Invisibles 8

Hey everyone, Tim here, just a quick reminder I have two new books out.

The Mangrove Suite

Soul Art

Now back to the story.

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

8

“Who the hell are you?” Martin said, conscious of the repeated question.

“My name is Rethe,” said the Korda woman, as she walked past the fallen form of the gang leader lying against the wall. “Don’t bother remembering it. I don’t expect we’ll meet again now that you have the jeweled mask you wanted.”

Percival and Alina stared at Rethe from behind Martin. “You know that?” Alina asked. “How?”

“I ascertained it by observing your approach. Don’t worry, I have no intention of revealing a theft.”

Martin growled low in his throat, a bad habit he had never beaten, often revealing his frustration. “You led us in here. You were never in trouble.”

“If I hadn’t arrived with a plan, I would have been.” She crouched and unfastened the mask from Ceth’s face. “Don’t take it personally.”

A crash shook the building, letting everyone know Saint and Kelebek had arrived. She slid down from his back and then picked her way through the debris-strew, smoky lounge past unconscious Watertakers. Kelebek stepped into the hall behind Rethe. “Who are you?” she asked with a frown.

“Rethe,” said the woman. “We were just over this, but please. The other Watertakers and Red Guards will surely be here soon thanks to your golem’s big entrance.”

Kelebek shook her head. “Hand me the mask.”

“You can have it.” Rethe held out the mask, its cheeks set with small clusters of polished sapphires. “After all, it belonged to a sky korda diplomat, so I don’t envy your job to fence it.”

“What?” Percival stepped forward. “A diplomat? From which embassy?”

“I’m not sure. But likely they’ll want something like this back, if only for monetary value.”

“If you weren’t here for the mask,” Martin asked, “What were you doing?”

“Sending a message,” said Rethe. “I want the Watertakers to know they can’t lean on me.” She crouched in front of Ceth again. Her hand clenched around his unmasked chin. “Do you hear that, you fool?”

The korda gang leader snarled, but no words Percival could understand. He shook his head.

“You’re acting alone?” he asked. “How can you keep the whole gang off your back that way?”

She shrugged, releasing Ceth, and then stood. “That would be telling. Goodbye, thieves.” Rethe walked out the front door, past Alina, whistling a hollow-sounding tune behind her air-purifying korda mask.

 

 

The group of thieves reached the derelict house in the Fog where they had planned to meet up if the job went wrong. Though they had the mask, Percival knew something had indeed gone wrong with the job. The woman, Rethe, inflamed the Watertakers. Percival and the rest of the crew could easily be caught in the middle, especially being they now held the stolen sapphire mask. He monitored the streets through a circling imp as the others talked about what to do with the mask.

“We need to fence it immediately,” said Kelebek. “Put some distance between us and the mask.”

Martin nodded in agreement.

Alina scowled. “We don’t know if what Rethe said was true. She could be trying to play us.”

Why would she do that? Saint wrote on a chalkboard beside him. She didn’t seem to care about the mask at all.

“Well, I don’t trust her. I don’t see how any of you can.” Alina folded her arms and sat down on a bench abandoned in the building.

Percival left his imp’s senses completely. “I agree with her,” he said. “We don’t know what this woman wants.”

“Well, we can’t just sit around here, that’s for sure,” said Martin. “Personally, I say we fence the mask and track her down. Find the truth.” He sounded as angry as Percival was frustrated.

“What’s the matter, Percival asked, “Mad she didn’t appreciate your chivalry?”

“Watch it, kid,” growled Martin.

“Easy, boys,” said Kelebek. “We can’t afford to fight each other, not with the Watertakers and the Red Guards out hunting for the mask.”

“True,” said Martin softly.

Percival nodded. “What do we do, then?”

“Let’s hide the mask,” said Alina. “We can fence it tomorrow. For now, we definitely need to get out of the Fog.”

“Who’ll do it? Ceth’s going to want it back,” said Percival. “Not mention the rightful owner’s people are probably out looking.”

“I can hide it,” said Alina. “That will buy us time.”

“Fine,” said Kelebek. “Do we all agree?”

Martin shrugged.

Saint moved his domed reliquary up and down, the golem equivalent of a nod.

“Good,” said Alina. “Give me the mask.”

She had lived in this city longer than him. Percival hoped she knew what she was doing.

 

#

 

More story next week! Thanks for reading, folks!

Invisibles 7

Hey everyone, Tim here, just a quick reminder I have two new books out.

The Mangrove Suite

Soul Art

Now back to the story.

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

7

Kelebek crept down the alleyway, leaving Saint behind her on the street. He was too conspicuous to follow closely but fast enough to catch up with her if he sensed trouble ahead. She had built enough golems to trust in that fact.

Saint’s senses caught not only Kelebek’s movements but also the group on the street in front of the Watertakers’ hideout. Though they were almost a block away, he could hear them creeping toward the door. Saint hefted the massive scattergun he carried onto his clay shoulder. He hoped Alina would be more careful this time.

Alina and Percival lurked by the steps at the front of the building.

Martin stood back from Alina, armored hands clenched. He knew he could not afford to be reckless, but they were taking too long if Ceth meant to harm the woman he had just tugged inside seconds ago. These two were young, but compared to him they had ice in their veins. Once, Martin had been sworn to protect, as all members of the Hound Legion. Of the places he had been, only Sarsa seemed to strip away virtue so quickly.

He circled Alina to the foot of the steps. He marched up them.

Saint heard his footfalls and knew the plan was going awry. Martin was a skilled brawler, but he was also a good man. Sometimes Martin wished he had been more like Martin when alive. The rest of him figured that would have gotten him killed even faster. He followed Kelebek toward the back of the building, not worried about his heavy steps. Martin was making noise up front. The Watertakers would be busy by the time Saint arrived.

Percival whispered to Martin, “What are you doing?”

Martin ignored him and knocked on the front door of the building they planned to rob, a building full of korda gang members. The slat in the door opened with a click. “What do you want, legionnaire?”

He met the eyes looking out at him from the door with an even gaze. “I’m off duty. Not really a legionnaire right now.”

“Then get lost. You ought to know where you are, dog man.”

“I know exactly where I am, watertaker.”

“Ceth!” said the door guard.

Martin’s stone-gauntleted hands punched through the door. Fingers unwrapped an grabbed the man’s forearms. He pulled, so the korda hit the door between them. He groaned and fell to the floor. Martin pulled the door open.

Percival and Alina stared at him. Another pair of eyes glared in Martin’s direction from the far end of the hallway behind the door. They glared at him over a jeweled korda breathing mask. “Legionnaire,” said Ceth. “What are you doing here?”

