Eamon: Queen of the Flightless Dragons, Book One by Martha Carr
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In this week's 1st Chapter we are sharing the the first 3 chapters of Eamon: Book 1 from Queen of the Flightless Dragons, an unreleased book by Martha Carr. On May 1st a kickstarter will launch for Eamon.
Title: Eamon: Queen of the Flightless Dragons, Book One
Author: Martha Carr
The acrid smell of melting pennies bubbled up in the small, enclosed space of the truck singeing the inside of Willow Jenkins’ nose. “Damn, did I leave a spell burning again?" The sound of a slow, lingering sizzle wafted up from the floor. The young woman glanced up at the traffic light, lifting her feet to jam her sneakers on the dashboard. No cars were behind her in the early morning light. Small favors.
Her fingers stayed curled around the oversized steering wheel as she quickly ran her options through her head.
The edge of her navy blue Ked easily flipped over the floor mat and revealed two pennies and a nickel fusing themselves to the metal frame of the truck. Part of the dark green floor mat had turned gooey. "What? When did I try that spell?" She let out a sigh as a crooked smile came over her face.
"Oh yeah, note to self. No more drinking when I feel sorry for myself." Her hazel eyes watered from the expanding odor as she racked her hungover brain. "It's a simple one, Willow, come on. A newbie witch can do it." She shook her hands and gripped the steering wheel again, a smile spreading across her face. "Exteritti, motus, vibrabit volumine." She felt the quiver of energy pass through her, spreading out in a luxurious wave. "Oh... yeah..." Her head rocked back for a second, eyes fluttering shut, her mouth open in a round O. It happened every time.
Willow jerked her head back and looked down. The metals had solidified.
"Works for me." She flipped the floor mat back in place and leaned out the window to see if anyone had caught a glimpse of a magical having a moment in plain view. A sense of relief passed through her. The streets were still quiet.
The light turned green, and she eased her foot onto the gas, swallowing hard. "Something's got to change."
The ungainly taco truck bounced into the large parking lot on Austin's East Side. Large grackles flew overhead, trailing the truck and settling on nearby power lines with a chorus of cawing that filled the air. Willow barely noticed, the birds seemed to always be everywhere. She drove across the wide lot to her space and cut the motor as it gently stopped swaying. No other trucks were there yet.
She crawled out of the cab in the front, sliding across the curling navy blue electrical tape, and walked around to the back, glancing up at the wide Texas sky streaked with red and purple.
"Never gets old," she whispered, pulling her long, brown hair into a loose ponytail. She tapped the brightly colored mural on the side of the truck for good luck, the grit rubbing against her fingers, and unlocked the back door. She was already reaching for her phone.
She took a few steps away, angling the name, Tony's Tacos into the picture and a slice of the early morning sky against the aqua blue and red truck.
At Chicon and 6th. Breakfast Tacos with fried avocado #best-tacosinaustin #startyourdayright #tonystacos. It only took her a second to add a small taco emoji and a little sparkle. Instagram always brought them running.
She momentarily caught sight of a blur of pale, honey-colored flesh and blue cotton as she was turning. At the same time, she registered the heavy press of something cold against her side, leaning against her favorite grey Wonder Woman t-shirt.
The voice was a whispered growl. "Don't turn. Let's do this the easy way."
Taller than me. Thin and wiry. White guy, bad breath. .45 caliber and nervous. I can take him.
Willow took a chance and glanced backward again, quickly taking in more details. Dark blue eyes, pinpoint pupils. Worse hangover than mine. Olive branch tattoo on his neck, general anger.
The robber grimaced and shoved her hard against the corner of the truck, her chin hitting the large, round metal studs. "Oof." Her phone clattered to the ground while her fist pushed against her belly, shoving her breath out in a short rush. She sucked air in through her teeth and focused, jamming her elbow back hard into his ribs. He loosened his hold on her, just enough to let Willow spin around and kick him, flat-footed against his shin.
She knew just the spot. He howled in pain and stepped back, his feet halfway over the grate of a round storm drain. The spell was already forming itself in her brain even as he lifted his gun toward the middle of her face.
"Ad metallum. Pulvis sunt pariter." Energy rolled through her, calming her down. She could feel the warmth spreading through to her ears.
