No release date yet.
It had been thirty years since the Convergence, when the dimensions aligned and combined Earth and the world of Gwyllon, known in human mythology as “Underhill”. Elven castles and ancient ruins sprouted in vacant lots, on major highways, sometimes merging with existing buildings, twisting into completely new structures. Roads and rail systems reformed, and after the rioting, starvation and death, agriculture finally sorted itself and food began to flow. A new government formed of elves and men had arisen, a society of human tech and elven magic. Cell phones and frost giants, race cars and elven steeds, dungeons and dragons…
And everywhere, monsters.
Rue’s eyes were on her father even as the guards pushed her to her knees. The black stone bruised her kneecaps, but her father was taking a beating. A fist hit his stomach and he doubled over, dry heaving. She cried out and lunged for him, struggling against the guards.
The woman in front of her scoffed. Black elf, with braided white hair and dressed in a smoke colored robe, she was clearly in charge. Her hem brushed the design in the stone floor, as she sent an amused glance at her father’s systematic thrashing, the smack of fists on flesh echoing from the stone walls.
A black dog prowled the perimeter of the round stone room, yellow eyes glowing. Was he a pet? Definitely a threat.
Rue searched mentally, pushing her magic, but there wasn’t a speck of mined metal anywhere. They’d been taken in their pajamas, in the dead of night, and the elves had been careful. One didn’t steal a mage without extreme care.
Whoever the elf woman was, she’d sent the men to kidnap her and her father. “Come now, so tender-hearted! Think of it this is an incentive to behave.” She flicked a hand and the beating stopped. It was a warning.
Rue bared her teeth. She wasn’t going to bargain; this piece of trash had kidnapped them and beat her father unmercifully. Rue had heard of strong mages being taken, enslaved for the dark elves’ fight clubs. Massive money was made on the illegal games, and if this woman was a slaver, she had no pity.
The woman watched her for a moment, dark eyes drifting over the slave collar clamped to Rue’s neck, as if the enchanted bone would be enough to hold her. Pre-convergence, she was probably a big shot, but she had a lot to learn about modern mages. The old rules were obsolete, and rage changed everything.
“Nothing to say? That’s for the best. You’re my slave now, and your father’s life depends on your cooperation.” She signaled the guard, who kicked her father’s kneeling body to his back and stomped on his stomach.
Her father had a weak heart. A tough old man in so many ways, but his body couldn’t take this. She felt him die, felt him leave. He was gone.
The woman was frowning at her father’s body. She hadn’t realized what she’d done yet.
Horror and grief turned to rage. Rue would show her.
Rue came back to herself covered in blood. The bone collar lay broken on the floor, along with the bodies of the dead. She’d pulled the iron from their blood, ripped it through their skin. The memories were muted by rage, but they’d learned the hard way that metal didn’t have to mean smelted ore. Humans had plenty of useful trace metals, including potassium, iron and zinc.
Elves did, too.
A quiet whine made her look at the dog. He thumped his tail once, head tilted in query. Why was he still alive? Not that she would purposely kill a dog…
Her throat tightened as she looked at her dad. She checked of course, but she already knew he had no pulse. His eyes were open, and she closed them, throat tight. They were a long way from home, and she had to go.
“I don’t want to leave you, daddy.”
That’s when the dog said, “I can help.”
Noxious fumes rose from the junkyard, lending a ghostly vibe to hulks of rusting cars. Light flashed off eyes as something peered through a window and darted away, disappearing behind an old bus and a hill of old tires. Crumpled sheets of tinfoil floated in a ghostly wind, suspended like silver kites, making visibility difficult.
Originally four acers, the Convergence, the merging of the old elven world with Earth, had transformed places like the junkyard into spreading pools of magic. Now that the dying and upheaval had ended, cities like Spokane were determined to tame the magic, or at least keep it from gulping huge portions of prime real estate.
Mages like Rue were the answer. They fed on magic, controlled it, and the junkyard was brimming with her flavor of metal magic. She’d signed an agreement with the council and plunked down a hefty chunk of change as a down payment. In one year, she’d have anchored the Yard and payed off her loan…or she’d die trying.
Lights ignited in the junk; monsters stalking breakfast.
“Last chance, cuz. You doing this?” The retired Army Ranger cocked his rifle, casually sighting the glowing eyes. Ike looked the part, tall and lean, military haircut touched with gray, scars on his weathered skin. “Looks like hell’s flash sale out there. Reminds me of cleaning out Grandma’s house when she died. Crap everywhere.”
His friend Bruce was manning the machine gun mounted on the roof of the Humvee. Tattooed, the former navy gunner now worked EOD for the local police. An iron eagle perched next to him, eyes lit blue in scanning mode.
They’d recruited two other buddies, who were busy scanning the neighborhood with hunting rifles.
She swallowed the urge to snap at him again for dragging his friends into this; she was his last living blood relative, and she wasn’t going into danger without backup. Overprotective? Yeah, but she loved him for it.
She flashed a smile. “You know that stick man poster that says, ‘Help! There’s a dinosaur charging!’”
He smirked and added the other stickman’s part. “Yes! Go get it! That’s lunch.”
She stepped out of the Humvee. As soon as her feet touched the ground, the magic surged. Delicious, deep and inexhaustible, the power made her feet itch, her toes curling in her boots. She breathed deep, eyes half closed in ecstasy. She’d been starved for this.
