On sale now from Fantastic Books is Release the Virgins!, edited by Michael A. Ventrella, and which includes stories by a bunch of nifty authors — and also me! I’ve got a Dragon Precinct story in the anthology called “The Midwinter of Our Discontent,” which takes place between Gryphon Precinct and the forthcoming Mermaid Precinct.
To tease you, here’s an excerpt from the story…………………
Excerpt from “The Midwinter of Our Discontent” by Keith R.A. DeCandido in Release the Virgins!
One of the guards assigned to Goblin Precinct—Danthres didn’t care enough to remember his name—was standing by the threshold. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but the acolytes won’t leave.”
Frowning, Danthres asked, “Acolytes?”
“Yeah, apparently the dead guy’s a high priest of something and these are his chief acolytes. They’ve been kneeling around the bed the whole time.”
“Fine, what about them?” She indicated the four women with her head.
“We can’t get them outta the room.” The guard pointed at one of the women’s hands. “See those bracelets? They’re like the ones on the prison barge.”
Peering more closely, Danthres noticed that all four women were wearing metal bracelets inscribed with runes. Prisoners who served their sentence in Manticore Precinct—the prison barge that sailed out in the Garamin Sea—wore similar bracelets. If the wearer left the confines of the barge, the bracelets became extremely heavy.
“These,” the guard said, “are magicked so that they can’t leave this room. The only one who can change it is Father Gribnel.”
“Who would be the body?” Danthres asked.
The guard nodded.
A flash of light, and then a short, squat figure appeared, wearing a black linen shirt that was too small on him and brown pants that were too big.
“I’m impressed, Boneen,” Danthres said as she blinked away the spots from her eyes from the effects of the Teleport Spell. “You usually just teleport away from a scene.”
“I usually don’t have to wade through snow. I will be very pleased when this wretched season passes.”
“Could be worse,” the guard said, “we could live in Barlin—winter there lasts several months, not just a couple weeks.”
Boneen pointedly ignored the guard, an action Danthres silently approved of, and instead asked, “Where is your partner?”
Danthres sighed. The plight of the partner in question, Lieutenant Torin ban Wyvald, was part of why she was so cranky. “Stuck in his house, as a snow drift has blocked the door and windows to the entire building.”
“Typical.” Boneen shook his head and reached into the pouch on his belt to remove the herbs he’d need to cast an Inanimate Residue Spell. As the magickal examiner assigned to the Castle Guard, one of his primary functions was to cast that “peel-back” spell, which showed what happened in a space in the past, to determine how a crime was committed. It was one of the most useful investigatory tools the Castle Guard had. “I’ll need all these people to leave.”
“We’ll need your help with that,” Danthres said. “These women are all wearing bracelets that keep them in the room.”
One of the women, a short blonde who looked like she had only just hit puberty, spoke up. “We been stuck in here for a week!”
“Yeah, we want out,” said one of the two redheads.
Boneen waddled over to one of the redheads and asked, “May I inspect the bracelets, please?”
She held out her arms and Boneen studied them. Then he let out a very long sigh, which did not encourage Danthres in the least.
“These bracelets are magicked in such a manner as to only be controlled by one person.”
Danthres pointed at the corpse. “Who is lying dead over there.”
“I assumed as much.” Another sigh. “I will need to break the connection.”
“And then you can cast the peel-back?” Danthres asked.
“I can attempt it, but if these women were here when the crime happened?” Boneen glanced at the four women.
The blonde shrugged. “We was asleep. We woke up, and Father Gribnel was all, y’know, dead.”
“Then I’m afraid the peel-back won’t work. The bracelets will interfere with it.”
“Wonderful,” Danthres muttered. “I hate magick.”
“I don’t like it, neither,” the blonde said.
An acolyte stood up. “The virgins would be silent!”
One of the redheads and the fourth, a woman with close-cropped black hair, both flinched and shrunk toward the wall. The other redhead just swallowed, while the blonde rolled her eyes.
Danthres stared at the acolyte. “Virgins?”
“Yes, of course.” The acolyte seemed confused by Danthres’s surprise. “Why else would they be dressed in white?”
The minutiae of fashion was something Danthres had never cared much about. She ignored the question and asked one of her own. “Why are you carting around four virgins and keeping them imprisoned?”
“They’re not imprisoned—”
“Are too!” the blonde said.
“Be silent!” another acolyte snapped.
“Everyone be silent!” Danthres shouted.
The brunette raised a braceleted hand. “Excuse me, but I need to pee.”
Danthres glanced over at the open doorway on the far side of the room, which led to the privy. The door had been removed from its hinges, she noted. “So go ahead, don’t let me stop you.”
“I can’t go when there are other people watching.”
Frowning, Danthres said, “You’ve been stuck in this room for a week, you said. What have you been doing?”
“Going when everyone’s asleep.”
“Then you should be used to holding it during the day.”
For more on the anthology, check out this hilarious music video by one of the contributors, Beth W. Patterson…..