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Red Right Hand: Chapters 1-6

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Image Placeholder of - 72Haven’t read Levi Black’s Mythos War series yet? Get started with this excerpt of the first book in the trilogy, Red Right Hand. The Mythos War series will come to an end on July 30 with the release of Death Goddess Dance

Charlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand.

But her rescue comes at a cost. The Man in Black, a diabolical Elder God, demands she become his Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she possessed. To ensure her obedience, he takes her friend and possible love, Daniel, in thrall as a hostage. Now she must join The Man in Black in his crusade to track down and destroy his fellow Elder Gods, supposedly to save humanity from being devoured for all eternity.

But is The Man in Black truly the lesser of two evils–or a menace far more treacherous than the eldritch horrors she’s battling in his name?

1

The cheap alcohol burned as it splashed down my throat.

Fumes roiled up the back of my esophagus, making me choke. It felt like getting punched in the tonsils with a fistful of kerosene.

I sucked in a breath, swallowing hard.

Dammit, Daniel …

I really like you.

Holding the dented, plastic bottle of vodka, I smeared my arm across my face, wiping away hot tears.

The first guy I … and he knew. He knew.

I fumbled keys out of my pocket and held them up, jangling them in front of my face. They woozed and blended in a fuzz of eyestrain, tears, and alcohol.

Now you know there’s nobody in this crappy world you can trust.

My rage had cooled on the walk home, devolving into a ball of hurt and anger and drunken fog. The stairs to the townhouse I shared were treacherous, threatening to throw me back down them with each step, but I wasn’t going to let them get the best of me.

I’m stubborn that way.

Besides, it was cold outside.

The key in my hand stabbed at the keyhole, brass clicking on brass. I had to lean my forehead against the door frame to get the key to slide into the lock. It turned in a smooth motion, barely a click to tell me it had unlocked. I stumbled across the threshold, slamming the door closed behind me, harder than I meant to.

Dammit.

At least the night is over. Just go to bed and try again in the morning. You’ve got jujitsu at ten. You can take it out on the mat.

My keys hit the table by the door with a metallic clatter, clashing against my roommates’ keys.

Keep it down, or you’ll have the whole house up. Shasta’ll want to know what’s wrong, and you do NOT want to get into that. Not tonight.

I looked up the stairs to my room.

Bed.

Just get to bed.

I’d taken only a few wobbly steps when the first skinless dog stepped from the shadows.

 

2

My mind stuttered, jut-jut-jittering around what I saw.

I didn’t have a dog. None of my roommates had a dog, and no one I knew had ever had a dog that looked like this.

It stood on the hardwood floor in four slowly widening puddles of goo. Wet ran in rivulets down its legs, the musculature of it strung tight over a rack of bones. It stood by the stairs leading up to my room, watching me with a low-slung head. Skinless hackles bunched over its neck in knotted cables of raw meat.

Adrenaline slammed through my bloodstream, driven in a stampede by my heart suddenly trying to pound its way out of my chest. It burned away the fog of alcohol, shocking me sober. The jug of cheap vodka slipped from my fingers, tumbling to the floor. It bounced, spun, and lay on its side, spilling astringent alcohol over my shoes in a splash.

The dog stepped closer, a low growl rumbling from its vivisected chest.

The growl echoed in the stairwell, doubling, then tripling as two more hounds trotted out of the shadows. These two were leaner than the first, their rib cages hollow and caved in. They stalked toward me, the three moving in unison with the same squelching lift of paws, then the same click-clack of crescent razor claws as descended again. Their shoulders moved up and down; heads swinging side to side, panting rib bones expanding and contracting in time with harsh snuffles as long, blister-pink tongues lolled out of jaws over-filled with bone-cracking teeth. The rasping sound of their breath scraped my ears like a nail file on the membrane of my eardrum, dragging down and flicking up with just enough pressure to never quite tear through.

Clickety-clack squelch, clickety-clack squelch, pant-pant-pant …

My mind screamed at me.

Move! Get out! Don’t just stand here!

I wanted to turn, wanted to run. Panic clawed at the front of my throat. Somehow I knew that if I took my eyes off the hounds they would take me. They would lunge and snap and latch and drag me to the ground where they would rip me open and bury their snouts inside my shredded body. My mind bounced around, unable to latch on to any one thing, unable to focus, desperate for a way to escape.

The door.

You didn’t lock the door.

I stepped backward, slowly, carefully. The hounds matched me step for step, their baleful eyes pinned me, glowing the color of rotten squash. Lidless, they stared at me from deep sockets of raw gristle.

I stuck my hand out, fingers twisted in a ward against the evil eye my grandmother always used on a neighbor she accused of being a witch. I don’t know why I did it. It was just instinct, a fetish from childhood—worthless and, worse, ineffectual. I used the same sign whenever I thought a car might not stop for its red light when I crossed an intersection. A tiny, stupid, reflexive habit.

My keys still sat on the little table in the center of the foyer. I snatched them up. The weight of them hung familiar in my fingers, a sliver of comfort, the merest ease to my jangled nerves.

The first hound growled again. It stepped quicker, trotting closer.

My throat closed, the pounding of my pulse throbbing through each side. Tension stabbed inside my lungs, stilettos sliding in.

Breathe. Remember, you have to breathe.

The air between me and the hounds became a plucked string singing with tension. They stopped, raw haunches crouching, front paws click-clacking against the floor as they spread apart, preparing to lunge.

Oh, crap.

Grabbing the table, I yanked it around me, tipping it over, letting it crash to the floor between me and the hounds. I turned to the door as they pushed off, leaping over the table. My hand had closed on the door knob when I felt the hot, sharp slash of claws down the backs of my legs. I was driven to the floor, knees banging hard, pain shooting up my thighs. My fingers scrabbled as my hand slipped off the slick brass knob.

A weight slammed into my back, smashing my face against the door. Pain blasted across my forehead, flaring white behind my eyes. My ears closed, turning the snap and snarl of the hounds all tinny and hollow. A blow knocked me sideways, scraping my cheek raw on the wood of the door. I tumbled across the floor, banging knees, elbows, and hips until the wall stopped me.

My body went numb, skull stuffed with cotton. Nothing worked. Panic screamed.

Get up! Get the hell up or you are dead!

My eyes were the only things I could move. I rolled them around, watching the dogs as they circled. The big one lunged, snapping at my face. Its teeth clacked together, its lips pulled back in a snarl. A string of brackish saliva slung off those raw lips, slapping across one of my eyes. It hit, itching and burning like jalapeño juice on steroids.

The hound pulled back.

It shook its head, jerking from side to side. Its jaw distended with a loud POP, dislocating to take a bigger bite. Cold, baleful eyes were pinned on my throat. My fingers flexed, scratching the floor. Striated muscle on the hound’s shoulders quivered as it prepared to lunge and tear my throat out in a spray of hot arterial blood.

I couldn’t close my eyes. Couldn’t look away.

My eyelids were glued open, eyes stuck wide in their sockets as the door slammed open and a tall man in a long black coat strode in with amusement in his glittering eyes and death in his red right hand.

 

3

The hound jerked around, its skinless head still looming over and dripping on me. The rumble in its chest shook loose fat droplets of slick liquid that drizzled across my arm, my shoulder, my neck. They splattered, as warm and thick as fresh milk. Its brother hounds moved back as the Man in Black filled the doorway.

The wind swept in behind him, blowing and billowing his long coat around a slender frame. The black leather fwapped around his legs, the sound reminding me of bat wings. The wind cleared the air of the moist, green-rot smell of the hounds, filling my nose with the scent of woodsmoke and blackberries.

He stood, outlined by the streetlights behind him, his face in shadow. Just a shape, just the form of a man, all shadowed moving edges and hard silhouette. His eyes glittered deep in his face. Other than that I couldn’t see anything about his countenance.

Then he smiled.

It was a shark-toothed grin, a glistening grimace from a mouthful of murder. A chill slid slowly down my spine. The gleam across his teeth was the same gleam that slid down the edge of a sword like a drop of quicksilver. Gooseflesh that had nothing to do with the chill night air rushing through the open door rose from the base of my skull to the bottom of my shoulder blades.

