Hello fellow Urban Explorers! Grab your books!

Welcome to Urban Fantasy Magazine’s brand new book club!

We’ll officially be up and running in December! Welcome aboard!
Our first book is Mark of The Demon by Diana Rowland. I think that you’ll like it.

Newly minted Violent Crimes and Homicide detective Kara Gillian has more on her plate than every day bad guys; the Symbol Man might have returned to Beauluc, Louisianna. As if that wasn’t trouble enough, Kara has just summoned a Demon she has no idea how to handle.

Oh.

Did I not mention that?

Kara has one heck of a family trait, she’s a Demon Summoner. I’m sure things are about to get very interesting.
SO!
Pick up the book and dive on in, it is a great read for these cooling nights. I’m pretty sure it will keep you warm.
If you have any questions about how things work, who I am, who we are, feel free to chime in. For right now, the best way for us to start communicating is through our FaceBook page (Urban Fantasy Book Club!) though we can also leave comments on the Urban Fantasy Magazine Blog. We’ll learn together what works best. I’ll send out a full introduction to Mark of The Demon the first week of December, close to the release of Urban Fantasy Magazine and we’ll check back in at the end of Chapter 7 around the 7th of December.

By the way. As we move along, I’ll have a schedule available so you can see which book is scheduled for which month!

See you soon!

Melissa

https://www.facebook.com/groups/urbanfantasybookclub/

Circle of Blood (Witch Hunt Novel #3) by Debbie Viguié

Reviewed by Morgan Hua

 

  • Mass Market Paperback (ISBN 978-0451240149)
    Signet, April 1, 2014 — 336 pages
    also available as an e-book (ASIN B00F9F0VK0)

Circle of Blood is the third book in a series. The book is self-contained, but fans of the first two books will enjoy this book as a continuation of Samantha Ryan’s journey of self-discovery as a witch. Samantha visits famous landmarks in present-day New Orleans as she chases a powerful enemy. This book is a fast-paced thriller with each chapter ending in a cliffhanger that compels the reader to keep reading.

We follow Samantha, now Desdemona Caster, a heartless witch who controls people like puppets, burns bodies to ash, and heals herself by taking in the life force around her. As the story progresses, she re-integrates with her old self, the Samantha Ryan from the previous books, and becomes powerful enough to defeat her enemy—with the help of some old and new friends.

What I liked was that the magic was consistent in that Samantha learns from what magic she encounters, and learns to use it herself. She doesn’t use magic the reader hasn’t seen before to solve a crisis—the author did not paint the protagonist into a corner, then solve it with deus ex machina magic. And because Desdemona Caster has overblown confidence, she winds up in some very bad situations.

The flaws of this novel have more to do with its format as a thriller. The landmarks of New Orleans are painted with broad brushstrokes and lack details that would have made the story drip with more atmosphere. The side characters are as thin as cardboard. Various magical traditions such as Wiccan, Hoodoo, Druidic, and Christian faith healing are glossed over, and the powers behind them are all made similar. Samantha kills people with not much thought and not much regret. The recovery of her memories and integration of her split personality is accomplished with more broad strokes that serve the story instead of any realism that would have given deeper insight into the protagonist’s psyche.

Overall, a quick, fun read, but nothing deep. For fans of the series, I’d bump my rating up a notch, as this book completes her story arc and gives closure to questions raised in the previous novels.


Morgan HuaMORGAN HUA graduated from both Clarion West and Odyssey Writers Workshops. He has written non-fiction articles and reviews for genre magazines and spends his leisure time designing and GMing tabletop RPGs for fun. When not creating the future at startup tech companies in Silicon Valley, he writes about book dragons, dystopian societies, and uncomfortable things that go bump in the night.


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Wet by John Wiswell

You remember little girls in raincoats in the middle of Phoenix summers. This one was hyperventilating into the shiny yellow hood of her coat and flailing her arms as though trying to swim through the sweltering heat beneath the train platform. It was wretched and immediately recognizable as ghost behavior.

Ghosts have the knack for forgetting they don’t need to do things like hyperventilate, or file taxes, or piss themselves in fear, and if you ever have an inexplicable ammonia smell in your house, it’s probably because some poor fool is haunting your bathroom. The few parapsychologists I’ve known have a hell of a time convincing ghosts to give up futile terrors like that.

I don’t bother convincing. I have time. If we immortals are good for anything, it’s patience.

No one else stopped to help her because a ghost hyperventilating sounds like GWAR—like GWAR on a really off night. I like the sounds of all Satirical Metal, so I climbed under the platform to prod her. The brat ignored me, managing to wrap the bottom of her coat around her face. Because she was intangible, I couldn’t unwrap it for her, and so I went on with my commute to the Heard. On my lunch break, I picked up a few candy bars and an adult raincoat. None of them are flattering, especially when you have hips my size.

Still, I wore the coat on my commute back home. Her private GWAR concert continued raging beneath the platform. She ignored me, which ghosts do, because ghosts know you’re here about as well as you know they’re here, or if that’s too woo-woo for you, about as much as a dog knows it’s got Algebra homework.

I had to call in sick for six consecutive days, lying beneath the platform beside the girl, before I got through to her. I didn’t mind. Phoenix’s wifi is improving, and as I said, immortals are either patient. They are either patient or cryogenically frozen to alleviate the horrors of eternal sentience.

It was on Day Six that I sat in a puddle from a leaking drainage pipe, and something about it got the kid to finally roll over, peeking out from under her shiny yellow hood and recognizing that there was another person there who wasn’t afraid of a raincoat. I was the picture of chill. After all, my raincoat protected me from the puddle.
She didn’t resume breathing correctly, because she didn’t actually have lungs anymore, but she did stop thinking she was hyperventilating. Then I offered her the candybars, which she didn’t take, but she did appreciate. She took my tablet instead, haunting my browser and looking up the latest One Direction videos. I deleted my cache later.

After that, she followed me to work. While she wouldn’t eat the candy bars, she would levitate them, clutched together like a deck of fattening cards, perhaps waiting for me to want one.

She followed me to a blood drive, to genetic testing (they never figure anything out, but are so excited over their confusion), and to the set of a snuff film I’ve been tinkering with. On the one hand I’m encouraging an industry, on the other I’ve gotten a couple of actors into very necessary therapy. The kid didn’t so much as blink at anything, except when I washed my hands after the blood donation. She gave a mighty Dave Brockie shriek and fled through the walls at the sight of a running tap.

On the commute home, she refused to ride over Salt River. I saw her grip the lapels of her raincoat before she vanished, and I didn’t see her again until the next morning, when I passed over the river again. She poofed into existence on the seat beside me, raincoat and candy bars intact, much to the dismay of the heavyset banker who’d been trying to hit on me. It never would have worked out. He definitely didn’t like GWAR.

She followed me to a hostage negotiation. This middle-aged man was driven to the edge by a cocktail of bad investments, a rude nephew, and losing his wife to cervical cancer, and he was stunned to be offered two hostages in favor of the one girl he had at gunpoint. It’s a great trick more immortals should play; I don’t care about getting shot. Neither did my little raincoat buddy, who took three through the chest and only registered that her Butterfinger had been blown to smithereens. That was definitely the night we started bonding.

