Genre(s): new adult/romance/paranormal/urban fantasy/dystopian/post-apocalyptic/science fiction
A sinister magic is sweeping across Nash City...
To Fiona Moon, it’s just another day at work. And some days, well, they’re a helluva lot worse than others. As a member of the elite Black Blade Guard, Fiona is tasked with hunting down the most-dangerous Paranorm criminals. To find out who is kidnapping mages and sucking the life energy from their bodies, she has to work with the one man that embodies everything she despises.
Master Necromancer Ian Barroes, a rich professor of Necromantic Studies, wants only one thing in this world… Fiona.
They each hold secrets that could destroy them, but ones that could also be the key to destroying the evil Voodoo priest, Bokor. They must learn to trust each other and track down Bokor before more innocent lives are lost. When Fiona becomes a target of the evil madman, she is lured into his trap. Now, she and Ian have to fight for survival… and their very souls.
About The Paranorm World-
Two hundred years ago the world was very different. It was an age of technology and prosperity. There were more than 7 billion people on earth. Magic and paranormal beings were relegated to fiction and myth. In the Technological Age Year 2012 the Earth experienced a natural phenomena which we now call the Cataclysm. There was a polar shift in which the earths natural magnetic poles shifted. The polar shift caused a series of natural disasters that changed the landscape of the world.
In the years that followed 2012—Earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, and tsunamis pounded the world leaving devastation and death. Whole cities and even states were leveled by earthquakes and swallowed by the sea. The melting of the polar ice caps caused flooding.
Society collapsed. With major cities being leveled by disasters governments crumbled. Power plants and refineries were destroyed. The basic infrastructure of the country disintegrated. There was no longer any electricity, public water systems no longer worked. Food supplies dwindled as there was no longer enough gasoline for shipping. At first the government tried to keep order with police and military. But as more and more disasters destroyed major cities and even the capital of the United States, the government crumbled. With no government to pay or command them there was no longer an army or even police forces. Riots abounded, destroying as much property as the disasters.
Disasters killed more than half the population in less than a year. Over the next five decades famine, disease, and war killed millions more.
Humanities only chance for survival was reliant on those who had long ago become outcasts and myths. Humans who through natural evolution, genetics, or viruses had preternatural abilities.
In the ruins of the old civilization, a new one rose up. One that blends technology and magic. One where paranormal beings like mages, vampires and werebeasts live side by side with normal humans.
About the Author
Dark night forest against full moonIight pulled the cloak tighter in an attempt to protect myself from the wind and rain. With short, stumbling steps along the uneven road, I used the stick in my hand like a cane to avoid rocks, holes, and other obstacles. There was a full moon tonight, but the dense storm clouds hid its light. I’d tossed my useless lantern aside over an hour ago when I’d had to dismount my horse and lead him along the treacherous path.
Though I knew Mal could see better than I could, and that he had nerves of steel, the weather and pitch black was enough to send even the steadiest of equines into a tizzy. But I didn’t dare use magic to light our path so I trudged through the mud and grime, Mal following along reluctantly.
Lightning sliced the sky less than a second before thunder crashed. I hit the ground with a thud, knocked off my feet as Mal reared back, a shrill whinny voicing his dislike of the situation.
“Oh, come on, you big baby!” I shouted at the massive, black beast as I struggled to rise out of the slick mud. Stabbing my stick into the ground, I used it to leverage myself up. After a feeble attempt at wiping the grime from my hands onto my even filthier pants, I grabbed Mal’s lead. Pulling his head down, I ran my hand over his nose and put my lips close to his ear.
“It’s ok, Big Bad. I hate it out here too,” I soothed. “But we’ve got things to do and places to go. We can’t let a little rain get in our way.”
“The faster we get down this road and get this done, the faster we get somewhere dry with some nice, crunchy oats.”
Mal snorted again and nudged my shoulder as if trying to push me along.
“Okay, you big, bad baby.” I laughed. “You’ll do anything for food, won’t you? Let’s go.”
I turned and resumed my slow progress down the muddy road, Mal following behind. The rain began to let up. By the time we made it about another half a mile, the rain had gone completely and the moon was starting to peek out from behind the clouds—just in time for me to see a massive shape across the road about ten feet ahead.