Alina scrambled up the stairs, Percival at her back. She grabbed Martin’s shoulder just as he freed his hands from the broken door. “This is trouble.”

“I’m good at trouble.” Martin’s eyes did not leave Ceth’s. “Bring it on, korda.”

As Percival reached the second to the top step, just behind Alina and Martin, he spotted four more korda gangsters as they emerged from doors on either side of the hall, between Martin and Ceth.

“Time to go,” Percival said.

“No.” Martin stepped into the hallway. Percival may be practical, but in this situation pragmatism became cowardice. Martin was a trained soldier. He did not need to back down from a handful of men with knives, especially with Saint so close by. The korda would be lucky if they only met his fists.

He hefted a mallet in each hand, both of them small, but with stone heads. Martin’s skill in geomancy allowed him to make those heads hit harder than they had any right. He marched into the hallway. The first korda lunged at him. Martin broke his arm and kicked the knife behind him. He heard Alina pick it up. Two more of Ceth’s goons rushed Martin. He sent one into the wall and cracked the other’s knee.

Ceth backpedaled, trying to put distance between himself and Martin. Percival did not blame the gang leader. Too bad for us there are still ten more of them in there. No way will Martin have an easy time of it, and either way we’ll all have a new set of enemies in these parts. Percival grimaced as he saw Alina holding the knife dropped by the korda gingerly in one hand.

“No use,” he said, “If they get past Martin we had better run.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so.” Alina did not like the idea of shedding blood, but she had seen enough of it to know that’s often how gangs worked. She followed Martin into the hallway, past the moaning and whimpering forms of fallen Watertakers.

Martin dropped the fourth goon. He smiled at Ceth, who was fumbling with a bag on his belt a few feet away.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “Attached to your limbs.”

Ceth grunted. He pulled a pistol, all brass in color, from the bag and aimed it at Martin’s head. “Don’t take a step further.”

Martin lowered his mallets to his sides. “Hey, good effort.”

“I won’t miss,” said Ceth. “You’re a dead hound now.”

Martin knew all too well what the pistol could do at that range, but he was now stuck in this hallway.

The door behind Ceth slammed open like a gunshot. Smoke poured out of it, gray and choking. Ceth whirled to look behind him. Martin’s mallet cracked down on his skull. Ceth staggered, then crumpled against the wall. Alina ran forward and pulled the gun from his hands. The smoke in the room beyond him resolved into the form of a woman, Rethe, the korda woman who had walked beside her on their way down the street.

Rethe regarded Martin with a smile visible through her breathing mask. “What do you know, a knight to the rescue,” she said. “Good timing.”

He frowned at her. She did not look like she had been in trouble, which meant she could have been playing them all along.

“Who are you?” Martin asked.

 

#

 

See you next week for the next installment!

Invisibles 6

Hello friends, Tim here.

It’s been a whirlwind week, between returning home and completing edits on a book called The Mangrove Suite. This is a story I’m intensely proud of, and it’s now available on amazon.com in the kindle unlimited program. I need your help to get noticed, so please read or buy the book, and if you do, give it an honest review over at amazon.com. Thanks!

Check out The Mangrove Suite here.

In other news, progress on the new books keeps on coming, and I think I am back on the horse as far as writing rough draft goes. Good thing too. Writing fiction is among the best parts of my life.

Now, the heist went off over the last five weeks, but the Invisibles still need to make ends meet.

Read on to find out the details of their next job.

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

6

Clouds rose from the canals and into the Sarsan night. These streets and islands were called The Fog. The place was well-named, Percival thought, as he prowled down the alleyway, leading the way for Alina and Martin. The pale mists obscured structures new and old, sitting squat along the streets in the darkness.

He looked from the alley’s mouth into the street. A squad of Red Guards, the city police force, marched along the damp street, their lanterns offering wispy strands of light and diffuse apprehension to any would-be thieves who happened to be wandering outside their home-turf.

Percival’s summoned rain-imp winged her way over the buildings. He focused himself to share the demon’s senses with accuracy. She dropped onto a slanted rooftop just above the gutter. Then a hand slapped down on Percival’s shoulder. He emerged from the demon’s mind with a start. Alina’s touch would have been welcome, but the hand on his shoulder was heavy, cold with a stony gauntlet.

Martin Leng liked moonlighting, even when he could not see the moon in this mist. Percy grunted at him. Martin lifted his stone-clad hand easily thanks to his geomantic abilities. He might not be a shaper who could craft golems like Kelebek or sculpt weapons like the Rogue Hound, but without the metal armor he usually wore under his stone cladding he could move as naturally and quietly as most anyone. He peered around the corner as the Red Guards and their lamps receded.

“Looks like we’re clear,” Martin said.

Percy grunted again. “Give me a second with my imp. Then I’ll tell you if we’re clear.”

The summoner still had not forgiven Martin for being a member of the Hound Legion, evidently. He would have shrugged if Percy could see him. Of course, even in a good mood, Martin figured Percy did not like the direct approach.

Alina caught up with them. She adjusted her posture to walking normally rather than staying low to avoid light, and went out into the street without missing a step. She would keep an eye on the Red Guards for them. Martin trusted her more than any demon Percy could summon.

She walked into the middle of the street, feeling exposed, though she knew Saint was listening from the alleyway on the opposite side of the street from Percival and Martin. Nonetheless, she proceeded down the street toward the Watertakers’ hideout. She had never dealt with the Watertakers in the past, but she knew their reputation from the few Korda she met in Nicodod Ring.

The Watertakers were all Korda exiled from their peoples’ mighty eastern sky fleets. Though they were human-like, arguably fully human, Korda did not mix with westerners well. Alina spotted a figure emerging from a building near her on the right.

Like most of the Korda in dusty Sarsa, this one wore a mesh mask over her mouth and nose. Her hair was lank and yellow, but unlike many of her people, she left it uncovered. She wore a long black dress with practical shoes, odd to see given the neighborhood. What little of her skin was visible was pallid, as if she never saw the sun. The woman fell into step alongside Alina.

Martin turned to Percy. “Someone suspect her?” he asked.

“Not likely,” said the summoner. “That Korda isn’t a Watertaker.”

“How can you tell?”

“She’s not wearing blue.”

“You can see that?” Martin could not help the incredulity from his voice.

“My imp can,” said Percival. “Don’t go clanking out there trying to help.”

“I don’t clank,” said Martin.

“Not that you can hear,” said Percival, hoping the big legionnaire would catch his meaning. “Stay in the shadows.”

Alina sneaked another glance at the woman walking beside her as they crossed the street, still heading toward the Watertakers’ building. They were close enough together, Alina smelled alcohol an chemicals wafting off of the woman. She could not place the foul smell,  but it was clearly present.

