“My name is Kaeleen Donovan. I’m a Theosian-a minor goddess. They call me Fury.”
By day, I run the Crossroads Cleaning Company, and I also read fortunes and cast hexes at Dream Wardens, a magical consulting shop. But by night, I’m oath-bound to Hecate, goddess of the Crossroads. Hecate charged me from birth with the task of hunting down Abominations who come in off the World Tree and sending them back to Pandoriam.
When the Thunderstrike-an ancient artifact from the time of the Weather Wars-is stolen by the Order of the Black Mist, Hecate orders me to find the magical device. The chaos magicians are out to upset the balance that Gaia instilled during the World Shift. But I soon discover that the leader of the Black Mist is out to do more than stir up trouble-he’s looking to set up a new world order with himself on the throne. Caught between two rival forces, will my friends and I be able to survive as we search for the Thunderstrike and attempt to stop a war that could bring about the end of the civilization?
The end of civilization as we knew it arrived not with a whimper, but with a massive storm. When Gaia-the great mother and spirit of the Earth-finally woke from her slumber to discover the human race destroying the planet through a series of magical Weather Wars, she pitched a fit. The magical storm she unleashed change such as never before had been seen. The resulting gale ripped the doors on the World Tree wide open, including the doors to Pandoriam-where the Aboms-chaotic demons of shadow and darkness-live, and the doors to Elysium, where the Devani-ruthless agents of light-exist.
In that one cataclysmic moment, now known as the World Shift, life changed forever as creatures from our wildest dreams-and nightmares-began to pour through the open doors.
The old gods returned and set up shop. The Fae and the Weres came out from the shadows and took up their place among the humans. The Theosians began to appear. Technology integrated with magic, and now everything is all jumbled together. Nothing in the old order remained untouched. The world might appear to be similar to the way it was, but trust me-under that thin veneer of illusion, nothing has remained the same.
My name is Kaeleen Donovan. They call me Fury. I’m a Theosian. I walk in flame and ash, on a field of bones. Some nights I think I’ll burn to a crisp under Hecate’s moonlight. Other nights… are easier.
I pressed myself against the crumbling brick, breathing softly. A trail of ivy came tumbling down the side of the wall, covering a wide swath all the way to the ground next to me. One tendril reached out and tapped me on the shoulder and the patch of green opened up, offering me the chance to slip inside, out of the wind, but I pushed it away. Wandering Ivy was unpredictable and you couldn’t trust it, any more than you could trust the wide fields of vegetation outside the city boundaries. And since we didn’t have the resources to eradicate it down here in Darktown-or even keep it in check-most of us just left it alone and watched where we sat or leaned.
The moon was hidden, her light barely visible, masking both street and burrow-lane, but I could sense the clouds coming in. The low rumble of thunder in the distance announced they weren’t too far out, but for now, the clear skies meant it was perfect drone weather. And that meant the Corp-Rats would have their sky-eyes out in full force.
In fact, one had started to follow me a few minutes earlier, but when I ducked beneath the overhanging eaves of the 22-U, the mini-mall that housed several small businesses, it backed off. Luckily, the drones weren’t allowed to maneuver down to street level. There was too much danger that somebody would attempt a disable-and-grab, especially down here in Darktown, so the Devani kept their patrols limited to watching over us from above. They wouldn’t respond if something went down, anyway. Nobody gave a damn what went on in this sector of the city-not unless it looked like a riot that might threaten to spill through the borders. And that wasn’t likely to happen. As long as people weren’t outright starving, and they were kept busy by long-hour shifts and an abundance of Opish and Methodyne, apathy tended to rule.
Another minute, and the sky-eye zipped past and kept on going. I waited until it was out of sight before I relaxed and sucked in a deep breath. It wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong, per se. Not yet, at least. But the less I crossed the Corp-Rats’ radar, the better.
Theosians who caught their attention often vanished without warning and I didn’t intend to be one of them, especially since my chips had been altered and if they did an in-depth scan on me, they’d find out that I was living off-grid, in a roundabout manner. With luck, the Devani would be running on their usual schedule, which meant there shouldn’t be another fly-by in this area for at least two or three hours. Breathing a little easier, I stepped back into the burrow-lane and headed toward the Sandspit.
