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Io and Zayn had entered the city on foot just after sundown.
The troll at the gate, assuming them to be human, had
collected their money with his prehensile toes and had them
stick their hands in the shallow basin so they could receive
their twelve-hour visitors' spells.
Zayn had drawn an amazing voice that allowed him to sing
anything within the human range of hearing. It also allowed
him to enchant weak-willed women-as if he needed any help
Io, her eyes temporarily hidden under masking contacts, had
drawn a more useless spell. She was able to turn things blue.
Admittedly, under less serious circumstances, she might have
enjoyed this talent and had some fun with it. But in their
present situation, she didn't see that this was a particularly
useful ability, though she supposed that it would make a
convenient explanation for her eyes, if she werequestioned at
The spells might seem useless, but the good news was that she
and Zayn would be able to keep their magic gift for however
long they remained in Goblin Town. Because of their quasi-fey
blood, the twelve-hour magical limit didn't apply. And all
enchantment and spells were good because they could often be
shaped or combined with other kinds of power to make useful
tools. Io's mother had taught her the art of spell
recombinance when she was young.
As per Xanthe's suggestion, she and Zayn were both wearing
leather. Zayn's shirt was lower cut, but Io's heels were
higher, her skirt short, and her corset more tightly laced.
She knew that she looked hot; a fact that made her both
pleased but also a bit queasy.
Time was short, but she was really hoping that they didn't
meet up with Jack Frost right away. She needed a night to get
accustomed to the idea that she was supposed to be a sexual
lure for the probably fey mercenary. It was a flattering but
ill deserved confidence of Xanthe's that she could play this
role without any practice.
The Madhouse, a structure that was badly bent and designed to
look like a prison ruin, certainly lived up to its name. It
was a great place for those with a taste for architectural
decay. Io didn't mind the urban gothic look, but she didn't
like the appearance of the iron bars that covered the tiny
windows. They seemed entirely too functional.
Io had heard that they went through fifty thousand a night in
booze alone when Hille and SEXXX played. Probably as much
money changed hands for the purchase of things less legal. She
could easily believe that fortunes traded hands there every
Saturday night, the band wasn't even on stage yet and the
crowd was already flying.
Lighting was uniformly lurid inside the gothic horror and
allowed everyone to look equally terrible. It was a great
equalizer in the cross-species meat market. Judging the actual
size of the multitude gathered there was impossible, but it
Talking to Zayn was out of the question, even if he had been
inclined to speak with her. But they had agreed before
entering the club to split up once inside. He was going to
collect gossip from the ladies, and Io spells. There was a
good chance that with people so inebriated, they would not be
able to hold on to their rented magic, and she might be able
to acquire something more useful than her solo blue crayon
Her contacts were gone along with Zayn's. His fractal green
eyes needed to be visible for him to work his charm. It
wouldn't be a problem. His peculiarities were subtle and
wouldn't be noticed in the strobing light.
The ocular masks had served their purpose in deceiving the
toll-taker at the city gate, but now she was supposed to be
seen and known for being something otherworldly. She was
supposed to attract Jack Frost's attention. But she felt very
naked, being in public without her habitual disguise. Her eyes
could attract more than Jack Frost, and she didn't really
trust Zayn to keep her safe if it interfered with the goals of
Time to go.
Taking a deep breath, Io used her borrowed magic to make her
eyes ever brighter. She knew she had reached the right level
of magic when people began to turn their heads and stare at
her. The odd goblin hand even snaked out to touch her exposed
arms and give her the small, sharp pinches that passed for
compliments among their kind.
The crowd was multi-colored, multi-specied, and either
ecstatic or terrified to lunacy about what was to come.
Excitement ran through the room. But it wasn't natural. Nerves
were being stimulated with drugs, some taken voluntarily, but
many probably not. It was entirely possible that something was
being pumped in through the ornamental iron grates that
covered the air-conditioning outlets. Madness was drifting
merrily through the hazy air, and it wasn't man-made.
In an odd way, though she hated addicts, Io found the notion
of drugs reassuring. It would have been far worse to have
walked into a room humming with magic-big magic, not the
little bits and pieces left lying about by drunken revelers.
That kind of raw power was dangerous in crowds. It could cause
riots and other explosions.
Io pressed between the partiers who were gearing up for their
two-and-half-hour orgy. Everywhere there was leather, braided,
pierced and wrapped. Cokeheads, potheads, and poor souls
addicted to worse things, and they'd all come to party down in
Io absorbed pieces of spells as she passed: for lighting
candles, for making showers of rose petals, for being able to
smell like peanut butter.
She was halfway to the raised arena, with her eye on Zayn, who
was rubbing up against a tall goblin female, when SEXXX
finally took the stage.
Lights began to strobe at a frantic number of pulses per
second, and Io's optic nerves and eardrums started to vibrate
under the assault of new light and sound. For a moment she
felt a jolt of vertigo and realized that a wave of something
unnatural had passed through the room, carried on the sound
that crested through the dancing masses. If it was a drug,
then it was something cooked up by a magical being. She was
profoundly grateful for the hidden nose filters and her own
natural resistance to unnatural forms of magic.
SEXX wasn't into auditory discretion. They were loud,
offensive, and in Io's opinion, strong contenders for an award
for the worst din ever created outside of the battlefield.
Hille's voice seemed one long atonal shriek that was able to
drown out the electrical guitars being plucked by long goblin
teeth, fingers and toes.
But it had a beat, the bass and drums, something primal. They
pounded like a runner's heart, and as the song progressed and
listeners were drawn deeper into the veins of the music, the
staccato beat became a frantic tremble of heart filled with
terror, perhaps the failing organ of some giant running for
his life. It plucked at the brain and tried to suck the
listener in. People began to succumb, their eyes glazing over
as they went into a sort of seizure dance.
Io stopped moving, unable to get any closer to the stage and
the giant speakers that hurled dangerous sound her way.
Whatever was moving through the room was coming directly from
Hille and it was strong, probably too strong for her even with
her resistance to spells.
Io looked hard at Hille Bingel, wondering for the first time
who and what this creature really was.
She was tall for a goblin, very nearly human height. Her skin
was pallorous green, her hair and eyes goblin black. But she
was something more than just goblin-perhaps reptilian fey, and
maybe swamp witch. She had power, lots of it.
Io began to back away from the stage and the increasingly
violent gyrations of the frenzied SEXXX fans. She had only
taken a few steps when she ran into something in the crowd-it
wasn't anything that she could see, or smell or hear. But she
felt him. Him! Jack Frost. And he was fey, his dark magic
sparked over her skin in a way immediately recognizable and
alarming. It was natural magic-the kind she was vulnerable to.
"Jack?" she asked, goose bumps spilling down her arms, but he
had already pulled away.
Io turned and began to follow the magic trail, pushing for the
outside door when her arms were taken in a firm two-handed
grip. She spun about to look into the face of one of the club
She didn't know the troll's name, and couldn't very well ask
it with the noise whirling around them in a deafening tornado,
but she managed a smile and to raise a questioning brow.
He jerked his head toward a mirrored wall, and Io saw a small
door standing open with another zoot-suited bouncer with a
gray fedora waiting just inside the tunnel. His
double-breasted coat was open and revealed double holsters.
Apparently both sets of arms were right-handed.
Uneasy, Io nodded and allowed the troll to lead her toward the
mirrored door. Though she was not happy to be separated from
Zayn, it was a relief when the door finally swung closed and
the sound from the stage was mostly blocked.
The passageway led downhill and there were no windows for a
hundred feet. Finally there were a series of doors to break up
the stony monotony, but they didn't stop at any of them until
the tunnel reached its end.
There Troll One rapped on the thick wood panel, and hearing a
rasping grunt, pushed open the door. When she hesitated, Io
was gently propelled into what appeared to be the manager's
The sienna leather chair behind the desk turned about slowly
and a goblin she recognized from H.U.G.'s photo gallery of
rogues was sitting there, black eyes gleaming with suspicion.
His name was Glashtin. He was a weather goblin and had a
reputation for going berserk during storms and making them
worse, but was counted as relatively sane and safe the rest of
Io tried to take comfort in that fact as she embraced her
first speaking part and strove for an Oscar-level performance.
"You've been a bad little girl," the gruff voice said, as one
of his four arms pointed. "Sit down in that chair and explain
Io thought for a one moment about resisting, but realized that
it would be an extremely foolish thing to do. Trolls were
stupid and rather slow, but very strong. Besides, it would be
out of character for her assigned role to balk at seeing the
manager of the club.
Io took the appointed seat making sure that a maximum of thigh
showed as she allowed her leather skirt to creep up her legs.
"I don't know what you mean," she said in her breathiest voice
and made herself pout. "I haven't been bad ... yet."
Glashtin leaned back in his chair and folded one set of arms
around his barreled paunch. The others trimmed and lit a
cigar, which he puffed at methodically until the end glowed
red. His eyes were the coldest things she'd ever seen. He
might have been shaped like a bowling ball but Io wasn't even
remotely tempted to laugh at him.
"You know the rules. No magic for feys when they come into the
city. You lied to the gatekeeper. Someone might have to punish
you." Glashtin continued to smoke as his black eyes crawled
over her. Smoke dribbled out of his nostrils for a long time,
suggesting that his lung capacity was enormous. Even with the
nose breather, the smoke and fire made Io a little ill. "I
might even do it myself. I've got a little time right now."
This was probably sexual banter, but with goblins, you just
"I'm not fey," Io answered, trying not to shudder under the
The two trolls snorted, and in a fit of pique she considered
telling them that looked stupid wearing hats when their noses
stuck out farther than the brims.
"She's not fey!" Troll One said in the rough tongue, laughing
through his long nose.
"Not fey," Troll Two echoed.
Io pretended not to understand, preferring they go on thinking
her a typical mono-lingual American teen with a taste for
"No? Then how do you explain them bright blue peepers?"
"My eyes?" Io asked, and forced herself to giggle. "That's my
magic. I can make anything blue."
Glashtin blinked, the right eyelid slightly leading the left.
"Your magic? You mean your visitor spell."
"Yes. I can make things turn blue."
"Yeah ... well then." He thought for a moment. Making threats
against innocent guests wasn't good for business if word got
around. Still, he clearly had doubts about her, and Io
couldn't blame him-especially not if he was involved in
Horroban's skullduggery. The goblin warlord was not known for
being forgiving of those who erred in judgment. "I might
believe you, little girl, if you show me that what you say is
"Okay," Io agreed. "What shall I turn? I think it has to be
skin. I tried to make my drink blue, but it didn't work."
"Really?" he said slowly. "Toc, come here. Let the lady turn
something of yours blue."
Io felt something move up to her side and turned in her chair.
The nearest part of the crouching troll was his nose, a giant
spade of a thing that was nearly a foot long. It practically
touched her cheek. He was grinning at her with yellowed,
She was very glad that she couldn't smell anything because she
bet his breath could kill a buzzard at ten paces.
Io reached out with an extended finger and tapped the nose
less than gently, wondering even as she did it if she had lost
her mind. Trolls were known to be sensitive about the size of
Obligingly, the giant nose went blue from tip to brow bone, a
lovely shade of ultramarine that nearly matched her eyes.
Glashtin grunted and the other troll sucked in his breath and
muttered something beneath his foul breath before he began to
Toc pulled back and then hurried over to the funhouse mirror
mounted on the red-flocked wallpaper on the left wall.
"It's beautiful," he breathed, admiring himself.
"Can I have one too?" the other troll asked eagerly, changing
his mind about the fashion when his friend decided he liked
the color. Two added for good measure: "And some blue ears?"
"Sure," Io said, standing up. She moved slowly so that
Glashtin would have time to object to having his bouncers
turned into clowns if he wanted to.
The goblin watched her, but did nothing to interfere as she
touched the other troll's nose and then each ear. She was
careful to make them a little less vivid than Toc's had been.
A human's magic would begin to wane with so much rapid use.
Immediately, both trolls were busy looking at themselves in
the mirror, shoving one another out of the way and bickering
about which one had the handsomer nose.
"Can you make my teeth blue?" Toc asked, baring rows of his
"No, sorry," Io said hurriedly. "It only works on skin."
Seeing the trolls entertained, Io felt safe turning her back
on them and facing Glashtin. She thought about chiding him for
being a bad host and failing to offer her a drink, but decided
not to push her luck.
