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Passageways

Passageways

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Passageways

Length:
413 pages
5 hours
Released:
Dec 11, 2020
ISBN:
9781393110248
Format:
Book

Description

You are cordially invited to visit nine different worlds! You won't need to pack a thing; there's no passport or visa required, and all expenses are paid. All you need is one book to transport you.

 

Writing Bloc proudly presents some of the strongest independent authors writing today, happily playing in the universes they've each built. Running the gamut from fantasy to sci-fi to horror, these stories will whet your appetite for the longer works these authors have penned.

 

Featuring stories from Tahani Nelson (The Faoii Chronicles), Brian Fitzpatrick (Mechcraft), R.H. Webster (Rosebud), S.E. Soldwedel (Broken Circles), G.A. Finocchiaro (SCALES), Evan Graham (The Calling Void), Susan K. Hamilton (Shadow King), Kaytalin Platt (The Equitas Series), and Jane-Holly Meissner (The Fae Child Trilogy).

 

Enter a passageway into a new universe!

Released:
Dec 11, 2020
ISBN:
9781393110248
Format:
Book

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Passageways - Writing Bloc CO-OP

Passageways

Writing Bloc CO-OP

Published by Writing Bloc CO OP, 2020.

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

PASSAGEWAYS

First edition. December 11, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 Writing Bloc CO-OP.

ISBN: 978-1393110248

Written by Writing Bloc CO-OP.

passageways

Nine Tales. Nine Unique Literary Worlds.

curated by mike x welch

Writing Bloc

Table of Contents

Title Page

Foreword

Mira's Bridge

Reliquary

The Faoii and the White Wolf

Nil Bid

Sophie's Gambit

Thick as Thieves

BOGEY

The Ebon Caves

Teardown

Acknowledgments

About the Authors

About Writing Bloc

Also Published By Writing Bloc

PASSAGEWAYS

Copyright © 2020 by Susan K. Hamilton, Evan Graham, Tahani Nelson, R.H. Webster, Brian Fitzpatrick, Jane-Holly Meissner, G.A. Finocchiaro, Kaytalin Platt, S.E. Soldwedel, and Mike X Welch.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover by Kaytalin McCarry

Edited by Cari Dubiel

Interior Design based on a template by Derek Murphy

ISBN: 9781087928975

First Edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Foreword

Welcome to the inaugural volume of the Passageways anthology!

Most anthologies being produced today have a theme, and Passageways is no exception. Our theme is at once both simple and complicated: a collection of stories from authors with established literary universes, with the stories being set in the universes in question. Imagine a tome in which you’d find a short story from George Lucas set in the Star Wars universe, followed by a story from Stephen King from his Dark Tower universe, which then in turn is followed by a tale from Suzanne Collins from her Hunger Games universe. You get the idea.

That’s what Passageways is all about: a corridor into a larger, existing world. It might be a world you’d never visited, but now that you’ve had a glimpse you can’t wait to pick up the novels which immerse you in that world. Or a story might come from a universe that you’re familiar with but can’t get enough of...kindly sating your appetite until the next meal of a novel comes out.

For the first volume of Passageways, I’ve hand-picked nine authors who are peers and friends. They are people I’ve interacted with over the past few years in the Writing Bloc community, and for whom I have both respect and appreciation for their writing. The genres they write in range from fantasy (Hamilton, Nelson, Platt, Meissner) to sci-fi (Soldwedel, Fitzpatrick, Graham, Webster) to horror (Finocchiaro).

I’m proud to say that among the nine authors, myself, and editor Cari Dubiel, there are no less than six women and at least one member of the LGBTQ+ community represented. My hope is that future volumes of Passageways will showcase even more diverse talents from across the spectrum of indie authors writing today.

The act of creating a book -- whether it be a collection like this or a standalone novel, or even an anthology of short stories by a single author – is a monumental effort. I haven’t kept track of the time I’ve spent curating Passageways, but it pales in comparison to the hours the authors and Cari have collectively spent creating and editing the work on display here. Willing art into existence is not for the timid, but it is a supremely fulfilling endeavor. We hope you enjoy Passageways, and that these corridors lead you to the authors’ individual works. Thank you for your support of independent authors, and happy reading!

