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Finn Graymare is back in the final installment of Randy Henderson's Familia Arcana series, Smells Like Finn Spirit.
Finn's re-adaptation to the human world is not going so well. He's got a great girlfriend, and is figuring out how things like the internet work, but he is still carrying the disembodied personality of Alynon, Prince of the Silver Demesne, the fae who had occupied his body during his imprisonment. And he's not getting along at all with his older brother. And oh, by the way, his dead grandfather is still trying to possess him in order to bring about Armageddon.
About the Author
Randy Henderson is a 1st place winner of Writers of the Future, a Clarion West graduate, and member of SFWA and Codex. His short fiction has appeared in places like Penumbra, Escape Pod, and Realms of Fantasy, as well as anthologies.
Read an Excerpt
Smells Like Finn Spirit
By Randall Henderson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2017 Randall Scott Henderson
All rights reserved.
SEPTEMBER 4, 2011
I felt twitchy as the Bumbershoot festival crowd flowed past me in the shadow of the Space Needle. The collective hum of their spiritual energy pulled at me like the seductive whispers of a thousand sirens, strong as the compulsion to take just one more turn on Civilization before going to bed — compelling, but nothing that couldn't be defeated with a great act of will, or perhaps an urgent need to use the bathroom.
I leaned on a concrete ledge outside the food court, along with my girlfriend, Dawn, my sister Sammy, and her girlfriend Fatima as we took a break from browsing booths and watching concerts. The light breeze offered a bit of relief from summer's stubborn September heat, though it also brought the occasional whiff of the upwind garbage cans or the body odor of an unwashed teenager. I fluffed my Space Invaders T-shirt as the throbbing beat of a distant rock-rap band provided the background for a hundred passing conversations, a dozen laughing children, and one jet flying overhead.
I took Dawn's hand and focused on it, running my thumb gently over the guitar calluses on her pointer finger, the brown curve of her palm's edge forming a kind of yin yang with the tan of mine, the warm and solid reality of her presence helping me to ground myself and shut out the call of all that energy.
I looked up to find her smiling at me. Gods, she was beautiful. And between that impish smile and the lavender cloud of finger coils framing her face, she could easily have been an animated goddess of chaos. Even the simple gray T-shirt and brown jeans didn't mask her blazing energy, her —
"You've got shiny eyes again," Dawn said. "Those for me? Or are you just hungry?"
"I'm hungry for you," I replied, and my stomach growled loudly as if to argue.
"Well, for that you'll have to wait 'til we get home, but here's something to hold you over." She leaned in and drew me into the warm haven of a kiss.
Someone knocked against my foot as they passed — and my foot kicked out, my red Converse connecting with the folds of a yellow dress.
"Hey —" the woman said, tugging at her dress. "Jerk."
"Sorry!" I said. "I didn't mean to —"
She rolled her eyes and re-entered the flow of bodies.
Damn it, Alynon, I thought at the Fey spirit trapped in my head.
Alynon Infedriel, knight of the Silver Court and a huge pain in my spiritual butt, harrumphed, then replied in a weak voice that only I could hear, *'Tis not my fault she had no consideration.*
What did I tell you about taking control? I thought back.
*She interrupted a perfectly good kiss! And there hasn't been nearly enough good kissing going on lately, let alone —*
Drop it, or I'll be staying up tonight watching Cop Rock instead of going to Dawn's. Never mind that he was right.
"Alynon being a pain again?" Dawn asked.
*You would not so starve your own happiness to spite mine,* Alynon said.
Yes, well, unlike you, I have control over my lizard brain.
*Indeed, you have more Mothra than Godzilla in your nature.*
I'll take that as a compliment, given that Mothra was protector of the Earth.
*Indeed? Protector of the Earth now, are you?*
I did not reply. I hadn't felt like any kind of hero since Elwha. I turned my focus back outward, but that let the energy of the crowd draw my attention again.
Three months since the battle at Elwha River, when I consumed Dunngo the dwarf's spiritual energy — a desperate act of dark necromancy used to stop a crazy shapeshifting jorogumo. An act that had utterly destroyed Dunngo's spirit, forever. I'd been extra sensitive to the spiritual energy around me ever since, feeling something like lust at the thought of touching it, using it. The strength of the feeling had faded slowly, diminishing with lots of "me time" and some serious meditation work. But being around so many people at once made the accumulated weight of their spiritual energy hard to ignore. All of that power —
"There are just too many damned people in the world," I said.