The hound standing over me growled from within its exposed rib cage.

“Shut up, mongrel. Recognize your better.”

The voice was deep and clear, a tolling bell that echoed in the tiny vestibule. The hound tilted its head, watching the man with an unblinking sulfurous eye. Fear pulled tight every tendon in my body, squeezing like a python, making me want to scream. The tension in the air suffocated me and clamped around my chest, thick with the potential for violence.

The hound above me turned, snapping at its brethren with a hoarse bark and a clack of wicked teeth.

The two smaller hounds sprang in an explosion of deadly, liquid grace. They were a blur, hanging in the air at the same time. Ropes of spittle and foam slung from raw-lipped snouts as their teeth gnashed.

The Man in Black turned, flicking the black-bladed sword in his terrible, red right hand. The slender length of steel licked out, not slowing as it bit deep into the belly of one airborne hound. Muscle parted like water in a gushing plop of strange organs on the floor. The hound fell as if struck down by the hand of God. Both halves of it twitched, sloshing out more of the chunky stew its entrails had become.

With a twist of the red right hand, the sword’s curved blade sliced the air again, cleaving the second hound’s side with a hollow, drumming thunk. It struck deep, a hack instead of a slash, driving through contracting, skinless muscle and grating along the vertebrae of the hound’s spine. The hellhound fell at the man’s feet, spasming its life out in a gout of black, runny ichor that spread like sewage underneath it.

The Man in Black spun the sword, slinging gore off the blade. It flicked in a wet arc across the wall. He pointed the weapon at the last hound.

“Your move, cur.”

The last hound took a half step back. Clackety squelch. It stopped, stood, and quivered.

Then it turned its head and latched its teeth into my ear.

Pain exploded, hot and immediate from my eyebrow to my chin. The fangs scissored in, puncturing the skin, the cartilage, and the flesh, ripping furrows deep in my cheek and temple. Saliva sizzled and popped like bacon grease in a hot pan.

I tried to jerk away from the agony. The skinless dog shook its jaws, worrying the meat in its mouth. It felt like my face was being yanked off the bone, pulled away like a rind from a melon. The teeth that had punched through my earlobe ripped free in a spit of hot, thin blood, but the ones through the rim of cartilage around my ear held fast, the gristle strung tight in the hound’s mouth.

My ear filled with blood, but I could still hear the hound’s breath whuff and hiss as though we were in an echo chamber. Blood ran down my ear canal, filling my brain with sound, the moist snuff of canine breath bouncing off walls of throbbing, pulsing agony.

My feet slid and slipped on the gore-covered tile of the floor. I jerked as an electric current of pain jolted all the way down to my heels. My nerves burned as one hand slapped against the smooth, skinless muscle of the hound’s chest, trying to push away, the other cramped around the keys I still held.

Hard metal dug into my palm.

My mind went animal blank, panic slaughtering all rational thought, leaving behind only hollow, raw instinct. Deep in the lizard part of my brainpan, that base-of-the-skull place, a spark flared and my training kicked in.

I drove my keys into the hound’s face as hard as I could.

The metal sticking up between my knuckles bit deep. Punching through muscle, scraping on bone. The long, serrated key to my car punctured a lidless eye, spilling spoiled aqueous liquid across my fingers like runny egg yolk.

The hellhound gave a shrill yelp, and my pain cut away in a wash of cool sensation as its teeth slipped free. I popped my eyelids open in time to see the Man in Black slash with his sword. The hound turned skeletal tail, bounding across the room. A wide gash gaped open along its flank, the meat split wide and peeled back. The hound didn’t slow or turn or hesitate, and when it hit the corner behind the stairwell it disappeared.

The world flickered in my mind, sputtering like the end of a movie reel. The Man in Black knelt beside me, his dripping sword held out and away. The fingers on his left hand touched the side of my face. They were cool and clean. He smiled a crooked, shark-tooth grin. His voice came to me clearly, more inside my mind than out.

“Do not die yet, Charlotte Tristan Moore. We have much to discuss.”

 

4

“Do you have cream or sugar?”

The side of my head throbbed, pulsing in time with my heartbeat. I could feel the blood lurching underneath the skin, slouching its way toward the Bethlehem of my face. It hurt. Like claw hammer to the skull hurt. Even my teeth were sore.

I held a towel against my shredded ear to catch the blood that poured out, running hot and sticky down my neck. The world sounded half muffled through the blood-soaked cloth.

I stared at the tablecloth in front of me, elbow propped on the red-and-white checked vinyl my roommate Shasta had brought back from her last visit home. The little red squares wavered with every pulse from under the towel.

What the hell is going on?

A dark hand sat a steaming cup of black coffee on the table under my face.

“I asked you a question, Charlotte Tristan Moore. I would appreciate an answer before this turns cold.”

I looked up. The Man in Black stood close beside me. My neck hurt as I twisted my face up to take all of him in. Tall, he loomed, his head seeming to brush the ceiling—though some small part of me knew that was a trick of perspective, the angle I looked up from. A black coat stretched from his neck all the way down to the floor. It moved even though he stood still, shifting subtly, delicately, as though it was breathing. Not that coats breathed.

It must be a trick of the light.

Or my head injury.

Oh, shit. Do I have a head injury? Something cracked inside my skull, making me think weirdly?

The Man in Black held a second steaming cup in his right hand. My eyes locked on that hand. It thrust from the edge of his coat sleeve, the one bright patch of color on the doom-black darkness of him. This close, it glistened in the incandescent kitchen light. Wet, or possibly greasy—as though it had been flayed, dusky skin peeled off, leaving behind the raw red of meat, the exposed underflesh. Subtly shiny like it had been dipped in crimson liquid latex.

Or fresh-spilled blood.

Now that hand held my favorite mug, a bright yellow cup with a picture of George Takei doing heart hands to the camera.

I caught myself leaning away, threatening to slip off my chair and onto the floor, trying to get as far from him as possible. Dammit. I was cowering.

I pulled myself upright.

My voice didn’t tremble when I spoke. That surprised me.

“My name is Charlie. Only my family calls me Charlotte. Sugar is in the cabinet above the coffee maker, creamer is in the fridge. Help yourself.”

He nodded, turning away in a swirl of coat.

As he rummaged through the cabinet, I pulled my hand away from the towel. The hand moved, but the towel stuck, held to the side of my face by a clot of dried blood.

Great.

I pulled on one corner, tugging sharply. It peeled free with a tearing sound. I winced—I couldn’t help it—the pain flaring hot and bright like a struck match laid against my skin.

You’ve been hurt worse. Get it over with.

My fingers closed on the corner of the towel, and with a swift, sharp yank I pulled the whole cloth free from the clotted wound. It felt like being slapped with a belt sander. I sucked in air hard and fast between clenched teeth.

Damnthathurtlikehell!

The man was there, next to me.

I didn’t see him move—my eyes hadn’t been shut longer than a second—but he somehow crossed the room to me. He was just there. As though he’d teleported. His red right hand reached for my face.

His voice came, a dark murmur. “Do not move.”

My nerves locked, freezing me in one spot. That hand moved closer, drifting lazily near. It hung, exposed and obscene, from the end of his sleeve, almost limp, its fingers slightly curled like those of a dead man.

It became all I could see, all I could look at, blocking the whole world. Made of striated muscle attached to tendon and bone, stringy nerves laced over the entire surface like electrical feeds. It came closer, everything else going blurry with strain as I tried to watch, but it slipped out of my line of sight. I couldn’t move my neck, couldn’t tilt my head, frozen by his command like a field mouse hypnotized by a cobra.

The hand touched my ear. I felt a slight pressure and then … nothing. No pain, no stab, no tear, no rip. None of the searing agony I expected. He pulled away, hand falling to his side, disappearing in a fold of that long black coat.