She had misjudged him. His eyes were cold as his finger began to squeeze the trigger. "Not your first rodeo," she whispered. "Too much adrenaline."
The spell took hold and the grating under his feet instantly turned to sand, disappearing under his heels and shifting his weight. His arms flew up just as he fired, the bullet sailing over Willow's head. She didn't flinch, absorbed in watching him fall.
The look of surprise didn't leave his face, even as he disappeared into the sewer butt first, tucked in two like a taco. The gun had flown out of his hand, skittering across the blacktop.
Momentum carried him the rest of the way down, his elbow landing with a crack against the pavement. Willow finally flinched. "That had to hurt," she muttered.
"Irony is everywhere." Willow retrieved her phone, neatly dialing 911 with her thumb. She peered over the edge of the open drain.
"I'd like to report an attempted robbery. Parking lot by the construction at Chicon and 6th. Look for the Tony's Taco truck. No, the guy's still here. You'd better hurry." She hung up without giving any more details, crouching. "It's better for everybody if you stay down there. Your black and white Uber will be here any minute."
"You're a fucking witch! The devil! What was that shit you were mumbling?" He was holding his arm gingerly against his chest, sitting up in a few inches of murky water.
"Latin. I wasn't mumbling anything. You have the worst luck, dude."
Willow stood up and looked around again, smoothing the front of her t-shirt. She could hear sirens getting closer just as the first customers were jogging across 6th Street in the distance, headed in her direction. She looked down the opening at the thief, her hands on her hips. "I gotta get to work. Nothing like my breakfast tacos. It's the secret sauce."
She took two steps away from the opening, waving to the regulars who were getting closer even as a ripple of energy passed across the back of her neck. Her usual early warning system. She heard him stirring in the water behind her and turned back, already muttering, "Relaxat." But he was on her, surprising her with his speed and ease getting out of the hole in the ground.
His face was inches from hers, his foul warm breath taking up her personal space. It was one smooth movement that felt like he was asking her to dance. Instead, he was shoving a short, wide blade into her right side.
"Et relaxat requiem." The words spilled out of Willow's mouth as she stumbled back. The familiar wave of energy stirred at her feet but this time, it came roaring through her body, seeking out the injury, burning up and down her spine. Her arms flailed at her sides as a stream of purple light dribbled out of the wound. Glowing purple marbles bounced down her pant leg, crumbling the ground under her foot.
She rolled slowly backward toward the ground, her eyes still focused on the thief in front of her, even as her spell took hold, knocking him senseless with his eyes wide open, still on his feet. She started to lose consciousness and saw him hesitate, staring at the ground around her, a confused and startled look on his face.
"What? What is it?" Willow shook her head and tried to rise on one elbow, falling back hard against the blacktop. Her head lolled to one side, and she watched as the thief dropped the knife and took off running. He was still holding his arm gingerly against his chest as he pitched himself over the chain link fence that had always been more of a suggestion than a real deterrent.
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Sarky sniffed the air, lifting his scruffy chin. The sickly-sweet smell was distracting him. He stood on the prow of the broken ship that was docked at the bottom of a dry Texas river bed, turning his head into the wind.
Someone powerful was practicing magic.
"No, that can't be right." He smacked his lips together, wrinkling his nose and took a deep breath. "That has to be a power surge. Must be a dead magical. Too bad." No matter. He had already stolen enough power to make another jump.
He lifted his boot off the crumbling wood, sprinkling dark blue paint chips along the weathered floor. "Time to get out of here." He ran through his checklist. "Jeans, Witherscape t-shirt, leather jacket, John Wayne keychain for good luck. Next prison on the list. Check, check, double checked." He lifted the edge of the t-shirt and pressed on the edge of the newly tattooed fractal on his tight abdomen. "Another dead end," he said, lifting the shirt higher to look at the trail of tattoos.
The battered trumpet lay at his feet, dotted with the blue dust. Sarky brushed it off, shaking it upside down. The old instrument was his favorite keyhole, even after all these years. A lot better than the toaster that had banged him around, every time. "Maybe if it had been a four slice," he said, running his hand through thick dark hair that never quite sat down on his head.
He put both hands on the valve casing with the metal bell pointing toward his head. "Let this be the right one." It was the same short prayer, every time. He let his energy connect with the keyhole, holding his breath. This was his least favorite part of a jump and always left him feeling woozy on the other side. Not the best idea when landing at alien outposts.