"Oh, people aren't so bad," Dawn replied. "It's all the Stupid, that's the problem."
I shrugged in non-committal agreement. Maybe I was simply used to small-town life, or still adjusting to our world after twenty-five years of exile in the Fey Other Realm, but as I looked around I just saw streets clogged with cars, walkways stuffed with bodies. A great river of people in their summer clothes, buying and talking and walking and — I could feel them, their spirits, like glowing apples waiting to be plucked. All that spiritual energy, being wasted on watching reality television and eating fried nuggets of chicken sawdust. I could do so much more with —
I knocked my thoughts onto another path with the force of Bowser in a bumper car, took the irritability which desire had sparked in me and turned it toward my other source of irritation and worry: Mattie, my niece. I checked my phone, but still no messages from her.
I didn't know what could be keeping her. The Seattle Center's amusement park had been torn down and removed while I was in exile. Who gets rid of awesome rides and instead offers a museum of glass sculptures? I just didn't understand this world I'd returned to, sometimes.
I leaned forward, looking past Dawn to Sammy and Fatima. Sammy typed something into her phone, her default state when not actually interacting with the world around her. Her red jeans, green Converse, and black sleeveless T-shirt with silver wings on the back made Sammy look more the rock star than Dawn. Fatima sat cross-legged, her green and gold dress spilling over the concrete ledge, and her black curtain of hair falling forward to shade her eyes as she sketched with rapid strokes in her ever- present sketch pad.
"Sis, any word from Mattie yet?" I asked.
Sammy didn't look up from her phone. "Yes, she texted me that she's eloping with a fire juggler and I totally forgot to mention it."
"So, no then?"
"Can't fool you, can I?" Sammy's typing didn't even slow. "Chillax, brother o' mine. She's a teenager at a music fest. She's just off somewhere having fun."
Dawn squeezed my hand. "It'll be okay. You both needed to get out of that house. It's September and you look pale as an Irishman's arse in winter."
"I've been busy," I said.
"Uh huh. You've been sitting around your room playing video games," she replied. "If I'd known you were going to go full-on basement dweller over that Genesis, I would never have bought it for you."
*Hear hear,* Alynon said.
Sit and spin, Alf, I thought back. "You want me to be able to talk with your friends without sounding like an idiot, right?" I replied. "I have a lot to catch up on."
I had twenty-five years of games, movies, music, and life to experience; in fact, everything that had been created or happened since my spiritual exile to the Other Realm in 1986. With Dawn's help, I was immersing myself in one year each month, so that I could really absorb it all and build up my knowledge and experience in a natural progression. This month I'd reached 1992, and was loving the music. But what had blown my mind, not to mention my free time and a good deal of my regular sleeping hours these past months, were the video games.
I mean, the RPGs alone! Curse of the Azure Bonds, Bard's Tale, Ultima, Wasteland — it was like I'd woken into a fantasy world myself.
But then throw in games like Monkey Island, King's Quest, Sonic the Hedgehog, Flashback, Mortal Kombat, Dune, Mario Kart, Super Star Wars, and — well, I needed three of me just to play them all as much as I wanted. And there remained nearly twenty more years of games for me to catch up on.
"Besides," I added, "I'm technically working, if you count it as research toward me learning to design my own games again."
Fatima looked over. "I thought you were running a dating service for magicals."
"I am," I said. "But it hasn't exactly been bringing in the dollars." Since helping Sal the sasquatch to find his perfect soul mate, customers had finally begun to trickle in for the magical matchmaking service I'd started. Unfortunately, most couldn't afford to pay much, or preferred barter. And despite Mort's promptings and my need for income, I never felt able to turn someone away who came searching for love. "Besides, gaming has always been my true love."
"Gee, thanks," Dawn said. "Does this mean I should dress up like a video game hottie to grab your heart?"
"You say that like you don't love the idea," I replied.
"Damn. You know me too well." Dawn grinned, and gave me a kiss. "You know I support your dreams, baby, but I just don't want you to be disappointed."
I leaned in close and said for her ears only, "I've seen you in several costumes, and haven't been disappointed yet."
