What some call lost, others call hidden..
By returning to the foundations of the magical sects, Monty and Simon must locate one of the main sources of magic.
The lost runes.
There’s only one problem. The runes were never lost—they were hidden, kept away from mages and humanity because of the mind-numbing destructive power they contain.
The Keepers of Arcana, who hid them, want them to remain that way. They will destroy anyone who tries to harness their power—starting with Tristan Montague.
Now, Monty and Simon must find a way to unleash and control the power of the lost runes, accelerate Monty’s ability, avoid being disintegrated by the Keepers and pull all this off without obliterating, well…everything.
Release date: March 31, 2023
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 266
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Orlando A. Sanchez
I stood across the street from the Moscow and looked up.
Dawn was fast approaching, which would make the damage easier to see. Blue energy crackled on the building’s surface, running up and down its length.
I thought taking the practice session across the street to the 14th Street park would minimize any collateral damage.
I was wrong.
I should’ve realized I was dealing with a mage—and, even though she was young, minimizing collateral damage doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.
“Are you sure she had something to do with this?” I asked, examining the large, gaping, frost-covered hole in the side of the building. “We do have more than a few enemies who are capable of this kind of damage.”
Monty, who was standing next to me, gave me a look that clearly said: You must be joking. He turned back, narrowing his eyes and looking at the newly perforated Moscow.
He slowly shook his head and frowned.
“That may be true,” he said, “but the damage, while extensive, was not aimed at our home. That, and the fact that a displeased Olga is currently standing in the entrance of the building, looking our way, seems to indicate this may have something to do with my young apprentice.”
“That and the ice everywhere?”
“Well, there is that,” he said. “Fortunately the structural integrity of the building seems intact. We won’t have to evacuate anyone.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Looking at Olga, I may want to evacuate the immediate area. It was so fast, I didn’t even see it happen.”
“I’m sure Olga saw and felt it,” Monty said, still focused forward. “I am surprised her power has advanced this much.”
“You haven’t really been teaching her much,” I said. “Could be you missed her power increase because you’ve been distracted. Verity has been keeping us busy.”
“Indeed,” Monty admitted, still looking at the building. “However, I have been remiss in my duties as her instructor. I knew her power was increasing; I just didn’t expect her to start creating new exits in the building.”
“What did you expect?” I said. “She’s a kid with power, more power than she knows what to do with. She’s going to try using that power. Actually, I’m surprised the building is still standing. She has more self-control than some adults, present company included.”
He gave me a look and then turned back to focusing on the building.
“I expressly forbade her any major casts while inside the building,” Monty said, glancing behind us. “It was a clear instruction.”
“Forbade her? Really?” I said. “It must be a mage thing, then.”
“It’s the Wet Paint Syndrome.”
“I’ve never heard of this Wet Paint Syndrome,” Monty said. “Elaborate.”
“If you ever see a bench or a wall with a Wet Paint sign, it won’t last five minutes before there are fingerprints somewhere on the wet paint. Never fails.”
“How is that related to anything we are discussing?”
“Well, every time I hear about something that’s forbidden in the magical world, there is always that one mage who can’t resist trying to use that same forbidden thing. You know, like lost elder runes.”
“That is not the same thing at all,” he said with a huff. “The lost runes cannot remain hidden forever. What if someone with evil intent finds them?”
“What if someone with evil intent only finds them because a curious mage uncovers them?” I said. “Some things need to be classified; some things need to remain hidden. Don’t you think?”
“No, I do not,” Monty said. “Information like the elder runes should be available to mages. Much good can come from the dissemination of ancient knowledge.”
“Even if that knowledge consists of world-ending runes of power?”
“I am a pragmatist,” he answered. “I don’t believe I am the only one searching for the elder runes. You heard Albert—it was my uncle Dex who stopped him when he was close to locating them.
“Are these blood runes, too?” I asked, concerned. “If they are, you should walk away now.”
“Not to my knowledge,” Monty said. “These runes require a different catalyst—power. Even unto his death, Albert was looking for them. His sole pursuit was power.”
“It was,” I said. “Which is probably why they should remain hidden.”
“At the very least, she seems to have followed my instruction about not casting inside the building,” he said, looking up again. “All the damage appears to be external.”
“She did,” I said. “That damage, and the angle of attack definitely indicates the impact came from outside of the Moscow. Are we still convinced it was her, though? Maybe it was a freak atmospheric blast?”
I glanced back to look at a very sheepish Cece, who stood out of earshot some distance behind us. Her guardian, Rags, sat by her side in a defensive position.
Cece had grown a bit since I last saw her. Her white-blond hair was longer and tied back in an intricate braid. She had switched her Vader shirt for one with a very young-looking Yoda, who, I recently learned, was now called Grogu.
Her blue jeans were sporting holes over both knees, which I realized was not the result of a battle, but the current fashion.
Around her, the air was charged with energy that was slowly dissipating.
“At least she’s come over to the light side,” I said, more to myself than Monty. “That new Baby Yoda is cute.”
