Tag Archives: preternatural

The Opening Lines of Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Our friend over at https://writingouttakes.wordpress.com/ showed up their fantastic first lines today, and after totally geeking out about them we thought that looked like a lot of fun.  So we have the first few (current) paragraphs of Faerie Rising.

The little bell above the shop door preceded the desperate cry of, “Winter, we need you!”  The urgency in her friend’s voice tore the wizard’s attention from her task.  She dropped the open box of sterile surgical instruments on the long counter and rushed across the back room clinic, passing the city map of Seahaven that took up one entire wall.  On the map were neat red dots and a note for every violent incident this year.  It was the end of October and the map was so covered in red that it looked like it was inflicted with a virulent rash.  Winter pushed her way through the thickly beaded curtain into the still-darkened storefront.

It was hours before the rest of the shops in the Historical District would open, the sun was just trembling on the mountain’s lips and the deep shadows cast by the century-old buildings left the streetlights still lit.  Through the doorway walked Giovanni and Katherine, though “walk” might have been too casual a description.  He leaned heavily on her smaller frame, but she bore his weight easily with her right arm about his slender waist, holding both his and her jackets in place against his back.  Katherine kicked the door closed behind her and showed Winter her face, pale beneath the thick spray of blood that glittered on her skin and hair.

Winter swallowed down the rising bile of panic as the meat smell of heavy bleeding reached her.  In her experience, that was the smell of a loved one’s violent death.

She had seen a great deal of death.

“What happened?” she asked even as she quelled her trembling belly with a wash of icy professionalism and shoved a half-empty box aside with her foot to make a clear path.  The shop was a disaster, thick with dust, boxes everywhere and the shelves half empty.  And there was precious little she could do about it anytime soon.

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Jessie St. James

When Jessie St. James was twelve years-old she stumbled into Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe, a little family-owned store full of herbal products. After taking a light-fingered look around she attempted to leave with some of the smaller merchandize and came face to face with one of the proprietors, the wizard Winter Mulcahy.  Winter had noticed that the girl was using magic to aid her shoplifting – but put a broom in her hand and had her do chores in the shop rather than calling the police.  At the end of the afternoon Winter rewarded Jessie’s good work with the items she had tried to steal.  Jessie has been Winter’s shadow ever since.

Jessie began training her magic with Winter’s twin cousins, Kelley and Martina, whose offensive abilities were more in keeping with Jessie’s flamboyant style than Winter’s tamer potion making. But that came to an end six months ago, when the twins were killed – the latest in the long line of Mulcahy wizards to die.  Winter has been forced to continue Jessie’s magical education as best she can, but with the crushing weight of her responsibilities Jessie is often left training on her own.  Most days she can be found at Curiosity’s after or, much to Winter’s eternal consternation, during school hours.

Sixteen year-old Jessie’s home life is a mess. Her parents, Joanie and Darryl St. James, are career alcoholics, controlling and verbally abusive towards their daughter and each other, and resent Jessie’s involvement with the Mulcahy family.  Not possessing any magic themselves, they are unaware of the preternatural world their daughter has whole heartedly joined and see Winter as a busybody.  Jessie in return does everything in her power to avoid her parents, taking advantage of their drunken forgetfulness to spend nights sleeping anywhere but at home.

Quick of wit, artistic, and unabashedly outspoken, Jessie has quickly made friends throughout the preternatural community, especially among the vampires of Seahaven. Many nights she can be found couch surfing at their Theatre in the Historical District when she isn’t hiding from her parents in the tiny apartment above Curiosity’s.

Winter is sick, falling apart from the strain of holding Seahaven together alone. Everyone in the preternatural community can see it, and they all talk to Jessie about it.  Jessie is desperate to help her friend and mentor, but Winter won’t let her.

But being told “no” won’t deter a young wizard like Jessie…

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The Denizens of The Books of Binding (Part 2) The Vampires

“Katherine let her eyes close as Giovanni drew one of her bloody fingers into his mouth and began to suck it clean.  Her lips parted, upper and lower fangs extending much like a snake to show startling white against the natural crimson of her mouth.”

