While working on No Sanctuary, Surviving the Fall and plotting out my space opera series for later this year I’m also slowly working on the first book in my new Urban Fantasy series. I have an unedited draft of the first chapter and… what the heck. Here it is. Enjoy!
I’ve fought in odd places before but watching bits of eggs, bacon and a bowl of grits fly over my head is a new one for me.
Sitting on the floor, my knees bent as I braced myself against the door of the freezer in the back of a dirty New York City diner, I winced with every impact that shuddered through the door behind me. There was no way in or out except through that entrance that three very large (and angry) individuals were assaulting.
Yeah, me too.
My morning had been going along just like any other cold November morning up until about two minutes prior. I wasn’t expecting trouble when I walked into Big Al’s—apart, perhaps, from the gastrointestinal kind. A classic New York diner, Big Al’s had a single narrow row to walk down with stools on one side and booths on the other. My normal seat, the last booth at the back, had already been taken so I settled for one of the stools.
‘What’ll it be?” The scruffy proprietor was standing in front of me before I could get fully settled in my seat.
“Just the usual, Al.” I gave him my best smile but he didn’t respond. He scribbled a few words in a notepad, ripped the top page off and handed it to the walking hairnet working the grill. Four cracks later and my eggs were sizzling, ready for a heaping pile of cheese and assorted meats.
A hot cup of coffee slid down the counter and I caught it. “To your health, Al.” He merely grunted in response. Not that your food will help you with that, I thought.
The coffee went down like molasses and I winced before glancing around at the others in the diner. The couple that had been on their way out was making a fuss at the front door as they shuffled with their coats and scarves. A group of teenagers were in the front booth giggling as they discussed something-or-other. A couple of men were at the counter, one staring at his phone while he ate and the other staring at a TV mounted up near the ceiling that was playing the morning news.
No one in the diner was particularly interesting or off-color. Until, that is, I noticed the booth behind me. My regular booth. Except that it had been taken when I walked in. I hadn’t paid much attention to who was in it when I came in but in the instant it took to glance behind me at who was seated there I realized that my morning was about to get a lot more exciting.
I took another sip of coffee and tried to extricate myself. “Hey Al, make that to go, would ya?” Al shuffled out of the small storeroom and looked at me before shuffling straight on out the front door.
“What the…” I watched him go before glancing behind me again. The three figures that had been seated were standing up, inches from my back, their eyes boring into the back of my head.
Long-hair turned at the sound of the front door opening, spatula in hand, before looking at me and the three figures behind me. His eyes grew wide and the spatula dropped from his hand. He dashed down the length of the diner, hopped over the counter with a beautiful leap and ran out the door behind Al.
Lovely, I thought. Just lovely.
After one more sip of my coffee I swiveled in my stool, putting on a smile and spreading my arms. “Gentlemen! How can I help you on this fine morning?”
Imagine three of the biggest—not tallest but biggest—football players in the world. Now imagine they were cross-bred with Orcs, force-fed steroids for the first year of their life, stuffed into suits with ties barely long enough to wrap around their thigh-thick necks and then somehow shoehorned into the world’s smallest booth in the world’s smallest diner.
Oh, and imagine that the football players are extremely cranky, haven’t gone to the bathroom in several hours and have been drinking Big Al’s coffee all morning.
It wasn’t a good situation to say the least.
I tried to ease down off my stool when the largest of the three brutes put his hands squarely on my shoulders, forcing me back down into my seat. I swiveled around and smiled.
“Look fellas, can’t we work this out?” I looked at each of them in turn. “Come on, what’s the deal here?” The one with his hands on my shoulders spoke in a thick Slavic accent.
“You come with us, we do not break your arms and legs. That is deal.”
I shrugged my shoulders, trying to break his grip, but his hands stayed firm. I sighed, glancing to my left and right. His cronies were on either side, watching me intently.
“Look, buddy, you’ve got the wrong guy, all right? My name’s Will. You’re obviously looking for someone else, so let’s just—”
“We know all about you, Silver.” His breath was the worst possible combination of stale coffee and something resembling sardines. He leaned in close to my face, hissing through his teeth is broken English.
“We know you cannot touch Void. You come with us. Now.”
Oh. I thought. So it’s going to be one of those mornings.
“Fine.” I sighed, then half-turned back around to the counter. My eggs were still on the griddle, sizzling away, reaching the point where they needed to be lovingly folded around cheese and meat to form a delicious omelet.
“Son of a…” I mumbled.
Making a half turn in my stool, I quickly pushed out with my right arm against the lead giant, placing my hand firmly against him.
Short, dramatic spells are so much better in foreign languages, particularly Greek, Latin and Russian. The word was accompanied by a surge of energy from my arm, down through my fingers and into his chest. Flashes of blue exploded across his body and he flew backwards, wedging his enormous frame between the seat of a booth and the accompanying table directly behind him.
Not bothering to look at his two friends, I pulled myself over the counter and landed in an inelegant heap on the other side, slipping on the greasy floor and nearly burning myself on the griddle in the process. Loud roars came from the other side of the counter, along with the sound of splintering particleboard.
