Tag Archives: Wizard

Leftovers – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

Jessie St. James felt a grin growing as she watched Justin MacDowell toddle around the worn wood floors of Otherworld Books, the stubby felt feathers on his turkey outfit sashaying with each bit of progress he made. She looked at Brian and found him grinning, too, teeth a flash of white against terracotta skin, before he leaned over and redirected his adopted little brother. “It’s hard to believe how much he’s grown in just a month,” she said, and decided to plant her plump butt in the doorway of the stock room to corral him a little.

Brian chuckled and nodded, bending to collect Justin. “Yeah, it is.” Justin objected loudly, gaze fixated on the Christmas display Brian was in the middle of assembling, and he patted the little boy’s back around the turkey accessories on his diapered tush in an attempt to distract and sooth. He sank onto the floor with Jessie and her insulated bag of Thanksgiving leftovers, and his stomach gave an appreciative grumble. A sheepish smile tugged at his lips. “That smells good.”

“Good!” Justin made grabby hands for the bag, evidently as interested in the smell as his big brother.

Jessie grinned at the toddler. “Oh yeah. About as good as it did the first time,” Jessie said, and gave a definitive nod as she unzipped the large doggie bag that Winter had so graciously provided. “I missed Winter’s cooking, you know, before everything,” she added with a glance over her shoulder, looking out for Norah MacDowell. While Brian’s mom was a wonderful person and incredibly kind, she was human and just wasn’t privy to what had happened in the last month—or some of the things that had come before. Jessie dug into the bag and came up with a Tupperware container and an itty-bitty spoon, handing them to her friend with a wry smile. “Winter also sent Justin some pumpkin pudding. Have to get him started young on that addiction.”

The young Black man laughed. “What else is in your goodie bag?”

“Hmm.” Jessie dug out stacks of plastic dishes, spreading them out between them. “Looks like the whole kit-and-caboodle. Winter likes to set people up in style, you know. Want to help me eat some of it?” It was almost like a date… on the floor… with a baby brother squealing for his share. So yeah, almost. Almost sort of counted when you were seventeen, right?

Now if only Brian wasn’t too good for her.

“It would be a terrible, terrible crime to turn down a Mulcahy plate!” Brian said, playfully scandalized as he got Justin settled into his lap for his snack—the gateway drug into all things pumpkin spiced.

“Wouldn’t it?” While Justin happily nommed away, Jessie took a few slices of Winter’s homemade bread and added some turkey and cranberry sauce before passing it along, feeling deliciously domestic. Then, Jessie’s lips pulled into a thoughtful frown when Brian took the sandwich.

Her friend tilted his head, his long, pencil-thin dreads swinging. “What’s wrong?”

Just as quickly, that frown quirked into a smile. “Just thinking. Wondering how you’re doing now that you’re in the ‘in-crowd,’ so to speak… Do you want to talk about it?” It was at least putting it on the metaphorical table.

Brian adjusted Justin on his lap and set the sandwich on his knee, deliberating in his answer. “I can’t say I didn’t suspect something was going on with you at the Theatre, but…” Brian shrugged one shoulder, “it’s a lot to swallow. I won’t deny that it’s nice to know I’m going to do something worthwhile with my life, and make an impact for the better. There’s more certainty in that than I can say I’ve had before.”

“Why’s that?”

The dark-skinned teen just shrugged, again. “Growing up out there,” he made a vague gesture to the streets with one hand, and gave his little brother another spoonful of pudding with the other, “sometimes you have to wonder.” Another sheepish smile immediately followed. “That’s not to discount what Norah’s done for me—and that’s been a lot. Being a Hero, though… that pays things forward in the best way, if you can believe in Destiny.”

