And wihtout further ado, here is a preview of chapter one of Charm School...
~ When a mortal says they want things to be ‘fair,’ they really just want to win. ~ advice given to a young demon.
Wizards aren’t supposed to be whiny. But Dr. Corwyn was getting close to it. I could feel Shade’s shoulders shake under my arm as she snickered quietly. Wanda was carefully looking at something on the far edge of the platform, but Mom looked like she wasn’t about to spare his dignity. Even with dozens of people around us on the transit platform, her expression said she was ready to lay into him. Junkyard didn’t offer an opinion. He was on an adventure, which was pretty much any time he wasn’t at home or Dr. C’s place. Any opportunity to mark a new part of the world as his was a good thing, as far as he was concerned.
“This is what I could afford,” I growled in response to his latest complaint. In front of us was a teleportation platform, its triple rings dormant and upright. Around it was a series of runes, and the stone floor was inscribed with magickal symbols.
“Master Draeden offered to fly us up on his private jet,” Dr. C said. “For free.
We’d be there in a matter of hours, and we’d fly in comfort.”
“No,” I told him again. “I don’t want to owe him any favors. And believe me, he’d think he was doing me a favor.” Dr. C’s lips pressed tight together as he looked at me, then he nodded.
“You’re right about that,” he said after a moment, his tone resigned. “You do know you’re making it harder on yourself though, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I know you get sick when you teleport. I’ll deal with it.”
“Then so will I … again.” I nodded, willing the memories of his troubles with teleportation back into the box I’d built for them. Ahead of us, a group of Dwarves in gray business suits stepped onto the platform, handing tickets to the man at the opening in the waist high railing as they passed him.
“Last call for Denver Commons. Dennnnver Commons, transiting in three minutes. Last call!” As he finished, a woman in a flowing green dress came bustling up with two boys trailing from each hand.
“Denver Commons, that’s us,” she said as she let go of the boys’ hands and dug in her purse. Moments later, she produced three tickets and thrust them at the man. He took them and gave them a quick glance, then nodded and gestured for her to go on. She grabbed the two boys by the hand again and stepped forward.
“Mom, do we have to take the transit platform?” one of the boys asked. “Barry always gets sick.” The other boy was turning a little green around the edges, and the woman’s eyes went wide.
“Oh, hell,” the mother spat and rushed to the edge of the platform to grab something from a wooden box and hustled back to her sons. “I’m glad you reminded me.” The Dwarves shuffled over a little as she returned and handed the less enthusiastic looking boy the paper bag she’d taken from the box. The man at the edge of the railing stepped back and went to a control panel by the upright rings.
“Transiting to Denver Commons,” he called out as he manipulated the levers on the panel. “Stand clear of the platform! Stand clear of the yellow line.” The nested rings started to spin with a metallic rasp, then the two inner rings rotated on their axis until they were horizontal, leaving a dark blue glow in their wake. A moment later, the inner most ring rotated along the second ring’s axis, creating a third axis. The rings started to hum as the dark blue energy obscured the inside of the transit platform. Finally, the first ring stopped, with a rune glowing. The horizontal ring slowed to a stop a few seconds later, a different rune glowing over our heads at the spot where it intersected with the third ring. Finally, the inner most ring stopped, and I could see the glow of a rune at the top of the rings. The glow pulsed brighter for a moment, then disappeared completely, revealing an empty platform. Dee gave a squeal of delight as the rings slowly started to return to their original position.
“Can I go with them?” she asked. “I wanna teleport!”
“Not today, sis,” I said. “I only bought two tickets. But you and Mom can come up some time.”
“There is a Parent’s Day every month or so,” Dr. C said. “And students can earn off campus passes for weekends.”
“Liberty Plaza,” the transit operator called out. “Ten minutes to transit to Liberty Plaza. All on the platform for Boston.”
“That’s us,” I said. I squeezed Shade a little closer for a moment, and her arms tightened around my ribs.
“I’m going to miss you,” she said for about the thousandth time.
“You know I’m going to be crazy without you,” I said as I kissed her.
“Promise to wither away and die?” she asked.
“I’ll even write depressing poetry about how much I miss you every day.”
“And I’ll lock myself in my room for at least a month and mope,” Shade giggled.
“Could you two get any more dysfunctional?” Wanda asked, adding an eyeroll for emphasis.
“Still a better love story than-” Dr. C started to say. Wanda’s elbow in his ribs cut off the comment.
“Okay, now that the Codepency Channel’s off the air, Lucas sent something for you. He said you’re not supposed to open it until you’ve got your room set up.” She handed me a black gift bag from Lucas’s grandfather’s store, Mitternacht’s Books. “We’re gonna miss having you around to make things interesting. Hopefully, no one tries to destroy the city while you’re gone,’ she said as she hugged me.
