Archives for posts with tag: The Garden of Abracadabra 1: Life’s Journey

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus.

She discovers that her tenants are witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards and that each apartment is a fairyland or hell.

On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before.

Torn between three men—Daniel Stern, her ex-fiance who wants her back, Jack Kovac, an enigmatic FBI agent, and Prince Lastor, a seductive supernatural entity who lives in the penthouse and may be a suspect—Abby will question what she really wants and needs from a life partner.

Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between Humanity and Demonic Realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,” on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India
, Mexico, and Netherlands.

“So refreshing. . . .This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter.”
Goodreads: “I loved the writing style and am hungry for more!”

Amazon.com: “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy”
This is a very entertaining novel—sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first “episode” while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I’m looking forward to finding out more.”

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in Australia
, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India
, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo;
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India
, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Please visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

65

We plunge through the stinking darkness and out the other side in the blink of an eye, stumbling into the perfumed golden ballroom whirling with frenzied dancers. Hallelujah! Don’t get me wrong, I love trekking three miles through a freezing miasma. But never have I been so glad to step into the warmth of a perfumed golden ballroom.

I stagger under Franklin’s heft and drag the suffering man to the wall of curtained doorways. Kovac pulls the ringmaster’s arm off my shoulders and eases him, facedown, onto the dance floor.

Franklin shivers, his face no longer flushed scarlet, but a gray more pale than his gray hair. His shoulder hemorrhages heavily in spite of my makeshift tourniquet.

“Try not to put any pressure on the arrows, all right?” Kovac says, sending his voice magic filled with warm compassion.

Franklin nods weakly and squeezes his eyes shut.

I heave a shuddering sigh, feeling not too well myself, and confer with Kovac. “Jack, has the L.A. lab cooked up antidotes to these poisons?”

“They’re working on it, but it could take months.”

I nod, unhappy with his answer. “We don’t have months. We’ve got to get Franklin to a hospital as soon as possible. Sooner, even.”

“And you and me.”

“You, absolutely. Me, I’ll survive.” I point to the curtained doorways. “There they are, the little specialized hells I told you about.” I search among the whirling dancers for the dais, and there it is, a sacrificial altar stained with blood and semen and a smear of souls, the draped silks dingy and soiled without Alastor’s magic enchanting them. “Isn’t that where Alastor tried to make me his Queen?”

Kovac nods, following my implication. “Yeah. The dagger, the Seal, the Wand of Ur. They must be around here somewhere. I’ll go take a look.”

“Stay close to the wall. It seems to be the only boundary that doesn’t shift and change.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got some urgent business to attend to. I don’t like little specialized hells.”

“Don’t take too long. Franklin and I will meet you at the mirror.”

I have to blink. “The mirror? Where is it?”

Kovac takes me by my shoulders and pivots me toward the opalescent surface shimmering from floor to ceiling in the near distance just ahead of us. The mirror is nothing less than thrilling to behold, that gorgeous shimmer promising our deliverance from Avichi.

“How odd! I didn’t even see it.”

“A lot of Real Magic is like that, Abby. You need to know what you’re looking for before you can see what is right in front of your eyes.”

Then he strides off, and I ponder whether there’s another meaning behind what he just said. Kovac being Kovac, there must be. I head for the doorways.

I seize the oily velvet curtain the mottled olive color of an over-ripe mango and rip the foul thing off its curtain rod. The stink of disgusting food clenches my gut a second time—a poisonous sweetness like insecticide, a surfeit of rancid butter, the bitterness of burnt meat.

I shout to the gorging gluttons, “People! You can leave this hell any time you want to. You’re free to go!”

A woman pries herself away from her bowl of sugared grease. “Who are you to tell us to leave this paradise? Where else could we feast endlessly?”

I suppose one woman’s hell is another woman’s paradise. “Then I leave you to your paradise,” I say and stride out of the banquet hall. I’ve torn down their veil of illusion. That’s the best I can do. It’s up to them to claim their own freedom.

I step back into the ballroom and spy Kovac and Franklin by the wall a dozen steps away. I smile and wave, overcome with relief to see them. Kovac has revived Franklin and put him to work. The suffering ringmaster laboriously crawls on his hands and knees, searching for the magical weapons.

Kovac grins, holding the golden amulet aloft. “Abby! The Seal of Solomon!”

“Well, all right! Keep searching. I’m not quite finished.”

I jog to the doorway veiled in moth-eaten ashy velvet and tear the curtain down. Way to go, two for two. Smoke billows out, a suffocation of fumes. What stirring message of liberation can I shout to the damned smokers? What will make sense to addicts trapped in a hell of dissatisfaction which they believe is a paradise?

“You’re free to leave anytime you want to,” I simply say and walk out. I don’t glance back to see if anyone has heard me, tamped out her cigarette or put down his pipe. Maybe no one has. Maybe no one in that hell ever will.

In the distance, hunting horns wail and wail.

Now I jog to the pinkish-apricot curtain and seize the repulsive fleshy velvet. The fabric is as taut as a tensed muscle and lubricated with some sort of slick fluid. I swallow hard and yank the curtain down.

I hate this hellish harem of lost women. The soothing candlelight, the glamorous mirrors, the murmuring fountain. All of it a lie, a demon’s malicious trick for eternity. The proud women, beautiful and damned, moaning, “Alastor, Alastor, Alastor.”

I summon my stirring speech of liberation one more time, though I’m guessing no good will come of it. “Women of all cultures and epochs, your veil of illusion has been torn down. You’re free to leave this bespelled hell.”

The tall, lanky woman in the beaded headband and hip-hugger jeans marches militantly up to me, her eyes blazing with hot rage.

“You. Chick.” She pokes her finger on my tattoo, pokes so hard that I gasp in pain. “Didn’t I tell you we’re waiting for Alastor? That we’ll wait for the One forever?”

“And I’m telling you, Alastor isn’t coming back.”

The lost women groan in unison, each a tiny doomed part of one great longing, lusting creature.

“Sure he is, chick. Alastor will always come back, no matter how long it takes. He has promised this.”

“Alastor isn’t coming back, not anytime soon. Jack Kovac and I threatened his mortality tonight. We witnessed him fleeing on a winged cloud of made of bits of bone.”

Stunned silence. Weeping eyes dry and glare furiously at me. Women rise to their feet and lurch toward me, a scowling female mob with clenched fists.

Don’t ask me why, but I don’t want to stay in this hell one minute more. I hightail it out the door, moving fast. The lanky woman dogs my heels, outraged and disbelieving.

“You can’t threaten the mortality of the One. No one can.”

“Trust me, I did.”

“I hate you!”

I stop and face her, at the end of my patience. “Weren’t you once a free spirit? Didn’t you live your life the way you wanted to?” Her rage wanes, and I persist. “He’s going to be gone for a long time, I’m telling you. Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel how you’ve been released from his evil enchantment? Don’t you want to get your life back?”

Her face blossoms with hope. “Yeah, chick. Yeah, I can dig it.”

“Come along with me. I’ll take you out of Avichi.”

I jog through the doorway and out into the ballroom. The lanky woman follows, jogging by my side.

“Like, thanks, chick. You’re cool.”

“Don’t mention it. You’re going to be cool again, too, once you cross through the mirror and return to reality.”

Kovac and Franklin are waiting just outside, anxiety stitched on their faces.