"Oof." The breath was pushed out of his lungs. Step one.
Relax. It goes easier if you relax. Fuck...
There was a tug just at the base of his spine before he was whipped around and pulled into the opening.
The trumpet dropped to the floor with a bang, rolling to one side, where it would stay till he got back from his trip.
Willow turned her head back toward the wide-open parking lot and blinked hard, trying to focus on something to stay awake. "Here they come," she mumbled, shifting her hips to try and alleviate the pain. "Nothing is ready."
The young witch lifted her shoulders off the ground in an effort to rise but flopped back, banging her head. Everything was getting hazy and purple dots of light were flickering in front of her face.
"Start the grill, chop lettuce, get out the salsa and the — and the." She ran the morning checklist, faltering easily, her mind wandering back to the burning on her side.
She could see a clot of early morning regulars jogging toward her from the far side of the lot, yelling and pulling out their phones. Her hand went up in an attempt to assure them but she was immediately distracted by the purple goo clinging to her fingers. "Something is wrong." The words slid out bunched up together. She tried raising her head and yelling, "Something is wrong," but she couldn't be sure she had actually said anything.
"Cura te ipsum." It was another simple spell any witch would learn the first time she skinned a knee and wanted quick relief.
A warm glow began to spread across her chest turning her skin a bright pink. A wilted dandelion pressing against her thigh raised what was left of its petals. Reborn for just a moment. But the magic sputtered out the closer it crept down toward the wound. "Cura te ipsum," said Willow with more force, with the same weak response. "I am fucked," she whispered, the pain spiraling in circular waves across the center of her body.
A yellow Jeep caught her eye as it came barreling over the curb, cutting off the cluster of people still in the distance running toward Willow, bouncing onto the blacktop. She moved her head slightly, determined to get a better angle. The Jeep stopped with a squeal of tires only a few feet away, blocking her view of events. Flecks of gravel sprayed down Willow's leg, nicking her ankle. "Son of a bitch."
She peered underneath the car at a pair of dark brown pointy-toed boots that hit the pavement on the far side of the car and ran quickly around the front.
A tall young man with dark curly hair came to Willow's side and crouched, lifting her head into his lap in time for her to glimpse a purple light flicker and sputter over the wound. "We have to get moving. Willow, hang in there," he said.
"Hey, I know you," she said over the buzzing in her head. "You're the chorizo, potato, eggs and beans taco."
"Yeah, sometimes with spinach. Or you can call me Harry."
Willow could hear the others getting closer and tried to turn her head back to watch the approaching churning legs framed by the Jeep's tires. The wound in her side was busy throbbing rhythmically with her breath. "The regulars. They'll worry."
"They'll get over it," said Harry.
Her head was carefully laid back down on the ground and she looked up into Harry's dark blue eyes. He hesitated, brushing her hair off her face. "Thank you," she mumbled. Everything she wanted to do seemed to take forever. She watched as Harry quickly pulled off his faded leather jacket, covering her stomach from view. "No one can know," he whispered.
He ran the few steps to open the passenger side door and ran back, scooping up Willow's limp body and pulling her close to his chest. "No, no, no," she protested, pushing at his chest to stop him from moving her. The waves of pain were too much and she clawed at his face to let him know she was serious but he kept moving the few feet toward the waiting car.
"I think I'm in trouble," she wheezed, still hoping she was wrong.
She gurgled, earning a surprised look from Harry as she was shoved into the seat. She tried to give him a nod but it turned into a head bob and took all her effort to right herself back to where she could see out the window. The seatbelt was quickly pulled across her, and the door was closed till it clicked.
Protests rose up from the people finally nearing Tony's Taco truck.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"Where's he taking her?"
"The EMTs are almost here, dude."
All of it were echoes inside Willow's head.
Her eyes closed and opened several times as Harry made his way over to the driver's side. One of the larger regulars had made it all the way to the Jeep by then and was pounding on the hood with an arm covered in a mosaic of tattoos. "Wait for the ambo," the man yelled, his face reddening up to his hairline.
"Make sure someone locks the truck," yelled Harry, throwing the Jeep into reverse and twisting around to get a better look.
"The truck." Willow tried to turn her head out of concern for its well-being. Did I ever unlock it? The thought slipped away and she settled back, her head thudding softly against the head rest.