“I do believe in Destiny.” Someday, that Destiny would take Brian from her, but she was determined to get the most of every day she had with him. Jessie found a smile for him and playfully nudged his knee with her sneaker. “But, you don’t have to be a Hero with emphasis on the capital H to be the everyday hero variety. Winter and I are ‘come as you are’ people. You know that. And Norah knows it without the rest of the picture,” she said, and scooted over to eat her lunch with him just in time to catch a flash of flush across his terracotta cheeks. Maybe…? Naw. “Now, after we go Jaws on this bountiful feast, what can I help you with here? Not really in the mood to go home yet.” She was never in the mood to go home, but that was another story.

He laughed, grateful for the excuse to move on. “If you need an excuse to be busy, you can help me with this display.”

“Perfect.”

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Things Fall Apart – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

He sniffed the air. The scent of burnt bones and under it—blood. A lot of it. And the outhouse smell of violent death.

He walked the utility area carefully, reconstructing the deadly dance from a lifetime lived among its devotees. The spatters of brown flecks. The dust-free smears where a body had been dragged, struggling. A broken fingernail caught in the chain-link. The cloying smell of burning hair and garbage, and just a hint of cucumber. Acetone. At least they had destroyed the body, but it meant the attackers were not human. A human gang might have doused the body with gasoline to throw off the authorities, but they wouldn’t have brought their victim all the way out here, and it wouldn’t have been acetone. They’d brought it with them to make sure the body was gone. He sighed heavily. Perfect. He didn’t have time to pity the dead. This was just one of the sites he had been sent to check.

He opened the dumpster, holding his black sleeve over his sensitive nose, wishing the leather were doing a better job of masking the stench. The inside was charred black, the sides a little warped from the heat, but the accelerant had done its job. Nothing remained to mark this victim as different. Just a lumpy sort of ash. Shattered bone fragments and the occasional tooth. He could have his team sanitize the area, but they couldn’t remove the smell. If the authorities didn’t find the body they could smell, there would be more questions than a few teeth, they would never find a match for, would pose.

This city was a mess. Its preternaturals were out of control. Just short of all-out warfare between too many factions. It was getting worse, and more importantly, it was getting sloppy. That was something his masters couldn’t allow. The humans could never know who lived among them. They were a panicky breed and the only thing they liked more than killing each other was killing anything else. It would be open season on them all, and as superior as many preternaturals liked to feel with their extra strength or speed or longevity, there were billions of humans in this world. No matter his people’s advantages, they would lose any concerted war.

He heard a car approach, its tires crunching the gravel. He lowered the dumpster lid soundlessly and scaled the fence behind it, dropping to a crouch on the other side. He heard the ding of the car as the occupants left the engine running and the lights pointed in his direction. He sprinted for the tree line, trusting the dumpster to block him from view. He hurtled past the first line of trees and hauled himself, hand over hand with the ease of practice, into a tall one a few feet into the stand, coming to rest about fifteen feet up. Any higher and his weight was going to be an issue.

He watched from his temporary blind as a man and a woman crossed through the beam from their headlights. The woman wore a long dress and carried a large, floppy bag, from which she was pulling a flashlight and a few small bottles. The man beside her had his hand across his stomach, fingers under his jacket. He would bet most of his not-insubstantial resources that the jacket held a gun. The man’s eyes never stopped moving, searching outside their pool of light—muscle then, which made her the boss.

“I don’t like this. It’s too exposed out here. Let’s come back in the morning.”

“Etienne, it has to be tonight. Do you smell that? Tomorrow this place will be full of families and someone is going to notice the smell.”

The man frowned, and he stopped his scanning to look at her for a moment. “I smell it. Why don’t you go wait in the car? I’ll take care of it.”

She sighed and seemed to be counting to ten. “I know that you think you’re protecting me. You seem to think I’m much more fragile than I am. This is not my first burned body, Etienne. Not my first murdered friend. This isn’t even my hundredth. I appreciate you coming with me, but this thinking that I’m the damsel you have to save has got to stop. This is my city. I’m the Mulcahy now. You have to let me do my job or I can’t have you come with me again. Tell me you understand.”

