Hi there, friends!
I hope you enjoy this early first look at the third (and final) Enochian War book, Children of Enochia.
The book hits the shelves on May 28th, and I cannot WAIT to share the full story with you!
In the meantime, if you wanna save a few bucks, be sure to grab it on pre-order for $3.99 before I bump it up to $5.99 at launch.
(SIDE NOTE: For those of you who’ve already pre-ordered at full price, I’m sorry about the price flip-flop. I’ll probably generally be following this new model (discounted pre-order, and full-price launch) moving forward for future launches.)
(OTHER SIDE NOTE: If you haven’t read ANY of the Enochian War books yet, you can buy Shadows of Divinity (Book One) right here!)
Now, let’s get First-Lookin’!
Chapter 1 – Reputation
Clinking glasses, creaking stools, and rowdy voices. That was about all I could make out as I sat in the corner of the greasy tavern. Greasy, I decided, much more by merit of its denizens rather than by any fault of its sturdy, well-aged oaka tables, or its rustic decorum. The place was bustling, which was some combination of surprising and sad given that it was midday on a Kendlingday—right about the time when the respectable people of Divinity should be halfway through the first day of their fresh new cycle.
But these weren’t the respectable people of Divinity. And I guess we weren’t either. Hence the corner seats I’d chosen, as far from the light fixtures as possible. The dark, hooded cloak and the shaders I wore to obscure my face from sight might’ve been overkill. They were definitely conspicuous. But few people in this particular tavern weren’t conspicuous for one reason or another. So far, aside from when I’d walked in, no one had paid me any undue attention. Not nearly as much as I’d been paying to the dark booth carved into the wall a few tables away, at least.
I couldn’t see Elise and Four in the booth where they were seated with our mysterious contact, but I knew they were there. I could feel them in my extended senses as plainly as I could smell the utter lack of recent showers from a trio of swarthy neighbors to our right. What I couldn’t do was hear what they were saying, and it was driving me mad.
Hearing what was being said from across a noisy tavern, of course, wasn’t something that anyone—save for maybe a raknoth—could reasonably expect to do. But I knew from practice that it was possible for someone with my gifts to perceive sound—or vibrations, at least—with much more range and specificity than what a human ear could accomplish.
That said, I wasn’t well practiced with the technique. Making auditory sense out of vibrations in the air without the intermediary aid of one’s actual ears took some getting used to. More importantly, the tavern was significantly louder and more hectic than anywhere I’d tried this before. Even focusing in on the right voices was proving difficult. I was just starting to manage when Johnny’s voice broke into my thoughts from right beside me.
“How are we looking over there, flyboy?”
I glanced over at my friend, who was dressed to match my slightly suspicious but hopefully unidentifiable appearance.
“Not really sure. I’m trying to focus.”
“Right.” There was a pregnant pause. “So what are they saying?”
I turned a dark frown on him only to remember that my eyes and face were largely obscured by the shaders and the hood. Johnny got the gist anyway.
“Right.” He cleared his throat, brandishing his polymer cup. “I’ll just go back to drowning my sorrows, then.”
“You’re drinking sweetfizz.”
Instead of arguing, he took a long, noisy sip, then lowered his cup with a satisfied sigh. “I feel better already.”
Shaking my head, I settled back into my extended senses. Now wasn’t the time to be joking around with Johnny. Not when my girlfriend was sitting at a table with a colleague of Alton Parker’s. And not when I’d risked my head—and maybe Glenbark’s as well—even stepping foot out of Haven to be here at all.
Finally, I found the sweet spot with my experimental focus.
“—been quiet since the scud all hit the turbines last season,” came the slippery voice of Alton Parker’s contact, his words slightly rounded with the accent common to the slums of Divinity. “Honestly, it’s been a relief since finding out… well, you know. Can’t let people think I’d willingly do business with a bunch of red-eyed bloodsuckers.”
“Sure,” Elise said. “Wouldn’t want anyone to go thinking you were the disreputable sort, right?”
“I resent that, pretty lady.”
“And you never set our red-eyed friends up with a hideout?” Four’s voice broke in before Elise could tell the sleaze ball what he could do with his resentment. “Somewhere they could lay low if something like this ever happened?”
“My sincere thanks for reminding me of what a hideout is for,” came that slippery voice, but for all his derision, I felt him shifting his weasley frame uncomfortably on the wood bench. He knew something. Of course he did. This goodfellow, Dex as he was apparently called, was what unsavory sorts referred to as a fix-it man. The kind who made bodies and other inconvenient problems go away with little more than a palmlight message and generous handful of coin.