A more comprehensive glance at the room's other wall showed
her something alarming. There were a series of photos matted
and mounted in baroque frames, all of them showing Glashtin
with famous businessmen. Io made note of the faces. If these
men were not modified goblins then they were certainly goblin
sympathizers. Unfortunately, there were no photos that might
Unless he had been altered recently and replaced one of these
"So, little not-fey girl, why are you in Goblin Town?" The
question was neutral, but Io suspected that the goblin was
still suspicious of her. She had to admit that she had never
heard of anyone receiving this sort of magical gift when
entering the city. Still, that was the thing about
supernatural power, it didn't always make sense or obey rules
"I'm here to see Hille Bingels," Io said promptly, seating
herself on the goblin's desk. It made her feel a little ill,
but she forced herself to be flirtatious and crossed her legs
exposing a lot of skin. "I was hoping to get her autograph."
"Yeah?" Glashtin's eyes seemed glued to the crescent moon on
her inner thigh. "You got your souvenir book in your panties?"
"No." Io giggled again. "I thought maybe she would like to
Excerpted from Traveler
by Melanie Jackson
Copyright © 2003 by Melanie Jackson .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 11, 2009
I picked up this book from a library book sale and fell in love with the writing instantly. I grew up loving fantasy and mystery novels and as an adult became enamored with romance novels. To come across a wonderful author who combines three of my favorite genres into one is FANTASTIC!! Ms. Jackson makes me want to beleive in fairy tales again... Thank you for a wonderful read! I think I will read it again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2004
You may think the world is a dangerous place now, but just imagine if it was run by goblins who have infiltrated every power cell of society. In that world, humanity is reduced to little more than slaves, or worse. Those who remain free have united in Humans UnderGround or HUG. Their current mission is to keep the Goblin King out of the White House, and their best hope of doing that is for Io, a young half fey woman they rescued to infiltrate Motor City, the major Goblin stronghold. Io will need the help of Jack Frost, another half fey who is a master of death, and of love. ............................... Wielding borrowed magics, hiding behind disguises, they navigate the dangerous maze of the goblin world. One wrong move could cost them and all of humanity a price too great to pay. Yet, if they are successful, they have a future and a hope, both as race and individuals. Jack and Io have discovered that their greatest magic is love. ......................... ***** Whether you want fantasy, action, intrigue, romance, or fun, this book is for you. The Lutin Empire is a well crafted world, with logical rules and believeable characters. In some ways, it reminds me of Piers Anthony's complex worlds, or Laurell K Hamilton, in others, there is a bit of the Matrix. Either way, it's a wild ride, worth every page. *****Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2003
I think that this book shoes alot of romance between the two people. I think that with all the things that are going wrong was great it was a wounderful mistery on the bad person. I like it when they meet each other and the book was wounderful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Most people ridicule H.U.G. members as lunatic conspiracy buffs seeing the improbable. However, the members of the Humans Under Ground group know that though paranoid, they are right about nasty happenings. This time the threat is the goblins going after possession of the magical generator. Xanthe of H.U.G. believes the Motor City police too weak and ineffective to stop the goblins so she sends her disciple Io to end that potential problem.<P> Io meets the notorious Jack Frost in Goblin Town just beneath the Motor City. They are attracted to one another from the start, but she keeps her distance partially out of fear because he is a death fey. Still as they work on stopping the Goblins, whose plan is even more devious than Xanthe told Io, she and Jack fall in love, but first they must win the day against impossible probability and somehow stay alive doing this and that makes for even more impossible odds.<P> By page thirteen this reviewer began thinking of shutting down the novel and not critiquing it as it was impossible to follow. However, because of enjoying Melanie Jackson¿s previous romantic speculative fictions such as THE SELKIE and DOMINION, I decided to persevere for a few more chapters, but not past page fifty. Four hours later I had finished a fabulous romantic fantasy thriller. The story line needs a couple chapters to let the audience know this isn¿t Kansas, but once the alternate world is introduced the plot turns into an exciting other world fantasy thriller starring two delightful protagonists on a quest to save an unbelieving and unthankful world. Those fans that stay the course will relish this walk on Ms. Jackson¿s weird wild side.<P> Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.