Lethal Magic Sample

Chapter 1 

“Leah and Xavier would be so ashamed of you!”  I said to my friend Twist, throwing my ace of spades down on the table and taking his ace of diamonds to claim the book.  

We were at my home, down in Cave Town. When people heard you lived in a cave, they often thought it was dark and musty. Cave town was deep underground. We had many cities here, like Log City, and River City.

We called it all Cajun. Twist and Niche lived in Blazing. That was the name for up top. Blazing, because the sun ripped into those from Cajun relentlessly when we became exposed to it.

“Leah and Xavier will never know about this!” Twist joked with me.

Twist was a friend of mine from up top. He and his boyfriend Niche often hung out with me and my boyfriend Kemp. That was cool. They could come here, as long as they left within twenty-four hours of first entering.

If they didn’t, they too would be stuck with the curse.

The reason Kemp, myself, and millions of others lived deeply underground was because eons ago, our ancestors had been cursed to live with the sins of every kill they’d ever made. That curse ran through the bloodlines, affecting every descendant they had.  

My entire body was covered in marks, anything from knives to swords, to small bottles of poison. If up top in the sunlight, those marks lit up golden and burned us to death.

Not only that, I had a knife mark on my throat. One of my ancestors had slit someone’s throat. In the sunlight, I could feel that knife slicing into my skin and bones, only a thousand times worse.

Same for the hundreds of other marks on my body. Sunlight killed us. So, we stayed underground. Not many knew about us. We made sure of that. People often killed what they didn’t understand.

That didn’t include Twist and Niche, though. Yes, they were from Blazing. But they were our friends. They’d helped us out of some sticky situations before.

Same for Xavier and Leah. They weren’t with us tonight because they were off at a spade tournament. That’s what they did for a living.

“We should have played for money,” Niche said. “That would’ve given us an incentive to win.”

Niche stood five feet seven, same as Twist. They were different, though. Where Twist was nothing but skin and bones, Niche was stocky, like he worked out every day. Both had dark olive skin, but Twist had piercings covering his face, ears, and hands. Niche’s skin was untouched.

Twist had dark green hair with red highlights. He also had brown eyes. Niche’s hair was black, his eyes silver. Twist’s family was originally from China. Niche’s family had come from Thailand a few generations ago.

Kemp and my family were both from Cave Town, but we too were different. I stood around five-foot-six with light brown skin and dark black hair that flowed down my back.

Kemp stood around six feet. He had pale skin and very blond hair. We were different, but we were bonded by the curse that connected everyone living in Cajun. Kemp and I had been together for years, though we still kept separate residences.

“Let’s put some money on the line, then,” Kemp said, reaching for his wallet. I watched him with a smile. Kemp always seemed to open up so much when Niche and Twist were around. “Do you want Cajun money or Blazing money?” he asked.

Twist blew wind out his mouth, shaking my windows and tables. “Either. I like shopping in Cajun. We can’t get those qelesh lights anywhere else. You guys have unique items down here.”

Qelesh lights were made at a factory in River City. River City was like New York or Paris down here. It held all the hip shops and cool clubs.

Qelesh lights gave off different types of energy and emitted a three-dimensional glow. They came in different colors that often emulated the owner’s emotions.

Cajun, the network of underground caves we lived in, stretched for thousands of miles in all directions. Unless someone told you, you wouldn’t know you were in a cave.

We had schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and shopping centers. We had sunlight and grass. River City was surrounded by the sea. None of this was normal for an underground cave. The curse took many things away, but it gave a few things back.

My doorbell rang and I hopped up to get it. We even had pizza delivery services down here, something that’d surprised both Niche and Twist when they’d first found out.

If we wanted to go up top, we had pills called sunshine. They allowed us three hours in the sun without it burning us alive. Kemp and I both had one in our system now because we’d been in Blazing with Niche and Twist before coming back here.

I grabbed Twist’s money out of his hand, ignoring his startled “Hey!”

I swung the door open with a smile on my face, cash in hand, only to duck when fire came flying toward my head.

What the? My adrenaline kicked in, and I waved a hand toward the kitchen, teleporting myself, Kemp, Twist, and Niche on the street in front of my house.

I wasn’t running. I just didn’t want my house burned down. At least twenty men and women stood in front of us. Some held static bats. Static bats were covered in barbed wire and carried an electric charge.

They sent thousands of volts of electricity coursing through your body. Some of the men and women had static skin, while others hurled fireballs.

Apparently, I’d pissed someone off and they’d sent their soldiers to attack me. Who? I didn’t know. I’d fought against a lot of powerful people lately.  

Particularly down here in Cajun. I’d recently run afoul of the biggest criminal organization around. They were called The Gentlemen. They were run by a husband-and-wife team, Jack and Kinka.

They were ruthless, cutthroat, and showed no mercy. I’d recently taken out a few of their top lieutenants. I thought I’d settled that debt with them, though. Hmm. Maybe I’d been wrong to think it was over.