"Where are you taking her?" A woman in burgundy yoga pants and a puffy North Face vest was waving her arms while the woman next to her was filming Harry and Willow in the car with her phone in a matching burgundy floral case.
Willow raised a hand off her lap, still trying to help but she was out of words.
Harry ignored the pleas from the crowd and backed the car halfway across the parking lot before turning sharply to the left and heading over the sidewalk, bouncing once again back into the street. Willow slumped forward against the seatbelt, unable to right herself. Harry reached over and pushed her back against the seat, looking up at the rear view mirror.
"What is that?" Willow struggled against the seat belt.
"Sirens." The police cars were just pulling in with nothing left to rescue. No one to arrest. Grackles took flight, most of them following the Jeep, while others flew further east into the distance.
Willow turned her head to watch her rescuer.
"Come on, come on, come on," Harry said hurriedly. He was speeding down the street, steering with one hand, while digging around desperately in his jeans' pocket with the other, pulling out a smashed Kleenex and a wadded gum wrapper.
"Ooooooh." Willow let out a soft moan, wincing in pain as she fell toward the door. The jacket fell open and revealed a growing red stain across her shirt and the occasional flicker of purple. She looked down and startled, looking up at Harry. "I think the magic is leaking out of me."
"Fuck!" Harry kept glancing over, gunning the motor through a yellow light just as it turned red, ignoring the honking horns, still fumbling in his pocket.
Finally, his hand emerged with a small, round clay teapot lid. "Relax, you can do this."
Willow reached out putting her hand on Harry's arm, leaving a purple smear. "Hey chorizo guy."
"Are you okay?" Willow felt herself slide toward the door again, unable to stop herself. She kept her head turned toward Harry, still wondering how to help him.
Harry sucked in air through clenched teeth and held the breath for a moment, letting it out slowly. On the second breath, he held out the teapot lid, his arm shaking hard, and grimaced.
Willow felt her mind clear for a moment. Finally, something to focus on. "You're a magical," she whispered, surprised.
Blue sparks danced on the tips of his fingers, sizzling and popping. "That should do it," he said through clenched teeth. He mashed his hand against the wound in Willow's gut, ignoring the gurgling sound she was making and took in another deep breath, quickly steering around the car in front of him, narrowly missing the side mirror of a parked car.
His skull slammed back against the headrest, his cheeks shaking violently as he let out a low, painful growl.
Willow's eyes widened in surprise, a tear escaping down her cheek. "Holy shit that hurts." She pressed her back against the seat, squeezing her eyes shut to absorb the ricocheting misery. Images raced through her mind of someone else's memories as she fought to stay present. An older magical from a hundred years ago with a certain affinity for tea. Her head rocked back and her eyelids fluttered, her mouth open in a round O, the wave of magic passing through her and surprising Harry.
An electrical charge left Harry's body, making the veins stand out on the back of his hand and creating a spider web of snapping currents across the knife wound, slowing the blood loss. He leaned over to get another look at Willow's abdomen, still careening through traffic. "That should hold you just long enough."
"Long enough for what? Where are we going?" Willow tried to sit up straighter pushing her head against the window while leaning the other way, but got no where, blacking out for a second. "Hey," she said, trying to get her bearings. The wound in her side kept pecking at her for attention.
Harry ignored her questions and pushed the call button on the steering wheel. He waited for the beep, biting his lip and looking in the side mirror. No blue lights behind him. "Call Magical Illuminati." The phone rung twice as he tapped his fingers impatiently.
"Yeah?" asked the voice on the other end.
"It's Harry Case from the Arcane Arcana Store."
"Chorizo, eggs, and beans taco guy," mumbled Willow.
"You're that magical borrower. I've heard about you. Not exactly popular," said the voice on the other end. "I'm a busy nurse. What do you need?"
Harry ignored the dig. He knew other magicals were afraid of him. "I have a wounded magical. She's been stabbed."
"Good God," gasped the nurse. "Did anyone see? Is there anything we need to cover up?"
"No... shit!" Harry took the corner on a sharp turn, veering right. "No, no one saw the energy leaking out of her. I got there just in time."
"The thief saw it," said Willow, a buzzing growing louder in her head.
Harry frowned at her, shaking his head. "We're coming into Dell Seton over on Red River Street. Have a team ready. We're almost there."
