Iron and magic, p.1

Iron and Magic, page 1

 part  #9.50 of  Kate Daniels Series

 

Iron and Magic



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Iron and Magic


  Iron and Magic

  Ilona Andrews

  Copyright

  This ebook is licensed to you for your personal enjoyment only.

  This ebook may not be sold, shared, or given away.

  * * *

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the writer’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  * * *

  Iron and Magic

  Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Andrews

  Ebook ISBN: 9781641970358

  * * *

  Cover Art by Gene Mollica Studio, LLC

  * * *

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  * * *

  No part of this work may be used, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without prior permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  * * *

  NYLA Publishing

  121 W 27th St., Suite 1201, New York, NY 10001

  http://www.nyliterary.com

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Questions about IRON AND MAGIC

  Introduction to the Series

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Epilogue

  Discover More by Ilona Andrews

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  This was such a fun book to write. As usual, we had a lot of help bringing it to you. We’d like to thank Nancy Yost, our agent, who worked tirelessly on our behalf, for her guidance, help, and friendship. We’re grateful to Sandra Harding, our fantastic editor for her insights and suggestions as she helped us shape a manuscript into a book. We’d like to thank Natanya Wheeler for cover design and keeping us on track; Sarah Younger for arranging the print edition and moral support, lots and lots of moral support; and Amy Rosenbaum for tackling the gargantuan task of the audio edition.

  Big thanks to Joanne Suh for coming up with a series name, Iron Covenant, for Hugh’s and Elara’s books.

  We are further grateful to Stephanie Mowery for the copyedit and our beta readers, including Hasna Saadani, Mi Young Jin, Robin Snyder, Jessica Haluska, Julia Wheatley, Kristen Carter, the Carwrights, and M. C. Dy. Special thanks to Brandi Boldden.

  All errors of fact are ours alone.

  Finally, we would like to thank you, our reader, for taking a chance on us again. We hope the book will be fun.

  Questions about IRON AND MAGIC

  Technically this book is a spin-off from our Kate Daniels series; however, it can be read as a standalone work.

  For Kate Daniels fans: although this story is the first in the Iron Covenant trilogy, and the entire trilogy takes place before the events of Magic Triumphs, it is actually written to be read in the following order:

  Iron Covenant 1: Iron and Magic

  Magic Triumphs

  Iron Covenant 2

  Iron Covenant 3

  You don’t need to wait for Hugh’s entire story to be out. If you do, it won’t be as fun, because there are some revelations in Iron Covenant 2 that are best discovered after Magic Triumphs.

  Introduction to the Series

  The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed technological progress too far, and now magic has returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, and electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.

  It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing on skyscrapers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind. Monsters prowl the ruined streets, werebears and werehyenas stalk their prey; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst for knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds.

  In this new age, ancient beings awaken, brought out of their slumber by magic. One of them is Nimrod, the Builder of Towers, the man whose name terrified the ancient kingdoms of the Persian Gulf thousands of years ago. Possessing unimaginable power, Nimrod takes a new name, Roland, and sets about bringing his vision of the future to life. To build a new kingdom, one must first destroy the old. Roland requires a Warlord, a leader who will forge and lead his army, someone of great power and even greater cruelty, someone whose loyalty Roland will ensure by searing every shred of doubt with his own blood and ancient magic.

  When shaping a human into a weapon, it’s best to start young…

  Prologue

  “Wake up!”

  He sensed the kick coming through his sleep and curled into a ball. It didn’t hurt as much this time. Émile wasn’t really trying.

  “You have a client.”

  He rolled up, blinking. He should’ve hidden deeper in the drum that was his nest. The drum lay on its side and was long enough that Émile couldn’t land a good kick. But it was so nice and sunny, and he’d fallen asleep on the rags in front of it.

  He looked at Émile and the man next to him. The man had dark eyes. He’d learned to watch the eyes. Faces lied, mouths lied, but the eyes always told you if the man would hit and how hard. This man was large. Big hands. Powerful shoulders. Next to him Émile looked skinny and weak, and he knew it too, because he forgot to sneer. All the street people called Émile Weasel, because of the sneer, but only when he couldn’t hear. Émile was mean. He ran the street and when someone tried to stand up to him, he’d fly into a rage and beat them with a rock or a metal stick until they stopped moving.

  Émile jabbed his finger in the direction of the man. “Fix him.”

  The man held out his left arm and pulled back the sleeve of his leather jacket. A cut snaked from his wrist all the way to the elbow. Shallow, only through the top layer of the skin. Easy to fix. He eyed Émile. Usually Émile made him say nonsense words and drag it out, so it would look mysterious, but the man was watching him, and it was making him uneasy.