“I’m sure you guys can handle it,” I said as I wrapped her in a hug.
“Great,” Wanda said with a grin. “Now you’ve pretty much made sure something is going to happen while you’re gone. We’ll be stuck trying to make it an episode where you come back right after we beat the Big Bad and we act all cool like nothing happened, instead of one where you have to rescue us at the last minute from our own stupidity.”
“I got you something, too,” Shade said with a sly smile as she pressed something into my hand. When I looked down, I saw a sleek phone laying on my palm.
“Baby, I can’t afford this,” I said as I tried to push it back into her hands.
“I can,” Shade said, her smile turning a little feral as she closed my hand around the phone. “And it’s not for you. It’s for me. I want to see your face when we talk. I want to talk to you for hours and not have your minutes run out in the middle. And I want you to have something that’s just between us.”
“Like I don’t already,” I whispered. Her hand came up and touched the center of my chest, where the vial with several drops of her blood hung from a leather thong. One with filled withmy blood was nestled between her breasts, both given under a waxing moon, so our love would only grow. I leaned in and kissed her, then stepped back.
“Why is it I keep saying goodbye to you every time I turn around?” Mom asked when I turned to her.
“Because life sucks,” I said. Both our voices were a little rougher than we wanted anyone else to hear, but I wasn’t about to go all stoic and stiff-upper lipped on Mom. Dee put her arms around my waist and held tight for a few moments, then turned and shrugged the straps of her purple backpack off her shoulders. At least today it almost went with the plain blue t-shirt she had on. Lately, she’d taken to wearing plain shirts, refusing to wear even her Dr. Hooves t-shirt, which I was pretty sure was her favorite shirt ever.
“Take Pyewacket with you,” she said as she pulled the black stuffed animal from her pack. “I’d give you Dr. Hooves, but I need him if you’re not home.”
“I’m sure he’ll keep me safe,” I said as I took the black cat. It had a little hand-made wizard’s hat sewed to its head now, and wore a little pewter pendant with symbols carved into it.
“I don’t recognize these symbols,” I said as I went to one knee.
“I made them up,” Dee said. I almost heard Dr. C’s shoulders unknot. “That one’s so you don’t have bad dreams, that one is for protection, and that one is so you don’t have too much homework.”
I hugged her tight, and tucked Pyewacket into my backpack next to Lucas’s gift bag. “I hope that last one works really well,” I told her before I stood up and hugged Mom.
“Everything I can give you, I already have,” she said as she took my hand in hers. “The gifts of my bloodline, the love of a mother, and a home to return to when your travels are done. I’m proud of you, Chance.” I choked up for a moment, so all I could do was hug her to me.
“I won’t let you down,” I said when I pulled back. Mom smiled and shook her head.
“You never have,” she said.
“The gate’s open,” Dr. C said. I shrugged my backpack on, then grabbed the dolly that had my book trunk on it and wheeled it toward the opening in the railing. Dr. C wheeled the one with my clothes in it along behind me. Junkyard trotted along behind us, carrying his own luggage in the red harness vest that Mom had made for him. His food and water bowls were on either side, and his blanket was rolled up and tied to the harness across his shoulders, with a few little items in the backpack behind that. His most important possession, a big rawhide bone, he carried in his mouth. And as always, he wore his two bandanas around his thick neck. Once we had my stuff on the platform, I went back to the gate and gave one last round of hugs and kissed Shade.
“Liberty Plaza, transiting in one minute!” the transit operator called out. I backed away from everyone.
“You ready?” Dr. C asked when I reached him. I looked down and saw the paper bag he held in his hand.
“No. Are you?”
“Eh,” he said with a casual shrug. Junkyard looked up at us and thumped his tail. At least one of us was happy to be there.
“Transiting to Liberty Plaza,” the operator called out. Dr. C nodded and turned so that he was facing away from me. His shoulders pressed against mine, and I felt his weight shift as his right hand went to his side, where a pistol would be if he was armed.
“Old habits?” I asked.
“Bare is the brotherless back,” he said as the world outside of the platform turned blue. Reality seemed to spin and lurch at the same time, while my mystic senses were bombarded by a scream of static. Then everything stopped at once, and that was almost as bad as the onslaught of sensation. My ears felt like they were cringing and I blinked like I’d just been flash-blinded. As disorienting as it had been, it was a lot smoother than some of the transits I’d made with Dulka to the various Infernal realms. Behind me, I could hear Dr. C moan and gulp.
“You gonna make it, sir?” I asked.
“Oddly enough…I think I will,” he said. “That’s a first.”
The blue haze faded around us, and I was treated to my first sight of Liberty Plaza. ...
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak at Charm School. With any luck, it will be out in a couple of days.
I have the cover for Charm School, and as usual, Angela Gulick did a fantastic job. I can't wait to share it with you. Stay tuned, and watch this space.