Darktown’s linkup to the Monotrain was erratic at best during the day. At night, it was catch as catch can, so I picked up my pace. Public transportation didn’t always make it this far, and it wasn’t for want of tracks.
As I jogged along, I pulled out my phone and tapped ENCRYPT. Tam had tricked it out for me, so I could send brief messages that couldn’t be intercepted.
“Heading to the Sandspit. Something’s going down there tonight-I can feel it, but I’m not quite sure what it is. I’ll send Queet with news if we find anything.” Phones didn’t work near the Sandspit, so once I arrived there, I wouldn’t be able to call him.
“Be careful, Kae. The Spit has been very active lately. If you even think you need help, send Queet my way immediately.” Jason was a hawk-shifter and a magus. He could talk to spirits when he chose to open himself up.
Pocketing my phone, I glanced up at the sky. The clouds were starting to roll in fast now. The storm was going to be a nasty one. The wind picked up and the scent of rain was heavy.
The Pacific Northwest had always been drizzly, but once the World Shift happened, Seattle was lucky to see full sun for more than a handful of days during the summer. In winter, the downpours turned to heavy snow and ice. In fact, everything had changed since the World Shift, including the weather. The greenhouse effect and global warming? Gone with an angry wave of Gaia’s hand. The pendulum had swung the other way and temperatures had grown colder in the north and hotter toward the equators. It was like Gaia had given the finger to humans and decided to shift the weather patterns according to her whims.
With a sigh, I zipped up my jacket and braced myself against the rising wind. I had patrols to make, rain or not. And the fact that I was wearing a pair of leather shorts didn’t matter. I couldn’t wear pants-it interfered with my magic. So I just had to suck up the autumn chill and deal with it.
I was about two miles away from my home when I reached the edge of the Sandspit.
The Sandspit was a two-hundred-acre vortex of wasteland, bordered by Darktown on the north and the Bogs to the west. Gaia’s rampage had swept through with a vengeance. The magical storm she created had raged through every section of the land. A particularly nasty lightning strike had ripped apart this area of the city, and that lightning was infused with her anger.
When the bolt struck the train yards, it had driven deep into the ground with a massive jolt of magic. Poof… in a blink, all the tracks and trains vaporized as the Sandspit formed. But while the area looked pretty much like a hill-and-valley stretch of dunes, it was far from being just a pile of sand. Rife with wild magic, the Spit was a dangerous place. At times odd creatures ventured out from shifting portals that opened from Seattle’s World Tree, which was smack in the middle of the patch of magical dunes. Other times, a small whirlwind would spring up, spreading sand and random spells every which way. But no matter what was going on, you could count on it as being dangerous.
Over time, the Bogs had built up on the west side of the Sandspit. They were a dangerous, wild space of cold marsh, tangled trees, and quicksand. People who wandered in there often never came out, and nobody sent search parties looking for them.
To the east stood the Metalworks, the industrial district, but the majority of people who didn’t have to work or live in the area avoided the Sandspit whenever possible.
Most people. My mother had traveled through it on her way home one night when she was pregnant with me and that’s how I ended up a Theosian. She stumbled into a swirling pool of wild magic and in that brief time, the energy shifted something in my DNA and boom… one minor goddess coming up.
The Sandspit was partly enclosed by a tall chain-link fence to keep people from accidentally wandering through, but every time the Corp-Rats tried to barricade it entirely, the fence would mysteriously corrode or break or vanish, leaving the Sandspit accessible again. After a while, the Regent got the message and while the chain fence still stood, wide gates left access on all sides.
Standing near the edge, I cautiously looked around. I wasn’t sure what had called me out yet, but I had learned never to ignore my gut. I shaded my eyes, trying to see through the gloom. Finally, bored and yet antsy, I slid down to sit on the ground, back against the fence, my sword across my legs. Whatever it was, I would wait it out for as long as I could. I sure as hell wasn’t going to go poking around in there on my own. I’d rather sit here all night, if necessary.