Mike X Welch

10/30/2020

Universe ~ Shadow King

Mira’s Bridge

Susan K. Hamilton

@RealSKHamilton - Twitter

www.susankhamilton.com

Books/Stories set in this Universe: Shadow King (2018, Inkshares)

About Shadow King: Centuries ago, the destruction of the Faerie Realm forced the mythical faerie races to flee to the Human world. In modern-day Boston, Dark Fae—led by the enigmatic Aohdan Collins—rule the city’s criminal underworld, and a Fae Seer must decide if revenge is worth betraying the one she loves. Susan K. Hamilton has written a stunning romantic crime-thriller set in a world of fantasy that will appeal to a wide spectrum of fans through a story filled with fascinating characters and a plot that holds the reader riveted until the very end.

About Mira’s Bridge: Mira, a young Selkie, searches for a way to break a human gangster’s grip on her grandfather’s business. With little to bargain with other than her body and a precious family heirloom, Mira is forced to try striking a deal with the devil himself: Dark Fae Aohdan Collins. Set a decade before Shadow King, Hamilton paints a thrilling, taut portrait of one woman’s desperation pitted against a rising criminal overlord’s ambition.

Mira’s Bridge

Susan K. Hamilton

Business at the shop slowed around lunch. Pleased with her morning sales, Mira relaxed on the padded stool behind the register. With no one in the store, she tore open the package that had arrived earlier. Inside, carefully swaddled in bubble wrap, were two cards from an antique Rampart deck—the Blue King and Queen—matted within a frame made of indigo, aqua, and green stained glass. Her late father taught her to play, and it was still her favorite game.

She ran her fingers over the frame’s edge and gazed at the cards. She adored the Blues, their colors always calling to her heritage and love of the sea. And this deck, which had been hand-painted by another Selkie over a hundred years ago, had delicate waves and fish designs around the edges of the cards.

She jumped, a little embarrassed to be daydreaming, when the front door bell chimed and two Fae women strolled in, laughing and chatting.

Is there anything I can help you find? Mira asked after they’d browsed for a minute.

The blond held up an aquamarine silk tank top. Do you have this in a large? Mediums never fit me right, and I love the wave pattern.

We do—let me grab that.

After rummaging through a few racks, Mira found two more, plus one in purple and a black one with a subtle silver feather pattern. She brought them all over to the customers. The flaxen Fae lit up when she saw Mira’s treasures.

Seireadan! The purple! It would go perfectly with your eyes!

Her friend laughed. Eh, more your style, Lia. I like the black one.

Of course you do, Lia said with an exaggerated, affectionate huff.

As she handed the black top to Seireadan, Mira’s hand brushed the violet-eyed Fae’s. The instant skin grazed skin, a keening wail tore out of Seireadan’s throat. Shaking, she dropped to her knees, her hands grasping the sides of her head. The silk top fell, crumpled and forgotten, to the floor.

I’ll call an ambulance! Mira said, alarmed.

No. Just wait, Lia said.

But she’s—

—She’s not sick. Seireadan’s a Raven. We both are. It’s just the Sight. It’ll pass. Lia knelt next to her friend and wrapped her in a hug. Her voice softened. Shhh, you’re fine. Just relax.

Mira stared, transfixed. Ravens were faeries with the ability to catch glimpses of the future. She’d never met one before, let alone one gripped by the Sight. A heartbeat later, Seireadan’s keening faded to a moan. Lia loosened her arms as her friend rocked back and forth. With a deep, ragged breath, Seireadan sat up straight and shook her head.

You okay? I’ll get some water—oh! Mira’s surprised exclamation cut the air as Seireadan’s arm shot out, grabbing her wrist.

When you think there’s nothing left, you have to jump.

What? A chill washed through Mira.

Seireadan continued, her voice a low monotone, her eyes looking through Mira to some distant point beyond. You never know what face she shows. Broken kings wail desolate in her wake. No one but the Daughter of Water can trust her. When you’re at the fiery precipice—leap! She’ll catch you.