My own hand flew, touching my ear. It felt … strange. Odd. Hot with fever. I felt the rough, crumbly crust of dried blood. My hair was matted with fluid into a hard knot. As I felt around, the blood crumbled and dusted down my cheek, down my neck. My fingers moved the flaps of soft, spongy tissue where teeth had ripped through the earlobe, leaving it a tangle of skin strings. The hard rim of cartilage felt like a frond of plastic under my touch.

A gnarled, half-melted frond of plastic.

A chunk of scab came off in my fingers, and they were suddenly slick with new blood. I felt all that in my fingertips.

None of it in my ear or the side of my face.

That skin was dead. Rubbery. No sensation at all.

The Man in Black now sat across from me at the little table, a long-handled spoon clinking around the rim of the yellow coffee mug as he stirred in hazelnut creamer.

I hadn’t seen him move. One second he stood at my side; the next I examined my ear; the third he was in the chair across from me.

“Did you heal my ear?”

He smirked, making the corner of his full lips twitch upward. Dark eyes glittered, smudged with deep hollows underneath. “Does it feel healed to you?”

“No, it still feels like shredded meat, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Why?”

He lifted the coffee mug. George Takei smiled at me. “I shut off the nerves in that part of your face.”

“You did what?”

“Your eardrum is not damaged. You heard me.”

“Is it going to come back? Will I have feeling again?”

The Man in Black sipped his coffee, not answering.

“Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?”

“Tonight is your night of destiny, Charlotte Tristan Moore. You have been chosen to receive a great blessing.”

“A chewed-up ear is a great blessing?” My hand banged against the table. Coffee splashed over the rim of the mug in front of me, spilling across the plastic tablecloth. “Quit talking in riddles and tell me what’s going on.”

Slowly, the man set his coffee on the table. His hands folded around the mug casually, lying loose and relaxed around the yellow cup, fingertips barely touching the smooth ceramic surface. His left hand had long, slender fingers, each one carefully sculpted and covered with smooth skin the color of the coffee in his cup. The nails were even and manicured. It made me think of the piano. His fingers looked like they would be able to seduce a tune from an instrument.

Stroke the keys.

Tickle the ivories.

Then my eyes fell on his other hand.

The right hand.

The terrible, red right hand.

The memory of it touching my face slithered through my brain. A chill ran up one side of my spine and tumbled down the other to splash against something low and deep inside me.

I tore my eyes away, forcing them up to his face.

He looked at me, gazing intensely from under a dark brow. His nose was sharp, hawkish at the bridge and widening at the bottom over full lips. He had an exotic face, feral and Semitic, the face of an ancient Babylonian or a time-flung Assyrian.

That sensation happened again, the sick thrill that churned deep inside me.

Fear wrapped itself around me. I felt like an injured swimmer in shark-infested water.

This time my voice did tremble, just slightly, just below the surface. “Who are you?”

“I am Nyarlathotep.”

“Why does that sound familiar?” I’d heard that name before.

“Your uncle Howard Phillip Lovecraft wrote of me.”

“My uncle Howard?” Who the hell was he talking about? Knowledge slammed into my brain. “You mean my mom’s great-uncle? The dead writer?”

“You are of the Lovecraft bloodline.”

This makes no sense.

“My last name is Moore.”

A sip of coffee, a twinkle in dark eyes. “Your father’s last name is Moore. You are a Lovecraft through your mother’s blood.”

“Wait, wait, wait a damn minute.” My hands were flat on the tablecloth, holding onto something solid because the world had tilted on its axis. My brain fumbled around, trying to figure things out. “I read that stuff as a kid ’cause my mom made me. It was weird and boring and totally made up.”

My mom took great pride in being related to a famous writer and wanted me to be proud too. She used to assign his stories to me like homework. I would sit on a Saturday and try to plow my way through words that filled pages like marching insects. Words that had been out of date when he wrote them, containing enough syllables to make my jaw hurt, and he used them as though it were his job. Four adjectives to describe one noun, and three or four nouns in a sentence. Everything became eldritch, elephantine, horrifying, terrifying, or some other ten-dollar descriptor.

Too wordy and dry for a twelve-year-old.

Too wordy for me now.

“Howard Phillip Lovecraft walked your planet as a prophet, able to see through the veil between worlds. He didn’t understand his gift, passed to him from his own mother, a daughter of the original wardens. It very nearly drove him mad. He wrote stories to clear his mind and warn your kind of dangers they knew nothing about.” He leaned toward me. “You have the same gift, Charlotte Tristan Moore.”

“Stop using my full name. It’s annoying. Just call me Charlie.”

He shrugged and sipped his coffee.

“Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that all this craziness is real, and I’m a prophet, and you’re a demon named Nar … how do you pronounce your name?”

“Nyarlathotep.”

“I don’t know if I can say that.”

“You may call me savior.” His lips twitched. Not a smile, just a flicker of amusement. “Or master, if the name is too hard to pronounce.”

“Are you serious?” I stared at him. “Did you seriously just tell me to call you master?” Anger spilled into my voice, making it crack. “What the…”

“Stop talking.”

Something in the tone drew me up short, some power catching my breath in my throat like an animal in a trap. His eyes flashed, crackling with the heat lightning of anger. Dusky skin flushed even darker, a shadow of a thunderstorm rolling over the horizon. His voice dropped into a hiss.

“I am Nyarlathotep. I am the Crawling Chaos. It matters not if you call me the Thing in the Dark or the Nightmare Man. I am that which you fear. I have been named Shaitan, Loki, and the Spider God. Know this.” He leaned forward. “I have chosen you, Charlotte Tristan Moore, to be my Acolyte. That gives you leeway.” A raw, red finger stabbed the table. The plastic tablecloth sizzled underneath it. “But I will not be mocked.

He sat back in the chair, his dark eyes boring into me. The words vibrated the air between us. They hung like a suicide, dangling loose and swinging slightly. The silence swelled, filling the air like a humidity, making it hard to draw a breath.

I clenched my teeth, keeping words trapped in my mouth. Sweat ran under my hair with a gut-locking sweep of fear. My mind raced, thoughts pinging off the insides of my skull, tearing along the twisted pathways of my brain and stumbling over each other.

Oh shit this is crazy why haven’t Bobbi Annette or Shasta come down this is crazy what is he a man is he a man did he kill them in their sleep what the hell were those things when I got home why did Nyar … nuh-yar-la-THO-tep save me what the hell is going on?

Nyarlathotep waved his normal hand in front of me. “The other people who live here are asleep. They will not wake until I allow it.”

My tumbling thoughts screeched to a halt.

“Did you just read my mind?”

“I did. Your housemates are locked in their dreams until I allow them to wake. I chose to not kill them. I am not a man. Those things were skinhounds, bidding-doers of the Ones Locked Away, sent to kill you before I could find you. I saved your life because you can be my Acolyte.” He smiled. “Did that answer your questions?”

I pushed the chair away from the table. The legs grunted across the floor, loud and sharp. I needed to get up, to move around. This was weird, too weird, too strange, too much. I felt trapped on a train headed off a cliff somewhere down the line. I couldn’t see it from my car, but I could feel the tracks were loose under the wheels. My skin twitched all over from the adrenaline pumping through my bloodstream. I paced beside the counter on the other side of the kitchen, as far away as I could get from the Man in Black while staying in the kitchen. He sat between me and the door. Somehow I didn’t think he would let me leave the room.

I took a deep breath, making my mind calm down.

Think, Charlie, think. Work the problem.

“Why would those skinhounds want to kill me?”

“To stop you from becoming my Acolyte.”

I put my hand up. “Stop that. Stop talking like I know what the hell you’re saying. I don’t know what”—my fingers jerked quotation marks into the air—“become your Acolyte means. Tell me what you want in plain, dumb, human English.”

Nyarlathotep took a sip of coffee. He studied me over the rim of the mug with half-lidded eyes. Slender brown fingers held the cup to his lips. That awful red right hand lay somewhere out of sight, under the table or put away in the folds of his coat.

I didn’t care, as long as I couldn’t see it. That thing creeped me out. It filled me with a cold dread in the bottom of my stomach. Nyarlathotep drained his cup and placed it gently on the table.

