Blood Loss

The Collector - Book Two

by Mathias G. B. Colwell

An epic jailbreak requires a betrayal of allegiance. But freedom comes with a price.

Presumed dead by the Guild, Philip, a former Collector who used to kill and capture supernatural creatures, has finally accepted the fact that he is actually the very prey he once hunted—a hybrid. With the appearance of a human and the blood of a troll, Philip has powers no human could ever possess. These powers are exhilarating, but they come with a price. Philip must hide his true identity, lest he become a hunted creature himself.

While on the road, Philip and Alayna—Philip’s lovely, Elfas companion—get wind of a tragic occurrence. Beathan, the gypsy fairy, has been captured and is now a captive of the Collectors Guild, bound for the hellish supernatural prison known as St. Thomas’s. Will Philip and Alayna risk their lives and their freedom to attempt a jailbreak of unimaginable proportions? Or will they abandon their roguish fairy friend to his fate as a doomed prisoner?


Chapter One

Philip poked his head inside the cave and peered into the gloom, trying to catch a glimpse of what lay within this hole in the mountain. Unfortunately, keen vision in the dark wasn’t on the list of exceptional abilities that his genetic makeup afforded him.

A howling growl rumbled through the darkness of the cave and Philip’s skin prickled, not from the crisp mountain air, but from the sinister sound of his foe becoming aware of an intruder. It must have smelled him! Trolls had a strong sense of smell, much like many wild creatures, and they certainly seemed closer to beasts than humans. One of the reasons he’d had such difficulty accepting his own trollish roots. After all, what kind of man was part beast—part troll?

Philip crouched, listening to the lumbering steps of the troll making its way from the dark recesses within.  His quarry was a high functioning predator, one he’d trailed to its lair, a rocky cave high in the mountains of Norway.

The sound of crunching reached his ears. It had to be old bones snapping beneath the weight of the troll’s feet as it moved closer and a dark silhouette appeared.

Still in a crouch, Philip warily backed away from the mouth of the cave, waiting for the monster to emerge. Just because he’d trailed the creature here—actions that would be thought foolhardy by most—didn’t mean Philip didn’t plan to be careful. Giving yourself room to maneuver around a troll was vital.  A smile twisted his lips as paradoxically he realized if he died up here in the high passes without Alayna by his side, she’d kill him herself.

His smile faded. Today, pitting himself against what was likely to be an angry and disturbed troll might yield just the outcome Alayna so feared—his death.

The troll emerged fully from the darkness of the cave with a final lurch. For a brief instant uncertainty flooded Philip. The creature was likely ten feet tall if it stood up straight! But instead, it swung its powerful body out of the cave on all fours, not unlike the great apes of the south. Hunched shoulders bulged with muscle, making the creature much quicker than it looked at first glance.

Not for the first time, Philip was amazed that somehow his parents had managed to subdue a troll long enough to obtain a vial of its blood in order to heal him. Just the two of them, and they had been only human. It was a testimony of the power of love that could drive a mother and father to protect their child. The infusion of troll blood was also the reason Philip experienced increased strength and health, as well as imperviousness to some forms of magic.

A brutish face twisted up in a menacing growl, as the troll emitted a gurgling groan of anger. Philip winced at imaging the bits of meat, bone, or gristle, which might be caught in its throat to give the beast’s growl that wet, burbling sound.  A scattered array of sharp and blunt, mismatching teeth rowed its powerful jaws, jaws that could snap small trees and would make quick work of human bone.

Again, a wash of nerves flooded Philip. Once upon a time his nerves had been a familiar sensation, creating a pit in his stomach just before a fight, letting him know he wanted to live, wanted to survive, and was terrified. He’d felt it every time on a collection run for the Collectors Guild, fighting everything from werewolves to vampires, witches and fauns.

In his many years as a Guild member, he’d had access to all manner of tricks and weapons in order to tip the balance of the fight in his favor. Silver to counteract werewolves, stakes to fight vampires, and the list continued. But here in front of this beast it was just him, his fists, and whatever supernatural abilities he could tap. Suddenly, following the troll to its lair didn’t seem like such a good idea.

When Philip had been a Collector, pretending to be fully human, he’d never sought out a conflict unnecessarily, and yet here he was, of his own volition, about to singlehandedly fight the biggest mountain troll he had ever seen.

What had driven him to this place, at this time?  Why had he abandoned Alayna, slipping away in the dark of pre-morning as she slumbered by the coals of their fire, still full of a meal of stag from last night.

I should run, Philip thought, tightening his muscles to spring into flight, just as the troll swung a gigantic, boulder-sized fist at him.

Instinctively Philip ducked into a roll to avoid the blow and came to his feet a little to his left. He always kept his tunic unlaced at the neck and had ripped off the sleeves, granting him freedom of movement, a vital skill now that he lived off the land and no longer bowed to the conventions of society.

