Myths & Magic: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection
Publication date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Excerpts

ALCHEMY WITH BENEFITS

Katalina Leon

 

Back Cover Copy:

 

What happens when a wacky witch collides with a sexy brujo from a taco truck?

 

Estele “I meant to do well” Esposito is the worst witch in the San Buena enchantment community. When she casts a spell it goes batshit wacky with disastrous results.

Everything changes when a sexy brujo, who drives an enchanted taco truck, shows up with a mysterious warning that he is her new protector. Too bad Estele hates brujos, but when an evil djinn threatens the community, Estele has to put trust issues aside and enter an alliance with a brujo to save the city.

 

Want the perfect alchemical recipe for hilarious chaos? Mix romance with Estele’s brand of loopy spellcasting, hexed food, a ghostly sea captain with questionable vices, a priceless gem of infinite power, malicious djinn bent on world domination and thousands of innocent people trapped at a county fair—what could go wrong?

 

Note: This title is number 3 in the Sorcery by the Sea series, but it really should be number 2. The storyline directly follows Fredi and Gus’s story in HOODOO BLUE, Sorcery by the Sea, book 1. Estele’s story can be read alone, but reading her hijinks in Hoodoo Blue, first will make it better.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

There were no appointments necessary at the LuLu Beauty Academy by the Sea. A cheerful pink banner advertised “Walk-ins Welcome,” but that didn’t mean casual clients could expect to be pampered. Requests for specific operators would be denied. Most regular customers wouldn’t bother to ask. On entry, patrons were asked to sign waivers. An ominous plaque on the reception desk stated that “all work shall be done by STUDENTS.”

The intrepid ones who used vocational schools as part of their beauty routine knew you got you what you paid for—or more accurately at the LuLu Beauty Academy, you got what you didn’t pay for.

So, on that sunny August morning, the blood-curdling screams of horror echoing from the building weren’t completely unexpected.

Viewed from the outside, the windows of the clinically tidy vocational school writhed with the silhouettes of panicked people desperate to escape. The screams within reached a glass-shattering crescendo, then fell silent as one by one bodies slumped to the floor in heaps.

Oops, time for full disclosure.

The LuLu Beauty Academy by the Sea hid one crucial fact from the unsuspecting public. More than haircuts, mani-pedis, and ombré dye jobs were being offered. At the back of the rambling mission-style compound, one sub-floor down, was San Buena’s preeminent school of sorcery and witchcraft—the Master Mage Magic Academy.

The secret school within a school provided the perfect place to mask the comings and goings of would-be aestheticians, witches, warlocks, and fiends. The false front had been in place for decades and the two schools seldom mixed. For the most part, members of the LuLu Beauty Academy were oblivious to the near proximity to occult danger. Most of the time they had little to worry about. Thanks to caution and strict protocols, Miss Dahlia ran a clean Mage Academy.

Unfortunately for all involved, one incompetent student was enrolled in both schools, San Buena’s most vexatious, sure-to-fail, scatterbrained witch ever born into the West Coast Enchantment Community—Estele “I meant to do well” Esposito.

 

Ashamed and once again needing assistance, Estele picked up her phone and called her best friend and sister in Wiccandom, Frederica De la Cruz, aka Fredi. The call was answered on the second ring.

Estele stammered, “F-Fredi! I need your help right away. I’ve done it again.”

“What have you done?” Fredi sounded blasé. “Did you cast another wacko love spell that hit a speed bump?”

“No. It’s worse than that. I was trying to infuse a transformation enchantment into a crystal and—”

“Wait a minute.” Fredi became wary. “It’s Thursday morning. Aren’t you in beauty school? If you’re in public, let’s not talk enchantment over the phone. It’s not safe.”

Estele stomped her foot in agitation. Tears welled in her eyes. “Fredi, I screwed up bad! This is an emergency. Can you come by the LuLu Beauty Academy and lend me a hand?” Her voice quivered. “I’ll throw in a deep conditioning hair treatment if you can help me resuscitate the others.”

“What others? Why do they need resuscitation? Jeezus, Estele, what have you done?”

