Posts Tagged ‘Dark Fantasy’

Lately I’ve been re-reading some of the paperbacks on my shelves, checking in on authors whose work inspired me in the past. The author I’m revisiting at the moment is Barbara Hambly.

Hambly was an important author of the ’80s and ’90s. I used to watch for her and buy any new books I saw. But around 2000, I guess there was a change in tax law that led to a lot of publishers slashing their lists. Hambly any many others were simply dropped and have faded from public attention. She does continue to write and appears to be self-publishing novelettes in many of her series.

The series I’m currently revisiting is Sun Wolf and Starhawk, but Hambly wrote several series and trilogies. Her work is fantasy of the darkest kind. Apocalyptic invasion, demonic possession, political machinations — not to mention a dose of feminist comment on the patriarchal assumptions of fantasy.

Every author is a product of their time, and stories resonates differently in new eras. I find that Hambly’s work holds up well, 40 years on. If you get the chance, you should seek her out.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Every year, I take part in Teri Polen’s book event, Bad Moon Rising, and she’s just announced her schedule of appearances. Check it out here! My date is October 24th, and I’m spot-lighting The Tower in the Mist, the opening volume of my series, Minstrels of Skaythe.

With opportunities for appearances so curtailed in 2020, I’m especially excited about this. I hope you’ll all take a look at the amazing horror and dark fantasy in Bad Moon Rising.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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The world of the Dawn Fangs is about to explode into chaos thanks to Desirae Duvall.

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

In the shadows of Windemere, fangs are sprouting from the least likely of maws.

News is spreading that wild beasts with vampiric natures have been attacking mortals and carrying off random victims. With the Dawn Fangs still a secret from mortal society, Clyde fears that these strange creatures will reveal his peoples’ existence before they are ready. Old enemies and trusted friends begin to disappear as the investigation goes deeper into a business that has been lurking in the shadows of Windemere for decades. Those who return are beholden to a new master whose cunning is matched only by her primal desires. As his allies disappear, Clyde is left with the one he trusts the most in all of the world to help him solve this mystery. Too bad Mab has her own secret that can cause more damage to Nytefall than any vampiric beast.

Is this how the Dawn Fangs will be revealed to Windemere?

Still need more to wet your appetite?

Then enjoy this excerpt:

Titus shrugs the girl off his shoulders and grips his blades, but refuses to draw them to avoid causing a scene. The warriors around him are on edge from overhearing Lost’s words and seeing his reaction, but they follow his example and keep their weapons sheathed. The Vengeance Hounds know that it is only a matter of time before the mortals with weaker wills lose control and drive the others into panic. They can hear the rumors of a deadly beast stalking the hunting party ripple through the crowd, each telling more gruesome and bone-chilling than the previous version. Several warriors ignore the warnings of their companions and draw their weapons, but keep them out of sight. Two of the casters begin to chant, which is revealed by the sparkle of magic on their lips. One by one, the lines of warriors stop walking and assume various defensive formations. Frustrated by the collapse of her army, the priestess turns around and tries to assure everyone that they are safe. Standing in the middle of the blossoming chaos, the Vengeance Hounds can only watch as the woman loses her temper and shouts at the archers who were supposed to maintain control.

The warriors go silent when a booming roar erupts from above and a large shadow passes over the area. With a gurgling scream, the priestess collapses in a heap and stares unblinking at the sky. The archers move away from the drooling woman, whose breathing has stopped as if she has been instantly turned off. Landing in front of the hunting party, a crimson-scaled Verenstone Dragon unfurls its muscular tails with one to each side and the other arching over its reptilian head. The thick ridge of black hair going

down its back rustles and shivers in the breeze, which heats up as the monster bellows once more. Curled against its side are wings composed entirely of blue flame that licks at the trampled grass, but they are not hot enough to ignite the emerald blades. Leaning forward, the terrifying predator sniffs at the braindead priestess and chuckles before swallowing the body whole. In the brief moment that its mouth is open wide, the Vengeance Hounds notice that two of its teeth are changing as if they are stretching out of the gums. The plaque-covered ivory is curved in a way that makes it clear that they are fangs and the beast is in desperate need of a fresh meal. Its eyes scan the mortals and stop on the three Dawn Fangs for a moment, but it is enough to tell them that the cunning creature recognizes their true nature.

