For those of you who don’t know, the second book in The Crucible Series has been in the works for quite some time now, and it’s seriously close to completion. The manuscript itself is 99% done (getting through the final touches on editing and then formatting the story for publishing are all that’s left) and as I mentioned a while ago, I wanted to share another excerpt from the story.
So here it is for anyone who’s curious! The following has been formatted from the original version to make it more understandable without a lot of back story given, though if you haven’t read Blue Moon, this may be a little confusing. If you’d like, you can read a different excerpt here!
“Is that Rozdra?”
“Yeah, she’s cranky.”
“I would be too if you left me in the car like a dog.”
“You never complained before, Garrick.”
“You always cracked the window, Ulric.”
Ulric grinned. “I’d crack it for Rozdra, but she’d break it to get out.”
“This is why you shouldn’t have her with you right now.”
“What am I supposed to do? Liam needed a baby-wyvern-sitter on short notice. He’ll be back for her in a day or two.”
Ulric was settled in his car speaking on the phone with his brother, Garrick, while looking over at the topic of conversation. Rozdra was a baby wyvern, currently about three feet long from snout to foot, with blue scales, a silver belly, black horns crowning her head, and spines running down her back from her neck to the tip of her tail.
Like all wyverns, her wings served as her arms, and because her hands were so small, she worked with her clawed toes.
Though able to fit in Ulric’s passenger seat where she was currently watching him with crystal blue eyes, when Rozdra was fully grown, she’d be about the size of an average home.
Ulric’s brother, Liam, brought her to the mortal realm to help her escape poachers who killed young wyverns for their scales, endangering the species. Many draconians sought to reverse this by periodically caring for baby wyverns in a world where they wouldn’t be hunted, then returning them home once they were big enough to better care for themselves.
Thankfully, the endeavor had gotten worthwhile results.
Because her kind were nocturnal, Rozdra spent her days sleeping in a black, windowless carrier now sitting in Ulric’s backseat, usually only stirring a few hours after the sun had gone down—like now.
The wyvern was softly shrieking at Ulric to let him know she wasn’t happy, most likely due to hunger after sleeping all day.
“She’s probably hungry.”
“I was just thinking that,” Ulric replied, opening his door. To Rozdra, he added, “Go on, find something to eat.”
The wyvern stood immediately and hopped onto his arm, then leaped through the open door and spread her wings, swiftly taking to the sky over the trees nearby. It wasn’t a worry that she’d get lost when her carrier was enchanted to act as a beacon, so Rozdra always found her way back, even if Ulric left without her.
He shut the door in her wake as his brother inquired, “Are you still in Arkin City?”
“No, I’m back in Atlanta. Isadora contacted me in Burston last night and said to meet her here. According to her, the curse box isn’t even in Georgia anymore.”
“Damn, rough luck,” Garrick replied. “But the pay you’re getting for this job is easily worth the effort.”
“Why be here otherwise?” Ulric asked rhetorically. As far as most draconians were concerned, if the payment wasn’t substantial, the job wasn’t worth the time.
A little over two weeks ago, his eldest brother, Dalris, notified him of a job to find a curse box. The pay was half a million dollars in platinum, which was definitely worthwhile.
Because the supernatural world oftentimes overlooked humans and their activities, many mystical items unwittingly fell into mortal hands on a rather frequent basis. So Ulric started his search by checking mortal communities, and just as suspected, learned that the curse box was stored in a museum—conveniently located in Georgia—where it’d been put on display to mortals who had no idea the significance of the item they were viewing.
Thankfully, it wasn’t dangerous when most humans had no inherent magical abilities, and never really understood the purpose of such items. Instead, they would’ve thought of it as nothing more than an antique trinket box to be placed on a shelf for show.
So essentially, it was his for the taking.
But before he could even reach the museum, the box was stolen and gambled away on lupine wolf fights—which was where his hunt grew complicated. The renegade pack running the fights kept their territory a secret, so Ulric enlisted the help of their enemies in Arkin City to find it.
A local witch turned up the small town of Burston, and when Ulric arrived, all he found was a message from Isadora saying the box was no longer in Georgia.
She was a fae witch that Ulric went to after the box was stolen, hoping to track it mystically with her abilities. Sadly, a shroud surrounding the item prevented such attempts, so Ulric followed the thief’s trail while Isadora tried to figure out where the box was located more precisely.
Now, he was sitting in his car, parked in a lot across from a strip club where she’d told him to meet her, speaking with his brother before going inside.
“So let me go find Isadora and see what she has,” he told Garrick.
“Okay, be safe, little brother.”
Ulric put the phone back in his pocket when the call ended, looking at the parking lot in his rear view mirror and the building beyond it. It was a mortal strip club, and briefly, he wondered why Isadora had asked him to meet her in such a place.
Maybe she wanted to be discreet. After all, no one would ever suspect an impotent fae to show up at a mortal strip club.
Exiting his car, he shut the door and walked through the lot to the front of the building where two bouncers had a group of people waiting outside, barring their entrance. Ulric produced a wallet before reaching one of them, tugging out a fake, but well made identification card which he handed over, then waited as the bouncer made up his mind.
After a moment, the man handed the card back with an approving nod, and in exchange, Ulric slipped him a twenty for the cover charge while considering how amusing it was to be carded when you were over three centuries old.
Such was life in a mortal realm.
While storing his ID card in his wallet, Ulric detected a particular scent lingering amongst the crowd socializing outside the entrance, being that of magic, and wasn’t so sure he appreciated it showing up here.
Still, he casually walked inside. If someone was going to cause a problem, they’d get on with it soon enough, and he’d do better feigning ignorance to draw them out instead of tipping them off that he was suspicious of foul play beforehand.