“Where are you going so late?” asked the woman.

Alina smiled. “Home,” she lied.

“You don’t live around here,” said the woman.

Alina did not let her smile slip. “You got me. I’m taking the midnight ferry back to land.” The small docks did lie further on this way, so the untruth would be difficult to guess.

The woman nodded, and Alina thought she saw a ghost of a smile beneath the breathing mask. Funny, how common the device appeared, because Alina and the others were here to steal a far more decadent version from the Watertakers. Ceth, the leader of the gang, should not have worn it around so proudly, letting its sapphires sparkle in the sunlight and start the rumors spreading.

Percival and Martin followed Alina and the woman to the hideout. There, Alina kept walking past the building. But the woman turned and approached the doorway to the building. Martin glanced at Percival. “What were you saying about her not being with the Watertakers? People can change their clothes, you know.”

“Just watch, please.” Percival crept ahead, following the street after Alina, who had passed out of the Korda woman’s line of sight and was circling around to meet up with him and Martin.

Martin watched the two younger members of the crew approach each other, then turned his attention to the front of the Watertakers’ hideout. The woman knocked on the door. A slat opened and a small square of light fell on the woman’s black dress. He listened as well as he could to the voices speaking.

“You’re late, Rethe,” said the man behind the door.

“I’m here to pay,” Rethe answered.

The door unlatched, revealing a man in a sapphire-jeweled mask. He grabbed the woman by the forearm. “You have no idea,” said Ceth. He pulled the woman inside. The doors slammed, and the bolt locked.

“Did you see that?” Martin asked as Alina and Percy returned.

“I heard everything.” Percy shook his head. “Told you she wasn’t with them.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” said Martin. “Does this change anything?”

Alina shook her head. “Only makes it tougher. “Saint and Kelebek should be on their way inside by now.”

Martin nodded. He hated the idea of what Ceth would be doing to the woman he had just dragged inside. He made a face but knew there was a heroic urge inside him. Tonight would have been dangerous enough without Rethe’s appearance.

He glowered at the Watertakers’ door. Not long now.

 

#

 

Thanks for reading! Come back next week for more Invisibles.

Invisibles 5

Hello everyone, Tim here. I’m on vacation right now, so I’ll be ringing in August with my family back east-ish. Anyway, the latest chapter of Invisibles is the last in the first set.

Check out my new book, “Soul Art” Amazon/Other Sites

Check out my work on Instafreebie.

Now, on to the story.

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

5

Alina woke up quickly once the soporifics wore off. She sat up on the couch where she lay and looked around Hajur’s back room meeting place. Smoke and shadows dominated, but she made out the shapes of her fellow thieves on the chairs and couches around her, except for Saint, who would not have fit through the door.

They had all made it out of the score all right.

The room was warm but smelled less of the sweet narcotics she expected, then of… burning paper.

“The letter?” Alina asked.

Hajur grinned and lowered her pipe. In her free hand, she held the burnt edge of a piece of paper. “Disposed of,” she said. “After I read it, of course.”

“You wanted the letter to burn it?” Alina sat up fast, her face hot with temper. “He’ll just write another letter, you know?”

“Calm down, girl,” said Hajur, dropping the remains of the paper to the floor. “This letter was the Rogue Hound’s message to his legitimate leader. As I suspected it was time sensitive. By the time the couriers deliver the second letter, my associates will be long out of danger.”

Alina scowled at Hajur, past Percival, Kelebek, and Martin.

For their part, the other three thieves in the room looked puzzled, but Alina doubted any of them would care once they were paid. But Hajur had made Saint, and Martin who really should care, betray their leader, however nefarious, and that should be worth extra. Alina took a deep breath and explained her opinion to Hajur.

“Correct, indeed, girl.” Hajur took a puff on her pipe. “I will pay them an extra half share each.”

Martin gave a satisfied grunt. “Sounds alright. Now, if I hurry, I should be able to return with the case the letter was in. Get another bonus, maybe.”

“And Saint?” asked Alina.

“I’ll take him his share, and we’ll be on our way together,” Martin said.

Percival and Kelebek glanced at Alina. She nodded. “Alright. Fine.”

Hajur blew smoke from her pipe. “Take your cut, and be grateful, girl. Not everyone gets away so easily.”

She knew what Hajur said was true. As she took her bag of coins while the others took theirs’, she considered saying something else, to clash again with the information thief. Alina thought better of it. She glanced at Percival as they left the dusk diner for the night outside. He pulled his collar up but caught her gaze as he did.

“Something wrong?” he asked.

“Back there, Hajur only wanted us to delay the Rogue Hound’s message. Why? I don’t believe it’s just her agents getting out of trouble.”

“I don’t know,” he said. And he really did not know. However, his hatred of the Rogue Hound meant he had not questioned the job before. “Anything to slow down the war machines.”

Alina shook her head. “You really hate the hounds, Percival.”

He snorted. “When someone enslaves you for their war, you can tell me how to feel.”

Kelebek clapped them both on the shoulder. “Don’t bicker too loud, you two. There are worse things in the night than hounds and golems.” She slipped between them and headed for her home. The money jingled a little in her pocket, telling her there would be enough to help her sister’s children eat for another week. She hoped Martin did something useful with his share. She could have used the extra coin.

Eventually, she reached her shop. Once inside, she locked the door, and then bolted it. She climbed the stairs to get some rest before morning. But sleep took it’s time to arrive.

Percival and Alina walked side by side in silence for a while. He wanted to apologize but could not seem to find the words. She turned to go to the smaller, local Church of Angels in her neighborhood near Nicodod Ring. Percival started to speak, to say sorry, but she brushed off his words.

“It’s late,” she said. “I was angry too.” She did not sound angry at that moment, but Percival let her go with just a nod of assent.

She knelt down before the altar in the little church with its simple tiled floor and single tower over the sanctuary. She prayed a while, asking for forgiveness for her lifestyle, praying fervently. Eventually, she raised her head and went home to sleep, but she did not feel much better by the time she drifted off.

Percival found his way to the fortune teller who worked near his home in a run-down part of Nicodod Ring. The windows of the fortune teller’s antique shop were dark and the doors closed. He kept walking as the last of the dust storm died away. At last, he reached his building and then descended into the basement he rested. Down there it was dark as pitch. He took off his coat and sat in a musty but comfortable chair, under a lamp. He doused the light before long, and eventually, he drifted off to sleep, dreaming not of his friends, or the Rogue Hound, but of what might be the next score. Invisible in the dark, the city slept, waiting for the next dawn.