What—what does that mean?

The faraway look in Seireadan’s eyes faded. She focused on Mira’s face. I don’t know. I can only tell you what I Saw.

Once Seireadan got up from the floor, the two Fae finished their shopping as if nothing had happened, buying two of the silk tops, a purse, and three necklaces. Mira found it supremely disconcerting and was still on edge when her grandfather arrived. When the old Selkie came in the store, Mira had just finished reorganizing one of the displays and was giving it a critical eye. She swapped the pile of mauve sweaters with the cream ones.

It looks perfect, my Mira, he said. You take such good care of my shop.

She gave him a kiss on the cheek. Did you have a good day off, Afi? she asked, using the Selkie word for grandfather. Did you swim?

I told you I would. There was an amused twinkle in his sable eyes. Pitor and me, we swam the currents around Castle Island. But I was worried. You in the shop by yourself. And I can tell from your eyes something happened.

It was nothing, but if you must know, two Ravens were in the shop today. One of them had the Sight.

Here in the shop? Oh dear, did it frighten the customers?

No, Afi. They were the only ones here during lunch. And what she said didn’t make any sense. Something about trusting enough to jump. But enough of that—have you looked at the ideas I had for next month’s social media posts?

As expected, he gave her little more than a soft snort in response. Social media. We’ll talk about that over dinner—after I’ve had some wine. Come, my Mira, time to go home.

Just let me lock this up. Then we’ll go. Mira took the money from the cash register and brought it back to the office. Behind her, she heard the door’s bell chime. She’d just finished securing the money in the little wall safe when she heard her grandfather’s cry of pain. Her head snapped up, and she spun around.

AFI! She raced back into the shop. She slid to a stop, horrified by the tableau of blood and pain in front of her. Tears poured down her cheeks as the crowbar slammed into her grandfather’s frail body. The weapon’s sharp edge caught him just above the eye. Dark blood erupted, coating his face and pooling on the floor.

The beefy thug—the weapon in his chunky hand slick with blood—glanced at his boss. A lump formed in Mira’s throat as she recognized Artie Devlin.

Give ’im another taste, Mickey.

You got it, boss.

Cringing, the elderly Selkie curled his body as if that would lessen the pain. Desperate to help him, and heedless of her own safety, Mira lunged toward her grandfather. "Leave him alone—ahh!"

Shut up, you little faerie bitch. Artie backhanded her across the face and flung her to the floor. Mira tried to rise but recoiled at Artie Devlin’s malevolent glare. His beady eyes sat deep in his craggy face, radiating malice. She felt like a bird being sized up by a snake—until her grandfather’s moan distracted the serpent.

Where’s my money, Karl? Artie demanded.

I can’t afford it. I’ll lose my store. The answer was a paper-thin whisper. His quavering voice crushed Mira.

Wrong answer, you faerie fuck. Artie flicked his chin at Big Mickey. As the brute wound up for another blow, Mira threw herself at him again. Though tall for a Selkie, Mira was slender and slight—no match for Big Mickey’s bulk. He shoved her back to the floor.

As she pushed herself up on her elbows, Artie grabbed her hair. She squealed in pain as he dragged her to her feet. Blood seeped from her split lip. The blotchy red imprint from Artie’s slap engulfed half of her face. It would soon bloom into a nasty bruise. His grip tightened, eliciting a fresh yelp.

Afi crawled to his knees and begged Artie to spare her.

Artie’s feral eyes turned sly as he wrenched his hand, forcing Mira down to her knees. You were sayin’ you couldn’t afford to pay?

Karl’s voice scarcely registered. I barely make enough to pay the rent.

Artie snarled, "You don’t listen so good. I don’t give a shit about that, all that matters is what you owe me."

He doesn’t owe you anything, Mira spat.

His hand still tangled in her hair, Artie jerked Mira’s head up and grabbed her throat with his other hand. Her stomach churned as he pressed his dry, leathery lips against her ear and said, Watch your mouth. Or I’ll make you watch while I burn this shithole to the ground with him in it.