  He reached out and touched the man’s arm, letting the magic flow. The cut sealed itself.

  The man squeezed his forearm, checking the spot where the wound used to be.

  “See? I told you.” Émile bared his teeth.

  “How much?” the man asked. His voice had an accent.

  “How much what?”

  “How much for the boy?”

  His heart sank. He scooted deep into the drum, where he’d kept a knife hidden under his rags. He knew what happened to boys who were sold. He knew what men did to them. Rene was sold. Rene had been his only friend. Rene was fast and when he stole from the market stalls, nobody could catch him. He’d healed a boil on Rene’s back, and since then Rene shared. They’d hide in his drum and eat the bread or pirogi Rene had nicked and pretend they were somewhere else.

  Two weeks ago, a man took Rene away. Émile had sold him. Three days later, after dark, he saw the same man leading Rene on a chain like a dog as they walked into a house. Rene was wearing a pink dress and he had a black eye.

  Émile had promised not to sell him. That was the deal. He healed clients and Émile gave him food and protected him.

  “Not for sale,” Émile said.

  The man reached into his leather jacket. An envelope came out. A stack of money
hit the dirt in front of Émile. A thick stack. More money than he had ever seen. Émile’s eyes got big.

  Another stack.

  He was trapped in the drum. There was nowhere to run.

  Another.

  Émile licked his lips.

  “You promised!” he yelled.

  “Shut up.” Émile squinted at the man. “He’s a magic boy.”

  Another stack.

  “Take him,” Émile said.

  The man reached for him. He shrank back, his hand clutching the knife hidden under his filthy blanket. He wouldn’t be walking on a chain.

  The man stepped toward him, his back to Émile.

  “Drop the knife,” the man said.

  Behind him Émile’s face turned ugly. He lunged, a dagger pointed at the man’s back. The man turned fast. His hand fastened on Émile’s wrist. Émile screamed and dropped the dagger. The man pulled him over.

  “Take him!” Émile squealed. “Take him!”

  “Too late.”

  The man locked his left hand on Émile’s throat and squeezed. Émile clawed at the man’s arm with his free hand, flailing, trying to get away. The man continued squeezing.

  Magic told him the little bone in Émile’s throat broke. It nagged at him, like an annoying itch. He would have to mend the bone to make it go away, but the man kept squeezing, harder and harder.

  Émile’s eyes rolled back in his skull. The annoying buzz of magic disappeared. You can’t fix the dead.

  The man let go and Émile fell, limp.

  He gathered himself into a ball, trying to make himself smaller.

  The man crouched by the drum. “I won’t hurt you.”

  He slashed with his knife. The man caught his hand, and then he was yanked out into the sunlight and set on his feet.

  The man looked at his knife. “A sharp blade.” He held it out to him. “Here. Hold the knife. It will make you feel better.”

  He snatched the knife from the man’s hand, but he already knew the truth. The knife wouldn’t help. The man could kill him any time. He would have to bide his time and run.

  The man picked up the stacks of money, took his hand, and together they walked out of the alley into the market. The man stopped at a stall, bought a hot pirogi, and handed it to him. “Eat.”

  Free food. He grabbed it and bit into it, the sweet apple filling hot enough to burn his mouth. He swallowed his half-chewed bite and took another. He could always try to get away later. Eventually the man would look away and then he would run. Until then, if the man bought him food, he would take it. Only an idiot gave up free food. You ate it, and you ate it quick before someone punched you and took it out of your hands.

  They walked through the marketplace past the ruins of tall buildings killed by magic. Magic came in waves. One moment it was here, and then it wasn’t. Sometimes he would go to Sainte-Chapelle on the day of the service to beg by the doorway. Everyone coming out of the church said the world was ending and that only God would save them. He always thought that if God came, he would come during magic.

  They kept walking, all the way to the park, to a man sitting on a bench reading a book.

  “I found him,” the man with dark eyes said.

  The man on the bench raised his head and looked at him.

  He forgot about the food. The half-eaten pirogi fell from his fingers.

  The man was golden and burning with magic, so much magic, he almost glowed. This magic, it reached out and touched him, so warm and welcoming, so kind. It wrapped around him, and he froze, afraid to move because it might disappear.

  “Where are your parents?” the man asked.

  Somehow he answered. “Dead.”

  The man leaned toward him. “You don’t have any family?”

  He shook his head.

  “How old are you?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Hard to tell because of starvation,” the man with dark eyes said. “Maybe six or seven.”

  “You’re very special,” the man said. “Look at all those people out there.”

