A MAN. A DEMON. AN ANGEL.
WILL THEY SAVE THE WORLD . . .
OR DESTROY IT?
In a Greenwich Village townhouse, a mysterious man named Colin, an orphan raised by sorcerers skilled in dark magic, awakens to find the talisman known as the Trine missing from its place of safekeepingand an angel named Zoel impatiently ringing his doorbell.
In the death chamber of the Oregon Federal Penitentiary, Liz Russell, author of a bestseller on the serial killer called the Maneater, watches her subject receive the lethal injection that will end his life. But the Maneater has sworn that she will be his next victimeven if he has to claw his way up from Hell.
And in an Alabama backwoods clinic, a young girl gives birth to something monstrous and unholy, something that thirsts not for mother's milk, but for the blood of all that lives . . .
Now it's up to Colin, with the assistance of Zoel and the demon Asdeon aiding Colin for his own sinister purposesto recover the Trine before its awesome power can be used to spark Armageddon. It's a struggle that Liz will find herself part of as well, whether she likes it or not. The only trouble is, without the Trine, Colin's magic is no match for that of his enigmatic adversary. And Zoel can be trusted no more than Asdeon to avert an apocalypse that may be as much God's plan as the Devil's desire.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1 ED|
|Product dimensions:||6.53(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.09(d)|
Read an Excerpt
He awoke from a dream of blood and snow. Colin knew there was an intruder in the house before he opened his eyes. The taste of the other's anger and hatred was a bitter gall in the back of his throat, a flicker of heat lightning behind his closed lids. The commingling of senses was strong, as well—when he opened his eyes, violet and purple trapezoids skittered and danced at the edges of his vision, and the silence stank like hot metal.
A tresspasser—here, in his sanctum? It was inconceivable—but he knew it was true. His intuition had been right too many times before for him to doubt it now.
He slid quietly out from under the down comforter on the huge four-poster bed, wincing as his feet touched the cold floor. The bedroom was on the third floor of the brownstone, and he usually left the window at least partly open. Though it was well into May, the night air was still cold enough for him to see his breath. Colin had to clench his teeth to keep them from chattering as he slipped on a pair of once-black jeans, now faded to a dull charcoal. The leather patch on the waistband listed them as thirty-twos, with an inseam of thirty-four. With only ten percent body fat, he felt the cold more intensely than anyone he knew. But the night temperature wasn't the only reason he was shivering now.
He was afraid.
The digital clock on the night table gave the time in glowering red numerals: 3:28. Even Greenwich Village was reasonably quiet this late at night. The only sounds coming through the open window were occasional car engines and the yowls of cats in heat.
For one brief moment he thought of picking up the bedroom phone anddialing 911. He almost smiled at the absurdity of the concept. He didn't know who had invaded his home, but he knew without question that the police would not be able to handle the situation. To call for help would simply be summoning them to their deaths.
For better or worse, he was the only one qualified to deal with this situation.
Colin moved past the massive carved armoire and stopped with his hand on the doorknob, wondering if he should take a weapon. He decided against it. He could already tell that the intruder was not the sort that would be affected by guns, or knives, or anything like that. He would be better served using his wits—and, if necessary, the Shadowdance.
And even that might not be enough . . .
Whatever it was that had entered his sanctum, it was powerful—otherwise it would not have been able to slip past the wards that surrounded the building. And if it was strong enough to get in without setting off the "alarms" he had put in place, then it was strong enough to cause him big trouble. Colin gripped the doorknob, feeling it grow warm and damp. Could this be an agent of Morningstar, come to collect the devil's due at last? He swallowed, feeling his heart beating faster, feeling the rush of adrenaline through his body. He took several deep breaths, seeking to calm the ancient "fight-or-flight" reaction. Though he had faced adversaries in the past that would reduce most people to whimpering insanity, there were still threats that could frighten him. Oh, yes. His knowledge of the Shadowdance would give him an edge, but that was all. It was no guarantee of success.
He thought of stepping into the Shadows, just far enough to magnify his awareness, to quickly search the house mentally rather than physically. He decided against it. Such a move would leave him vulnerable, open to psychic attack, if the invader was still here. It would be safer—though not by much—to investigate in the flesh.