“Stay here,” I whispered to Mal. Dropping his reins, I sloshed through the mud to inspect the tree. Not too big. On a dry day, I could pull it out alone. With the mud to contend with and the inability to use magic for fear of being discovered, it was a good thing I had Mal.
I returned to Mal and patted his neck. “Well, big boy, looks like it’s time for you to get to work. We are going to pull that little stick over there out of the road, so we don’t have to walk through the woods. Okay?” I said in a loud voice that could be heard over the wind and rain.
Mentally, I spoke to him, Be on the lookout. I don’t think the storm had anything to do with that tree.
Mal snorted acquiescence.
“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” I groused loudly as I dug through my saddlebag in search of the rope I always carried. “I should be at home in bed, not skulking along a dark road alone in a storm.”
“You’re right,” a deep voice intoned at my ear. “But since you are, it would be my pleasure to relieve you of some of your burden by taking your horse and any valuables you have hidden under that cloak.”
Shit! I folded my fingers around the stick I’d leaned against Mal’s side as I felt the point of a knife dig into the skin under my ear.
I turned my eyes to look at Mal. “You couldn’t have warned me?”
Mal snorted. While he could use our mental link to communicate with me, he seemed to think himself above it and only deigned to do so under the direst circumstances. Apparently, he didn’t feel this qualified.
“I don’t want to have to hurt you, so let go of that little stick,” the voice at my ear intoned menacingly.
A crack of laughter alerted me to another thief. “As if that little twig could do any damage in the hands of a little girl!”
Oh, so that was how it was going to be then? No problem. I could play that game. I let go of the stick, raised my hands above my head, and turned around slowly. “Okay. I’ll do whatever you want. Just, please, don’t hurt me,” I whined, my voice tremulous.
“That’s more like it!” Thug number one pulled the knife away from my neck with a lecherous grin. “Be a good girl and we won’t hurt you. Now, let’s see what you’ve got under that cloak, sweetie.”
I took quick stock. The first one was in front of me, the other behind him and to the left about six paces. There had to be more, though. I pasted on a naive smile. Slowly, I began to lower my arms as I opened my senses just enough to pull in enough energy to get a read on the immediate area. These two punks didn’t have any magic. Shifters, most likely. I could feel a fluctuation of energy coming from the woods. Someone was using power. I pulled in a little more energy as my hands reached the clasp of my cloak.
“I just have one question before I do,” I said. Silently, I asked, Come on, where are you hiding? I pulled a little more, stretching out threads around them like a web. There he was. Lurking behind a tree was a mage—low level from what I could tell. Time to make my move.
Thug one grinned. “What is that?”
I smiled sweetly as I began pulling more and more power, holding my hands out, side by side, palms out. “What took you guys so long to attack? I’ve been out here, trudging back and forth, for three hours.”
“Shit! She’s a mage!” a frantic voice called at almost the same instant I clapped my hands together and pushed forward, palms out, forcing a wave of energy outwards.
The thug in front of me flew back four feet, landing against a tree at the edge of the road, but the second stood still, staring openmouthed at his unconscious buddy. Damn! I had underestimated the power level of the mage behind the tree. He’d detected me in time to throw up a barrier around himself and Thug two.
It only took a moment for Thug two to snap out of his stupor and charge. He was fast, but not fast enough. My hand shot behind my back and closed around the stick, whipping it around in time to jab the end into his solar plexus.
“Humph!” Wind whooshed out of him, mixing with a moan as he doubled over.
“By the way, this isn’t a stick,” I said as I smoothly twirled it so that the other end slammed into the side of his head. “It’s a hanbo.”
He hit the ground with a thump and a howl. Letting out another howl, his skin began to crawl and shift. Suddenly, it wasn’t skin anymore, but curly, brown fur. Within seconds, the thug’s body was no longer recognizable as human. When he rose, he was a strange mixture of man and beast.
Shifters had three forms—their human, animal, and were. The were-form was something between human and animal. In were-form, a shifter had all the best characteristics of both human and animal. They were fast, strong, fierce, and terrifying looking. Shifters, especially those whose animal form was small, usually chose to do battle in were form, as Thug two had chosen to do now.