He stared at the empty cup, his hand tented on the table just in front of it. After a long moment his hand twitched, fingers flicking out. The cup upturned and flipped to its side. It rolled until the handle thunked on the table, bringing it to a stop. Dregs of heavily creamed coffee slowly ran to the edge of the mug and spilled over to drip out onto the tablecloth.

His voice was clear. “There are things, gods if you will, beings of immeasurable cosmic power who covet the Earth. They desire to overrun it. Some want to destroy your species. Some want to enslave you as playthings. Some want to devour you as succulent prey. They are the Elder Gods, the Outer Gods, the Great Old Ones of time long forgotten. They ruled when this world was without form, and void. They were the darkness upon the face of the deep, slaughtering the ancestors of Adam, laying waste to Creation until they were bound, imprisoned on the edge of the universe. For eons they have tried to crash their cell gates, return to this world, and seek vengeance on the sons and daughters of the ones who slammed shut the door against them.”

I blinked, my eyelids shuttering down for only a split second. When they opened, the Man in Black stood in front of me.

Everything inside my body locked down, every muscle tightening in alarm.

Nyarlathotep loomed over me. Sharply arched eyebrows creased together, obsidian eyes boring into the meat of me. The weight of his gaze lay heavily, a physical thing, pressing against my skin.

His voice came low, nearly breathy, pushed between too sharp and too many teeth. “After millennia of howling and gibbering against the gates, they have a new design. Now they slip quietly into this realm, squeezing through the cracks and the fractures and the fissures little by little, seeding themselves here in this reality. They come like a thief in the night, growing in might and power until enough of their substance has crossed over to make a full and complete transition.”

He leaned in, his sharp-angled face inches from mine. I didn’t flinch, didn’t draw back.

I didn’t.

“I have grown fond of your world, of your little humanity. I do not wish to share my playthings with Old Ones who would destroy you all. If the human race is to die in glorious slaughter, it will be by my hand or none at all.”

I took a slow, careful step back. Like you back away from a dog that may or may not bite you, but definitely will if you move too fast. “What do you need me for?”

“Only the Lovecraft bloodline carries the gift of Sight. I need you to be my hound, to help me hunt the avatars of the Old Ones that have already crossed the threshold before their power grows too great to stop.”

“I’ve never seen anything like what you’re talking about. Not until tonight. Not until you.”

“The magick lies dormant inside you. After I place my Mark upon you as my Acolyte, your gift will spark. You shall be of me, and I of you. Then your magick will be accessible to you.”

Dread sat like lead in my stomach. I didn’t want anything to do with this. I just wanted to get away from this … this Man in Black and his craziness. I felt stuck.

Trapped.

Trapped like …

I shoved that behind its door, locking it away.

No! Not like that. Never like that again. Keep it together, Charlie. Play along until you get your chance.

“What do I have to do?”

“Simply give me your hand.” His right arm moved out of the folds of his coat. His hand hung, red, raw, and sticky-slick. I pulled back. I didn’t want to touch that hand. I clenched my fist and shoved it in my hoodie.

The Man in Black looked amused.

“Do not fight me on this, Charlotte Tristan Moore. I will have your hand one way or another. It would be best to give it willingly.”

Slowly, I unfurled my arm, stretching out my palm like a sacrificial offering. His dreadful crimson hand fell quick and terrible, clamping around the bones under my skin, rubbing them against one another. My mind loosened. The shiny cinnamon skin touched mine, firm and slick like scar tissue. I thought it would be sticky and tacky, like semicongealed blood. For a second it almost felt pleasant. Comforting.

Then the pain struck. Small and quick, like a biting cuttlefish under the water. Just a sharp nip that faded before I realized it had happened.

That wasn’t so …

And then the cutting began.

A jolt of agony slashed across my palm. My mind filled with the image of my dad using a woodcarving tool: the spiral blade spinning furiously, carving grooves into a piece of wood clamped to the worktable. The pain burrowed deep in my palm, and it moved, zigging and zagging across my grip, building and building and building, crashing and clanging inside my brain like a crescendo, a cacophony of agony. I tried to jerk away, but the red right hand clamped harder, grinding my phalanges together until they felt shrill and spiral-fractured.

My muscles yanked and stretched, threatening to tear tendon from bone as I fought to break the grip. My mind babbled at me, overloaded from my nerves being set afire, the edges gone brittle and crackling like spun glass, threatening to shatter.

He let go.

I fell backward, ass banging on the kitchen floor, jarring my spine in a click-clack of vertebrae. My jaw slammed shut, teeth tearing through the sides of my tongue. Blood dripped and splattered on the linoleum around me, sizzling as it landed. My hand was smeared with it, looking like a kindergarten finger-painted version of his. I looked at my palm.

The flesh had been excised in lines and whorls and squiggly trails. The raw wound was in the shape of a symbol I’d never seen before. It looked like a pentagram, but there were too many lines, too many swirls. The edges of the skin were crisp, the cuts deep, grooved all the way to the pink flesh underneath. Blood, my blood, pulsed out in time with my heartbeat. Each pulse matched a sick, queasy throb deep in my belly.

His voice rolled like thunder. Pronouncing, “Charlotte Tritsan Moore, you have been Marked as my Acolyte. Now you will be able to See.”

I looked up.

The Man in Black was gone.

In his place stood a monstrosity.

 

5

I am going insane.

I couldn’t see it all, couldn’t take it all in, my vision breaking on the edges like cheap windowpanes, crackle-fracturing from the outside in. The thing in front of me filled the room, a mass of limbs and tentacles writhing in knots. The tentacles roiled against each other, worm-white membranes tearing as they rubbed. Clear ectoplasm gushed, lubricating the smearing caress of alien flesh against alien flesh. From this mass jutted spindly limbs ending in grasping, many-fingered hands with too many joints, each finger capped by a talon black and curved to pull meat from bone.

I don’t, I don’t, I don’t …

The massed tentacles were split-seamed with gaping mouths, gnashing rims of razor-sharp chitin crowding and pushing each other in jutting, jagged rows, piranha mouths designed by a mad, sadistic creator. The teeth chomped together, the noise a cacophony, driving into my mind like a drill.

 … understand, no sense, what, what, WHAT …

Hundreds of orbs of all sizes dotted the oily membrane skin. A few were as large as my face; some were the size of a pea. Unblinking they stared, drinking in my human frailty, my weakness, my lowly pathetic life. They looked on me without pity, seething animosity in their cold, unmoving stare.

 … toomuchdontknowwhatiamlook …

Over this sloppy, slithering form lay a shaggy hide, still raw and bloody from being cut off its original host. It moved on its own, rippling around the chaos it clothed, trying to pull away each time its sore subcutaneous inside brushed against the skin of the chaos god who wore it. Each kiss of contact raised a sizzle and a thin wailing scream that cut through the teeth-gnashing noise of a hundred hungry mouths.

My mind broke, sanity washing away like sand on a crumbling beach. I already knew fear; since that night it had been my constant companion, living in my bones, stalking my shadow, always waiting for a trigger to come screaming back into my mind.

A certain look from a man, the smell of Sax body spray, carpet against my skin, four men in a group, my face touching the bare mattress if the sheet slipped in the night, that song … that damned song that still haunts me. These things and a hundred others had stalked my life since that night, looking for any opportunity to take me and drag me back to the edge of madness.

That was nothing compared to the terror that ripped my soul at seeing the Crawling Chaos in his true form.

A tentacle slithered toward me. My eyes locked on it, unable to blink or look away. It slapped around my arm like an obscene bracelet, the membrane cold and greasy as it curled around my right wrist. Its touch turned the thick line of scar tissue running up my arm into a throbbing current of ice. It ached deep in my tendons, racing along my carpal tunnel. My fingers opened, uncurling to reveal the symbol carved into the flesh of my hand. A scream tore out of my throat.

The chaos moved, surging toward me.

Something hot and wet hit my palm, setting it afire.

The world exploded.

 

6

I snapped back to the real world in a harsh, pulling jerk.