Colin centered himself, felt his pulse return to normal, knew that he was as ready as he could be to deal with whatever the threat was. Then he opened the door.
He stepped out into the narrow, high-ceilinged hallway. There were four bedrooms and a storage closet on this floor. He had taken the biggest of the bedrooms for himself when he had moved in; the other rooms had barely been opened in the five years since then. None of the bedroom doors were locked; nevertheless, Colin knew the intruder was not in one of them.
The swirled patterns of the carpet would be nearly invisible to people whose senses and reactions had not been honed as his had, since the only illumination coming in was moonlight from the gabled skylight above. He could see quite well, however, well enough to make out the green, gold, and blue colors of the patterns. They soothed him, offered some respite from the angry vivid hues that still floated in geometric shapes at the boundaries of sight. The shapes were more complicated now; fractal, mutating forms, their colors electric, flowing, like a hard-edged painting come to life.
Not a good sign.
He gripped the knurled cherrywood of the banister and started down the stairs. They were narrow and steep. He moved slowly but with sure feet, reaching the second floor landing without a sound.
The second floor was all business: his office, library, and laboratory. Also at the end of this hallway was the Door, an ornate slab of wood that rested heavily in its frame, locked and protected to the best of his knowledge and abilities. Colin was pretty sure the intruder wouldn't be opening it—at least, not without serious repercussions.
He checked the library first, easing into the dark chamber. He sensed the residue of an alien presence, but it only took a moment spent in the huge room full of modern and ancient tomes—some of the latter bound in copper, some iron-hasped, a few covered in tanned human skin—to feel certain that he was the only one there now.
The library was two stories high; he'd had the floor removed in one of the bedrooms above to make room for the collection of books he'd amassed. The dark wood shelves rose twenty feet on all sides. Rolling ladders and a spiral staircase that led to a narrow mezzanine gave easy access to all of the nearly fifteen thousand volumes. Some of them had been bought in this country, though the majority came from Europe and Asia. There were times when he felt he had been a little excessive in his acquisitions, but they weren't just necessary tools for research—he also loved books. He liked nothing better than to sit in one of the room's deep-backed leather chairs and read while rain coated the windows and drummed on the gabled roof.
He glanced about the library one more time; then, satisfied that it was secure, left the room, locking the door behind him with a whispered word.
The next open door was his office. He merely glanced inside it. The room was small, almost more of a walk-in closet. There was barely room for the two filing cabinets and the rolltop desk with his open laptop on it. He moved cautiously on down the hall.
It was in the last room on the second floor—his laboratory—that the smell hit him. He almost recoiled, as if from a physical blow. He recognized it immediately. This was not a case of scrambled sensory input—his synaesthesia had calmed down by now, reduced mainly to intricate visuals that vanished if he tried to look directly at them. Besides, he could usually tell the difference between a genuine olfactory experience and one crossed over from another sense. This smell was strong, but Colin knew it well. It was the kind of smell that, once experienced, is burned into the brain for a lifetime.
It was the scent of brimstone.
Not the rotten-egg stink of sulfur that most people associated with the word. This was a stench few people had experienced and lived to tell of. It reminded one at times of roasting human flesh and burning hair, and the throat-closing sharpness of hot tar, yet it was really like none of these. It brought to mind the gagging fetor of flyblown corpses, of long-unburied remains, as well. It was a foulness so corrupt that nothing wholly of this world could produce it.
He still didn't know who the intruder was, but now he knew what it was.
One of the Fallen had been here, only a few minutes ago. Colin felt anger vying with his fear. How dared this creature be so bold? He promised himself that, no matter who was responsible, this invasion would not go unpunished.
As if to corroborate what he had suspected from the start, he saw the final proof: there, burned into the dark wood of the lab's worktable next to the convoluted glass piping, retorts, and titration stands that formed a distillation apparatus, was the print of a splayed hand. Colin stared at it for some time. The palm area was at least six inches wide, the length of the two longest fingers easily that, as well. The fingers ended, he knew, in talons of dark horn that had gouged—no, burned—inch-deep holes in the dark mahogany.
It was a warning, that much was obvious. But a warning against what? Things had been relatively quiet lately—which was just fine with him. Perhaps it was an admonition for him to lay low, to back away from whatever part he might have to play in some drama as yet unfolded.