“Abby, we heard the hunting horns,” Kovac says.

“So did I. Did you find the Wand of Ur?”

He holds up the carved tusk, triumphant.

“Excellent. I’m glad Curator Easterly won’t have to bust your chops.”

“Yeah. You don’t know Agatha.” Now he holds up the dagger. The bronze blade is broken in places, the edge chipped and jagged.

“Not so excellent, but it will have to do. I need to go to one more hell, Jack, and I need you to go with me. I need your weapons and your magic.”

“Abby, there’s no time.”

“I know, but we’ve got to. Remember Billy? I think he’s in that slaughterhouse.”

I hear a groan of anguish behind me, and Kovac and I look around.

“Oh, sweetie.” Franklin tenderly holds the lanky woman in his arms.

Her eyes are glassy, staring sightlessly. Her head slumps, her head thrown back, her neck no longer able to support the weight of her skull. As I watch, silver threads her dark hair till her hair turns totally silver, then falls out in clumps from her scalp. The flesh of her face sinks to the skull and her body withers, nothing but dried skin over a skeleton.

Franklin lays the corpse on the dance floor, gently arranging the limbs. “Who was she?” he says, tears in his eyes.

“I don’t know.” And then I do. “She was a Queen of the High Harvest, long ago.”

As I watch, the starry body of a beautiful young girl twists out of the corpse, shakes herself loose, and smiles at me. Then another starry body, and another, and another, too many to count, beautiful sparkling women spiraling up and up and up, laughing, free at last. They spiral up through the vault of Avichi and vanish.

“She didn’t give Alastor all of herself, after all,” I say.

“There may be hope for some of these souls,” Kovac observes.

But now the hunting horns wail louder, and closer. An edge of the endless horizon solidifies into a rippling surface and a sullen fog broods in the dark mirror. From the darkness comes the clatter of clopping hooves.

Kovac frowns. “To the slaughterhouse, my lady magician. And hurry.”

I seize the tarry curtain, squeezing blood from the soaked black velvet, and pull with all my strength. But the curtain refuses to fall. Kovac seizes the other side, and together we tear the loathsome thing down. The curtain falls with a noisome splash and slides across the floor, smearing the parquetry with streaks of blood and offal.

Womanly screams and the stink of slaughter assault me. I really don’t want to witness this cruel spectacle a second time and avert my eyes from the trussed-up pigs, the butchers with their knifes and cleavers, the sadists eagerly watching torture. Is Billy here? I can’t tell.

Kovac brandishes the wand and the dagger, his face grim with determination. “What is the magical operation?”

“Unleash the Wand of Ur and the bronze magic of the dagger to free the innocents!”

Kovac shouts, “I invoke the Wand of Ur and this blade of bronze to free the innocents!”

A hand of brilliant blue light shoots from the tusk and seizes the dagger, guiding the blade across the slaughterhouse. The blade slashes through  the ropes binding the animals’ hind legs and thousands of pigs drop to the blood-slick floor.

Squealing, snorting, eyes wild with fear, the pigs struggle to their feet and kick off the ropes. Pigs stampede all around us, stampede past us out the doorway, and gallop across the dance floor, dashing underfoot, tripping the frenzied dancers.

The dagger flies back to Kovac’s hand like a boomerang. He wields his weapon, staring down the butchers and the sadists with a steely look meant to inform them they’ll see the business end of his weapon if they trouble us.

“Excellent work, Jack.”

“Anything for you, Abby.”

The butchers and the sadists boo and hiss and catcall. Not good losers, I guess. The butchers turn their knives around in their hands, considering the possibilities, glaring at Kovac and me.

“Time to hit the road,” Kovac says.

We back out of the slaughterhouse and jog into the ballroom. As I watch, the pigs shapeshift into boys and girls, brown- and black- and pink-skinned. I’d love to watch what the liberated souls do with their new freedom, but we’re really, really out of time.

“Let’s collect Franklin and get the hell out of hell.”

“I’m right behind you.”

The ringmaster lies sobbing on the floor. Blood drenches his shoulder, but that isn’t the worst of it. Now blood pulses freely around the arrow shafts buried in his back and thighs and shoulders. The temporary stanching of the wounds is no longer temporary.

Kovac seizes Franklin’s right elbow, I take his left. With grunts and groans all around, we lift the ringmaster to his feet.

“Franklin, listen to me. We’re leaving now.”

“You said that before, sweetie.”

“Yeah, and we’re almost there. But you’ve got to do one more thing for me.”

“What’s that?”

“Pull yourself together and help us out. Can you do that?”

He heaves a ragged sigh. “I’ll try.” He steadies himself, and I feel some of his weight lift off me.

The hunting horns wail and wail. Screaming demons mounted on chimeras burst out of the dark mirror. Hoof-clops thunder on the dance floor.

“I need to take a rain-check on our dance, Jack, but I promise we’ll do it later.”

“I’m crushed, but I’ll hold you to that.”

We stagger to the splendid shimmering mirror. As always, the opalescent surface is opaque on this side. For the second time, I’ve got to take it on faith that the mirror will lead us back to the Garden of Abracadabra.

When I was younger, I didn’t take a lot on faith. I struck out at the world with my will and my temper. Now that I’ve lived a few more years, I find myself taking a lot more on faith. After I’ve questioned and investigated and applied my will and my temper, of course.

For the second time, I say, “Ready, gents?”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

 

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

64

We plunge into the woods, forging a path through the underbrush, heading away from the wail of the hunting horns and the hunting party. It’s slow going, each step an eternity of pain and fear.

A dark figure darts out from behind a tree and confronts us, swaying in our path.

“They’re s-slaughtering ‘em all,” the flea-circus ringmaster stammers. Arrows bob in his back and thighs and shoulders. His clothes hang in tatters and, just beneath the translucent fabric, blood pulses out around the arrow shafts. The whites of his eyes shine, terrified little moons in the gloom. “I f-faked a seizure. They went on without me. When I looked up, I could see ‘em impaling people and ripping out those st-starry bodies before the people were even dead.”

He gibbers more nonsense and I reach out and lightly slap his face. His skin is feverishly hot and drenched in sweat and tears.

“Ssh!” I say. “Keep your voice down.”

“At first I couldn’t feel the, the, the arrows. I didn’t b-believe they were really real.”

“They’re real. We’re going back to the Garden of Abracadabra. Want to come along?”

“How? How?”

“Back through the mirrors. What’s your name?”

“C-call me Franklin.”

“Franklin, I need you to stay calm and very, very quiet and follow us. Can you do that?”

“I’ll d-do my best.” His panicked voice rises. “How can we go back through the mirrors? We can’t find the way!”

“We’ll find the way,” Kovac says, sending a reassuring pulse of his voice magic to the injured man.

We set off again. I recognize the little clearing and steer us there. At the clearing I glimpse the star and the obelisk straight ahead. But I now know that as soon as I lose sight of the guideposts, we’re in danger of losing our way.

I press my throat chakram, and a tiny blue beam flares briefly out of my vishudha. Bonwitch’s boost to my fifth chakram won’t last much longer. I anxiously sweep my gaze across the woods.

“Looking for something?” Kovac whispers.

“How can we chart our course without zigging and zagging?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I’m guessing this region of Avichi lies in perpetual night, but the moon appears to move in a lunar orbit.”

“Too bad we can’t see the moon anymore. I think it’s set.”

