Demon's Fury: Part 1 of the Final Asylum Tales (The Asylum Tales series)

BOOK: Demon's Fury: Part 1 of the Final Asylum Tales (The Asylum Tales series)
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Dedication

To All My Personal Demons

We’ve made some good books together.

 

Chapter 1

I
looked like a fucking banker. The shirt and jacket were confining and the tie was threatening to choke me. I tugged at the French cuffs with the onyx cuff links for the fiftieth time as we walked down the empty sidewalk, fighting the urge to break something just to let off some steam. This had to be why the guardians slaughtered people on sight. Not to protect the sanctity of the Towers. They did it because the uniform sucked ass.

“Stop fidgeting,” Gideon said as he walked beside me. The black-haired warlock had always dressed in these tailored suits, and he actually looked comfortable in them. Of course, it was rare for Gideon to show any kind of emotion beyond mild irritation. The bastard was polished black ice.

“You can’t tell me you like wearing these monkey suits,” I grumbled, feeling even more like an idiot as I walked beside him. Next to the warlock, I was a phony, a fraud, and it showed for all the world to see when we were together.

With my hands shoved into my pockets, I glared at the ground. I didn’t want to see my surroundings as the setting sun cast everything in a rosy glow. I had no idea where we were, but that didn’t matter. The handful of people who stuck their heads out knew who we were. You could tell by the terror twisting their faces seconds before they darted in the opposite direction. The Towers had come to town.

Not that I could blame them for their fear and hatred. The Ivory Towers had wiped Indianapolis off the map just a few short months ago with no warning and no known reason. Some small part of me died to be counted as a warlock.

“The suits are tailor-made to fit you perfectly and are embedded with charmed threads that help increase protection against glamour and various forms of attack,” my companion recited, sounding like he was reading from a freaking manual.

“Yes, but do you like wearing them?”

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” Gideon snapped, coming to a stop in front of a three-story apartment building. “You’re here to do a job—one that you agreed to do for the council. If you stop bitching, this might prove to be less painful for everyone involved.”

I frowned, swallowing my next complaint. He was right. I made a deal with the Ivory Towers council to work as a guardian in an effort to help protect the Towers as well as protect the rest of the world from the Towers. But becoming a guardian meant going back to the Towers, leaving the acidic taste of bile burning in the back of the throat. I had fought and nearly died to escape. Ten years later, I’m right back where I started, feeling as if I’ve lost everything.

Gideon would be the first to remind me that I was still alive and I had a better chance of secretly helping people than I had before. But standing in that damn suit while the rest of the world cowered and despised the sight of me made it hard to remember those little victories.

Shoving aside my disgust, I lifted my head to survey the region again. The sooner we got this task completed, the sooner I could return to Low Town. “What’s the job?”

“Something . . . different.”

I motioned for Gideon to continue as he stared up at the plain white apartment building. The narrow, worn street we stood on was lined with old buildings sagging in the fading light. A trickle of sweat ran down my spine while more gathered at my temple. It was way too hot for early December, but the palm trees that stirred in the faint breeze led me to believe we were likely in South Florida.

Several of the apartment windows were open to let in an evening breeze, causing curtains to flutter and dirty plastic blinds to flap. No one looked down at us. “I’m guessing that ‘different’ doesn’t come up too often,” I continued when he remained stubbornly silent.

“No, it doesn’t.” His thin lips were pressed into a hard line and his silver eyes were unfocused. He wasn’t staring at the building any longer, but lost in some strange thought that sent a wave of dread through me.

Gideon blinked twice, snapping back from wherever his mind had wandered and glared at me. “Are there any protection spells? Any defensive wards?”

I directed my attention at the building and started to close my eyes so I could focus my attention on my other sense—the one that was tuned toward magic energy—but I caught myself. Since becoming a guardian, Gideon had been working as something of a mentor to keep me alive while quietly expanding my magical knowledge. Closing my eyes to focus on magic left me vulnerable to attack. Gideon had been kind enough to show me just that on more than one occasion. The bastard took too much pleasure in knocking me around.