The man’s body was tense, his face a mix of frustration, anger, and a touch of fear. “Winter, you can’t seriously expect me to—”

“Tell me you understand or go sit in the car. This is my job, Etienne. This is what I do. None of that has changed. I am responsible for keeping as much peace as can be had in this city, and barring that, for keeping things under wraps enough to not have us all killed by the Eldest to keep the Veil of Secrecy intact. Sometimes that means stopping fights before they start. Tonight, it means making sure that a missing lion’s body has been destroyed enough not to raise questions. A fifteen-year-old lion.” Her teeth and fists were both clenched as she spoke. “Who belongs to a very good friend. Tonight, my job is to make sure his body is unrecognizable. Tomorrow, it’s to talk to his Queen and tell her that my need that she maintain the peace is more important than her need for vengeance. So, tell me you understand. Back me up and help me do this impossible job or stay home.”

The man searched her face, and sighed heavily. “I don’t understand.”

The woman raised her hand to point at the car. “Then g—”

He caught her hand gently. “I don’t understand, Winter, but I’m trying to. Do your job. I’ll back you up.”

The woman struggled to control her face, but nodded, and turned toward the chain-link fence.

Winter… this was Winter Mulcahy. Seahaven’s wizard. The man in the trees had heard of her, but never met her. She was out of her depth, but it looked like maybe she was recruiting some help. He hoped it would be enough. Seahaven was winding up on his masters’ radar too often. The Eldest were neither patient nor forgiving. They couldn’t be.

He slipped silently out of the tree and into the darkness beyond. Lions. He couldn’t help Miss Mulcahy comfort her friend, but he could make sure that whoever was attacking the lions was too scared to do it again. His smile was feral as he ran toward where his car was hidden.

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Filed under Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles, Writing

There’s A Monster at the Door – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

The little monster crept toward the door of the enormous stone house. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. Her friends had dared her to come here. They’d called her weak and scared. She swore she would show them that she was made of tougher stuff than they thought. But standing here, at the end of the mile-long drive, the house gave her pause—squatting here on the edge of the world, nothing but water as far as the eye could see on the other side.

She eyed the door and tried to summon her courage. It was just a house. Nothing to fear. She stepped away from the comforting shelter of the bushes, squared her shoulders, and climbed the stairs. She raised her hand and—

The door swung open. Light poured into the night and framed an angry man holding a struggling grey cat. “You have your own door, cat. Why are you screaming for me to let you out this one?”

The monster froze, her arm still raised like a startled statue.

The man blinked for a moment and set the cat down. The cat apparently changed his mind. He sniffed the monster once, twined himself around the man’s legs, and disappeared into the depths of the house. The man took in the diminutive monster—her horns, her claws, her spotted fur, her row of sharp fangs, and the spiked tail that hung behind her. He studied her with a perplexed look on his face, then turned to call into the house for help. “Winter! There’s a monster at the door.” He turned back to her. “What do you want?”

His words unfroze her and she turned to run back to the shelter of the bushes and away. Who cared what her friends thought? She had come when none of them dared.

A woman came to the door, white hair in a bun. She gave the man an exasperated look and called out into the night, “Don’t go. You’re welcome here, little one.” She reached back into the house and pulled out a small cauldron, filled to the brim with candy.

The monster turned back, uncertain. The woman seemed nice enough. She came back toward the pair standing in the light and held up a sack, uncertainly. “Trick or Treat?”

The woman smiled and held out the cauldron. It held candy, but not the normal cheap kind that most people had. The cauldron was filled with full-sized candy bars. “Take all you want. Very few people are brave enough to venture out here.”

The monster straightened and smiled. She was brave. Take that, third-graders of Room 31! She reached her blue-furred hand into the cauldron and took her favorite, looking speculatively at the woman.

The woman smiled and nodded. “You can take as many as you like.”