“Yeah, it has. The moon won’t help us now except for this. If the region lies in perpetual night, then the moon is the only source of light.”

Hmm! I’m following Kovac’s reasoning. “So these trees and plants live on moonlight?” I furrow my brow. “And so?”

“In our world, moss grows on the sides of things most exposed to sunlight, especially when there isn’t a lot of light. Have you noticed these trees? They’re filthy with moon-fed moss.”

“So all I need to do is spot which side of the trees the moss grows thickest on, starting now while we’re headed in the right direction, confirm the mossy side on trees in the next grove, and the next, and we’ll stay on course?”

“It’s a theory.”

“Let’s give it a test drive.”

We struggle through a stand of saplings to the nearest twisted monstrous tree. I press my throat chakram and aim the blue beam at the shaggy gray bark. Dull gray moss sprouts thickest and slimiest on the left side of the trunk.

We move on to the next tree. Franklin limps behind us, muttering to himself and chuckling bleakly from time to time.

“Moss on the left.”

“Good work, Abby.”

“Good theory, Jack.”

It’s very slow going, but at least we waste no time going in the wrong direction. The horns of the hunting party grow fainter, receding in the distance.

The trees thin, and I see the big clearing of trampled brown weeds lying just ahead, illuminated by the fiducial star. The noxious darkness of the second mirror roils at the far side of the clearing, reeking of every sewer in hell.

“Sweet Jesus, there it is!” Franklin shouts and sprints past us, his plump thighs pumping, his flea-bitten arms flailing.

“Franklin, stop!” Kovac and I shout in unison.

Too late.

Rat-servants slink out of the shadows and surround him, baring their vicious yellow fangs.

The ringmaster defiantly reaches for an arrow bobbing in his shoulder.

“Franklin,” I call to him. “For God’s sake, don’t pull–”

He yanks the arrow out.

“–the arrow out.”

The exit wounds torn by the twin tips spurt a frenzy of blood. Heedless with rage, Franklin shakes the arrow at the rat-servants and advances on them.

“Bet this freakin’ thing scares you, too, man. Huh, don’t it? Bet you don’t heal like your freakin’ masters. Bet I could off you but good with this thing.”

Franklin lunges at the creatures, aiming the arrow like a javelin, and the rat-servants flee squealing into the dark woods.

I ease Kovac off my shoulder and help him sit down. Then I run to the ringmaster. Franklin sinks to his knees, weak from sudden massive blood loss. I tear a strip of cloth off his coat sleeve and tie the strip nice and snug. As snug as anyone can tie cloth that’s translucent. I pull the noose tight around his arm above the wound. Thank you, “Street Smarts for Women.” You want to tie a tourniquet between the victim’s heart and his wound. His wound can hemorrhage–for a little while, anyway–but his heart better not.

“Franklin, can you hear me?”

“In stereo.”

“That was kind of dumb, Franklin.”

“Got rid of ‘em, didn’t I?”

“And very brave.”

“I think the world of you, too, sweetie. You gonna get us out of here?”

“Absolutely. But I can’t carry you and Jack both. You gents need to help me out.”

“Abby, I can walk by myself,” Kovac says. “For a few steps, anyway.”

“Excellent. If you take turns leaning on me, we’ll make it.” I smooth Franklin’s disheveled hair off his forehead. “Ready for that stinking mirror, ringmaster?”

“Rarin’ to go and holdin’ my nose.”

“Jack? Can you summon your spry magic for crossing through?”

“My spry magic?” he says with that marvelous grin of his.

“Yeah, you know, that thing you do so well. Skipping up cliffs with no visible means of support. The magic tires you, I know, but you’ve got to try.”

“Give me a moment.” Kovac closes his eyes and furrows his brow, the very picture of a magician conjuring up a magical operation. With one fluid movement, he rises to his feet and strides to me and Franklin. His face is taut with strain, but dead-set with determination.

“That was excellent, Jack.”

“You give me strength, my lady magician.”

Kovac lifts the ringmaster and slings the man’s arm over his shoulder. I sling the ringmaster’s other arm over my shoulder, and, supporting Franklin between us, we step up to the dark, stinking mirror.

Dread hammers in my heart. Dread has a way of doing that.

I say, “Ready, gents?”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

63

“Jack, there’s a clearing ahead. A big one. Weeds. And a darkness. Some other kind of darkness.”

“The clearing? The second mirror?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Rat-servants?”

“I don’t see any, but that doesn’t mean they’re not around.”

“Star? Obelisk?”

“I can’t see them, either. Maybe I can, once we get out from under this canopy.”

We steal cautiously into the clearing. My heart thumps in my chest, hopeful and painful at the same time. Does our escape from Avichi loom before us?

A cliff abruptly sheers away almost at our feet and we scramble back, Kovac’s boots and my high heels sending showers of gravel off the edge. Gravel and debris clatter down the cliff, echoing fainter and fainter, disappearing in depthless silence.

The ground gives way beneath me, and I slide halfway off the edge. Kovac seizes my arm, pulls me from the brink. We stagger back from the treacherous edge, scrambling as more ground crumbles beneath our feet, and stumble to gain a solid foothold.

“My God, what is it?” I say.

“An abyss. A lot of hells have them.”

“That’s good to know.”

I stagger into the scratchy embrace of a bush thrusting up from the barren ground. As I’m disentangling the hem of my jacket, I notice a peculiar gleam caught on a twig, shining dully in the muddy moonlight.

It’s a resin cabochon strung on a braided black leather cord imprisoning a little blackish-red scorpion. The cord has been twisted around the twig and deliberately tied.

I untie the cord and sling it around my neck, settling the cabochon on my chest. “Well, well.”

“What is it?” Kovac asks.

Before I can answer, Alastor looms out of the darkness, close enough to poke my tattoo with his long, white finger. The chimera is nowhere in sight. “Abby Teller.”

I shrink from his touch and dart back, mindful of the crumbling cliff. “Where’s your l’il horsy?”

“I do not need Ravenhead to do what I want to do to you.”

“And what’s that?”

The demon flings down his empty quiver. “I want to kiss you, Abby Teller.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. You’re not going to suck my soul out of me or push your power down my throat.” But my tattoo throbs, sending more of those lustful shivers through me. Not fair! Not fair!

“Kiss you for the last time.”

“I see. Then will you let us leave Avichi?”

The demon doesn’t answer.

Hunting horns wail and wail, coming closer.

“Abby, Abby, Abby,” Kovac calls, but his voice magic is drowned out by the crackle of enchantment emanating from Alastor.

The demon edges closer, and I brandish the scorpion cabochon as if the pendant holds some power. I have no idea if it does but, considering who wore it, maybe so.

“Brand wore this the last time I saw him alive. The night you murdered him and the girls. What did you do, Alastor? Shoot them full of arrows, then drive them in the abyss?”

Alastor’s hand whips out, tears cord and cabochon off my neck, and flings the pendant over the cliff. Bye-bye, scorpion.

“Shoot them? Certainly. Like pincushions they were, such as my seamstress uses when she fits my clothes. Marksmanship is one of the greatest pleasures of the Wild Hunt, second only to the slaughter. As for driving them in there”–the demon shrugs at the abyss–“I should say not. They leapt of their own free will. Is that not the empty expression you humans use? ‘Free will’? A useless illusion, though quite a comfort to you, I suppose.”