The Rogue Hound was writing his replacement letter. Hajur’s pipe-smoke gradually dispersed. Martin Leng collapsed onto his cot.

Only golems like Saint remained, watching, listening between the dying of the lights and the rising of the sun.

 

#

 

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more stories.

Invisibles 4

Hey everyone, Tim here.

I’m taking my yearly summer trip back to the family home land soon, so that’s exciting. Hope all you who share seasons with me are staying cool.

You can find my new book, Soul Art, wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Or you can download my samples at instafreebie.com.

Now, onto to the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

4

Percival climbed the steps to the second floor of the Rogue Hound’s estate in silence. Already past a handful of guards, he had split from the others back in the entryway. If he was caught out, this would be down to a foot race, hardly good odds against the Rogue Hound’s legionnaires. Still, he was their best chance at grabbing the letter if it came down to reflexes.

On the other side of the building, Alina crept down the richly carpeted hallway. Though most of the building was lit up with lamps this hallway was dimmer than the others thanks to the subtle mists Kelebek had given Alina to release midway down. It wasn’t smoke exactly, but a kind of dust that hung like fog. Alina stayed low, held her breath, and slipped past the armored guard who clanked down the passage in the opposite direction.

Kelebek found Martin on the ground floor. He was leaning against the wall in his heavy brownstone-covered armor. As most geomancers in the legions, he covered lighter metal armor in a layer of rock. He did not wear a helmet, and his east-Asian heritage made him unmistakable. She recognized him and stepped into the light just before where he stood. Martin did not startle easily. He looked up at Kelebek with a small smile.

“Dark work? What’s the plan this time?” he asked in a low voice, with a mild European accent.

She raised a hand slightly in greeting. “A letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“You want to steal it?” he whispered. “A good idea. One that needs a good plan.”

“Alina and Percival are going ahead. We’re to get them to the courtyard where Saint is waiting.”

“Sounds simple enough. Should we divert the guards?”

“I think so.” She smiled slightly.

He nodded to her. They left the ground floor’s side hall, and began to walk toward the front of the building. Kelebek indicated the flares she had brought with her from her shop. Those would burn bright and loud, and serve as ideal distractions once one of the others had the letter. Best be ready because whichever got the letter, Alina or Percival would be in a hurry on their way out.

Percival reached the end of the second-floor hallway leading to the passage outside the Rogue Hound’s study. He flattened himself against the wall and peeked around the corner. Three people stood before the doorway. Two of them were armored hound legionnaires, the other was Alina in her dusty clothes.

At first, he thought the hounds had caught her. Then he realized her hands were still free, though she held a small bottle out to the guard. The hound without a helmet wore a secured case for a letter on his hip. He had the hound’s message, Percival felt certain.

Alina said, “The Rogue Hound asked for this potion to treat his letter.”

“What kind of potion is it?” asked one legionnaire, a big man with sandy-colored hair.

“A potion of suggestiveness, effective on skin contact.”

“Intriguing,” said the blond legionnaire. “Should we see if it works?”

The other legionnaire, who wore a slitted helmet, rolled his plated shoulders. “You have an idea?”

“Girl, open the bottle.” The sandy-haired legionnaire leered at her. “We’ll test your potion.”

Alina frowned at them. She hoped they would not recognize the scent of sedatives. She spotted Percival at the corner. She caught his eye and then nodded to the guards, but so he could see. She held her breath as she lifted the lid of the bottle and then waved it between herself and them.

The scent of soporifics floated in the hallway. The helmeted guard immediately staggered to one side. The sandy-haired one’s eyes widened. He clamped his lips tight and slammed one hand on the letter case at his hip. His other hand reached for Alina. She stepped back, but his fingers closed on her wrist. She dropped the soporific and the small bottle shattered on the floor, releasing the rest of its contents. Alina could not hold her breath anymore.

Percival gulped in air, then charged past the fallen guard and went for the would-be messenger who held Alina’s wrist. He hit the big legionnaire from behind and made the man stumble forward. Already drugged, the man stumbled forward, then fell to his knees. Alina swayed on her feet, staring at Percival.

“Run,” he said, as he freed the letter case from the blond legionnaire’s belt.

She nodded, and they took off back the way Percival had come.

Alina’s head swam as they reached the top of the stairs. The soporific was having its effect. She threw an arm across Percival’s shoulder and leaned on him as they descended the grand staircase. A trio of other legionnaires emerged from the hallway she had gone down initially. They pursued her and Percival as she started to drag her feet.

They hit the front door as an explosion sounded outside into the courtyard, off to Percival’s left. He threw the door open and helped Alina with him as they stumbled outside. She left his side. A few steps later, she sank to the ground.

“Alina?” he turned toward her, but not as fast as Saint scooped her up on one of his stone arms. The dome of the golem’s casket bobbed in a nod.

“Time to go. Right,” said Percival. He sprinted for the gateway.

Saint slammed the door to the mansion with a thunderous force. Then, he bounded away on piston-like legs. Saint sensed that Kelebek and Martin had left the estate, and Percival was ahead of him. He sprang over the wall before the legionnaires had time to open the door behind him.

Saint hit the street outside with a thud that did him and Alina no harm. Percival ran over to the golem and the girl, waving the letter case in one hand. “Got it. Let’s go!”

Saint bowed his head to Percival. Kelebek and Martin emerged from an alleyway where they had hidden after placing the flares. The group started toward Hajur’s to deliver their prize.

And like that, the Rogue Hound’s letter passed out of his hands. But to what end? None of the thieves` yet knew.

 

#

 

Thanks for reading! This job is not quite done… see you next week!

Invisibles 3

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Working on podcasts and fiction at the same time is going to drive me insane. I’m fairly sure of this, but like a goblin with his hand stuck in the pickle jar I’m not willing to let go of anything. Oh well, I have made my own fate.

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold. Especially look for the sequel to Hunter and Seed. Soul Art is out now!

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

3

Through the eyes of an impish demon, fluttering over the barracks near the Vancaldor estate, Percy watched the changing of the guards. Heavily armored Hound legionnaires exchanged their positions with others who could have been the same but for the different carvings in the stone finish of their armor. Percy had left his physical form sitting in the stone carriage across from Alina and Kelebek. He turned the imp’s gaze toward the street where the carriage rumbled closer.

The imp’s sarcastic voice piped up in the back of his mind. “Some view, human.”

“It’s what I offered.” When Percy conjured a demon he shared senses with the creature while it served him. Usually, the idea of experiencing the physical reality was enough to please lesser spirits. Evidently, this one thought itself above that.

“You are a poor sorcerer to give me so little.”

“This deal will be our only one,” he grumbled mentally. Part of him hoped the disagreeable imp would agree, but such creatures were often contrary by nature.

