Writers of the Future grand prize winner Randy Henderson presents a darkly funny and quirky urban fantasy with Finn Fancy Necromancy, book one in his Familia Arcana series.
Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years. But now that he's free, someoneprobably the same someoneis trying to get him sent back. Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers. They are going to be very hard to convince, since he's already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.
But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he's a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic. And he's got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn't really believe in Finn's innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.
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Finn Fancy Necromancy
By Randall Scott Henderson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Randall Scott Henderson
All rights reserved.
I'm Not the Man I Used to Be
It took all my self-control not to push my Fey warden to move faster along the glowing path toward freedom. We were like a couple of floating melted gummy bears made of unicorn snot and dreams, gliding lazily through the fractal rainbow landscape of the Other Realm. Twenty-five years, that's how long the Arcana Ruling Council had exiled my spirit to the Other Realm without true physical sensation, without access to other people, to real music or any of the things that make our world so awesome. Exiled from my body and my life since 1986 for a crime I didn't commit. But my sentence was over at last.
When I get back, I projected at the warden, I'm never touching magic again, even if my family begs. Just going to find my girlfriend and live like a mundane.
The warden didn't respond. I was really just talking to myself anyway, nervous that the Fey would somehow yank away my freedom at the last minute.
We reached a raised platform of violet light where a second blobby warden and exile floated nearby, faced away from us. Though we were all in the bodies of unshaped Fey, I could sense the spiritual resonance of the other exile as being human, and male.
My warden raised a handlike glob, and the air in front of me rippled.
A portal opened up, an oval window to my world, good ole Earth version mine. Beyond shimmered a beach, the Washington State variety with the freezing gray Pacific Ocean lapping a shoreline of pebbles and driftwood, all kissed orange by the setting sun. Just seeing those shapes and colors without having to manifest them from my own memory was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Actually, it caused butterflies to leak from the jewel-like lights that floated in the blob that served as my head, but the point is, it was damn good to see Earth again.
I can't say, however, it was so good to see myself standing there on the beach.
I was fifteen years old when they exiled me from my body. And most of my time in the Other Realm had been spent reliving memories of my youth for the entertainment and nourishment of the Fey.
So despite all the mental growth I achieved by reliving and reflecting on my past and all, my physical self-image was pretty well stuck at fifteen. But the dude who stood waiting on the other side of the portal was old. Not Emperor Palpatine old, I mean, I still had all my hair. Too much hair in fact: the wind blew it around my head in a ridiculous black mane. And the changeling who'd been granted use of my body kept me in good enough shape that he probably wasn't even embarrassed to wear those tight jeans and even tighter black T-shirt, though I would not be continuing the David Hasselhoff look once I retook possession. But I looked, like, forty years old. I looked nearly my father's age, or at least his age at the time I was exiled. I'd sort of known that would happen: the changeling might be immortal, but that didn't stop my body from aging normally while he possessed it.
Still, it was a total mind blower.
A man in a black suit strolled into sight of the portal. His braided mustache identified him as an enforcer, a representative of the Arcana Ruling Council and police of all things magical in our world, come to monitor the transfer. He probably had a "we'll be watching you, punk" speech ready for me as well.
The changeling flipped back his Joey Ramone hairdo, and raised his hand—my hand—to signal readiness for the transfer.
And as a bonus for ordering a body transfer today, I'd receive one memory transfer absolutely free. Twenty-five years of selected life history and real-world memories from the changeling—where "I" lived, where I worked, who I'd talked to, what had happened on TV the last twenty-five years—all part of the arrangement so that I wasn't clueless, jobless, homeless, and presumed dead by the mundane authorities when I returned home.
I hoped he hadn't watched Star Trek IV. It was just coming out when I got exiled, and I really wanted to experience it myself (yes, despite Star Trek III).
And music! Oh dear gods, I hoped this guy had listened to decent music.
Wait. Did I cancel my Columbia record and tape club membership before exile, or did I owe them like ten thousand dollars for a whole stack of unwanted tapes at this point?
Well, I'd know soon enough. The sun melted beneath the horizon and twilight began, a time for transitions. I felt the transfer begin.
On the beach, the enforcer kicked the changeling in the gut and flung something glittering at the portal. The transfer cut off.
The flung object disintegrated against the barrier between worlds, and a screech cut through my mind like a rabid cat's claws being scratched across a chalkboard. Roiling clouds of gibbering ink gathered above our heads.
My warden grabbed me in a gummy bear hug. Betrayers! The word echoed through my mind. He dragged me back from the portal, but I struggled against him, willed myself forward.