Using whisper-speak, I asked, “Queet, are you with me?”
“I’m here.” His voice echoed into my thoughts. Nobody else could hear him unless they were tuned into the spirit realm or he chose to make himself heard.
Relieved, I let out a long breath. Queet was usually nearby, even when I couldn’t see him, but hearing his voice made me feel easier. I might complain about being connected in the head with a spirit guide, but truth was, he made my job-and my life-easier, even though neither of us liked being yoked together. Being a Theosian wasn’t easy. At least, not for me. I was indentured to Hecate. Hecate, the Goddess of Dark Magic and the Crossroads. My magic was that of cold flame and moonlight, of ash and bone and death.
“Fury? Don’t get too comfortable.” Queet sounded concerned.
I tensed. “Do we have an outlier?” I tuned in and sure enough, my alarm bells began to ring as my Trace screen opened up.
“Yeah, an Abom.”
At the same moment he spoke, the creepy-crawly feeling flared in my gut. Queet was right, an Abomination was near. Well, hell. That meant we were in for trouble unless we could head him off at the pass.
“Where is he? I just caught his Trace.”
“He’s on the north side of the Sandspit. He’s headed back toward the center of Darktown. Fury, he’s in-body.”
An in-body Abom? They were usually rare. “Do you think he noticed my footprint?”
“I don’t think he’s made you. But Fury, Tommy-Tee is out on his corner tonight. Smack in the middle of the Abom’s path.”
Double hell. Tommy-Tee was a sitting duck. Hell, the poor guy could barely handle life, let alone take on an Abom. But fucked up or not, because of his musical bent, Tommy-Tee had enough energy to attract the creature’s attention. It would drain him dry and toss the shell. And that wasn’t acceptable. Down here in Darktown, we took care of our own, especially those who couldn’t look after themselves.
I pushed to my feet. “Which direction? Guide me.”
“If you head west along Industrial Drive, then swing a right into the first burrow-lane, then a left at Silverfish’s stall, you’ll be on his back.”
Crap. That was near Jason’s shop-Dream Wardens. And Up-Cakes, his sister’s bakery.
“You’ll have to use your blur, though, in order to catch up to him.”
“That’s why I wore these shoes, ghostling.” I smiled in the darkness. It drove Queet nuts when I called him that, but I couldn’t help myself. He was always so very serious that sometimes I just wanted to shake a smile or laugh out of him.
“Just go.” Queet didn’t like being a spirit guide-he had told me that time and again. But that was okay, because I didn’t always like having him for one. Since we had to work together, though, we made the most of it. And truth was, if we had just been able to pal around? We would have gotten along fine. It was the bound-at-the-skull thing that was an issue.
As I headed toward the burrow-lane, the rain started. It pelted off me, giant stinging droplets that bounced off as I sped up my pace, swerving to skirt a massive pile of rubble. Darktown was full of ruins, buildings that hadn’t survived the World Shift. Cleanup had stopped at the borders. Croix? Uptown? North Shore? Even Portside was nice and tidy, but in our district, we were left to cope with the decay. At least we weren’t as bad off as the Tremble, though.
At top speed, I was a blur of motion-running about four times faster than any human. I came to the burrow-lane and skidded to the right, veering into the narrow passage. As I ran, I talked to Queet. Whisper-speak was easy on the lungs, a talent almost every Theosian possessed.
“Aboms almost always come in on the astral. I wonder what lured this one to cross over in-body.”
“I don’t know, but wrap your mind around the fact that this one is as corporeal as you are, and he’s a bruiser, so be careful. He’s likely to knock you for a loop unless you go about this right, Fury.”
I always took Queet’s warnings to heart. We might chafe at working together but he was smart. And when it came to Aboms-he knew what he was talking about.
Abominations were soul-eaters. They had no conscience when it came to their victims. But in-body? They were far worse. They’d been known to devour their victims down to the bone, as well as drain their souls, usually while the quarry was still alive and could feel it. When they came in-body, they often took on human form, but once they took hold of their victim, all bets were off and they reverted to their natural shape. Which was usually some sort of hideous beast.