While ghosts only think they sleep, she looked terribly cute in faux-dreams. One night she slept possessing my underwear drawer. The next two nights she possessed a box of tissues, with a tissue uprooting and drifting to the floor for every different dream. She’d sleep in my bed if I kept the bathroom door closed. If I left it open while I showered, she’d run herself a block away and I’d need to bust out my raincoat to get her to calm down. And her freak-outs always broke my plumbing.

You’ve already figured it out because you’re a smart person. You must be; you’re listening to me, and I don’t have dumb audiences. I didn’t want to figure it out, obvious as it was. A baby would spill its juice and my raincoat buddy would freak out, and even in an Arizona summer, she couldn’t avoid water. I tried staying in the apartment for days on end with her, but eventually a TV show would feature rain, and she’d go haunting around the entire building, and my LCD set would drip like a gutter. She couldn’t find peace, and yes that’s the point of ghosts, but it grates when you’re coming to love someone. I wanted to keep her. Do you know she started stealing candy bars for me? Always Butterfingers.

I knew what was going on weeks beforehand, denying all the way, because you don’t live through the ages and still maintain interest in people without willful ignorance. We had our breakthrough on the night of the apartment building collapse. I went in because, if there is a collapse, the fire department always digs me out at a maximum of fourteen days. They’re great people. There are people like them in every generation, which is why I keep coming back to civilization.

She followed me into the auxiliary basement. My intrepid raincoat buddy possessed some rubble to let me get through and snag a pair of ten-year-old twins. I heard another voice, one that turned out to be only pipes bursting and squealing air, and went deeper. She went deeper with me. The water was trickling at first, only a little rivulet down one crack in the cement wall. And my raincoat buddy froze, staring at the leak. The longer she stared, the stronger the flow became. I got between her and the trickle, and it tapered. It was a sticky haunting, and my distraction only lasted so long, as the water level kept rising even with no source of flow. The kid was gasping, clutching at her throat, and screaming nonsense at the ceiling.

Except ghosts don’t talk in nonsense. They talk in feelings, in a language that makes total sense somewhere else than here. I know feelings; I’m told I don’t have any left, but I sure know, “Daddy, come back,” and, “The knob is too slippery,” “It’s too wet in here, it won’t stop raining,” when I feel it sung by the dead. I’m never going to forget it.

I’m immortal. ‘Never’ is atrociously real to me.

Her fingers raked through the water without a splash, and even though she could float in any substance she wanted, she sank to the bottom. I drowned with her, unable to hug her shoulders, but giving her someone nearby. She wasn’t alone.

Firemen tried to rescue us to no avail for her intangibility. It was another week before they drained the basement, and another two days of mildew smells before she could raise her head. Another four passed before he could be convinced she was capable of leaving the basement. As she evanesced up to the surface, and we passed into daylight, I’ve never been so grateful for a rainless day in Arizona.

Even then, even drowning over and over again in the dark with her, I considered not solving her problems. Ghosts are the best company for immortals, better company than other immortals, because ghosts don’t change. If they’re stuck on you, they remain stuck. If they’re affectionate, they remain affectionate. I could have had a raincoat buddy living in my tissue box until civilization went out of style. Ghosts don’t get over things on their own. It’s why they’re stuck. They can be handy. They’re very easy to abuse.

Immortals do change, though, and I bought her some floaties. Two inflatable arm thingies, and a red pool-noodle shaped like a giant Twizzlers, and an inner tube she actually loved playing in and possessing so long as it was stationed on my carpet. I began pushing the inner tube around my apartment, tricking her into thinking she was getting rides. She didn’t know where she was at the end until the shower water sloshed against the drain.

My water pressure stinks, and my shower drain has never once clogged, no matter what I’ve accidentally let drip down there. Within minutes of the kid trotting in, the entire bathroom was flooded to my knees. She scurried up to my sink, staring at me with the most hurt betrayal in her eyes, no understanding, weapons-grade incomprehension. I stepped into the inner tube, hoisted it to my exceptionally broad hips, and switched on the sink. I’ve never heard GWAR sound sincerely mournful before. I hope you never do.

I’m patient, and I’d already drowned for her before. I rode the inner tube up to the ceiling, all the while gesturing at her arm floaties, and to the buoyant Twizzlers noodle bobbing in front of her. She didn’t believe that she could be buoyant, but over the hours, she couldn’t ignore the toys, and she couldn’t help haunting them. It was as illogical as an adult in a raincoat lying fearlessly beside her at a train station. It made no sense, and you could never hammer it into a reasoned argument, but you’re smart, my friend. You know what mattered to her was how it felt. Ghosts speak in feelings.

And while I hope you never know what it feels like to simultaneously think you’re drowning when no adult cares enough to come back for you, and to feel your body drawn up by inflatable floaties, and to bounce against the ceiling as shower water that shouldn’t ever get that high suddenly begins receding under you —- well, I bet you can sympathize. That’s all the feeling that a living person needs.

She was looking at the floaties, levitating them above the receding water line, when she disappeared. No glance at me, no final sigh, no words, not even a quick rendition of “Road Behind.” That was it, as quick as a mortal life being snuffed out, but rarer and so it hurt more to get no goodbye.

I bought a child’s yellow raincoat to keep in my closet. I lie that it’s hers when I tell this story to get me laid. She left nothing behind, which to me is quite the happy ending. Wherever people who die go is none of my business, but wherever it is, she took everything with her.


John WiswellJOHN WISWELL has been published by Weird Tales, Flash Fiction Online and SF Signal. He is a graduate of the 2013 Viable Paradise. He believes tentacle monsters can be domesticated.


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Reading Urban Fantasy by Andreé Robinson-Neal

It is wrong to assume that everyone who picks up or (for those who prefer tablets or other devices) clicks on an urban fantasy book has the same understanding of the genre. UF is distinguished from other types of fantasy writing by the contemporary, Earth-bound setting. Beyond that, the experience of reading urban fantasy and defining it becomes more nebulous.

The fantastical content within UF should not be confused with that found through the locales and personages in high fantasy classics such as Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, or Bradshaw’s Arthurian trilogy. There is a distinctly European or medieval flavor to high fantasy from which UF departs. Rather, urban fantasy includes similar supernatural elements in more modern surroundings. The carriages, stables, and forests are often replaced by Chevy’s, parking decks, and office buildings. But not always. Hence the dilemma.
The seminal works seem to suggest that the story should be located in metropolitan living spaces or other highly populated areas. Consider de Lint’s Sara and Jamie and their Ottowa-like environs in Moonheart, or Hamilton’s St. Louis-dwelling Anita Blake in Vampire Hunter; the descriptions of place are familiar to any reader who knows anything about the cities of Western society. Many UF purists insist that at a minimum, the protagonist should live or work in a city, and that he or she must present in a particular way. Take for example the description offered in Fantasy Faction‘s “Urban Fantasy Versus Paranormal Romance” post:

An urban fantasy’s plot is the same as any fantasy: good versus evil, saving the world, etc. The subgenre usually involves a city-dwelling protagonist who is able to work magic and/or is of supernatural heritage. It may or may not have a romance element. Most do, but as a subplot or backdrop to the main action plot. For this reason, some believe the romance element of urban fantasy does not need to follow the requisites of true romance, adhering to the happily-ever-after ending.