Peeking up over the counter I saw the lead giant’s friends pulling him to his feet. His short-cropped hair was smoking and there were burn marks on his chest and across his suit, but otherwise he seemed unharmed.
Great. I groaned and slipped back down into cover. Now what?
I heard three voices shout in unison and three electric arcs flew over the counter in my direction, smashing into the wall next to me and blowing it half apart. A wave of heat rushed towards me and I held my arms up and gave a shout.
A blue shield caught the brunt of the blast from the gas tanks under the griddle as they exploded, and just in the nick of time, too. I could still feel the heat from the blast, but the flames stopped inches from my body, pouring around the shield like a stream of water around a boulder.
The flames stopped a few seconds later and I dropped my hands, glancing up to see if my attackers were venturing over to my side of the counter. The explosion must have caught them off guard, since all I heard were grunting, low yells and the sound of large hands slapping at fabric, trying to put out the flames.
Seizing my chance, I crawled on all fours towards the back of the diner, spying the open freezer door as my goal. I made it inside and slammed the door shut, then sat down against it, trying to catch my breath.
From outside the freezer, I could hear the shouting grow louder. I didn’t recognize the language, but it sounded vaguely Slavic in origin.
Carton’s men? Maybe someone from that casino a few weeks back?
I didn’t have a clue who was attacking me, but they were clearly laboring under the assumption that I was unable to defend myself.
While it wasn’t exactly public knowledge, that assumption wouldn’t have been entirely wrong.
My name is William J. Silver. I’m the youngest—and only—son in the wizarding family Silver. Thirteenth generation to boot so there’s a nice bit of extra anti-luck for me. My family is one of the most powerful, wealthy, influential and ancient – not to mention surviving – wizarding families in the world. My family lineage goes back centuries, and every single one of my family members was or still is a talented wizard, gifted with the ability to tap into the Void to channel its energy and bring life to their magic.
Oh, and the best part about me? I can’t tap into the Void at all. Not naturally, anyway, like every other wizard can. I have to make do with some…workarounds.
That’s where I picked up the nickname “the makeshift wizard.” Catchy, huh? I’ll explain the details later, but it all revolves around my VEC – Void Energy Channeling device. It artificially taps into the Void and passes the energy through my body so I can power my magic.
The lack of knowledge on the part of my opponents had given me the upper hand, but it was short-lived. The leader was back in action, spouting spell after spell in his mother tongue. The attacks tore at the freezer door, held back only by a deflection spell that I was barely keeping together.
Glancing inside my jacket pocket, I looked at a battery indicator strapped to a small black box.
Twenty percent? Holy hell. The attacks had been more powerful than I imagined, and I was quickly running out of energy to power my magic. I turned my attention to the freezer’s interior, searching for anything I could use to escape. Slabs of meat and a few boxes of eggs aside, things weren’t looking good.
Keeping part of my attention on the deflection spell, I reached out toward the back of the freezer with my mind, trying to get a sense of how far it was from the interior of the structure to the alley on the other side of the building.
Ten feet. Okay. I can do this.
I’ll go on record right now and say that I positively, absolutely, without a doubt hate portal spells.
They’re messy, chock-full of easy-to-make-mistakes, and they just feel wrong. Still, compared to facing down three very angry men who were about to break through my deflection spell, it was worth a shot.
My enemy’s attacks were coming in waves, so I waited until one finished and then stood up, releasing the deflection spell and shouting at them.
“Okay! You win!”
I ran to the back of the freezer and began drawing runes on the wall in the frost and ice, laying out a rough circle on the wall. Eight runes total, each with an intricate design that was difficult to remember, hard to draw and nigh-on impossible to get right when I was surrounded by cold food and the knowledge that three very angry men wanted me either dead or very seriously injured.
“Come out! Now!” The same gravelly voice boomed from outside the freezer.
“Uh, yeah, one second. Just trying to get the door open!” I yelled over my shoulder. The runes were complicated. One wrong symbol and my trip would be cut short. Deathly short.
There. I hope this works.
I looked inside my jacket at the battery meter again. Fifteen percent. Just enough.
I felt the air behind me electrify as the brutes outside the freezer began speaking a final attack to break through the door and reach me. In the same moment I reached out toward the runes on the wall and whispered.
Energy exploded from my fingertips, igniting the eight runes and joining them together in a swirling circle. Behind me the freezer door splintered open, propelling me forward through the still-opening portal with the force of the blast.
Time and space slowed as I tumbled through the doorway and my stomach sank into my knees, then skyrocketed back into my throat as my momentum stopped and I slammed face-first into a brick wall. Behind me, the portal crackled closed, carrying a scream of frustration from my attackers with a final puff of air.
I stood up, dazed, and looked around. The ear-splitting thunder of magical attacks had been replaced by the comparatively soft din of the city. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic flooded by on opposite ends of the alley, though as was usual for the city, no one paid any mind to the tattered and bruised figure that was staggering down a back alley, trying to catch his breath.
My name is William J. Silver, the makeshift wizard. I’m not having a very fun day.