Before Mira could even consider responding, a third man came in, a fur draped over his arm—glossy and brown with a healthy peppering of gray throughout. Acid burned up her throat: they’d found her grandfather’s pelt. The old man moaned in agony.

This what’cha was lookin’ for, boss?

Artie’s cold eyes glinted. I hear you seal freaks shed your skins so you can pretend to be human. Give it here, Sully. Mick, hold her.

Big Mickey’s meaty hand engulfed her slender arm as Artie took the fur and spread it across the shop counter. He pulled a switchblade out of his pocket, rusty stains defacing the blade. Cold sweat rolled down Mira’s back. Artie pushed the tip into the pelt and dragged it lightly across the velvety backside of the fur. Karl keened as a thin, beaded line of blood appeared along his arm. He started to sob.

I’ll be damned. I didn’t believe that little faerie fuck when he said whatever happens to the fur happens to the freak. What’s wrong, Karl? Oh, that’s right. You can’t go back to your precious water with a damaged coat. Artie’s nasty cackle filled the room.

Mira thrashed against Big Mickey, but she couldn’t break free. Artie drew the blade’s tip along the fur, then dug the blade in and tore at it. As he did, Karl’s pants ripped. His flesh split open from hip to knee, following the pattern Artie gouged into the fur. Karl’s eyes rolled back in his head as he collapsed.

Afi! Mira shrieked.

Artie made two more slashes in Karl’s pelt, then prodded the prone Selkie with his toe. When he didn’t respond, Artie ordered Sully to wake him up. Sully slapped Karl several times before his eyes fluttered open.

"You get one month. One. Make sure you get my money, old man, Artie said. Or the next skin I cut’ll be this pretty little thing— He grabbed Mira’s chin as Mickey held her tight. —and I won’t be so gentle with her."

Artie didn’t wait to see if his ultimatum was even acknowledged. He let go of Mira and walked towards the door, leaving Karl sobbing in a puddle of his own blood. As soon as Artie let go, Big Mickey shoved Mira, and he and Sully trailed after their master. She crawled to her grandfather’s side, the floor beneath her hands slick and sticky with blood. Pulling off her sweater, she pressed it against the gash in her Afi’s leg as she fumbled for her cell phone to call 911.

We’ll be okay, Afi, she said as she cradled her grandfather’s head. We’ll be okay. I promise.

At the hospital, it took a surgeon four hours to put in the two levels of tiny, meticulous sutures needed to mend both Afi’s thigh and his pelt. The doctors expected him to recover, but he had to stay at the hospital for a few days for observation and to give his pelt time to soak in an antibiotic bath. Mira was relieved that the pain meds made him sleep.

Leaving the hospital the next evening, Mira’s steps dragged. Sighing, she leaned against a lamppost and rubbed her eyes. They felt like they had a pound of sand in them. She ignored her phone when it buzzed. It was just another cousin asking repetitive, superfluous questions that she’d already answered. She stuffed her hands into her jacket pockets and started to walk. Three blocks later, she ducked into Slate Bar & Grill.

While the bar was nearly full, only about four of the tables had guests. That didn’t bother Mira at all—she just wanted some time alone. She had a lot to think about as she slipped into a tiny, semi-circular booth along the far wall. The leather upholstery squeaked as she sat. Mira ordered a shot of tequila and a plate of fries. She knocked the shot back and closed her eyes as the liquid burned its way down her throat.

The aroma of the fries announced their arrival before Mira even saw the waitress, and she asked the woman to bring her a glass of white wine. She’d devoured half the plate before the wine arrived. Mira pushed it away, forcing herself to take a break. Picking up the wine, she nearly choked when Sully came into the bar.

She shrank into herself and slid to the side. The curve of the booth and the decorative plant on the back let her hide, so she could peek at the bar but not be easily seen. Is he following me? Artie said we had a month! Sully sat at the bar and ordered a beer. He didn’t seem to be looking for anyone.