Rue was twenty-three and dwarf trained. She knew the many kinds of metal, how to bend it to her will, and she’d outgrown the pool of metal magic the dwarf mages shared. This vast lake of magic was more than enough, and it was all hers if she could tame it.
“Snap out of it, cuz. You’ve got work to do.”
She blinked at Ike’s rough command. She’d been mesmerized, standing out in the open in front of a monster spawning ground like a pothead before the world’s largest field of marijuana. Time to quit screwing around.
She drew her baton, twirled it to warm up her wrist. A line of blue circuits ignited as it powered up. Fully charged, the magic battery would give her a boost, help prevent exhaustion. Mages were known to work until they collapsed, and she’d been warned to be careful. The magic lake was inexhaustible, but she wasn’t. Mike would make sure she didn’t faint and get eaten.
Nobody knew where the monsters came from. Some said the magic pools were doorways to another dimension. Others thought the magic twisted natural creatures, turned them into monsters with no fear of man. Once spawned, the monsters were free to roam and devour any humans or animals they encountered. Humans had learned to build their houses strong, with iron grates over the doors and guns in every house. Children learned that guns were not a toy and caring parents taught them to shoot.
It was amazing how quickly hippies learned to kill monsters if they valued their hides. The government couldn’t protect every citizen from hordes of fire breathing, mutant hedgehogs. World peace was a great goal, but monsters couldn’t be reasoned with.
That’s where heroes came in.
Day one was spent letting the monsters know the Yard was under new management. Step one was to establish a perimeter. She sent the eagle into the air. Powered with a magic-charged battery, it was programed to highlight approaching threats with red laser lights, acting as an early warning system. Some of the monsters weren’t flesh, so Rue transformed a garbage truck and a tractor into robots to crush anything that wouldn’t bleed. That was the easy part; ignoring tons of crushing metal and bullets was tough, even with electronic earplugs. The sharp smell of gunpowder, blood and burning fuel added to the distraction.
Spiders made of car engines and cable made a terrible sound when shoved into the garbage truck’s trash compacter. Worse were the dog sized rats that crept out of the shadows, armed with titanium teeth and a taste for human meat. They died with a high-pitched squeal when stitched with a machine gun, spraying green blood like burst water pipes.
Closing her eyes to the sounds of war, she sank deep into meditation, seeking a suitable anchor in the piles of scrap…
Her eyes popped open and she laughed.
“What?” Ike demanded. He took careful aim and popped something with six legs and chainsaw pinchers. The awful meld of metal and flesh went down, legs flailing.
“Nothing.” She closed her eyes and seized the mammoth boat anchor, probably from a cargo ship. It still had three links of chain, and she quickly formed more, crushing and shaping cars into links, leaving the non-metallic bits in a discard pile out of the way. Space cleared as she transformed junk, giving her room to work as she sank the anchor deep, driving it through the dirt until it lodged in the pool of power. Sweat poured down her back as she wrestled the suddenly obstinate magic, applying sheer brute force to weld the anchor in place.
She broke off, staggering a bit as her vision blurred. She waved off Ike. “I’m good. Just need a breather.” She grabbed a bottle of juice and chugged it, then downed a handful of trail mix; staying fueled was critical when burning that kind of energy. Refreshed, no longer needing the deep meditation, she slipped into a lighter trance and gathered the floating trash, pulling it from the far reaches of the Yard until she had a floating disk two feet thick and the size of a swimming pool. She attached it to the chain and grinned in satisfaction when it rose into the air.
She began to sort cars, aware that the sounds of gunfire ceased as monsters and humans paused in awe. One by one, she cut the front ends off trucks and stacked them on the disk, then topped them with a tier of classic cars, until she had a wedding cake of cars three layers tall. Someone swore as the color bled off the cars, leaving brushed metal behind. She hardened and thickened the metal, smoothed the rough edges inside and replaced windshields with bullet proof, mirrored glass. A type of pressed metal, the glass was heavy, but the gravity defying foil didn’t even dip. It hung there, four stories above the ground, gleaming in the afternoon sun.
She staggered, realized Ike had her arm in a firm grip. Her vision blurred.
“That’s it for today,” he said, leading her to the hummer.
Ignoring her protests, he loaded her into the SUV and handed her a bottle of juice. “No. I’m taking you home and loading you up with lots of red meat. We can come back tomorrow.” He’d put a brisket in the smoker, and his wife was doing her part by preparing a feast for the (hopefully) triumphant hunters.
“But we didn’t even go inside!”
“Your toy will be there tomorrow…if it survives the Yard. In fact, I’m cool with letting it hang out a few hours, just to make sure that thing’s going to stay airborne.”
“Did you see that? That’s the coolest fortress ever,” Bruce enthused as he slid inside and closed the sunroof. “I can’t wait to see the inside.”
“Can you build me a house out of classic cars? That’s pretty sweet, girl,” one of the hunters said with a grin. “What else can you do?”
“Not much now,” she mumbled, slumped in the seat. She’d never been so tired. Good thing she’d brought Ike. “Tomorrow,” she slurred. She was thankful she’d presented the guys with a huge box of lead and buckshot pellets for reloading earlier, a gift for risking their lives and spending a fortune in bullets. She was so tired, she’d be lucky to bend a spoon, much less mass produce ammunition.
Ike looked at her doubtfully. “We’ll see.”