[Short Story] Fantasy Fan Con Panic [Excerpt]

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Back inside, Jack and Crystal eyed the couple from the second story terrace overlooking the hotel lobby. They watched a crowd slowly form around their two targets while they swapped use of the Chem-Thermo goggles that had been provided for them.

Among the crowds of cosplayers interspersed with the banner advertisements and kiosks showcasing the newest trends in manga, anime, and fantasy there they stood among them all. Even dressed in costumes like the other con goers, it was frightening yet intriguing spectacle to see these kinds of predators blending in with the other humans down below.

The vampire looked no older than perhaps twenty as he spun his cape and flashed his fangs for the adoring fans that took photos of him and his poses. The young Dracula cosplay look that he was going for must have been some sort of meta-joke of his, or a blatant invitation for someone to stake him right then and there. Even so, he fit right into the costumed clientele of this particular convention. Crystal zoomed in on him, noticing his thin, smooth, innocent, and androgynous looking face with piercing, pale-blue eyes. Crystal raised an eyebrow as he pouted at one of the cameras that coaxed him for another photo. Under the therm-optic filter his body took on a greyish blue hue in a sea of deep red pedestrians that stood or passed him by.

The succubus — the vampire’s partner — was able to spoof her heat signature better among the crowd, but she also shared her undead boyfriend’s meta sense of humor. She was standing next to him with her bat wings and black horns on full display. They looked real, but could just as well be chalked up to being the product of well done prosthetic make up and accessories. Like the vampire, she had a conventional beauty and confidence in the way she carried herself. She wore armor, but nothing that could be considered practical. It reminded Crystal of Xenia the Warrior Princess, but with a shorter leather skirt. Not much left to the imagination. Jack and Crystal switched to the chemical tracer filter on the goggles and could see that she was already releasing pheromones into the crowd. People who

might have been uninterested in the impromptu photo shoot in the lobby, were now transfixed and slowly growing attached to this attractive couple posing together. On the surface, things looked innocent enough, but Jack and Crystal saw it for what it was: lambs being lead to slaughter in some anonymous hotel room later tonight.

As the crowd grew from a dozen to nearly twenty in a matter of minutes, Jack and Crystal got up from their table and began to walk down to the lobby area. They were dressed in post-apocalyptic duster jackets. A cosplay grab that fit with the eclectic dress code of the nerd convention. As they walked, they fingered the holstered, plastic-looking guns that were actually loaded with silver and holy relic tipped subsonic ammo. They were suppose to take this demon and vampire in alive, but if worse came to worse, the subsonic ammo and suppressors would quietly dispose of them. Jack and Crystal each put on their shades and pulled on their gas masks to counter the vampires hypnosis and the pheromones of the succubus.

Now in the lobby, they walked casually into what was now turning into a fan mob. Not a single person among the crowd of ninjas, transformers, and alien princesses noticed nor raised an eyebrow at the Mad Max cosplay couple making their way to the front to see the vampire and succubus “models” gaining attention.

When Jack and Crystal reached them, the two supernaturals noticed them, and momentarily paused their act. For a split second, it felt like a connection was made between the four of them. Fight or flight began to take hold. The vampire and succubus noticed the gas mask and shades Jack and Crystal were wearing and tensed up. The fear in their eyes seemed to surprise Jack momentarily before realizing that he had already put his hand on his gun.

[Novel] Spymancer Chapter 1, Part 2 [Excerpt]

Author’s note: if you want to see the previous part or other stories related to this project follow this link here and here for more!

I carried her body out of the room. My left hand holding the pistol I had hidden earlier as the rest of my arm propped up her legs. I made a jog back to the elevator, but I didn’t make it so far as a few meters before I saw an angel rounding the corner after us.

“Magus!” he shouted, before raising his wings to fire a barb of sliver feathers into my chest.

    Three sharp feathers pierced my body armor, nearly cutting into my heart. My growl echoed into the dark hallway. I gritted my teeth as I struggled to support the weight of Cassidy’s body. I stumbled for a moment, almost into a half-kneel, but I still managed to raise my longinus hand canon and squeeze off several pincer shots that pinned the angel to the wall. The angel scream was deafening with a wave of anger that nearly stopped me in my tracks. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I took a deep breath, held on tightly to Cassidy, and lifted off into a sprint around the corner. As I pasted the angel he continued to spit out a string of curses at me as he slowly died from his wounds. Finally, I made it to the elevator, and using the same enchantment once again, I transformed my hand into that of Agather’s and summoned the elevator via the palm print scanner. The elevator responded with banal, womanly approval in the lyrically brutal, ancient language of Sanctum-Lilim Orthodox. I looked behind me and saw that several portals within the corridor were forming down the hall as more angels warped to my location. I took cover with Cassidy behind one of the protruding walls.