Inside the club, the lights were flashing in different colors, the music pumping out a deep bass beat strong enough to vibrate the floors. The dancers were moving in sync with it, their hips swaying to entice their viewers as items of clothing were discarded in teasing fashions.
The audience showed their appreciation with howls and money stuffed into whatever miniscule garments the dancers continued wearing. But Ulric paid none of them any mind, looking for a woman who wouldn’t be on stage.
Finally, he spotted her sitting on a table surrounded by several men she’d charmed so thoroughly that they were completely ignoring the strippers. Mortals were easy for fae like Isadora to charm, and oftentimes they did so without even realizing it.
Ulric, on the other hand, wasn’t tempted to look at the disrobing dancers simply because he wasn’t interested, and hadn’t been for nearly a century.
“Yules!” Isadora called happily when she noticed him.
Some of the men looked back, stepping aside to offer passage with jealous expressions.
He ignored them to ask, “What the hell are you doing here?”
The fae flipped her mane of chestnut hair over her shoulder, revealing a pointed ear—which the mortals in the place were blind to—and replied with a decidedly British accent, “Just working the crowds. Felt like having some fun tonight.”
“At a strip club?”
“Why not? More men,” she grinned playfully, and the men around her chuckled.
Ulric smirked, wondering why she even bothered. All fae were impotent unless they’d found a mate, but maybe Isadora just appreciated the physical appeal of the opposite sex. Most fae were incredibly curious by nature anyway.
“If it makes you happy,” he pointed out.
Isadora grinned, hopping off the table and telling her admirers, “Sorry boys, I need to talk to my friend. But if you wait right here, you’ll see me again soon.”
The men looked disgruntled, requesting she return quickly. Isadora playfully blew them a kiss, then headed across the lounge to an empty table in the corner where the lights were dimmed, taking a seat.
“When I arrived, there was something in the air outside, so I cast a protection spell on this table to make it safe to talk,” she explained. “Still, you may want to be careful when you leave.”
“I know,” he confirmed as he sat across from her, then got to the point. “So you said you had a vision. What was in it?”
“It wasn’t the box if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Isadora,” Ulric grumbled. “How can you be sure I’m going to find the box if you can’t even see it?”
“Don’t be so impatient, I’m getting to it,” she chided before continuing more enthusiastically. “It stumped me for a while, how to track an object that was made to be untraceable, but I finally got around it by checking the paths that will lead you to your ultimate goal, which is payment for the job, right?”
“What else would it be?”
“Well then! That path goes up to Pennsylvania where, and this part is a little more sketchy, you should find the box in the hands of a mortal woman. But even if you don’t, she’ll lead you to your payment.”
That sounded ambiguous. The box was recently in Georgia, so hearing it was all the way up in Pennsylvania now seemed strange.
“How the hell did it get that far up north? More lupines?”
“I don’t think so,” Isadora muttered as if figuring it out had been a real pain in her ass. “I just know you need to find a woman named Charlotte Mulligan.”
“Who is she? Just an average mortal?”
“Seems to be,” she confirmed, her expression growing thoughtful as she added, “though, there’s something strange about her. It’s a good strange, but I can’t place it.”
“Something strange?” Ulric regarded Isadora thoughtfully, asking, “Is it going to effect my hunt? Or do you even know?”
“I didn’t see any negative effects from meeting her, but I need to warn you about the presence of danger during your journey. It’s nothing you can’t handle, just some vampires, and knowing you, that’s more incentive to go.”
“You know me too well,” he admitted, considering everything.
Vampires were definitely no problem, and he didn’t even care why they’d be attacking—as long as he got a chance to kill them. But what could’ve been so strange about a mortal woman living in Pennsylvania?
Whatever it was, he trusted Isadora, having known her for nearly a hundred years now, and she’d never led him astray. So if she said to go north, that’s what he’d do, and hope in the meantime that this mortal didn’t know what she had in her possession and somehow manage to open the box.
The only condition of getting payment for his job was that the box had to be sealed and the contents intact when it was delivered. But it seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to open it when all curse boxes had odd stipulations attached to the endeavor.
This one was speculated to need the hand of a halfling on sacred ground to break the seal on it, and Ulric’s first thought had been so a gnome in a church? Of course, it sounded farfetched, but he figured most mages came up with their ideas while hitting a pipe.
“I guess I’ll be taking a day trip then,” Ulric announced.
Isadora smiled brightly. “I wish I could take a day trip. But I’m going to be busy for the next few days.”
“Diplomacy,” she replied vaguely. “Actually, when your job is concluded, I may have something for you to do, but I won’t know the details for a few days yet. All I can promise is good pay.”
Smirking, Ulric remarked, “You only need to ask. So, do you have this mortal’s address?”
Slipping him a piece of paper with the information written on it, Isadora answered, “She lives alone in an apartment building on the tenth floor. You may want to check me on that however.”
“Fair enough,” he acknowledged, taking the paper to store in his pocket. “Is there anything else?”
“Nope, just get there and do your thing!” Isadora smirked. “Be safe, Yules. I’ll expect a forty percent royalty of any platinum you accrue for this job.”
“Forty?” he asked incredulously as they stood.
She merely grinned and headed back to the group of men she’d left earlier, calling, “Oh boys, still have room for me?”
Ulric shook his head, deciding to barter with her later, and slipped out of the club through an emergency exit near the restrooms in the back due to the suspicious scent surrounding the front entryway.
But when he stepped into the alley behind the building, that same smell hit his nose again …
Light of Dawn will be available on Amazon Kindle soon!