Within five minutes, the door opened again. This time, two tall Fae men entered the establishment. The first was handsome enough with his short blond hair, but the other grabbed Mira’s attention in an instant—along with every other eye in the place. The first thing she noticed was his eyes. Large and dark, they’d have been hypnotic if not for the fury simmering in them. He wore a leather jacket as worn and faded as his jeans, and his long, raven-black hair was pulled back from his face. He shouldered past his companion, heading straight for Sully.

"What the—ow! Fuck!—" Sully knocked his beer over in his haste to scramble away, but the leather-clad Fae grabbed his arm and wrenched it to the side.

—I got a message for Artie. You tell your boss he’s on thin fucking ice. His voice was a low, savage growl as he poked his finger—hard—into Sully’s chest.

Artie ain’t scared of no point-eared fucks, Sully spat, his bluster undermined by the flop sweat on his brow.

The Fae loomed over him. "He should be."

Lot of eyes here, Aohdan, his companion said.

Mira put a hand over her mouth. Aohdan? She’d heard that name before. Whispered rumors said he was the patriarch of Boston’s fréamhacha agus brainsí, a clannish organization of faeries and a few humans, which were carving a place for themselves in the city’s shadows. The close-knit faerie community whispered that bad things happened to people who crossed Aohdan Collins. Unable to resist, she peered past the golden pothos leaves.

Aohdan stared at Sully, his face cold and angry, as if he hadn’t heard his friend’s warning. With a jerk, he twisted his hand, and the sickening snap of bone was drowned out by Sully’s screech. He continued to twist, and Sully crumpled. Aohdan leaned down. "He really fucking should be."

He left Sully in a heap on the floor.

In the days following her Afi’s maiming, Mira wracked her brain for a way to escape from under Artie’s thumb. She asked around the neighborhood, looking for someone—anyone—to help. But no one would. They wouldn’t even talk about it. Finally, she went to her favorite spot in Mary O’Malley State Park and watched the evening colors paint the sky behind the Mystic-Tobin Bridge. Kicking off her shoes, she wandered along the edge of the water.

The cool seawater, gently lapping around her ankles, grounded her, soothing her troubled thoughts. Bringing her the clarity she needed. She was out of options. Almost. There was one solution left, one slim opportunity to fix her problem. But—as the humans liked to say—the cure just might be worse than the disease.

The next night, Mira stared at the pile of clothes she’d borrowed from Afi’s store. It was her only alternative—there certainly wasn’t anything in her own closet that would work. Not for what she was planning. She grabbed a skirt and top from the pile and pulled them on. Turning, she looked in the full-length mirror and was appalled. The skirt didn’t even come halfway to her knees, and the only thing the shirt’s deep vee did was accentuate how small her breasts really were. She wanted to look sophisticated and sexy. Alluring. But this outfit wouldn’t do at all.

I look like a hooker, she thought.

She glanced at the picture perched on top of her dresser. Her mother’s smile radiated from the mahogany frame. Her crisp white button-down shirt, dark slacks, and a short string of pearls around her neck were the epitome of classy sophistication. Mira looked at her reflection again and then glanced back at the picture. I miss you, but I’m glad you’re not here to see me look like this. Mira yanked the clothes off and tried a different outfit.

The next was a sequin-spangled, spaghetti strap top and a pair of leather leggings. It didn’t look as awful as Mira feared. But this is for a nightclub—it’s way too flashy. The third outfit Mira loved, but it was too conservative for what she was planning. It had all the same crisp lines and sophistication she adored in her mother’s style. She set it aside; she’d put some cash in Afi’s register and keep this for herself.

Six outfits later, Mira looked in the mirror again and paused. The black jeans complimented what few curves she possessed, and the three-inch gray suede pumps with the red bottoms made her feel fierce. She’d found a lacy black padded bra that did for her breasts what the earlier shirt couldn’t. And she’d unearthed a semi-sheer top with a Queen Anne neckline that was just translucent enough to offer a tantalizing hint of the darker-colored lingerie beneath.

