I’m extremely pleased today to have two fabulous men of urban fantasy to introduce to you: D.B. Jackson and the hero from his new Thieftaker series, Ethan Kaille. Kat Richardson calls the series, “A beautiful balance of magic and crime, history and fantasy that was fast-paced, compelling, and completely absorbing. Historical fantasy that reads like an old-school crime novel, as if Raymond Chandler were channeling Jonathan Swift. I loved it!” I think this about says it all! Before I introduce Ethan Kaille, a few other things to report:
In honor of her upcoming Morganville Vampires release, BITTER BLOOD (coming November 6th), Rachel Caine has some really fun “Decision Morganville” campaign videos up on her website with more on the way. You might want to check them out…if you know what’s good for you.
Heroes and Heartbreakers is running contests with some fabulous prizes up on their sight, in honor of Halloween, including prize packs of books by Faith Hunter and books by Kalayna Price, Ilona Andrews and Karen Chance. There’s also a vampire prize pack. Enter soon for a chance to win!
Last, but certainly not least, the Crossroads Blog Tour is in full swing. Answer all the scavenger hunt questions correctly for a chance to win a Kindle pre-loaded with books by all of the participating authors. The full list of blogs, participants, etc., is here. If you’re looking for me, I’ve been up at Most-Wanted Monsters, Confessions of a Bookaholic, and Late Bloomer. Today, Christine Fonseca and I will be appearing on Mundie Moms, so check us out.
My name is Ethan Kaille. I am a thieftaker and conjurer. Perhaps you’ve heard my name.
As a thieftaker in Boston, I am accustomed to treating with the town’s less savory denizens. As a rival to the lovely and dangerous Sephira Pryce, the self-proclaimed “Empress of the South End,” I am also used to having my life threatened on a regular basis, either by Sephira herself, or by her toughs, Nigel, Nap, and Gordon (she employs others, but these are the three who harry me most often). And as a conjurer living among men and women who equate any form of spellmaking with devilry and witchcraft, I have reconciled myself to living in constant fear of discovery and execution.
Until today, though, I believed that I had witnessed all the wonders and terrors that the streets of Boston have to offer. I was wrong.
For today, Sephira Pryce summoned me to her home for a most unusual interview. I say summoned, because even Sephira’s most genteel invitations carry with them the thinly veiled threat of violence should her request be rebuffed. When I arrived at her home, Sephira invited me to sup with her. I ate a bit of her food and drank a glass of what I admit was an excellent Madeira wine, taking care to sample only those foods and drink she herself had taken. I am certain that the woman is not above poisoning a rival. Her toughs stood off to the side, saying little, but watching me, and making clear with their expressions that any misstep on my part would be rewarded with a beating.
After telling me how honored I should be to have been invited to her home, Sephira informed me that she had spoken with a time witch, a woman who could travel to another time and place and report on events there. I am familiar with many magicks, and have heard rumor of such powers, and so I was not as skeptical as you, dear reader, might expect.
But what Sephira told me next, did give me pause. It seems — according to the time witch — that tales of my rivalry with Sephira have been retold, and even committed to paper, by a writer working nearly two hundred and fifty years in the future. I received this news with a modicum of surprise and puzzlement. Why would the mundane concerns of two Boston thieftakers in the year 1765 be of interest to anyone living in so distant a future? I asked Sephira as much, and in doing so, inadvertently struck at the core of the matter, at least so far as she is concerned.
“Because of you,” she said, her mouth twisting, as if the words themselves tasted bitter on her tongue.
“Because of me?”
“Well, not you so much as your bloody magicking. It seems the readers of this so-called writer are fascinated by your conjurings. They see you as some sort of hero. Apparently they fail to grasp the fact that without your witchery you would be nothing, that it is by sheer good fortune and your conjuring tricks that you manage to make yourself any sort of ‘rival’ to me.”
“And this bothers you,” I said, not bothering to mask my amusement.
“Of course it bothers me!” she said, her eyes like daggers. “I am Sephira Pryce, Empress of the South End, and the most renowned and successful thieftaker this town has ever known. I am a friend to no less a personage than the Governor of the Province, not to mention representatives of the Crown here in Boston. And you . . .” She shook her head, her shining black curls shimmering in the candlelight. “You live in a room that is barely the size of my wardrobe, over a cooperage that stinks of sweat and smoke and stale leather. You earn in a year what I make in a fortnight. And somehow you are the hero?”
She reached for her goblet with a shaking hand, her cheeks flushed. But with a sip of wine and a moment’s silence, she appeared to compose herself. When she spoke again, it was in a calmer voice.
“I enjoy my fame, and I want for nothing. My . . . concerns about these erroneous accounts are more for the people of the future than for you and me. We both know what you are and what I am, but these others — they are being presented with a skewed vision of Boston and our time.”
I nodded, managing not to laugh at her vanity and her lies. “I see. And so what would you suggest we do about this?”
She considered me for several moments, her eyes narrowed. “To be honest, I had considered having you killed. That would have put an end to the problem. Except that this future writer would most likely have portrayed your murder as an act of petulance and jealousy on my part, which would serve only to make matters worse.”
“Yes, those nettlesome writers. Leave it to them to twist a simple killing into something unseemly.”
“Exactly,” she said. “So instead, we are going to try something else.”
I felt my stomach tightening. I had a feeling that whatever notion she had settled on would be little better than my murder. But even I was not prepared for what she said next.
“You, Ethan, are going to teach me to conjure.”
I gaped at her. “What?”
“That way we’ll be on equal footing, and those future readers who find your spells so fascinating will read with wonder of my exploits as well as yours.”
“I can’t teach you to conjure,” I said, shaking off my shock at her solution.
“Someone taught you.”
“Yes, my mother did. Just as her mother taught her. But I have conjuring blood in my veins. You don’t, Sephira. And without it, you can’t cast spells, no matter how much I teach you.”
“Nonsense. I don’t need different blood. I just need the knowledge that you already possess. If you can cast spells so can I. And you’re going to teach me how.” She shot a meaningful look at her men. “Or we’ll return to my first idea.”
I considered my options, and decided that I had few. “Very well,” I said. I picked up the fork from my place setting and dragged the tines across the back of my hand, making four parallel cuts in my skin. Blood welled from the wounds.
Sephira cried out. Her men lunged for me. But I spoke the spell too quickly.
“Dormite omnes, ex cruore evocatum!” Slumber, all of them, conjured from blood.
Her men fell to the floor in a brawny heap; Sephira slumped in her chair. They would awaken before long. But by then I would be safely away. I stood, drained a second cup of wine, and smiled.
“So ends your first and last lesson,” I said, and walked out.
D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, is now available; the second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, will be released next summer. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.