~ Faerie Rising

Immortal sensualists and ardent politicians, vampires are the power brokers of the preternatural world and the true inventors of the long game.  For centuries they have played, using both preternaturals and humans as living game pieces – first the election of a Pope, then a senator’s scandalous fall – with one ultimate goal in mind.

Survival.

For though some younger eyes may see the humans as placid sheep, mindlessly waiting to be culled, those vampires who have lived through darker centuries know that if the sheep see the wolves in their midst, the nature of the flock can change dangerously, and not all the sheep are blind.  So they play the game to ensure they live in a world where a human who claims his neighbor is a shape-shifter will be mocked, rather than rescued.  To ensure their kind can continue to hide in plain sight.

Our vampires are immortal in the sense that they will live indefinitely until they are killed, and yes, they are alive, not undead.  They are very difficult to kill – a wooden stake through the heart will only result in an angry vampire and a dead amateur Van Helsing.  They are not vulnerable to holy objects, or silver, or garlic, or any of the other superstitions and fictions that have been spread around over the centuries, often by vampires themselves, to help them hide.  They are nocturnal hunters but do not fear the sun, though they are admittedly not at their best in full sunlight.  Sunglasses are truly the vampire’s friend, and they only glitter under trance music and a club’s strobe lights while wearing the correct body products.

Indeed, the greatest threat to a vampire is another vampire.  Total destruction or removal of the head or the heart is the only way to ensure death.  So while vampires have not been slow to adopt firearms, they still adhere to the old ways of killing.  Within their Courts they gave the original meaning to “cutthroat” politics, as a single misstep can result in death.  At the top of these constantly shifting towers of factions and alliances rule the Vampire Kings.  Any vampire, regardless of gender, with enough power, cunning and ambition may rise to become a King and rule over a Court composed of not only vampires but also those shape-shifting “therian” and humans who serve them.  But at this level the only path to power is through the death of a sitting King – the vampire who would walk it does so at their dire peril, for the King they would murder has walked it before them, knows its twists and bends, and lays in wait for all who would so much as set a foot upon it.  There is no law among vampires against preemptive retaliation.

But, individually, the most powerful of the vampires are not the Kings at all.  They are the queens.  Of the many, many female vampires made in the world, only a tiny percentage rise as a powerful breeding queen – at the time of Faerie Rising they only number thirty-one.  Male vampires may on rare occasion father half-breed children on human women, but these Dhampyr are weak creatures to be pitied in the Courts, who share their fathers’ need for blood and their mothers’ mortalities.  A common female vampire is utterly sterile.  Queens, on the other hand, are not only extremely powerful vampires, they will also go into heat every few centuries during their lifetimes, attracting male vampires for miles around and only accepting the most powerful to mate.  These choices are political ones, made decades, sometimes centuries in advance.  Queens maintain their own small Courts autonomous from the Kings’ Courts, though they usually choose a King to support and maintain them on the understanding that when her heat comes on her the King of her choice will be the one to sire her prince, a huge mark of prestige for any vampire.  Attracting and keeping a queen is a great show of power among the Kings, as queens have full autonomy and can choose to leave for any reason, at any time.  Queens always bear sons.  No one knows why this is, though it is a common subject of debate among the queens themselves.  A prince is always powerful, and will eventually grow to become a King in his own right, should he survive long enough.  Again, Kings see nothing wrong with preemptive retaliation, and princes who are not their own sons are threats on the horizon.  So a queen will choose her prince’s father most carefully, with her son’s future survival in mind.

In a life of politics and pain, where death may find them around any corner if they chose the wrong friends, for vampires their basic survival is the ultimate pleasure.  A vampire must feed on living blood.  Since they can eat regular food, “dead” blood such as one might find in a fictional blood donation bag is not only of no more nutritional value than any bloody rare meat, the anti-coagulants that are added taste foul.  No vampire would drink blood from a plastic bag.  They are predators, as well as sensualists.  Their very nature desires warm flesh between their teeth, a writhing body trapped in the steel coils of their powerful arms.  They want the hunt.

