The demon invasion of Earth has begun, and as the world’s top arcane expert, demon summoner Kara Gillian is leading the battle against them. Unnatural catastrophes, odd plagues, and martial law of the norm, and Kara is hard-pressed to keep up with the mounting threats. Add in the arrival of demonic lords with conflicting goals, and she has the perfect recipe for global disaster.
Yet when a centuries-old scheme puts the future of humanity on the line, Kara must scramble to stop the machinations, though treachery, hidden dangers, and ancient enemies block her at every turn. Soon she uncovers the disturbing legacy of the demon realm and the hideous betrayal at its core. However, before Kara can unmask the one behind the assault on Earth, she’ll need to perform the most dangerous summoning ever attempted―and if her enemy has its way, it may just be her last.
But no matter how much of her own blood she has to spill, it’ll be a cold day in hell before she surrenders.
About the Author
Diana Rowland has lived her entire life below the Mason-Dixon line. She has worked as a bartender, a blackjack dealer, a pit boss, a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant, which means that she's seen more than her share of what humans can do to each other and to themselves. She won the marksmanship award in her Police Academy class, has a black belt in Hapkido, and has handled numerous dead bodies in various states of decomposition. She presently lives in southern Louisiana with her husband and her daughter where she is deeply grateful for the existence of air conditioning. A master of urban fantasy, she’s the author of the Demon series and the White Trash Zombie series. She can be contacted via her website, dianarowland.com, or on Twitter at @dianarowland.
Read an Excerpt
“Volcanoes spew the devil’s flame in our heartland. Fire rains from the sky. Sinkholes suck sinners into the bowels of hell, while rifts vomit a scourge of demons into the streets of our cities. These are the plagues of our times, the signs of God’s fury at our wicked—”
The bellow of a reyza accompanied by the shriek of tearing metal cut off the rest of the protester’s tirade. I threw myself to the asphalt as the demon whizzed a tank hatch cover in my direction. It careened off the Stryker Armored Personnel Carrier behind me and slammed edge first less than a foot from my head into the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.
“Gillian! Status!” That was the squad leader, Sergeant Debbie Roma.
“Five by five!” I shouted as soon as I found my voice—and after I made sure I was still in one piece. The red block letters on the quivering metal hatch seemed to mock me. DIRT—Demonic Incursion Retaliation and Tactics. Yeah, we were retaliating. Like kids throwing marshmallows at rabid dogs. “DIRT” was supposed to represent our willingness to fight hard and dirty, but ten minutes into the skirmish and we’d already lost one tank.
But no people, to my relief. Petrev and Hines had managed to scramble clear of the tank and take cover behind an abandoned Toyota. Both Strykers and the Light Armored Vehicle were still intact, as were all fifteen members of Alpha Squad—though at the moment we were pinned down while the demon threw chunks of metal and arcane shrapnel at us. A scant meter in front of me, a two-foot-long, frost-rimmed crevice rippled with magenta flames. So far, the demon had only flown reconnaissance passes over the small dimensional rift, but I knew perfectly well he hadn’t made a trip from the main incursion rift a quarter mile away just to sightsee.
Demons had been coming through the rifts ever since the arcane valve explosion at the Beaulac Police Department two months ago, and I—along with every other DIRT arcane advisor—still had no flaming clue why. Rifts opened at unpredictable intervals all over the world, destroying anything or anyone in the location. An incursion of demons inevitably followed, during which they harassed and attacked nearby citizens while one or more of their number made enigmatic adjustments to the rifts. If I could figure out what their end goal was, humans could develop a counter strategy.
In the meantime, we fought back with what tools we had: guns and grit and graphene-composite nets.
The demon beat his wings and roared a challenge. He was, hands down, the biggest reyza I’d ever seen in all my years as a demon summoner. At least twelve feet tall, with a wingspan four times that—half again as big as Gestamar or Kehlirik. Needle-sharp black horns thrust from his head on either side of a thick ridge, and yellowed fangs curved from a mouth filled with flesh-rending teeth. Broad nostrils flared within a bestial face, and his thick, sinuous tail thrashed back and forth, a weapon as deadly as his claws. Scars crisscrossed his skin in patterns that spoke of claws and teeth and frequent battles—unlike any reyza I’d known before. And though I’d never heard of a demon wearing jewelry, there was no mistaking the gold that glinted from a half dozen thick hoops in his ears or the heavy bands that circled biceps and wrists.