“A vampiric dragon,” Titus mutters under his breath.

Get War of Nytefall: Ravenous on Amazon for $2.99!

Add it to your Goodreads To-Read Lists!


Need to catch up? Then, check out Volumes 1-4 of War of Nytefall!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

Interested in more Windemere? Then don’t forget to check out Charles E. Yallowitz’s first series: Legends of Windemere

All Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After spending many years fiddling with his thoughts and notebooks, he decided that it was time to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house with only pizza and seltzer to sustain him, Charles brings you tales from the world of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and drawing you into a world of magic.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com

Twitter: @cyallowitz

Facebook: Charles Yallowitz

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyallowitz/

Enjoy the adventure by clicking here!

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The doors opened and Desmond, Lord Draco, strode into the hall, tall and proud. He was dressed all in black save for his white shirt and the red lining of his cape. He took a moment to eye all the attendees, then strode to Queen Titania. He pushed the cape back, then bowed low.

“Your servant, Your Majesty,” he said.

Character Questions

Is there something you are willing to die for?

As a vampire, I honestly hope I will never die. Unlike some of my brooding kindred who become bored with life, I always find new challenges and it helps that the world is ever changing. That said, I am all too aware that vampires may be killed. I have and will risk death for knowledge. I’m especially interested in the origins of humans and vampires, and whether or not there is truth behind the religions humans profess. I have seen marvels that make me think there must be some truth, but I wonder if it is a complete truth.

Would you rather sneak into a dragon’s den or attend a demonic parliament?

What a marvelous question, for you see when I was mortal, I was a “dragon” in the court of Ambrosius Aurelianus. It was a title much like “lord” or “baron” to more recent generations and the chief among us was the pendragon. What’s more, as a vampire, many say we are possessed by demons.

Alas, I have never seen a real dragon, despite carrying a banner emblazoned with one. Still, I do wonder if they exist somewhere, more hidden even than us vampires. Despite what people say, I don’t believe a demon possesses me. I have always been “Desmond” and although I have gained immortality, great strength, and a thirst for blood, I find no evidence that a demon possesses me.

So, which would I rather see? Demons to determine their nature and decide if it’s possible I am possessed by one or dragons to revel in their power and strength? It would be a hard choice if presented to me, but I think I would visit the demonic parliament because I might learn more about my origins and the marvelous, mysterious clockwork universe.

Tell us about the main religion or spirituality of your society?

I believe the religions of my world are known to you, but it has been fascinating to see how different religions have ebbed and flowed through the world during my long life. As a child we worshipped many gods, such as Brigid, the goddess of healing, and Lugh, the god of war. My birth name was, in fact Angus Desmond. Angus was the god of choice and love. Learned people called druids made it their job to understand the world around us. They told us about the gods and told us when it was time to plant and when to harvest and helped us make sense of the cycles of the world.

Even in my youth, I knew of a second religion in Britain called Christianity, which told of a god’s son and his doctrine of love and forgiveness. It’s said the religion came to Britain soon after the death of Jesus and in fact, Wolf, the vampire who brought me into the world of darkness, said he met Joseph of Arimathea who carried the cup of Christ himself. The cup captivated him and he thought it could bring forgiveness to vampire-kind but it was guarded by a powerful creature. I believe Christians call it an angel. Wolf and I engaged the help of an old acquaintance of mine called Arthur to find that cup. And you know what? We found it, but it was just an object, though it was still guarded by one of these angels. So you see, I have reason to wonder about what these religions teach.