“There’s no way out, James!” one of the angels called out to me, “you’re not going to make half a kilometer before we run you down! Give up Cassidy and we promise you a swift death.”

“Really good at negotiating, aren’t you?” I mumbled.

I switched my pistol to fully automatic and fired blindly from around my small corner as the elevator was in its last moments of descent. There was a moment of pause before I heard there counter offer.

“Say your prayers, half-blood whore!” one of them yelled back in my direction.

I pulled out another loginus grenade from inside my suit and activated the trigger.

“How original,” I said to myself.

Just as the elevator doors opened, I tossed the grenade towards the pack of angels and jumped into the elevator with Cassidy in my arms. I could feel several feathers piercing into my back like knives as I shielded her from the barrage. I could hear the shrapnel exploding behind us as the elevator doors closed and began its ascent up towards the surface to a shrill burst of torturous screams. I kneeled down, placing Cassidy gently down on the floor and pulling out one of the sharp, knife-like feathers from my back. I could feel myself bleeding under the layers of my clothes.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Cassidy slowly propped herself up and looked up at me. I could see that she was coming out of her fog, but her face told me that seeing me before her was a shock to her system.

“Is this a dream?” she asked.

“No, I’m getting you out of here.”

I smiled, but winced from the effort as I felt another sharp twinge of one of the feathers digging into me. Cassidy got up and held me by my head.

“Cassidy,” I said, gritting my teeth, “do the have the strength to heal me?”

“Yes,”

“We’re going to need to help each other out of this if we want to get out of here alive,” I told her, “there’s going to be more of them waiting for us on the surface.”

She paused.

“Cassidy?”

“I’m sorry James, but I’m not going to heal you.”

I looked up at her. My mouth was open, nearly slack jawed over what I was hearing.

“Cassidy, what the fuck are you doing?”

“I wanted to look into your eyes and see the man that left me for dead,” she said, before grabbing one of the feathers and shoving it into my heart.

I doubled over, falling on my back as she looked down on me. I could hear the elevator screeching, sparks started to fly, and a massive inferno erupted inside the box car. As the fire quickly engulfed us, Cassidy bent down and looked at me, a sadistic smile spreading across her lips. Her beautiful eyes melted and in their place were embers of fire that slowly cracked the skin of her face as if her head was made of pottery.

“Come and die with me, James,” her voice echoed in the flames as the fire consumed us, “die like the cowardly traitor you are.”

I could feel my body shaking, unable to look away from her as the fire became hotter and more intense. Somewhere, I heard someone screaming, the wail becoming louder and louder until that’s all I could hear.

[Novel] Spymancer: Chapter 1, Part 1 [Excerpt]

Once again, I found myself in the familiar position of being at least a kilometer underground This time, however, I was the buyer and not the product being sold inside this angel-controlled outpost of maximum security and imprisonment of my fellow mages. The spell that I had cast on myself was working so far. I had come in disguised as a well-dressed businessman. A respectable incubus looking to buy one of the several half-demon bred magi girls whose sole purpose or punishment was to have their essence drained. This ritual would be conducted through an act of sexual conquest that would provide a lifespan two-to-three times that compared to any normal human that fell victim to this routine act of life extension.

“Sir?”

I looked away from my corner of the elevator and towards the white-haired angel who stared back at me with unblinking, golden eyes. He had a face so pale that I almost thought he might be an underfed vampire. As an almost fitting bit of contrast to my black, three-piece suit, he wore a white blazer and tie, along with white leather shoes. In fact, it’d be easier to describe him as being white from head-to-toe, as if accentuating the purity of his supernatural lineage. He was holding a tablet in front of me with a stylus, the screen fixed on a set of digital paper work that needed to be co-signed. I smiled, hoping the horns on my head looked real enough to pass as an ancient looking demon who often made these sorts of transactions on a regular basis.

“Yes, of course,” I said, taking the stylus and signing the name of the old demon baron that I was impersonating before handing it back to him, “you didn’t expect to see me so soon, I suppose?”