“Quite a comfort, indeed, especially when it’s true. For instance, I refuse of my own free will to kiss you now.”

“Do you? We shall see.” He takes another step. “I was annoyed when they leapt. The man possessed a lot of power. As do you, Mistress. I craved his invisible bodies, all of them. Just as I crave yours.”

I resist the assault of his power inside me, outside me, but my resistance strains me. I feel exhausted and nauseated. I hate feeling exhausted and nauseated. Worse, I hate being kept from the truth.

“Is there a portal in the abyss leading out of Avichi?”

“Certainly not. The abyss is quite bottomless, yet bound within Avichi. There is no way out.”

“But Brand and the girls fell into our world.”

Alastor shrugs again. “The man must have used his power to fabricate a portal. Did him no good, though, did it?”

I mimic his shrug, mocking the demon as he mocks me. I need to buy time, and I need to think. What does Brand’s leap in the abyss mean for Jack Kovac and me? “Maybe not, but if a puny human sorcerer could fabricate a portal and escape Avichi, surely a great prince like you could, too. Have you tried? Have you leapt in the abyss?” When Alastor doesn’t answer, I taunt, “Don’t tell me you’re afraid.”

“I fear nothing. Of course I have leapt. After an eternity of falling, I always find myself in the lobby of the Garden of Abracadabra, unable to step across that accursed triangle.”

I smile in spite of the wail of the hunting horns. So. Alastor isn’t omnipotent. He isn’t all-powerful, not even in the hell of Avichi. He’s got his limits, like any other evil. “I’m glad we’re having this little chat. Tell me, Alastor, you go back seven thousand years. How did you come to rent Number Sixty at the Garden of Abracadabra?”

My cozy question must take the demon by surprise because he answers readily enough. “A magician took Avichi in a chest lined and locked in bronze from the Tower of London to California. There her relative, the Owner, had just bought the Garden of Abracadabra from the man who had built it.”

“That would be Jeremiah Hancock the Second.”

“The gold miner, yes. The Owner took custody of the chest from the magician and made arrangements with me and my family.” Alastor smirks. “The Owner has much too soft of a heart.”

I mull that over. “And before the Tower of London?”

“Over the centuries, other magicians took the chest from castle to castle, prison to prison, catacomb to catacomb, pyramid to pyramid. From the accursed tomb where the Overlords bound Avichi in the chest after banishing us from your world in the war waged by Cavazzacca.”

“Wow.” I glance at Kovac, who is mouthing tinny words I can’t quite hear. “Then the Owner is related to the line of magicians who served Cavazzacca?”

“Why do you not ask him yourself.”

“That’s a swell idea, Alastor. And I will, just as soon as Jack and I return home. Oh!”

While we’ve been chatting, Alastor has edged closer, much closer. Now he stands a handsbreadth away. He seizes my face and forces my chin up. He licks his too-full lips, flicking out his lethal tongue.

“And now, my last kiss.” The demon’s mouth smashes against mine. He wastes no time parting my lips with his tongue and thrusting his power deep into my throat.

My heart palpitates so violently, I can feel my heartbeat pounding against the silk of my dress.

Should I wait for another moment when my concentration is clearer? My focus stronger? When I’ve had more practice using the shape-morpher? When I’m more sure of my power? No! The time is now.

I’m glad that Alastor holds my face in a viselike grip because his hands aren’t free. But mine are. Slowly, stealthily, I unbuckle the belt and slip it off my waist.

The shape-morpher gyrates in my hands, wildly changing into one weapon after another. I’ve got no clue what the weapons are since Alastor’s face fills up my field of vision. Then the familiar hilt of a dagger solidifies and I run my fingers down the blade just to be sure, seriously slicing my thumb.

Self-inflicted pain works me up into a mood for mayhem. I plunge the blade deep into Alastor’s chest and listen gleefully to his gasp of pain and shock. I yank the blade out, pull my mouth away from his, and jump back before demon blood can splatter my dress.

His deafening enchantment falls silent, and Kovac’s voice magic calls to me as if from a great distance, though he crouches right behind me. “Abby, check the blade! Check the blade!”

I wipe a trickle of perspiration from my eye, spit the loathsome taste of Alastor out of my mouth, and check my weapon. The shape-morpher has changed into a very fine dagger with a hardwood handle and a razor-sharp blade of some silver-colored metal. Stainless steel? Tempered iron? I can’t tell, only that it’s the wrong metal. Dead wrong.

Alastor staggers and gazes wonderingly at the gash in his chest, then at me. He whips a dagger of his own from a sheath hidden in his boot, expertly wields his weapon, and advances toward me.

Well, hell. “Street Smarts for Women” has so not trained me for a knife-fight. Especially a knife-fight with a demon prince.

Kovac steps up beside me and reaches for the dagger. “Give me that thing and stand back. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“No kidding. But I can learn. I’m a good learner.”

Alastor’s hand whips out and seizes Kovac’s shoulder, effortlessly tossing the man in the abyss. But Kovac is quicker and invokes his spry magic, seizing a ragged bush and hanging on, his boot heels scrabbling up the cliff.

I do the only thing any mortal man or woman could truthfully do in my place.

I pray and fake it.

I crouch. I circle warily. Hey! I frown, street-smart tough in my silk dress and high heels. I watch Alastor’s every move, glancing now and then in his eyes to draw a bead on where he’s looking. At me, always at me, that glittering blackness seeking to hypnotize.

Kovac pulls himself over the edge of the cliff and springs to his feet, circling behind me. I’d love to hand him the dagger and watch him carve Alastor into mincemeat, but I’ll be mincemeat myself if I lose my concentration for even one precious second.

Kovac must realize that because he steps back and focuses on his voice magic, that vibration of resonant sound bites thundering in my ear, coaching me. “You’re moving too close to the edge. Move to your right now! Step forward. Good! Bronze, Abby, think bronze!”

Bronze. I visualize bronze or think I have, and a blunderbuss obligingly fits itself in my hand.

“No, no, no!” Kovac shouts.

“Maybe, uh, it’s got bronze shot.” I check the flared front-loading muzzle for the misshapen little ball that masquerades as a bullet. A useless iron slug rolls out into the palm of my hand. Rusted-out iron, at that. That won’t work.

Alastor circles closer, his chest flesh knitting and healing before my eyes. He lunges, swipes his dagger low, and carves a line of blood and pain across my ankle just below the arrow bobbing in my calf. I scream and dart back. I don’t give a damn what metal his blade is made of. I’m human, the cut hurts like hell, and I won’t heal anytime soon.

“Damn it, Abby, bronze,” Kovac shouts. “Give me bronze!” He swings a sturdy tree branch at Alastor’s knife-wielding hand but the demon blocks the blow, shattering the branch to splinters.

Bronze, bronze, bronze. The color of bronze, the image of bronze deserts me.

“Like tarnished gold, if gold tarnished,” Kovac shouts. “Old gold! Dark gold!”

A spear as long as I’m tall shoots from the muzzle of the blunderbuss. Solid bronze from its thick handle to its lethal tip. Yes! Grunting, I fall to my knees from the sudden heft of it, nearly losing my grip. I hold on, but I can’t possibly lift the thing. The tip drops to the ground where it does me no good. No good at all.

Alastor steps back, aghast. Then smirks, scornful of my human weakness. The gash in his chest has nearly healed, a faint red stitch in his glowing white skin. He darts forward with his dagger, carving a line of blood and pain across my shoulder.