Interesting. And while the article was written in 2013, one could suggest “not so much.”

The Los Angeles (or Philadelphia or London or Chicago or Tampa or NYC) or Fill-In-Your-City-Here location remains a consistent element that defines the “urban” in UF but romance is not a given. Ask Harry Dresden, protagonist in Butcher’s Dresden Files series of novels. While Mr. Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard, romance is not on his docket. As the UF scene continues to evolve, romance may become less of a “thing” within the genre. Or maybe not.

Or perhaps such changes occur because of what readers come to expect. Maybe the degree of romance becomes defined by readers more than by authors or publishers. For lovers of UF, such tendencies toward romance may no longer be defined by heaving bosoms and flowing yet soon-to-be-removed gowns. After all, Tolkien’s Gollum could be said to have had a romantic involvement with that ring; it’s all in the eye of the beholder, right?

Just as romance is not a requisite part of the UF storyline, it is equally important to note that the action does not have to take place in a city, despite what “urban” suggests. The protagonist may spend much of his or her time in the suburbs, in the mid-west, at the beach, or somewhere off Main Street; the non-urban settings serve as exciting new backdrops for elves, vampires, or witches. In this way, UF continues to step away from its roots in ways that go beyond traditional settings.

The joy of reading urban fantasy is the experience of placing self within the story. While it may not be too difficult to imagine how a character feels when meeting a werewolf along a dark stretch of wooded lane, it is even easier to imagine how a UF character would feel meeting a werewolf at the Fifth Avenue bus stop—particularly if the bus stop in the story reminds you of your own. Your experience at the local Starbucks may change after reading of someone whose latte is conjured by a recently-hired witch at their coffee shop.

Changes in societal norms lead to changes in genres. The protagonists in urban fantasy novels and stories go beyond the gumshoe-meets-Dracula concept. The stories are becoming edgier and more inclusive. Take for example the stories collected in Scheherazade’s Facade that offer magic, dragons, and other fantasy elements combined with cross-dressing and gender-defying characters. Patricia Briggs offers a view of gay relationships in her Mercy Thompson series in which her characters Warren and Kyle present issues that seem typical of the challenges found in anybody’s union. Except Warren is a werewolf and his mate, Kyle, is human.

The question arises whether readers need a tried-and-true definition of urban fantasy. We can use a litmus test to determine if we are reading something in the UF category: if the story takes place in a contemporary (rural, suburban, or urban) setting, and includes a fantastical element (with or without romance as a sub-plot), there is a decent chance the story is urban fantasy. If the story takes place in a medieval location or off-Earth, if there are no fantastical elements (no magic or supernatural activities or beasts), or if the primary focus is romance, we are probably safe to check the “not so much” box.

Regardless of the city-versus-country or romance-versus-no-romance argument, the urban fantasy genre has something to offer all readers. There are classic works for traditionalists who prefer to stick with a magic-wielding, city-dwelling protagonist, alongside works by nouveau novelists who break the boundaries of gender, orientation, and location. Whether you want to explore unmasqued worlds, elf punk, or legends and reality, urban fiction has much to offer.


AR NealANDREÉ ROBINSON-NEAL got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury–both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.


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The Gifted Dead by Jenna Black

Reviewed by Stephanie Burgis

 

  • Paperback (ISBN 978-0-9905961-6-5)
    Aardwolf Press, September 23, 2014 — 410 pages
    also available as an e-book published by IGLA

Jenna Black’s The Gifted Dead kicks off a new fantasy series full of political and magical intrigue set in an alternate, modern Europe, and in the United States. Imagine a contemporary version of the Borgias with the ability to use magical powers added to their political toolkit, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of this book’s atmosphere. Instead of underhand politicking, bribes, and blackmail committed to ensure the election of the next Pope in Rome, The Gifted Dead devotes itself to the question of who will become the next Patriarch in Saint-Malo.

The magical system, which feels genuinely original and unique, makes this book stand out. In this version of contemporary reality, people are divided into the Gifted and the un-Gifted. In previous times, the Gifted, with their frightening magical powers, were persecuted by the un-Gifted; nowadays, the two groups live side by side, but within distinctly different social cultures. People born with the Gift are granted specific individual powers by the Anima Mundi, an intangible force known as the Soul of the World, that takes the place of religious authority within Gifted society and rules through a Council of Elders.

While the Anima may be intangible, it is anything but unknowable. Each Gifted citizen has his or her own spirit guide who communicates the wishes of the Anima and sets personal quests for them to follow. Moreover, the Anima itself is a changeable force made up of all the souls of Gifted dead consecrated in the past. As new souls with different principles and ideas join the Anima, the Anima’s large-scale desires and directives change. Now, with an assassination leading to a hard-fought new Patriarchal election, one thoroughly nasty and regressive family is determined to influence the Anima itself by destroying the bodies of any consecrated souls whose liberal beliefs might lead in the wrong direction.

With fast-paced writing and eight different point-of-view characters, The Gifted Dead feels like a mix between a political thriller and a really smart soap opera. There isn’t time for any individual to be developed at length, but the large cast of scheming characters, who will do almost anything to ensure the right result, provides complexity. The hitman who is sent around the world to carry out murders and desecrations hates what he is forced to do and is only barely kept in line by blackmail. The Elder who’s been carrying on a two-year affair with a naïve girl only half his age is also the most moral politician in the book, committed to fair principles and sincerely devoted to his family. His daughter Melanie risks career and marriage to pursue justice for the families whose graves have been desecrated, but her quest is anything but unselfish, and her political ambition sometime overcomes both her loyalty to her family and her better judgment.

In contrast to all these shades of gray, the primary villains of the book, Council Elders Pietro and Alberto di Tommaso, are painted monochromatically. Not only are they sexist, homophobic, and politically conservative in every way, but they are also serial rapists and abusers.

The most painful point of view in the book is that of Anna di Tommaso, the hitman’s younger sister. Given a quest by the Anima to marry Alberto di Tommaso, she finds herself the victim of horrific sexual and physical abuse by both her husband and her father-in-law, having to take it on spiritual faith that her personal suffering is worthwhile for a greater cause. The way this issue is handled—and Anna’s own emotionally flattened response to scenes of sexual abuse in the early sections of the book, aided by a Gift that allows her spirit to leave her body behind—may alienate some readers. Anna herself debates the question of rebellion versus obedience to the all-knowing Anima throughout the book, coming to different conclusions at different times.

Readers who expect resolutions to all of the storylines in this novel will be disappointed. The novel stops at a moment of fraught political tension, with some significant changes having occurred, but with numerous plotlines awaiting the next book in the series. It feels like the midpoint of a larger storyline, and personally, as someone who prefers novels that can stand alone even within larger series, I found the ending slightly unsatisfying, with too few plotlines resolved, even if only in a temporary fashion. However, the tension that the characters are left in at the end of this book will no doubt hook many readers, readying them for the next installment of this smart, absorbing series of magical thrillers.