He stood a good six inches taller than he had as a human, his clothes hanging off him in shreds. His arms and legs were lengthened, and sharp claws jutted out of paws that had only moments ago been hands. Strangely enough, his face had morphed into a strange mixture of human and…
“Poodle? You’re a were-poodle?” I couldn’t stop the snort of laughter I let out as I spread my legs, bent my knees slightly, and gripped my hanbo in a defensive stance. Despite my derision, I was still cautious. Shifters had superhuman strength and speed, no matter what type of animal DNA they were fused with. But a poodle? That had to be as humiliating as being a were-mouse. It was hard to take the fluffy beast-man with floppy ears and a long snout seriously. Especially when the curly fur was matted and caked with mud.
The thug snarled, his lip curling back from long, sharp teeth. He let out a sound that was part howl and part bark, and charged at me. I held my stance until a second before his teeth made contact with the soft flesh of my shoulder. Effortlessly sidestepping, I brought my hanbo around to smash across his huge, muscled back. The force from my blow and his forward momentum sent him flying face-first into a tree. He collapsed to the ground unconscious.
I heard the other thug start coming to. “Oh no, you don’t. Stay!” Spreading my arms out, I sent thin ropes of energy out to spiral around each of them. “That should hold you…oomph!”
Stumbling forward, I fell to my hands and knees, my hanbo flying out of my hands as a ball of energy hit me square in the back. Damn! I’d forgotten about the mage. Rolling to my back, I threw my hands up in front of my face.
“Shield!” As I screamed out the word, a field of protective energy encased me just as another burst of power snaked out of the trees. I felt the physical jolt as the shining, blue ball of energy hit the shield. If I’d been on my feet, it would have knocked the shit out of me. As it was, it sent me sliding back in the mud and grime a few feet. The mage must have cast an energy-cloaking spell earlier because now I sensed much more power.
In the now-full light of the moon, I could see a figure encased in a cloak moving from behind a tree and advancing on me, hands raised. “Get back!” I shouted, my hands pushing a wall of energy out. The mage toppled backwards with a grunt. While I didn’t have to use words to manipulate energy, when I didn’t have my staff in my hands, it helped me focus defensive magic. I had to get to my hanbo. In addition to being a powerful hand-to-hand combat weapon, the oak staff helped me focus my power and made it easier to draw and concentrate energy for use as a magical weapon.
Keeping the temporary shield up with one hand, I frantically searched the ground for my weapon. It was lying on the edge of the road about a foot beyond my reach. I was about to send out a rope of energy to float it to me when I felt a burst of power strike my shield. The mage was still down, but he was sending small balls of energy at me in rapid-fire succession in an attempt to weaken my defense. I couldn’t split my focus to get the hanbo magically. Pulling in energy from the surrounding air, I focused it through my hand to bolster my shield. Using my feet, I pushed closer to the staff, letting out a disgusted groan as I slid through the mud and grime, rocks biting into my skin.
The balls of energy came faster and harder as the mage rose and began advancing. I pulled my legs up, dug my boots into the mud, and gave one last hard push. Gravel tore at my cloak and flesh as I slid across the road. Pain shot through me. Straining and stretching my arm out as far as I could, my hand searched through the grime as I kept my eyes focused on the advancing mage. His cloak had fallen back, and I could see his face. He was nothing more than a boy, barely of age, if I guessed right. He had a lot of power for a kid, and he was pretty good at focusing it. He was using offensive magic as well. The ability to form energy into visible bursts that could be used like a weapon was rare. I had only met two other mages besides myself who had the ability, one being my mother. We could both form energy into shining streams using a focusing tool. My mother had carried a thin, wooden wand to focus the energy. I preferred my hanbo staff. It was larger but could be used for fighting, and I could focus larger streams to blast out of the end. The other mage was a Blade in the Atlanta city-state division. We’d worked together on a case of gang smuggling between the two city-states. He hadn’t used anything to focus the energy flow, but instead of a steady stream, he produced small, lightning-like bolts that appeared in the air and struck the target.