I flinch away and scream, “Jack! It’s too heavy! I can’t lift it alone!”

Kovac charges at Alastor, brandishing another branch like a ramrod, and beats the demon back, shoving him away. Then Kovac scrambles to my side and lifts me to my feet. We both seize the spear and, groaning with the exertion, together we manage to raise the weapon.

“Charge!” Kovac shouts.

I dig my heels in the crumbling dirt and, with a full-throated shout, push forward, half propelled by Kovac pushing behind me. We charge, a light brigade of two, aiming for Alastor’s gut.

Alastor roars, a tumult of monstrous sounds I’ve never heard in my life and hope never to hear again—animals screaming as they’re butchered, men groaning and cursing as they die on a battlefield, women wailing as barbarians rape them and murder their children. His roar infuriates me. Kovac and I lunge desperately forward, attempting to impale the demon before he changes position.

Just as we ram the bronze spear against his belly, Alastor back-flips away, deeply flexes his knees, and vaults high into the air. He reaches in his pocket, seizing a fistful of teeth and tiny bones, and scatters the detritus all around him in a baneful cloud. The cloud materializes a pair of great black wings, each shiny pinfeather imprisoning the tortured face of a human soul stitched together with ten thousand other souls.

The winged cloud bears Alastor across the abyss, and he disappears into a thick, dark mist roiling across the sooty sky.

I trade troubled looks with Kovac. The haunted disappointment in his eyes is almost too much to bear.

“Is he gone?” I whisper.

“At least for now.”

The hunting horns wail closer and I hear the hoof-clops of chimeras. People screaming and weeping. Fewer people.

The bronze spear gyrates, emitting an ear-splitting hum. With a shout, Kovac drops his grip. I hold on as the spear folds up into an accordion with bronze flaps, a bronze fireplace poker, a ballerina’s tutu with a bronze ruff. At last the black leather fashion belt with a bronze buckle lies placidly in my hands.

I wind the belt around my waist and buckle up. “Much better with a belt, this dress.”

“Where the hell did you get that thing?” Kovac demands.

“At the Garden of Abracadabra. Where else?”

We sidle to the edge of the cliff and peer down in the abyss. The bottomless pit, stripped of all light and life, hurts my eyes and chills my blood. In the end, Brand may have been foolish, but he had courage. Crazy, wild courage. And the girls? Trish and Zarah simply hooked up with the wrong guy.

“Can I tell you something, Jack?”

“You can tell me anything, Abby. What’s up?”

“I, ah, kind of have this fear of heights.”

“I thought you grew up in Buckeye Heights.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like the suburbs come equipped with abysses.”

“I distinctly recall seeing you skip across the top of your swing set.”

“Yeah, but I was a kid. And that was only eight feet up. Jack? I really, really don’t want to leap in the abyss.”

“It would be hit or miss.”

“And I don’t want to miss. Or hit. Didn’t Brand and the girls suffer concussive trauma, along with the puncture wounds?”

“They sure did.”

“Couldn’t we just fight our way back through the woods? Find the clearing, go through the second mirror? Rock ‘n’ roll across the ballroom to the mirror leading to the Garden of Abracadabra and go home? I could use a nightcap. Make that three.”

“I’m with you, my lady magician. You owe me a dance.”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

62

I hear the hiss of an arrow and the clang of an arrow tip striking Kovac’s Cheetah leg. Another hiss and the terrible thunk of an arrow plunging deep in the back of his thigh above the prosthetic. More terrible sounds of impact as arrows strike his shoulders.

Kovac pitches forward, reaching wildly, and I catch him in my arms. But he is a ton of bricks, especially when set in sudden motion, and the two of us crash to the forest floor in a thicket of boxwoods.

“Stay down,” he urges through clenched teeth.

You stay down. Don’t leap up and dance the rumba when the poison sends you into happy hour.”

“I only want to dance with you,” he says with a groan.

I watch with a thudding heart as Kovac cants onto his side, and a desperate thought strikes me. Will the sadistic one-two punch of the demon drugs conspire to relieve his phantom limb syndrome? Temporarily, maybe? Could he turn the opiate-stimulant mix to his advantage?

I examine the arrow thrusting out of his thigh, the thicket in his shoulders. I swallow the bile rising in my throat. “You want me to, ah, try to pull them out?”

“No,” Kovac breathes. “Remember the boy? Tips tear a nasty exit wound. Blood loss worse than the arrows, at least at first.” He spasms, then steadies himself. He touches my cheek. “Do not pull them out, Abby. I don’t want to bleed to death.”

“Whatever you say.” I part the boxwoods and peer in the direction of the arrows. What a surprise. Alastor straddles his chimera on the other side of the gully, smirking and pulling another arrow from his quiver.

His glittering black eyes lock with mine. His power pins me in the underbrush, hypnotizing me. His silky baritone rumbles out of my tattoo, chanting incantations of madness. You will gladly let me love you. You will gladly let me kill you.

No! I press my hand of power to my Eye and my Cross, summoning humanity’s most powerful magic–light and reason. I add a healthy dose of rage to the spell. “Whatever did I see in a monster like you?”

“Stubborn little woman,” he calls out. “I would have cherished you as my Queen of the High Harvest.”

“For one night. Then you’d steal my power, my life, and my soul.”

“One night with Prince Alastor is worth your power, your life, and your soul.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, sir.”

“Abby, stop.” Kovac seizes my shoulder and pulls me down into the boxwoods. I’ve sat up, exposing us as a target. “He’s baiting you. We’ve got to go.”

My heart thuds. “Go how?”

“Crawl. Stay down.”

“Can you crawl on those knees?”

“I can do just about anything when your life and mine depend on it.”

We start crawling, and I hear hoof-clops pounding right behind us. I glance back and glimpse Alastor’s chimera leaping across the gully. Alastor rakes his golden spurs across the dead beast’s flanks, ripping off strips of dead flesh.

I yank Kovac to his feet. “No time for crawling!”

We run, we run, weaving this way, weaving that. We pause, breathless, behind the pillar of a tree trunk thick with slimy gray moss.

Where is Alastor?

Now behind us, now in front of us. Now to the left, now to the right. Dizzying glimpses of Alastor’s smirking face appear and disappear.

Then I can’t see him at all. But I can see through the canopy. And there they are, the star and the obelisk. Much closer.

Alastor calls my name, unexpectedly to the left, and I glimpse the chimera galloping toward me. The demon nocks an arrow, drawing his bowstring taut.

I hear the twang, the deadly hiss. I twist away to the right, but I’m too late. Too late! An arrow plunges deep in the muscular calf of my right leg, and pain pierces me, sharper and crueler than any pain I’ve ever felt.

A scream surges out of my throat.

“Abby, hush!” Kovac seizes my shoulders and shakes me, uttering other words. But the power of his voice magic is distant and indistinct, his words muffled. He pulls me down into the underbrush again, and we lie together on our sides, close, clinging, face to face. He wraps his arms around me and pulls me tightly into the protection of his power.

I press my palms against his chest, not daring to reach around his shoulders. I’m shivering from the shock. “I’m going to be sick.”

“Listen to me,” Kovac whispers in my ear. “Maybe the poisons will work for you.”

“What?”

“One anesthetizes, the other stimulates. That’s what he wants. For you to feel that you’ve got power, given to you by him and his poisons.”