Dex, as we’d had it from the mouth of Alton Parker himself, had made more than a few bodies disappear for the raknoth back when he’d simply thought they were conniving murderers in high places—before it had all spilled out into the open war that’d nearly torn Enochia apart on the claws and fangs of the hybrid hoards. According to Parker, the fix-it man was our quickest and easiest shot at finding where the last two renegade raknoth might be hunkered down, waiting for their freshly-commandeered Seeker host bodies to grow strong enough to wreak Alpha only knew what manner of havoc on Enochia.
It was about the only thing Parker had actually coughed up in the few days since he’d turned up at Haven declaring his surrender—which is why I’d refused to sit this mission out, Sanctum death threats or no. Because in my mind, there were only two real possibilities here. Either Alton Parker truly wanted his last two brethren caught and killed for reasons unknown… or this was some kind of trap.
“So you’re telling us there’s nothing?” Four was asking Dex.
“It’s not really the kind of business I do.”
“We understand,” Elise said. “Listening to secondhand murderers spout bullscud lies isn’t really the kind of business we do, either.”
I resisted the urge to telepathically urge her to keep it civil. When it came to getting information, she knew what she was doing far better than I did. She was Franco Fields’ daughter, after all.
“Where’d you find this girl?” Dex asked, his head swiveling back and forth between Elise and Four.
“Let’s all play nice now,” Four said, but only half-heartedly.
“He doesn’t care,” Elise said. “He works for coin, not compliments.”
Dex chuckled. “I do. I totally do. I like this one.”
“Impress me, then,” Elise said, pointedly jingling a hefty purse of Legion-allocated coin.
I might’ve imagined Dex sleazily leering at her more than I actually felt it, but I found myself just as willing to wipe the look off his face with my fist all the same.
“There might’ve been something, now that you mention it,” he said. “Hard to keep track sometimes.”
“I’m sure,” Elise said, setting the coin purse down on the table between them.
“Best as I can recall,” Dex said, “there were a few places in the city. Few places outside the city, too.”
“Any of these places happen to have names?” Four asked.
“Or coordinates?” Elise added.
Dex reached for the coin purse. Neither Elise nor Four stopped him as he rolled it around in his palm, inspecting the weight.
“Not here,” he finally said.
“Scud,” I whispered.
Johnny turned from surveying the tavern with a questioning tilt of his head.
“He wants to change locale.”
“—happen to have an office at this fine establishment?” Elise was asking, at the table ahead.
“Something like that,” Dex said, standing from their booth. “Let’s take a walk.”
I reached to Elise with my mind. “Lise, don’t—”
“Do you feel any raknoth hiding out back?” she sent before I could finish. “We’re fine. Four and I can handle one creepy civie, and we’ve got the Hounds on standby anyway. Stay put.”
“Ah, scorched,” Johnny said beside me with a knowing grin, even though he had no way of knowing what had passed between us. I turned my frown on my non-telepathic friend. He just spread his hands. “What? Did she or did she not just burn you a new one?”
I opened my mouth, closed it, and settled for scowling down at my unwanted cup of sweetfizz.
“Caaalled it,” Johnny declared in sing-song.
“You’re a ginger beardsplitter,” I muttered at the table.
“But I’m your ginger beardsplitter.”
We traded a glance and half a grin, then both sobered at the sight of Dex the weasel stepping out of the booth ahead and into plain sight. He was followed a moment later by Four’s brooding, dark-clad form and Elise’s equally tall but decidedly more pleasing one.
I watched my beautiful warrior of a girlfriend and the ex-Seeker follow Dex the weasel through the busy crowd, resisting the urge to open my palmlight and tell Ordo Dillard to keep his eyes open out there. They’d be watching. After everything I’d been through with the Legion’s 51st Hound Company in the past season, I trusted that much. Still, that didn’t mean we had to just sit here, did it?
The rising tide of voices drew my attention to a fresh wave of tavern-goers who were pushing their way into the busy space, making their ambling way to the bar as they looked around in vain for an empty table. One of them, a broad-chested man who looked like he was no stranger to tavern brawls, lingered on me and Johnny a few seconds too long for my liking before he continued scanning the rest of the room.
Johnny gave a noncommittal grunt beside me, apparently noticing as well.
“Let’s move,” I said, starting to stand.
“Orrr,” Johnny said, catching my arm, “we could stick to the contingency plan and let Dillard do his job out there. Finish our drinks and leave like we’re just another pair of creepy no-good-in-the-hood guys.”