Stephanie Burgis STEPHANIE BURGIS was born in Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband, writer Patrick Samphire, and their children. She has published over thirty short stories for adults. Her first book, Kat, Incorrigible (US) / A Most Improper Magick (UK) won the Waverton Good Read Children’s Award in 2011 for Best Début Children’s Novel by a British writer. It was followed by Renegade Magic / A Tangle of Magicks and Stolen Magic / A Reckless Magick. She has also previously reviewed for Interzone.


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A Chance of Cats and Dogs by Ken Scholes

A bald guy in a dark suit put down his briefcase and slid into the booth across from me. I’d smelled him coming–four-hundred-dollar cologne and an omelet with black coffee for breakfast–and smiled as he sat down. He was fiftyish, gaunt as a mortician, and human. I’d expected the human part; the patrons had a lot of them working for them.

“Are you Angus Wolfe?”

“I am,” I said as I extended my hand.

“Mark Connor.” He glanced at the thick hair on the back of it, the wiry curls that poked from my buttoned shirtsleeve. Still, he shook it. “Thank you for agreeing to see me.”

I nodded and let my hand drift back to the tea mug. I’d been using Abraham’s Table, a small Chinatown restaurant off Market, as an informal office for years. And Henry Ing, the owner, kept a booth free in the backroom. I shuffled the papers around and closed the lid to my laptop. “How can I help you, Mr. Connor?”

He pulled a thick envelope from his jacket pocket and slid it across the table. “My employer would like to retain your services.”

“I provide a lot of different services. Which in particular is your employer interested in?”

Connor cleared his throat. “He has a lost pet he’d like you to find.”

“I’m good at finding things.” It was a large part of my business. My father was an Old World rending hound and my mother was a waitress from Spokane. I got her good looks and charm. I got his hair along with a sense of smell like no other. “What kind of pet are we talking about?”

“A cat.” Connor lifted his briefcase onto the table and opened it. He pulled a file from it and then withdrew a picture. “Her name is Monica Evenheart.”

I studied it. She was a young woman but old enough to be an Old Worlder. Probably a kitten when she crossed over under the Covenant to escape my father’s kind. Dark hair. Dark skin. Darker eyes. The silver moon collar was subtle beneath her cream-colored blouse. Somewhere, off camera, someone wore the ring that went with it to command both the cat and her change cycle. “Was she taken or did she run away?”

“Ran away,” he said. “Stole both the ring and the collar.”

So it was a breach of contract. When the rending hounds overthrew the Old World, those who could, escaped here. The cost of passage–including the means to blend seamlessly into their new home–was steep. Whole families plunged themselves into indentured servitude to flee the fangs and claws of invasion and genocide. Because of my father, I dodged all of that. My mother raised me quietly away from all the politics and pandemonium. I looked at the picture again then back to Connor. “Any idea where or why?”

He pursed his lips. “We have reason to believe she’s in Seattle . . . or will be. As to why. . . .” He paused, pulled out another stack of pictures. “We’re not exactly sure but she’s hunting off-leash.”

So she was a mouser. Hunting off-leash in this world was a definite no-no. Leashed hunting was only permitted under the guise of a covenanted patron–usually one of the few Old World humans who’d managed to cross over decades before the war. Only an Old Worlder could wield Old Worlder magic.

I laid her picture aside and took the others. Crime scene tape and bloody rags dangling over city streets. They looked like they were men once before Connor’s cat trussed them up and played with her prey.

I squinted at the streetscape. “These aren’t Seattle.”

He shook his head. “No. Los Angeles and Portland. She’s heading north.”

I scowled. “And you have no idea why? Are her prey random, or are they connected in some way?”

“We’re really not sure.”

I’m used to being lied to in my line of work so I know what it sounds like. And sometimes, if it’s thick enough, I’ll even turn down a job. I considered it as I thumbed through the pictures again. But work had been slow, and the lack of work had me living out of a shitty car with what little I owned tucked in storage. The envelope was thick with promise.

“And when I find her, I just ask her to fly back with me?”

“We’ll have a tranq pistol waiting for you in Seattle. They’re hard to fly with.” He pulled a cell phone from the suitcase and passed it over. “When you have her sedated, my number is in the phone. There will be a team ready to bring her back.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

Connor smiled and tapped the envelope. “I think you’ll find this to be an adequate retainer toward expenses. You’ll be paid two-thirds more when our pet is returned.”

Pet. I didn’t like that part either. But the patrons and their Covenant made their contracts as they could. Most of my work came from them or from other Old Worlders in that system. Despite my parents’ best intentions, I skirted the edge of a world they did not want for me.

Connor reached into the briefcase one last time and handed me a wadded bit of pink cloth. “This is her.”

I took it. It was a bra, and I felt my face flush. I could already smell it but to be sure, I brought it close to my nose and inhaled deeply of Monica Evenheart. I handed it back.

He waved it away. “Keep it. In case you need reminding.”

“I won’t need reminding,” I said as I laid it on the table.

Connor dropped it back into the briefcase and closed it. Then he stood and offered his hand again. “Be careful, Mr. Wolfe.”

I stood and shook it. “I will.”

I waited until he left before I picked up the envelope and rifled through the green. It was a lot for this kind of work, even with the bit about her being on the hunt. I pulled out a hundred for Henry Ing and shoved the envelope into my jeans pocket.

Then I opened my laptop and went back online to book my flight to Seattle.

#

It was mostly cloudy in Seattle, the afternoon light suffused by a veil of gray as I wound through rush-hour traffic from the airport to the neighborhood of Ballard.

I’d spent the flight going through the Evenheart file, familiarizing myself as best I could. She was near thirty and, as I suspected, just a kitten when she crossed over with her family and took the moon collar of her patron. As custom, the patrons divided up the families and found ways for them to earn their passage and keep. My father’s kin had created this mess when they’d taken the Opal Throne. The Queen of the North was the first to flee, and those who could, followed. Which led to the Covenant.

I’d skirted all of that, product of a rending hound’s unexpected conscience and a waitress’s love of strays. My father had worn a moon collar in those days and I reckon that is how I managed to arrive on the scene more human than not. Or maybe it was his deep desire to not pass that part of himself on to his only child. After he’d seen what his kin could do, what he himself could do, he preferred a human son.

But Monica, conceived in the forests of the Old World and in the old ways, wasn’t human at all. Not like the New Worlders. And she was bound by the cycle of the moon, forced to leave her truest form and walk upright and hairless and clawless for weeks on end. For her, the moon collar meant control. And until she’d stolen the ring that commanded it and fled, that control had been in the hands of my nameless employer. She was a cat, a mouser, which meant until recently, she hunted for him. Now I suspected she hunted for herself and I was certain that there was nothing random about it. And nothing in her file suggested Seattle as a place she had any connection to. Yet there were two addresses they suspected she might be casing.

I drove with the windows down, savoring the heavy smell of rain mixed in with every other conceivable scent. Exhaust. Perfume. Cigarettes. The new canvass of the backpack on the seat beside me and the fresh gun oil of the tranq pistol inside it.

Ballard was as gray as the rest of the city, squatting by its locks in the smell of salt and seagull droppings. I drove past bookshops, and brew pubs, and eventually turned down a side street into the lines of houses.