No! I projected back. I didn't do this! Damn it, let me go you slimy—!
Beyond the portal, the enforcer pulled out a wand and pointed it at the changeling—at my body! Purple lightning danced from the end of the twisted black stick like a neon snake having seizures, and my feybody heart lurched as I watched the arc strike my real body. Except that, somehow, the changeling deflected the lightning back at the enforcer, flinging the man back.
The dark hair and black suit of the enforcer rippled for a second as he flew into the surf, and I caught a glimpse of blond hair, beard, and black robes beneath. A glamour! Someone had disguised themselves as an enforcer.
The portal began to shrink.
The screeching clouds above me fell silent.
Then a house-size blob of deep black nothingness plummeted down like a screaming meteor of oh-crap-this-can't-be-good.
There was no point in arguing with my wardens now. I reached out to my body, not with my will but through the natural resonance between body and spirit, using skills learned during years of necromancy training with Grandfather. The connection was immediate. I traveled free of the Fey body and through the shrinking portal. As I hit the barrier I felt a cold behind me, the kind of cold that freezes lungs and makes yetis shiver. And then I fell to my hands and knees on the pebble beach.
Sharp points bit into my palms and shins, chilly water splashed over my hands and wrists. The smell of salt air and rotting sea plants blasted into my awareness. I looked up to see the portal flickering. Beyond, the plummeting blackness shredded the warden, like a statue of multicolored sand blasted by high wind. The portal winked out.
"That can't be good," I muttered. A bit of drool fell into the frothy brine between my hands.
Oh wow. I was back in my body. A real body. I was alive! And I was home! Wherever home was. The body transfer worked, but I hadn't received the changeling's memories. I had no clue where I was, other than a beach.
Had the other exile made it out? I looked in the direction he'd stood in the Other Realm, but rocky bluffs rose from the spot. If he had escaped, he was probably miles from here given the funky way distance worked between our world and the Other Realm. And I couldn't sense the changeling. He'd most likely returned through the portal only to be destroyed, which just left me and—
I rose, and wavered a bit as I readjusted to having a physical body. I looked around, but I stood alone on the beach. The attacker must have fled.
Crap. It was nice to not have a foot flying at my face and all, but somewhere out there I had an enemy with the juice to launch an attack into the Other Realm. That was most definitely not awesome.
Why would anyone that powerful want to attack me at all? Then again, who had cared enough to frame me for dark necromancy in the first place, twenty-five years ago? Safest not to stick around enjoying the biting cold sensation of wind and water on my skin, just in case.
Skin. I had skin! And it ached in the cold! How awesome was that?
I took a few tentative steps, finding my balance and control as I pushed the floating mane of black hair out of my face. A clear path cut up between two driftwood stumps and through a bank of beach grass to my right, still visible in the surreal glow of twilight. I willed myself to be at the top of the hill. When nothing happened, I remembered that the stuff of reality no longer responded to (just) my will. So I stumbled up the path the old-fashioned human way, one step at a time.
I was grateful in that moment for the restrictions that had been placed upon the changeling by the Pax Arcana. Not so much the ones against using Fey magic, or interacting with my real life friends and family, or even the one against sex, although by the gods if anyone was going to have sex for the first time in my body it was going to be me! No, in that moment I was grateful for the magical boundaries protecting my mind and memories from the changeling's, and the rules requiring that the changeling keep my body in excellent physical health. From the ache that spread through my head and muscles, I doubted I would be walking and thinking at all otherwise, not after that botched transfer. I might not even be alive.
Too bad that hadn't protected the changeling.
I crested the hills, and ahead a mobile home squatted in a wide gravel lot surrounded by evergreen trees. I both hoped and dreaded that this was my home—hoped, because if not then I had no clue where to go next; and dreaded because, well, it looked like a pretty crappy place to live, oceanfront or not. As I moved closer I spotted a two-seater sports car parked behind it.
I knocked on the trailer and tried the door. It opened, and warm air washed over me, smelling of cotton candy and the faint vanilla tang of magic. No glamoured assassins or teenage mutant fairy attack squad burst out of the trailer and jumped me, so that was good at least.
"Hello?" I called, and entered.
The dead woman lying facedown on the floor really clashed with the Liberace decorating aesthetic.
Perhaps I should have been more shocked by the body, but I wasn't. Maybe because I still felt numb from the events of the transfer. Maybe because I'd been raised around death, helping prepare and destroy the bodies of the dead in my family's necrotorium.