“There’s something here. Faint.” I reached out my right hand to feel the air in front of me. A faint tingling pricked my fingertips as if I could actually feel each individually charged electron as it spun about, charging the air. “There’s definitely a magical energy, more organized than just the usual latent energy, but it’s not actually organized into a specific spell or a ward that I can identify. More like a heavy residue left from a massive spell.”

“Good. Can you tell what the caster was?” Gideon’s voice dipped low, as if he were afraid that someone would overhear his comments, not that there was another soul within a hundred yards of us.

“What do you mean?”

“Was the spell caster human? Elf? Pixie? Leprechaun?”

My eyebrows bunched together as I concentrated harder on the feeling hanging in the air. With each passing second, the energy grew a little fainter, making it harder to pick out details, leaving me more with just a vague feeling. “Not . . . fey,” I slowly said.

The fey—elves, pixies, faeries, brownies, and all of that dangerous nature-based lot—had a distinct flavor to their magic. There was almost a sugar-sweet aftertaste in my brain from fey magic. For an incubus or succubus, it was sort of musky, while a phoenix was, unsurprisingly, like burning wood from a campfire. Warlocks and witches created a fresh, clean scent like a spring rain when they used magic.

Outside the apartment building, it was . . . different. Different from anything I had ever encountered before. “It’s different.”

“Which is why we’re here.” Gideon reached inside the black robe he wore over his dark charcoal-colored suit and pulled out his wand, adding to a buzz of energy in the air. “Two nights ago, the New York Tower detected an explosion of magical energy. It could be described only as something different, something we couldn’t remember encountering before, but it was powerful. Despite its initial strength, it faded quickly and we had some trouble tracking it.”

Reaching inside my jacket, I pulled out my wand as well. It was new, after my first had been broken by Reave. The hawthorn wand gave me excellent control with a nice boost in power, but we were still becoming adjusted to each other. With every wand, there was a breaking-in period, and considering that I didn’t go out with Gideon often, there weren’t many opportunities to break in my wand.

“Could it have been a New One?” I asked.

Gideon shook his head. “This was too much power for a child, even for a late bloomer of twelve. And like you said, this is different.”

Most humans revealed their natural talent for magic between the ages of seven and twelve. Referred to as New Ones by the Towers, they were quickly swept off for training upon discovery. It was the safest, though unhappy, thing for everyone.

“What about a hybrid or half-breed? Human mother and fey daddy?”

The dark-haired warlock motioned toward the building. “Does that in any way feel fey to you? Or even partially human?”

“No, but what else is there?”

Gideon’s face was blank as he walked toward the building, but I saw his hand tighten on his wand. “Maybe it’s something that we thought was dead.”

For a moment, my feet were stuck to the cracked concrete sidewalk as I stared blindly after him. My heart thundered in my ears while my mind tried to sort through that comment. “Are you talking about someone from the Lost Peoples? Are you fucking kidding me?” I jogged after him, catching him as he pulled open the glass door to the small, grimy lobby.

“What else could it be?”

“Damn it, Gideon! Are you suicidal? I’m not going in there if we’re walking into the lair of the last fucking dragon on the planet,” I said in a harsh whisper, which was stupid, because if this was a dragon, the creature definitely knew we were there.

“It doesn’t have to be a dragon,” Gideon replied in a blasé voice, as if facing down dragons in their own home was an everyday occurrence for him. The warlock stood next to the metal railing that lined the stairs, looking around the first floor. After only a brief pause, he started to climb the stairs.

I growled, fighting the rising nausea in my stomach. “I’m definitely not going after a unicorn either.”

During the Great War that pitted the Towers against the world, two races were slaughtered to extinction: dragons and unicorns. Two of the most magically powerful races outside of warlocks and witches, they had to be removed if the Towers were to ever be protected from them. The Great War had left several others barely clinging to life.

Gideon stopped on the landing and looked down at me. “You want me to report to the Towers that you refused to complete a task?”

“Fuck! I didn’t agree to be a guardian to commit suicide now. The two of us can’t handle a dragon and we definitely can’t handle a unicorn if either is anything like what I studied.”