I smelled her before I reached the address and instinctively pulled the rental over, playing with my phone while glancing carefully around for some sign of her. She was northeast by the wind and so was my destination. I kept up with the phone for a minute, then signaled and slipped back onto the road. As I came around the corner, I saw a red Mustang. It stood out not just because it was red and fast-looking, but because its top was down in the rain, and the woman that sat in it didn’t seem to mind.

I kept driving, hoping Monica Evenheart, would pay no attention to me at all. She didn’t. She was too busy watching the house.

I circled the block and parked out of sight, slipping the tranq pistol into the waistband of my jeans and covering it with my jacket. The rain became a drizzle as I started up the sidewalk and turned the corner. The car idled across from one of the older houses on the block, its yard perfect and its windows dark and uninviting.

She made no attempt to hide, watching those windows with feline serenity. Monica Evenheart was pretty and she smelled good. But she was also deadly.

I counted the steps to her car wondering if it could possibly be this easy. Just a quick trip to Seattle, a shot in the back, and a few months of bills paid with a bit to spare. Maybe even enough to get back into the cheap motel I called home when I could afford it.

But I knew when her eyes darted to the rearview mirror that it wasn’t going to be so easy after all. She watched me, her gaze level and steady, and I tried hard not to notice as I adjusted the hood on my jacket. I must have failed. She looked to the house, then back to the mirror. Then, she pressed the gas hard, hydroplaning the car back into the street and soaking me as she did.

I kept walking and pretended nothing happened.

I listened to her engine winding up as she took the corner, and when I was satisfied that she was gone, I cut across the street at a jog and took the stairs leading up to the house two at a time. I still had time before her hunting hours started-–she was nocturnal-–and with this first address empty, it stood to reason she was on her way to the second. I’d take a quick look around and see what this house gave me.

I let myself in quickly with a credit card and a paperclip. Olfactory prowess alone isn’t a sufficient skillset in my line of work. And once I was certain no one was home, I moved through the place fast, building my mental database as I went. This was extra work, but I knew Connor was lying about the randomness of the attacks, holding something back. It made sense. I was hired to help bring home a lost pet. By their view, the details were none of my business.

Still, I preferred to decide what was and wasn’t my business in the pursuit of a feral Covenanter.

The database came together as I rifled through drawers, peeked around shelves, sorted the mail. There wasn’t much. His name was Charles Dennehy and he was a divorced attorney, a father of two children who lived elsewhere and left little evidence of their presence in his house. He lived frugally for someone worth as much as he was. Little of that really mattered, but I quickly found what did.

Tucked behind the leather-bound classics on the shelves of his den was a bound copy of the Covenant and its complex tapestry of laws. That told me everything I needed to know. The smell of Old World paper, easily distinguished from the paper of this world, was still strong in my nose when I let myself out and headed back to my car.

The sun had dropped, painting the western sky purple and rose, the rain clouds bruising its edges. The rain was more a drizzle as I left Ballard for Pioneer Square, my GPS whispering directions to me. I was moving against traffic now, slowed by pedestrians and puddles as I drove south. I parked a block away at the darker end of the street. I used my phone to check what lived at this second address but I already had my suspicion. It took less than a minute to confirm it. McDonnell, Dennehy and Jackson, Attorneys at Law had a suite on the fourth floor.

I pulled a dark hoody and a ball cap from my backpack and put them on, leaving my raincoat on the passenger seat. Then, slipping the tranq pistol into my waistband again, I locked the car and moved down the street.

Hunting time couldn’t be far away with the light nearly gone. Seattle’s streets were quieter than I remembered them–I’d lived here a decade earlier in a downtown loft when times were better. But it was busy enough with a mix of homeless, hapless, and just-off-work with loosened ties. I kept my eyes down and my nose open, pulling in the smell of weed and Pho and wet newspaper as I went.

Monica’s scent was easy to pick up on that wind, and I saw her, standing by the door of the building.

She was tall and slender, wearing a short leather jacket buttoned against the October evening, and a black skirt. Her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she carried herself with the same calm I’d seen earlier.

I paused and looked at my phone, watching from the corner of my eye as she took a look around before pulling open the door. I started moving again after she slipped inside. I paused at the edge of the doorway and counted to five before leaning around to look inside. Beyond the glass door, the lobby was dimly lit, and the security desk looked empty.

I smelled the guard coming before I saw him–off-brand cigarettes and Brut aftershave–and I ducked back out of the light. I heard his keys jingle in the door as he locked up and the timing of it convinced me that she was expected.

I walked past the door, glancing inside quickly as I went. The guard was slowly returning to his counter and I picked up my pace, cutting down the next alley I saw and making my way to the back of the building. It was easy enough to get onto the fire escape by way of a nearby dumpster. I crawled into a dark office on the fourth floor, my ears and nose taking in what they could. I heard muted voices, and the air was full of the smell of her; I followed both sound and scent.

The law offices were empty and the lights were out with one exception. Behind that closed door, I heard voices.

“I don’t know where,” the man said.

Monica’s voice was low, almost throaty. “If you don’t know, then you know who does.”

I took a few steps toward the door and paused. I heard Dennehy laugh. “I’m certainly not going to tell you. I know all about Criteaux and Bosley and that’s not enough incentive for me to talk. There’s nothing you can do to me that’s worse than the cost of betraying the Covenant. So maybe you should just go home and get back under your patron’s protection.”

The noise she made could’ve been a laugh, but it was throaty, slurred, telling me she’d made the shift. It was hunting time. “Trust me,” she said. “They both talked. Criteaux gave me Bosley, Bosley gave me you. You’ll talk, too.”

I heard Dennehy gasp and I took another step toward them.

Then a new smell stopped me in my tracks and somewhere outside the suite, I heard the distant chime of an arriving elevator. This was a dark smell, an earthy smell, and it made my skin crawl. Something that didn’t belong had just showed up. I’d not smelled this before, but I knew it wasn’t from around here.

It takes a lot to rattle me; I was rattled.

Sweaty, hands shaking, as the fight or flight of a rending hound bastard kicked into high gear. I drew the pistol as the smell grew closer and I turned toward the law firm’s small lobby. My eyes were adjusted to the dark now and I saw what looked like fog pouring beneath the door, building and gathering until it coalesced into roughly the shape of a large man. But this was no man. Its red eyes burned with cruel intelligence and its dark robes shifted around it like black mist. Its face was flat and mouthless, lit dimly by the eyes. I was familiar with the cataloged Old Worlders that had been permitted to cross over, and this was not one of them. That told me it had been sent over recently. To find her.

She must’ve smelled it by now because I heard a yowl from the other side of the door.

I’m not sure why I did what I did next, but I have to own it. I stepped in between whatever Old Worlder this was and the door it wanted to get behind. Between it and Monica Evenheart.

It growled at me but its voice was in my head. Stand aside and let us do our work.

I shook my head and was aware of the door opening. Monica’s smell was overpowering now in her feline form and it must’ve stirred something of my father’s blood in me. Despite the fear I felt, I wanted to give chase to her at some genetic, deep-down level. But instead, as her yowl rose into a snarl and as the Old Worlder roared and rushed me, I raised the tranq pistol and fired three darts into the center of its mass.

It collided with me, tossing me easily aside and into the wall. As I fell, I saw her leaping, claws outstretched and tail puffed up with menace. They were a blur now, rolling and writhing on the floor as I found my breath and my feet again. It pinned her quickly with its dark, taloned hands, and I put two more darts into its back at close range.