I also know of a religion professed by the Ottoman Turks. I’m hard pressed to see many differences between their Islamic faith and Christianity. Mostly the differences are in the details and doctrines, but the two are in conflict over parts of Europe and the Holy Lands. While the conflict challenges my goal of seeking knowledge, it does keep me well employed as a mercenary.

Author Questions

If you lived in the world of your book, who would you be?

No question I would be Daniel McKee from Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the sequel to Dragon’s Fall. Daniel is an astronomer who became a vampire while working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona during the 1800s. He was a creature of the night before he became a vampire and the improved night vision he gained as a vampire makes his work as an astronomer even better. His fashion sense still leans toward the fashions he wore as a human in the 1880s, so in today’s world he’d fit in very well in the steampunk community!

Are your books self-published or traditionally published, and why did you choose that route into print?

The first editions of the Scarlet Order vampire novels were traditionally published by Lachesis Publishing. I submitted Vampires of the Scarlet Order to LBF Books back in 2007 at the urging of the company’s art director who had read a chapter and loved it. LBF bought the book. During my time with LBF, the company’s owner encouraged me to try my hand at NaNoWriMo. One of the NaNoWriMo novels I wrote was the first draft of Dragon’s Fall. After that, LBF was acquired by Lachesis and my new publisher asked for a new vampire novel. I returned to Dragon’s Fall, polished it according to their guidelines, and submitted it. I received a contract soon afterward.

The contracts on the two novels have recently expired and the rights reverted to me. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires is just out in its new self-published edition and Vampires of the Scarlet Order will follow soon. Self-publishing new editions gave me the opportunity to update the covers and make some revisions I felt were needed.

Have you ever been on a writer’s pilgrimage?

When my daughter went to college in New Orleans, each trip became something of a writer’s pilgrimage for me. Anne Rice, who lived there for many years, was one of the authors who inspired me to try my hand at writing vampire fiction. In fact, there are some scenes in Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the sequel to Dragon’s Fall, which are set in Louisiana bayou country, which exist as something of a tribute to Anne Rice.

During my first trip to New Orleans, I brought Anne Rice’s novel Merrick and made a point of becoming familiar with the neighborhoods in the novel. In a later trip, I made a point of visiting a bookstore that specialized in signed editions and bought a signed copy of one of Rice’s novels. What’s more, I’ve been honored that Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans has hosted signings for my vampire novels. It’s a real honor to have my work celebrated in the hometown of one of my favorite authors.

Dragon’s Fall (Rise of the Scarlet Order #1)

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all—her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs—and their ultimate nemesis—Vlad the Impaler.

The Author

David Lee Summers lives in Southern New Mexico at the cusp of the western and final frontiers. He’s written novels about space pirates, vampire mercenaries, mad scientists in the old west, and astronomer ghosts. He’s edited thrilling anthologies of space adventure that imagine what worlds discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission might be like. When he’s not writing or editing, David explores the universe for real at Kitt Peak National Observatory. To learn more about David or his books visit his website at http://www.davidleesummers.com

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It occurred to me that there is a genre where killing the characters off is an important part of the tale. That would be Horror, of course. I know there are a few horror writers in my following, so this is where I invite you to weigh in.

How do you choose which characters will be the victims in your stories? Is it strictly a division of “good guys live/bad guys die,” or is there more to your process? How much do you set up that one character will survive while others don’t?

I would love to know how you decide!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter!

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Bad Moon Rising is Teri Polen’s annual celebration of horror and dark fantasy fiction. She features a different author every day.

Today it’s my turn, and my book is a dark fantasy novelette, The Gellboar! I had a super fun time with Teri’s interview format. So hop on over to Bad Moon Rising and check us out.

If you’re a horror fan, keep visiting to discover tons of Indy horror fiction. The books are so good, they’re scary!

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Today I’m excited to host my good friend, C. S. Boyack, and his latest e-book, Viral Blues. Over to you, Craig!

Thanks for inviting me over, Deborah. Authors always need a place to promote our wares. I’m promoting my newest book, Viral Blues.