But not the kill.

Vampires kill for politics, for survival, sometimes for pleasure, but generally they do not kill to eat.  While it is possible to kill by other means during a feed, a single, regular vampire cannot drink enough blood to drain a human body to the point of death.  The stomach is only so big.  A powerful vampire can get close – this is part of how vampires are made – but does not need to do so.  Vampires are above all things stealth hunters.  When they feed among the flock, they erase their tracks.  So the vampire who leaves a trail of bodies will soon be hunted themselves.

Vampires hunt the most dangerous of prey, but they have three powerful weapons at their disposal.  The first are their pheromones, designed to attract both potential mates and potential prey, for to vampires feeding and sex are intimately intertwined.  When they are attracted to someone, they will “scent,” and the more powerful the attraction, the more powerful the vampire, the more powerful the pheromones will become.  When vampires do this with each other it can cycle back and forth.  When it involves prey the pheromones are difficult to resist, and nearly impossible if they prey is not aware of them.  The second weapon is the nature of the adult vampire’s bite.  Nearly painless and highly erotic, an unsuspecting victim is usually unaware they have been bitten at all, lost in the waves of pleasure as the vampire feeds from them.  Again, the more powerful the vampire, the greater the effect they have.  For the vampire, the bite is a two-way street, and they receive just as much pleasure from biting as does their victim.  It is for this reason that even though vampires cannot gain from feeding on each other, they still bite during sex.  But, for the survival of the vampire’s secret, the third weapon is the most important.  Their tongues secrete a healing enzyme, so that when they stroke and lick a bite mark after feeding the small holes made by their fangs heal closed, leaving behind only a large hickey.  They only take a pint or less of blood from a victim, leaving them slightly light-headed perhaps, but no more so than would the sexual encounter they just had.  And the vampire leaves, fed and with a potential future meal left alive behind.

The vampire is truly the most urban of the preternaturals, the ultimate wolves among the sheep, needing to hide within a large prey population – and also a large population of potential recruits.  Those who they would choose to join their ranks are selected most carefully, for eternity is a very long time to regret.  They stalk their potentials, getting into their lives, their circles of friends, before making a final decision.  That choice is always the vampire’s – they will never open their world, part the veil for anyone not already among their ranks.  Most new vampires discover this hidden existence on the day they awaken to it, desperate for their first blood feed.

On that first morning of forever, what would you do?

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The Denizens of The Books of Binding (Part 1) Magicians

“Etienne opened his mouth and Winter raised her hand.  ‘We must maintain a balance among the different preternatural groups in the city.’

‘What is preternatural?’  That was a new word for him.

She tipped her head to the side.  ‘Well… it’s us.  You, me, vampires, therian, witches, dragons; everything else that really does go bump in the night.  If it’s not human, not entirely, it’s probably one of us.’”

~ Faerie Rising

Within the fringes of our world exist many different types of preternaturals, some human-based, some once human but since changed, and some who have never dreamed human dreams.  Over the next several posts we will spend some time with each species to see who walks in shadows with the taste of human flesh on their minds and who stands behind those mortals of power, playing them like puppets.  Sometimes, they are one and the same.

While various species practice their own types of magic, most have one thing in common.  For magic to function, it must be cast using a matrix to give it structure and focus, for example a ritual circle or glyphs and runes, or the wording of a spell and focus objects.

There are four types of human-based magic users – wizards, sorcerers, witches, and mages.  Of these, wizards hold the greatest political power, ruling their own Houses from the ancient Wizards Council and are feared throughout the preternatural world for their arrogance and their willingness to use their great power to enforce their wills.  The only creatures they give grudging respect to are the rare but mighty dragons, who see themselves as being above all others.  Wizards are capable of truly destructive magic, and only other magic users can hope to defend themselves against them.  Wizards are also as a general rule not religious, as they do not acknowledge any higher power than themselves.

