Authors: Eric Asher
Tags: #vampires, #demon, #civil war, #fairy, #fairies, #necromancer, #vesik
ERIC R. ASHER
Books by Eric R. Asher
Vesik, The Series:
The Steamborn Series:
Copyright © 2015 by Eric R. Asher
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the
express written permission of the publisher except for the use of
brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of
the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is
Produced by ReAnimus Press
Edited by Laura Matheson
Cover typography by Bookish Brunette Designs
Cover design ©
– Claudia McKinney
There is always hope in the shadows.
To all my readers, thank you.
Thank you to The Patrons of Death’s Door.
Thank you to my editor, Laura Matheson, who
found a great many comma splices, she didn’t find this one.
Eric R. Asher
It was the nightmares. That was the worst part of
having a million screaming voices inside my head, because they
weren’t really nightmares. They were the dreams and hopes of a
million lost souls. They took over what little sleep I could get,
replacing my thoughts with their own. Every night filled me with
visions of lives and homes and cities that no longer existed,
annihilated in Hern’s gambit. I could not escape them.
I left another dreamscape behind as my eyes flew
open. The pounding in my chest wasn’t my own fear, not really; it
was the fear of a father’s final moments as he watched a blinding
light swallow his family before the world went white.
I glanced up at the perilously stacked old books on
the table beside me. Foster sat on top of them, his brow furrowed
and his black and white Atlas moth wings slowly flexing behind
“It’s been weeks,” he said. “I thought it would get
better by now.”
“You didn’t tell me Cara was married to Glenn,
The fairy looked away.
“And don’t tell me he couldn’t have stopped it.” I
narrowed my eyes. “What did you expect me to do? Just forget it
happened? Just forget how half the people I trust with my life
conveniently forgot to mention their relation to Glenn?”
“I meant the nightmares,” Foster said, shifting on
his perch, “not the rise of Falias.”
I grimaced and leaned forward, rubbing my eyes with
the palms of my hands.
“Have you found anything in the older texts?” he
“No. I’ve been trying to find a way to free Vicky
before … you know.”
“You might need to help yourself before you can help
her. How can you think clearly if you have a thousand voices in
your head at once, and no sleep?”
I reached out and dragged the Black Book across the
oak coffee table. It was an old tome, dripping with forbidden
things and rituals I wished I could un-see, but it also seemed the
most likely place to find out more about Vicky’s fate. Foster was
right, I wasn’t going to be sleeping any more, so I might as well
get more research done.
“I talked to Sam,” Foster said. “They still haven’t
found Vassili. There were traces of him in Phoenix, but the trail
I stared at the book.
“You can’t hide up here forever,” Foster said. “Mom
will be pissed if you don’t get over it soon.”
I looked up when the air moved beside me, and I
watched Foster glide down the aisle of books and vanish into the
stairwell. He was still my friend, goddammit. I just needed some
proof he wasn’t waiting to ambush me with something even more
dangerous than Cara had: Gwynn Ap Nudd, the Fae King, husband to
one of my grandfather-clock-dwelling fairies. Foster was her son,
and he hadn’t told me.
I ground my teeth and turned the page of the Black
Book. The text on the tanned parchment wavered for a moment before
coming back into focus. Several pages were like that, and each fell
after a passage about the Burning Lands. Every time it felt like I
was getting closer, a pale symbol marked one of those pages. Koda
thought it could be an old code, and possibly a map to a dark thing
known as the Book that Bleeds. That was months past, though, and
none of us had found mention of it. Not in the vampires’ archives,
not in my collection, not anywhere. Something was hidden inside
that tome, and if it could help Vicky, I had to figure out
I stood up and stretched after staring at the Black
Book for another hour, wrinkling my nose at the rather sharp
reminder that I hadn’t showered in two days. I stashed the Black
Book in a safe place: Zola’s old trunk with enough wards on it to
hide Irish whiskey from a fairy. Scrounging through a duffel bag on
the other leather chair in my reading nook turned up a clean shirt.
I let it fall open and laughed when the fangs and hollow sockets of
a vampire’s skull greeted me.