"I'll get it done. But you don't get out of the car until you see our representative. No matter what," shouted the nurse before the line went dead.
The car whipped onto Red River Street turning into the Dell Seton Hospital parking lot and pulling under the cement canopy with the neon Emergency sign hanging off the front. Harry leaned forward, peering past Willow. "Where are they?"
Willow reached across, her hand batting at the steering wheel, still trying to help. "Hey!" she yelled. A mixture of bright red blood and purple goo oozed onto her shirt and she gasped in surprise, pushing her hand against her side. Still, she was unwilling to give up her goal.
She got off two short beeps before Harry could gingerly push her back. "Willow, stop," he said, panic evident in his voice. "An Illuminati will be here soon to help you. We have to be quiet and wait."
Willow fell back, sweat trickling down her neck from the exertion, looking out her window. "You're not supposed to park here. This won't end well."
"Least of our worries. It'll be okay."
She glanced back just in time to see Harry shoving the teapot lid deep into his pocket, wiping his forehead on his sleeve. "More trouble," she whispered.
Finally, a doctor in scrubs came striding toward the electric doors that opened with a soft whoosh as she neared them. Behind her were two nurses pushing an empty gurney. Harry lowered the window on the passenger side, pulling Willow toward him and propping her up. Willow was licking purple spittle off her lips and leaning her head on his shoulder. "You smell like honeysuckle," she said, attempting to breathe in deeply but she was suddenly stopped by the sharp pain.
The doctor held up her wrist showing a gold link bracelet with a camellia charm dangling from it. She gave it a shake and let it shimmer for a moment.
"My grandfather has one of —“ A wave of nausea came over Willow before she could finish the thought.
Harry gave a nod to the doctor and unlocked the door.
"We'll take her from here," said the doctor, leaning back a little from the window.
Harry pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes. "I'm not contagious."
"Nobody said you were. I heard you're a borrower, even worse. I need all the magic I've got. Can't afford to lend any to you." She shook her head, opening the car door and leaning in to pull Willow toward her. "Don't go getting sensitive. Just keep your hands where I can see them and let me do my damn job. You shouldn't be touching the girl."
"Woman," growled Willow tired of being moved, her head rolling in the other direction. The doctor's eyes widened in surprise. "You didn't tell me the magical was Willow Jenkins. Did you secure her wand?"
"What? I didn't think to... Shit. I didn't see a wand."
"You're a newbie, aren't you?" The doctor gave an exasperated sigh, waving the gurney over and gently pulling Willow toward her.
Harry scrambled in the car, searching the floor and Willow's pockets even as they were pulling the young witch out. He found the wand tucked into a pocket of her pants made especially for a long, narrow piece of nondescript wood, sliding it out. "It's here. We're good." Willow reached toward him, grasping for her wand.
The doctor flinched when Harry's hand brushed against the skin on the doctor's wrist. Harry recoiled, holding up his hands, the wand clutched in one of them.
"Mine," said Willow with as much force as she could muster. But no one was paying her any attention as she was lifted onto the gurney. She pulled in her legs trying to distribute the pain.
"It doesn't work like that." Harry scowled at the doctor. "You're safe."
"What do you want us to tell her about who rescued her?" The doctor absentmindedly scratched her wrist.
Willow lay back in a woozy haze, still watching Harry with fascination. "Goodbye taco guy." She lifted a few fingers and attempted a smile but another gurgle erupted and a few sticky, purple bubbles appeared on her lips.
"Don't tell her anything. She won't remember I was here. Let's leave it at that for now."
The doctor let out a brusque tsk and rested an arm on the top of the car. "Smart plan. You don't want her to know what kind of magical you are. I can dig it."
"I'm not as ashamed of myself as you'd like me to be. Just tell her the society arranged her rescue. That's close enough to the truth. Let me remain one of her loyal regulars."
Willow was taking it all in, willing herself to remember even as she was sinking into darkness.
The doctor went to close the door and turned back, her eyes narrowed. "Don't wait too long to tell her you like her. Life can be short, especially for our kind."
Willow let out a breathy, "Oof," as the wheels passed over the uneven sidewalk and into the hospital. Another wave of pain washed over her, curling her toes. "I think I'm in trouble," she said, finally letting go.
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