“Miss Esposito!” Miss Dahlia stormed along the hallway, jaw set, gaze hard, arms swinging with determination. The substantial woman was a professor of metaphysics. She presented the perfect image of elderly indignation, a blur of lilac hair and frumpy blouse marching into battle in sensible shoes. “Estele, why, oh why do you insist on practicing magic outside the classroom without the necessary supervision?”

Estele cowered. “Hold on.” She spoke into the phone. “Fredi, are you still there? Gotta go.” She clicked the phone off, feeling nauseous. “Miss Dahlia, I’m so, so sorry. I cast such a teeny-weeny spell I didn’t think anyone would even notice.”

Miss Dahlia shook a finger under Estele’s chin. “What a disaster! A beautician’s Armageddon! Young lady, when one’s hair transforms into writhing serpents and a penetrating Medusa stare of doom shoots from your desk-mate’s eyes, it’s unsettling to say the least. I can’t imagine the horror those poor ladies just went through. Lucky for us, if I should even use the word luck, the last woman just looked in the mirror and gave herself the Medusa-meltdown stare and turned to stone. Everyone is lying on the floor in a state of suspended animation. It’s now safe to enter the room.”

How could it be safe? She’d witnessed the event up close; the disturbing images would haunt her nightmares for years. It was awful to know she’d done this to others. “We’re going inside? Really? Do I belong in there? What if I make things worse without even meaning to?”

Miss Dahlia grabbed Estele’s arm. “You and I are walking in there as a team and we are going to make things right, even if we have to work through the lunch hour. What incantation was used?”

“I’m not sure. Gosh, I’m so shook up it’s hard to think.” She tried to concentrate but nothing came to her. Adding to the mental fog, she was hungry too. This was unacceptable. Why didn’t her brain work like everyone else’s? And when would she learn to take care of herself so she could avoid this sort of thing? “That’s probably why I mixed up my spells in the first place. You know, low blood sugar. During the hair demonstration on instant dreadlocks with texturing cement, I was fiddling around with an incantation to bring crystals to life. What was I saying? Lithe? Lively? Lothario? Lethal? What’s the Latin word for stone?”

 

 

APPROACHING NIGHT

Ilana Waters

 

Back Cover Copy:

 

What do you do when darkness calls your name?

 

“Almost everyone is convinced I’m mad. But I’m not sure I believe them.”

 

Seventeen-year-old Seluna doesn’t know why she was admitted to an all-female insane asylum called Silver Hill. She doesn’t know exactly how she makes inanimate objects come to life. And she can’t figure out the reason for the sadistic and brutal experiments on girls here—many of whom are never heard from again.

 

When Seluna sneaks out to the moonlit, forbidden garden behind Silver Hill, she meets a mysterious boy swimming in a pond. She senses there’s a connection between him and what’s happening at the asylum, but he’s not telling what. Then there are the screams from down long halls and the constant absence of light. No doubt they’re all part of the scheme concocted by the merciless head of the facility, Dr. Catron. He’s growing more and more frantic and violent in an attempt to find the person—or thing—he’s looking for.

 

Yes, there’s a lot Seluna doesn’t know about Silver Hill. About why moonlight, madness, and murder are following her. But she needs to find out fast . . . before she becomes the next victim.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Try, Seluna. Just try.”

“I am trying! But it’s like I told you, Laura: nothing’s happening.”

“But sometimes, it does.”

“Well, now is not one of those times.”

I leaned my head against the bottom of the flimsy bed frame. Sitting with my back perpendicular to the center of the mattress, I continued looking at the wooden horse. I didn’t know why I couldn’t animate it. A glint of moonlight shone through the narrow room’s high window onto the horse. As I stared at the toy, I thought I saw it move.

Then a cloud must have passed over the moon, because suddenly, there was very little light in the room. The only other illumination came from the dimmed gas lamps behind both beds, and the tiny window on the door, the one with bars on it. Most of Silver Hill’s windows had bars on them.

“Maybe the horse is defective,” said Rose. She was on Laura’s bed, lying sideways, and leaned over to get a closer look. She brushed curly red hair out of her eyes. It wasn’t truly red; I could see the dark roots peeking out from beneath. “Where’d you get it, anyway?” she asked.