I glanced into the open office and saw Dennehy kneeling, handcuffed to a massive wooden desk. His eyes met mine and they were wide. The fear in his voice wasn’t from the cat. “Help me,” he whispered.

I looked back to the fight quickly, not liking the way his eyes made me feel. The beast was slowing with Monica still trapped beneath it and I launched a sneakered foot at its side. Most Old Worlders have little to no resistance to the bugs and medicines on this side and I was glad to see it was true in this case as whatever hunted the hunter drifted off to thick and muddy sleep.

Monica looked up at me beneath him, only she looked nothing like the picture now. Now, she had the face and tail and claws of a cat but the body of a woman. She pushed at the sleeping form that held her down. She echoed Dennehy’s words, and I shouldn’t have listened to her.

“Help me,” she said. There was enough purr in her voice that I didn’t think. I just acted out of that same place that made me drunk with the idea of chasing her up the nearest tree. I rolled the snoring beast off of her, and as I did her fist shot up to land soundly on my nose. White light and pain exploded, and from there, it was nothing for her to wrench the pistol out of my hand.

I was still surprised when she put a dart into my stomach.

“Sorry,” she said. I lunged forward but she stepped away easily and I tripped over the massive body on the floor.

This time, when I fell, I stayed down. And the dark hall went darker still.

#

I woke up stiff, my head splitting, and my nose flooded with the smell of her and the freeway. When I tried to move, I found I couldn’t. My hands were cuffed behind my back and I lay face down in the backseat of a fast-moving car. I groaned.

“You’re awake, then?”

I groaned again and tried to find my words.

She continued. “I should’ve left you.”

I twisted again, trying to roll over or sit up. “Why didn’t you?”

“You saved me from . . . well, whatever that was. It didn’t seem right leaving you for it to find once it woke up.” Or the police, I thought, if she’d gone through with her hunt.

I didn’t want to ask but I had to. “What about Dennehy?”

She chuckled. “He’s in the trunk. He’s alive.”

I tried to do the math. Somehow, she’d hauled two men from the top floor down to the street and into her. . . . I sniffed the car. I could smell Dennehy in it now, too. This wasn’t the convertible I’d seen her in earlier. I blinked away more disorientation and shifted again. This was a bigger car. Dennehy’s Lincoln, I expected. But why had she kept him alive?

“Where are we going?”

“Twin Falls, Idaho,” she said. “We’re halfway there, actually.”

“And why are you taking us to Twin Falls?” I’d never been there and wasn’t even sure where to place it on a map.

“I’m trading Dennehy. You . . . I’m not sure what I’m doing with you yet.”

“Maybe,” I said, “we should talk about that over coffee.”

I heard the car slow and the sound of the freeway diminish as she pulled off and parked. Then I felt her hands pulling me over and sitting me up. “Connor hired you, right? I found his number in your phone.”

I didn’t see any point in keeping quiet at this point. “Yes.”

“And that other . . . thing?” She positioned me in the backseat in the best uncomfortable position she could, and with her leaning over me, her scent even nearer, I had that same sudden urge to chase after her. I held it down. But from the way she looked at me, I thought maybe she felt something too. Maybe at some deep-down level of her own, she wanted me to chase her. I shook the notion away.

“I’m not sure. But I don’t think it planned to tranq you.”

Her face was no longer serene and I saw worry in her eyes. “No, I think you’re right about that.”

“I think you’ve pissed some people off.”

“Several,” she agreed. “You saved my life.”

I looked around. We were at an empty rest stop somewhere in the high desert. “I was going tranq you and send you home.”

She chuckled. “It didn’t quite work out that way. Speaking of which, how’s the head?”

I heard muffled noises and thumps from the trunk. Dennehy had woken up, too, it seemed. “It hurts. How about that coffee?”

She ignored me. “What was that back there?”

“Something Old World,” I said. “I have no idea. I’ve never run across one of those before.” Of course, there were thousands of Old World denizens I’d never seen; not all of them had been permitted to cross over, and not all of them had wanted to. Many had been happy to see the Queen of the North go and the rending hounds take up her crown. “Operating outside of the Covenant, I suspect.”

She hissed. “The Covenant is a net they raise and lower based on whoever’s serving.” I could hear the bitterness in her voice and see the anger in her eyes.

“Okay,” I said. I’d heard this before. “So the Covenant’s unfair and the patrons are crooked and self-serving.”

“Yes,” she said.

“So you’ve gone hunting off-leash because of it?”

“I hold my own leash now, thank you.” She paused. “And the hunting I did on my own isn’t any more wrong than the hunting I did for them.” She shrugged. “Killing is killing. All that’s left is the why.”

She had a point there. And she left a question hanging that was easy for me to pick up. “Then what is your why, Monica Evenheart?”

She regarded me without speaking for a full minute. “Article fourteen,” she said.

I pre-dated the Covenant but still needed to be familiar with it. Fourteen covered the multi-generational aspects of indentured servitude. Usually two or three generations, but I’d heard as many as five. Passage over was expensive, and blending in was difficult. The patrons could easily afford it and their initial investment led to even more profit once their indentureds were put to work. “So you didn’t want to give up your young to the Covenant?”

“I have no young,” she said. “I refuse to bear a litter into this system. I decided a long time ago that I’d slip my leash before it came to that.”

That made sense to me. I’d heard of it happening before. No child wants to be held to the decisions of their parents. No one wants to live out a contract they had no voice in crafting. Sadly, the parents had no voice, either, when it came right to it. The terms were dictated in the midst of cataclysm and genocide, completely in the patrons’ favor.

But what didn’t make sense here was why the hunt. She could’ve gone under the radar. Surely they’d have still hired me or someone like me to find her. But she’d have stayed hidden longer without the blood trail. Not to mention maybe avoiding whatever it was that now hunted her.

She must have sensed where my thoughts were leaning. “But there’s more than that,” she said. “My mother brought us all here as kittens–she signed the Covenant on our behalf. We had no say. I’d rather return to the Old World and face the rending hounds than stay under the Covenant. I certainly won’t give a litter to it. And I won’t give my family to it, either.”

I closed my eyes. “How many?”

“Four sisters, two brothers.” She watched my face. “I have a sister in Twin Falls.”

“And you’re trading Dennehy for her?”

She nodded. “He has information that they’d rather not lose.”

“After that?”

“I don’t know,” Monica said. “We’ll track down the others. Sort it out as we go.”

I shook my head. “I’m not so sure it will go well for you.”

Her eyes were hard. “It doesn’t have to go well for me.” Then they softened, but only by a little. “So what about you? What should I do with you, Mr. Wolfe?”

I saw the sagebrush and could smell rain coming. I should’ve asked her to let me go; I suspect she just might have. But I didn’t. Living outside the Covenant and system of patrons had let me go untouched by the unfairness of it all. I did my jobs for them or their people–and until now, I’d not let the system rattle me. But there was something about Monica Evenheart that struck an undiscovered chord in me. It was in her picture and in her scent, it was in the way she stirred my father’s blood and made me wish that I had a cycle like hers that let me stretch into my truest self and bay at the moon while loping across an open field. Running after her as fast as my legs could carry me. Overhead, a night sky mostly cloudy with a chance of cats and dogs in it. I shrugged and poured my mother’s charm into my smile. “You might as well keep me nearby at this point,” I said. “Otherwise, I’d just have to chase you down again.”

