I trust you are enjoying your new-found freedom, Mr. Singravel. I have arranged for your release to go unnoticed by certain individuals, and I now expect you to fulfill your end of the bargain. I require you to procure several manuals on golem crafting. Additionally, you will provide me with any and all information about the various groups that monitor paranormal activity in Boston, including details on any persons of particular note. Send these updates via this secure channel, but do not expect further contact from me. I will be incommunicado while I attend to some pressing matters.
I should not need to remind you that failing to perform adequately will lead to punishments much worse than imprisonment in Ashgate. However, should you prove unsuccessful, I am confident I can find other ways for you to serve me. Your predecessor’s soul was used to fuel the ritual that ensured your release.
End Coded Transmission
Sunrises were beautiful here on the Bright Side, the realm of fae. And today’s sunrise would’ve been gorgeous if it weren’t for the advancing enemy army, the erupting volcano and the earthquakes. Instead of a cool dawn with sparkling dew and a gentle breeze, a heat haze shimmered in the air. When the winds gusted, it was like a sandstorm of ash. The tremors, which were coming more frequently, toppled people and structures to the ground.
I’m sure the enemy leaders felt smug. After all, it was their mages who were tampering with the environment. Their army, one hundred thousand strong, was three times larger than the entire population of the Urisk city they were advancing on. And the Urisk themselves rarely caused any trouble. They were known for their hospitality, their friendliness and their desire for harmony. To a group of warmongers, that’s like holding up a sign that says, “Please Conquer Us.”
I wondered what the enemy generals thought as they surveyed the battlefield. The Urisk didn’t have an army. Instead, about five thousand of them knelt on the ground, their feather-topped heads bowed, flecks of ash settling on their dull gray skin. Perhaps they thought the Urisk planned to beg for mercy. Perhaps the generals thought the Urisk were praying for some imaginary god to swoop in and save them.
In either case, the generals would be wrong. The Urisk aren’t begging for mercy and they aren’t praying to an imaginary god.
They’re praying to me.
Now pardon me for a moment, I have some swooping and saving to do.
I stepped out among my followers and focused. Their heads turned toward me, expressions of hope on their faces. Their almond eyes, whether orange or green, glowed with an inner light that flickered with anticipation. I could feel their faith in me, and the power that faith gave me swelled. I felt like I could do anything and everything. Save the people, drive off the army and repair the land. I grinned, cracked my knuckles and concentrated on the lava that was rolling in a great red river toward the city.
When I’d prepared for today, the Commander told me I had two goals. One, bolster my followers’ faith by letting them see me protect them. I pointed at the lava and, in a power-amplified voice, commanded, “Stop!” The lava obeyed. I threw my arm out to the side and the lava steamed, cooled, and turned to solid rock.
A gust of ash and grit blasted across the gathering of my followers. I threw my other arm out to the side and shouted, “Enough!” The wind died immediately and the ash vanished from the air. The Urisks’ faith in me increased, and that gave me more power. Having faith in your god is one thing. Personally witnessing that god controlling the weather and landscape tends to make even the most skeptical individual a believer, and it turns a believer into a zealot. My power increased accordingly.
With the Urisk out of danger from the elements, I concentrated on the army. My senses were amplified so that even at this distance of three miles, I could clearly hear the murmurings and confusion of the mages. They’d never seen anything like what I’d just done. Then again, I’d bet they’d never fought a god before.
And that brought me to my second goal for today: spank the enemy and spank them hard.
I had no desire to get up close and personal with the army. The soldiers were hobgoblins and trolls, and even from this distance they smelled awful. So instead, I conjured a giant avatar of myself. There was panic among the ranks as a hundred-foot-tall human appeared at the head of the army. I concentrated, willing the avatar to raise its giant foot and crush a cluster of soldiers beneath a size three hundred Reebok high-top.
Disciplined as they were, the soldiers scattered. I made the avatar laugh, and the sound rumbled the land and threw the soldiers to the ground. I played Godzilla for another few minutes, enjoying the squishing of the hobgoblin and troll soldiers. My avatar opened his palms and waves of flame bowled forth, turning half a mile of the landscape to black ash.
I smirked when I realized there were no survivors. I suppose should’ve left a few of the enemies alive so that they’d carry word of what happened back to their superiors. Then again, when a hundred thousand soldiers disappear, that sends a message, too.