I found myself on my knees, still on the kitchen floor. Nyarlathotep stood over me, hand clamped around my wrist. His normal hand. The red right one held my now empty coffee mug from earlier. Something sticky ran down my arm in a twisty, winding trickle. I looked. Coffee. Coffee mixed with blood streamed down my arm, dripping off my hand onto the floor. My mind tumbled into working order and my first coherent thought became:

Who’s going to clean up this mess?

The bones of my wrist ached under the Man in Black’s fingers, and the scar that ran up my forearm thrummed with cold.

Let me go!

I jerked down and to the inside, like I’d been trained to, and slipped my hand out of his grasp. I scrambled, my shoes squeaking on wet linoleum, putting as much distance between me and the Man in Black as I could. He watched me, his lips pulled into a bemused smirk. My back hit the wall. The wall was solid. It was real. Carefully I stood, sliding up, getting my feet under me.

A hornet’s nest buzzed inside my body. I could feel my blood running under my skin, rushing and blasting through the veins. I felt high, charged, jolted full of some weird energy that made the world spin faster.

“What the hell just happened?”

Nyarlathotep smiled. “Blood touched your Mark, and your Sight activated.”

“Stop.” My left hand, the smooth uninjured one, flew up between us. “Stop using those words like they mean something to me.”

I thought for a second, pulling it all together. I looked down, studying the symbol etched into my palm. My hands were shaking, vibrating and tingling like they were hooked into a live wire. The lines and swirls made grooves in my flesh, open and raw, but they weren’t bleeding anymore. My hand felt sticky, but the stickiness had the sugary tack of coffee instead of the iron-tanged texture of blood. “You’re saying my blood, on this thing you did to me, made me see … what the hell did I see?”

His normal hand swept up and down, indicating his body. “This is merely a glamour, a skinsuit I use to walk unhindered in your world. Your Sight revealed to you my true form on this plane of reality.”

“It’s ugly as hell, just so you know,” I spat. The insult felt good. A tiny stab. It didn’t change the fact that this situation had become completely batshit crazy, but it made me feel stronger, a little more in control.

The Man in Black shrugged.

I wiped my shaky hand on my hoodie. The material was tissue-soft from hundreds of washings, but it still felt like sandpaper across the symbol cut in my flesh. “No more blood on this, not ever. ’Cause I never want to see that again.”

“You will need your magick, Charlotte Tristan Moore, if you are to be of service to me. I will require much of you before I am done.”

“You can require whatever you want. I’m not doing it.”

Nyarlathotep appeared suddenly there, in front of me, looming tall, much taller than me. Dark eyes glittered as he leaned in, voice low and sinister. “When the time comes, Acolyte, you will do exactly what I need you to do.”

That close he was overwhelming, looming like a tidal wave pausing before it devastates the shoreline. He smelled like musk and grave dirt, something primal that pulled deep inside me. In a blink he was back across the room. “When you need your magick, it can be activated by touching your Mark with any bodily fluid. Blood is the strongest, followed by sexual issue, but any secretion will spark it to life.”

Bodily fluid? Secretion? Sexual issue? What?

I pushed those thoughts out of the way.

Stay focused. Work the problem.

“Why should I help you?”

Dark eyes sparkled. “I could kill you.”

The threat hit me like a slap. “Then do it and get it over with.” Anger bubbled at his words, boiling away the fear I’d felt since seeing the skinhounds. I was sick of being terrified. I’d worked too hard to not be terrified every day of my life. Nothing was worth being stuck in fear. Fear grinds you down to bone dust and nothing, breaking your will, making you less than human.

Been there, done that, fuck you.

The Man in Black sighed and chuckled.

“Charlotte Tristan Moore, I am not the only one who will seek you out now that your gift has been activated. There are other things, things that crawl and slither at the edge of night, things that would find you. They will come, and they will not have the mercy I have shown.”

“Mercy? I haven’t seen any mercy from you.”

“I spared your life from the skinhounds. I have not slaughtered your friends in their sleep, even though I could. I have not sought out everyone you love and care for and reduced them to mewling pieces of meat that cry for death as a relief from the tortures inflicted upon them.” His red right hand tapped the tabletop. “You will not receive such kindness from those that will seek you without my protection.”

“Wait a minute, you’re the one who Marked me! If these things come, it will be because of what you did to me.”

“That does not matter.” He stuttered in my sight again, suddenly standing without having stood. “What matters now is your choice. Serve as my Acolyte and be protected, or refuse and die.” He reached out his hand, his red right hand, to me.

My eyes narrowed. Anger twisted in my belly like a snake.

“You’re a bastard.”

The Man in Black chuckled in amusement.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Levi Black

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$2.99 Ebook Deal: Red Right Hand by Levi Black

Poster Placeholder of - 42The ebook edition of Red Right Hand by Levi Black is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today!

About Red Right Hand: 

Charlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand.

But her rescue comes at a cost. The Man in Black, a diabolical Elder God, demands she become his Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she possessed. To ensure her obedience, he takes her friend and possible love, Daniel, in thrall as a hostage. Now she must join The Man in Black in his crusade to track down and destroy his fellow Elder Gods, supposedly to save humanity from being devoured for all eternity.

But is The Man in Black truly the lesser of two evils–or a menace far more treacherous than the eldritch horrors she’s battling in his name?

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Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes

It’s November, which means we are entering the last month of our Fantasy Firsts program. We wanted to say thank you with a special sweepstakes, featuring ALL the titles we highlighted this past year. That’s 40 fantastic reads from 40 different series to add to your TBR stack! Plus, we’re including an added bonus: two sandblasted book dragon mugs, so you can enjoy your coffee or tea in style while you read.

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NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. OPEN ONLY TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE 50 UNITED STATES, D.C. AND CANADA (EXCLUDING QUEBEC) WHO ARE 13 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER AT THE TIME OF ENTRY. U.S. LAW GOVERNS THIS SWEEPSTAKES. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

