How do you stop a god? Monty and Simon don’t know, but they better find out…fast.
The NYTF Command Hub has been destroyed, the Director is in critical condition, and a cryptic message has been left for the Montague and Strong Detective Agency…in blood.
When Monty and Simon discover Mahnes, a Soul Renderer and Dark Mage, is behind the attack, they realize they are outclassed and outgunned.
Something or someone is controlling Mahnes and they need help.
Now Monty and Simon must face an ancient god, one they thought they had defeated and banished.
They were wrong.
Release date: August 29, 2021
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 216
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Listen to a sample
Orlando A. Sanchez
By the third hour of agony, I was convinced he was trying to kill me.
I saw the runes pulse slowly on the wooden floor. The entire room radiated power and simultaneously dampened it. The floor of the windowless space was Australian Buloke, with the walls and ceiling being some kind of reinforced steel.
It felt like standing in some kind of hi-tech mage cell. Around us sat several racks with assorted weights, some conventional and some not. One corner held an old 454 engine block for a ’91 Chevy SS, attached to a complicated pulley system. Next to it, sat a pair of two hundred-pound dumbbells.
Part of me wanted to scoff and say this was just Hammertime showing off, but I knew she was strong—I just hadn’t realized she was “use an engine block for exercise” strong.
Off to the side, away from the center of the floor, stood Monty, sipping from his cup of tea, and Ursula, Lead Director of the DAMNED and owner of the space we were currently occupying. A little distance from them both lay my hellhound, languidly taking in the scene of my destruction.
I refocused on the thin old man standing in front of me. He radiated a deep undercurrent of power, even in this space. His close-cropped hair seemed to glow, a white crown glimmering in the subtle light of the training room. His eyes were still the same: deep, dark pools of emptiness.
Impossible to read.
“Again,” the old man said, tapping his short staff on the smooth wooden floor. “Repeat the technique. Attack.”
I hesitated. He didn’t know what he was asking me to do.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I said. “I don’t have a setting on this thing. It’s either a full blast of destruction or nothing. There’s no in-between.”
Master Yat narrowed his eyes at me. Easily a three on the glare-o-meter, and if I had to guess, he wasn’t even trying.
“That”—he pointed his staff at me to make his point—“is your problem. You lack self-control. What you need is a degree of modulation.”
“Modulation? As in blasting only half this place apart instead of blowing the entire building into rubble?”
“Do not blow my building into rubble,” Ursula, our host, grumbled. “I deal with your destruction on a regular basis. I will not have my HQ reduced to a crater.”
“Simon,” Yat said with a small sigh, “nuance is your friend. The energy you are wielding requires awareness and subtlety. If you fail to control it, it will control…and overcome…you.”
“Subtlety?” Ursula scoffed. “These three are as subtle as a charge of already detonated C4. You’re wasting your time, Master Yat.”
“My middle name is subtlety,” I said, mocking offense. “I know when to unleash the devastation and when to hold back. Besides, I’m not the one tearing the city apart.”
Ursula walked over to a counter and picked up a folder, holding it up to me.
“Know what this is?” she asked. “I’ll give you one guess.”
“No idea. A list of the latest bear sightings in the city?”
“Oh, the humor, I can barely contain myself,” she replied with a glare. “No. This is an action report from where I spent my evenings for the last few days.”
“The local forest? Where do bears go at night? Do you have a cave somewhere?”
“No,” she said with a tight smile, “this bear has been spending her nights in Queens. Do you know why?”
“Lots of trees?” I asked, shrugging my shoulders. “I heard bears love trees.”
She glared at me, and I knew where this was going.
“It would seem…” She opened the folder and began reading. “At least according to the engineers on site, that the Unisphere suffered a catastrophic failure of its pedestal, resulting in the entire structure rolling down the park and into”—she peered closer at the report—“the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium. Causing extensive damage to both.”
I glanced over at Monty, who was conveniently sipping his tea and hiding his face.
“Sounds serious,” I said. “Any idea how something like that could happen?”
“You mean barring an earthquake?” Ursula looked from Monty to me. “I guess it would require an immense release of uncontrolled power to destroy that pedestal. Any idea how that could happen?”
“None,” I said, shaking my head slowly. “I barely visit Queens these days. Busy with cases and such.”
“Funny you should say that,” she said, reaching into the folder and pulling out several sheets of paper and handing them to me. “These are from some of the surveillance cameras in the area. We keep close tabs on beings of power residing in the city…even in Queens.”
“Do you, now?” I said, looking down at the sheets of paper. “Imagine that.”
I was looking down at grainy surveillance time-stamped photos of Monty, my hellhound, and me meeting the Archive Guard, with the Unisphere in the background.
“From what I can see, the Unisphere is still intact in these photos,” I said, handing her back the photos. “Not seeing your point.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, handing me another set of time-stamped photos. “I meant to show you these.”
The second set of photos showed Monty, my hellhound, and me with the Unisphere in the distance…rolling at us. The next photo showed the devastating impact of the Unisphere into the tennis stadium. The damage was massive.
“That wasn’t us,” I said, shaking my head again as I handed back the photos. “You really think we possess that much power? I’m flattered, really, but there are other beings in the city that could pull that off, you know.”