  He didn’t want to look away from the man, but he didn’t want to disappoint him even more, so he turned his head and looked at the people in the market.

  “Of all the people out there, you shine the brightest. They are firebugs, but you are a star. You have a gift.”

  He raised his hand and studied his fingers, trying to see the light the man was talking about, but he saw nothing.

  “If you come with me, I promise you that I will help your light grow. You will live in a nice house. You will eat plenty of good food. You will train hard and you will grow up to be strong and powerful. Nobody will be able to stand in your way. Would you like that?”

  He didn’t even have to think. “Yes.”

  “What’s your name?” the man asked.

  “I don’t have one.”

  “Well, that’s not good,” the man said. “You need a name. A strong name, the kind that people will know and respect. Do you know where we are?”

  He shook his head again.

  “We’re in France. Do you know who that man is?” He pointed to a statue of a man on a horse. The man had a sword and wore a crown.

  “No.”

  “That’s Hugh Capet. He was the founder of the Capet dynasty. The kingdom of France began with his reign. The descendants of his bloodline sat on the throne of France for almost nine hundred years. He was a great man and you too will be a great man, Hugh. Would you like to be a great man?”

  “Yes.”

  The man smiled. “Good. All things exist in balance, Hugh. Technology and Magic. This world was born to have both. The civilization your parents built strengthened and fed Technology until the imbalance became too great, and now Magic has returned to even the scales. It floods the world in great waves, crushing the technological marvels and spawning wondrous creatures. It ushers in a new age from the birth pangs of the apocalypse. Our age, Hugh, mine and yours. In this age, you will call me Roland.”

  “Yes,” Hugh agreed. He knew the truth now. God had found him. God had saved him.

  “The world is in chaos now,” Roland said. “But I will bring order to it. One day I will rule this world, and you will be my Warlord, leading armies in my name to restore peace and prosperity. Today is a special day because we met. Is there anything I can do for you on this special day? Anything at all? Ask me any favor.”

  Hugh swallowed. “My friend. His name is Rene. He has dark hair and brown eyes. He was sold to a man.”

  “Would you like him found?”

  Hugh nodded.

  Roland glanced over his head at the man with the dark eyes. “Find this Rene and bring him to me.”

  The man with dark eyes bowed his head. “Yes, Sharrum.”

  He walked away.

  Roland smiled at Hugh. “Come, sit by me.”

  Hugh sat by the man’s feet. The magic wrapped around him and he knew that from this moment on, everything would go right. Nothing would ever hurt him again.

  1

  God was dead.

  No, that wasn’t quite it. Hugh was dead.

  No, that wasn’t it either.

  Voices tugged on him, refusing to let him sink back into the numbing darkness.

  “Hugh?”

  He was laying on something hard and wet. The stench of sour, alcohol-saturated vomit hit his nose.

  He was drunk. Yes, that was it. He was drunk and getting more sober by the moment, which meant he had to find something to drink or pass out again before the void where God used to be swallowed him whole.

  Cold liquid drenched him.

  “Get up.” The male voice was familiar, but to identify the speaker, he would have to reach deep into his memory. Thinking brought the void closer.

  “This is pointless.” Another voice he knew and decided to not remember. “Look at him.”

  “Get up,” the first voice insisted, calm, deliberate. “Nez is winning. He’s killing us one by one.”

  Somethin
g stirred in him. Something resembling loyalty and obligation and hate. He tried to sink deeper into the stupor. God didn’t want him anymore, but the darkness was happy to take him in.

  “He doesn’t care,” the second voice said. “Don’t you get it? He’s lost. He might as well be dead and rotting for all the good he would do us.”

  “O ye of little faith,” a third, deeper voice said.

  “Get the fuck off this floor!”

  Sharp pain punched his skull. Someone had kicked him. He briefly considered doing something about it, but staying on the floor seemed the better option.

  “Hit him again, and I’ll split you sideways.” Fourth voice. Cold. He knew this one too. That one rarely spoke.

  “Think.” The third voice. Collected, reasonable, dripping with contempt. “Right now, he’s drunk. Eventually he’ll be sober. Drunk we can fix. But if you kick him in the head, you’ll injure his brain. What good is he then? We already have one brain-damaged imbecile. We don’t need another.”

  One… two… three… The count surfaced from the muddled depths of his mind. He used to count just like this to see how long the insult would take to burrow through the hard shell that was Bale’s brain.

  Four…

  “I’ll fucking kill you, Lamar!” Bale snarled.

  “Shut up,” the first voice said.

  Yes. All of them needed to shut up and leave him the hell alone. He was reasonably sure he hadn’t finished the jug of moonshine. It had to be somewhere within his reach.

 
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