  1. ELIGIBILITY: The Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes“) is open only to persons who as of the date of entry (and, if a winner, as of the date of prize fulfillment) are a legal resident of the 50 United States, District of Columbia or Canada (excluding Quebec) and who are 13 years of age or older. We are sorry for the geographic restrictions, unfortunately it is required for various legal reasons. Persons who as of the date of entry (and, if a winner, as of the date of prize fulfillment) are an employee of Tom Doherty Associates (“Sponsor“) or any of Sponsor’s Affiliates (as defined in Section 5), and members of the immediate family or household (whether or not related) of any such employee, are not eligible. Eligibility determinations will be made by Sponsor in its discretion and will be final and binding. U.S. law governs this Sweepstakes. Void in Quebec and where prohibited by law.
  1. HOW TO ENTER: The entry period for the Sweepstakes begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 and continues through 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 19, 2017 (the “Entry Period“). No purchase is necessary. Any entrant who is under 18 years of age or otherwise under the legal age of majority in the jurisdiction in which the entrant resides (a “Minor“) must obtain permission to enter from his or her parent or legal guardian, and the agreement of the parent or legal guardian to these Official Rules, prior to entry. To enter the Sweepstakes, during the Entry Period, entrants must access, complete and submit the Sweepstakes entry form (which will require entrant to submit his or her e-mail address and such other information as Sponsor may require), found in entrant’s Facebook newsfeed or alternatively by visiting Sponsor’s website located at https://www.torforgeblog.com/2017/11/01/fantasy-firsts-sweepstakes-15/ (the “Website”) and following the on screen entry instructions. The Facebook entry form may be pre-filled with information provided by the Facebook platform. There is a limit of one entry per person and per email address. All entries must be completed and received by Sponsor prior to the conclusion of the Entry Period. Entry times will be determined using Sponsor’s computer, which will be the official clock for the Sweepstakes. Normal time rates, if any, charged by the entrant’s Internet or mobile service provider will apply. All entries are subject to verification at any time. Proof of submission does not constitute proof of entry. Sponsor will have the right, in its discretion, to require proof of identity and/or eligibility in a form acceptable to Sponsor (including, without limitation, government-issued photo identification). Failure to provide such proof to the satisfaction of Sponsor in a timely manner may result in disqualification.
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  1. PRIZE: One (1) Grand Prize(s) will be offered. The Grand Prize consists of one (1) hardcover copy of THE GUNS ABOVE by Robyn Bennis, one (1) trade paperback copy of RED RIGHT HAND by Levi Black, one (1) hardcover copy of ROAR by Cora Carmack, one (1) hardcover copy of THE ALCHEMY OF MASQUES AND MIRRORS by Curtis Craddock, one (1) hardcover copy of CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA by A.M. Dellamonica, one (1) trade paperback copy of TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard, one (1) hardcover copy of CROSSROADS OF CANOPY by Thoraiya Dyer, one (1) hardcover copy of DEATH’S MISTRESS by Terry Goodkind, one (1) hardcover copy of STEEPLEJACK by A.J. Hartley, one (1) hardcover copy of DEADMEN WALKING by Sherrilyn Kenyon, one (1) hardcover copy of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE HUM AND THE SHIVER by Alex Bledsoe, one (1) trade paperback copy of RANGE OF GHOSTS by Elizabeth Bear, one (1) trade paperback copy of A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan, one (1) trade paperback copy of SERIOUSLY WICKED by Tina Connolly, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE LIBRARIANS AND THE LOST LAMP by Greg Cox, one (1) trade paperback copy of DANCER’S LAMENT by Ian C. Esslemont, one (1) trade paperback copy of FORGE OF DARKNESS by Steven Erikson, one (1) trade paperback copy of FINN FANCY NECROMANCY by Randy Henderson, one (1) trade paperback copy of ROYAL STREET by Suzanne Johnson, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordon, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN by Michael Livingston, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE MAGIC OF RECLUCE by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., one (1) trade paperback copy of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE WAY OF KINGS by Brandon Sanderson, one (1) trade paperback copy of A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE EMPEROR’S BLADES by Brian Staveley, one (1) trade paperback copy of UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde, one (1) ARC of THE MIDNIGHT FRONT by David Mack, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE SIX-GUN TAROT by R.S. Belcher, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE DINOSAUR LORDS by Victor Milan, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE SLEEPING KING by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin, one (1) mass market paperback copy of TOUCHSTONE by Melanie Rawn, one (1) mass market paperback copy by THE INCREMENTALISTS by Steven Brust and Skyler White, one (1) mass market paperback copy of CROWN OF VENGEANCE by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, one (1) mass market paperback copy of IMAGER by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., one (1) mass market paperback copy of LAMENTATION by Ken Scholes, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE ETERNA FILES by Leanna Renee Heiber, one (1) mass market paperback copy of KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey, and one (1) mass market paperback copy of AMERICAN CRAFTSMEN by Tom Doyle, and one (1) set of two Book dragon mugs. The approximate retail value (“ARV“) of the Grand Prize is $551.56 USD. All prize details that are not expressly specified in these Official Rules will be determined by Sponsor in its discretion. The prize will be awarded if properly claimed. No substitution, cash redemption or transfer of the right to receive the prize is permitted, except in the discretion of Sponsor, which has the right to substitute the prize or any component of the prize with a prize or prize component of equal or greater value selected by Sponsor in its discretion. The prize consists only of the item(s) expressly specified in these Official Rules. All expenses or costs associated with the acceptance or use of the prize or any component of the prize are the responsibility of the winner. The prize is awarded “as is” and without any warranty, except as required by law. In no event will more than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules be awarded. All federal, state and local taxes on the value of the prize are the responsibility of the winner. For U.S. residents, an IRS form 1099 will be issued if required by law.
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  1. DISPUTES: By entering the Sweepstakes, each entrant on behalf of himself or herself and the Entrant Parties agrees that, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, (a) any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of or connected with the Sweepstakes, or the provision, acceptance and/or use of any prize or prize component, will be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action (Note: Some jurisdictions do not allow restricting access to class actions. This provision will not apply to entrant if entrant lives in such a jurisdiction); (b) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering the Sweepstakes, but in no event attorneys’ fees; and (c) under no circumstances will any entrant or Entrant Party be permitted to obtain any award for, and each entrant and Entrant Party hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, special, incidental or consequential damages and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased and any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules or the rights and obligations of the entrants, Entrant Parties and Sponsor in connection with the Sweepstakes shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the State of New York in the United States of America without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules or provisions that would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the State of New York. Any legal proceedings arising out of this Sweepstakes or relating to these Official Rules shall be instituted only in the federal or state courts located in New York County in the State of New York, waiving any right to trial by jury, and each entrant and Entrant Party consents to jurisdiction therein with respect to any legal proceedings or disputes of whatever nature arising under or relating to these rules or the Sweepstakes. In the event of any conflict between these Official Rules and any Sweepstakes information provided elsewhere (including but not limited in advertising or marketing materials), these Official Rules shall prevail.
  1. USE OF INFORMATION: Please review the Sponsor’s Privacy Notice at https://us.macmillan.com/privacy-notice. By entering the sweepstakes, entrant hereby agrees to Sponsor’s collection and use of their personal information in accordance with such Notice, including the use of entrant’s personal information to send email updates about Tor Books and other information from Sponsor and its related companies.
  1. WINNER NAME AND RULES REQUESTS:For the name(s) of the winner(s), which will be available two weeks after the conclusion of the Entry Period, or a copy of these Official Rules, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Fantasy First Sweepstakes, Tom Doherty Associates, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Winner name requests must be received by Sponsor within six months after the conclusion of the Entry Period.
  1. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. The Sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

© 2017 Macmillan. All rights reserved.





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Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes

Welcome back to Fantasy Firsts. Throughout this month we’re offering the chance to win these fantastic titles on Goodreads! For details on how to enter, please click on the cover image of the book you are interested in.

Lamentation by Ken Scholes

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This remarkable first novel from award-winning short fiction writer Ken Scholes will take readers away to a new world—an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn’t changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations.

Red Right Hand by Levi Black

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Charlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan DennardOn a continent ruled by three empires, everyone is born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries long war is about to end, the balance of power-and the failing health of all magic-will fall on the shoulders of a mythical pair called the Cahr Awen.

 

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings by Brandon SandersonIn The Way of Kings, #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson introduces readers to the fascinating world of Roshar, a world of stone and storms.

It has been centuries since the fall of the Knights Radiant, but their mystical swords and armor remain, transforming ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for them. Wars are fought for them and won by them.

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New Releases: 7/25/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modessit, Jr.

Poster Placeholder of - 47 Six years have passed since the failed uprising of the High Holders, and the man behind the conspiracy is where the rex and Maitre Alastar can keep an eye on him.

Charyn has come of age and desperately wants to learn more so he can become an effective rex after his father—but he’s kept at a distance by the rex. So Charyn sets out to educate himself—circumspectly.

Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher

Image Placeholder of - 82 Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape and assignment for intrepid PI-turned-hitman—and last robot left in working order—Raymond Electromatic. But his skills may be rustier than he remembered in Killing Is My Business, the latest in Christopher’s robot noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: 

Red Right Hand by Levi Black

Placeholder of  -56 Charlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand.

But her rescue comes at a cost. The Man in Black, a diabolical Elder God, demands she become his Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she possessed.

NEW FROM TOR.COM:

The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo

Place holder  of - 84 The Crescent Empire teeters on the edge of a revolution, and the Five Daughters of the Moon are the ones to determine its future. Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fuelled by evil magic.

 

NEW IN MANGA: 

Battle Rabbits Vol. 4 Story by Amemiya Yuki; Art by Ichihara Yukino

Generation Witch Vol. 1 Story and art by Isaki Uta

My Monster Secret Vol. 7 Story and art by Eiji Masuda

The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol. 3 Story by Aikawa Yu; Art by Atori Haruno

The Testament of Sister New Devil Vol. 6 Story by Tetsuto Uesu; Art by Miyakokasiwa

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Books to Read If You Need More Heroes Like Wonder Woman in Your Life

by Lauren Jackson, Senior Publicist

If you’re like me and you saw Wonder Woman opening weekend (and are possibly planning on seeing it again this weekend), I know you’re craving more warriors, pirates, explorers, and revolutionaries of the “badass woman” variety. Tor is here to help with nine books that’ll inspire you to become an Amazonian warrior of Themyscira.