"Damn straight," she said. "Though I still can't believe you look better in that Catwoman outfit than me."
I blushed, and glanced to make sure Sammy hadn't heard, but she gave no sign as she continued tapping at her phone. "Ha ha," I said, just in case.
"Seriously though," Dawn continued, "I'm not sure making games works the way you think anymore. They've become like big budget movies these days, all corporate product and profit, right, Sammy?"
"Not necessarily true," Sammy said without looking up from her phone, clearly able to hear us. Great. "You could probably code a mobile game by yourself. In fact, retro gaming's in right now, so you might even do well."
I blinked. Had Sammy just said something encouraging rather than sarcastic? That was only slightly less rare than Alynon being helpful. It must be Fatima's influence. That, and the number of bands that Dawn had helped Sammy meet in person this weekend.
"Well then," Dawn said, and gave me another squeeze, "we should look into some programming classes."
I didn't mention that I'd already looked into classes and been confused by all the different types of programming options — long gone were the simple days of BASIC. Dawn liked to take charge and lead the way anyway, and I'd found it easiest just to let her.
Of course, her general distrust of the Internet meant she preferred to do things by talking to real people, so we'd probably be spending a few days visiting local colleges rather than a few hours using the magic of the Google. But Dawn had her own kind of magic. Somehow she would make an adventure of it, and probably make friends with the admissions folks, and next thing I knew I'd be enrolled in an already full class for free through some kind of archaic loophole. For the same reason I'd learned not to get in her way once she had a goal in mind, I'd also learned not to question the power of Dawn, but just to sit back and appreciate it.
So all I said was, "That would be great."
The sound of a band doing sound checks echoed from the mural amphitheater stage across the way.
"Ooo, I think Starfucker's coming on," Dawn said.
I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. I didn't recognize most of the bands playing this music and arts fest. In fact, none of the artists I'd grown to enjoy over the past couple of months were performing. Nirvana. Boyz II Men. Sleater-Kinney. Blur. MC Hammer. Milli Vanilli. But I'd enjoyed some of the bands that did play.
A cloud of marijuana smoke drifted over us from a passing knot of teenagers.
"If Mattie doesn't show up soon," I said, "maybe we should skip taking her backstage to meet the Presidents tonight."
"Nice try," Dawn said. "I know you're not excited about PotUS, but that's just cause you haven't heard them yet. Besides, Mattie is going to Hall and Oates with you Monday, the least you can do is see the Presidents with her."
Damn. "You know how to cut right to my heart," I said. "Like a real Maneater."
"Maneater, huh?" Dawn said, the corner of her mouth dimpling up. "I can go for that."
A shout went up from a group of hackysackers on the grass in front of the mural stage, drawing my attention back to the flows of energy.
"I just want to know Mattie's okay, is all," I said, tearing my eyes off of the crowd and their spiritual pull again. "There's all kinds of negative energy here."
"Mattie's danger is yet to come," Fatima said as she sketched, and with the noise of the crowd and sound checks it took a second after hearing the words for their meaning to register.
"What?" I stood up, and strode quickly to Fatima. "Mattie's danger?" I looked down at her sketch. It appeared to be Dawn dancing in front of Stonehenge.
Fatima looked up at me, and blinked, her eyes taking a second to focus on mine. "What?"
"You said Mattie's danger is yet to come. Did you see something happening to her?" Fatima was an arcana like me and Sammy, a human magic user; but where our family gift was necromancy, hers was sorcery, and more specifically the gift of prophecy. Though if you asked me, her true gift was in making Sammy smile, a miraculous power whose strength must truly rival the gods to break through the shield of my sister's determined cynicism.
Fatima frowned, and looked back down at her sketch pad. "I — maybe?" She lifted the page, and flipped through a series of images. I caught what looked like Donkey Kong, and Dawn playing her guitar with an expression of fury, and Mattie reaching out through a narrow window in stone, a terrified look on her face. "I don't think her danger is immediate. Though everything feels ... unclear, distant for some reason, like the near future is encased in amber." She shook her head.
Dawn moved to stand beside me. "Something wrong?"
"I don't know," I said.
Sammy put a hand on Fatima's arm. "You okay, Fates?"
A smile quirked up the corner of Fatima's mouth. "I'm fine. Probably just tired. Two hours sleep does not a bright Fatima make."