“We will see, mortal. At least your body is healthy. I have had many hosts who did not mind their flesh…”

Philip ignored the imp’s rambling. He used the spirit creature’s eyes to trace the route of the golem carriage to the place where it stopped by the barracks. He willed the creature to descend to get a better view. The imp circled the broad, tiled roof of the barracks, then alighted on the peak of its gentle arch.

“Down below,” said Percival to the imp. “Look down at the courtyard.”

“There’s nothing to see there,” said the imp, sounding annoyed. “Were you even listening to me?”

“About what?”

“You are a very rude host.”

“Take it or leave it,” said Percy.

“The courtyard is dull. There is a stone-clad golem down there, but nothing else.”

“Does the golem have a face?”

“No, just a domed reliquary on its front.”

Percy recognized Saint’s description. He smiled inside but knew it would only appear as a twitch of the lips on his physical form.

“Thank you,” Percy said. “I’ll contact you again soon.” He broke the sense link and returned to full control over his own body.

Alina was frowning at him. She thought about how eerie it was to know a demon perceived the world through Percival when he summoned them. Worse, even a skilled summoner could lose control to a full possession if they did not take care. The more powerful the demon, the more difficult to retain dominance. She knew this only from what he had told her. She would never consort with such creatures herself.

Kelebek raised her eyebrows at Percival. “So,” she said. “What did you see?”

“A golem in the courtyard. It’s Saint.”

“Perfect,” said Kelebek. “We are in luck.”

“I hope Saint will be on our side,” said Alina.

“He’d better be,” said Percival. “If he doesn’t, this job is gonna be short.”

Naturally, Saint was not thinking about any of these three at that moment. When one’s spirit was imprinted on a relic and then sealed within in the control chamber of a golem-body, one has priorities not easily understood by the living, especially after ten years of ‘life’ as an animated clay statue.

Saint stood, apparently stock still, in the courtyard, listening with his golem sensorium to the sounds of the city in the distance. His senses—and he was definitely still a man in his own mind—were focused to a precision point. He picked out the nesting bats as they began to move around. He heard a cutpurse running with his prize blocks away.

And when he stopped focusing so hard on the distance, he heard his sometimes-companions discussing his disposition on the street as the carriage that had brought them slipped away.

“We’ll have to go in and find out if he’s with us,” said Percival.

“That’s risky,” said Kelebek. “There must be a better way.”

“There is,” said Alina. She set a hand against the dusty wall of the building closest to the gate Saint watched over. “I’ll go first. Percival, you can watch with your imp, and then follow when you’re sure.”

“But what about you?” asked Percival.

“I’ll be fine. Saint likes me.”

It was true, Saint thought. She reminded him of his own daughter, now fully-grown. She lived as a steward for the Great Hound on the other side of the city, employment guaranteed in part by Saint’s mortal sacrifice. He only hoped Alina would not ask him to betray the Great Hound.

Though Saint served the Rogue Hound directly, he had little respect in his stony heart for a man who bent his considerable influence to personal profit over the good of the people. Alina slipped through the gate and into the courtyard. Her footsteps were all-but silent, but Saint heard them clearly.

Alina crossed the courtyard quickly and quietly. She wished she felt as confident as she had sounded when she volunteered. She liked Saint, but the golem could be unpredictable without Martin around, and according to Percival there was no sign of the Rogue Hound’s even more rogue legionnaire nearby.

The bulky, hunched shape of Saint loomed over her, easily ten feet tall. She looked up at his faceless reliquary. Gilded steel circlets reinforced the domed, barrel-like, metal casket on the front of the golem’s body. He had no eyes, but she knew he saw her.

“Evening, Saint,” she said. “Fancy seeing you, standing guard.”

He nodded, moving his soul casket up and down in the absence of a real head. His spirit reached out, ghostly hands pulled a pen from where he kept it tucked under an armor plate. He lowered the pen to the dust of the courtyard below and started to write in the dirt without its point extended.

Alina leaned forward and read quietly.

“I heard you earlier,” Saint wrote. “Tell me the job.” The pen settled to one side of the words. As soon as Alina finished reading it, Saint’s ghost hand wiped them away like a breeze.

“We’re to intercept the Rogue Hound’s letter,” Alina whispered. “He must be writing it right now.”

Saint bobbed his casket up and down. He wrote, “I know of the letter. Find Martin. I will protect your way out.”

Alina nodded. “Thank you, Saint.”

He erased the words he had written, then tucked the pen back in its holding place.

Alina turned as Percival and Kelebek made their way through the gate just as quietly as she had.

Kelebek tipped her hand to Alina and Saint, a grateful Kalfaran gesture.

Percival brushed dust from his hair. Now, the real job began.

 

#

 

The job begins… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Here is a share button. Enjoy!

Invisibles 2

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

 

Before we get to the serial for the week, I want to mention that my new novel, “Soul Art” the sequel to “Hunter and Seed” is now available for preorder through all sorts of outlets here. The book launches officially on July 11th, less than a week away!

 

Check out the series page for Invisibles.

 

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

 

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever fine ebooks are sold.

 

Now, back to the story.

 

 

Invisibles

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

2

The Church of the Angels towered over the streets, all white stone and gilding, a western cathedral dropped into the center of Sarsa. The sounds of vesper songs had been replaced by dismissal bells when Percival approached. Dust swirled around the towers, wearing at the western-style gargoyles and sculpted feathers of stone, angel wings at the peak of each arched support.

He waited in the shadows as people emerged from the light of the front doors and proceeded down the steps, casting long strands of shadow before them. Nose covered by his collar, Percival watched for Alina’s silhouette to resolve from the interspersed light and darkness.

Alina Weir made her way down the church steps.

She wore a white sand coat with a hood that covered her dark hair. The shadows it left on her face also made her light skin less noticeable in the night. Alina spotted Percival at once, despite his skulking, and she knew immediately that meant there was work to do.

Dark work was the source of her money, but Alina felt no need to embrace the worst aspects of the trade. For one, she did not understand why Percival never seemed to slow down, let alone sleep. She supposed when one consorted with demons like he did, priorities were very different from hers. She stepped into the dusty street, shielding her face from the dust with the side of her hood.

“Percival,” she said in the slight Greek accent he recognized as much as her face, as they neared each other. “Why are you here?”

“Straight down to business, yes.” He pulled down his collar from his nose and mouth. “We have a job tonight. From Hajur.”

“What is it?”

“We are to intercept a letter from the Rogue Hound.”

“The Rogue Hound? We’ll need Martin for this.”

“I agree. How long before you’re ready?”