She smiled again and I liked it. “You see how well that worked out the last time, right?”

I shrugged again and said nothing as she leaned over and uncuffed me. “Climb up front if you want.”

I did. And within a minute, we were back on the road and heading southeast across the Columbia Plateau.

#

It was dark when we pulled up at the wrecking yard just outside Twin Falls. A worn sign declared in flaking white paint that the large, fenced enclosure of stacked cars belonged to Earl Haskins, Jr. It was far removed from the offices and high rises of L.A., San Francisco, and Seattle, and I found it hard to believe this backwoods place could have anything to do with the Covenant.

Monica idled the Lincoln outside the gate, headlights beckoning whoever waited for us inside. The gate rolled open slowly and she pulled forward. Two trailers–one double and one single-wide–waited just inside. The pickup parked nearby fit in fine but the dark SUVs with their tinted windows were definitely out of place.

I leaned forward, trying to count the suits that waited. I cracked the window and sniffed. They were all New World humans. Hired thugs. “It looks like they’re expecting us.”

The calm was in her face and voice again. “Yes.”

I studied her as the car crunched to a stop. “I don’t see how this can turn out well.”

She said nothing but I saw her rubbing the ring she wore. It was dark now. She could shift and that may turn the odds in her favor. Depending on how they were equipped. And who exactly they were.

I waited until she opened her door and then I opened mine as well.

“You.” She spat the word and I saw why. One of the suits had separated from the others. It was Connor.

“Good evening, Miss Evenheart,” he said as he approached.

“Ms.,” she corrected him.

He ignored the correction and turned to me. “I see you’ve met Mr. Wolfe. Though I’m not sure what’s convinced him to bite the hand that feeds him.” I could see the anger in his eyes but his face didn’t show it. “However, I don’t see Mr. Dennehy.”

“My deal was with Haskins,” she said.

“Unfortunately,” Connor said, “Mr. Haskins can’t be with us this evening. But I’m sure we can solve this without him.”

“And my sister?”

Connor smiled. “She’s inside. But there is no outcome to this that involves her leaving with you. Or you leaving, for that matter.”

As he said it, the suits started moving. Only this time, the pistols they drew weren’t firing tranqs. These were Glocks, heavy and dark in the yellow glow of a streetlamp that illuminated the yard. And Connor knew what he was up against. His thugs would be packing Old World silver in their clips.

Monica yowled and sprinted, her body changing as she did, her clothes shredding with the shift. I’d never been up close to a change before. It was uncanny to watch her body elongate and then drop to all fours. This time, she was all cat and she was on Connor before his men had their pistols raised, her teeth at his throat as her tail twitched back and forth.

Uncertain, they held their fire ,and in that moment a new smell flooded the yard. I’d only smelled it once and that had been enough. Whatever Old World beast had been sicced on her was here, and it moved silently with building speed. The smell of it made my knees shake and at least two of the suits dropped their guns. The others spun in the direction of the sound and opened fire. They couldn’t miss at that range but their bullets did nothing. The cloaked beast rushed them, talons lashing out.

I took advantage of that split second to dodge into the shadows, my eyes on the great cat. Connor struggled beneath her, his eyes wide. His voice was nearly a scream. “What is that?”

I couldn’t tell him. But in the span of seconds, it had rushed across the yard and lifted two of the suits up, tossing them away and into the dark. Their Glocks spun away as they hit the ground.

The others scattered and the beast spun on Monica Evenheart. Its voice was in my head; it must’ve been in hers too. Your defiance of the Covenant ends here.

She growled deep in her throat, digging her claws into Connor as she gathered herself into a pounce. Connor shrieked as she launched off him toward the hulking Old Worlder. She hit it hard and it caught her, throwing her easily into a wall of cars. She was on her feet and darting in again, her left paw raking its leg. It howled in my mind but more from anger than pain, I imagined. This time, it lashed out with a foot that landed in her side and sent her sliding across the gravel.

I saw an abandoned Glock and took a chance, rolling for it as the beast charged her again. I picked it up and sighted in, putting three rounds into its back. They did nothing to stop or slow it. Of course, Old World silver didn’t work on all of that shadowy place’s denizens. And without knowing what this particular creature was, there was no way to know exactly what might stop it.

But there was no doubt about what might stop Monica Evenheart. Already, she was slowing, panting, and trying to get away. I put another two rounds into its back but it paid me no mind.

She launched herself at it again and it threw her with even more force, this time up over the hood of the car to roll off the other side.

She was closer to me now and I saw her green eyes wide with panic as her nostrils flared. I moved closer to her, putting my hand on her haunch as I watched the beast approach. The bullets were worthless. And there was only one thing in the Old World that I knew had even odds against any other creature born beneath its dark star.

A crazy notion entered my head, fueled by desperation or maybe hope. I traced my hand along her body until I reached the collar at her neck. There were no guarantees that it would work on me but no other option–beyond watching it kill her-–presented itself.

“This might hurt,” I whispered. Then, I pulled it loose and, as her body started changing, I groped for the ring. Her yowl became a scream that cut into the night as her body abruptly twisted itself back to human. As the paw became a finger, the ring slid easily off into my own hand.

It was upon us when I slipped the moon collar around my own neck and shoved the ring onto my finger. What next? Was there something else to say or do? It was a longshot–even more than a longshot. I’d been born without my father’s cycle.

I felt the creature make contact and throw me easily, air whistling over me. As I landed, I saw it turning again on the huddled, naked form that twitched and jerked in the gravel. The fear inside became a sudden focus of rage. And that rage forced something to life deep inside my DNA.

I roared it out of me and felt every muscle, every bone, every part of me catch fire. But the hottest heat–white and blinding–was the heat from the moon collar and the ring that leashed me to it. And in that heat was a euphoria the likes of which I’d never known. A sense of something coming together in me that had been kept at bay, walled off and unknowable.

When I found my feet–no my paws, I was on all fours and felt the vertigo of the change. I wobbled, then steadied myself as I crouched and snarled.

The beast’s red eyes went wide and it fell back at the sight of me. I leaped after it, my claws tearing at its shrouded cloak as my fangs sought its throat. It had stopped fighting, which surprised me, and the softness of its flesh within my jaws, and the reek of fear that came off of it in waves, told me everything I needed to know. It lay still beneath me in a posture of submission. It knew exactly what I was.

My mind formed words and shoved them into it with a force that made its blood-colored eyes blink. What are you called?

I sensed the fear in the voice it pushed into my mind. I am Shemol. Of the Yerl. It paused, then remembered who it spoke to. Lord Hound, it added.

I had never heard of Yerl or Shemol. But it didn’t matter. Who sent you after the cat?

Around us, people were stirring. I punctured its skin and smelled the iron and cloves of its blood on the air. You know who sent me, Lord.

I did know. His response to me proved it and I growled. Is Umber still upon the Opal throne then?

No. His son reigns now.

