PREVIEW: Excerpt from ARCANUM ASTRAY (Book One)


A miniature bolt of lightning crackled and struck outside the wagon.

The brightness of the flash of the lightning bolt coming from Abarran’s wand was so intense that it created an afterimage in Lucius’ vision. He hoped his assistant did close his eyes.

Lucius opened his eyes, blinking rapidly to remove the visual distortion. Abarran was leaning towards the right side of the wagon, wand at the ready.

“Did you get whatever that was?” the professor asked.

“No. I did manage to graze it.”

“Come, Albion. Let’s do our part,” Lucius said as he looked at his assistant who was still trying to get the effects of the flash out of his eyes. “You take the back and I’ll take the left side.”

“It won’t be in the carriage or the platform. Or anywhere in the train’s body. The entire conveyance is heavily warded,” warned Abarran.

“What is it?” asked Lucius as he took his position. “I am familiar with a lot of magical beings but this is the first time I’ve seen one of those.”

“A djinn’s creation. An ahezzar. A Berber word for servant. Usually encountered in the Bureau’s adventures in the far south but it is a rare creature to meet in the inner Empire.”

“Oh. I am not a field man. More about demons, transformed mad mages, and such. Never bothered with the small fry.”

“It is harmless. A tracker. Usually used in surveillance,” replied the guide. “There it is!”

A loud crackle of a released lightning bolt echoed through the underground passage. Lucius noticed the train had slowed down.

“Is this normal? The train is slowing down.”

“I gave the engineers the signal to slow down. We can’t have that creature following us. More importantly, we can’t let it leave and report back to its master.”

Lucius has his wand out. A baroque piece of ivory. A foot in length, carved with sigils from long-gone schools of magic. It came from a white stag, rendered as payment for critical services provided. Fashioned by a long-dead mythical figure, the Greek demiurge Daedalus, it was hollow and contains the rachis, or the stem, of a feather given by a white phoenix. A powerful artifact. He did have to cross the veil to get the demiurge to work on it.

Albion also carried an ivory wand, given by Lucius. The material came from one of a pair of male narwhal tusks, a rare specimen of its kind. Like Lucius’ wand, it was also hollow and had carved etheric symbols. Inside the wand was a thin rod. An alloy of gold and silver, forged following a magical recipe Lucius came across in an ancient Egyptian papyrus. The symbols themselves were carved by the best artisan of the Empire according to the professor’s exacting specifications.

When ready, the wand was awakened by a ritual known to Imperial Magisters. The process itself does not grant powers to the rod. The kind of material, magical symbols, and the enchanted core of the wand determine how powerful it can be and what forces are coursed through it. However, as with any tool, its power is limited by the knowledge, skill, and ability of its user. A constraint which makes Albion’s wand a lot weaker than it should be.

The three watched their sides carefully. Lucius noticed Albion’s wandering hand carrying his wand. While his left hand gripped a railing and his eyes were searching for the ahezzar, the wand-carrying right unwittingly was all over the place.

“Watch where you’re pointing that thing, Albion!” he shouted. The last thing he needed was a hole in the head from Albion’s miniature and lethal ice spear. Or property damage if an inadvertent discharge destroys any of the cargo on the attached flatcar. The Bureau’s accountants will definitely hold him accountable. Especially when he intends to charge them for the destroyed Menon.

“Dammit!” cursed Abarran. “I can’t see the thing anymore.”

“It must be hiding under the train,” commented Albion.

Lucius thought Albion might be right, but the wounded creature couldn’t hold on to the train’s warded cars. Except in one part. He immediately prepared his wand, crouched, turned to the front, and carefully moved forward. He suddenly stood up. Wand pointed down at the space between the train’s engine and the passenger carriage. There, perched on the railway coupling was the ahezzar. He fired a blast from his wand at the creature. In the blink of an eye, the combined fire and lightning stream of energy, coiled around each other, struck and obliterated the beast. Except it also destroyed the single link-and-pin coupling.

My word! thought the dismayed and ashamed Lucius as he watched the train’s engine move away from them. The two carriages were still being brought forward by momentum but then stopped altogether after a while.


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