Excerpt - Agent Of Artifice
She smiled at me and started to say something when the world seemed to
explode. Bright flashes filled the alley, reflecting off old brick walls and the glass and metal of the
car. The sound of gunfire hammered at us. The car's windshields shattered. I dropped to the
floor, pulling Liesl after me. The shooting stopped for a heartbeat. I was breathing hard, scared to
"Hang on!" the driver yelled. The car backed up, tires squealing. The
car lurched as it bounced off the walls of the alley. I think the driver was steering without looking,
ducking the gunfire that had resumed.
I could hear bullets impacting the front of the car. A loud explosion and
the car jerking hard indicated that a tire had been shot out.
The car bounced left and stopped in the street. But this put my side of the
car facing the danger. I scrambled away from the door in pure fear. Liesl tried to stop me from
crawling over her.
The glass in the windows above us shattered and I felt a thump in my thigh as if
someone had hit me there very hard with a closed fist. The car lurched forward and the shooting
stopped. I looked up. The warrior was driving the car down a street at breakneck speeds. He had
no headlights--presumably they'd been shot out--and I could hear one of the front tires flopping against the
"What the hell?" I screamed.
"Louis is hurt," the warrior said.
"Damn, so am I." I had touched my leg and my hand came away
"Heal yourself," Liesl ordered me without feeling. She leaned forward.
"How is he?"
"Not good. Unconscious."
She said a very bad word in the ancient language.
I put my hand on my leg and ran a healing spell. The pain and bleeding
stopped, but I imagined I could feel the bullet inside me.
"Who were they?" she asked.
"I don?t know," the driver replied. "I couldn't see them. They had
"Are you hurt?" Liesl asked him. I noticed the Valkyrie was better in
emergencies than I was. I felt shame at that.
"Not really," he replied, jerking the steering wheel. I got the idea the car
was hard to control. I could smell hot odors that I thought were coming from the damaged engine.
"You've been shot!" Liesl exclaimed.
"I'm fine!" the warrior insisted.
"We need to get Louis to a hospital," I said, trying to be helpful.
"Where the hell do you think I'm going?" the driver yelled.
"Look out!" Liesl screamed, pointing at a truck coming into our path, barely
visible by the neon lights of a nearby bar.
The tires squealed, but I'm sure having one shot out didn't help. The car
slid sideways and its front left corner slammed into the side of the truck with a sound of smashing violence as
metal must have been ripping apart. We all were flung forward. The warrior went out the opening where
the left windshield should have been. I flew over the back of the seat, slammed my head into the hard
steering wheel, and passed out--but not before experiencing the worst pain I'd ever felt. Oblivion was a
I woke up with Liesl pulling me away from the wreckage. A crowd was
gathering. She laid me down, roughly dropping my shoulders on the concrete sidewalk, in the shadow of a dark
"Louis?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. Dead, I think," she said softly.
"Dead." The way she said it indicated to me I didn't want to confirm that
"Should we go back for Louis?"
She nodded her head. "Yes, I will." She started walking away.
From my angle, on the ground, I could see her legs were bloody, staining her petticoat crimson, and her dress was
A car zoomed up, scattering the rubberneckers, and squealed to a stop. Three
men jumped out, all Cuban but wearing suits and hats like American mobsters. All carried large guns,
presumably the "automatic weapons" that were fired in the alley. The crowd evaporated in screams. Liesl
pointed at the men and one blew apart like a pile of dry leaves before a hurricane, his gun clattering to the
pavement. The other two fired at her, their guns spitting a staccato of death, flashing strobe lights of
Liesl had her protection spell up early enough and the bullets ricocheted off her
harmlessly, hitting and pock-marking the walls of the buildings around us. But she couldn't attack the men
while the spell was up. They stopped firing. "Where is he?" one asked. I could see even at this
distance his bushy mustache and eyebrows.
I had painfully pulled myself to my feet. My head hurt and my body wasn't
cooperating with it; I had too many injuries to know where to start healing.
"Who are you to ask me questions?" she demanded, her powerful voice filling the
street. She was not hiding from them what she was and her power.
I reached for my talisman and pointed a fear spell at the men. It seemed to
be all I could do.
"Check the car," Bushy said.
The other one, thinner and looking young, moved to the vehicle but didn't take his
eyes from Liesl. When he was close enough, he glanced in. "The chardo meta's in there." He must
have meant Louis.