The monster grinned and took two more. She tilted her face up to the woman and smiled. “Thank you!” She spun and ran down the steps toward the bushes and her bike. She put the candy bars into her sack but stopped when she saw a glimmer of light—a symbol that glowed for just a moment then disappeared when it touched the other candy. She looked back to the woman.

The woman tilted her head a little but smiled. “It’s alright, little one. It will keep you safe tonight.”

The monster considered that, then smiled at the woman. She put the sack in the basket on her bike and pulled back out onto the long driveway. She called back to the pair, “Happy Halloween!”

The woman, Winter Mulcahy, turned back to Etienne and shook her head, pulling him and the cauldron back inside and shutting the door.

Etienne looked at the candy and back at the wizard. “Is that going to be happening all night, then? Monsters at the door until dawn?”

Winter set the cauldron on the side table and headed back to dinner. “Not a monster. A witch.”

Etienne glanced back at the door. “A witch?”

Winter nodded. “She saw the glyph of protection. She’s one of us. Now come eat.”

Etienne sat and picked up his spoon. The night was a cool one and the stew was warm and filling. He glanced back at the door and the purple-spotted monster. He hoped the little witch would be safe tonight.

A grey form rubbed against his legs under the table. He pulled a bit of beef from the stew, blew on it, and slipped it to the cat.

Winter pretended not to notice.

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A Snippet From Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Scrambling, Winter gave up a few more feet to the goblin’s slashing claws and used the precious seconds she bought to rummage frantically in her massive canvas bag, murmuring the charm to bring a small parchment envelope to her hand while watching carefully for its next move.  She should have had it out before.  She knew that, now.

She had started with a rake to defend herself, but then found out how well the nasty little thing could climb, as the continuous throbbing on the back of her right hand attested to.  She had never actually been trained for this, unlike her cousins and two older sisters.  She was supposed to be a teacher, a healer and a Potion Master.  She should be home, tucked away in her family’s kitchen teaching a handful of little cousins to brew simple decoctions, not doing battle with a pseudo-demon the size of a throw pillow in Karen’s backyard.

And losing.

“Blast!”  It darted to one side, trying to get past Winter and out into the night.  She had to keep it boxed in, just for a few more moments.  If it got loose into the neighborhood, she would be days finding it again, and by then it might have graduated to attacking children.  Only luck, a couple hours of stressful patience and a trail of about two pounds of fresh chopped beef had gotten it into the shed.  She kicked out, taking it in what passed for a midsection, and it bounced against the back of the shed like a large hairy soccer ball.  Tools popped from their perches, and a pot was knocked off its shelf, all raining down on the neatly swept concrete floor.  A burning sensation flared up her right calf, and Winter knew the little monster had scored, too.

Keeping her eyes fixed on the ugly little hair ball, Winter tore the top off the envelope.  The goblin crouched just out of reach, panting in a wheezy sort of way, slime dripping from its broken bottle teeth, all its eyes glittering back and forth desperately searching for a way past her.  Fear seemed to roll off it like a dark fog.  Wherever it came from, it probably had no idea where it was now.  It may have even seen what happened to its little friend.  Winter knew how it felt, trapped and desperate to find a way out, bloody images of her loved ones tearing at her memories.  For just a moment, she felt sorry for the evil little thing.  No one would be coming to rescue the goblin, either…

Then again, she wasn’t the one eating the neighborhood cats.  She raised the envelope…

With blinding speed nearly twenty pounds of goblin impacted with her upper chest.  Winter did not realize she was falling until the autumn-wet lawn struck her in the back, and she grabbed a fistful of greasy, matted fur with her left hand as it made to leap over her head to freedom.

It retaliated by sinking jagged teeth into her pale wrist, right through the sturdy fabric of her uncle’s old Army jacket.

Winter let out a yelp of startled pain, but did not release the frantically scratching beast.  It flailed about, claws raking her chest, her neck, her face, digging bloody furrows into her skin wherever it could find purchase.  She beat against its thick body in panic, the envelope almost forgotten in her clenched fist, and it worried at her wrist like a dog, the teeth digging deeper and deeper into flesh towards bone.