Blood rushed to Philip’s head as the troll’s blow landed on the ground to his right, creating a divot the size of a small boulder. Suddenly, exhilaration replaced fear, anticipation replaced caution, and the wild part of himself broke free, the non-human part that relished a fight, and seemed to be growing stronger and stronger each day.

Philip grinned viciously, realizing why he was here—the test of arms, skill and tenacity that lay before him. The troll swung another massive fist, and this time Philip couldn’t avoid the punch completely and he recoiled from the glancing blow, which sent, him sailing into a boulder a few feet to the side.

The force of the blow would have crumpled a man, but Philip was not just a man. The troll blood infused during his youth granted him strength, and healing abilities. He leaped back up, wiping blood from his mouth.

The troll advanced again, growling. At the low rumble, all caution left Philip and he threw back his head and howled as much as a human’s vocal chords would allow, releasing pent up energy and elation at the prospect of battle. Then he charged at the troll.

Closing the distance in a few steps, he began pummeling the creature’s thickly fatted gut. His maneuver had placed him inside the reach of the beast’s large and dangerous arms. After several of the creature’s futile attempts to swat him, Philip directed a blow at the creature’s knee, his inhuman strength delivering a much more powerful blow than the beast expected.

The troll crumpled to one side under its weight and the pain of the injured knee, but also managed to swat at Philip again, this time with an open hand. This blow once more sent Philip head over heels, crashing into a tree and falling to the hard packed earth.

The impact stunned Philip and he shook his head to clear the fog of pain from his mind. The troll lumbered to its feet a bit more slowly, favoring its pained leg. They circled each other again, this time both more cautious in their movements.

An exultant surge of adrenalin and raw joy pulsated inside Philip. For the first time since reaching the cave, he unleashed the wilderness within him, letting it radiate out in waves of wild anger and killing lust. Yielding to your instincts—your nature—provided an addictive release difficult to describe but impossible to live without once you’d experienced it.

Philip closed the distance between him and his foe at a quick run, thinking to attack the wounded knee again and render the troll unable to support its own weight. However, he’d drastically underestimated the speed of the monster. As he was running forwards, the beast whipped one of its stony hands around and snatched him up the way a man might grasp an unruly puppy looking to try its fangs on the master.

The troll shook him until he could barely tell which way was up. Philip tried to peel the fingers of the troll from around his waist, but to no avail, only managing to slice open his palm on one of its sharper nails. The blood flowed freely from Philip’s hand and the scent of the hot, red liquid triggered a natural and predatory reflex for the troll to eat.

Raising Philip towards its mouth, the troll opened its jaws to take a huge bite. Desperately, Philip leveraged his body upwards, enough to free his arms. As he approached the gaping maw, he swung as hard as he could and his fist, callused from years of brawling, crashed into the creature’s mouth, sending a spray of teeth and knocking the troll backwards.

 It dropped him from the height of a few feet and he landed painfully. Although unsteady on his feet, Philip knew he had to press his advantage. The troll seemed uncharacteristically dazed from the blow but was still licking some of Philip’s blood from its hand with a leathery tongue. He knew he’d only have a few moments before the creature’s natural healing abilities took effect. He had to act now, and fast.

Philip grabbed a stone and darted in close, smashing the rock against the side of the troll’s head. The rock shattered with the powerful blow but it achieved Philip’s goal of knocking the troll unconscious.

Backing away, Philip wasn’t sure if it was really out cold or just stunned. He could try to kill it, but the small knife he possessed would take too much time to pierce the creature’s thick hide, and he feared it would regain consciousness too soon for him to finish the job. He could see his own blood trickling from the beast’s mouth, courtesy of the cut on his palm, which was bleeding more than he had expected.

Philip made a flash decision. Caution won out over his primal instincts and he decided to run while he had the chance. Leaving the troll in a giant heap on the ground, Philip staggered away at a shamble of a run. He almost lost his balance but steadied himself with his injured hand against the rock wall of the mountainside, leaving a smear of blood. He ran further, he ran hard, wondering what had made him think he could best a troll with just his fists. He shook his head. Stupid! He should never have given in to the urge to test himself against his trollish heritage.

Between one step and the next, as he headed back towards camp and Alayna, Philip had a chilling realization. Blood still seeped from his hand and dripped to the earth as he ran, leaving a trail of droplets for any hunter or predator to follow by sight and by scent. The troll would awaken soon and the beasts were notoriously vengeful creatures. He had been lucky to strike that stunning blow and doubted he’d be able to duplicate that feat with just his fists and small belt knife. He needed real weapons—tools he had left behind half a year gone when he quit his old profession as a Collector.

Philip’s loss of blood was giving the troll a direct trail to track—a trail he was certain it would follow especially since it had already tasted his fresh blood. A rumbling howl of anger pierced the mountain air as if to punctuate his thoughts. The troll must have regained consciousness. Philip was the prey now and there was nothing he could do but run!

"Blood Loss" by Mathias G.B. Colwell



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