I increased my grip on its throat. I’m not sure exactly where my words came from: some place tucked inside me with the rest of my hidden nature. Tell your king that Dengar’s bastard sends regards. This one and her littermates are of my pack. Do you understand?

Yes, Lord, it said.

Now flee.

Shemol of the Yerl collapsed in upon itself once I released its neck from my jaws. It dissipated in so much smoke billowing out across the wrecking yard.

Movement from the corner of my eye sent me skittering as a shot went off, gravel erupting where the bullet struck. I wasn’t going to find out what Old World silver could do to me. I pounced and this time, I gave myself over to something I’d never experienced before. I hunted with abandon, chasing down each of the suits and rending them as only a rending hound could. I learned fast and took to my work with enthusiasm, drunk on the blood I spilled.

I didn’t stop until I heard my name called. Monica Evenheart stood now, the moonlight white on her naked skin, one of the dropped pistols dangling in her hand. “Angus Wolfe,” she said again.

I thought she would be frightened but I saw no sign of fear and smelled no sign either. Instead, her eyes were wide with awe and her cheeks flushed from watching me. I padded over to her. Monica Evenheart, I replied.

She reached down a tentative hand and I bent my head as she scratched behind my ears.

Then, I bent my will toward my lesser form and felt the fire take me again as I shifted. When I was finished twisting and writhing on the ground, I pulled off the ring and collar and pushed them into her hands.

She looked at me laying there and then looked to the trailer.

“I’m fine,” I told her, taking the pistol from her. “Go get your sister.”

She was on all fours, tail whipping to and fro, when she reached the porch.

#

The sun rose over the brown Idaho hills, casting bloody light over Earl Haskin’s Wrecking Yard. I sat on the hood of an SUV wearing a pair Earl’s ratty sweats and a wife-beater. I watched the sunrise, wondering just how long we had before the patrons sent their next round of goons. And wondering when the Old World, and the hounds who ruled it, would throw its next hunter at us. The Covenant benefited more than just the patrons. It kept my father’s kin–my kin–in power. And they liked their power. Enough, it seemed, to keep an eye on things over on this side and intervene to keep things as they were.

I’d spent my lifetime on the edges of that hidden world, playing fetch for cash, and for the first time, I saw something more that I could do with my heritage. Especially now that I knew the moon collar could bring that heritage fully forward.

Of course, the experience of it left me exhausted, head-pounding and feverish. Still, I looked at the bodies we’d stacked against the trailer, tattered leftovers of the patron’s men. Now, in my present form, I felt a pang of regret. But not too much. They hadn’t come to Earl’s to play nice and make friends. And they’d killed Haskin before we’d gotten there. They’d have likely killed her sister, too, along with Monica. She’d brought down the attention of the Opal Throne and that couldn’t stand. Not in the Patron’s world. So they were cleaning up. No doubt, I’d have been buried in a shallow grave along with the rest of them.

I watched Monica finally come out of the trailer, her sister following with a suitcase and a Remington twelve gauge. She’d changed into jeans and a sweat shirt.

“What now?” I asked.

Monica looked at her sister. “Rachel says we have a brother near Minneapolis. I found some names in Earl’s files. We’ll keep looking until we find them all. And after that, maybe we’ll find the Queen of the North. What about you?”

I shrugged. “I think I’ll come along, seeing how I don’t have much else to do. And I’m stranded in the middle of Idaho.” It wasn’t as if I had much to go back to–or like the patron I’d betrayed would let me take up my old life. But more than that, there was something about this cat that made me want to keep her close. I’d told the beast she was of my pack. I’m not sure she was part of anyone’s pack or that she could be. But I was sure of my need to pursue her even if she could never be caught.

Monica Evenheart smiled and I saw fields and forests that we could run through in her eyes. “Let’s talk about it over coffee.”

We cut Dennehy loose and told him to disappear. The fear on his face told me he would do just that.

Then we lit the fires that would cover our tracks, and drove out of the yard, nose pointed east and into the rising sun.

I rolled down my window as she picked up speed on the highway; Monica and her sister laughed when I howled at the future I smelled upon the morning wind.


Ken-PowellsKEN SCHOLES is the award-winning author of the popular Psalms of Isaak series, which numbers four novels so far with a fifth entry, Hymn, coming later this year. He has won Writers of the Future as well as France’s Prix Imaginales award. His short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld and Realms of Fantasy among others, and many are available in two published collections of short fiction. He is a public speaker and frequent panelist, as well as a songwriter and musician.
Please take a look at Ken’s official site


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UFM Issue 1Pay What You Want for the complete issue.

Welcome to the First Issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine

Jordan Ellinger and I don’t agree on much. He’s more sci-fi, while I’m more fantasy. He is a plot guy, and I’m a language girl. He is Jordan Ellinger, and I think pen names are silly. He spells words with a lot of extra l’s and u’s, and sometimes q’s. I mean, he’s Canadian, for Pete’s sake.

When we met at Clarion West five years ago Jordan was already a Writers of the Future award winner, well-steeped in science fiction and fantasy, and ravenously acquiring new writing techniques, contacts, and story ideas with an almost mercenary precision. I was much, much less prepared. Jordan (rightly) eviscerated my first story, and we’ve been literary frenemies ever since.

We still don’t agree on much, but one thing we do agree on is that we’ve brought you a terrific first issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine. In this issue you’ll find an intro to Urban Fantasy from our own Nonfiction Editor Andreé Robinson-Neal and reviews of Debbie Vigue’s Circle of Blood and Jenna Black’s The Gifted Dead. In fiction, we’re pleased as punch to debut with a new story from award-winning author Ken Scholes. “A Chance of Cats and Dogs” made me want to howl at the moon, and possibly disembowel some bad guys.

One final thing on which Jordan and I see eye to eye is that the hands-down best part of being an editor is uncovering a gem of a story for all to see. We’re very proud to bring you John Wiswell’s “Wet,” a haunting tale of friendship and catharsis. With ghosts.

So many good stories came in through our submissions system that it was a real shame we had to choose just one for this first issue. We hope you’ll come back month after month, because we have some even equally good work coming up: stories from the likes of Carrie Vaughn, John A. Pitts, and Tim Powers, alongside beautiful stories from up-and-coming writers.

Every Thursday, we’ll bring you new content right here on our site, and the complete magazine will be available for download in both mobi and ePub formats in the coming days. We realize that we’re a new market and that we have to earn your trust. We feel like the issue we put together should do just that and, to prove it, we’re offering it for, well, whatever you’d like to spend on us. That’s right–our debut issue is Pay What You Want. Our suggested price is $2.99, but you can download it for free if you’d like. Check us out, and if you like the direction we’re heading in, buy a subscription and make sure that we’re able to keep doing what we’re doing.

UFM Issue 1

UFM Issue 1

Issue 1

  • Featuring
  • A Chance of Cats and Dogs by Ken Scholes
  • Wet by John Wiswell
  • Non-Fiction
  • Reading Urban Fantasy by Dr. Andree Robinson-Neal
  • Reviews
  • Circle of Blood by Debbie Viguie
  • The Gifted Dead by Jenna Black

Pay What You Want

We look forward to sharing some of the best Urban Fantasy fiction and non-fiction with you in the coming months and years. So, with that said…

Welcome to Urban Fantasy Magazine!