“I had the same thought about you, Jack, and your phantom. . . .syndrome.” I can’t bring myself to say it. “Is the opiate relieving your pain?”

He shakes his head, his mouth a grim line. “Feels like my syndrome is blocking both the poisons. There’s the usual pain. And then some.”

“Where’s a good poison when you need one?” I shake my head hard, hoping to clear my thoughts. The sight of the shaft bobbing in my flesh, blood trickling down my shin sends another wave of nausea shuddering through me. “Don’t pull the arrow out?”

“Do not.

Preternatural stillness falls over the woods. No sight, no sound of Alastor.

“Where did he go?”

“I don’t know.” Kovac presses his cool, smooth hand on my forehead and cheeks the way Mama used to do, checking me for a fever when I was a child. “You’re going to be all right.”

The sensation of Kovac’s caring, the evocation of my mother’s caring long ago, touch me so deeply, I could weep. But an insidious ecstasy opens up in me like a poisonous flower blooming in fast-motion photography, its seductive petals pulling apart with freakish swiftness.

The poison in the arrow tips fuels the fumes’ intoxication, and both poisons mingle with the alien power throbbing in my tattoo. The three malignant magics fire a cannon-shot of dizzying enchantment.

Do I want to jump and shout? Sing and dance? Run to Alastor and give myself to him, body, invisible body, and soul?

I want to do all those things and more.

Instead I cleave to Kovac, absorbing his human magic. He holds me in his arms powerfully, a protective circle of heat. In a moment, my unnaturally racing pulse calms down.

“Feel better?” he whispers. His lips brush my cheek.

“Yes. Much better.”

“Let’s try one more run for it. You up for it?”

“I’m up for anything. What’s a little demon arrow?”

We struggle to our feet and stand, wary and watchful. Kovac slings his arm around my shoulders, I grasp his waist, and we set off again, darting through the woods, turning this way and that, pausing, panting, listening. The canopy closes thickly above us and I can’t see star or obelisk through the hissing leaves.

I abruptly stop, drawing Kovac to a stop. “I can’t find the right way, Jack. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“Let’s just move forward.”

“We’ve turned around too many times. We could be heading in the wrong direction.”

“Trust your intuition.”

I look at him. “Really?”

“I trust you, my lady magician. Trust yourself.”

I touch my throat with my hand of power, and my chakram glows with a faint blue beam, barely lighting up the woods. Thicket and underbrush give way ahead to a brooding darkness. An emptiness more vast and impenetrable than the nocturnal murk around us.

I can’t tell what it is, this vast darkness.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

61

Run? I practically fly, fueled by the bracing lightness of pure fear. Greasy resin dripping from the trees smears the forest floor like an oil slick, and my high heels slip and slide. I half-fall to my knees, cursing, and Kovac yanks me up by my elbow. We plunge straight into a patch of brambles. Thorns as thick and sharp as a predator’s claws slash my legs from knee to ankle.

“Damn it, Jack!”

“Save your breath. Let’s go!”

Hunting horns wail and wail. The sounds of chimeras crashing through the woods, of people screaming and weeping close in right behind us.

I pull free of the brambles, but now saplings whip me in the face, and I shield my eyes with my hand. I think of the day that Papa died, of the day in Tilden Park as if those two days of death have led me by a fateful hand to this night. To these dark woods.

Abruptly no one and nothing crashes through the underbrush behind us. Except for a wind stirring the trees and the splat of resin dripping, utter silence falls over the woods. No wailing hunting horns, no people screaming and weeping

For an unwise moment, my heart lifts.

Kovac ducks behind a tree trunk and pulls me beside him. We crouch, gasping for breath, half-concealed behind a branch so heavy with resin that it dips to the forest floor.

The scratches on my legs sting in an unnatural septic way as if the bramble thorns are poisonous. No doubt they are, but that’s not the worst of it. My tattoo throbs, sending a confusion of images into my mind’s eye, and a silky baritone chants garbled invective inside my head. I press my hands over my ears, but it’s no use. Alastor is speaking through my tattoo.

Darkness shrouds the wood, a darkness so complete, for a fearful moment I wonder if I’ve gone blind. Then Professor Bonwitch whispers in my memory: A little boost to help you see more clearly in Avichi.

I press the base of my throat and a beam of blue light bursts from my fifth chakram. My vishudha, Bonwitch called that whorl of energy. My mind’s eye clears like a miracle and then the vision of my physical eyes. I can see only too clearly each twisted branch, each oily drop of resin, the cruel lattice of the underbrush. Muddy moonlight shifts through the canopy.

“Are we spared?” I whisper.

“Don’t count on it,” Kovac whispers back. “Alastor wants to give us a sporting chance, that’s all. What kicks would the sicko get if he kills us without a decent chase?”

“Let’s not give him those kicks, shall we?”

“I’m with you, my lady magician.” He peers out at the gloom. “Can you see anything with Professor B’s boost?”

“I can see everything.”

“Great, because I can’t see a damn thing.” A drop of resin splatters on his cheek, and he wipes it away, frowning with disgust. “How about the star and the obelisk?”

“No, the canopy is too thick, but there’s a little clearing to our left where I may be able to get my bearings.” Now a blob of resin drips on my knuckles and slides like a noxious snail, leaving a trail of cold, dark slime. I shake it off.

“All right. Here’s the plan. We wait till the hunters pass us by. Double back to the big clearing. If we find any people who’ve escaped the Hunt, we take them with us.” He pats his trouser pockets with the evidence bags. “Once we process this and submit our statements, securing a supernatural arrest warrant with all the necessary spells and invocations will be a slam-dunk. I’ll bring in a crack demon-catching team, arrest Alastor, and rescue survivors.”

“If there are any survivors.”

“Yeah, if there are any. Let’s move to that little clearing. See any demons?”

“No, nothi–”

I gasp at the gouge of pain in my shoulder, whip around and jump back. Alastor’s chimera pecks me with its vicious raven’s beak. The woods come alive with chimeras trotting through the underbrush, the mounted demons herding before them a huddle of humanity.

The flea-circus ringmaster leads the way, his pouchy face flushed scarlet, his arms flailing. Shafts of demon arrows bob in his back, the poisoned tips lodged deep in his flesh.

“Hey hey, ho ho,” the ringmaster shouts in a hoarse voice. “Let’s move it, people, let’s go!”

The demons yawn, disdainful, bored with their pitiful prey. When the dancer darts forward, seeking escape, Bayemon impales her with his spear, lifts her wriggling on the spear tip, and slams her back in the huddle. She stumbles on, near death, but weirdly animated by the demonic double poisons.

Alastor smirks down at me, a twin-tipped arrow nocked on his bowstring. He cocks his head, as if assessing which part of my anatomy will make the most pleasing target. Breasts or butt?

I hate being reduced to a collection of body parts. Terror threatens to send me fleeing, but three things conspire to root me to the spot–my rage at Alastor’s arrogance, the demons’ bored expressions, and Kovac’s observation about sporting chances. Make that four things–my fellow human beings screaming and weeping, impaled by demon spears and arrows.

Prey and hunting party pass us by, a ghastly tableau vanishing in the gloom.

I glare up at Alastor. “You may kill my physical body, but you’ll never own me. You’ll never steal my power. Or steal my soul.” I press my hand of power to my Eye and my Cross. “So I, Abby Teller, student and magician, do declare.”