“Two months now since Satan and his demons were hurled to Earth. Time is running out for you sinners to beg for salvation, lest you be thrown into the lake of fire with the idolaters, the vile, the unbelievers, the sports fans, the comic book freaks, the hypocrites.” The protester ranted on from the “safe” distance of the far side of the highway, his voice amplified by speakers mounted in the bed of his pickup and punctuated with random squeals and shrieks from arcane interference. Half a dozen people mingled near him, carrying enormous signs that said, in a variety of ways, that everyone was going to burn in hell except them.
Above the protesters, the morning sky shimmered with orange and magenta, beautiful and hideous, painted by arcane flames. Two days ago, the Beaulac Country Club tennis courts had crumbled into the maw of a fifty-foot-long dimensional rift, the tenth to form in the area. Small wonder that Beaulac was practically a ghost town now. Everything within a half-mile radius of the valve blast had been quarantined and cordoned off, and anyone who could leave Beaulac did. These days, nowhere was truly safe, but anywhere was safer than here.
The rift at the tennis courts was a relatively small one, but it had disgorged a number of vicious demons over the past forty-eight hours. Dozens of kzak, savik, and graa, and less than an hour ago this big ass reyza who was determined to transform the Piggly Wiggly parking lot into his own demon playground. Not that it would hurt business. A good two-thirds of the grocery store had been destroyed last week by a tornado that appeared out of a sunny sky, tracked an arrow-straight line for a hundred yards, then disappeared. Sadly, that wasn’t the weirdest disaster to hit the area since the valve explosion. Hell, that didn’t even make the top five.
The reyza leaped into flight from the top of the tank.
“The skeeter’s aloft!” Roma shouted. “Cover!”
Maroon-fatigued squad members moved, but though I kept my eye on the “skeeter” as he gained altitude, I stayed put. My arcane skills were still a long way from their previous full strength—before I was ambushed and my abilities nearly obliterated—but I’d managed to regain complete use of my othersight. That allowed me to assess the little rift and the demon’s arcane tactics, and give my squad a snowball’s chance of winning. However, there were moments—such as this one—where I felt the loss of my abilities keenly. Even though we had no way to close the rifts, it was possible to arcanely “lock” them to prevent them from expanding. A rift this small would take about ten minutes of uninterrupted focus to lock it, but unfortunately I couldn’t shape the potency to do so on my own. Vince Pellini and I usually partnered up to set the locks, but I’d split off with Alpha Squad to chase the big reyza, and only realized the beastie had been heading toward this mini-rift when we damn near fell into it.
The reyza swooped past, and I shielded my head with my hands, expecting the whine of the stinging arcane scattershot he’d peppered us with a dozen times before. Instead, a heavy thoop thoop thoop signaled the demon equivalent of an arcane grenade launcher.
No time to run for cover. Shiiiiiit. Adrenaline spiking, I tucked into a tight ball in the hopes of reducing the size of the demon’s target. It was a solid plan except for one tiny detail: the demon wasn’t aiming for me. The salvo struck the crevice, sending up flashes of purple and green.
For a heartbeat, nothing changed, then the asphalt heaved and buckled. The ring of frost expanded from the now gaping crevice, raced toward me and past to cover the parking lot. Magenta flames shot high, and the fissure screamed like a tortured soul.
Dismay left me colder than the frosted ground. I pushed up to a crouch and called out to Roma. “Sarge! He’s widening the rift!” There was ample room now for demons such as luhrek and immature savik to come through—no less dangerous despite their smaller size. Not good when our resources were already strained to the breaking point.
“SkeeterCheater!” At Roma’s command, Petrev and Wohlreich scrambled to deploy the lightweight, graphene-enhanced net over the rift and anchor it deep into the asphalt. DIRT had developed the nets as a counter-incursion measure since the demons were a helluva lot easier to kill before they emerged. The nets weren’t a perfect solution, especially for large rifts, but anything that delayed the demons gave us a bit more advantage.
The reyza let out a triumphant bellow as he landed atop a Buick sedan. The roof buckled under his weight, and the side windows cracked, then burst.
Breathing deeply in an effort to settle my racing pulse, I remained crouched as I studied him. He’d already dodged and deflected everything we’d thrown at him, but there were a few tricks left in our bag.
The reyza beat his wings once, then folded them close. He swiveled his head toward me and bared his teeth—his personal promise to give me the extra special painful death—then traced a swooping pattern on his chest with one claw. Potency the color of old blood flickered. Sigils flared on his torso and sent a shimmering web over his head, limbs, and wings. I grimaced. No wonder we hadn’t touched him yet.
“Triple duty,” I called out to Roma. Her sharp curse told me her opinion of full arcane armor on a demon this size. We’d learned the hard way that aiming center mass on any demon was a waste of ammo, but we also knew that limbs and wings usually weren’t shielded as well—until this bad boy.