Sweat dripped down my brow. Damn, I hoped it wasn’t The Gentlemen. There was nowhere in Cajun I could hide from them and none of us could live in Blazing so…

A tall dude with long blue hair raised a static fist at me. I teleported his head from his shoulders. Now wasn’t the time to fuck around. If these twenty failed, then even more would be sent. Of that I was sure.

I ducked a bat aiming for my head. I needed time to regroup, to figure out what I was dealing with and who was after me.

A guy threw fire straight at Niche’s chest. Niche tumbled to the side, did a handstand to break his fall, then flexed his fingers, blowing the guy up. One swung a static bat at his head. Niche back flipped out of the way, then blinked. The guy blew to pieces, chunks of him everywhere.

Twist started to spin, whipping up hurricane force wind. He gathered three of the ones with static skin in his gust, spinning and turning them so fast, limbs and body parts rapidly dropped to the ground.

The air blinked. When it cleared, Kemp had used his superspeed to take out five more. We continued fighting like that until none were left, then I teleported the four of us up top to Tajan city.

Tajan city was like stepping into another universe. The people here lived by a different set of rules and laws. Tajan city was nothing but gambling houses, gambling parks, gambling clubs, and casinos.

Everything here was about gambling and Twist along with Niche co-owned the north and south part of this town. Twist had a whole floor for his office. I teleported us into one of the rooms he used as a conference space.

We took a moment to catch our breaths before anyone spoke. This particular conference room was as big as a gym, with comfortable couches, a full-size kitchen, slot machines, and multiple TVs.

Twist kept the fridge here fully stocked. He grabbed four bottles of water and passed them around.

I opened mine and gulped it down, my mind frantically searching for reasons someone would attack me in my home. It was someone who knew about Cave Town. Someone who knew about Cajun. I knew they weren’t from Cajun because their skin hadn’t been marked. Someone had sent them.

My hand went to my pocket. We only had two hours left on that sunlight pill, but the closer it got to wearing off, the more painful the effects of the sun would be. We had to move fast. We had to…

A hand landed on my shoulder. I gazed up to see Kemp looking down at me, concern lacing his eyes. “You okay?” he asked, voice hard and rumbling.

I wiped sweat off my face, trying to regain my composure. Since my cousin Jonas had been killed a few years ago, my home had been a safe space. A spot where I knew nothing bad could hurt me.

That peace had been shattered now, but it did narrow down the suspects. Not many knew about Cave Town. Someone who lived in Cajun must have sent them. At least I thought so, anyway.

“I’ll be fine,” I said to Kemp’s knowing eyes. “Just trying to work it out in my head.”

Niche’s office was on the floor above us, but he seemed to spend a lot of time here. He kicked off his shoes and dropped down on one of the couches, making himself at home.

He seemed very comfortable, like he fit with all the spaces around him. “What about those Gentlemen?” he asked, sucking down a bottle of water. “Think they want revenge after so many months?”

I took a seat on the opposite couch, Kemp right beside me. His presence was like a beacon to me, something I couldn’t do without. I’d be lost if he was no longer around.

Twist wiped down a few chairs and dusted off some of the furniture in the room. The place was already spotless. Leah and a few others co-owned this place with Twist and Niche. Leah made sure a cleaning crew took care of their offices every night.

Twist was just burning off excess energy and trying to come up with a plan. I knew him well enough to realize moving around was the best way for him to stimulate his mind. Or at least that’s how it seemed, anyway.

I’d cooled down by now. I still found myself wiping my face looking for sweat, though. There was no need. The air here was refreshing, like an ice-cold drink on a scorching day.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s The Gentlemen,” I said to answer Niche’s question. Honestly, it could be anyone I’d crossed lately. That was a long list of people. I groaned to myself, thinking about it. I really did have a spectacular ability for pissing people off.

Twist put down his dust rag and turned my way, eyes lighting up like he had an idea and wasn’t sure why he hadn’t thought of it before now. “I’m calling Xavier!” Xavier also co-owned this place with them.

Twist whipped his phone out and plopped down next to Niche on the couch.

He seemed really pleased with himself. Niche threw an arm around Twist’s shoulders and began texting on his own phone.

I didn’t say anything to Twist. For some reason he seemed to worship the ground Xavier walked on. To him, there was nothing Xavier didn’t know, no problem he couldn’t solve.

Xavier did seem to be a walking fount of knowledge, though. He knew everything about everyone. He’d known about Cave Town and had even visited a few times before Leah or Twist had ever stepped foot down there. When I thought about it, calling him didn’t seem like such a bad idea. If anyone could find answers, it’d be him.

Xavier’s office was a couple of floors down from Twist’s, but I knew he and Leah were at a tournament right now. From my recollection, the tournament was in Leah, Twist, and Niche’s hometown, which was only about twenty miles away.