Mira gave herself a critical once-over. It was a far sexier and provocative outfit than she usually wore, but it needed something else, some jewelry—maybe a necklace. Mira went to the dresser and looked at the little crystal dish that held some of her jewelry. Next to the diamond and pearl ring that had been her mother’s wedding ring, Mira noticed a gold choker with a lustrous Aurora pearl hanging from it.

Her neck and cheeks grew warm. I forgot to put this back—Afi would be furious if he knew I had it out.

Only a few Aurora pearls had survived the destruction of the Faerie Realm. Afi usually kept the family heirloom locked away in a little box tucked in the back of the linen closet. It was his most prized possession and had been in the family for centuries.

Ignoring her better judgment, she put it on, and a rush of self-assurance washed over her. I can’t wear this. I shouldn’t even have it on now. If I ever lost it? Afi would be livid. Mira reached behind her next to unclasp it and hesitated. The pearl made her feel confident. Invincible. Taking it off was like taking off armor. She looked in the mirror again. Then something in the reflection caught her eye: a scarf dangling on the back of the bedroom door.

Mira pulled the watercolor silk down and wrapped it around her neck, letting the tasseled ends fall down her back. With a few clever twists, the pearl was hidden behind some artful folds in the material. She looked in the mirror again and smiled.

Perfect! No one will ever know it’s there.

Two hours later, Mira stood just inside the doorway of Finnegan’s Luck, a local bar on the edge of South Boston. Whoever Finnegan was, it looked like his luck had run out. The place was a dive, plain and simple, and the dim lighting did nothing to improve the bar’s lack of charm. With a worn and stained bar and holes in the ancient linoleum floor, it served a very local clientele who weren’t interested in the newer, upscale taverns starting to invade the neighborhood.

There were only a handful of patrons, but that would change as people ended their workday and came in for a drink. The jukebox blared Aerosmith’s Walk this Way. In the far corner, two Fae men squared off over a dilapidated pool table against a human man and a Leprechaun. A Ballybog, his spindly legs hanging from a globular body, sat next to a Trow. Dressed in denim and flannel peppered with sawdust, they chatted with another human man. He said something Mira couldn’t hear, but it must have been funny; a mirthful snort came out of the Trow’s upturned pig-nose.

Her eyes panned the room and fell upon the tall, black-haired Fae she was looking for: Aohdan Collins.

His coal-dark mane touched his shoulders. A neat goatee framed his generous mouth. Without his leather jacket, it was easy to see some of the tattoos that covered his arms. He radiated arrogant confidence, and two waitresses flirted outrageously when they passed his table, trying to garner even a hint of attention. There was no denying he was attractive, but Mira decided that she didn’t like him. She didn’t have to like him—he was a means to an end. Nothing more.

None of the other patrons seemed to pay her any mind. She slipped onto a bar stool and ordered a shot. The bartender grunted in surprise but dropped the shot glass in front of her and filled it with cheap tequila. She swallowed the alcohol and grimaced as it seared her throat. Her quarry sat at his table, engrossed in a serious conversation with another Fae—his blond companion from Slate.

Galen! Aohdan waved, and one of the Fae playing pool left the game and joined him at the table. After a few words, a shared laugh, and a nod of approval, the three stood up. Aohdan was as formidable and imposing as he’d been the first night Mira saw him. Her stomach churned, a well of sour acid and anxiety.

Mira took a deep breath—she was only going to get one chance. She adjusted her shirt, tugging it lower to make her cleavage as enticing as possible, and started to walk directly towards him. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And just where do you think you’re going? Not far away, half-sitting on the edge of a table, a Fae man with dark red hair and a self-important, insulting smile tossed Mira a lascivious look. She glanced away, flushing, and pressed her hand to her throat, taking some comfort as she felt the necklace under her scarf. She dropped her fingers away and took another step towards Aohdan.

Hey. I’m talking to you. The ginger Fae’s voice hardened as he got up to block her progress.

Mira raised her chin and refused to look at him, plastering an aloof look on her face that would have made her mother proud. She kept her eyes on Aohdan, who had stopped to see what was going on.

I have some business to discuss with you, she said, hoping her voice sounded

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