“No,” said the angel, who sounded polite, but with a twinge of annoyance, “you’re back again much earlier than we had anticipated.”

I smiled apologetically and shrugged in an attempt at dispersing the cloud of suspicion that was beginning to form around me, but I could see that he was already trying to look into my mind. However, the additional spell that I had cast upon myself was just going to give him a series of memories that I had crafted based on ones I had pulled from the incubus in question. Most angels wouldn’t doubt my identity after doing this kind of cursory view of my mind, but this was no ordinary facility, and I wasn’t the first magus to try to break into such a place.

“Now the secondary audit,” droned the angel, as he glanced back at his tablet.

“Yes, let’s finish this,” I said, with perhaps too much eagerness.

“Your name?”

“Agather,”

“Your wife?”

“Genevieve”

“Your sister’s name?”

“Trick question: no siblings,”

“Private herd count and mistresses?”

“Three herd members, one mistress,”

“Their classifications?”

“Herd is human stock, the mistress is another succubus,”

“Genevieve would be a very sorry demoness if she knew your extramarital appetites,”

“False: she knows and accepts these lifestyle choices,”

“Your date of birth and place of birth?”

“Dis, 1648”

“Name three emotions from your childhood,”

“Fear, desire, and…” I paused for a moment, as did Agather from the countless video logs I managed to procure of these conversations in order to analyze his speech patterns, “…happiness.”

I waited as the angel finished whatever notes he was taking before he looking back up at me and handed the tablet back for another signature.

“Very good,” he said, “once again you passed, but then again I wouldn’t dream of some magus crazy enough at trying to disguise themselves as you anyway.”

“That would be a bit full hearty of them, wouldn’t it?” I answered back, as I concentrated on making Agather’s signature look as authentic as possible.

“What brings you back, Baron Agather?”

“Well,” I said, handing the tablet and stylus back to the angel, “a recent scare has prompted me to make another request for your services. I know this is one of the busier times of the year for people like yourself.”

“Yes,” the angel answered somberly as he looked down at the tablet, the lids of his eyes drooping a fraction, “you also requested a specific half-breed magus to source from, a Ms. Cassidy Wells?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“A little old, don’t you agree, Mr. Agather?”

“My proclivities are none of your business, angel,”

“True, but there are plenty of eighteen-year-olds you can harvest from if it’s simply life-extension you’re seeking. You do understand that there is a rate of diminishing returns as these magi get older.”

I bit my lower lip and wondered how this conversation would go if he knew who he was really talking to, or that I was packing — optically and magically camouflaged — “angel killer” equipped grenades and pistols inside my suit. I changed tactics in order the steer the conversation away from the current subject, but looking back, I realized then that this slight loose in composure would mark the beginning of a series of fatal blunders.

“My good friend Carmilla wants this one gone as quickly as possible,” I said, “this Cassidy did a lot of damage to my friend’s assets in Europe and in turn my own. I know she sold Cassidy to your organization, but this is also a personal favor from me to an old friend of mine. I get my allotment early and help tie up some loose ends.”

The additional name dropping of the infamous succubus, Camilla, added the weight I needed to expedite this process.

“Very well,” said the angel, reverting back to the dull professionalism he displayed earlier, “we’ll take you to her.”

When the elevator stopped, we were met by a small entourage of three other angels waiting to escort us down the dark, neon-blue lit cell block. One of these angels, a woman, greeted me with a slight bow.

“Mr. Agather,” she said, “so good to see you again!”

“And you as well, Abby,” I said, recalling her name and face in a dossier I looked over prior to coming here, “still purifying the wicked?”

“Only the ones that transgress the natural order,” she said with reverence.

“And what about me?” I asked, gesturing at myself with a half-cocked smile.

“Your kind were once angels too, you know,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “You exist because God allows it.”

“Hence why we’re all here today,” I mocked, as I clasped my hands and rubbed them together, “so, let’s see Ms. Wells, shall we?”

As we started our walk towards our destination, I continued to make conversation.

“I’ve noticed that the prices in magi essence and blood has spiked recently in the past month or so,” I continued, “I take it the commodities market has been favoring your recent change in live stock?”

“Oh yes,” said Abby, excited, “our investors are very happy. These magus farms of ours have seen an increase in business over the last year. Even vampires are ordering from us now.”

We rounded a corner and down another hallway.

“So I take it you get complaints from the Warlock Human Rights Organization everyday then?” I asked with a laugh.

