had snagged on Adra’s spear, when she had pulled it out. It was also an orc, slightly taller and more muscular than the one before, at least his upper body was. His legs looked almost flimsy in comparison, as if he was mostly using his upper body.

Pushing that thought from my mind, I decided that I didn’t want to suck on some orcs furry stomach, so I used my athame to make a small cut at his neck, where the fur was sparse, only to draw a little blood, before bringing my mouth to that wound, licking it and sucking a little before using my magic to siphon the Astral Power out of him, alongside his life. He tried to resist more, but I stubbornly held on and again, he quickly died. My mind idly noted the slight difference in flavour but there were no words that could really describe it. Fiery but not spicy, with an earthy undertone, those were the words that came to my mind, sending that idle part of her mind into another giggling fit, as it started to describe the taste like one of the wine-snobs she had seen in a TV-show once. “The orc has a sharp bouquet and an astringent, maybe even biting, taste. It would go well paired with a sweet dish.”

Raising myself, I let the giggles out, my mind slightly clearer than before, but the pain coming from Lenore was still there, even if my mind was slowly numbing to it. But that was fine, Istill had more bandits to drain.

As I knelt down over the one taken down by Rai, I noticed that the sounds of Battle had ceased. Again, I made a small cut with my knife before tasting the blood and using my magic to suck it from his body, rapidly swallowing the tasty power that splashed into my mouth. He had a little more than the others, pushing the pain even further back. When I stood and walked over to the one pinned to the tree, he had forced himself off the tree and was trying to get away, even as his blood spilled from both wounds, making it obvious that he wouldn’t get far.

I quickly caught up to him, it wasn’t as if he could run, not with the wounds in him, and clubbed him over the head with the heavy branch he had wielded before. He sacked to the ground, stilling, and I repeated my action. As I did, I noticed that there was more noise behind me now, shouting, screaming and struggle. Turning, I looked to the second wave of bandits, there were five of them, one was held down by Ylva, but the bandit struggled against her. Another looked like he had tried to run and managed a few steps but Rai was right next to him, his blades bleeding, just like the back of the bandit’s knees. I smiled, taking note of the good method to keep someone down. Without their knees, nobody would get anywhere.

Two more were simply down, their blood seeping into the snow, they seemed to have fought to the end, while Sigmir was holding one up by the neck, as he weakly struggled against her grip. I walked over, thinking about the tasty power lurking within them, when I registered the moaned words coming from the orc Sigmir was holding up.

He seemed to be deeply afraid, his eyes getting wider with every step I was taking towards them, as pleading moans came from him, imploring Sigmir to let him go before the monster got him. I ignored him and his pathetic state, kneeling next to one of the downed forms, only now noticing that it seemed to be a female. Not that there was a huge difference, slightly softer features but even then, I wasn’t sure. And I hardly cared as I cut into the neck. But I was disappointed, no tasty blood sept from the wound and when I checked her pulse, there was none. Not sure what made me unable to draw power from someone, what constituted death in this world, I licked at the wound but the sweet taste of power was gone, leaving only the coppery tang of blood. I rose, a frustrated growl escaping from my lips, quickly making my way to the other downed figure. Again, no luck and the growl grew louder, I needed to save Lenore, I didn’t want to consider what would happen if I failed.

The one Rai had taken down was still alive, even if Rai had been forced to add matching cuts to his elbows, but even with them, he was struggling. He had to be in tremendous pain, if only I had known that the others were already dead, I would have released him from his pain sooner.

Another cut, this one to the back of his neck, forcing me to push away some of the unwashed hairs from, his head and I had another surge of power flooding me.

I continued on my way, the pleading from the one held up by Sigmir had ceased by now, but I went to the one held down by Ylva. I think it was another female and she had a nasty wound near her temple, likely from Ylva, hitting her to stop her from struggling. It made me smile a little, I didn't need to cut this one. Small mercies and all that. Placing my lips against the wound, I went looking for power, finding it quickly.

The pain must have ripped her from blissful unconsciousness, causing her to buck, trying to throw me off. More my reflex than by conscious thought I used the power i had just syphoned from her to strike at her mind, letting her panicked mind escape into cool, endless darkness. Her mind had been so eager to get away, to flee, that it was easy, far easier than normal. And with her mind trapped, I could resume the draining, without wasting more power.

Walking over to Sigmir, she tossed the last orc into the snow before me, giving me a slightly worried look.

“I will explain in a moment.” I told her, before draining that one as well. More blood, more power flooded my system, hopefully enough to help Lenore.

With no more victims to drain, I sat and sent my mind inwards, to the boundary between my mind and Lenore’s Hallow. Maybe I could help her even more.

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Tsaimath

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