Alina wrinkled her nose at that. He ought to know better after sixteen months of dark work in Sarsa. “I’m always ready.”

“Good.” He nodded to her as evening parishioners streamed past them on either side. “Let’s get the others.”

“Tell me what we know on the way.” Alina preferred not to be caught out of place, and she knew Percival often got in over his head. If he didn’t, he might never have ended up in Sarsa. “Don’t make this personal,” she said. “I know you don’t like the Rogue Hound.”

“It’s just work. The Rogue Hound is an ass, but that’s all he is. Besides a good mark.”

“A dangerous mark,” said Alina.

“But a good one,” Percival smirked. If there wasn’t work to do he could have argued with Alina all night. Or, at least until she got annoyed and told him to go away. “Kelebek lives around here. We should get her next.”

 

 

Alina folded her arms as they approached the darkened block of stucco buildings where Kelebek lived over her shop. “Is that all we know?” she asked Percival.

“Hajur didn’t tell me much,” he admitted. “She didn’t think it was relevant.”

“The contents of this letter weren’t relevant to her?”

“She must have a spy close to the Rogue Hound who has her informed. But no spy can say what hasn’t been written yet.”

They stopped in front of the shop with a sign in the Kalfar’s native language and in English that read “Ayaz Golem Sculpting” in white letters. Alina frowned at the sign, but Percy had an idea the expression was meant for him.

Alina sighed. “I don’t like it. The Rogue Hound is not a kind leader, but he helps protect the city.”

“Hajur lives in the city too. If stealing the letter would threaten Sarsa she wouldn’t be asking us to do it.”

“But she doesn’t know what it will contain—Or she won’t tell us.”

A window slat opened on the first floor of the golem sculpting shop. Percy swore internally. A lock unlatched somewhere inside. He and Alina turned to the door of the shop as the door opened.

The late-thirties Kalfaran woman who stood in the doorway, haloed in yellow lamplight, glared out at them. She wore a sculptor’s smock, but without a trace of clay on the white material. Her hair was pulled back.

“Come inside,” Kelebek said. “Or do you two want the whole block to know what you’re talking about.”

“We weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

“Indeed, not,” said Alina.

Kelebek shook her head. She held the door open with one hand. “Well, you weren’t quiet. Come in.”

The two of them made their way sheepishly inside. She closed the door and turned to them.

“We have a job,” she said. “For Hajur, right?”

“I swear, we weren’t that loud,” said Percival.

Kelebek rolled her eyes. These foreigners had not respect for the ears of the city. “With what your oaths are for, that does not inspire confidence.” She turned to Alina.

Alina pursed her lips. “Hajur wants us to steal a letter. From the Rogue Hound.”

“Interesting.” Kelebek carefully removed her smock, leaving the dark brown trousers and tunic beneath. “Good timing. My latest mask needs to wait before I fire it.”

Percy chuckled. “Speaking of golems. I think we should bring Saint in on this.”

“Saint? But why?”

“The Rogue Hound’s people tend to be heavily armed. Saint is insurance.”

“We need Martin, anyway,” said Alina. “Saint could be useful.”

“Why couldn’t you two agree quietly when you were outside?” said Kelebek with a small smile. “Saint is a rough beast compared to any I’d make, but the idea is good.”

“I suppose the next stop is the barracks. Martin is a hound, at least on the surface, and Saint works for them too.”

“This should be interesting.” Kelebek set the smock on the small table near the front of the shop.

The three of them left her sculpting shop for the dusty night outside.

 

 

#

 

The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Here is a share button. Enjoy!

 

Soul Art

Today today today!

The sequel to “Hunter and Seed,” a little novel called “Soul Art” by yours truly is finally out for preorder!

I could not wait to release this, but it’s taken longer than I wanted. All things considered, my brain is a wild and weird artifact, including a few features I don’t like a whole lot. One of those despised traits is depression, and I have been dealing with that for much of my life. I suffered some serious bouts of depression over the last year and a half.

Excuses aside, I am excited to finally release this book. And in the honor of this release, I’ve lowered the price of “Hunter and Seed” to ninety-nine cents. If you have not checked that book out yet, now is the time.

I love writing, and writing this blog is good fun. However, writing fiction is my greatest passion. I think a lot of you, especially those of you who have enjoyed my serials on this blog, will like reading both “Hunter and Seed” and “Soul Art.”

Thank you for reading.

Invisibles 1

Hello, everyone. Tim here.

Today is the beginning release of a new light serial. These won’t be as meaty sections but will come out regularly each Friday for a while. Because this is the first release, there is no previous chapter link.

Check out the series page.

Check out my giveaways on instafreebie.com

In celebration of the release of a sequel on July 11th, if you sign up for the mailing list before July 5th you will get a free copy of, “Hunter and Seed” through email on that date. The best way to subscribe is through instafreebie.com, where you can get some other free stories and samples as well.

Finally, don’t forget to check out all my books and stories wherever fine ebooks are sold.

Amazon.com Author Page

Rem’s Dream

Tenlyres

Hunter and Seed

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story.

 

Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.

Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.

Sarsa, city of countless exiles.

Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.

Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.

That is the Sarsa to be watched.

And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.

 

1

The streets of Sarsa were dark and dusty as Percy made his way along them. Wind howled from the distant wastelands and brought arid storms to the city. Percy did not give a damn about wind or dust. He looked for the address on the business card tucked up his sleeve.

He looked for the familiar building on Acturehn Street.

The dust did not make his search any easier. He pulled the high collar of his shirt up to his nose. As he pressed on through the night, Percy began to wonder what another member of the crew was up to. He had no way of knowing for certain but guessed Alina would be schmoozing somewhere upscale. Then he remembered it was Saturday, which meant she sang evening prayers with the rest of her choir at the Church of Angels nearby.

Percy’s mouth was dry, and his mind went bitter at the thought of the religious order. All the religious orders bothered him. They wasted time people could better spend on their own lives, and what did they give? Only hope. Considering he had just spent the afternoon at a seance for a demon, the distaste was probably mutual.

Through the dust and darkness, Percy spied his destination. The sign by the door announced 718 Acturehn Street in mostly still-gilded letters. It was a three-story building, the dusk diner, a restaurant that catered to the night-shift. Percy forgot his previous unhappiness. In his own way, he worked a night shift. Stealing things often went better in the dark.

He climbed the ramp to the front doors of Acturehn Street’s dusk diner.

Inside, the place was lit dimly, but there was no dust in the air, just traces of smoke. Grateful for the reprieves from wind and storm, Percy seated himself as a sign suggested. He took a boot on the far side of the room, where it looked as though no one else was eating.

No sooner had he slid into place in front of the table, then a waiter arrived with a menu in one hand and a napkin in the other.