Kemp ran a soothing thumb over my hand in a circular pattern. His jaw was tight, eyes hard. That meant he was thinking up ways to resolve this.

Back in Cave Town, I owned my own shop. I sold many of my custom-made clothes, lotions, jewelry, and oils there. I also had a side business of teleporting people up top, then back home again.

Kemp would superspeed people from Cajun up top in his spare time. He did this to make money on the side. He also scouted raw material from faraway places. With his speed, he could get to his destination, gather the material, and make something spectacular in a matter of minutes.

Many of the factories in River city bought supplies from him, including the one that produced the qelesh lights. But Kemp liked to work with his hands, he liked to create new things. It wasn’t uncommon for him to create something wholly new and then sell the patent to one of the factories.

He also made liquor, coming up with new flavors and ingredients all the time. His most famous liquor was Sule. Most of the items that went into making it were ten thousand miles away.

That’s what made the flavor so unique. The combination of ingredients was something that couldn’t be replicated. People drank Sule up top in Blazing, and down below in Cajun.

Since he was good at formulating things and putting them together, I was sure he was working on a few scenarios in his head. “Have you called Shia yet? See if her shop’s been hit again?” he asked.

That was a good idea! I pulled out my phone and dialed Shia on her cell. Shia owned one of the hottest clothing and accessories shops in River City. Even though I owned my own store in Cave Town, I still sold a lot of my product out of Shia’s shop.

The last time The Gentlemen had been after me, they’d broken into Shia’s shop and stolen all my merchandise. If her store had been hit again, it was The Gentlemen we were dealing with. It had to be.
We talked about new products for a few minutes and then I told her how I’d been attacked in my home.

“All good here,” she said. She sounded worried for me. “I haven’t heard anything, but I’ll see what I can find out,” she promised.

I hung up the phone. It rang a few moments later. I looked at the number and held in a groan. It was my mom. Oh shit. Cave Town was big, but still small enough for word to travel fast.

The second the fight started in the street, my neighbors would have alerted my parents to the situation. I let out a sigh. Right now, I felt like the worst daughter in the world. My parents had to be worried sick.

I should have called them when we’d first arrived here, but my mind had been spinning in a thousand different directions at the time. “I’m okay,” I said when I answered the phone. “I’m in Blazing for now. I’ll get this sorted out.”

“Okay,” my mom said, and I could almost see her nodding on the other end of the line. “Be careful, Celeste. Call me if you need to,” she said before hanging up.

We lived in a tough world. My mom had fought her own share of battles. She knew what this life was, and she didn’t get bogged down by it. She wanted me safe at all times. But we didn’t live in a world where that was always possible. This was life, and we’d learned to live with it.

“Leah and Xavier… Their phones are off,” Twist said from his place on the couch. “That’s a rule in most tournaments.”

“I’ve got Shia looking into it,” I said. “We’ll see what she can find out.”

“Kandy and Speed are also on the way,” Niche said, throwing a couple of grapes in his mouth. He bit down on them, then transferred a few into Twist’s mouth, for safekeeping, I guessed.

“Good,” I said. “I’ll take whatever help I can get.” Speed was Leah’s brother and Niche’s best friend. He also co-owned the business with them,  and their other sister, Tisha.

Tajan city was calm compared to how it used to be. When different fractions had been grappling for control, this place had been a war zone.

Kandy had fought with cruel indifference and viciousness. She’d claimed the east side as her own and the trail of bodies she’d accumulated in her quest for dominance had been uncountable.

The west side of town was controlled by Barker and Reef or as everyone called them, The Rebels. They were a brother and sister team, Mexican-American. Like Kandy, they were smart and cunning. They’d been relentless in their assault on the other factions and hadn’t yielded until the west side had become theirs alone.

Barker and Reef had been the youngest two fighting for control. For that reason, they’d been underestimated and taken for granted. They were ruthless, though, and had claimed respect from some of the most hardened men and women in the business before it was all over.

I’d only met them a few times, but I wondered what they knew. Tajan was a gambling hub. The entire city was one big gambling spot. People traveled from hundreds of miles away just to spend the day here. When they gambled, they drank, and when they drank, they talked, letting precious bits of information slip out.

That’s why I hoped Kandy or maybe The Rebels had heard something that could help us.

Niche’s phone pinged, indicating a new text. He looked at his phone and nodded like he’d been expecting as much. “Kandy and Speed said to come to them. They said be careful. Some dude just lost a few hundred thousand dollars. He and his friends are looking for a fight.”

I nodded and stood. Tajan city could be rough, I knew. We’d probably have to fight, whether we ran into the group Kandy and Speed spoke of or a different group altogether.

I could have teleported us there, but teleporting took energy. With the sunshine pill rapidly leaving my body, I wanted to hold on to as much strength as I could. It might come in handy later.

I just hoped we made it to Kandy’s place in one piece. That wasn’t always promised when you walked through the streets of Tajan.

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