“They weren’t visiting the Auer that day, you were. Like I said, you three are about as subtle as a brick to the face.”
The insinuation angered me, because we were quickly becoming the default destroyers of the city. If something exploded, imploded, or was obliterated, then it had to be the Montague and Strong Detective Agency.
Frankly, it was getting on my nerves. The problem was that, this time, she wasn’t too far off the mark. We weren’t directly responsible, but I could see how it could look like we were.
“It wasn’t us,” I said, letting an edge creep into my voice. “Drop it.”
“Not happening,” Ursula said, matching the menace in my voice. “This is what I have to do when you three are being subtle.”
“At least I don’t go around with a Mjolnir knockoff, Hammertime,” I snapped. “I don’t see you trying to harness insane amounts of energy. What do you do? Form your Hammer of Doom and swing away? Sounds real discreet.”
“Simon,” Monty warned before turning to Ursula. “Apologies. It would appear he has suffered several head injuries from the training.”
“No need,” Ursula growled, staring at me. “You think what you’re doing here is so hard? You need to get your power under control.”
“I’m the only one imitating a punching bag on this floor while you and Monty just spectate. So, yes. It’s not as easy as I make it look.”
Peaches gave me a low rumble from the side of the floor.
<Don’t make the bear lady angry. She gave me good meat.>
<Glad your meat is more important than your bondmate being insulted.>
<She didn’t insult you. You’re not listening to the old stick man. Try harder.>
<Are your ears broken? Yes, try harder.>
Even my hellhound was giving me attitude…incredible.
“Focus,” Yat said, getting my attention. “Ursula was gracious enough to provide us with a null training area. We will honor her gesture, yes?”
“Yes,” I said, properly chastised. “Sorry, Hammertime, no offense.”
She must have felt bad for me, because she let me get away with the nickname with only a glare.
“Keep calling me that and I will show you what my hammer can do.”
I stood corrected and graced her with a smile, which vanished as Yat’s short staff delicately tapped me in the head with a loud thwack.
Ursula burst into laughter and Monty conveniently happened to look away as a fit of coughs overcame him.
“I said focus,” Yat said, placing the tip of the staff on the floor again. “What you need is nuance.”
“Nuance? Oh, is that what we’ve been working on for the last three hours? Nuance?”
“No,” Yat said with a small smile. “I have been using overwhelming force and pain. It seems to be the only language you understand when it comes to training.”
He glanced at Ursula and motioned for her to come to the center of the floor.
“I’m not fighting a bear,” I said, shaking my head slowly. “With or without a hammer.”
“It wouldn’t be much of a fight, trust me,” Ursula said, focusing on Yat and giving him a short bow.
“Please create your hammer,” Yat said softly. “Here”—he pointed to a spot on the floor with his staff—“on this location.”
Ursula extended a hand and focused. A swirl of orange and silver energy flowed from her hand and coalesced on the floor where Yat indicated, creating her hammer. It was a massive, rune-covered weapon.
It may not have been Mjolnir, but Monty told me it did belong to the Finnish god of thunder and storms. Ursula never shared how she managed to get hold of it, but now that I was able to see it up close, the last thing I wanted was for her to swing that thing in my direction.
“Nice hammer. Must be great for those DIY projects around the home,” I said, then looked at Yat. “So she can form her hammer? She must have done that thousands of times. It can’t be that difficult for her.”
“Please form your blade, Simon,” Yat said. “As you say, it’s not very difficult.”
I focused my energy and created the silver mist that would become Ebonsoul. I let it race around my arm and form near my hand—and then it evaporated.
Ursula gave a small chuckle.
“What’s the matter? Having trouble making that mist firm?”
“Ursula,” Yat said, shaking his head. “Don’t distract him.”
“Apologies, Master Yat,” Ursula replied, then looked at me. “You’re standing in the DAMNED HQ, rocket scientist. Do you even know what DAMNED stands for?”
“Disturbed And Mutant Nulls—Extremely Dense?”
“Is that what passes for wit with you?” Ursula turned to Monty. “How do you deal with him?”
“In small doses, usually,” Monty said. “Most of the time, I ignore him.”
“The one part you got right was ‘nulls,’” Ursula said, turning back to me. “This entire building is a null zone, Einstein. One of the strongest in the entire city.”
“Wait,” I said, the realization dawning on me. “How did you form your hammer, then?”
“Now, you’re beginning to get it,” Ursula said with a wide grin. “Some of us are just skilled, and others”—she reabsorbed her hammer into her hand—“have to learn the hard way: like you. Master Yat, do you still require my presence? It’s been a long night. I’d like to get some sleep before morning.”
“No, Daxiong,” Yat said, with a slight bow. “Thank you again for the use of your training space.”
Ursula returned the bow and left the training space.
“If this is a null space, how did she manage to do that?”
“Nuance,” Yat said, tapping the floor again. “Now, attack.”
“Right,” I said, still concerned. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You are welcome to try, but your efforts have been somewhat lacking,” Yat replied, stepping back into a relaxed pose. “Are you not feeling sufficiently motivated?”
“No—I mean, yes!” I quickly corrected. “My motivation is off-the-charts right now.”
“Ah, good. Then attack…and this time, make me understand that you pose a real threat.”
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