“A freak atmospheric blast? I’m sure Olga will accept that as a reasonable excuse for the damage to the building,” Monty said. “Is that how you would like to explain it?”
“Why am I explaining anything?” I asked. “She’s your apprentice, not mine. Do I look like I want to explain anything to our resident ice-queen landlord?”
“I was not out here encouraging her to—how did you put it? ‘Go for it. Let’s test the dawnward. Unleash the beast.’”
“I didn’t tell her to punch a hole in the building,” I said. “If she—allegedly—did it, then it was an accident. I’m sure Olga will understand that. Accidents happen all the time.”
“There is one thing Olga does not seem to tolerate well,” Monty said, “and that is damage to her domain. She takes it personally, which means she will take it out on us—personally.”
“She does seem pissed. What did she say…exactly?”
“Fix hole or find new place to live,” Monty said in his best Olga imitation. “I believe that was verbatim. A woman of few words but of immense power. Care to explain what exactly happened?”
“I wanted to see how much damage the dawnward could take, and you said to push her,” I countered. “I pushed, she unleashed. The dawnward held. Her blast ricocheted off the shield. I didn't see it punch into the Moscow, though.”
“I also told you to wait until I was downstairs.”
“You were taking too long,” I said. “You tell her she can cut loose, and then you tell her to wait. Were you ever a child? That’s a recipe for certain disaster.”
“No, it was an exercise in patience,” he corrected. “She was—you both were—supposed to wait until I was present, to prevent just this sort of thing from happening.”
“An exercise in patience?” I said, staring at him in disbelief. “I really don’t think you were a child…ever.”
“Of course I was a child,” he said. “Now, we need to repair this before Olga becomes more agitated.”
“Judging from her expression of barely controlled fury, I’d say that’s about five minutes,” I said, glancing over to where Olga stood fuming inside the lobby of the Moscow. “She looks like she could cause some major bodily damage right about now.”
“I best get to the repairs before she feels the need to act on that anger.”
“That is your department,” I said. “I’ll go talk to Cece while you do your finger thing. Your track record with her is spotty at best.”
“Please tell Cecelia to refrain from any casting until after I have repaired the damage,” Monty said, shaking out his hands and moving closer to the building. “The last thing we need right now is more damage.”
“Sure, it’s not like she’s feeling bad about blasting a hole in the building,” I said. “I’ll just crush her feelings a little more, tell her she’s a major screw-up and that if she dares cast again, it’s just going to mess things up further. That should do wonders for her self-esteem.”
“That is not what I meant at all,” he said. “I only meant to—”
“Save it,” I said, raising a hand and shaking my head. “Just do your finger-tango thing and see if you can fix it. You have the bedside manner of a brick. An angry brick. I’ll talk to her.”
“It is not a finger thing,” Monty said. “Actually, I can use a variant of the Restoring Palm. It will allow me to—”
I walked away before he got carried away with how he was going to fix the Moscow. I had an idea of how the Restoring Palm worked, but right now there was a little girl who had broken a building because I had pushed her to unleash the beast—not that there was any actual proof of said action taking place.
She was feeling horrible, and Monty, even though he was phenomenal as a mage, truly sucked when it came to speaking to children. I wondered if it was a product of age. He was pushing over two centuries; there had to be some residual crankiness there.
I had to make this right.
The first step was not letting Monty address the situation with Cece. He was too proper and set in his ways. He would begin the conversation with correcting her and lecturing about how this was all the result of her disobeying his express instructions not to use a major cast.
Basic mage grumpiness.
He didn’t realize how much she looked up to him. He would think he was helping her understand the consequences of the misuse of power. All she would hear is that he was angry with her and that she had messed up.
“Hey, Cece,” I said as I approached, “how you holding up?”
She looked up at me, worry etched into her expression. I could tell she had been crying, but had rubbed the tears away in an effort to appear brave and calm.
“I broke the building. I am in so much trouble,” she said as her eyes began to water. “I didn’t mean to. I really thought I could get through your dawnward.”
“Not your fault,” I said, crouching down to make our eyes level. “If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I shouldn’t have told you to unleash the beast.”
“Can he fix it?” she asked, looking at Monty, then glancing at the lobby of the building. “Olga looks so pissed.”
“Well, he is usually better at taking things apart,” I said, turning to look at Monty, “but he has been known to fix things from time to time.”
“Yes, really,” I said, standing. “Why don’t we step back a bit and give him some room to work? I’m sure he can handle this before Olga comes out.”
“Will he be able to?”
“Well, if we stand far away, at the very least, we’ll have a head start in case Olga wants to turn us into icicles.”
“You’re not very funny, Mr. Simon,” Cece said. “You don’t know how strong she is. She could stop us from where she is now.”
I turned and looked at the entrance of the building where Olga stood, emanating waves of violence through her eyes at us.
“That’s good to know,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding her away from the building. Rags let out a low rumble. “Easy Guardian. Just trying to keep her safe.”
<As am I, bonded one. No one will harm one under my charge—no one.>
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