“Those half-breed, spawns of whores at the W.H.R.O can send as many petitions as they want,” seethed Abby as we continued our stroll down the hall, “as long as they all stay in Geneva and Stockholm where they belong, it won’t hurt our bottom line.”

Our pace began to slow as we approached what I assumed to be Cassidy’s cell; a black cement rectangle of a door with no windows and a blue-neon keypad that kept it locked.

“Sometimes I wonder if a member of my herd birthed something like one of those mages, but didn’t tell me,” I mused, “it’s a scary thought.”

“Your kind still executes incubi who procreate with humans, don’t they?” asked Abby, as she started to punch in the code to unlock the cell.

“The laws are changing what with the business community lobbying to build more magus farms,” I answered, pulling the facts from reading business quarterly I remembered reading a month or so back, “but yes, that’s still a common practice.”

“That’s too bad,” said Abby somberly, as the cell doors slid open and a fog of cool mist greeted us from inside, “we’d make a killing with the profits that would bring.”

A shiver went down my spine as she said this to me and I became reacquainted with the fear I thought I’d left behind in a place like this.

Cassidy was strapped into a leather chair that protruded from the ceiling wrapped up with cords, and hooked into a virtual reality headset. The chair that Cassidy was sitting on looked like it had sprouted from the ceiling like a post-modern fungus of furniture and wires. Her clothes were basic, white inmate fatigues that had long since been yellowed and dirtied by years of neglect. Her hair was a blond mess that fell over her shoulders and chest as she remained slumped forward, tuned into whatever program the VR simulation was running. She appeared to be in a vegetative state as she drooled all over herself, lost in her world of forced media coma. I felt myself clearing my throat, trying to stifle the urge end this quickly and risk getting sloppy for just a few moments longer.

“Tell me something,” I asked the four angels in the room with me, “how long has she been in this state?”

The angels looked at each other confused.

“How is this relevant to…” one of them started to say, but I interrupted them.

“Indulge me,” I insisted, holding up a hand to counter their protests.

“Almost a year,” one of them finally answered, “we feed them well, of course, and keep them on a steady media diet so that they remain docile.”

“What kind of media diet are we talking about?” I asked. I could feel my jaw tightening as I struggled to maintain composure.

“Nothing that would violate any current treaties, I assure you,” answered Abby, her sales pitch straddling the border between offering a clean conscience and client happiness, “we can pull images from their mind. Previous lovers or crushes can be used to implant fantasies into them while they sleep. On the rare occasion that they are woken up, they often choose to go back into VR, but the fantasies themselves use digital actors. Approximations of their ideal man or woman that are tailored to their preferences.”

As she stated this, Abby got a better look at my face and paused mid lecture.

“I have to say, you of look like one of the men Cassidy fantasies about the most,” she said.

While Abby’s comment proved that my face and memory enchantment had worked further in disguising myself from her, I still felt the unconscious need to glance up at Cassidy in an attempt to avoid eye contact.

“And you’ll collect her soul…after I’m done with her?”

“After it’s husked, yes,” answered Abby, “tainted or not, it’s still a useful byproduct and can be refined later for us to use in our ongoing quest for eternal life.”

All this so a few can live forever, I thought.

    I could feel myself starting to sweat despite the chill within the dark chamber while the other angels watched me. My heart was pounding as the pressure began to mount. I remembered how this other mover sight proved to be another fatal error, but at the time I was too nervous knowing that my window of opportunity was starting to close.

“Do I hear….” it was the first male angel that I had met in the elevator, “your heart beating?”

I turned to him and smiled. The bastard had asked this knowing that Cassidy’s should be the only beating heart human in the room right now.

“Perhaps its my aura giving off palpitations of excitement?” I said hopefully.

“No, an incubus does not have a beating heart,” said the angel, his voice becoming more threatening.

I turned away from the angels and looked up a Cassidy. Worse case scenario I can at least say I made it this far. I took a breath and allowed myself to succumb to the anger festering within me.

“I know,” I responded softly, “but it’s not for lack of trying.”

Silence filled the room before the first one responded.

“Shit…”

As soon as the first angel swore, I was already crouching towards the floor to avoid the longinus shrapnel grenade that I had activated. The grenade’s cylindrical chassis popped up from the floor and fired a series of demonic-tipped knives that fired an even circle towards all targets. When I activated the grenade I made sure that I was low enough and Cassidy was high enough to avoid the blast arc as each pincer found their mark and turned the angels into combustible, blue embers of ash.