“Good evening,” said the skinny local.

Percy nodded to the waiter. “May I see the special beer list?” The words were the initiation of a secret set of phrases.

“Anything in particular?” asked the waiter.

“Something old. A rare vintage.”

“Of course. Follow me.” The waiter turned and walked to a door near the booth at the back of the room. Percy followed him through and into a dark room beyond. In this room, the smoke hung thick in the air. A coffee table with a couch on either side of it sat under the sole light in the room, a lamp of red and clear crystal hanging from the ceiling.

“Percival.” A local woman smoking a pipe on the far side of the coffee table rose from her couch.

And it was her couch. This woman was Hajur, the owner of the dusk diner, and a reliable fence for stolen goods.

“I heard you had a job,” said Percy, his voice dry.

“Of course, dear boy. But please, sit.” Hajur turned to the waiter. “Get our friend some water. I would not want to be out on a night like this.”

“It’s not pretty out,” Percy said.

Hajur motioned him to a plush seat by one end of the coffee table.

One of the two men seated on the couch opposite Hajur grumbled something in the local language, a language Percy had never been good at understanding, especially when it went muttered.

“Behave yourself, sir,” said Hajur. She wrinkled her nose. “Our game can wait for a moment. You see, it was only three hours ago I put out the word, and already a faithful friend has arrived to assist.”

The waiter placed a glass of ice water on a glass end table beside Percy’s seat, then backed away and returned to the main room.

Hajur smiled with laugh lines. “Percival, I trust. You two, please leave us alone for a moment.”

The belligerent one grunted. But both men rose and left the room after the waiter. Percy did not blame them. Hajur might be a smiling older woman, but she was also a deadly enemy for anyone who lived off the streets or conducted night work in Sarsa.

“Thank you.” He sipped his water. So cold. So good.

“I appreciate punctuality. The work I have for you is quite sensitive. A courier is to deliver a letter to the Jagged Palace tonight. I would like you to intercept that message.”

“Tonight?” Percy frowned. “I don’t know if there’s time.”

“The letter is still being drafted in the Vancaldor estate,” said Hajur.

“The Rogue Hound.” Percy scowled as he remembered the warlord who had dragged him to Sarsa in the first place. “I have unfinished business with him.”

“It should remain so. I do not ask for assassination, only the usual relief of an object from its owner.”

Percy whistled. “Tonight it is. I’ll call the others.”

“See that you do, Percival. The pay will be double your usual rate for this. It is important to me.”

“I understand.” Percy took another sip of water. He relished the opportunity to break Alina from her prayers. The others would be easier to assemble. And tonight, he had a feeling they would all be needed.

His first stop after leaving the dusk diner was the Church of Angels.

Hopefully, things there would go better than they had last time.

 

#

 

The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.

 

Please share if you appreciate the story. Enjoy!

Stolen Parts Episode 3

This week, Stolen Parts concludes with part three.

Can Odette come back to life?

And will she lose Jeremy after all?

Read on to find out.

 

We got back to my apartment before the moon rose. He had the cooler with the heart into my bedroom minutes later. Neither of us thought Sam could possibly be all the way out of the game. Blows to the head hurt, and that cut on his hand drained his power for the moment, but Sam’s magic is nourished by pain, no matter how much it slows him down in the moment more pain means more power later. Neither Jeremy or I wanted to kill another necromancer.

Life. Death. Things just can’t ever be simple.

Jeremy flipped on the lights and set the cooler on the floor beside the bed. My body lay where it had been when we left, still indecent, still bloody. For some reason the flecks of blood in my hair made me feel the worst. They just looked so haphazard. Probably won’t be easy to clean. Jeremy closed the bedroom doors and drew the thin curtains on the window by the bed. He set the witch dagger on the sill.

He flipped the top on the cooler. My heart would have skipped a beat if it hadn’t already been lying frozen in that box. He raised the heart carefully, the ritual of restoration requiring his skin to touch the raw flesh to work. He set it in the hole in my chest, blood and ice water on his fingers.

He came over to break my heart and found another guy had already torn it out. Jeremy might be the only person I know who would do what he had just done. He went charging into danger to save someone he didn’t want to see anymore. At that point I still didn’t know exactly why he thought we had grown apart. Questions are hard to ask sometimes. He chanted the spell to heal the joins and repair the veins and arteries. His eyes glowed blue. I thought about how hard it was gonna to find another guy like him and I got sad.

My pulse throbbed painfully as it returned.

He withdrew his hand from around my heart, but my soul remained joined to Jeremy through the collars we wore. Its a strange feeling, looking down at one’s own unconscious body.

“You ready to go back?” Jeremy asked softly.

“You’d better not sneak out before I wake up.”

He shrugged his aching shoulders. “I’ll stand guard. It’s dark now. Sam will probably send some Zs after us.”

“You don’t think he’ll come by himself?”

“He could. I doubt I slowed him down much.”

“Good move with the cooler. Never mind that my heart was in there.”

“Sorry about that.” Jeremy wiped his hands on his jeans. Then he folded them and started chanting again, eyes closed. In that darkness with just his voice to guide me, I drifted down, felt like falling. My heartbeat announced my return, sore and tremulous. The pain in the rest of my chest was gone, and the wound sealed without a trace or a scar.

I opened my eyes and looked up at Jeremy. He stood at the foot of my bed, further away than he had been when he started chanting. “Odette, we need to talk.”

“I guess we do.” My voice sounded strange and high coming out of my mouth. I had kinda gotten used to sensing the words rather than hearing them.

He leaned against the wall by the door, arms folded. “You know why I came over?”

“I’ve been reading your thoughts all evening. So yeah.”

Moonlight glimmered on the floor of the kitchen, visible through the open door. Jeremy stared down at me. I sat up and covered myself with my arms. A chill ran through me, not exactly bundled up, and it was mid-October.

“Jeremy, I think tonight proved we can trust each other. We work together.”

He sighed and walked over to my bedside, then took my hand gently. “Odette…”

I shook my head, upset. “You’re gonna tell me we’re done. You respect me or something. I can see it in those pretty eyes of yours.” Funny how I could be so calm the whole time without my body, but getting it back had me panicked.

“Odette, I think we had better sleep on it.”

I stared at him. A smile formed on my face.

Outside, in the moonlight, a zombie groaned. I reached for the witch dagger. “Sound’s like trouble.”

Jeremy released my hand. He reached up with a both hands to unlock the cold metal collar from around my neck. “Not so bad you’ll need this.”

My hand found his again and stopped him. “Not a bridge I want burned just yet.”

He lowered his hands slowly and nodded.