“There’s nothing to handle. This is an investigation. The council has not ordered an execution.” Gideon could sound as rational and calm as he wanted but this was insane and he knew it.

Against my better judgment, I climbed the stairs after him, not feeling the least bit reassured. “Yeah, well, if we are faced with a unicorn or dragon, I really doubt either is going to be all that happy to see us.”

“That is probably true,” Gideon murmured as he reached the second floor. Again, he paused, looking down the hall at the four wooden doors that led to the second-floor apartments. The brown carpet was stained and looked sticky, but I wasn’t willing to check to see if I was right. One of the overhead fluorescent lights was out, while the second was making an ominous noise as if it were a wheezing cancer patient on a ventilator. The shadows only helped this place.

Gideon continued on to the third floor after his quick inspection and I followed, holding my wand tightly in my right hand. The magic had grown thicker in the air as we crossed the landing and trudged up the last set of stairs. It crawled across my skin through my suit and prickled against my face. The closer we got, the more I could define the feel of the energy, but at the same time, the further it moved away from what I was familiar with.

The magic made me feel queasy and sick. It was getting in past the protective barriers created by my suit. My head swam as if I were developing vertigo. There was an odd taste on my tongue, like I had swished graveyard dirt around in my mouth.

“I think we should wait. Call in for reinforcement,” I said, stopping one step before the third floor. “I know my way around a protection spell, but this feels nasty. You need better backup than me.”

“While I appreciate your concern, we’re going on,” Gideon said with a wry smile before turning to walk down the dingy hallway.

Both of the overhead lights were out here, but there were windows at either end of the hall, letting in the faint glow from the nearby street lamps. There were no sounds of people moving around in their apartments. No sounds of cooking, conversation or the monotonous blare of a television. The apartment dwellers knew we were here and they were hiding, praying we didn’t notice them.

Pushing that thought and so many others aside, I followed Gideon down the hall to the second apartment on the left. The warlock stood with his right hand hovering before the door while his left clutched his wand. A faint curl of magic swirled out from his right hand, dancing over the scarred wooden door before bouncing back toward him and me. There was no spell on the door, barring us or even threatening us if we dared to enter.

Quickly making a fist as if he were trying to capture the energy, Gideon rapped on the door. My entire body flinched and I jumped back a step at the loud noise. A crack of laughter leapt from Gideon, slamming into me so that I flinched again.

“Nervous?” Gideon chuckled.

“Me? Nervous? Why would I be nervous? You’ve only brought me to a crappy apartment oozing strange magic while talking about the Lost Peoples. I can’t imagine why I might be nervous about having my head blown off,” I said, ending with a snarl.

Gideon was still smiling, amused with my anxiety, as he knocked a second time. No one answered the door. There wasn’t even a sound from the interior of the apartment. Either no one was home or they were hiding in hopes that the local Tower thugs would go away. Not likely.

Gideon stepped back, his smile gone. “Open it.”

My mouth fell open with a bitter protest on the tip of my tongue, but I quickly closed it again. Arguing with him was a waste of time. It wasn’t going to get me out of entering the apartment. The sooner we went in, the sooner we could get our answer and leave. I started to lift my wand to the lock on the door and stopped myself. The urge to break something still throbbed in my chest and I was potentially missing a great opportunity.

Taking a step back, I kicked the door as hard as I could right next to the doorknob and deadbolt. The door vibrated and rattled loudly in its jamb, but didn’t budge. The jolt jumped up my leg and hammered my knee with pain. Frowning, I stepped back to regain my balance.

“Well, that’s disappointing,” I murmured. “They make that look much easier in the movies.” Gideon rolled his eyes at me and let out a sigh. Grinning at him, I kicked the door again. This time, the doorjamb splintered as the deadbolt broke through the wood and the door swung open, slamming against the wall. The heavy scent of death surged out of the apartment, sending me reeling back several feet as I gagged.

“I guess the person didn’t survive whatever spell they had cooked up,” I said as soon as I could draw a breath of clean air.

Gideon cautiously stepped into the apartment. “We should be so lucky.”

BOOK: Demon's Fury: Part 1 of the Final Asylum Tales (The Asylum Tales series)
7.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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