He had to know who it had been. One of the Dukes? A lesser manifestation? There was only one way to find out.
Colin tentatively touched the scorched, indented area with one slim finger. And recoiled as the nauseating taste of corruption exploded up the length of his arm, ending in silent flak bursts of night within his skull. It seemed that he could hear dark laughter from somewhere far away . . .
The room faded momentarily around him, to be replaced by a dark vision of an underground chamber. A grim-faced man in his sixties, wearing gray nondescript robes, stood beside an open sarcophagus. He reached into its open confines, scooped a handful of dust out, and flung it toward Colin . . .
Colin shook his head violently, as if to dislodge the memory—as though anything could. He was back in the laboratory again, although his nostrils flared with the need to sneeze, and the taste of that ancient dust was worse than the flavor of brimstone.
He glanced quickly around to make sure he was still alone, that no threat had taken advantage of his momentary possession by that vivid memory of attack. But he did not see or sense any presence. He was still alone in the laboratory.
He drew a harsh, shuddering breath and looked closely at the handprint. Touching it had not given him a clue to the identity of whoever had made it, as he had hoped it would. Whoever this one was, it was powerful, far more so than Asdeon. He thought once again of the rage and hatred he had sensed, like a burning brand applied directly to raw nerve endings. A warning—or a challenge?
A coldness greater than the chill of the air suddenly seized him. He turned and leaped to the bookcase, hastily shoved aside an alembic and a small stuffed crocodile, and placed his hand flat against the wall behind the shelves. He spoke a phrase in a language that had been forgotten long before Latin had developed along the banks of the Tiber. The wood felt briefly warm beneath his hand, and a panel slid to one side.
He knew what he would find—or rather, would not find—and he was right. His fingers searched the compartment, at first thoroughly, then frantically, to no avail. The hidden space behind the wall was empty.
The Trine was gone.
Colin backed away from the bookshelf, sat down on the old couch, and rubbed his hands together, trying vainly to warm them. His mind was numb, unable to cope with the full import of what had happened.
This was impossible. He had protected the three talismans that made up the Trine with every charm and cantrip known to him. It couldn't be gone!
And yet it was.
Outside, rare silence continued to reign in Greenwich Village. The narrow twisting streets were momentarily deserted, empty of the night's denizens. He might have been the last survivor on a dead world.
"Do they know something I don't?" he murmured out loud.
Unlikely. But the thought, once vocalized, proved damned hard to dismiss.
I'm not that important in the grand scheme of things, he told himself. The work I do is small scale—possessions, apparitions, the odd poltergeist or restless spirit . . . I've never gotten involved with the big players. At least, not until now . . .
The sound that interrupted his musings was so prosaic that for a moment he didn't recognize it.
A soft chime of two alternating notes. Coming from downstairs.
Colin glanced at the water clock—a minute past four—before he stepped out of the laboratory and started for the stairs. He stopped on the landing. Given what had already happened this night, it was certainly best to take precautions. He knew now that the demon who had taken the Trine was no longer in the building. Whoever or whatever this new arrival was, it was still outside. Best to know as much about it as possible before letting it in.
Colin took several quick steps into the Shadowdance and sent his awareness questing outward, an expanding bubble of sensation, pushing its boundaries beyond the building's front wall. As always when he did this his synaesthesia flared, crossing through two senses this time. In the center of his head, as though he were wearing stereo headphones, Colin could hear the tones C-sharp, D, and E quite clearly, and at the same time taste lemons and cinnamon. These sensations cut off with knifelike sharpness as his "sight" passed through the walls of the brownstone—an instant of cold and darkness—and resolved into a disembodied overhead view of the front porch.
A woman stood there.
He could not see her face at first; she was wearing a floppy black beret and a long white overcoat with the collar turned up. As he watched she raised a finger and pressed the doorbell again. The second set of chimes caused reflective silver spheres to scatter before his eyes like computer-generated imagery.
There was something about her . . .
Something too subtle to even be called a sensation, a feeling, an intuition. Something nonetheless compelling, that insisted he open the door and let her in.