Rolling to her side, she released her grip on the envelope a little, half dumping, half pounding the goblin with red, glittering dust, drew the magic from within herself and through gritted teeth released it in a resonating word of command.  “Bind!”  It was not needed, the spell in the powder was already primed, but she was in pain and wanted to be sure it worked.

The creature froze in place, her wrist still clamped between its jaws.  Discolored teeth remained imbedded in fabric and flesh, but at least it had stopped chewing at the wound.  Winter tried in vain to breathe without smelling.  Wherever the little goblin had come from, it stank, and fear mixed with exertion did not help with the odor.  Her own pain and adrenaline were not helping, and she fought down a wave of nausea.  Grunting with hurt at the jostling, Winter jerked her bag out from beneath her hip and with one hand and her teeth uncorked a small blue bottle.  The acrid smell made her nostrils sting.  The goblin apparently smelled it, too, because it began to drool heavily in fear on Winter’s hand and arm.  She upended the bottle, the thick liquid soaking into the beast’s matted fur, and again produced a voice resonant with magical command.  “Banish!”  Again, the magic in the potion was already primed, but sometimes a little overkill did not hurt.

With a shrill keen and a cloud of noxious smoke the goblin vanished, the release of its weight and jaws painful in itself.  Winter rolled carefully up onto her knees, ignoring with limited success the way her torn stockings neatly wicked up the freezing moisture from the plush lawn to chill her skin.  Without teeth to block up the wound, blood welled up from the torn flesh, black in the suburban twilight, and began to run in rivulets down her hand.

She knelt there quietly, watching the first glittering drop fall silently onto the grass, and sluggishly fought back the roaring rush of exhaustion in her ears.  Darkness crept along the edges of her vision, and she shrugged her injured arm carefully out of her coat sleeve and knelt in the chill in just her long dress and her sweater, which she slipped off to bind about her hurt wrist.  It felt so good, just being still.  Just for a few more minutes.  She remained kneeling in the street-lit yard, watching the weave soak up blood and slime, and found herself fighting back sudden frustrated tears as the pain wound its way to her brain past the kinder adrenaline.  Her older sisters Sorcha and Mirilyn – even her younger cousins – they were so much better at this than she was.  They were stronger, faster, less scatterbrained…  Her wrist throbbed with her pulse, still fast, and the smaller stinging scratches echoing across her face, chest, and arms made her wish she could kick the evil little thing just a few more times.  Sorcha had once taken on an entire pack of hell-hounds that threatened her day-camp, for heaven’s sake.  Granted, Grandfather and Mirilyn had had to rescue her, but they had all three come home in triumph.  A single nasty little goblin would have been no match.  What was she doing wrong?

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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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A Snippet From Our WIP, Faerie Rising

Lana’s mind wandered back to Summer’s Get as she carried the jar back to bed.  What was he doing visiting that strung-out wizard?  She hadn’t used to be so bad, but up until a few months ago there had also been a few more of them running around.  She had heard though the rumor mill that the others had been torn apart by something.

Oh well.  Not her town, not her problem.

Her problem was working on his second joint, his eyes half-lidded.  Maybe it was his third.  It took a lot to mellow out a sidhe as strong as him. 

She did not believe in coincidence.  If Summer’s Get was next door, it involved Senan.  Of that she was certain.  What she was not certain of was how much time it left her.  She had screwed around with this twit for far too long, but she had had to be so careful, and she was dancing on this wire with no net.  One misstep and the fall would kill her.

“Close to what?”

Even with her acute hearing, Lana barely heard his slurred words.  Instincts honed by years of intrigues riveted on those three syllables, and she slid up beside him on the bed.  “What do you mean?” she asked softly, tracing her nails over his skin.

Senan closed his eyes in pleasure and exhaled smoke.  He slurred something incoherent.  His eyes did not reopen.