I snapped my fingers, which deactivated all of my enchantments that maintained my incubus disguise, and scrambled up the platform that Cassidy was hanging from. From here on out, I knew I was going to need every ounce of my energy if I was going to use magic to get her and myself out of here alive. I removed the wires wrapped around Cassidy and pulled the VR headset off of her. The pupils of her eyes looked like square, white cataracts of digital haze from hours of media bombardment as she slumped into my arms. I patted her cheek softly, trying to break her from her trance. I could already hear the alarm going off.

“Hey,” I whispered, “hey, hey! It’s James. Remember? I promised you. I’m getting you out.”

Cassidy’s eyes fluttered as she looked at me. “I don’t,” she moaned, “I can’t feel my legs.”

“I’ll help you, but we have to leave now.”

[Flash Fiction] Summon Demons or Someone Else Will.

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Lenard Tillerson, CEO of Straten Finance, had until mid night to get out of this with his life and finances intact. The hostile take over of his company started at 10a.m that morning when his rival, Nathan Rivers, of Contingency Capital, started buying up his stock at double the price from anyone willing to sell it. To Mr. Tillerson’s frustration, there had been a ton of defectors that didn’t mind getting bought out. However, Tillerson still owned fifty-one percent of his company via stocks.

By mid day, when it became clear Nathan couldn’t buy his way into owning Straten Finance the word “hostile” in hostile takeover began to take a more literal meaning. Men and women in black trench coats and carrying automatic weapons stormed the lobby of Straten Finance and had gotten themselves into a fire fight with Tillerson’s security team. It was another bid by Rivers to take out Tillerson. The attempt itself should have been against the law, but somehow Contingency Capital’s legal team was putting Tillerson’s lawyers and the Feds through the ringer in the form of convoluted precedents that kept this bloodbath going. Apparently, this corporate war would continue until such time that the courts decided it was illegal for a corporation to use lethal force in order to acquire another.

By 6 p.m it have become a stalemate: both legally and militarily. It was then that Tillerson got a phone call:

“Hello?”

“Hi, Lenard!”

“Fuck you, Nathan!” Mr. Tillerson screamed into his phone, “what the fuck are you doing!? You’ve gone completely psychotic!”

“The difference between genius and insanity is only measured by success and failure, my friend,” responded Mr. Rivers calmly, “and right now, I’m fucking Albert Einstein.”

“So this is it then?” asked Mr. Tillerson, sounding completely dumbfounded, “you’re just going to continue this fucked up campaign of yours? If you keep this up, Nathan, you’ll destroy the reputation of Wall Street. We’ll be no different than warloads!”

“Oh please, what’s to ruin?” scoffed Mr. Rivers, “If people really gave a shit somebody would have stopped us by now. Nobody cares what rich fucks like us do anymore, just as long as we leave everyone else alone.”

“And you’re satisfied with that?” asked Mr. Tillerson.

“Not really,” said Mr. Rivers, “I wanted to surprise you with this one, but according to my lawyers they’re insisting that I give you a heads up.”

“Oh, Jesus, what now?” asked the now exacerbated Tillerson, while succumbing to a bit of gallows humor, “you’re going to drop a fucking bomb on my building?”

“Nope, I’m summoning a demon,” Mr. Rivers responded dryly.

Tillerson took a long pause and looked out the window of his office high rise before leaning his head against the glass. His sense of reality was beginning to slip.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” said Tillerson.

“Dead serious, actually,” answered Rivers, “most humans aren’t supposed to know about this, but you can summon a demon to grant you a wish. I can’t seem to buy you or kill you, so I’m just going to have to wish you away. It’s this whole ritual by some wizard, or whatever. He’s concocting it. A friend of a friend, really. Anyway, he set this whole thing up for me. We got all this satanic shit in my office right now that’s being set up…”

At this point Tillerson could barely hear himself think, much less talk as he listened to Rivers continue:

“…and I have to warn you as part of some legal thing. The wizard and my lawyers told me to.”

Tillerson cleared his throat and asked the obvious question:

“Nathan, why are you doing this?”

“If I take you out I’ll control the majority of the market you and I have been competing over for years,” answered Rivers, “and I plan on winning by any means necessary.”

Tillerson, despite wanting to call Rivers a fucking lunatic, found that he couldn’t muster the energy or the logic to argue Rivers point. It would’ve been futile anyway.