I’d become an expert at adapting tactics in order to defeat demons, and I had no moral dilemma about killing them. They were attacking us.
It was the brand new orders, handed down this morning, that I had qualms about: Capture as many demons as possible, with reyzas the highest priority targets.
“Kowal!” Roma’s voice carried across the grocery store parking lot to the Stryker on the far side. “Shimmy that lizard before it finishes getting into its party gown!”
I couldn’t help but smile. Force the demon out of that position before it gets fully armored. Radio comms were useless so close to a rift, which meant the majority of commands were shouted. But since the demons could hear every word, human soldiers used idioms and code phrases that would be tough for any non-native speaker to understand. It made for a glimmer of humor in an otherwise grim setting.
“On it!” A woman with messy red curls peeking from beneath her helmet swiveled the APC’s grenade launcher toward the reyza. I tensed as she fired two grenades. With inhuman reflexes, the demon swatted the first in my direction while the other sailed into the vehicle under him. I scuttled away, but to my relief—and horror—the grenade bounced across the pavement, danced on the SkeeterCheater, then tumbled through and into the rift.
The ground shuddered, and a gout of magenta fire erupted from the rift even as a blast rocked the Buick. Flames leaped through the windows, and the reyza roared and took flight.
Roma barked orders, and squad members scrambled to new tactical positions. I took the opportunity to belly crawl behind an upthrust of asphalt then resumed my search for the demon’s weak spots.
Roma remained crouched behind a pile of concrete rubble, skimming her gaze over the area as she checked on her people and considered options. At fifty-something, she wasn’t quite as fast as the youngsters, but she had nerves of steel and a serious knack for close quarter tactics. Yet she and I both knew that, even with the new weapons and materials that had been developed in the past two months, it would be a stone bitch to take this demon out, much less capture it.
“Morons,” I muttered, which was the kindest thing I could say about DIRT HQ at the moment. The order to capture demons was perfectly logical, especially when it came to reyzas. They did the most damage and were the hardest to kill. HQ and their researchers wanted to find out what made these creatures tick, what their strengths and vulnerabilities were. I understood it. I really did.
And I hated it. The demons were sentient, resourceful beings. I didn’t have to stretch my brain very hard to come up with how the researchers would find the demons’ weaknesses. It wouldn’t involve a pleasant conversation, that much I knew. Yet... we were at war. And we sure as hell weren’t winning.
It sucked from every possible direction.
The reyza settled in the bed of a big pickup truck near the shopping cart corral, amber eyes blazing with keen intelligence as it assessed us and the rift. It spread its wings as if taking a stretch, then threw its head back and sounded a deep note that shook the air and lifted the hair on my arms. Across the highway, the protesters’ speakers crackled to life.
“These demons have been sent to test us and punish the sinful and the wicked. Fornicators and masturbators, drunks and porno freaks—”
“Hey, that’s me!” Scott Glassman—my former coworker—called out with a laugh from the Stryker behind me.
“—you false soldiers defy God’s law and embrace sin by employing evil witches and sorcerers to battle these demons.”
“And that’s me,” I said with a snort. Yeah, well, the preacher could rant all he wanted about my evil nature but, as an Arcane Specialist, my “sorcery” was part of the reason the DIRT forces could mount any defense at all.
Like right now, as my othersight revealed a nasty orange glow forming on the demon’s clawed left hand.
“—demons to punish the sinners and—”
“Yek ziy!” the demon bellowed. To punish all.
“Double-M left,” I yelled, scrambling up to dive behind the thick tires of the Stryker. Hatches clanged shut, and “umbrellas” made of an arcane-resistant polymer snicked open as the troops without cover deployed shields.
The ground heaved with a concussion that set my ears ringing, followed an instant later by a blast of heat and shriek of metal. My pulse slammed in reaction. A reyza cast that? I’d only ever felt an arcane detonation that powerful from a demonic lord.
Fear seized me. “Oh no...” I surged out from behind the Stryker. The umbrella shields were arcane resistant, meant to deflect a typical demon strike—not a blitzkrieg.
My heart dropped to my toes. I barely registered that the SkeeterCheater lay intact but unanchored over a widened rift. My focus was locked a dozen yards beyond it, where two squad members crouched motionless, fatigues seared and smoking while around them the asphalt popped and boiled. Nothing remained of their shields but the twisted metal of the frames.
The reyza let out a roar of triumph and sprang into the air with powerful strokes of his wings.
Excerpted from "Legacy of the Demon"
Copyright © 2016 Diana Rowland.
Excerpted by permission of DAW.
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