Necromancer – Bonus First Chapter

Necromancer

All authors cut things from their work and, I think, we always wonder if we cut the right parts. What you’re about to read is the original opening “chapter” from my debut novel, Necromancer. I like this section as it grounds the reader right into the magical world that later exposes itself to Torrin.

Ultimately, though, I cut this section because I felt it gave too much away too early and, frankly, because no one died. You know, the whole “start with a bang” scenario and so Visnic’s death became my opening. I had my death and I had my mysterious floating blue ball, which I thought gave enough indication that something was out of the ordinary. That opening was immediately followed by Torrin’s introduction and my hope is that the one-two punch of Visnic’s weird death and Torrin’s shocking behavior kept everyone interested.

This decision (or perhaps just my own self doubt) has always led me to believe the novel was a bit too dichotomous. The first half is mystery/thriller/crime while the second half falls squarely in the urban fantasy realm.

I’ll leave the comments open here if anyone has anything they’d like to share about it.

At any rate, and without further fanfare, here’s the bonus material. I hope you enjoy it!

Six Months Prior to the Events in Necromancer

Public. Crowded.

That’s the type of place that invariably attracted these kinds of meetings. It was better for everyone that way, not just the people in said meeting, but the unsuspecting many, or as they were commonly referred to in situations like this, the innocents. That term wasn’t accurate for no one was truly innocent, save for the children. Though, some of them were quite cognizant of the evil they perpetrated.

What innocent meant here was in danger.

David Hale leaned back in his chair and scooped the paper coffee cup from the table. The liquid warmed his hand. He took a sip and looked between the two men at the table with him.

“He’s late,” the youngest of them said. At only twenty-nine he’d gone further than most his age. “He’s challenging us already.”

David wasn’t impressed with the lightweight sport suit or short, crisp haircut that showed pink scalp, but rather with the man’s attitude. He admired drive and passion. Far too many lacked those qualities and relied solely on ability, which often turned out to be inadequate.

The second man grunted, blowing air from his nostrils hard enough to rustle his blonde mustache and beard. This was his primary method of communication when irritated. He was pushing seventy and David knew better than to try and coax him into conversation.

“I highly doubt he’s pissing in our faces so soon after succeeding Blue,” Hale said with a sympathetic smile.

“Succeeding? Is that what you call murder these days?” snapped the young man.

“He’s allowed,” David said, shrugging.

The young one looked at the older man and snarled, “You don’t believe that, do you?”

The old man gave a disdainful snort.

Sound from the old man was progress, David thought, and ran his fingers through his long brown hair, fanning it out so it fell perfectly about his shoulders before shaking his head to muss it again. He kept it parted down the middle and was careful not to alter that too much: no ponytails, buns, or dreadlocks. The long, straight cut was quintessential to his entire ensemble. He took out a small mirror and, using a small comb from his pocket to ensure neatness, checked his smartly trimmed brown beard as well. Looking like Jesus had been his mother’s idea and, he admitted, it was genius. The people flocked. David liked that.

He put his grooming utensils away and glanced at his watch. It was getting late and he needed to be on the road soon otherwise he’d miss his next engagement.

The young man sneered. He said, “The cameras aren’t always on, you know.”

“True,” David replied, letting the other man have his hostility. “But there are people here who recognize me. If it weren’t for you gentlemen, I’d be signing autographs.”

This wasn’t said out of any malicious forethought on his part; it was just the truth. He was hard to miss under any circumstance, but for the fanatics of his show, he was a beacon. There were only two in here right now; the woman across the coffee shop that had finished her coffee fifteen minutes ago but hadn’t left. She continued to sneak glances at him every thirty seconds or so. Once, she’d risen from her chair and sat right back down again. And then there was the man who’d come in a few minutes ago, ordered his coffee, but hadn’t taken his eyes off David yet. The barista had to come around the counter to get his attention. They could both be problematic depending on how things went.

The bell above the door jangled, a harsh sound in a beautiful key, and the three of them looked up to see the object of their prior discussion walk in. He raised a hand in greeting and went toward the counter.

“He’s forty minutes late and he’s going to order a cup of coffee? Are you serious?”

“Shut up,” David said. “What pisses you off more? That he used an old law to take over or that he’s younger than you are?”

“Fuck you.”

The old man chuckled.

“Gentlemen,” the newcomer said as he approached, coffee in hand. A hand tailored black suit hugged his lithe frame and a vibrant purple shirt gave a splash of color that said look at me. He wore no tie and kept the shirt unbuttoned enough to show the top of a smooth chest. The jacket hugged him like a shroud, closed by only a single button. “I apologize for being late. Business matters kept me a bit longer than I intended. So what’s up?”

The man smiled at everyone and took the empty seat next to David.

David let out a long breath and plunged right in. “You’re late. Our business here supersedes all mundane practices. This is where your life begins and ends. And you know exactly why we called this meeting.”

The newcomer chuckled. “Yes, sir. Should I be addressing you as Mr. Hale, then?”

“It would be appropriate given our age difference; however, at this table, we are equals. David will suffice.”

“Well, David, let’s get started. I’ve got a meeting uptown in about an hour.”

The young man who’d been waiting with David snapped, “You might be late!”

“Ah, yes, Michael Pressman,” the newcomer said. “I’ve heard you weren’t happy with the manner in which I ascended to my position.”

The old man, who’d remained silent to this point, grunted.

The newcomer spared him a look and smirked. “I’m surprised someone hasn’t dumped a bucket of water on you yet, old man.”