Lana rocked herself up on one knee and straddled his waist, nails digging in harder.  “Jeremy, baby.  Talk to me.”

The hand with the smoking joint lowered to the bed and a small snore trickled from his lips.  Shit.  Ordinarily this would be her cue to put out the joint, pick up her paperback, and order sushi in.  In the morning she would gush about what fantastic sex they’d had.  Since she couldn’t feed on him without Prince Midhir sensing it, she preferred it this way.  Imagine, a succubus choosing fiction over fornication – but he just sucked that much in bed. 

She frowned down at his pretty, snoring face, hands on hips, and considered her options.  On one hand, her book was getting to a good part.  On the other hand… screw it, something told her she really needed to know what the idiot was talking about.  She knew from months of dating that Senan plus pot equaled taking forever to wake back up, and she so did not feel like spending the next forty-five minutes coaxing him to alertness.  There were much more direct approaches.  A smile stretched her mouth, and she knew it was neither sweet nor inviting.  After all, a rare opportunity to mess with the idiot was really not something she wanted to pass up.

She plucked the joint from his slack fingers, set it in the ash tray before it burnt a hole in her bed spread, and then bit his nipple just this side of bleeding.

Senan woke up with a scream like a stepped-on cat.  “Jesus, bitch!”  His voice was still slurred, but he was definitely awake.  He clasped both hands protectively over his left pectoral, propped up awkwardly on one elbow.

Lana tossed her hair and laughed.  “Aw!  Did I bite too hard, baby?”

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Kian, the Glorious Dawn

Kian, the Glorious Dawn, earned his name in childhood when it became obvious that he had inherited his mother’s famous beauty.

Edaine of the Waters was the most beautiful sidhe woman of her age.  She was courted by all of the Sons of Dagda, among the richest and most powerful princes of Faerie, but at long last she gave her heart to Prince Eoin, the youngest son.  Eoin was neither particularly rich nor powerful, but he was kind and loving, and his gentleness won Edaine’s love.  They were married and in time Edaine gave birth to a son, Kian.  Soon after the boy’s birth, Eoin fell in battle and rather than live without her love, Edaine chose to fade into mist and memory.  Kian, now an orphan, was taken in by his uncle, King Anluan, who had been one of Edaine’s most ardent suitors, even though he already had a Queen.

Anluan made Kian companion to his own son, Prince Senan, but the boys were raised very differently.  Kian was taught dance, music, and poetry while Senan was taught swordplay and politics.  Rumors abounded that Anluan was grooming Kian to take Edaine’s place in his affections.

When Kian was twelve, Prince Midhir the Proud came to Anluan’s court.  Angry at a perceived slight, Midhir kidnapped both of the young princes.  Senan he took to raise as his own, but Kian was taken to strike at Anluan.  Midhir brutalized and violated young Kian, and then left him for dead in the wilds of Faerie. 

Kian was found by a wandering half-sidhe knight named Etienne.  Etienne, upon learning that Kian’s father was Prince Eoin, a kind figure from Etienne’s own past, swore to protect the young prince and nursed him back to health.  They travelled Faerie for many years together, and finally came to the Mortal Realm where they encountered a group of therian wolves who were members of a medieval recreation group.  The two sidhe were welcomed into this pack and lived among them for a year.

Etienne and Kendrick, the King of the wolf pack, taught Kian many of the things his royal uncle had omitted from his education.  Together, they taught him swordplay, horsemanship, strategy, and warfare.  Kian and Etienne were content among the wolves and would have happily stayed among them much longer if fate had not intervened in the form of a magazine article about a computer securities magnate who bore the face of Kian’s nightmares.  This was the man who had kidnapped him and at his side was Kian’s young friend Prince Senan, who Kian had thought was dead.  Kian convinced Etienne that they must rescue his childhood friend.

