I write dark things...
After months of working on a book, typing out line after line, editing round after round, blah blah blah, there’s something so wonderfully visceral and real when you finally see the finished cover image staring back at you. Somehow, it makes it more ‘book like’. Screw those 90k+ words you put into it, the image means it’s ‘happening’!
Feel free to Oooohhh and Aaaahhh. And if you don’t adore it, well feel free to blow me, cause I’m in lurve with it. Hahah!
Here’s the wee marketing snippet for you: Meriwether Storm discovered the grisly remains of her parents on their living room floor when she was only fourteen, the result of a failed daemon summoning. Meri immediately swore vengeance on the daemon who’d killed her parents, but there was only one problem–she had no idea which one had committed the atrocity. Before their untimely deaths her parents had trained her intensively in the arts, and Meri used her skills to follow in their footsteps, ever seeking the daemon’s name. Now, despite her years of searching, she’s no closer to the truth and her time is running out. Will she accept a deal from a daemon if it means finally learning the truth? When retribution is the only thing that drives you, how much are you willing to sacrifice before you lose yourself to the cause?
Do you use Goodreads? Then please click here and add it to your to read list now! Yes! NOW!!! (thank you!)
And oh yeah, I promised you a teaser too, didn’t I? Indeedly! Here you go, the first scene from the book. Hold on to your seats, it’s going to get a little messy.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Content: Contains graphic violence, recommended for readers 14+ If you use Goodreads please consider adding this to your to-read list please so you’ll be among the first to know when it releases. Thanks a bundle!
* * *
Meri coughed as the summoner heaped yet another handful of cinquefoil onto the brazier. She pulled her cowl lower, not wanting to be recognized. Her employer had hired her to oversee two daemon invocations this week. At the first one, she had been a mere bystander to an uneventful and failed attempt. Meri wondered how her role would play out this evening and hoped she wasn’t in for yet another snooze-fest.
Only years of practice and rigorous training saved Meri from laughing out loud, as Reverend George coughed through the required chants. She recognized the words meant to cleanse and ward the space, but without the proper consistency of intonation–which he lacked–they held little force. He continued chanting away as he laid out a line of mostly even sea salt along the ground. The attendees’ faces she could make out through the shadowy fog held undeniable tension and fear–not exactly a show of faith in the summoner’s skills, or perhaps they rightly feared the ritual’s intended product.
“Amateur,” Meri whispered under her breath. Reverend George was an abject example of ‘you get what you pay for’. Sure, they lived in daemon-infested Denver and this was just another typical abandoned hovel infested with mold and rats as the backdrop for this pathetic summoning. There were plenty enough such locations in the economically depressed city and enough desperate souls willing to risk a new career, especially one that paid top dollar. A middle-aged man of mulatto heritage, his hair and long beard held equal parts feathers and mud. His flamboyant, long-sleeved, velvet, purple jacket and alligator boots lent him an air of eccentricity. Meri assumed people, maybe the same people who crowded the room, mistook these elements as a sign of power. Plus she’d heard he worked for reasonable prices. What a deal.
Not exactly a selling point when the creature being summoned might end up eating you for dinner. But heck, he’d made it this far, right? So let’s fire up that brazier! A few words mentioned on the street guaranteed you an audience of lookie loo’s, all the better to spread your reputation. Assuming, of course, you lived through the night.
Reverend George finished warding the space and held up his hands to those in attendance. “If you have doubts or fear that your mind can’t handle what you’re about to see, then leave now!” he shouted. Everyone stood still, waiting to see if anyone would bolt. No one did.
He walked into the center of the ring of salt and knelt. Dramatically, he tore open his jacket and picked up a consecrated ceremonial blade from the altar before him. Despite his exposed flesh, not a speck of daemon ink was in evidence. Definitely a novice.
“Engetheus, daemon of rage and retribution, I invoke thee!” Reverend George took the blade and sliced across his abdomen above the liver. A trickle of blood ran freely across unmarked skin. Yup, he was new to this business, thought Meri. “I offer you my flesh offering in kind, and command you to rise up and take form!” he shouted.
Meri waited and listened to the Reverend repeat the chant, over and over, until she felt a familiar tingle in her liver as a swirling vapor cloud wafted from the floor. She smiled then, knowing things were about to get interesting and her employer’s fee would be well spent.
The chanting Reverend George’s eyes were closed, so he missed the emergence of Engetheus. Gasps and shrieks issued from the onlookers as they beheld all seven feet of Engetheus’ bright red muscular form, not counting the jet black horns which rose another foot. His eyes were black as coal, and his long sharp fangs matched the gleaming horns. If the crowd was expecting rage personified to look like a bunny rabbit, they’d just gotten an education. Only the bravest resisted fleeing the hovel and everyone but Meri took a few steps back.
Reverend George stopped his chanting and gazed up at the beast, fear evident in his expression. Meri sighed and watched him stand up in front of the rage daemon. This was why she never knelt at a summoning, even after standing the rage daemon still towered over him, reemphasizing the inherent lack of power balance.
“I am summoned,” Engetheus rumbled. “But to what end?” By the glint in his eyes, Meri imagined he had a long list of his own vengeance targets.
“I have called you forth to exact retribution upon Harold E. Fields,” replied Reverend George. He pulled from his jacket pocket a small bag, and held it out with a shaking hand. “This holds his hair, and will guide you to him.”
Engetheus snatched the bag and took a long whiff, and then tossed the bag aside. “Yes, I have met this one. Finding him again is no challenge.”
Considering that Mr. Fields had hired Meri to attend this summoning, allowing the rage daemon to hunt down her employer wasn’t going to be happening.
“What form of retribution is required?”
“Death to him and any kin abiding with him. The form is of your choosing.” The Reverend replied.