I changed shirts and slapped on some fresh deodorant
before walking to the other end of the room and starting down the
stairs. I’d stared at those books and manuscripts for weeks, and
still I couldn’t find a definitive way to free Vicky from her fate.
All I knew for sure was that I needed to find the devil who held
the contract, and burn them both to ash. For that, I’d need demons,
magic, and a hell of a lot of luck.
I had a demon who I called friend, and I had magic,
and … I tripped on the last step, flailed, and flopped onto a lumpy
green rug. The rug growled, shook its butt, and let me slam the
rest of the way to the floor. Bubbles gave me a put-upon look as
she shuffled away and vanished into the cu siths’ lair.
Food. I need food,
I thought as I pushed off
the floor. Even the cu siths were grumpy with all the tension
around the shop. Although it might have something to do with Peanut
being gone most nights to guard Ashley’s coven, too. I scooped up a
bag of Frank’s beef jerky and walked toward the front of the store,
glancing at the grandfather clock before pushing through the
“Morning,” Frank said, sorting the amber stones on
“Inventory?” I asked. I popped a chunk of fiery beef
jerky into my mouth and began to wonder if that was the best thing
to eat for breakfast.
Frank pushed a Frappuccino toward me. “Heard you
stomping around up there. Thought you could use one.”
I nodded and unscrewed the cap.
“We’re low on amber again,” Frank said. “I set up a
call with Robert. Took some talking to get him to agree to come
“Still worried about the military?”
Frank returned to sorting the amber. “What did he
“Robert?” I asked.
“Yeah, you’ve seen him when the police walk by the
windows, right? I saw that look on a dozen ex-cons back in the old
days. What did Robert ever do that he’d be afraid of a military
I frowned. “I don’t know, exactly, but Zola trusts
Frank looked up at me. “That’s a strong supporter,
yeah, but wouldn’t you like to know? We have enough shit to deal
with right now without something else blowing up.” He stacked the
gemstones into a little tray before carrying it across the
I spun the tablet around that Frank had insisted on
buying to track the inventory and looked over the numbers for the
month. I whistled at the bottom line.
“Things have picked up with the tourists,” Frank
said. “Not that you’d have noticed, with your head stuck in the
library all day.”
“I know. There’s a lot of research to be done.” I
needed to give Frank another raise.
“Why not head over to the Pit later? Vik won’t mind
if you use the archives.”
My gaze wandered to the back room and the grandfather
Because I want to keep an eye on things,
Really, though, it had been weeks, and the fairies hadn’t done
anything out of the ordinary. Maybe that’s what was bugging me,
wondering what would come next.
“I’m going down to Trailhead for lunch with Sam,”
Frank said. “You mind covering for me? Before you head down to the
“Not at all.”
Frank nodded to himself and slid the trays into the
display. “We need to restock the tourist items, if you’re up for
Frank picked his keys up off the counter and rattled
them a couple times in his palm before he walked toward the door.
He paused with his hand on the knob. “And Damian?”
He didn’t say any more until I looked at him.
“Work shit out with Foster before I kill you
The bell on the door jingled as he left.
I took a deep breath, watching his bald head bounce
by the front windows. “Don’t I know it,” I muttered. I lifted a
cardboard box of miscellaneous junk off the countertop and walked
to the tourist section.
It felt good, right even, to be stocking and
straightening the shelves again. I pulled a snow globe, of all
things, from the top shelf and frowned at the broken Gateway Arch
inside. We’d need to return that to the supplier. I shook the glass
orb and watched the silver pieces swirl around the cityscape,
clicking and tumbling as they went. A vision flashed through my
mind, a torrent of power unleashed by the Old Man and the Fae,
sending entire cities into oblivion. I shivered and my knuckles
whitened on the base of the globe. Falias had appeared in that
maelstrom, before the souls had swarmed Vicky and before I had
peeled them off her with my necromancy.
I was sure Happy would have let me know if he’d
learned anything new about Vicky, but I closed my eyes and pushed
my aura out anyway. The experience didn’t give me a sense of travel
like it used to. The slightest effort told me where the bear