Sammy gave Fatima a light poke in the side. "And whose fault is that?"
"Yours," Fatima replied, and finger-combed her hair back. "You know what red wine does to me."
"Uh," I said, "about Mattie —?"
Sammy sighed. "I told you, I'm sure she's fine."
"She's not fine," I said. "Fatima's visions aside, Mattie's definitely hurting. She just hides it well."
In fact, we'd come to Bumbershoot today largely for Mattie's sake. It had been a rough few months for all of us, but she was barely sixteen years old. Beyond the normal teenage challenges and changes, she'd been taken hostage by her undead grandfather, found out her mother was possessed during her conception in order to grant her the Talker gift, and then her father had almost died to keep bumping spiritual uglies with the ghost who did the possessing. Add on top of that several major shakeups in the family, with my return, and Pete largely disappearing into his new life as a waerwolf, and her teacher and family friend Heather betraying us then becoming a waerbear — we were one crazy messed up family.
So when Dawn got the chance at some cheap festival passes through her new record label, it was decided to bring Mattie out for some normal, healthy family time at an event she might actually enjoy.
"Thanks, Captain Obvious," Sammy said. "But here's a news flash — our family has always been messed up, and we each got through it. Mattie's not a fragile egg, she's a smart young woman who's twice as together as you were at her age."
"I'm just worried ..." I trailed off.
"What?" Sammy asked. "That she's going to go up in the Space Needle with a sniper rifle just because she's having a rough patch? Trust me, if you meet a teenager who never has an emotional crisis, that's when you should be worried, 'cause they're an alien or robot or something and your butt is toast."
*Indeed,* Alynon chimed in. *I would be more concerned about the enemies your family has made than what harm your niece may bring upon herself.*
Great, thanks, I thought. Like I needed to be reminded of that right now. "Don't forget we saw Barry here," I said.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Barry's harmless."
Easy for her to say. Barry did nothing but flirt with her. But Barry, mister life of the party with his easy charm and perfect smile, also happened to be a waerdog pledged to the Forest of Shadows, the darkest of the Fey Demesnes. I still couldn't believe he was running around free after the battle at Elwha, but technically he hadn't participated in the battle, he'd only been there as a duly appointed representative in an official duel. And now, he was playing in a drum circle on yon grassy hill with a bunch of hippy-looking kids I suspected were a pack of his fellow waer-folk.
"Hey guys!" Mattie called, appearing out of the stream of people. She wore one of Sammy's old Bikini Kill T-shirts, and had dyed her hair bright green with blue ends.
"Where were you?" I snapped, my nerves still on edge from all the spiritual temptation. "We were supposed to meet here a half hour ago."
"Sorry, Uncle Finn. I was on my way and got distracted by a breakdancing troupe. You would have loved them."
"You freaked me out," I said, but my irritation quickly faded at the sad look on her face. I sighed. "I'm glad you had fun. Just, text us or something. We were worried."
"I know," Mattie said. "Sorry. I lost track of time."
"Dawn!" another voice called, and a woman marched toward us from the direction of the mural stage, waving. A silver persona ring flashed on her hand, the ID ring of an arcana.
Excerpted from Smells Like Finn Spirit by Randall Henderson. Copyright © 2017 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: Constant Craving,
2: We Didn't Start the Fire,
3: Love Shack,
4: Everybody Hurts,
6: Man in the Box,
7: Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg,
8: The Unforgiven,
9: Been Caught Stealing,
11: Wicked Game,
12: Free Your Mind,
13: The Emperor's New Clothes,
14: So What'cha Want,
15: Runaway Train,
16: Thieves in the Temple,
17: Come as You Are,
18: Down in a Hole,
19: Hard to Handle,
20: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over,
21: Good Vibrations,
22: Two Princes,
23: Policy of Truth,
24: Groove Is in the Heart,
25: Price of Love,
26: Things That Make You Go Hmmm ...,
27: She Talks to Angels,
28: Always on the Run,
29: Hunger Strike,
30: Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,
31: Hey Jealousy,
33: Rusty Cage,
34: Even Flow,
35: Step by Step,
36: U Can't Touch This,
37: It's So Hard to Say Good-bye to Yesterday,
38: Killing in the Name of,
39: Countdown to Extinction,
Tor Books by Randy Henderson,
About the Author,