Bushy looked at Liesl. "Where's the other one? The other
"Dead," she said.
He looked at her questioningly. I changed to a persuasion spell, making him
"The crash," she said.
"I need to see the body."
Liesl must have detected what I was doing. "You don't need to see the
He still looked at her, his face red in the neon light, giving him a sinister
look. The same light made his gun, still pointed at her, look bloodied and dangerous. His expression
was uncertain. I increased the power of the spell.
"We don't need to see the body."
"Yes we do," Skinny said. Damn, I'd left him out of the spell.
"The police will be here soon," Liesl said. "This is a country in the middle
of a civil war. Gunfire in the capital should bring half the army down on you."
I modulated the spell, even though in my weakened state the effort was about to
make me pass out: fear and persuasion mixed.
"Listen," Bushy said, "I know a little bit about meta. Your spell will
eventually wear out and then we'll kill you. And I know you can't move and keep that spell on. So we'll
just wait. I don't think we have to worry about the police."
I wondered what he meant by that, but didn't have time to think about it.
The persuasion and fear spells weren't working. I gathered what strength I had left, fingered my talisman,
and shot flame at them. It arced across the street reflecting orange off the cobblestones and buildings, and
splashed on the pavement in front of them. Damn, I didn't put enough distance into it. The men jumped
back from the flames and started looking for the source--that is, me.
Liesl took that opportunity to run.
She sprinted toward me and, passing, grabbed my arm.
"Thank you," she breathed, pulling me along.
I mumbled a reply and decided not to tell her that hadn't been my plan.
Excerpt - Hammer Of Thor
She must have been building up the spell as I was talking. The airbolt hit Fitz in
the chest and knocked him off his chair. He slammed into the wall and crumpled to the floor. From the angle of his
neck, it was obvious he was dead.
I scrambled for the katana talisman, still on the desk. But Reynolds beat me to
it, scooping it up and then stumbling backward on her high heels.
Sounding like a rain of exploding steel onto sheet metal, the machine gun fired
and a line of red stains appeared on Reynolds' white blouse as she was knocked backward against the wall. Most
people would have crumbled under the assault; she stood straighter and pointed at Harold, and he dropped the tommy
gun and curled up in a ball.
I'd seen that spell only once before, but I still recognized it. I didn't want to
Reynolds touched herself and the stains stopped growing. Black and I attacked her
simultaneously. Fire made a bright orange rainbow across the room and hit her full on the chest. It had no effect;
her protection spell was strong, helped, no doubt, by using the katana talisman.
The warrior from the hall burst in at that moment and pointed his weapon at Black
and me. "Stop!" he yelled.
"Shoot them, fool," Reynolds screamed.
Harold squawked, a sound to shatter small trees it seemed, and came across the
room, his talons cutting the carpet. He was a six-foot black bird with large eyes and obsidian talons and a yellow
hooked beak. Reynolds had turned him into a rukhkh. It would have been more merciful to kill him. Harold jumped,
talons out as he sailed through the air.
"NOOOO!" Reynolds wailed and pointed at Harold/rukhkh.
But it was too late; Harold landed on the other warrior. Blood sprayed from the
poor guy's chest and the talons cut deep. Harold's huge wings beat rapidly as he carved the warrior's flesh,
filling the room with a tornado of black feathers.
I stopped watching. Harold must have thought the other warrior was threatening his
mistress. How he missed Black's and my attacks I don't know. Perhaps in what was left of his mind, a gun was more
of a threat than anything else.
Reynolds' plan became clear. She tore off her skirt, leaving her in girdle,
stockings, and high heels only from the waist down. She put her hands against the outer wall and it fell away. Her
blouse was darkening as her protection spell weakened.
Harold dropped the string of bowels in his beak, squawked even louder, ran across the
room shredding more carpet, and jumped out the opening. Just then Reynolds' blouse caught fire and she jumped out
the gaping hole herself. A few moments later, with Reynolds straddling his back and her blouse simply missing,
Harold flew down the street, quickly being obscured by the fog.
I said a very bad oath in the ancient language. "I need a rukhkh!" I called out
needlessly. And the warrior, who was dead in a very large puddle of blood, was the last lesser I could
"No," Black said, "you don't."
"What do you mean?" I asked, looking at him. Was this a trick?