Image Place holder  of - 31 Red Right Hand by Levi Black
Charlie isn’t a hero; she’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, a diabolical stranger reveals that she wields a dark magick, and he wants her to use it. But ultimately what she does with her power is in her hands.
Placeholder of  -82 Firebrand by A. J. Hartley
Once a steeplejack who scaled the highest buildings in the city of Bar-Selehm, Ang Sutonga is now an investigator, working to expose political corruption and quash the xenophobia and racism taking over her city. Instead of climbing to great heights, she must go undercover and expose the darkest secrets of the rich and powerful before they destroy Bar-Selehm.
Image Placeholder of - 68Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Pyrre Lakatur made an appearance in Staveley’s beloved Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, but her backstory tells how she became the badass priestess serving the god of death. Hint: it involves a lot of mind-blowing swordplay and bloodshed.
Poster Placeholder of - 66 Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Throughout this five-book series, readers follow the always daring and often dangerous adventures of Lady Isabella Trent, dragon naturalist, as she goes to the far corners of the world in the name of scientific discovery.
Place holder  of - 60 The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
Josette Dupre is the Corps’ first female airship captain, patrolling the front lines of battle all while contending with a crew who doubts her expertise and an aristocrat hellbent on cataloguing and exposing every moment of weakness. But, when her enemies make a move no one was prepared for, Josette comes into her own and shows everyone what a “weak woman” airship captain can really do.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Known for her contemporary new adult novels, Carmack’s heroine in Roar, Aurora, turns fantasy tropes on their head. In the course of the novel, Aurora transforms from a powerless, sheltered princess, used by power-hungry men, into a true force of nature… literally (and we’ll leave it there).
Updraft by Fran Wilde
When Kirit Densira, a trader, breaks an obscure law, she’s forced to atone by learning the rules and becoming a part of her world’s governing body, the Singers. But as she gains more knowledge of her new craft, so does her doubt that the laws are right. So… what does she do? The only thing she can do: start a revolution.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
This alternative history novel doesn’t lack for diverse voices, especially ones that have been historically silenced. One of them belongs to Lisette Toutournier, a queer spy who founded the book’s titular country… one that serves as a safe haven for native populations of the Congo during the disastrous colonization by Belgium.
The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher
What happens when a descendant of pirates and assassin has her daughter kidnapped? RS Belcher answers the question with Maude Stapleton, who hunts for her daughter, Constance (who comes with her own impressive powers), while also staving off cults that want to use her for their own, nefarious ends.

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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events for August

Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber Repo Madness by W. Bruce Cameron Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in August! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Levi Black, Red Right Hand

Wednesday, August 3
Orlando Public Library
Orlando, FL
6:30 PM

Robert Brockway, The Empty Ones

Tuesday, August 30
Powell’s City of Books
Portland, OR
7:00 PM

W. Bruce Cameron, Repo Madness

Tuesday, August 23
Grand Rapids Public Library
Grand Rapids, MI
7:00 PM

Thursday, August 25
Darcy Library of Beulah
Beaulah, MI
7:00 PM

Saturday, August 27
Saturn Booksellers
Gaylord, MI
11:30 AM

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, The Swarm

Friday, August 5
Barnes & Noble
Orem, UT
7:00 PM

S. B. Divya, Runtime and Greg Van Eekhout, Pacific Fire

Saturday, August 6
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
2:00 PM

Leanna Renee Hieber, Eterna and Omega

Tuesday, August 9
Barnes & Noble
West Chester, OH
7:00 PM

Thursday, August 11
Morris-Jumel Museum
New York, NY
7:00 PM

Wednesday, August 17
KGB Bar
New York, NY
7:00 PM

Mary Robinette Kowal, Ghost Talkers

Tuesday, August 16
Volumes Bookcafe
Book Launch Party
Chicago, IL
7:00 PM

Wednesday, August 31
Boswell Book Company
Milwaukee, WI
7:00 PM
Also with Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning

David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars

Saturday, August 13
Writers with Drinks
San Francisco, CA
7:30 PM

Sunday, August 14
American Bookbinders Museum
SF in SF
San Francisco, CA
6:30 PM
Also with Cecil Castellucci and Ben Loory

Tuesday, August 30
SFWA Reading
Wilde Rover Irish Pub and Restaurant
Also with Sandra Odell and Django Wexler
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex

Monday, August 1
Quail Ridge Books & Music
Raleigh, NC
7:00 PM

Malka Older, Infomocracy

Thursday, August 4
Internal Matter
Books provided by Brookline Booksmith
Also with Liz Hauck, Caitlin FitzGerald, and Allana Tarnto
Boston, MA
6:30 PM

Wendy N. Wagner, Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

Tuesday, August 16
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
Beaverton, OR
7:00 PM

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New Releases: 7/26/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

Four Roads Cross by Max GladstoneFour Roads Cross, the great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back–and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm–and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world. As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.

Indomitable by W. C. Bauers

Indomitable by W. C. BauersLieutenant Paen barely survived her last encounter with the Lusitanian Empire. And she’s got a newly reconstituted unit of green marines to whip into shape before they deploy. Light-years away, on the edge of the Verge, a massive vein of rare ore is discovered on the mining planet of Sheol, which ignites an arms race and a proxy war between the Republic and the Lusitanians. Paen and Victor Company are ordered to Sheol, to reinforce the planet and hold it at all costs. On the eve of their deployment, a friendly fire incident occurs, putting Paen’s career in jeopardy and stripping her of her command. When the Lusitanians send mercenaries to raid Sheol and destabilize its mining operations, matters reach crisis levels. Disgraced and angry, Promise is offered one shot to get back into her mechsuit. But she’ll have to jump across the galaxy and possibly storm the gates of hell itself.

Night Talk by George Noory

Night Talk by George NooryA late-night talk-show host fascinated by the paranormal becomes entangled in a deadly conspiracy in Night Talk, from #1 all-night radio host George Noory. Greg Nowell is a voice in the darkness–a late-night talk-show host who tackles controversial subjects, from angels to aliens and government agencies so deep in shadow that the puppet strings they use to exercise control are invisible. Greg’s world explodes when government agents accuse him of having received ultra-secret files from Ethan Shaw, a hacker intent on exposing a secret cabal with tentacles throughout the government. When Shaw is killed and the evidence points to Greg, the radio personality goes on the run, stalked by a demented assassin. As he tries to unravel the deadly secrets the hacker uncovered, Greg is helped by Alyssa Neal, a mysterious woman who says Shaw also dragged her into the boiling cauldron of intrigue. He seeks help from callers to his show who don’t trust the government, have gone “under the radar,” or are angry and paranoid about the vast gathering of information and invasions of privacy by government agencies.

Red Right Hand by Levi Black

Red Right Hand by Levi BlackCharlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand. The Man in Black, a diabolical Elder God, demands she become his Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she possessed. Now she must join The Man in Black in his crusade to track down and destroy his fellow Elder Gods, supposedly to save humanity from being devoured for all eternity. But is The Man in Black truly the lesser of two evils–or a menace far more treacherous than the eldritch horrors she’s battling in his name?

NEW FROM TOR.COM:

City of Wolves by Willow Palecek

City of Wolves by Willow PalecekAlexander Drake, Investigator for Hire, doesn’t like working for the Nobility, and doesn’t prefer to take jobs from strange men who accost him in alleyways. A combination of hired muscle and ready silver have a way of changing a man’s mind. A lord has been killed, his body found covered in bite marks. Even worse, the late lord’s will is missing, and not everyone wants Drake to find it. Solving the case might plunge Drake into deeper danger.