I slipped my legs over the side of the bed and walked over to my closet. I opened the doors and glanced at Jeremy. “You think I ought to dress up?”

“To take down a few Zs?”

“And for afterward.” I reached inside and moved aside a pale colored dress in favor of a plain dark t-shirt. I shivered in the cool air of the room.

He shook his head, but I saw his smile. He reached for the scroll case in his jacket pocket and took it out. Then he slung off the coat and hung it around my shoulders. I slipped my arms through the rough material of the sleeves. The jacket felt like home inside.

I buttoned up the front, and then reached out, took the dagger’s bone handle and picked it up. We walked through the apartment and took the stairs down.

A couple dozen ragged zombies advanced down the street. The big Z who had been patrolling outside the morgue dragged his foot at the back of the mob. Probably only a matter of time before Sam shows up. Jeremy unfurled the scroll and smiled at me. I smiled back and then took a defensive stance, dagger extended in one hand.

Zombies approached and I fell back step by step toward Jeremy. “Second incantation, remember?”

He coughed to clear his throat, then started to chant. The zombies wavered in their advance. The big one in the white tee rushed at me. His reach beat mine, but the dagger slice into his forearm, turning magically animated muscles into dead flesh. A jab to the shoulder finished the zombie completely. He went down. Before any other zombies could reach me Jeremy completed the incantation. Any dead that should hear these words shall sleep.

Zombies male and female tumbled into the street, their bodies returned to rest. Along the street the lights flickered. A shadow winged its way over the rooftops, far too large to be a bat. I recognized him first by the glow of green in his eyes. Sam’s dark wings carried him down toward street level. He wore a look of mild surprise.

“I expected they would keep you busy longer than that.” He landed on the pavement in front us. His cloak of shadows deepened around him and he wore a collar of his own, but rather than the iron Jeremy and I shared, his looked brighter, more silver in color. I didn’t dare hope he had just been using it to command all those zombies. I knew him. At the very least he could use it to reanimate the zombies the scroll had just destroyed. Every tool Sam used was multipurpose.

My fingers clenched on the dagger. I glared at Sam. “I don’t buy this ‘other dimension’ bullshit! What are you trying to do?”

“Odette, you really are a simple creature.” A smirk surfaced from the shadows.

My face grew hot, half from annoyance at his tone and half from my tension at having to fight such a dangerous opponent. “Go back to the Morgue. You don’t want this to go further than it already has.”

“Don’t I?” Sam’s infuriating smugness radiated like an insufferable star. “I have the two of you together now. Two hearts should be enough to open the gate.”

“A gate to where?” Jeremy lowered the scroll.

“Somewhere you would never dare go, boy. But I will take you there.” He grinned. “Part of you anyway.”

I lunged the few yards between us. My dagger thrust toward his chest. He sidestepped, flowing through shadow. Jeremy called out a warning. I passed Sam and dropped to one knee. His fist swung over my head. I counted my good luck, I’d known how to read Jeremy’s tone.

Sam put on a burst of shadow speed and raced toward Jeremy, who held nothing but the scroll.

Not enough time for Jeremy to chant, and I was too slow to catch up. I flipped the dagger to change my grip, pivoted on the spot, then threw the weapon. The blade missed Sam, but the bone hilt hit him in the back of the neck. He let out a gasp and stumbled, breathless.

“Looks you still need to breathe,” I said.

Jeremy dashed to my side, scooping up the dagger as he approached. I rose to my feet. Jeremy slowed as he reached me, then turned toward Sam again. “Now what do we do?”

I shrugged. “We’ve got to stop him.”

He handed me the witch dagger. “We can’t put him down.”

I glanced at the scroll rumpled in his hand. “You know what the first incantation on that scroll does, right?”

“Paralysis?”

“For all living who hear the complete chant, except the reader,” I said. “Yeah.”

Sirens wailed in the distance. Someone on my street had called the cops. I returned my eyes to Sam as he turned. “We only need to buy time until the cops get here.”

“You think that’ll work?”

“Sam won’t expose himself to the normals. That would break the law too.”

Jeremy set his jaw. “Hope you’re right.”

Sam looked over his shoulder at us. His eyes burned green. The zombified corpses all around the street began to stir. Such a showoff, he was doing it without a single word. I readied the witch dagger. “Start chanting. I’ll protect you.”

A zombie reached for my ankle. I slashed its wrist, then kicked its head back. The others were moving slowly. Jeremy started chanting, slow and measured. His voice echoed in the street, even over the sound of approaching sirens. Behind Sam the lights approached on the main street, but not the lights of a police car, the lights of an ambulance. Paramedics would be much less useful than cops for my plan.

I cut down a zombie as it staggered to its feet. Sam turned to face me and Jeremy. “That toy won’t stop my zombies forever,” he said. “And that scroll is less powerful than amateurs like you want to think.”

He walked between the rising forms of reanimated zombies. I stared at him, worried he could be right. With a few stabs I took down a few more zombies. If it wasn’t for Sam probably being ready to counter anything I tried, I’d have a lot more options. The ambulance sped down the street, not slowing.

“Jeremy,” I said. “Keep going.”

Sam towered over me, just like he had back in the kitchen at home. His fingers locked around my wrist, keeping the dagger from stabbing into his side. I glared up at his face. His other hand drew back. I shoved uselessly at his chest, trying to push him back.

Jeremy finished the chant. I froze. My muscles locked tight, and my heartbeat slowed. My knees went weak and I might have fallen except for Sam’s grip. My eyes remained fixed on his green glowing gaze. His lethal hand still moved in jerky fits and starts, down toward my heart.

“Odette!” Jeremy shouted and dove into Sam from the side where I held the dagger. His momentum hit my hand and Sam’s with a crack. Despite the paralysis both hands slammed into Sam’s side. The blade of the dagger vanished between his ribs. I gasped with pain from my wrist. Sam fell.

Jeremy tugged me out of his grip. The witch dagger came with me, coated with Sam’s dark blood. He stared up at the sky with an empty gaze. The green glow faded as I looked down at him. My heartbeat began to accelerate back to normal as Jeremy led me through the moaning, mindless handful of zombies toward my apartment building. “We can’t stay here,” I said. “He’s dead, Jeremy.”

A far off look formed in his eye as we passed the front yard and headed into the parking lot that wrapped around the back of the building and led onto an adjacent street. Jeremy turned to me as I regained the ability to walk on my own.

“Looks like we’re going on the run,” he said.

The two of us walked away from the flashing lights of the ambulance. I nodded.

We just killed another necromancer. That won’t stay hidden for long. I looked up at his face. “Guess you’re stuck with me.”

His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

Funny how life can seem so simple sometimes.

 

#

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