He bent down and started pulling up the ripped carpet. "Look in Harold's clothes;
he might have had a knife," Black said.
Harold's suit was a pile of shredded cloth where he'd been transmogrified. I dug
through them and pulled out a pocketknife. "Here." I tossed it to Black.
He caught the knife, opened it, and started cutting. "Get Fitz's talisman; you'll
need a strong one. I saw what the samurai talisman can do."
I went to Fitz's body and pulled a pebble out of his pocket. It had scratches in
it that looked as if they'd been made five minutes ago. But by the spelling and grammar I could tell it had been
written before or just after Atlantis sank. It was very powerful. Almost a match for the katana.
By then Black had a large enough piece of carpet cut for me to sit on. He even
elevated it off the floor. I jumped on it.
"I thought it was you," I said, sitting on the ripped and bloody floating carpet.
Black pointed out the hole in the wall: "Get her!"
I flew the carpet out the hole and went in the general direction Reynolds had
gone. But I realized that was foolish. I decided I had only one hope of finding her. I went up and broke through
The sky above the fog was crystal clear blue, and the fog was an intense white;
the brilliance dazzled me. I surveyed the white horizon. It almost looked like a flat snowy plain from my childhood
home. North, I could see the orange tops of the towers on the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bay Bridge towers were
nubbins in the distance to the east. The Russ Building and the Pacific Telephone Building were just poking out of
the fog, the mist swirling around their tops. To the south were Mount Sutro, Mount Davidson, and the hill for Buena
Vista Park. I didn't know whether it had a name.
I had expected to see Reynolds as a speck in the distance, fleeing for her life.
But I didn't see her at all, meaning she was still under the fog bank. I moved slowly in the last direction I had
seen her go. I could see the tops of buildings under the fog, but not the street.
Off to my right, not very far away, I saw the fog flowing over an obstacle. I
thought it was a building just under the surface, but the object moved. I came in closer and, just as I could tell
it was a rukhkh perched on a building, I jerked the carpet away as Harold and Reynolds shot out of the fog. While
trying to avoid the bird's talons and beak, I also managed to miss Reynolds' lightning bolt.
I swung the carpet around in time to see Reynolds duck into the fog again. I
chased her, diving into the cold mist. I could still see her. She looked over her shoulder and sprayed fire at me
that seemed to sizzle as it cut through the fog. I swerved the carpet to miss it and heard small explosions behind
me as the fire hit buildings.
The advantage I had over Reynolds was that the carpet didn't get tired, as the
rukhkh eventually would. However, as I tired, I wouldn't be able to keep the carpet going. So the more spells I
shot at her, the faster I'd lose my ability to chase her. However, she could spell so much she'd pass out, and
Harold would keep flying until he tuckered out.
I had to decide how I was going to fight her.
Reynolds was cutting around buildings, trying to lose me. I saw people on the
street pointing up at us as we flew overhead. I decided Reynolds must be uncomfortably cold with her shoulders and
arms bare, and legs protected only by thin silk stockings.
Reynolds ducked around the Russ Building. I followed, going too fast. Harold was
hovering there and facing me. His talons cut painfully into my chest and knocked me off the carpet. I hung for a
long, agonizing moment from those claws. Then, as my flesh ripped, I fell, watching my blood drip from the black
hooks after me.
See S. Evan Townsend read this excerpt
(and a bit more) here.
Excerpt - Rock Killer
DeWite moved into the observation room and Prince followed.
The room looked almost exactly like a bar since it was a VIP lounge for watching
ships land and take off. A large window looked over the shipyard, where various types of spacecraft were
resting on the lunar dust. The window, made of Crysteel, invented by SRI's orbital laboratories, began about
half a meter from the floor and extended to the ceiling and was about five meters wide. Crysteel, made in a
factory in Earth orbit one atom at a time, was almost as strong as aluminum. Its one weakness was a very high
index of refraction due to tightly packed oxygen atoms. It made great lenses but was not good for use where a
clear view was needed such as spaceship windows and pressure suit helmets. But the picture window in the
lounge would have been impractical without the Crysteel.
Four pressure-suited figures were moving across the plain. The suits were
not SRI issue and they were carrying submachine guns. DeWite recognized them as a South African made 9
millimeter caseless that were favored by criminals who bought them on the black market.