So there. The power of my amulets crackles all around me. Enough power to shield me, at least for the moment.

The demon lowers his longbow. “Run.”

“To hell with you.” I kick the toe of my high heel in the chimera’s fetlock and the dead beast skitters back.

“Sadly, I am already there.” Alastor unnocks the arrow and waves his hand magnanimously. “Go, Mistress. Go with your mortal man. I recommend that way.” He points over my left shoulder.

Another demonic trick? I glance at Kovac.

“What do you think, Jack? Which way?”

“I think we should go that way.”

Kovac takes my hand, and I swear I see Alastor flinch. Does my choice of a mere mortal man over the glorious Prince Alastor grieve him? My tattoo throbs, and my heart clenches with fierce longing for the demon. No! I don’t want him!

Kovac and I back away and now the sapling branches slap my shoulders. I stumble on a tree root bulging out of the forest floor, and Kovac steadies me. Then his boot heel catches on a root, and he stumbles, groaning, a guttural sound that shoots fear through my heart. The scar on his cheek gleams, a hard white keloidal line. Not good.

Alastor holds my gaze as we go, his much-too-beautiful face an impassive mask. He jerks the chimera around and trots off after the hunting party. Gloom swallows him.

Silence falls over the woods again.

We cross to the little clearing and I glance up through the thinning canopy. Can I glimpse the star and the obelisk? Yes! But the guideposts appear in a completely different direction from where I expected them to be.

Caution needles me. I believed we were moving away from the big clearing more or less in a straight line or certainly in the same general direction, but we weren’t. We’ve veered wildly.

“I see them,” I whisper, “but not where I expected them to be.” How long will Bonwitch’s boost to my vishudha last? “Jack, you need to keep better track of our direction. We’ve zigged and zagged.”

“Will do,” he says, breathing in labored gasps.

We clasp hands and set off again, making good progress. Suddenly the ground gives way beneath my feet and I tumble headlong, arms and legs cart-wheeling down the slope of a steep little gully, a slash of shadows I hadn’t noticed, not even with my clarified vision.

With a shout, Kovac plunges down the slope beside me. We roll and careen, landing breathless on a bank of cold mud reeking of sulfur.

I sit up, stunned and very, very vexed, then struggle to my feet. The spikes of my high heels sink in the rank muck, and I pull them loose, spike by spike, pitching my weight onto the balls of my feet. My dancer’s legs tower around Kovac as he lies beneath me, a crumpled dark figure clutching his knees.

“Sor-ree! Didn’t see it, I swear.” I hold out my hand to help him up.

“I can get up on my own,” he grumbles in his mule-headed way and waves my hand away. Slowly he straightens his knees and stretches out his legs, groaning.

“Spare me your Lone Ranger impersonation and give me your damn hand.”

He seizes my wrist, nearly yanking me down on top of him. Thanks to my lightning-quick reflex of bracing myself against his weight, he pulls himself to his feet, using me as a fulcrum.

“Wow, for a skinny guy, you feel like a ton of bricks.”

“It’s all muscle.”

“Lucky for you, I’m all muscle, too.”

“My lady magician, you’re all magic.”

He brushes muck and twigs off his translucent shirt, then gestures at the opposite slope. “After you.” He cups his hands, lacing his fingers at my knees. “Get your Cinderella slipper in there, and I’ll give you a leg-up.” He glances up, assessing the slope. “It’s not so high. Bet I can boost you right over the top.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll climb up after you.”

I examine the slope, which is thickly overgrown with more of those diabolical brambles, the shiny thorns gleaming like claws. A bramble whips out, hissing, and a thorn slashes my hand. I suck the wound and spit, the way you’re supposed to suck the venom out of a snake bite.

“Jack, you can’t climb up through those brambles. I won’t let you.”

“I’ll manage.”

“No.”

I search along the mud bank and retrieve a fallen tree branch sturdy enough to beat our way to the top. I hold the branch close to Kovac’s face for his inspection. “What do you think? You give me that leg-up, halfway. I’ll kick in a foothold, beat the brambles back, pull you up, and–”

“You’re going to pull me up?”

“You don’t think I can?”

“I think you can do just about anything you set your mind to, Abby, but like you said, I’m a ton of bricks.”

“Bricks are good. I love bricks.” It’s a plan. Not a great plan, but we’re running out of time for great plans. Alastor will be back, the only question is when. “Let’s give it a try. It’s not Mount Everest, right?”

He cups his hands again. “Going up?”

I step onto his laced fingers, he braces me with a hand on the back of my thigh, and I arch over the brambles, beating the hissing thorns to a slimy stinking pulp. I glimpse a rocky little ledge, hop-jump onto it, and seize a thatch of stringy weeds, steadying myself.

I reach down and tap the branch against the slope so Kovac can find it in the gloom. “Grab hold. I’m ready for you.”

“No, toss me the branch. I’ll beat back more brambles and use them to climb up. The ones you crushed are just lying here. They look like they’re dead.”

“I don’t know, Jack.”

“Toss me the branch, Abby. Just do it.”

I toss the branch and listen to the crunch and weird little screams as Kovac beats the brambles to a pulp. He scrabbles up the slope, cursing under his breath when he seizes something sharp. Quickly–more quickly than I would have thought possible–he pulls himself onto the ledge with a swift, liquid movement.

Kovac stands beside me, pulsing with power.

“Whoa. I’m impressed, Jack.”

“Did I ever mention I possess a power or two?”

“I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”

He graciously presents me with the branch and cups his hands at my knees. “Let’s do it again.”

I step onto his laced fingers, and he boosts me up. I beat the brambles till my shoulders ache, claw my way to the top, and slide on my stomach over the muddy edge.

“I’m there,” I call and reach the branch down to him. “Need a hand?”

“Nope, I’m good.” With that same liquid movement, Kovac spryly scales the slope and stands beside me with a smug grin.

The exercise of his spry magic looks effortless, but I can tell that it isn’t. His taut face and even more labored breathing tell of a physical toll. His scar gleams whiter–not a good sign at all. I peer up at the canopy, praying for a gap in the foliage. And there they are, the tip of the obelisk and the fiducial star.

“Oh, no.”

“We’ve zigged and zagged?”

“It looks like we’ve turned around completely.” I rub the nape of my sore neck. “I hate this! Everything shifting and changing. How could it happen?”

“Abby, we’re in a hell. Zigzagging happens.” He takes my shoulders, sending me the strength of his power, a blast of heat and vitality. Which I do appreciate. But he needs his own strength more than I do. “Are we any closer?”

“I think so.”

“Then it’s all right. Let’s go that way.”

A deeper, darker silence surrounds us, as thick and palpable as a physical presence. The thickness of unnatural fear.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

60

Alastor, mounted on the raven-headed chimera, holding a longbow, a quiver of arrows strapped on his back, looks down at us. His much-too-beautiful masculine face a grotesque mask of arrogance.

How had I ever thought him beautiful?

“We are the Killistenos,” he proclaims. “Gods who once hunted at our pleasure in your world. We loved the moon, the great forests, the fabulous savage lands. On the Fullness of the High Harvest, we set off on the Wild Hunt, pursuing the magnificent prey of your world. Pursuing smaller prey, too, the graceful and the wily. And pursuing humans like you. You think you’re superior to your ancestors of those ancient days? You’re not. You’re stupid and weak compared to them, those powerful men and women brilliant in their need to survive in a beautiful brutal world.”