Or maybe I really was just stunned by the gaudy awfulness of the changeling's tastes. It was like Rainbow Brite had been given a BeDazzler, a flock of shedding peacocks, and a credit card and told to go crazy.
"Well, this sucks," I said to the dead woman, meaning her death, not the decor.
The body didn't respond, which was a relief actually. Talking to the dead was one of my arcane gifts, but something I hoped never to do again, not least because it drained my own life away to do so.
I rolled the body over and felt the unpleasant tingle of residual dark magic, like spiders made of ice crawling across my hand. Her head flopped over, and she stared with an expression of frozen horror at the ceiling. A blood-soaked strip of linen covered in silver runes spilled from her mouth, revealing the space where her tongue should have been. Necromancy. Dark necromancy.
"No. Damn it, no!"
Felicity. Our family's au pair before my exile. She might appear human, but she was a feyblood creature, a witch to be exact, though Mother had insisted she was a good witch. She looked older than I remembered, wrinkled as though she'd spent too much time in the sun, but it was her.
What the hell was she doing here?
The last time I'd seen Felicity, she pointed at me from an ARC witness stand and declared that I'd attacked her with dark necromancy. The day before that, I had found her unconscious and bloodied body on my bedroom floor. And the night before that, we were laughing over a game of Trivial Pursuit with my sister and brothers, making up ridiculous answers to the questions.
I'd been made to relive those memories a thousand times in the Other Realm, all the confusion and hurt, the sense of betrayal and anger. But I'd had little choice except to deal with those feelings or go mad. So I turned my anger instead to the Fey who fed off of me, and convinced myself that Felicity had actually done me a favor, granted me a reprieve from the life of sacrifice and necromancy mapped out for me since the day my Talker gift manifested.
I might not have forgiven Felicity, but I wasn't obsessively plotting revenge schemes either. And even if I had been, she was supposed to be hidden away somewhere in the ARC equivalent of witness protection. At most, I'd hoped she would confess the truth someday, and clear my name.
Instead, someone had now killed her, in "my" home, with dark necromancy. Most likely the same someone who attacked my transfer. Had he brought her here by force, or drawn her here with some promise of revenge or reconciliation with me? Either way, she was the perfect choice for a frame job given our history. But why? Why try to kill me and frame me? It made no sense.
The bloody rune cloth meant her spirit was warded, so a Talker like me couldn't get Felicity to speak again. And real enforcers might arrive at any minute, tipped off by my attacker or the release of magic. I didn't have time to hang around playing Inspector Gadget.
I considered hiding the body, but there was nothing I could think to do that would keep the enforcers from finding Felicity with magic. And with my luck I'd be caught carrying her into the woods.
I looked from Felicity to the stove. Just one option I could think of; but first things first.
I riffled through the place and found "my" wallet and keys. Nothing in the trailer was really my stuff, not the stuff I left at my family home when I went into exile, and I didn't find anything that seemed like a Scooby clue to explain who was really behind Felicity's death. I went outside and made sure the car started, and was an automatic. I'd never learned stick.
Then I returned inside and grabbed a frying pan, lighter, paper towels, and cooking oil, and moved back to Felicity's body.
Don't worry. Despite what you may have heard, real necromancers don't consume the flesh of the dead. In fact, most of us are vegetarians. That just sort of happens when you can sense life energy lingering in the flesh of anything that once had an active nervous system.
I hesitated, looking down at Felicity. I'd helped to destroy bodies before, but always with respect, following the proper rituals.
"Sorry, Felicity," I whispered. "May your spirit find peace, may your energy bring light to the darkness." The words were rote, but I felt a flurry of emotions as I said them: regret, sadness, and yeah, maybe a bit of satisfaction that this feyblood witch had paid in the end for what she did to me. That last bit made me uncomfortable, kind of like bad gas. But the self-examination could come later. Now was time for the running.
I dropped the frying pan on the floor, dumped cooking oil over Felicity and the paper towels, and lit the roll on fire after several fumbling attempts. Then I turned on the gas stove without igniting it, and ran outside.
A sorry excuse for a cremation, and cooking oil wouldn't burn up a body, but when the propane blew it would be good-bye crime scene, hello unfortunate cooking accident. With luck, the body would take time to put back together and identify, and with the mundy fire department and police involved it would complicate the enforcers' own investigation.
I dropped myself into the car, a Miata so the label read, and sped off along the gravel road.