One, carrying a 40-millimeter recoilless rifle, knelt just a few meters from the
window and aimed. Fire shot out of the rear of the weapon, dying almost immediately in the airless
environment. A flame licked a small intra-lunar shuttle followed by an explosion. The ship's skin
crumpled and it folded in on itself in a slow, macabre death dance. An explosion marked the rupture of the
fuel tanks. Fire burned until the oxygen ran out.
"Goddamnit!" DeWite exploded. "We need to get to the airlock."
Just then one of the four figures outside noticed the two Security guards.
He tapped the others on their shoulders and pointed. The other three turned and again the recoilless rifle
spat a fleeting flame. DeWite dived behind the bar?an easy task in the low gravity. The window exploded
inward. Prince was thrown against the rear wall, his body shattered by the impact. Then the window
exploded outward as the room decompressed. Prince's body was slammed against the bottom of the window and
sucked out into the harsh sunlight.
DeWite heard the emergency door slam shut locking him in the room. He knew
it would never open until the pressure in the room equalized with the pressure in the hall.
He stood, aimed his shotgun, braced his leg behind to compensate for the low
gravity, and fired. He was surprised he heard it at all. Must still be a little air in the room, some
part of him thought.
The figure with the recoilless rifle was thrown back and blood ejaculated from its
torn body. It was freeze-dried before it hit the lunar plain. The remaining figures turned with their
weapons firing. DeWite barely heard the bullets hitting the wall behind him. His ears felt as if they
were going to explode. He screamed, not in fear, but to empty his lungs to prolong his already forfeit life a
few more seconds.
Pump, FIRE, Pump, FIRE, Pump was DeWite's whole existence. Another figure
crumpled, spouting blood. Then the bullets ripped into DeWite. Blood flowed like a fire hose.
FIRE?DeWite could no longer stand, even in one-sixth gravity. He sank to the floor and died in a puddle
of his blood that was boiling and freezing simultaneously.
Excerpt - Book Of Death
I'd never seen this type of meta before.
At least I assumed that's what it was, as the wooden man inexorably walked toward me with a creak of moving
wood, like tree branches in a heavy wind. It was raising its arms for another blow so I stepped
back and shot an airbolt at it. I heard wood crack, but that didn't stop it. It swung again and its
wooden fist pounded into my face, knocking me down and back on the sidewalk. Somewhere I heard screams and
yells. A guy sitting on the sidewalk, his back to a storefront, muttered, "Wow, bad trip, man."
The Indian was bending over, its face expressionless except
for the painted-on peace sign as it seemed to prepare for another attack. I shot fire at it, assuming
old dry wood would ignite easily, and it did: the hippie dress went up in flames, and now the monster was
a burning mass, still attacking me. It smacked me again with a flaming arm and I suffered from both
the impact and the burns. Nearly screaming, I scrambled away on hands and knees. I don't think
I'd ever been that scared. Still it came, oblivious to the fact it was on fire.
A motorcycle cop I hadn't noticed jumped off his bike, pulled his service revolver, and shot it into the
Indian with six cracks of bullets being fired. It had no effect other than sending burning splinters of wood
flying. The cop suddenly looked frightened, and was gripping his billy club but taking no further action.
People were screaming loudly now. I looked around, looking for an escape. If
I could teleport away I might escape, but I could see no clear place to teleport to. Briefly I wondered what
happened to Ernestine and if she were safe. I didn't sense the presence of another adept, but I didn't
really have the ability to be quiet enough to do so. I just hoped she was okay.
burning Indian smacked me again, hard, in the chest and I felt as if my feet left the ground as I
was knocked into a car's side. I heard and felt sheet metal crumple and knew I'd hit the car
hard. My vision was going gray. But I realized my shirt was on fire and that kept me from passing out;
if I passed out I was probably dead. I pulled water from the air to douse the fire, but
this took time and the Indian was on me again, even though it was moving very slowly.
I wondered if
I'd survive until the wooden Indian had been consumed by the flames. It hit me again, knocking me to
the sidewalk. There was an unpleasant smell and I realized my hair was burning. I used my bare hand to pat
out the flames. This gave the Indian time to hit me again, hard. It almost felt as if I
flew through the air and was slapped painfully to the sidewalk, the Indian still lumbering toward me.
In desperation I shot another airbolt at it. It must have been
on the verge of falling apart because that hit blew it into flaming pieces that scattered over the street
and also hit me, burning my skin or singeing my clothes. But it was no longer attacking.