“Whose magicians, our magicians, banished you from our world,” I shout.

“Hush!” Kovac whispers.

Alastor’s glittering black eyes bore into mine, seeking to hypnotize, but not for long. Not this time. I resist, savoring my rage, tasting it, and the taste is clean and bracing.

“So they did, Mistress,” Alastor says. “So they did. This is the vile hell your magicians bound us to. This, the poor prey we hunt. On the Fullness of the High Harvest! Once the night was filled with gore and glory. With rejoicing at a fine slaughter. Such a poor hunt we must endure now in these foul, dark woods.”

The flea-circus ringmaster clears his throat. “Hey, Prince, I’m like tryin’ to follow you here. But I don’t get it, man. What did you say you’re hunting tonight?”

“You,” Alastor says.

His word hangs in the air.

“Come again?” the ringmaster says.

“We. Are hunting. You.”

The people huddled around Kovac and me titter, disbelieving, uncomprehending. People glance at each other with worried eyes, reassuring each other that the prince can’t be serious.

“Hey, I don’t think so.” The ringmaster glances at his wristwatch. “I’ve got to go home and walk Tater. That’s my pooch.”

“What on earth is he talking about?” the bank teller says. “I’ve got to get up for work tomorrow. This isn’t real, right? None of this is really real.”

“I need to check my email,” a dancer complains.

Kovac eases me away from the clearing toward the woods.

“As I say, such pitiful prey.” Alastor pulls an arrow from his quiver and nocks it, pulling the bowstring taut.

I’ve never seen such a strange arrow. There’s the usual notch, the fletches, the shaft of a man-made arrow. But this isn’t man-made, it’s demon-made. Two lethally slender steel tips gleam side by side on the killing end.

The stoner runaway swaggers up to Alastor like a protester confronting a mounted cop at a demonstration. Aggressive and heedless, the way only a teenage boy can act with no fear in the face of real menace.

“Hey, dude, like I don’t think so, either, man. Cool party an’ all, but we’ve had just about enough weird shit for one night.”

“You tell ‘im, Billy,” the ringmaster says.

“Tell your rat-dudes to back off, man.” The boy stretches his arms and yawns. “I’m kinda beat, myself. We all just wanna go back to the Garden of Abracadabra and go home.”

Alastor lets loose the bowstring and shoots the arrow. The demons pull their bowstrings, laughing, gleeful, and let loose a volley.

With a sickening thunk thunk thunk, arrows plunge into the boy’s arms and chest and legs till he looks like one of those dreadful medieval paintings of a butchered saint, the martyr still alive though pierced by hundreds of arrows. His face, a mask of agony.

The stoner runaway is no saint, but he is just a boy. He should drop dead after such a lethal assault. Or at least fall to his knees.

But he doesn’t.

The boy stays on his feet, swaying, and then he begins to dance a macabre tarantella. He flings his head back, babbling and howling. He convulses, flapping his arms. He leaps and kicks his legs, arrows bobbing in his flesh.

Kovac pulls me back two more steps away from the clearing toward the woods.

“The exotic drug, the second drug concentrated in the blood?” I whisper. “The sadistic stimulant? On arrow tips? Poisoned arrow tips?”

Kovac nods. “Time to go, doll.”

But I’m not quite ready to go.

The boy looks down at his body pierced with arrows, wide-eyed with horror and disbelief. He seizes the shaft of an arrow impaled in his skinny thigh and yanks the twin tips out, releasing gouts of blood.

Through the translucence of the boy’s jeans–yes, our clothes shimmer sheer here, too–I can see the wounds the tips tear in his skin. Precise double puncture wounds, set side by side. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the wound was a vampire bite.

“Jack, the wounds!”

“I see ‘em.”

“Does this officially make us witnesses to the M.O. of the Tilden Park murders?”

“Mm-hmm. Keep stepping back with me, Abby, or we won’t live long enough to testify.”

At last the boy crumples, falling to his knees, and I lurch forward. I want to run to him, poor kid, and hold him and tell him people cared about him before he dies.

Kovac holds me back. I look at him, angry at his indifference.

“Damn it, Jack, the kid needs someone.”

“No one can help him now. Or comfort him.”

Now the boy’s face contorts with pain and rage. He leaps to his feet. With a strangled cry, he staggers to Alastor, raises his skinny arm, and plunges the twin tips in the demon’s thigh.

Alastor, laughing, yanks the arrow out, and a pair of puncture wounds leak blood beneath his leggings. The wounds heal almost instantly. Alastor leans down from his mount, seizes the boy’s chin, pushes his face up, and plunges the arrow down his throat.

People gasp. The dancer screams.

The boy’s mouth yawns open, his jaws pulled apart by pain and shock, and Alastor reaches in the maw between his teeth. The demon shakes something loose with his fingertips and pulls that something out.

A translucent starry body. A double of the boy.

The same invisible body I felt shaken loose when Alastor thrust his power down my throat. The same invisible body that became unmoored in me when he kissed me. That becomes unmoored whenever my tattoo throbs in syncopation with his.

I now know this truth–invisible bodies dwell within each of us human beings. And they are real. They have substance. The astral body, the inner child, the inner warrior, the soul. And many, many other invisible bodies I can’t yet identify.

The invisible bodies within each of us hold the keys to our power. I now know mine hold the keys to my power. They are the sources of my power. The secret sources I intuited only days ago while practicing Real Magic. The secret sources I first recognized on a summer’s eve years ago. Precious sources. Powerful sources.

Sources Alastor wants to steal from me. Steal from us. The sources of our human magic.

The demon’s motive for luring people into Avichi? Nothing less than stealing our human magic to preserve his power in Avichi, the realm of his exile. Nothing less.

A wave of nausea sickens me when Alastor yanks the dying boy’s starry body free of his mouth, pulling it out completely with an audible pop. The demon slides his riding boot from the stirrup and kicks the boy away.

The boy staggers, collapsing at last, no more than a rag of skin and bones on the trampled brown weeds. Alastor holds his wriggling prize aloft to the demons’ gleeful howls. He flings the boy’s starry body into the waiting arms of a rat-servant.

“Find him his place in Avichi,” Alastor drawls.

The servant cradles the boy’s starry body and remolds his limbs, forming and reforming him like a lump of clay. His skinny torso grows stout. His skinny arms and legs, short and stubby. His feet morph into cloven hooves. His pale little face morphs into another pale little face with floppy ears and a quivering snout.

The servant cradles a squealing little pig, wide-eyed with terror.

“Oh God, Jack. They’re taking him to the slaughterhouse.”

Kovac pulls me back another step. We’re almost to the edge of the woods.

People weep and wring their hands, eyes stunned, faces twisted with confusion.

“My Tater,” the flea-circus ringmaster groans. “My poor little Tater.”

“This can’t be real,” the bank teller pleads. “This can’t be really real.”

“I want my email,” the dancer wails. “I want my email.”

“Run,” Alastor says in a languid, amused tone.

“People, come with us,” Kovac shouts. “Follow us. If we stay together, work together, we can defeat them.”

“Run,” Alastor snarls.

People turn on their heels and run, panicked, screaming, scattering in every direction.

So much for staying and working together.

“Run,” Kovac commands.

“Run!” Alastor howls.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

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