Read An Excerpt From Agent Of Artifice by S. Evan Townsend
I decided it was time to depart. The question was how to leave gracefully.
Just then a rukhkh burst through one of the suite’s windows in a spray of broken glass and shattered wood. It screamed, shattering the remaining windows and probably doing much the same to the courage of anyone in the room.
Two adepts attacked it, shooting flames at it. It dove for the nearest, knocked him flat, and ripped into his chest with its obsidian talons. A warrior fired at him, the gun spitting out bullets in rapid succession. Where they hit the huge bird, black feathers erupted and the bird screamed with such pain it seemed to tear at my soul. Its huge wings beat in the air, making a blast of wind that literally knocked men down.
I started backing out, thinking it was definitely time to go while the others were distracted. I stepped into the hall and heard the elevator doors open. Gunfire spat out of it, killing the two warriors and the adept there who crumpled in a mass on the red carpet. The color of the fibers did not hide the blood seeping from under the corpses. Three men stormed out of the car and glared at me. They all had boxy weapons held at their hips. Before they could shoot me, I ducked back into the room.
“They’re coming!” someone yelled needlessly.
The battle with the rukhkh was finished, the great bird lying in a puddle of its black blood.
I headed for the back wall near the windows. I knew I was going to have to fight, but I wanted maximum distance between me and the attackers. I pulled out my talisman and started working on a protection spell and attack spells. I considered teleporting to the floor below us, but decided that, for now, that was far too dangerous.
Brunhild’s berserker had picked her up and carried her to a corner, set her down, and stood in front of her, challenging anyone to get past him.
I understood her actions even if I didn’t agree. This wasn’t her guild’s fight. If she got involved it could make enemies of the new AMA leadership and her guild. Despite her feelings for Kader, she had to put her guild first and remain neutral.
Kader had also moved, but to stand in front of his allies. His warrior, looking worried, stood beside him. “We will fight them to the death!” Kader called out and for a moment, I was ready to die beside him. But just for a moment.
Two enemy warriors came into the room. They were attacked by Kader and other adepts, and their bodies disintegrated faster than their screams faded. That stopped the warrior attack, and for the moment we seemed safe.
Then, through the broken windows, adepts flew in on the backs of rukhkhs or on carpets. This put me right on the front lines of the action. Flames, lightning, and air bolts diced the air as adepts attacked, defended, and died. The sounds of gunfire, screaming rukhkhs, and yelling men were a cacophony of battle that assaulted the ears.
A young man on a flying carpet pointed at me. I ducked and shot lightning at him. It hit him and he was spun around, fell off his carpet, and dropped to the bloody floor. I looked at that carpet, which settled softly on the floor, and saw my escape. I made my way toward it, but didn’t see the rukhkh coming at me. It slammed me into the wall so hard I thought I heard the plaster crack. My breath was knocked out of me and I was momentarily stunned. Its yellow, hooked beak was lowering toward my face when it screamed, lifted its head, and fell with a loud crash to the floor. Its feathers were smoldering where Takada had hit it with lightning. I smiled at him in thanks. He nodded and attacked another adept.
I ran and jumped on the carpet, which bounced a foot or two in the air as I approached. I turned it toward the window, seeing a patch of blue through the gray clouds, seeming to beckon me to escape. But I was knocked off the carpet by what felt like a giant fist. I must have been hit by an air bolt. I lay on the floor, gasping for air, the pain in my ribs making every breath torture.
I still had my talisman in my hand. I touched my side and healed as best I could. The pain was almost gone. I crawled to the carpet.
“They’re running!” Kader yelled. I looked up and indeed it was true. The enemy adepts were flying out the windows, or scrambling out of the room into the hall with their warriors. A few were killed while retreating. I was amazed and happy. A cheer broke through the room, and even the berserker smiled.
Kader was bleeding and his warrior was dead. Adepts moved to help him to a chair.
There were dead adepts and rukhkh blanketing the room. Blood and viscera stained the walls and carpet and brought up a smell I wanted to forget, but knew I never would.
Takada looked at me. “That was a good idea.”
“What?” I was sure he didn’t mean escape.
“Get on a carpet–get in the air to attack them from above.”
“Oh, yeah.” I was breathing hard, experiencing that drained feeling one has when adrenaline wears off. I was happy to let him think I was a hero.
I was smiling at Takada when a large section of the roof of the building tore away in a shower of broken plaster and torn wood.
“They have a pterodactyl!” somebody screamed.
Synopsis: They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called “adepts” and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if they started mucking around with the affairs of “lessers” (that is, those humans not able to match their powers)?
During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
About The Author:
S. Evan Townsend is a writer living in central Washington State. After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives with his wife and two sons, aged 17 and 20, and has a 22-year old son attending the University of Washington in biology. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel.