The hunter becomes the hunted.
Framed for the murder of a high ranking member of the Unseelie Court of Fae, Steve Dore-also known as Diomedes, Guardian and protector of mankind-goes on the run. He's determined to uncover the real culprit and clear his name.
But the assassination may be the beginning of a more sinister plot that involves not just the Fae and Humankind, but all the races of the world. And what if the real assassin is a boogeyman even the Fae don't believe is real?
|Publisher:||Red Adept Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Metis Files: Book Two
By Brian S. Leon
Red Adept Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Brian S. Leon
All rights reserved.
San Diego, September 2011
Selkies. Thirty-five miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean, and I'm dodging freakin' selkies in my fishing boat. It's like they're seagulls, and I'm dropping French fries at the beach. Man, do they screw up the fishing. Worse, when they appear, bad things tend to follow. And it's just my luck. Of all fae to show up randomly, it had to be these shape-shifters — the kind that could transform into seals and even into sea lions, which scare the crap out of the fish. Every pile of floating kelp we'd fished around so far had one of these fairies under it. Every kelp except the paddy right in front of the boat.
"Captain Dore, look! Another seal," the woman said, reaching for her camera.
And that selkie made it a perfect five for five.
I couldn't help but hang my head. My clients — a simple Midwestern family of Mom, Dad, and Teenage Son — considered it endearing to see a seal poke its head up from inside the kelp, but I could see their true bulbous heads, seaweed-like hair, and pudgy gray-green humanoid forms. Their giant, shiny-black eyes fixed on me as if they knew exactly who I was.
The creepy shape-shifters were part of the Unseelie Court — fairies that are decidedly unfriendly to humans — and the fact that we kept encountering them was starting to unnerve me. Encountering one in the Pacific was rare. In fact, I couldn't recall one off Southern California since an entire tribe of them showed up around Catalina Island in the 1980s. That appearance had led to a spate of unidentified submerged object and alien sightings, not to mention a few mysterious plane crashes around the island and a heap of sunken boats.
"Hey, what's that big fin?" the father asked, pointing at the rapidly approaching triangular object sticking out of the water and heading straight at the paddy from the opposite side.
"Shark," I said with a sudden smile. "Damn big one, too. Great white, from the looks of it. Rare for us down here in San Diego."
"Oh, swim, seal! Swim!" the mom said as all hell broke loose around the paddy.
"Wow, really," the kid said. "It's like a real National Geographic moment." He whipped out his phone to video the event.
I was the only one on the boat rooting for the shark. If they'd known what that shark was really chasing, they probably would have thought it was more like a National Enquirer moment.
Knowing the selkie-shark conflict would ruin the fishing within a mile of that paddy, I pushed farther out, always on the lookout for signs of life other than selkies. As long as we could avoid them, we found lots of small football-sized yellowfin tuna while we trolled, and I'd even managed to convince the anglers to release the little guys, in hopes of finding bigger ones. The small fish kept me blissfully busy until we made it back to the dock at around four in the afternoon — so busy, in fact, that I forgot about how screwy the presence of selkies was until I realized my buddy Ned was storming down the dock toward my boat as I pulled in.
As usual, Ned was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with colors usually reserved for Las Vegas neon. The fact that he resembled a derelict version of Santa Claus usually drew people's attention. It was either that or the fact that he always smelled like beer-soaked seaweed washed up on a beach. It could be worse given that Ned was in fact the Titan God of the Sea, Nereus, in self-imposed exile.
As I secured the boat to the dock, my cell phone, stashed inside my captain's bag within the console, chirped the unique ring my buddy Geek had helped me assign to Sarah Wright. I felt guilty for avoiding her over the past two weeks. Despite scrambling to reach the annoying device before the call went to voice mail, I wasn't quick enough. I tossed the phone on the console, thoroughly disgusted with my wishy-washy-ness regarding our relationship — or whatever we had. I was pretty sure we both wanted to take things to the next level, but I was conflicted about what that would mean for both of us since my situation wasn't exactly normal.
I'll call her back as soon as I can. I sighed, watching my three clients stumble off the boat, trying to adjust to sea legs on land after a full day on the water. They chatted excitedly about sharks and sea lions as they went. Ned stood down the dock, waiting, staring intently at me with his hands on his hips and one flip-flop-clad foot tapping away. The trio barely managed to get past him before he charged the boat.
"Diomedes, dude, glad to see you made it back okay." Ned's shoulders dropped a bit as he exhaled heavily. "Now get yer ass off the damn boat and back onto land." He dipped his head slightly and glared over his sunglasses at me, his brow deeply furrowed.
I stopped taking rods out of the rod racks under the gunwales and stared back at him. Something had him on edge, and that was saying something. Normally, he made people on Prozac appear edgy. In over a thousand years, I'd never seen him like this before.
"Now, dude. Now!" he said, raising his voice and gesticulating wildly.
The myriad of seagulls and pelicans gathered around the boat awaiting leftover bait and fish carcasses took off in a sudden deafening and chaotic commotion.