“It’s my little brother’s. He said I could have it to keep me company while . . . while I was away.” Tears welled in Laura’s eyes. “He really believed it would, too. Of course, he’s only three. It was his favorite toy, too.”

“Then I’m sure it’s not defective,” I said firmly. I reached over to where Laura was sitting on the floor, legs crossed, against the other bed. With a reassuring squeeze of her knee, I repeated what I’d told them both before.

“It’s true I can animate objects, and temporarily make dead things come to life. But that doesn’t mean I can always do it. And when I can’t, I’m sure it says more about me than the object itself. So don’t fret over it.”

“I know.” Laura took the horse and moved it up and down with her hand, making it prance on the nightstand between beds. “It’s just . . . that’s so magical, you know? I’m really keen to see more of it.”

I shrugged and adjusted my skirts. I didn’t really think of my ability as magic. It wasn’t even particularly useful, so I rarely thought about it at all. Although I would have liked to use it to make Laura smile more. When she smiled, it was one of the few times her pale hair and skin didn’t make her look like she never saw the sun. Rose’s complexion was darker, almost tawny brown. But there was a sallowness there as well, like she could use a holiday.

“Eh, Laura, you’re fourteen years old,” Rose said. “Isn’t it time you quit playing with toys?”

Laura made a face and stopped moving the horse back and forth. “I’m not playing. I was just . . . demonstrating what Seluna could do with it. Besides, you’re sixteen. Shouldn’t you be able to tell when someone is playing and when they’re not?”

“Hey, have some respect for your elders,” Rose said. “After all, I’m the oldest one here.”

“Ahem.” I coughed.

Rose scrunched up her nose. “Oh, right. I forgot you’re seventeen, Seluna. Well, old lady, astound us with your wisdom and experience. Do more you know what.” She indicated the wooden horse.

“Do more of what? What are you girls doin’?” A low, matronly voice boomed through the door’s tiny window, and two piggish eyes appeared behind the glass. Nurse Cutter.

All of us gave a start, and Laura quickly hid the wooden horse behind her back. One didn’t know if it was strictly forbidden, but then again, precious objects could be confiscated here for any reason. Or for no reason at all.

“Nothing!” called Rose. “Just . . . playing jacks.”

“Jacks.” We saw the tiny eyes squint into even smaller slits in the woman’s doughy face. “Ain’t that a form of gamblin’? Like card playin’?”

Rose and Laura looked at each other with wide, fearful eyes. They had no idea what to say.

“Not the way we’re playing,” I replied smoothly. “We’re playing the, ah . . . the boring way.”

“Well, all right, then,” said Nurse Cutter. “But nothin’ too overstimulatin’. It’s almost time for lights-out.”

“Yes, Nurse Cutter,” we chorused, and heard her footsteps grow fainter down the hall.

“That was a close one.” Rose took a cigarette out of a secret pocket in her bodice and patted a different pocket, looking for a match. Silver Hill allowed patients to wear their own clothing most of the time, but did not permit skirts with pockets.

“Rose!” Laura’s big blue eyes grew even bigger when she saw the cigarette. “You know you can’t smoke that in here!”

“Or anywhere at Silver Hill,” I reminded her.

 

 

HEART OF FIRE

Bec McMaster

 

Back Cover Copy:

 

The old eddas speak of dreki—fabled creatures who haunt the depths of Iceland’s volcanoes, and steal away fair maidens.

 

Freyja wants none of such myths. Dreki seducing young ladies? Ha. They probably eat such foolish girls. But when the local dreki steals her last ram—costing her any chance of feeding her ill father through the winter—Freyja intends to confront the fearsome myth. Sentenced to a life of exile from his clan, Rurik is fascinated by the furious woman who comes to claim her ram. She reeks of mysterious magic, and challenges him at every step. He intends to claim the passionate firebrand, but to do so he must take mortal form.

 

It’s the only time the dreki are vulnerable, and with a dragon-hunter arriving on the shores of Iceland, he can barely afford the risk—but lonely Freyja, with her elf-cursed eyes and pragmatic soul, tempts him in ways he’s never felt before. Is she the key to reclaiming his heritage? Or will she be his downfall?

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Leaning under the overhang of the cave mouth, Freyja knelt and untied the small lantern from her belt. She dragged her gloves off and cupped her hands around the wick. Come. Dance for me. Her breath stirred the small wick and then a tiny flame sputtered to life, flaring up and almost singeing her hands.

Something shifted in the darkness; a sense of the mountain listening, as if it felt her small magic. Freyja placed a hand on the barren ground. Easy. She soothed it, stroking it with the awareness within her, feeling it tremble beneath her touch.

An alien presence brushed against her mind and Freyja froze, sucking in a sharp breath. The pressure was almost overwhelming, a mountain leaning down upon her. Then suddenly it was gone.

Freyja closed the small glass door on the lantern, and stared into the darkness of the lava tube. “That is right,” she whispered in Norse. “You know I am here.”

The lantern guided her into the heart of the mountain. The air reeked of sulfur and burned cinnamon, smoky spices. A scent that was incredibly appealing. She breathed it in, feeling it sweep through her, warming her from within. Somehow she knew it, though she had never breathed its like before.

The scent drugged her, luring her ever deeper. Ice gleamed in a thin sheen over the entrance floor, melting with each passing step as the air warmed. The walls were smooth, with rough bands at interval heights where lava had flowed, like the tidemark on the caves by the sea.

As she turned a corner, taking careful, stalking steps, something gleamed white and stark at the corner of her vision.

Freyja spun, holding the lantern high. A leering skull stared back at her, the owner slumped forever against the wall, his pitted armor tarnished and rusted. A sword hung clasped in bony fingers. Swallowing hard, Freyja crouched beside it and tugged the skeletal fingers away from the hilt as she exchanged it for the bow.

She could feel that other awareness watching her, listening as if it could hear her.

You won’t frighten me. You won’t.

The tunnel opened into a larger cavern, enormous stalactites stabbing sharp fingers down from the roof, some touching the floors in dripping columns much like melted candlewax. Piles of gold coins glittered in the darkness, heaped at the sides of the cavern as if the press of the enormous wyrm’s body forced them there. Winking gemstones. A dozen rubies at least. For a moment Freyja couldn’t think. She could only stare at the veritable hoard in front of her. Wyrms were said to be voracious for treasure, guarding it with their fierce tempers, but here was coin enough to see her father fed forever. The entire village. Perhaps even all of Iceland.

Her fingers itched to take just enough to buy a dozen ewes and several rams to replace what had been stolen. The gold meant little to her, but the concept of what she could buy with it was incredibly tempting.

She could buy a future for her and her father.

As if sensing her thoughts, a warning rumble smoked its way through the tunnel. Freyja tore her gaze from the glittering piles. The dreki were possessive of their treasures, it was said. To even think of taking but one coin was to bring her own death down upon her.

It was warmer here; sweat trickled down the back of her neck and between her bound breasts. Freyja held the sword in front of her, sweeping the darkness with the lantern. He was here. Somewhere. She could feel the dark energy of his power, dwelling in the shadows like some enormous smoldering volcano.

“So now they send my tithe to me?”

The thought-whisper almost crushed her, and her fingers clenched around the sword hilt as she ground her teeth together. Pressure built behind Freyja’s left eye; a stabbing ache that promised to make her head throb for days. She drew her focus in on herself, creating a shield against the immense presence. The pressure eased.

“I’m not your tithe,” she called back. “The village pays you its tithe! And you have stolen my ram!”

A husky chuckle rumbled in the darkness, like a cat purring. Movement shifted, diamond-hard scales rasping over the polished stone floors. Freyja took a step back, her breath catching as she raked the darkness for signs of the wyrm.

Don’t be afraid. He can’t kill you. We pay the tithe, she told herself. Still the sensation of the dreki watching her made her nerves thrum with anticipation. She held the sword low, sweeping it in front of her.

 

 

 

 

 

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Abolished magic returns to Earth. Telekinetic sorcerers, witches, and fairies discover their powers. Humans become cyborgs. Dragons prowl the depths of Iceland’s volcanoes.
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