This one is a paranormal tale, just in time for Halloween. My style is more dark humor than slasher, so if that’s your Halloween style, this one might not be what you’re looking for. If your style is more Sean of the Dead, Zombieland, and even Evil Dead, I’ve got a book I’d like to tell you about.

Viral Blues

Someone knows about the Hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.

They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.

Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?

Check out Viral Blues for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.

Viral Blues is my 13th book, and because it’s a paranormal tale, I published it on Friday the 13th. It seemed like a good bit of juju to court. I hope everyone will give Viral Blues a try.

About C. S. Boyack

I was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet.

I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.


Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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I’m super excited to be making a blog visit today. C. S. Boyack is hosting me for an episode of Lisa Burton Radio on his blog, Entertaining Stories.

Well, technically, it will be Dan Forster, the main character of my dark fantasy novelette The Gellboar, who will be visiting Boyack’s character, Lisa Burton. They’ll talk about Dan’s situation, what exactly a Gellboar is, and much more.

I hope you’ll stop by Entertaining Stories and leave your comments and questions. Cheers!

Sign up for my newsletter and win a free E-book, The Weight of Their Souls. Just to go my Facebook page, AuthorDebyFredericks, and click the link on the left that says “Join my mailing list.” Easy, right?.

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I have my first response on The Gellboar! Jerome D. said by e-mail, “The Gellboar is a thrilling short story by a fantasy writer at the top of her genre.  By turns chilling, titillating and heart-warming, it is heartily recommended for fans of dystopian magical cosplay with surprise twists.” Thanks, Jerome!

If you’re enjoying the story, please consider buying the e-book. Just $.99 on Amazon or Draft2Digital. Get it now!

Part 7

Christine abruptly set down her glass. “Hey! Talk to me, pal.”

He shook his head. “It’s my business. My family. I’ll deal with it.”

“How can you say that?” She reached across the table, closing hard fingers over his clasped hands. “That thing is going to kill you. You have to get rid of it.”

“No.” He jerked away, putting his hands on his knees, where he didn’t have to look at the mark. “I’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, right.” She leaned back, folding her arms across her chest. “You’ll be fine right up until you keel over.” Then her harsh voice softened. “What’s going to happen to Grace when you die?”

“I’m not going to die.” He had to believe that. If he thought for a moment the Gellboard would win, he would borrow Christine’s gun and shoot himself. At least that way he could deprive the monster of his psais.

The woman propped her chin in her hand and added a bit more liquor to her glass. “So where’s your family? Or your wife’s family?”

“They’re out of town.”

Like Dan, Marilyn had been a runaway. She said her parents were in Yabble, but she wouldn’t even discuss contacting them and she wouldn’t say why. Of course, there were a few things Dan had never told Marilyn, either.

“Out of town, where?” Christine’s gentle tone unnerved him more than her abruptness had.

“Ettloes, in my case.”

She raised her brows. “That’s practically the Holy Mother’s backyard, isn’t it?”

“That’s why I had to leave.”

Her eyes suddenly took on a calculating expression. “That’s farmland, isn’t it? Ever worked with cattle?”

The sudden change of moods made him wary. “Dairy cattle,” he admitted.

“Can you buck hay bales?”

“Ladies don’t buck hay bales,” Dan laughed. To further his feminine persona, he strictly avoided any activity that might build muscle mass.

“Silly of me to forget.” But she was smiling. Dan just watched her, passively feeling with his psais for her motives. She wouldn’t be asking without a reason.

Christine took a sip of her drink, and then said, “If you don’t want to break the spell, maybe I can make you a better offer.”

“Like what?”

“Well, my brother runs cattle on a couple thousand acres in Ishe. He might be able to use a hand, especially if you can ride a horse.”

“I can’t ride a horse. Why doesn’t he find someone a little closer to home?”

She shrugged. “The local boys, they don’t want to stick around. It’s too quiet, and they don’t make enough money. So they leave for Yabble or Kroi, the bigger towns. There’s always work for someone who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. And the locals, they love to see new kids in the area.”