This was the first time I’d seen a mage able to form a ball of pure energy that could be thrown. Though there were many that could form and throw fireballs, this was very different. Fire magic was common. This kid was forming and throwing actual balls of pure energy. Rare indeed.
He was only a few paces away. Though I could tell by the strain on his face and the diminishing size of energy bursts that he was starting to tire and run out of energy, one good blast like the last one would disintegrate my shield, leaving me defenseless.
As he took another step and raised his hands for another assault, I felt the smooth oak of my hanbo. Gratefully, I closed my fingers around it. Bringing the staff around, I shifted all the energy I’d been using to shield myself directly into the thirty-six inches of smooth, carved wood and out the end. Just as the mage was bringing his hands down in what would have been a knockout blow of energy, a bolt of lightning shot from the end of the hanbo and struck him square in the chest. He let out a pitiful cry and crumpled to the ground.
Using the hanbo for leverage, I vaulted to my feet and hurried over to him. He was out cold, but still breathing. Lying there, he looked like a peaceful, sleeping child. He looked even younger than I first thought. Even in the dim light, I could see the smooth skin of his face with no sign of facial hair. Was he even sixteen?
He would likely be out for a while, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I carefully wove a shield of null energy around him. It was a temporary measure and would dissipate in about an hour, but if he did wake up before I got him tied up and neutralized, he would be unable to use any magic.
Exhausted, I flopped down onto the ground next to him. For someone so young, the mage was strong. Fending him off had taken a lot of energy. Add that to the power I had just expended to neutralize the other creeps, and I could have gladly taken a long nap, even in the cold, wet mud. But, napping wasn’t a part of my job, and the energy fields keeping them contained wouldn’t last forever. I gave myself a few moments, rose to my feet, and, once again, wiped mud off my ass.
I whistled, and Mal calmly walked over to where I stood. “What happened to you?” I asked the horse as I rummaged through the saddlebags. “You couldn’t kick him? Or even warn me he was behind me? What kind of partner are you?”
Mal stared at me silently, flicking his tail from side to side.
“Okay, I get it. He wasn’t worthy of you unleashing your considerable badness on him.” I laughed as I retrieved a thick, strong rope and three hanging crystals from the packs and went on with my business.
I used the dagger that rested on my hip to cut two lengths. First, I tied the mage’s feet and hands. Then, I tied two of the crystals to the bindings and looped the third around his neck. Each crystal was charged with a powerful binding spell. The ropes would keep him from running, and the magic in the crystals would keep him from working magic.
With him secured, I moved on to the other two. The first thug was awake and just starting to struggle against his magical bindings. Now that I had more visibility, I could see that he, too, was barely more than a boy. I had no way of knowing if he were a shifter or not. He hadn’t shifted, but the magical bonds I had wrapped around him would have prevented the change. He glared at me as I tied him up.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Well, Mr. Fuck You, you are bound by law under my authority as an agent of the Black Blade Guard under the jurisdiction of the Paranorm Council of Elders.” I almost felt sorry for him as the blood drained from his face. He was smart enough to realize the trouble he was in.
It was apparent they thought I was nothing more than a random traveler with a few fighting skills. He’d likely figured he could escape or bribe me into letting him go. Even if I were a guard from Nash, or one of the small villages in the area, sent out to hunt down the highwaymen that had been plaguing the travelers on the road for the past three months, the most they would face was a few months in prison or on a work crew. But the fact that I was a Blade changed their fate considerably. They would be taken into Nash City, but they would not be handed over to the City Guard there.
The Blades fell under the jurisdiction of the Paranorm Council of Elders. The Council and the Blades took a much grimmer view on paranorm crime. They would be tried by a tribunal of Blade judges and, if found guilty, they could face years of hard labor on a work crew, or even execution. Because they attacked a Blade, there would be no doubt of them being found guilty. What he didn’t know was that I had been sent out on a mission to find and capture them. This meant they had become enough of a nuisance to draw the attention of the Blades, and it reduced the likelihood of a light sentence. I almost felt sorry for them. Almost.
“Ralph.” His voice shook. “My name is Ralph. Please, we didn’t hurt anyone. Don’t kill us!”