"Whoa. Relax, Ned. What's got your panties in a bunch?" I said, getting back to my after-charter chores. "Sheesh. Besides, I think the dad left a few beers if you want them."
Normally, Ned's first question to me would have involved the possible presence of abandoned beer. Instead, he fixed me with a withering stare. His hands were back on his hips, and his foot again tapped on the dock. When we'd first met a few thousand years before, he'd naturally emanated an aura of power. Though he'd since willingly given up most of his other-dimensional essence, the preternatural blue glow was now visible.
"Dude, which part of 'now' ain't you understandin'?" He spoke through a clenched jaw and pointed at the dock forcefully, like a parent demanding a child's immediate presence. Over his sunglasses, his eyes darted everywhere, keeping watch around us.
"Okay, okay," I said, eyeing my fish-slimed gear and all the sardine scales and scuff marks marring the deck. "Who's gonna clean all this up? You know if I let it sit, it'll be even harder to clean later."
"I'll take care of it," Ned replied. "Just get yer ass off the water. Right. Now."
"Fine." I kicked at my rods like a petulant child. "Let me get my damn gear bag, and I'll leave."
I grabbed my captain's bag and stormed down the dock in a huff, glaring at Ned. I didn't even bother to take off my grungy gray rubber fishing bibs. He avoided making eye contact as I passed him, which only pissed me off more. Instead, his eyes continued to dart around the marina. Whatever.
I got to my truck, threw my gear bag in the bed, then stripped off the rubber bibs. While hopping around on one leg like an idiot, trying to get the bibs off over my deck boots, I worked myself up from a huff to a tizzy. Who the hell did he think he was ordering me around like that? Athena? Throwing my bibs into the bed with the rest, I glanced over my shoulder, toward the dock.
Just as I was about to get into my truck, a more pressing question hit me: Why? Ned actually yelled at me. In over two millennia, I had never even witnessed him raise his voice. What'd I do to him?
I instantly felt like I owed him an apology, without even knowing what I'd done. I headed back down to the dock.
As I approached the top of the gangway, Ned was in a heated discussion with something in the water on the other side of the dock from my boat. I couldn't get a clear view of who or what Ned was talking with, or hear what was being said. The only things evident were the loud and freakish sea-lion-like barks and Ned's wild and very uncharacteristic gesticulations. Instinctively, I searched for something to use as a weapon — a boat hook was leaning against the fence next to the gate down to the dock.
Then a putty-colored round female head covered in thick yellow-green hair popped up just above the dock and peered directly at me. Ned noticed me, as well, and all at once, the creature disappeared below the water's surface, creating a wake that tossed the floating dock and rocked the boats tied up nearby. She was definitely one of the selkies I had encountered earlier offshore.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Ned shook his head and stomped toward me, which couldn't have been easy in flip-flops. His eyes were ablaze — literally. His awakened aura pulsed from white to blue like a lightning storm.
I shrugged and raised my eyebrows as his gaze fell on me. The temperature began to drop, and the water around the dock changed from a drab green to black and turned rough, as if it were about to boil. The disturbance bounced the moored boats against their bumpers and the dock, and the rigging on the sailboats began to clang. Even the remaining birds evacuated — only noiselessly.
"Boy, who did you piss off this time?" he said at me more than to me in a voice that reverberated through my skull. It wasn't loud, but it was insistent in its tone.
"I ... um ... I, ah ... what?" I asked, vapor trailing from my mouth in the cool air.
I couldn't recall having done anything to anybody since chasing down that witch, Medea, a few months back, and as far as I knew, everyone I could have pissed off doing that was dead.
Ned continued up the ramp from the dock toward me, somehow appearing larger than normal. His face, especially his eyes, darkened. "Don't play games with me. You got selkies chasin' yer ass all over the Pacific, and they had to travel around the world to get here to do it. Nytrocyon herself is here to find you." He pointed back down toward my boat. "She says Mab wants you. Says you killed Lord Indronivay."
"Nytrocyon, ruler of the selkies? Seriously?" My teeth started to chatter, and my jaw muscles clenched in the frigid air. "Wait ... she said I killed who? Lord Indronivay, Mab's warmaster? Are you kidding me? Why the hell would I have killed that uptight, belligerent asshole?" I'd never even met him, but his reputation as a jerk was legendary. Even as a Guardian and protector of humanity, I knew him only through stories that suggested he was a giant at nearly eight feet tall and was about as friendly as a shark with a toothache. All I really knew about him was that he personally ran every major war and military campaign Queen Mab of the Unseelie Court had waged for tens of thousands of years. Hell, the guy might have charged into battle against Queen Titania of the Seelie Court on the back of a triceratops.
"You're sayin' Nytrocyon is lying?" Ned's voice boomed through my head, shaking me back to attention.
I shrugged again. "Now why the hell would I do something like that? Honestly?"
Ned's shoulders dropped slightly, and his pulsing aura faded. Though his face brightened and his bushy beard and mustache split, revealing his white teeth in a broad smile, the rest of him remained rigid. "Good. I didn't think you were dumb enough to attack a member of one of the fairy royal courts. That'd be grounds for war. Only problem is then, dude"— he slowly slipped back into his normal relaxed and carefree persona —"you gotta ask yerself one question: why does she think you did?"CHAPTER 2
I couldn't fathom why someone would think I'd killed one of Queen Mab's retinue. While no one in my world would doubt the action if I actually had killed the guy during a war, they also should know I would never do such a thing without clear reason or cause.
I finally realized I had been clenching my jaw so hard that my teeth hurt. I crossed my arms. "Did they say how I killed him?"
"Naw, man. Just that the Unseelie Court has offered a bounty on yer head for the death of Lord Indronivay. But if you didn't do it, someone tried to make it appear like you did."
"A bounty? How much?" I asked.
"If it came from Mab and Nytrocyon herself is here, it ain't money, boy. She's got to be offerin' a personal favor."
"A favor from Mab? Yikes. But why me?" I'd had plenty of run-ins with all kinds of fae from both courts, not to mention hundreds of other types of Parans and Old Ones. It's been my job to protect humanity from all kinds of creatures and beings for nearly three and a half thousand years. But not once was I ever pre-emptive, let alone unprovoked.I only respond to threats. Anything else would be interpreted as an act of war by most of the nonhuman races of our world — especially the fae and the Unseelie Court.
"You got bigger problems right now than figgerin' out why you, dude. You got Unseelie bounty hunters lookin' fer you. If I was you, I'd get rollin' and fast, man."
"No kidding. Look, I need your help —"
He threw his hands up, palms out. "Nah, man. No can do. You know I can't get involved here. I'm neutral — beyond neutral. I'm nobody anymore, and I wanna stay that way. I mean, I might nudge the ocean conditions a little here and there, maybe get some free suds from fishermen and surfers, but you know I can't interfere with something like this. I've worked hard not to have any enemies anymore."
"You're kidding me, right? After all the crap we've been through? And now you can't get involved?" I said hoarsely, on the verge of shouting.
I'd known Ned since I saved him from a boatload of fishermen several thousand years ago. Sure, he'd never actually interceded in anything I did before, but he was always there to help a little if the situation called for it.
"I need to know more about the situation, and you can at least get information without getting involved, can't you, you —" I was about to throw in a nasty epithet but thought better of it.
"Get to yer car now, dude. Move it. I'll do whatever I can," he said, ripping his sunglasses off his face. His eyes narrowed as they tracked past me, out toward the parking area at the top of the boat ramp off to his right.
A massive shaggy green-furred dog sniffed the air in the middle of the parking lot on the other side of the tackle shop about two hundred feet away. It was a Cu Sith, a barrow hound of the Unseelie Court, and it was nearly the size of my truck. Thankfully, it appeared to be overwhelmed by the scents of low tide, rotting fish, and bird crap.
I shot Ned a quick wide-eyed glance and slowly but deliberately started toward my truck, fumbling for my keys. I briefly lost sight of the hound as I crossed behind the tackle shop, but the dog loosed three loud wails that had the intensity of sonic booms, shattering most of the windows around the showroom of the neighboring boat dealership.
His beard flowing over his shoulder, Ned walked with long strides in the direction of the Cu Sith. He waved me on without making eye contact, urging me to keep moving. Almost instantly, the smell of rotting seaweed overwhelmed me. The fetid odor was rife with the watery smell of vegetation mixed with putrefying meat.
I gagged but continued walking quickly toward my truck while Ned distracted it. My primary concern was getting away from whatever might be controlling the fairy dog while I was unarmed and ill prepared. Once I reached my truck, I could see Ned standing at the top of the boat ramp. Hands on hips, he watched the barrow hound try to relocate my scent amid the rotting seaweed smell that Ned produced. Screams erupted from the tackle shop as well as the hotel across the marina, followed by the sounds of glass shattering and something tossing around heavy objects on cement. As the hound swung its enormous head along the ground, occasionally lifting its nose to sniff the air, a second Cu Sith, just as large, bounded into the lot through the hotel's outdoor restaurant as people scrambled in every direction.
I got to my truck and took off down Ingraham Street toward my house without paying attention to the traffic lights. My home wasn't the safest place, but at least there, I had weapons and armor to defend myself. I wasn't worried about leaving Ned with those hounds. They weren't after him. I kept glancing in my rearview mirrors to see if I was being followed but saw nothing other than cars behind me by the time I got to the bridge over the San Diego River less than a mile down the road.
That was when I hit sudden traffic. Nothing was moving. Traffic around three or four in the afternoon on Point Loma was bad, but I had never seen anything this bad before. People were starting to get out of their cars to see what was going on. The traffic lights up ahead were out, but I didn't see any accidents or hear any sirens. In fact, I wasn't hearing any noises other than the cars around me — not even jets at the downtown airport on the other side of Point Loma.
Excerpted from Chaos Unbound by Brian S. Leon. Copyright © 2016 Brian S. Leon. Excerpted by permission of Red Adept Publishing, LLC.
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