Dan thought about that. It wasn’t like he wanted to stay in Chantain. The city was big and busy, but it drained your life while you weren’t looking. Still, that didn’t mean farming was what he wanted instead.

Christine went on, “My folks own the place, but my brother’s running it. I could call and ask him.”

“You hardly know me,” he pointed out. It was her turn to laugh.

“Pal, I know more about you than you’d like! What do you have to stay here for?”

“I couldn’t have left,” he answered evenly. “Grace’s doctors are here.”

That was only half the truth, of course. All his contacts were in Chantain. He would have to completely re-establish his career in a new place.

“What about my magic?” Dan asked. “I don’t plan to give it up.”

She sat back, sipped her drink. “Technically, it’s illegal, but there aren’t any neighbors close enough to snoop. Anyway, folks mind their own business, out there. Besides, Mike might be able to use another magician. I do the enchanting when I’m there, but I travel a lot, too. It would be good to have some backup.”

It might also give him something more satisfying to do. Dan hadn’t chosen stage magic because he enjoyed performing. Cheap illusions in cheap clubs — what was that worth? It had just been a convenient way to have magic without all the questions asked.

Of course, he could also go south, toward Chull, where the power of the Mother-God was weakest. The bog-witches were famous for their curses. That might be just the sort of thing he needed. But there would be a price for such power. Dan wasn’t even done with the Gelboar yet. He didn’t want to get tangled up in something else that might be just as nasty.

Christine lifted her cup again, waiting while he thought things out.

“It sounds good,” Dan admitted. Too good to be true, his mind amended.

“Smart boy,” she said, and there was a gleam of triumph in her eye. “I’ll call him tomorrow.”

A suspicion blossomed in his mind. “You just want to keep an eye on me,” he accused.

She didn’t deny it. “Someone’s got to. What if you can’t get rid of the life link when you want to?”

Dan glared at her, his earlier jealousy returning in a venomous rush. It was all so easy for her. Christine Cooper had never had to lie to protect herself. She had never held a loved one, so wasted she seemed nothing but bones and air, while her breath grew fainter, fainter. The Gellboar had to pay for what she’d done to Marilyn. Come to that, Dan didn’t know if Grace was really all right.

Still, he did have to think of the future. He’d had enough of his furtive existence, living hand to mouth and moment to moment. There was nothing wrong with moving on, especially if it meant securing shelter for Grace. If Christine was going to insist on interfering, he might as well use her. Dan had learned all about using people, these last few years.

Stiffly, he admitted, “The fresh air might do Grace some good.”

Christine set down her empty cup and smiled broadly. “Now you’re thinking.”

“I can go as soon as we’re done at The Cauldron. I’ll need cash for the road.” Dan forced a smile. “It’ll be just us girls.”

“An all-girl road trip!” Christine threw back her head and laughed, a response out of proportion to the weak joke. Relieved to end the confrontation, maybe. Or just thinking she had won. Like the Gellboar thought she had won.

Dan’s stomach tightened again, a bitter knot of guilt and rage. It wasn’t over between them. That filthy female was going to pay for hurting Marilyn and Grace. No one was going to get in the way of that. Not even the real Christine Cooper.

That’s it! The story you’ve waded through… uh, savored and told all your friends about. Check back next time for a return to my usual dragony goodness.

I hope you enjoyed my dark fantasy novelette. Comments and reviews would be much appreciated.

Meantime, I’m still running a subscription drive. Sign up for my newsletter and win a free E-book, The Weight of Their Souls. Just to go my Facebook page, AuthorDebyFredericks, and click the link on the left that says “Join my mailing list.” Easy, right?

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If you’re enjoying the story, please consider buying the e-book. Just $.99 on Amazon or Draft2Digital. Get it now!

Part 6

“Dan, are you nuts?” Christine demanded sharply. “Hold still,” she hissed, shoving at the Gellboar with her gun. “Dan, you can’t do that.”