The temperature around them spiked upward several degrees as an arc of invisible heat radiated from the old man. The newcomer pushed back and away from the table, the chair legs scraping across the floor with a harpy’s cry. Energy exploded outward from his body in a small circle and he showed his teeth in a straight line smile.

“Temper, temper,” the newcomer hissed, sounding much like a taunting child.

David couldn’t see the shield. No one could. And while it wasn’t a true barrier against physical objects, its energy was unmistakable and quite present to everyone it touched. David’s mouth dried out and his tongue seemed to swell.

A man walking by lurched to a sudden halt, spilling his hot coffee everywhere.

The coffee cups on the table rocked and teetered when the energy blew through them. Before falling over they froze at their cockeyed angles, as if held by invisible hands and then righted themselves without spilling.

The newcomer’s energy signature was incredible. David had heard the rumors about his power, but it was far greater than he expected and something they’d have to deal with later. Right now, he needed to bring this situation to a close before they attracted more attention to themselves.

He slammed a hand on the table hard enough to make all the coffee cups leap into the air. Each cup slowed and floated back to the table to land as they were moments before. The temperature dropped and returned to normal.

“Never in public!” David hissed at them. “You all know the rules.” He looked around, happy to note that most people were busy helping the man who spilled his coffee. David looked at Michael, smiled as he saw the concentration on the man’s face: he was using his own powers for crowd control. Those that were looking at them glanced away. And why shouldn’t they? Who’d believe them when they recounted what they’d seen, even though he was well aware they wouldn’t remember a thing.

David felt the shield withdrawn and he let out a tense breath. Perhaps the choice to have this meeting here had been wise as he doubted anyone would have backed down otherwise. He straightened his hair again. “Pull your chair back to this table, Mueller. Let’s get this over with.”

“You don’t even show me the courtesy of using my first name!” he spat.

“Not until you sit back down and act like you belong here,” David countered.

Mueller stared for a minute, hands clenched, before sitting.

“Join hands,” David instructed.

The four men joined hands under the edge of the table, keeping them out of sight from the other people in the coffee shop. Their grips tightened in clockwise succession, starting with David’s left hand, and going around until it reached his right hand. As the circle completed, power blossomed between them and idled like a rumbling racing engine before fanning out and enveloping the four of them in an invisible, protective sphere.

“I am the healer and the giver of life,” David murmured. “I accept Samuel Mueller.”

“I am the wind and the rain,” the old man continued. “I accept Samuel Mueller.”

There was only a slight pause before Michael said, “I am the mind and the spirit. I accept Samuel Mueller.”

Samuel Mueller smiled. “I am death and the taker of life. I accept David Hale, Michael Pressman, and Solaran Vicenzo.”

“So it was, so it is, and so it shall be,” David said and they released hands. The power held for a moment and, like smoke before a fan, dissipated as if it’d never been.

Mueller stood up with his cup, raised it in mock salute. “Good coffee,” he said. “I’ve got to run. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you gentlemen in the future.” Mueller left them at the table, staring at his back.

Michael Pressman looked at David and shook his head. “Should have killed him.”

David smirked. “Twenty minutes ago you were vilifying him for killing Blue. You have a lot to learn.”

Pressman made a disgusted noise and stood up. “You know where to find me when you need me.” He stared at Hale for a long a moment. “And you will need me.”

David looked at Solaran once Michael left. “What about you, old man? You think we should have killed him, too?”

“Absolutely,” he said. His voice, like his grunting, was low and visceral, as if he didn’t like to talk much. “The boy is trouble, David. He’s a killer.”

“Yes, but what do you expect from his lineage? They’re all killers, Solaran. It’s their nature.”

Solaran shook his head. “We’re all killers, David. We’ve killed out of necessity or neglect. He kills when he doesn’t have to; he enjoys it.”

“Don’t we all enjoy it?”

“Eh,” Solaran grunted, rising. “We don’t enjoy it enough to risk everything. That one will. I’ll be in touch.”

David let Solaran get out the door before standing. The woman he’d seen earlier moved over to him and laid a hand on his arm. David held the revulsion in check; she smelled dirty and her clothing was ragged, something he hadn’t noticed before. He smiled down at her. “How are you today, ma’am?”

“It’s really you? David Hale? From the television?” she asked in hushed tones.

“It is,” he said and her hand tightened on his arm. His teeth clenched together but he remained calm. He stared into at the gray roots of her hair, counting the dead strands; she wanted him to heal someone and was working her way up to the pitch. It disgusted him.

“It’s my son, you see,” she said, her voice pleading, whiny. How their sniveling irritated him! “He was in a car accident. His legs…” The woman sobbed and David’s head spasmed in annoyance. “He played football. He was good. Could you—”

“No, ma’am,” David said. His voice wavered as he strained to keep his tone gentle. “I couldn’t. God’s will and His healing touch are not something I can control. I’m sure your boy is a fine young man. I suggest you pray hard.” He put a comforting hand on her shoulder in apology and left her standing there.

Solaran was right. They were all killers. But it wasn’t just lives they took. No, that would have been far too simple a thing, to take only a life, for then there would be no more doubts, no more fears, no more worries. David didn’t need the old man to know what he’d killed in that woman was hope; he’d crushed it, stamped it out as easily as swatting a fly and he hadn’t even used magic to do it. It wasn’t fair, he knew. Everyone should have hope and the kind he provided came at a steep, six-figure price.

The innocent, he thought with disgust, should really be called the ignorant, for what do they truly know?

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