“So, nothing personal,” continued Rivers, “it’s just business. You have until mid night, guy. Later!”

The phone went silent after that.

Tillerson took a few moments to get his barrings before thinking of a plan. Nathan wasn’t the only one who knew about demon summoning. What Nathan didn’t know was that Lenard was a black mage as well. And while Nathan may have hired some wizard to do his dirty work for him, Lenard could pull off the same ritual without outsourcing. Nathan was always an idiot that had more money than education, Lenard thought. Lenard scrambled to his safe next to his desk to pull out his book of spells. The demon summoning ritual would take awhile if it was just him and from the way Nathan sounded over the phone, Lenard didn’t have a lot of time.

First Draft of Novel: Completed

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It has been a long and grueling process. Two months of research, sixteen months of writing, eighteen months of work. 84,885 words: 126 pages single spaced, 246 words double spaced. It’s done. However, it’s not done-done. I still have editing and revising to do. There will be many more drafts before the final manuscript; but at least I can say I got this far and I’m one step closer to completing my novel…I think I’m probably going to go take a nap now, lol. Bye!

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[Short Story] Our Vampire, Lenny [Excerpt]

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When Lenny the vampire heard the rumor about the incubus and succubus couple who had fallen on hard times, he made a point to be at the nightclub Radion so that he could bump into them. The transients from hell, and those who served it, whether they be vampire or demon, alike, was a small enough world once you narrowed it down to a single city. On this piece of sprawled urbanization, there were maybe less than a hundred vampires and demons living among the whole two million of human population. Lenny knew a younger succubus who was an acquaintance to the other. This mutuality assured camaraderie would be Lenny’s in. These new friendships between immortals was how it always started: acquaintances and introductions.

Lenny sat at the edge of the bar and looked on past the crowded dance floor as the loud synthwave beats blasted inside the warm, dark ambiance among an array or lasers and black light. He craned his neck above the other strangers – what his kind mockingly called prey – and watched as his young, she-demon, friend talked to the couple. All three demons were in human form; no horns or wings to see, unlike Lenny who simply had to look less pale than usual. He carefully observed the cordial mood between the three of them and the eventual turning to his general direction when Lenny’s succubus intermediary pointed the couple towards him. Lenny simply smiled and raised his drink. The incubus and succubus couple smiled back. The wheels were now turning.

The couple moved slowly but purposefully together, arm-and-arm around each others waist like two individual organisms who had just evolved into something symbiotic. Lenny watched their walk as they skirted just at the edge of the crowd and made their casual approach towards him. Lenny could see what they were doing. It was something that could barely be picked up by the human eye, but obvious for any preternatural or supernatural in the room. The pheromones that the two demons were emitting were like a hazy miasma that was spreading over the crowd. The humans with the weakest of constitutions got hit by it first and couldn’t help but turn and look at these two objects of human beauty that passed by them. Lenny saw what was in the eyes of the humans too overcomed by it to not stop and gaze at this man and woman. They were the kinds of looks that were all too familiar to Lenny: worship, awe, intrigue, and lust; emotions that would all eventually lead to obsession. Lenny could only sit and feel thankful that he was immune to the kinds of chemical controls used in the wheel-house of demonic persuasion.

The couple walked by Lenny, very nearly passing him at the bar before stopping and turning their heads to look at him.

“Can we get some privacy somewhere?” the incubus asked Lenny, his voice a sleepy, but honey-laced purr of an accent that carried itself gracefully over the noise of the club.

“Follow me,” said Lenny, smiling, as he got up from his seat, “allow me to introduce myself, I’m Lenard, my friends call me Lenny. I’m a friend of Kimberly’s.”

The succubus extended her arm and gently shook Lenny’s hand.

“Yes, she just told us about you earlier,” said the demoness, giving off a polite, erudite, tone that similarly commanded formidable volume over the loud sounds of the club, “My name is Lindsay and this is my partner Derreck.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” said Lenny, matching both of them among the crowd, “let’s step into my office shall we?”