“I have to,” he quavered, shoulders heaving as if he held back tears. “This is my daughter we’re talking about. She’ll die if I don’t.”

“You’re not thinking clearly. Look, Dan, we’ve captured the creature who’s responsible for her illness. All we have to do is call the police —”

“Now you’re crazy,” he retorted with shrill desperation. “Look at me!”

That gave her pause, as if she had somehow forgotten he was wearing pantyhose and a red satin dress.

Casually, as if she believed herself already triumphant, the Gellboar turned to remind Christine, “That would be most unwise. I, too, have forbidden knowledge. If I am accused, there is no reason I should not retaliate.”

“You won’t if you’re dead,” she barked, but even Dan could tell she didn’t mean it. And he didn’t have time to waste arguing.

“Look, I appreciate your help, but you’ve got to get out of the way.” Christine frowned dauntingly. “I’ll stand the risk, if that’s what it takes to save my daughter. It’s my fault she’s so sick. I have to make it right.”

“That’s a bunch of bull! You’re…”

“I know what I’m doing,” he insisted, hoping she would pick up the subtle message.

A low wail interrupted them. Dan turned to see Grace huddled against the head of her bed, as far from the tense tableau as she could get. Her eyes were dazed with interrupted sleep, the thin face striped with vertical tracks of tears. A soft doll was crushed against her chest.

A single step and Dan knelt beside the bed. “Grace, honey, it’s me. It’s Daddy. I’m here.”

He tried to take her in his arms, but she struggled and shrieked, panting with exertion her gaunt frame was not prepared to sustain. Her eyes remained fixed on the Gellboar. Seeing Daddy wear a dress and the strange woman with the gun didn’t frighten her, but the monstrous presence was just too much.

“It’s okay. You’re okay,” he murmured urgently, shifting his body to shield her from the sight. All that got him was a clout from a flailing arm. He rocked back momentarily, rubbing his chin, and reluctantly raised his wand. The sleep spell washed over her, and she fell back with a choked gasp. As her frantic pants gave way to even, deep breathing, Dan eased his daughter down gently.

“I’m sorry, darling,” he murmured.

“Allow me,” said a cold, grainy voice.

Dan tensed as the Gellboar leaned past him, but she merely touched Grace’s temple with a forefinger. The hand was humanlike, except there weren’t enough fingers and a cluster of tentacles curled purposefully against the wrist. Dan felt a flare of psais which quickly faded. He elbowed his enemy back and covered his daughter gently.

There was no need to fake a tremor in his voice as he stood. “Let’s get this over with,” he announced to no one in particular.

“Dan,” Christine started again.

“Shut up.”

He pushed past her and her arguments. The Gellboar’s heavy tread and Christine’s lighter steps followed him into the kitchen. The parchment was still in his purse on the sofa. He had to sign it before the creature noticed his revisions. Dan yanked the document out and whirled, slapping it onto the kitchen counter. Quickly he applied the marker to the stiff sheet.

A moment later he felt a strong tingling, as if he had lost circulation all over his body. Dizzy, he leaned on the counter. The sensation localized as a throbbing ache on the back of his left hand. Dan felt a momentary nausea as he realized what he’d done. The Gellboar was at his elbow again, and he shoved the page at her.

“There,” he said hoarsely. “Now get out.”

The creature took the sheet with an insouciance that made his blood boil. Her inhuman eyes gleamed with… what? Satisfaction? Contempt? Dan saw no mercy, at any rate. She carefully folded the parchment and slid it into the trench coat’s inside vest pocket. The door swung open and then shut. Just like that, she was gone.

Dan leaned on the counter for a moment longer, staring at the door. He absently rubbed the back of his hand, where the pain had died to a nagging itch. Under his fingers, he now saw, was a written mark, one of the runes on the  alien creature’s sheet.  The blunt lines were the vivid color of a new scab.

Beside him, Christine stood half-dressed, with her arms folded and the pistol lying over the crook of her elbow. She gave him a long, hard stare.

“What are you smiling about?”

