Excerpt: Tisiphone’s Quest

It has been an emotionally trying week to be on the Internet, to say the least. In addition, I had what seemed at the time like a very promising job interview on Monday, which has not panned out. I have encountered a major issue in my current revision project; I think I know what needs to be done, it’s just going to be a lot more work than I was prepared for to get this book where it needs to go. And I had to go to the dentist, which I’ve been putting off for a long time and which therefore occasioned much dread.

(In good news, I discovered Barns Courtney this week. My musical tastes are very predictable consistent. And the dread was unwarranted — no dental work needed.)

Energy has been a little hard to come by, these past few days. So, while I try to get my head back together and make some kind of plan for finishing the book, here is an excerpt from the one I’ve got out so far. A heartfelt thanks goes out to those who have purchased it. You are literally keeping the dream alive!

Chapter 1

Samantha stood in the doorway and studied the library’s wreckage. The air reeked of fire retardant and burned plastic.

A junior member of the force approached and said, “Detective? The wizard is here.”

“Who’d they send?” she asked, still concentrating on the scene before her. A spray of organic matter on the antique desk marked where the body had been found. Around the periphery, crime scene techs worked with steady purpose, recording the scene and deploying sniffer robots to search for evidence.

“Dunno, just saw the car land.”

Sam frowned at him, shoved her hands into her jacket pockets, and walked down the hall. A solemn young woman guarded the front door and gave Sam a nod. A broad lawn stretched away, bright green under the morning drizzle. Sam headed toward the far edge of the grass and the flashy civilian car that had landed there, much smaller than the police vehicle nearby. Someone in blue and silver robes climbed out and walked toward her, carrying a staff and a leather satchel. The figure was non-human, bipedal, and furry. It had large, tufted ears and was too tall to be a Langen, so Sam spoke with some confidence.

“Magister Cloud, isn’t it?” As far as she knew, Cloud was the only Chterrian on the planet.

“Indeed it is.” Cloud’s voice was higher than expected, her speech accented but clear without relying on a translator. Her facial markings reminded Sam of a snow leopard, though her features were narrower and sharper than those of the Earth animal. She gave Sam a bow and said, “Delighted to meet you…?”

“I’m Detective Sarafian. This way, if you would. Did they brief you?” She glanced back at the house, with its fantastical neo-Victorian architecture and its dead owner.

“Yes.” Her whiskers twitched. “Professor St. Cyr has been killed, and the university hopes that I will be able to assist the authorities.”

Sam studied Cloud’s features and found them unreadable. “Did you know him?”

“Not well. We met at some functions. He will be very much missed, naturally. I do hope I will be able to help.”

“I hope so, too.” She set off across the lawn at her usual quick pace. Cloud was taller than Sam, and kept up easily as she spoke. “It happened about four hours ago, near three AM. He lived alone. Had some human staff—it was the cook who found him this morning
and called us. No one else would normally have been there at that hour. We’re canvassing the neighborhood, but the place is pretty well isolated, and it wouldn’t be surprising if no one noticed anything.”

“No doubt he had a security system?”

“Top-line, and it’s been thoroughly fucked with. Not an amateur job. Working theory is that it was a theft. He got a shipment of artifacts yesterday and was still cataloging it. Doesn’t look like any other parts of the house were touched. Anything you can get us on the state of the room when it happened would be more than we have right now.”

Even though Sam had never left her sight, the officer at the front door checked their IDs before letting them through. They passed down the long, mirrored hall to the library. Merciless light spilled through the library doorway and made Sam squint after the gloom outside. A technician came to meet them.

“We’re almost done in here,” he said. “Starting to sweep the rest of the place.” He looked at Cloud. “You going to need us for anything?”

“Where was the main interface?” the wizard asked.

“The desk. Nothing usable left there. Whole system fried.”

“May I use it without disturbing your work?”

“It’s been sealed. Go ahead.”

Sam looked at the surface in question and felt anger stir. Murder was rare on Gnosis. This was no puzzle or training exercise; someone had broken into this house and burned an old man’s brains out.

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