“That is to my liking, summoner. But first, payment is required.” A smile spread across Engetheus’ face, revealing even more sharp, black teeth. His thick, black tongue snaked across his teeth; he was eager for his due.
Reverend George took a small bowl from the altar, and cut his abdomen again, taking care to collect the blood in the bowl. He held the bowl out to the daemon. “Accept this blood from my liver, to satiate your hunger.”
At this, both Engetheus and Meri chuckled. Reverend George hadn’t done his homework.
Engetheus slapped the bowl from the Reverend’s hands. “That is not a fitting payment. You will give me what I require.” The daemon moved with lightning speed, knocking the man to the floor. Engetheus crouched over him and raised his fangs over his liver. The few remaining onlookers fled, not wanting to watch or be next in line for the daemon’s appetite.
“Engetheus, hold!” Meri commanded. She dropped the cowl from her cloak and stepped forward, tracing the pattern of Engetheus daemon-ink under her clothes. An answering fire lit in the daemon’s eyes.
The daemon roared, now unable to move any closer to the errant Reverend. His black eyes turned to stare her down, but he didn’t back off from his intended prey. Meri felt her liver burn in reflection of the daemon’s emotions, a visceral reminder of their prior engagements.
“I smelled you, summoner. I assumed you were just here for the show. What gives?” asked the daemon.
“Bound once, bound always, rage-bearer. I’m here to modify your orders.” Meri answered.
“No, you can’t do that!” said Reverend George. “I summoned him!”
“Yes, and you were doing so well, sport.” Meri said. “Unfortunately for you, Engetheus and I go way back. If you were a pro, you’d know not to invite anyone else to your summoning, to avoid just this potential conflict of interest for the daemon. Daemons will respond to whoever displays the most powerful hand. It’s called the A Priori Rule, not that it helps you now.”
“There’s no conflict for me,” Engetheus replied. Drool dripped down onto Reverend George’s chest, drawing a whimper from him. “Command me,” he deferred to Meri.
“First, you are to ignore the previous command to inflict retribution on Mr. Fields and his kin.”
“For what length of time?” Engetheus asked.
“Until I, and only I, lift the restriction,” Meri replied. “Can you determine the scent of the person who hired this summoner?”
Engetheus sneered. “Easily. Mr. Hodge.”
“I did not doubt you could. Secondly, you will hunt down the enemy of Mr. Fields, tear him limb from limb, and then feast upon him, as you will. You will leave his kin unharmed.”
Engetheus frowned, no doubt disappointed at having fewer targets to kill. “Done.”
“Third, when this task is complete, you will exit this dimension and return to your own, harming no others in your wake.” Meri said.
“As you command. Anything else?” Engetheus asked.
“One last thing. I feel this client would like some trophies. Bring me the standard ones when you’re done.”
Light flashed in Engetheus eyes and his muscles rippled across his torso. “You doubt me?”
Meri’s gaze drifted from the tips of Engetheus’ ebony horns, his cruelly curved fangs, his broad and stout red-skinned bulk, all the way to his black-clawed hands and feet.
“No, Engetheus, I don’t doubt for a moment your capacity. I simply wish to make a statement to a sub-standard and weak human, should he challenge me. Surely you can appreciate this?”
Engetheus bared Meri his full complement of fang. Meri supposed it was a smile. “I like your style, summoner. As you command.”
Their agreement bound, Meri steeled herself. “As to your payment,” she replied.
She picked up the bloodied bowl and gave it a quick rinse with sanctified water from the altar, simply because it was handy. Without a second thought, Meri shoved two fingers down her throat and then on cue, vomited into the bowl. She swished some water through her mouth and spat it out into the bowl as well. She turned to see a disgusted human gaze and a worshipful daemonic one.
“You see, Reverend, rage daemons hunger for our hate, and energetically we store hate in our liver. As our bodies cleanse, this negative energy is secreted as bile.” Meri handed the bowl to the crouching daemon. “All debts are paid?” she asked, hand still holding the bowl.
“Paid in full,” Engetheus replied with greedy gaze. “All shall be as you command.”
“Thank you for the lesson, Miss Meri,” Reverend George said.
Meri looked him in the eye, and felt no remorse. She listened to Engetheus consume her offering, and turned to leave.
“I guess I’ll be going now,” Reverend George said. Meri heard him trying to back his way out from under the massive daemon.
“There’s still the matter of your payment,” Engetheus replied.
“But you’re not taking commands from me anymore. I don’t owe you anything!”
The daemon’s laugher reminded her of rocks scraping together. “You summoned, you pay. Her payment doesn’t apply to our arrangement.”
“But, but, I can’t throw up easy like she can! Just give me a moment!”
“I’m not the patient type,” Engetheus replied.
Meri heard the tortured cries of Reverend George as his skin was torn asunder. He was no match for the powerful daemon he’d summoned and failed to bind. It was a risk each summoner faced, at every summoning. Meri stood in the doorway, unable to walk away. Instead she looked back over her shoulder and witnessed Engetheus eat the man’s liver bite by bloody bite. The Reverend refused to die quickly. Instead, he continued to whine fight the daemon ineffectually.
With every mouthful, Engetheus marking upon Meri’s flesh pulsed with invigorating life force. The connection wasn’t lost upon her. Nor, when the daemon swung his head in her direction and met her eyes, dark eyes blazing with hidden knowledge, was he.
Meri finally left the building when she heard the Reverend scream what must have been his death throes. She walked on, despite the growing awareness in her liver as more daemon ink bubbled up onto her skin. And deeper, as only summoners understood, under her skin, she felt her bile churn and her mood inflame. She could have bargained with the daemon for the man’s life, but there was only so great a payment she was willing to take on to any daemon. She had to preserve every inch of remaining bare skin and every ounce of sanity she had left.
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