I dismissed my avatar and focused on repairing the land. I opened my hands and spread my arms as wide as I could, sending power forth. Tremors rippled along the ground as I smoothed the ragged land flat again. The world shook as I crushed the volcanoes back into the ground and converted the magma to healthy soil. Blue grass sprang from the earth and silvery trees stretched toward the sky. I made months’ worth of growth happen in minutes. I made the ground sink in some places and filled the depressions with fresh water.
With the land healed, my next task was to ensure my people’s safety. I raised my arms and brought a thirty-foot wall of stone up around the city. I turned to the mass of short gray forms behind me and basked in their faith. Their eyes, glowing orbs of orange and green, flickered like strobe lights. This was the equivalent of joyous laughter. Their faith struck me again, so strong it staggered me. I took an involuntary step back as I ran a hand through my hair. It was slick with sweat. Channeling that much power was taxing for anyone, even a god.
Lotholio, my high priest, came forward and knelt before me. “Lord Corinthos,” he said. His words were telepathically communicated in his native tongue, but I understood him clearly. “You have truly performed miracles today. Our people owe you everything.”
I placed my hand on his thin shoulder and bade him rise. I looked out at the crowd of Urisk, all kneeling before me. Okay, playtime was over. I had to put my formal god-face on now. I spoke then, using the power so they could hear me as if I were standing in front of them. “You are safe now. Let no Urisk feel fear.”
We walked into the city, my followers telepathically cheering. Their eyes flickered with joy and relief. I resisted breaking into a celebratory dance; a god needs to command respect, and I doubted my lousy rendition of the Macarena would loan itself to that. We came to my cathedral, a massive stone structure that the Urisk had fashioned for me with the raw power of their minds. I turned back to the crowd. They immediately fell silent.
“I must leave you for a time, but I will watch over this realm and its people. While I am gone, Lotholio speaks for me. Heed his words as you would mine. You have my blessing.” I sent a wave of health and warmth into them. Any who had injuries, mental afflictions or physical illnesses would be healed. I could feel their faith building again. It was getting too powerful. I needed to leave.
I turned back to Lotholio. “Be safe, my friend,” I said with a smile.
“Lord.” He caught me by my shirtsleeve, then seemed abashed that he’d touched me. “Lord, are you sure you cannot stay? Your presence will be reassuring as the people rebuild.”
I put my hands on his shoulders and stared into glowing green eyes. “The people need to stand on their own, Lotholio. You know that. Do not be afraid, I will always hear your prayers when you need me.” He seemed uncertain, and I knew it was because of the high priest role he’d found himself in. “Loth, you found me, remember? You risked traveling through another dimension, made contact with outsiders, and found the help your people needed. You are the best person to lead while I am gone.” He set his narrow jaw and tried to look strong. “Loth, do you believe in me?”
His eyes dimmed and brightened from top to bottom, a sign of shock. “Of course, Lord.”
“Good. Because I believe in you.” I grinned and turned away from him. I moved to a pylon just in front of my cathedral. “Aviorla, open to home.” A portal opened in the pylon before me, tall enough to step through. Smells and sounds that were totally alien to the Bright Side drifted in from the other side. I grabbed my leather bomber up off the ground and turned back to the people. “Today we have won a great victory. Now it is time to celebrate. Let the festivities last for a week and a day.” I made fireworks and a rainbow appear in the sky.
As my people’s eyes flicked with amazement and joy, I stepped through the portal. It led to a world that only Lotholio had seen, to a city that served as a hub of paranormal activity. The city I call home.
It’s called Boston.
It was Terry Brooks’ Wishsong of Shannara that really clinched it and got me excited about writing. But it wasn’t until years later, after reading Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, that I decided to take a crack at urban fantasy. After a month of Pepsi-and-Snickers-assisted brainstorming, Vincent Corinthos and the Caulborn were conceived. A year later I published the first Caulborn novel, Imperium.
I’ve lived my entire life in various New England states, and I’m fascinated by New England’s paranormal history. One thing I really enjoy is incorporating local paranormal events and urban legends into the books. Each Caulborn novel will include references to real-world supernatural occurrences, and explains how they fit into the Caulborn’s world.
I live with my wife and three children, and a shape-shifting cat who may or may not be be in human form at any given moment. Check out my site at www.nicholasolivo.com.
9/12 – guest post @ Jagged Edge Reviews
9/13 – review @ Jagged Edge Reviews
9/15 – review @ Keeping Up With The Rheinlanders
9/17 – review @ The Phantom Paragrapher
9/19 – review @ It’s All About Books
9/20 – excerpt @ Keeping Up With The Rheinlanders
9/21 – guest post @ It’s All About Books
9/25 – review @ Aobibliosphere
9/28 – giveaway @ Aobibliosphere