Sorcerers are those who deal with and serve the greater demons.  Not only do they derive vast power and wealth from their demons in exchange for the harvest of mortal souls, they interbreed with their demons, merging their bloodlines.  Only a sorcerer of a demon’s line can harvest souls for them, among other needed skills, and it is this merging that forms the basis of the demonic pact.  Some wizards choose to turn their families into sorcerer lines, knowing well the horrible cost, for wizards value power as the greatest of all virtues – but even so, only the most daring, the most power-hungry of wizard families have chosen this path.  Once a pact has been formed, it is forever, lasting as long as the bloodline exists.

Witches are the most common of the four, and the least powerful.  The word “witch” within the preternatural community is really more of a blanket term for those humans with a magical spark, who experience it on a more spiritual level or even just struggle to understand why they can see what others cannot.  Those who might be called shaman or druid or fortune teller will often fall under this category, if they truly are gifted.

According to the wizards, over ten-thousand-years ago in the last Age of Man, mages ruled over all with cruel disregard for anything but their own needs.  They were beings of immense power – it was said that earth and sky trembled to obey their whims, and that they did not need the structure of spell matrixes to cast magic.  They simply extended their wills, and the Universe itself opened like a willing woman, giving them all they desired.  They saddled and rode the proud dragons to battle, waging war against each other from within glittering towers while all below them was ground to dust and despair.  It was said they even brought the Old Gods to their knees.  Finally, the wizards rebelled against them, bringing them down at great cost and ending the Age even as they drove the mages to extinction.

But, ten-thousand-years is a long time, and rumors are sometimes whispered in darkened hallways…

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Seahaven, WA

Though, barring editorial intervention the series itself will be titled The Books of Binding, the city that plays the most pivotal role in the series events is the fictional city of Seahaven, WA.  Why a fictional city when so many perfectly good ones are already laying around, you may ask?  Well, for starters, while we have a world of respect for alternate historians and in fact dabble a bit in their playgrounds with a few of our vampires (really, Machiavelli should have known to stay dead) we prefer to start with a clean slate.

There is no clear geographic location for Seahaven.  It is roughly an hour and a half’s drive down the coast from Seattle, but since we don’t wish to displace any current residents by plopping a mid-size city full of preternaturals in their communities, we’re leaving the exact location vague.  So, let’s play pretend.  We’re writers.  Playing pretend is something we happen to be good at.

Seahaven has the largest per-capita preternatural population of any city on the planet, including New York and Los Angeles.  Our preternaturals live in the shadows of the human world.  Cross the wrong street at the wrong time of night, turn the wrong corner, and the undergrad you sat beside on the bus for just a little too long is suddenly in front of you, his eyes reflecting the streetlights the way no human’s should.  He may let you pass.

He may not.

The girl on the corner in the too short skirt leaning into the passenger side window to chat up a potential john was never human.

Seahaven wears many faces, and those mortals who chose to call it home know instinctively to bring keep their children close and bring them in before the streetlights flare.  Because alone, a human stands no chance against the preternaturals in their midst.

So, the question becomes, why hide?  If humans are so weak and frail, such tasty treats, why hide ourselves at all?

The answer lies in sheer numbers.  A lone human in an alley is a meal, a toy… even potentially a convert.  But Seahaven is a city of nearly half a million, not including the suburbs.  And humans in large groups are deadly dangerous, with their armies and their laboratories and their weapons of mass destruction.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki frightened even the supremely arrogant dragons.

And so the preternaturals agree on one on thing, and one thing only – they hide themselves from the humans, choosing only select humans from among the throng to join their numbers, and wield their not inconsiderable political and financial power from behind the curtain of secrecy.

Who knows?  Perhaps glowing eyes watch you even now, measuring your strength, your eternal worth?  Would you join them?

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