I hovered a few inches off my seat. He was right. It was just that guy’s standard territorial man-glance that’d set me a touch on the jumpy side. There was no reason to be hasty. The big guy was currently giving the same look to every third or fourth person in the tavern—aside from the ladies, whom he favored with a hungry smile.
I was turning back to my room-temperature drink when Johnny spoke again.
“Orrr we leave now…”
Confused, I looked over and saw that he was staring at one of the displays behind the bar. The display that was currently plastered with a big image of my face, right above the red banner that read in big, white letters: Haldin Raish reported at large, Westside, Divinity.
“What the scud,” Johnny breathed, already busy with his palmlight under the table, either checking for more news or calling for evac.
“It’s fine,” I said softly, doing my best to appear casual as I tipped the remainder of my sweetfizz back, stood, and clapped a hand to Johnny’s shoulder. “We’re just two brotos getting back to work.”
“Back to work,” I heard Johnny mumble as I lost the battle with my apprehensive eyes and glanced back to the crowd by the bar.
The big guy was glaring straight at me, and some of his friends were turning from the display to join him.
“It’s him!” one of them called, jabbing a finger out and turning half the heads in the tavern our way. “It’s Raish.”
“I knew it!” cried someone else from the other side of the bar.
“What, this guy?” Johnny called back, pointing at me and pulling off his shaders to show his admirably sincere surprise. “This guy, the Demon of Divinity? Are you kidding me? This guy cried one time when a bird hit our skimmer. Does that sound like the Demon of Divinity to you?”
“What’s his name, then?” someone called from the now fully attentive crowd.
“Uh…” Johnny hesitated a moment too long. “Beard… face?”
“His name is Beardface?”
“Hey,” Johnny shot back, “you tell me how many of you nosy scudspouts are looking to share your real names in a place like this.”
“Hey, that’s that Wingard kid!” someone else called.
“Ah, scud,” Johnny groaned.
It hardly mattered anyway. Captain Man Glare was already stalking toward us, his rough-looking friends close behind. We weren’t making it to the door without getting past them. Behind them, I was vaguely aware of the WAN caster reading off the now standard reminder that I was to be considered extremely dangerous and that anyone spotting me should contact the authorities immediately.
Apparently Captain Man Glare didn’t give a scud about that.
“Just for the record,” Johnny called, “we’ve got a whole company of legionnaires ready to rush in here at the snap of my fingers.”
Captain Man Glare and his Manly Brawlers didn’t seem to care about that much either.
I pulled off my shaders and drew my hood back. That, at least, gave the brawler crew pause. Or maybe it was just that they were nearly at striking distance.
“We’re leaving,” I said. “We don’t want any trouble, just let us pass.”
But more people were filing in behind him now, emboldened by his fearless approach and the fact that he hadn’t been struck by demon fire on his way to me.
“He don’t want any trouble, people,” Man Glare called, his hard eyes never leaving mine, his slum accent so thick that it almost sounded fake. “You know who else never wanted no trouble, Shiny Shoes?”
I was actually supremely impressed that Johnny refrained from chirping in with a, “Your mom?” or something along those lines. He probably sensed the same thing I did in my gut. For whatever reason, this guy was deeply pissed at my existence, and he was either angry enough or stupid enough to think he could take me down. That, or he was counting on the sheer weight of numbers behind—which was admittedly a much less stupid bet.
Briefly, I considered making a quick and brutal example of him with telekinesis and the nearest oaka table, but I was hesitant to give these people reason to believe all the Demon of Divinity bullscud. There were at least twenty people between us and the door now, and several more around the tavern frantically speaking into their palmlights—the room a hissing choir of, “Yes, yes he’s right here!” and, “Yes, Haldin Raish!” and, “Yes, for the love of Alpha, you can ping my location, just help us!”
I stepped forward, hoping Captain Man Glare might just stand down but mostly expecting more posturing from the burly man. He didn’t posture. He just swung.
It was a hard punch, I’d give him that, but even without my extended senses, I saw it coming with plenty of time to step outside the blow. As he planted through and fixed to pivot after me, Johnny caught him side-on with a solid punch, straight to the temple. The guy staggered. I was surprised he didn’t drop cold. The crowd had gone completely silent, every pair of street-tough eyes and eager fists waiting to see what their neighbors would do.
Then Captain Man Glare let out a wordless bellow, and half the damn tavern charged.
That’s All He Wrote
Just kidding. There are more words. Like 128,000 of ’em. Good words. Fun words. The BEST words.
And they can all be yours, Book Fan. 🙂
Don’t forget to pre-order Children of Enochia today (or before May 28th) for the discounted price of $3.99! (Reg. $5.99)