Excerpt One: Midnight in the Alley of Good and Evil
Roarke said, drawing his blade.
insubstantial globe of blue-green light winked to life over Roarke's
right shoulder. Too late. Roarke swore at the scene before
crouched over the drunk, a bloody dagger in his right hand. His
sheathed sword splayed awkwardly across his thigh. A fold of his
unfastened doublet flopped over the hilt. Eyes narrowed against
the light, he straightened. His left hand inched toward the glint
of gold visible at his throat.
sliced Deryk's right forearm. The dagger clattered against the cobbles.
Blood spurted through the ruined sleeve of Deryk's doublet and shirt,
and splattered the clothes of his victim.
red-handed at last."
feeble glimmer of Roarke's witchlight painted Deryk's blond hair
a pale, watery green and made his skin glow like fine marble. A
slight frown creased Deryk's brow and nagged at the corners of his
mouth. He resembled an aristocratic merman moderately inconvenienced
by a drowned sailor.
you ass, how dare you try to bind me with Chosen magic?"
worked, didn't it?"
eased away from the corpse. "Dream on, brother. That piece of glass
might have hid you from my scrying, but it won't stop me. My steel
will break that fragile conceit of yours into a thousand pieces."
Maybe not. But you have to draw it first."
was six feet tall. Deryk was two inches taller, and he carried twenty-weight
more of muscle. But Deryk had spent his whole sorry life flush with
Vanyr magic and the bloody rites of the Serpent's Path. He had never
been forced to earn a living by his sword-much less fight with a
torn and bleeding sword arm.
feinted toward his sword with his right hand while his left reached
for something hidden inside his doublet. Roarke stabbed the tip
of his sword into the top of Deryk's left hand. Twisting his wrist,
he dragged the edge of the blade across Deryk's right.
jerked his useless sword hand at Roarke's head. He roared a string
of guttural sounds bearing little resemblance to speech.
ducked. The cursed blood flew past his head and hissed against the
wall behind him. For all the fury behind the spell, Roarke's witchlight
never wavered. Roarke bared his teeth. Even if it had landed, the
curse would've barely raised a few blisters.
the drunk's corpse, Roarke advanced on his brother. The point of
his blade aimed for the white splash of linen covering Deryk's black,
crossed his arms over his chest. He retreated, step for Roarke's
step, toward Poole Lane. "Leave now and maybe I won't kill your
friends," Deryk snarled.
what?" Roarke asked.
magic is as dead as mine." Almost casually Roarke's blade re-opened
the half-healed gash on Deryk's arm. The smell of fresh blood soaking
the wool of his brother's doublet was better than perfume. "I could
take your life here and now."
jabbed at Deryk's face, hoping to create an opening for a death
blow which would disable Deryk long enough for a proper binding.
Deryk flinched but kept his arms locked over his chest. Sweat sheened
his forehead. It glistened in the hollow of his throat where the
head of the golden snake nestled against his skin.
could take your tongue," Roarke taunted, his gaze fastened on Deryk's
eyes, not his unprotected neck. "That would cripple your magic.
Or perhaps I should aim lower and cripple your pride.
I think I want your"-Roarke lunged-"snake."
was too slow to block and too proud to take a dive. But he didn't
have to. His golden snake reared like a living thing and caught
the tip of Roarke's blade on the flat scales of its muzzle.
lightning exploded from the place where obsidian and gold connected.
The magical bolt struck Roarke square in the chest, hoisting him
in the air like hay on a pitchfork. He slammed into the wall opposite
the tavern door. Roarke's dead body made a wet, sucking sound as
it slid into the muck.