Upon reaching Seahaven, Washington, Kian and Etienne realize that they are going to need more help to get Senan out of the heavily guarded Moore Computer Securities.  They seek out the help of a wizard who Etienne had befriended during the Second World War, only to find that he and his extended family are almost all gone.  The only help left is one wizard girl, barely older than Kian, and she has problems of her own.  But even so, she offers help and place to rest, even as danger threatens from all sides…

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Etienne Knight

Etienne is a faerie knight, half sidhe and half human – but he will be the first to say he is no hero.

His armor is as tarnished as his honor, and he has as little use for one as he does the other.  He has been called many things – half-breed filth, Summer’s Get, crazy.  He has wandered the realms as an outcast for centuries, hiring on as a mercenary or as a blacksmith wherever there was work to be found and often going hungry.  He finds companionship among others who lived on the fringes of society, sometimes for a day or even two, mostly only in the quiet of the night.  He usually prefers to be alone.

But he had not always been this way.  Once when he was young he accidentally wandered into the Mortal Realm for the first time, and there he met a peasant’s daughter named Bess at a harvest festival.  That night she came to him and told him she would be his wife if he would have her.  He stayed with her, loved her, walked through the nights with crying babies and worked the days at a blazing forge.  And when he lost her too soon to plague, when he was driven from the village by fear and superstition, he was forced to return to Faerie, to the place of his birth, lost and suffering from a broken heart.

Etienne’s mortal wife never knew his scars.

There was no welcome waiting for his return.  But there were enemies.  He was tortured over days as spell glyphs were carved over and over into his flesh, into every exposed inch of skin until his tormenters were certain they would scar irrevocably.  And then they discarded him without activating the magic in the glyphs, a display of their contempt.  Etienne had one single friend, a prince of little power but who had a reputation for making interesting friends.  This prince was able to smuggle Etienne away and to convince his friends the dwarves to lay runic brands over the new scars to negate their magic.  It was as excruciating as the original cutting, but it was pain Etienne accepted willingly.

He never went home again.

Instead he began wandering, sometimes through Faerie, sometimes through the Mortal Realm.  As a half-breed he was eternally at a disadvantage against full-blooded sidhe who were faster and stronger, harder to kill.  Even as the centuries passed and he gained experience in combat, when faced with equal skill those things could be the deciding factor that ended in his death.  It was known that he was friendless and relatively weak, and there were many among the sidhe who would welcome his passing.  Etienne mastered jumping between realms, living on the borders, staying out of sight and out of the way, but even then it seemed to be only a matter of time before his luck wore out.  He needed an advantage.

Finally he found it in mortal ingenuity.

His human blood had granted him immunity to Cold Iron, and Etienne had always held a love and fascination for blacksmithing and mechanics.  He had encountered early firearms during his various sojourns in the Mortal Realm, but while they had been interesting to him, as weapons against preternatural opponents they were useless – an opinion shared by the rest of the preternatural world.  They were simply not powerful enough.  But then the .45 revolver was invented, and Etienne knew he had finally found something with potential.  But as a mortal weapon it still was not enough.  A revolver could do much more damage than a flintlock pistol, but it still would not do enough to do more than anger a sidhe, the real threats to his survival.  He needed more – much more.

He turned again to the dwarves.

In exchange for service, the exact terms of which he does not speak of, they forged for Etienne a named weapon – the revolver Agmundr, The Gift of Terror.  They also created twelve enchanted bullets that would kill any sidhe dealt a fatal wound and a gun rig that would give him speed and strength as if he was full-blooded.  It gave him the ability to kill at range, to negate his relative mortal frailty.  Finally he could force those who hunted him for amusement to leave him in peace.  He killed the next three sidhe lords to face him.

The rest learned to give him a wide berth.