At least I was armed. I’d tried stunners and several other weapons, but very little fazed these creatures but magic and brute force. And while magic was my forte, I carried three very important weapons-my sword, my dagger, and my whip.
Xan, my long, ornate sword, was razor sharp. She wasn’t exactly legal, but down here, in Darktown? Nobody, not even the Devani, were going to put up a fuss. When Hecate had presented her to me, along with the matching dagger, she had given me the name of the sword. She sealed Xan into servitude for me, enhancing the sword’s abilities to strike my opponents and to bite them deep and hard.
“There, make a left.” Queet appeared in a flurry of mist next to me. Nobody else would recognize the mist for what it really was. That is, no one except another Theosian, magus, witch, or Psi. And right now, it felt good to know that somebody had my back, even a spirit guide.
I swung a hard left out of the burrow-lane, onto Sidewinder Street, the main street in Darktown. Up ahead and across the street was Dream Wardens, and the lights were still on. Next door, Up-Cakes was dark. In the center market, most of the stalls were closed, including Silverfish’s Hemporium, but up ahead, on the corner, I could see the faint shape of someone playing guitar. Tommy-Tee. And headed his way, halfway between us, was the lurching figure of the Abom.
From the back, he did look like a bruiser. The Abom’s current vehicle was six feet high, bald and brutish and wearing a pair of jeans and a leather jacket. That in itself was unusual. Mostly, when the Aboms came over in-body, they chose a Suit as their host, attempting to garner an edge via their three-pieces and shiny shoes. But whatever the case, the Abom was on the hunt and he was headed right for Tommy-Tee.
The Abomination’s signal lit up my Trace with a neon frenzy. From where I was, I could smell the faint scent of char. They all reeked with it-an acrid scent of burning flesh and wood. My instincts kicked into high gear. Time to hunt and destroy. Hecate was leaning over my shoulder-I could feel her whispering to me through the dark of the moon, through the tattoo on my neck-triple snakes for the Triple Goddess-wound into an intricate pattern. Venomous images embodying my shadow magic.
I’d have a better chance of taking the Abom down if he didn’t know I was coming, but it was only a matter of seconds before he picked up on me, and then my advantage would be long gone. And in that body? He wasn’t going to be easy to handle. Not here, out in the open.
“Here. What do you need?”
“He’s big and he’s strong. I need to meet him on the Crossroads.”
“Fury, that’s a big risk. You know what shifting over to the Crossroads does to you. The aftereffects are nasty. Honestly, are you telling me that you are willing to risk yourself for Tommy-Tee? Think about it.”
“I don’t have time to think about it. Look-he’s fucking huge. He’s at least a foot taller than I am, and the minute he hears me breathe, he’ll turn. Then, I won’t have a clear shot to his soul-hole. If I have to fight him here, it’s going to be bad. Real bad. If I take him to the Crossroads, I’ll have my full power there.”
A half-beat. Then, “Go. Do what you need to. I’ll contact Jason as soon as you cross over and meet you there.”
I surged forward and within seconds, I raced past the Abom, past Tommy-Tee, and was standing in the middle of the intersection. Thank gods there was no traffic.
“Hey, freakshow! How about a real dinner?” I waved my hands and shouted at the bruiser, trying to get his attention.
Startled, I heard Tommy-Tee stumble over a chord as he lost his place in his song.
The Abomination turned my way. The next moment, he broke off stalking Tommy-Tee and made a beeline for me, darting into the road at breakneck speed.
I waited, biding my time, breath pent.
Tommy-Tee was too fried from years of being hooked on Opish to understand what was going on. He took a step toward the edge of the sidewalk.
“Queet, do something. Keep Tommy-Tee off the road.”
Queet swept past-I could feel the gust-and he slammed into Tommy, knocking him back with the force of his currents. Having a spirit guide who could mimic a poltergeist was handy at times.
Tommy-Tee landed on his butt on the sidewalk and I took that moment to make my move. The Abom was almost within arm’s range of me. I swept my arms up, clasping my hands together over my head. A flash radiated as I closed my eyes and focused on my destination. The street shifted and blurred, melting around us, as the world lurched and then-we were on the Crossroads.