NOW IN PAPERBACK:

Only Wounded by Patrick Taylor

Only Wounded by Patrick TaylorIreland, home of legendary poets and storytellers, has been wracked by bloody sectarian violence over the last quarter century. Bombs and guns were, and once again are, the primary negotiation tools used by Catholic and Protestant extremists in the conflict surrounding the sovereignty of Northern Ireland-the six counties known as Ulster. Only Wounded centers on the hopes and despairs of everyday life during these new Troubles. New York Times bestselling author Patrick Taylor traces an intricate narrative path through Ulster, detailing sensitive, unbiased portraits of the ordinary-and not so ordinary-people caught in the partisan brutality of Northern Ireland.

Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire by Greg van EekhoutI’m Sam. I’m just this guy. Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can. Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me. Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction. Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon. Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.

NEW IN MANGA:

Golden Time Vol. 4 by Yuyuko Takemiya

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto Vol. 4 by Nami Sano

See upcoming releases.

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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events for July

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt Arabella of Mars BY David D. Levine Clear to Lift by Anne A. Wilson

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in July! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Levi Black, Red Right Hand

Wednesday, July 27
Eagle Eye Books
Decatur, GA
7:00 PM

Max Gladstone, Four Roads Cross

Wednesday, July 27
Porter Square Books
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Malka Older.

Neal Griffin, A Voice from the Field

Thursday, July 21
Barr Memorial Library
Fort Knox, KY
12:00 PM

Thursday, July 28
Book Passage
Corte Madera, CA
10:00 AM

Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex

Monday, July 11
Brookline Booksmith
Brookline, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Joe Hill and Paul Tremblay.

Tuesday, July 12
Bear Pond Books
Montpelier, VT
7:00 PM
Also with Paul Tremblay, Kristin Dearborn, and Daniel Mills.

Wednesday, July 13
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Friday, July 15
Old Firehouse Books
Fort Collins, CO
6:00 PM
Also with Stephen Graham Jones.

Sunday, July 17
American Bookbinders Museum
San Francisco, CA
6:30 PM
SF in SF – also with Richard Kadrey.

Tuesday, July 19
Dark Delicacies
Burbank, CA
7:00 PM

Wednesday, July 27
Eagle Eye Books
Decatur, GA
7:00 PM
Also with Levi Black.

Saturday, July 30
Malaprops
Asheville, NC
5:00 PM
Also with Jeff VanderMeer.

Jon Land, Strong Light of Day

Tuesday, July 19
Perks & Corks
Hosted by Savoy Bookshop and Café
Westerly, RI
7:00 PM
In conversation with Avram Noble Ludwig.

David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars

Wednesday, July 13
Powell’s Books
Beaverton, OR
7:00 PM

Friday, July 15
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

Saturday, July 16
Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum 
Hosted by Shades & Shadows.
Burbank, CA
8:00 PM

Wednesday, July 20
KGB Bar
New York, NY
7:00 PM
Also with Helen Marshall.

Thursday, July 28
Eagle Harbor Book Co
Bainbridge Island, WA
7:30 PM

Friday, July 29
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Avram Noble Ludwig, Shooting the Sphinx

Tuesday, June 28
Barnes & Noble
New York, NY
7:00 PM

Tuesday, July 19
Perks & Corks
Hosted by Savoy Bookshop and Café
Westerly, RI
7:00 PM
In conversation with Jon Land.

Malka Older, Infomocracy

Wednesday, July 27
Porter Square Books
Cambridge, MA
7:30 PM
In conversation with Max Gladstone.

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning

Monday, July 11
RiverRun Bookstore
Portsmouth, NH
7:00 PM
Also with Jo Walton.

Tuesday, July 12
Harvard Book Store
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Jo Walton.

Wednesday, July 13
WORD Bookstore
Brooklyn, NY
7:00 PM
Also with Jo Walton.

Ralph Peters, The Damned of Petersburg

Saturday, July 9, 2016
Barnes & Noble
Alexandria, VA
3:00 PM

Tuesday, July 12
E. Shaver Booksellers
Savannah, GA
5:00 PM

Wednesday, July 13
Magnolia Hall
Bluffton, SC
6:30 PM

Sunday, July 31
Southampton Books
Southampton, NY
5:00 PM

Katie Schickel, The Mermaid’s Secret

Thursday, July 7
BookTowne
Manasquan, NJ
6:30 PM

Jo Walton, Necessity

Monday, July 11
RiverRun Bookstore
Portsmouth, NH
7:00 PM
Also with Ada Palmer.

Tuesday, July 12
Harvard Book Store
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Ada Palmer.

Wednesday, July 13
WORD Bookstore
Brooklyn, NY
7:00 PM
Also with Ada Palmer.

Anne A. Wilson, Clear to Lift

Tuesday, July 12
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM

Thursday, July 14
Barnes & Noble
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM

Saturday, July 16
Bookworks
Albuquerque, NM
3:00 PM

Tuesday, July 19
Warwick’s Books
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

Wednesday, July 20
Book Carnival
Orange, CA
7:30 PM

F. Paul Wilson, Panacea

Monday, July 11
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM

Tuesday, July 12
Dark Delicacies
Burbank, CA
7:00 PM

Thursday, July 14
Norcross Cultural Arts Center
Hosted by the Gwinnett County Public Library. Books provided by Eagle Eye Books.
Norcross, GA
7:30 PM

Thursday, July 21
BookTowne
Manasquan, NJ
6:00 PM

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Sneak Peek: Red Right Hand by Levi Black

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Red Right Hand by Levi BlackCharlie Tristan Moore isn’t a hero. She’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, she finds herself tested as never before when she arrives home one night to find herself under attack by three monstrous skinhounds straight out of a nightmare. Just as hope seems lost, she is saved by a sinister Man in Black, dressed in a long, dark coat that seems to possess a life of its own and wielding a black-bladed sword in his grisly red right hand.

But her rescue comes at a cost. The Man in Black, a diabolical Elder God, demands she become his Acolyte and embrace a dark magick she never knew she possessed. To ensure her obedience, he takes her friend and possible love, Daniel, in thrall as a hostage. Now she must join The Man in Black in his crusade to track down and destroy his fellow Elder Gods, supposedly to save humanity from being devoured for all eternity.

But is The Man in Black truly the lesser of two evils–or a menace far more treacherous than the eldritch horrors she’s battling in his name?

Red Right Hand will be available July 26th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

1

THE CHEAP ALCOHOL burned as it splashed down my throat.

Fumes roiled up the back of my esophagus, making me choke. It felt like getting punched in the tonsils with a fistful of kerosene.

I sucked in a breath, swallowing hard.

Dammit, Daniel …

I really like you.

Holding the dented, plastic bottle of vodka, I smeared my arm across my face, wiping away hot tears.

The first guy I … and he knew. He knew.

I fumbled keys out of my pocket and held them up, jangling them in front of my face. They woozed and blended in a fuzz of eyestrain, tears, and alcohol.

Now you know there’s nobody in this crappy world you can trust.

My rage had cooled on the walk home, devolving into a ball of hurt and anger and drunken fog. The stairs to the townhouse I shared were treacherous, threatening to throw me back down them with each step, but I wasn’t going to let them get the best of me.

I’m stubborn that way.

Besides, it was cold outside.

The key in my hand stabbed at the keyhole, brass clicking on brass. I had to lean my forehead against the door frame to get the key to slide into the lock. It turned in a smooth motion, barely a click to tell me it had unlocked. I stumbled across the threshold, slamming the door closed behind me, harder than I meant to.

Dammit.

At least the night is over. Just go to bed and try again in the morning. You’ve got jujitsu at ten. You can take it out on the mat.

My keys hit the table by the door with a metallic clatter, clashing against my roommates’ keys.

Keep it down, or you’ll have the whole house up. Shasta’ll want to know what’s wrong, and you do NOT want to get into that. Not tonight.

I looked up the stairs to my room.

Bed.

Just get to bed.

I’d taken only a few wobbly steps when the first skinless dog stepped from the shadows.

Copyright © 2016 by James R. Tuck

Buy Red Right Hand from:

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