* * *

While Christine was in the living room, finishing her change of clothes, Dan retreated to his bedroom to do the same. Tired as he was, he longed to wear his own pants, to put on a man’s shirt with the buttons on the right side. It was even more of a relief to get out of the lingerie. The padding, which created the illusion of a female form, was hot and sticky with sweat. The wig caught painfully in his natural hair as he yanked it off.

Dan wadded up the whole outfit and stuffed it into a plastic shopping bag. This he shoved on the upper shelf in his closet as far back as it would go. But he still felt the weight of cosmetics on his skin, clinging like the static in the dress. He hurried into the bathroom, and was jarred by his image in the mirror.

Even with his natural hair, a dark crew cut, he might have been looking at Marilyn. He hadn’t realized how much he patterned his stage persona on her, but it was true. He wore her clothes, did his makeup and wig just like her. It was as if, somehow, he was trying to keep Marilyn alive.

Dan could no longer meet his own gaze in the mirror. He looked instead to the rust-stained bowl of his sink and twisted the knob to turn on the water. In the coldest possible spray, he scrubbed until he felt breathless. With a towel pressed to his face, he slumped down on the toilet seat.

Everything was off tonight, his whole life turned upside-down. It was as if the interior landscape of his grief and fear distorted the mundane world around him. The unpleasant realities he had become immured to were suddenly intolerable.

His head pounded and his eyes burned, but Dan did not cry. He would not cry. Grace needed him. He had to keep going for her sake. He had let Marilyn down, failed to protect her from the monster that sapped her vitality. He couldn’t stand it if he blew it again.

There was a shuffle outside the bathroom door, and a fast, hard tapping. “You okay in there?” Christine asked from the other side of the door.

“Suck it up, Dan,” he said to himself, and stood. Aloud, he answered, “Fine.”

“Then get out here.”

A narrow silver band sat on the counter above the sink, just where he left it when he went to work. He slipped the cold weight onto his finger. With the towel draped over his shoulders, Dan joined Christine in the kitchen. It felt strange to be bare-faced, wearing men’s clothes and his own hair. He could see her pale eyes roving, taking in the details of his altered appearance. As for Christine, she had completed her transformation from glittering performer into everyday citizen by putting on a pair of blue jeans and tucking in the tails of her shirt. Her pale hair was pulled into a long braid, neat and tight.

She must have gone through his cupboards, because a pair of plastic juice glasses sat on the rickety card table in the kitchen. Ice glinted within them. An elderly folding chair creaked as Dan sat down. Christine casually drew a flask from her hip pocket and poured an amber liquid into one of the cups.

“Want some?” she offered crisply.

“No thanks.” He pushed the glass away.

Since Marilyn died, Dan was no stranger to drink. But being a cross-dresser meant never losing self-control, so he also had a good sense for when not to drink. Besides, his stomach still felt sour. Across the table, pale eyes narrowed.

“So this is it,” Christine said in the same flat, unfriendly drawl she had used earlier.

“What is what?” he asked.

“This is it,” she repeated. “The monster wins. You take the life link, it eats you up and makes more monsters. Then you die. The end.”

Dan stared at his left hand, where the dark sigil branded him as the Gellboar’s meat. He covered the mark with his right hand.

“It’s not the end.”

“Then what?” she demanded.

Dan shut his lips firmly. From his bedroom window he had seen the red glare of a neon sign, a brewer’s logo of fire. The sign stood in the heart of an alien enclave called Styggold. It was only about ten blocks away, an easy walk for the Gellboar. Trains ran night and day from Styggold Station, so it was too late to find his enemy there. She could be anywhere by now, and the life link would operate no matter where she went.

But, Dan thought with dark satisfaction, the Gellboar had accepted the contract without seeing that he’d added a clause. That meant this link wasn’t limited just to psais. Dan could cast any spell he wanted through the link, and the Gellboar’s magical defenses would not protect it. He just needed time to think up a fitting punishment for all it had done. One curse might not be enough.

To be continued…

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