Even though he felt certain that this visitation had to be connected somehow with the theft, Colin resisted the urge to answer the door. Being who he was and what he was—the latter a question he had yet to have satisfactorily answered—he attracted people whose lives were out of joint, whose paths traveled slightly or more than slightly aslant to the normal world. It had been a part of his life, had pretty much defined his life, actually, ever since he had left—fled, his mind corrected pedantically—the Scholomance. Sometimes they came to him seeking his help, sometimes they came seeking to drain or destroy him. It almost did not matter to Colin why they came—it was a given that his life would be filled with strangers, strangers to whom he would become closer than a lover before ultimately, in more cases than not, watching them die.
Given what had happened to Lilith, he considered that, for the most part, a fitting penance.
Whatever fear, need, or desire had brought this woman to his brownstone on the out-of-the-way street in Greenwich Village at this time of night, it was born of darkness. He knew that, just as he knew, with a weariness far beyond his relative youth, that he would have to open the door. He could not turn her away.
All this, while his consciousness hovered outside the walls, above the mysterious caller, looking down at her with incorporeal vision. All this in an instant of time.
Then she raised her head and looked up, and Colin stared directly into her eyes.
They were blank, pupiless, and as silver as the synaesthetic globes he had just experienced.
He gasped aloud as his extended awareness snapped back to the safety of his skull, the sensation akin to a taut rubber band being suddenly released. His head actually rocked back slightly in psychic recoil. He swayed, gripping the balustrade, and stared at the stairs leading to the first floor. They seemed to telescope, to stretch out before him to an impossible length. Colin blinked, shook his head, and willed the warped perspective to shift back to reality.
Her eyes had been like silver dimes in the moonlight.
And she had known he was watching. He wasn't sure how he knew that, but the knowledge was there, and irrefutable.
The doorbell rang again. This time there was no synaesthetic accompaniment.
Colin started slowly down the stairs, weighing the possibilities. Was she a demon in disguise? He sensed no shaping spell, but that didn't mean much—those in the higher phalanxes of Hell were quite accomplished at hiding their true identities. Even Asdeon had been able to fool him on occasion with minor magic, much to his annoyance.
The doorbell rang a third time. He did not move any faster.
The eyes were the only obvious aberration—in all other ways she had appeared human, although his shock at seeing her eyes had kept him from noticing any details about her face. He allowed again for the possibility that his sensory cross-wiring might have been responsible for the unsettling vision, even though he was usually able to tell the difference between reality and perception. But even granting all this, the fact remained that to open the door and allow her to cross his threshold could be—almost certainly would be—profoundly dangerous.
But it wasn't like he had a choice.
Colin reached the bottom of the stairs. His property—in many ways, a large chunk of his life—had been stolen. The shock of the knowledge was beginning to wear off now, was beginning to be replaced by anger. If he didn't get the three talismans that comprised the Trine back, there would literally be Hell to pay. Whatever connection there might be between this woman and the theft of his property, he would find out what it was. If she had the Stone, the Book, or the Flame, or knew where they were, he would make her tell him.
Even if she came directly from the Headmaster himself.
Colin drew a deep breath and opened the door.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With the dawning of a new millennium, certain events have occurred that might be construed as the beginning of the Apocalypse. In a backwater town, a fifteen-year-old girl dies while giving birth to a demon. After being pursued by a serial killer, Liz Russell watches the state give him a lethal injection only to see him wink at her after he died. Bodyguard Terry Dane tries to protect his client from a demon disguised as a human. While these incidents happen, Colon a master of magic awakens to discover that the Trine, a powerful talisman consisting of three segments is missing. The angel Zoel visits Colon and though they may have different agendas team up to recover the Trine. They regain two of the segments, but Colon soon finds himself in Las Vegas where he meets Liz and Terry, who were mystically guided to the city. Here Armageddon seems imminent unless Colon and company can find a way to defer the beginning of the end. Michael Reaves has written a serio-comic tale about the cosmic forces of heaven and hell on earth. The author¿s skills show up throughout the tale, but especially when he makes the verbal exchanges between the mage, an angel, and a demon humorous yet solemn, a clear testimony to a wonderful author. Though the ending is fulfilling, loose strings exist so one can conclude that a sequel is forthcoming. Harriet Klausner