Time to get someplace safe, and figure out who the hell still had it in for me. And that meant my family—possibly in both cases.CHAPTER 2
I have to say, I was a bit disappointed the car didn't fly like in Back to the Future. It didn't even run on fusion or anything cool as far as I could tell. After twenty-five years, you'd think there'd be more changes than making the cars really small.
At least I found driving easy. My body still felt a bit awkward to control and balance, but for some reason controlling the car, something external to me, came more naturally.
I was three minutes down the winding wooded road when a flash and boom caused me to look in the rearview. An orange glow lined the treetops. At least the tree line stood a ways back from the trailer and everything looked well rained upon, so Smokey the Bear would have no reason to chastise me, I hoped.
I soon found my way to Highway 101 North around the Olympic National Rainforest, and finally to Port Townsend, my hometown. The clock in the car said 9:27 P.M. as I passed the first outlying houses and shops.
Unfamiliar streetlights and strip malls had replaced what once was a wooded approach to the small seaside town. But I had no fear that I would find my family home replaced by a record store or 7-Eleven. Port Townsend protected its funky old houses, and our family would never sell that house anyway. Beneath it lay our necrotorium. The work my family performed there—properly disposing of dead arcana and feyblood creatures saturated with magic—had resulted in the land being contaminated with whatever magic managed to escape our capture.
I heard that someone once built a Dunkin' Donuts down near New Orleans, and the round donuts became mini portals to a shadowy corner of the Other Realm. The only way to close the portals and stop the invasion of gremlins had been for a group of enforcers to eat all of the donuts, followed by a pot of mushy lentils. Lentils, by the way, are a quick and dirty cure for ingested magics should you ever need one. In fact, there are few foods less magical than lentils.
Excerpted from Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randall Scott Henderson. Copyright © 2015 Randall Scott Henderson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.
Table of Contents
1. I'm Not the Man I Used to Be,
2. Our House,
3. Mad World,
4. Know Your Rights,
5. I Feel for You,
6. Hot for Teacher,
7. Welcome to the Jungle,
9. Who Can It Be Now?,
10. Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You),
11. Burning Down the House,
12. Where Is My Mind?,
14. She Blinded Me with Science,
15. Hungry Like the Wolf,
16. Love Plus One,
18. Blasphemous Rumors,
19. Talk Talk,
20. Blister in the Sun,
21. A Kind of Magic,
22. Dead Man's Party,
23. Just Like Heaven,
24. Smooth Criminal,
25. Two Tribes,
26. Don't You Forget About Me,
27. Should I Stay or Should I Go?,
28. Down Under,
29. Take On Me,
30. Karma Chameleon,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Randy Henderson has hit the proverbial toboggan out of the wallrus park with this one, and that takes some doing as you might imagine. I bought this book because I know Randy. I finished it because it's good. Really good. He's written a sassy main character who's a little bit retro, a little bit lost puppy, and a little bit superhero sunflower waiting to bloom. Finn's a teenager who's just about to confess his first love when who gets framed for dark magic and sent into spirit exile. On the day of release, he's attacked and dumped back in his body with no memory of the last 25 years. The girl friend has grown up. So has the family and the girl next door. Disco is dead, and so will he be if he can't find out who framed him and why, and stop them before they kill off his family, send him back into exile, and maybe start a war. Randy's prose is fresh and jaunty, his world building nuanced but lean. The world he creates is funny, what with the inter-garden gnome transport system and Sasquatch buffoonery, but it's also convincingly real and menacing. He lays out his characters masterfully, then elevates the stakes and momentum in a smooth ride to crescendo. Oh, and you'll never guess who dunnit. Read this book. You'll love it. It will make you laugh. It will make you smile. It will make you a tiny bit wistful about the 80's and the Washington coast, even if you've never seen either of them. And it may or may not make you cry. I'm not telling.
This book could do for fantasy what Ready Player One (RPO) did for science fiction. Written from the perspective of a necromancer just returned from exile, who immediately finds himself not only under attack from multiple foes but also unsure of who his allies are, the integration of magic into our world is creative and original. Cultural references and the sense of humor are very similar to, but not in any way derivative of, RPO (another novel to which I gave top rating), and likely land most solidly in the reference frame of 40- and 50-year olds, but will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The plot consistently moves at a sharp pace, but the substantial attention given to character development and witty dialogue never make it feel rushed. While the story comes to a satisfying conclusion and could stand alone, it is a bonus that this is just the introduction to this world and it's characters, and I'll eagerly await the next installment in this nascent series.
Loved the book. It takes place near my hometown and it was great seeing sime of the local landmarks in here.