Inside the quiet and red plush furniture of the privacy booth, all three were able to get a better look at each other. Lenny could see the model good looks of both of the demons sitting across from him. The woman was a thin and tanned redhead with freckles and a small diamond stud sticking out of her nose. She had high cheek bones and large green eyes that contained a twinkle that danced if you stared into them long enough. The man was of similar skin tone and hair, but with a well trimmed beard and a muscular, well cut body hiding under his T-shirt and vest. His eyes were a deep shade of blue that seemed to take in the world with a tired, but quietly non-judgmental sense of contentment. His smile was small, closed, and serene like a monk who just experienced transcendence. The woman’s smile was playfully haughty with an undertone of slyness that begged to be pushed through to find the mystery that was hidden beneath.

For some reason, the couple saw fit to dress like groupie hipsters in a matching red leather and gray cotton fabric color scheme that came off surprisingly fashionable.

“You two must get mistaken for models quite often,” said Lenny, breaking the ice.

The two smiled at each other and looked back at him.

“We did a few photo shoot tours in England and Italy for a few years off and on,” said the succubus with a shrug, her voice, in the quiet of the booth, was now slow, soft, and peppy in tone; but in the process of smoothly transitioning into something mature if not sensually husky “that is until both of their economies collapsed and we had to move here.”

“Well, the free city-states in this part of the world are much more stable,” assured Lenny, “I was around when this one successfully seceded from their homeland and it has been worth the effort so far. No bloodshed, total independence, and plenty of money flowing in and out.”

“Because you vampires control the banks supporting these enclaves, right?” asked the incubus.

Lenny grinned at the question.

“Well, not exactly,” said Lenny, “but my kind — through several intermediaries — handle the finances that maintain the economy here.”

“Kimberly told us you can help us with that,” said Lindsay, her tone was still polite, but had a sense of urgency that Lenny picked up on.

It was the kind of urgency that Lenny liked, and needed, in order for this to work.

“She said you work with moving money around,” continued Lindsay, “and you’ve help plenty of people, humans included, with jobs like that.”

“Well,” said Derreck raising his arm, “we had a go at attempting some investing, but it didn’t work out.”

“Oh no, what happened?” asked Lenny.

“We trusted the wrong person, unfortunately,” said Lindsay solemnly.

“Who did you trust?” asked Lenny.

“A freelance, financier, a warlock operating in Paris,” said Derreck shaking his head in anger, “defrauded us out of everything we had and then some.”

“Last we heard, he fled to Hong Kong, hiding behind the services of some vampire lawyer he hired,” cried Lindsay, “and he was a half-breed, too, can you believe that?”

“Appalling,” said Lenny, shaking his head, “Warlocks and sorceresses are a tricky, terrible group of people when not raised by fellow Kindred or Lilim, like ourselves.”

“I’d have his lifespan for dinner, if I knew he wouldn’t enjoy ever last second of it,” Lindsay said coldly.

“We could really use some help in the meantime,” said Derreck.

“Yes, I heard both of you were looking for some assistance,” said Lenny, “I’m sorry to not beat around the bush, but tell me, how much help were you two looking to get?”

“We’re…,” Lindsay’s voice trailed off.

There was a short silence.

“Over one-hundred-thousand in the hole,” said Derreck with a sigh.

“My Lilith…” said Lenny, for the first time, actually genuinely surprised by the debt, “that much?”

“It’s extremely embarrassing, I know,” said Lindsay, “we’ve been hiding it for months now.”

“So, what can you do for us?” asked Derreck.

“Well, here’s the thing: I actually wanted to come to you two with a business proposition,” said Lenny, choosing his words very carefully, “it’s not another loan or some kind of debt consolidation, it’s a job.”

“What kind of job?” asked Derreck.

“I’m a salesmen,” said Lenny, “I deal in all kinds of product and I could use two people such as yourselves to help me with my business.”

“What kind if business is that?” asked Lindsay.

Lenny looked down and smiled. It was one of his only tells that revealed any kind of reluctance on his part.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

[Review] Game of Thrones: A Whodunit of Medieval Proportions [Hard Drive Archive]

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

A lot people have been asking me to read this novel. It has been making the rounds recently what with the T.V adaptation on HBO and the recent reprints of the books in nice, glossy covers, on display, at my local book store. Though, before I get into this review I should probably tell you something: I’m not much of a fantasy fan. Though I read from several different genres, Science Fiction has always been my corner. You could probably chock it up to bad luck as well that my first exposure to fantasy was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series and the earlier World of Warcraft novels based on the MMO, both of which I didn’t like. Though, one can say I have moved on to greener pastures since then, having read the Narnia, Redwall and Lord of the Rings books (which are part of the modern fantasy canon anyway), none of them have been able to truly blow me away. Even J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books couldn’t keep me interested past the second book and even supposed non-readers were going ape-shit over that series.