I bit back a smile. A scared kid. “Well, it’s not my call. You guys stole a lot of merchandise. That can’t go unpunished.”
“We only stole from merchants. They are rich enough to replace their stuff!” His tone was defiant.
“Really? Did you know that many of the merchants that use this road come from deep in the mountains? That they work for months to dry the meat and create the handcrafts they bring in to market? Did you know that the money and food they get in return will have to feed their clans for months until they can make the next trip to the market?”
“Umm. No. But…um. We only stole enough to sell to feed ourselves.”
He was near tears now. Though I was feeling sorry for him, I didn’t let it show in my voice or demeanor. There was more to this story, and I wouldn’t be able to help them if he didn’t tell me. The only way to keep his tongue loose was to keep him scared.
“Is that so? According to reports, you’ve stolen enough to feed you three scrawny boys for several months.”
His face went white, and the reality of the situation dawned on me.
“How many of you are there?”
The defiance was back in his face, if not in his voice as he visibly struggled to be believable. “There is just the three of us. Do with us what you will, Blade.”
A pang of sympathy slammed through me. I knew what it was like to be young and have people who depended on you for food and comfort. The truth was in his eyes.
“Look, Ralph, I can’t make you many promises, but I can make this one. If you tell me the truth, I will make sure that whoever it is you are protecting is safe. I give you my word as a Blade. Think about it this way…who is going to take care of them if the three of you just disappear?”
His expression was stony.
“Okay, don’t tell me right now. I’ll let you talk it over with your buddies once I get you back to Nash City.”
Leaving him to ponder on the deep shit he was in, I moved on to Thug two and groaned. He had changed back into human form and was now lying naked in the mud. I grabbed the mage’s cloak and wrapped him in it before binding his arms and legs. He had shaggy beard and looked to be a couple of years older than the other two, but he was still just a kid.
Once they were all tied, I used my magic to float them to the middle of the road, side by side. I didn’t dare remove the strands of energy that encased them. The mage was pretty well neutralized, but the ropes were not close to strong enough to hold a fully shifted were-beast of any kind. The thin strands of energy were the only thing keeping them from shifting. Now I had to figure out how to get them back to the city.
“Mal, watch them. Stomp on them if they move.” The eyes of the conscious boy went wide as the horse snorted as if in agreement.
“He won’t really stomp us, will he?” he stammered.
“We’ll never know unless you try to escape. If I were you, I wouldn’t test him. He’s in a bad mood over having to be out in the rain tonight.” We had that in common.
Leaving Mal to watch over the three boys, I headed into the woods. There had been a time when this area had been a highly populated suburb of the metropolis of Nashville. But that had been over two hundred years ago, when the city had spanned over five hundred square miles and boasted almost a million inhabitants just within the city limits. Now, most of the buildings and homes were gone and the woods had overtaken everything. The nearest village was more than ten miles away. That meant the gang had to have a hideout or transportation nearby. Though they were young and stupid, I doubted they were attacking people close to where they lived, especially if they were providing for children younger than themselves, as I suspected.
Horses were expensive, and most petty thieves couldn’t afford them. But this gang had been preying on merchants for months. Reports said they had stolen dozens of horses, mules, and oxen. It was likely they had sold most of their ill-gotten gains, but odds were they’d kept some of the animals to get around.
I tromped through the overgrown brush, my senses open to detect if there were any more of the gang hidden somewhere. The reports consistently indicated there only being three of them, but I couldn’t be too careful.
About a mile from the road, I felt the presence of three more beings. I knew immediately they weren’t human. I’d found the gang’s horses. The underbrush was too thick to ride through, so I had to lead them to the road on foot. By the time I got back, it had started to rain again.
Well, I thought. At least the rain will wash away some of this mud.
As quickly as I could, I loaded the now-awake gang onto the horses, tossing them over the saddles like sacks of grain. I tied their reins together and then attached a longer lead rope. Climbing onto Mal’s back, I leaned down and rubbed his neck.
“Come on, Big Bad; let’s go get some of those crunchy oats.”
He was off like a shot. This time, I used magic to keep the rain off Mal and me, as well as to light the way. I didn’t bother covering the gang.