And Etienne was finally content to roam the worlds, to be left alone.  And that was what he did.  Until one day when Fate intervened in his life, and he found a young sidhe boy, little more than a child, who had been brutalized, violated, and left for dead.  Against his better judgment Etienne took the child away with him and nursed him back to health, even after discovering that the boy’s attacker had been one of the most powerful princes in all of Faerie.  The knowledge only made him run faster and further with the boy.   When the boy recovered enough to talk, he told Etienne a tale that changed his life.  His name was Kian and he was a prince’s companion.  He and that prince had been kidnapped, and the prince murdered before his eyes.  And then young Kian revealed that his own parents were dead and his guardian was the prince’s father – and his own father was the very same powerless prince who so long ago had been Etienne’s only friend.  Etienne knew then that he would do anything to protect this boy, and after years of wandering the lonely places finally took him to the Mortal Realm to ensure his safety.

The Mortal Realm has brought with it challenges and discoveries if its own.  As Etienne struggles to survive in the modern world and teach his friend’s son what it means to be a faerie prince in his own right, he discovers that the kidnapper – since turned fugitive – has resurfaced in the Mortal Realm.  This would be enough to drive Etienne back to Faerie, except that he and Kian discover Kian’s childhood friend is still alive and still being held by their attacker.  Now at Kian’s urging Etienne has traveled across North America to the city of Seahaven, Washington, in a quest to rescue the kidnapped prince.

Once in the city Etienne realizes he needs help and goes in search of an old friend, but instead finds a young wizard girl who herself needs rescuing…

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Winter Mulcahy

This is not the life that Winter Mulcahy ordered.

There was once a time in her home city of Seahaven, WA, when people said you couldn’t swing your arm without smacking a Mulcahy wizard.  The huge Mulcahy family was the backbone of law and order in this city, famous for having the largest per-capita preternatural population of any city in the world.  They alone stood between the various groups of vampires, shape-shifting therian, and other magical beings and the chaos that factional fighting would bring.

But those days are long past.

Throughout her young life, Winter’s extensive family was killed off in ones and twos, sometimes in whole family groups, until the other wizards of the world began whispering of curses and left the survivors to face their fate in isolation.  Eccentric and fiercely independent, these defenders of the innocent hoped the door hit the other wizard Houses on the butt on their way out, and determined to discover the source of their curse even as they held their city together.

They never did.

Finally all that are left are Winter and her father, Colin, who holds the position of the Mulcahy, the head of the family and neutral arbiter of Seahaven.  Colin, though, has not left Mulcahy House in twenty years, and is crippled by depression following first the abandonment by his Faerie wife and then the repeated hammer blows of the deaths of his loved ones.

And so Winter stands alone.  The vampires and the therian lions are her friends, and help her when she allows it, but as wizard of the city she cannot afford to show any group too much favor, to lean too hard on anyone’s support.  She must stand strong; a lone, slender pillar supporting the crushing weight of a city full of responsibility.  She is a physician, a Potions Master, a teacher… but not a fighter.  Not a combat wizard.  Her strength lies in her compassion and intelligence, not in her martial skills, but she lives in a world where viciousness and cunning are often more highly valued than honor or valor and kindness is a weakness.  She holds power over this fractious population by force of habit, on the memory of the threat a House full of wizards once wielded.

And habits are made to be broken.

Winter is cracking under the pressure.  To cope, she has taken to self-medicating, as many physicians do – she relies more and more on magical stimulants to force her exhausted body through endless days of medical emergencies, political crises and magical calamities, then doses herself to sleep when she comes dragging in late at night to both counter-act the stimulants and the nightmares a lifetime of violent death and funerals has left behind.  The stimulants are burning her away from the inside out, even as they give her the ability to meet each day’s challenges.  She can see the symptoms in her own body, and the people around her are beginning to notice something is wrong, but she cannot stop.  A new word has wormed its way into her mind – “addiction.”  She is no fool, she knows the dangerous road she travels, but she sees few choices.  It’s either rise to the challenge and feed this addiction, feed it with her health and sanity, or fall and let the city burn.

And then, one day, two lords of Faerie come into her clinic, seeking her help…

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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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