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Seriously, a crack dealer couldn’t sell their drugs as fast as those books did.

And do you want to know what’s even more terrible? My favorite fantasy series, if it even counts among die-hard fans, is the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and even it starts to lose its luster by the end of the fourth book (read the next four in the series at your own risk). It’s pitiful that I have to say that that series meant for middle schoolers is one of my favorites, with Narnia and Redwall coming at a close second and I think I know why.

Fantasy never seemed to want to walk on the “dark side” as I like to call it. For most fans of the genre, it seems to be all about the escapism and living vicariously through a “Chosen One” type of character and twisting it to become some Oliver Twist, rags to riches, good guys will always come through within the last fifty pages, storyline that just did not appeal to me as a reader. Yeah, call me a glum, cynical, emo-goth, but I cannot stand those types of novels. If I know for certain that it’s going to shit smilely faces at the end, why should I read it? You honestly think I can be surprised by that? Sci-fi seemed to at least be much more willing to take a more risky route in terms of storytelling by making their genre darker and grittier for it’s audiences. It’s those reasons alone that have turned me off from the genre of fantasy for several years until this point; despite the fact that Michael Moorcock and even Richard Morgan have been breaking new ground for years trying to drag fantasy out of the rainbow room. So can Game of Thrones change my mind on that? Well, keep reading, I dare you!

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A Game of Thrones: a hard cover novel thick enough to beat a crack dealer to death with.

Game of Thrones was written in 1996 by former screen writer George R.R Martin, who participated in the writing of several short stories in the 1970s that spearheaded his writing career on T.V., even writing for the 1987 series Beauty and the Beast. The series had a bit of a slow burn in terms of gaining popularity. Though considering he’s a man who once worked in Hollywood and has two middle names to call his own, I suppose that helps.

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“Yeah, I don’t know why have two middle names either.”

The book starts with the murdering of the King’s Hand by a mysterious assassin, along with the killing of two rangers and a lord at the hands of an ancient foe, both incidents occurring on different sides of the continent and it’s off to the races. From there this medieval tale takes an interesting turn as it soon transforms into not your average fantasy novel and becomes at its core, a mystery whodoneit scenario, based in a fantasy setting. Though the book is told from multiple perspectives, it mainly focuses on Lord Eddard Stark, as he tries to help his good friend, King Robert, solve this mystery of this murder while trying to navigate the political interests and intrigues of other lords and advisers, all wanting control over the Seven Kingdoms. Being also a fan of detective noir novels, I was immediately engrossed in the story. The characters were multilayered and had several competing interests with one another, not to mention most of these characters motivations were kept hidden throughout, leaving me to guess and even second guess their true allegiance to Stark and the other major characters.

My favorite character by far was Tyrion Lannister, if only because he’s such a likable smartass, as well as being a dwarf. His cunning and intelligence seem to make him the most interesting and dangerous character since he’s basically playing off of, as well as conspiring for and against, with three different factions throughout the novel.

If there is anything bad I can say about this book, if at all, it is the pacing and the amount of characters in the novel. Like any fantasy book, this one often tends to dwell on more often than necessary I feel, on the lore and history of the Seven Kingdoms. A trope often employed by fantasy writers, mainly because I suspect they seem to have no choice in terms of providing proper exposition, but could have been edited down or expanded in dialogue. Also, since the novel is told from seven different character’s perspectives, there is a bit of difficulty in trying to follow the multiple story lines and some character story arches were more interesting than others. Especially when Martin tries to tie up his character’s journey’s at the end, with the exception of the last chapter, I felt that the story ended fifty pages ago and the rest was epilogue. There’s also such a girth of secondary characters that their appearances half-way through the novel tended to run together until I was basically assigning them a generic blank face and clothing when they made their appearance again to interact with the main characters. I’m thankful for the index that is provided on the back, otherwise I would’ve been lost on who’s who. Though like I said, minor nit-picks.

Overall this is a very great book that keeps you at the edge of your set until the very shocking conclusion that definitely made me rethink the genre of fantasy. It’s dark, it’s gritty and most of all intriguing. I’d say it might be one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, though I’ll let you decide how much weight you’d want that endorsement to carry. I can’t wait to read the last two books in the trilogy…

Holy Seven Hells, he’s got five more of these books!?