A week late, but here we are with the opening scene of Hidden Dragon.
This is a book/series I've been cooking for a long time—like, since before the lockdown—and am so glad to be able to create it in the open, as it were.
Since this is also very much a discovery book, we'll be learning what happens together, as I post. Like the rest of Outrageous Fiction, once complete, the book will be edited and published for those who prefer reading their books all at once.
For now, however, and for all of us, the adventure is just beginning.
The sleet that had been threatening all morning began to fall as Kai Chance pounded down Mercy Street.
Icy rain pricked every bit of exposed skin, even as it slicked a walk already crowded with confused pedestrians, angry shopkeepers, and upended food carts.
With a grimace and a muttered curse for the changeable autumn weather, Kai skimmed between a rolling avalanche of aavalope and a steaming lake of soup, the former threatening to trip him and the latter reminding him he was hungry.
In fact, Kai and his partner had been about to stop for lunch when their unit’s comm-panel lit up with the report of a robbery in progress at the University Place Commulet and Talisman Emporium.
Alex hadn’t spared the thaum on their department issue, but by the time they arrived at the scene the robbery in progress had escalated to an ABH—Actual Bodily Harm—with the suspect clattering through the storage room to the Mercy Street exit.
Kai hadn’t hesitated to race after the suspect, leaving Alex to handle the injured and corral witnesses.
Since Alex ranked him, Kai expected there would be nine hells to pay for taking off without waiting for the order. But, as his partner had a lot going on at home, Kai would willingly pay that toll if it meant sparing Alex the chance of a broken limb during a foot chase.
Then he stumbled around a toppled umbrella cart—which, with its owner, had appeared at the first fall of icy rain—and hoped he’d be able to spare himself that broken limb.
Hopping over a stray umbrella, he swung around a parking meter and again caught sight of the fleeing dryk’s silver mane whipping above the massed noon-time crowds, and their umbrellas, which were popping up like mushrooms as the sleet worsened.
Kai was ducking one such umbrella when his commulet chimed.
<DI Chance, Dispatch—what is you twenty?>
“Dispatch, Chance. In foot pursuit of drykan male, southbound Mercy between Brane and Tanis,” he replied, putting on a burst of speed as the silver hair, darkening to steel in the wet, bobbed between Calypso's Coffee and a clutch of university students. Even as he spoke, the suspect looked back and spied Kai in pursuit.
It was a brief glimpse, but enough for Kai to note the dryk’s refined ivory features, his bared teeth, and the madness in his eyes.
Shit, Kai thought, even as the dryk turned and, without hesitation, grabbed the nearest civilian and tossed him into the street… directly in the path of an oncoming cab.
Kai dashed left, trying to reach the flying airen, but he knew he'd be too late.
Luck—and the fact the cab's buffer charms were up to date—prevented a fatal collision, but Kai knew the airen had landed hard.
“Dispatch, DI Chance—request EMTs to Mercy Street, between Brane and Tanis, in front of Jengu’s Coffee,” As he made the call a cabbie, a human not much taller than the airen, sprang out to check on the vic.
<Chance, Dispatch, copy that. EMTs alerted. Over.>
“EMT's on the way," Kai shouted out to the woman, who waved at him while a taurean, horns glistening in the icy rain, shoved through the gathering crowd. "I'm a nurse," he called out, his basso voice rumbling as he joined the cabbie at the airen’s side.
Trusting the victim was in good hands, Kai spun back to the chase, a fresh anger pushing him as he realized he’d lost sight of the suspect, and had to trail him by the damage left in his wake.
A tipped-over flower cart.
A case of knock-off commulets scattered over the sidewalk.
The perfume of patchouli and lavender spilling from the stall in front of the hearth witch shop. One of the witches was seated on the ground, his hand pressed to the bruise blooming on his cheek while his partner fashioned a poultice from the scattered wares.
The witch’s partner looked up from the mash of herbs in their hands to meet Kai’s gaze. “That way,” they said, their kohl lined eyes flashing as they indicated the alley angling off of Mercy, between Salome's Tech-tronics and the warehouse sized University Co-op.
Kai dipped his head in acknowledgment and held up his wrist. “Dispatch, DI Chance requesting a unit to 1818 Mercy," he said, reading off Salome’s address, then read the “No Egress” sign affixed to the Co-op’s brick wall. “Suspect has entered a blind-alley.”
<Chance, Dispatch, understood. Backup en route. Over.>
“Dispatch, Chance, copy. Over and out.”
Then Kai closed the comm and drew his knightstick because he had zero intention of waiting for the promised backup.
As he got closer to the alley, he steadied his breath and, holding the knightstick loosely, thought about the suspect’s height, his strength—enough to toss a full grown airen into the street—and the utter lack of sanity in his expression.
As he considered all this, Kai felt the knightstick shift in his hand to become a rope dart.
Perfect, he thought, but then, even after nine years on the force, the armory hadn’t yet steered him wrong.
He eased around the corner with the loop of rope in one hand, swinging the dart in the other… and hopped back as a cantrip flew out of the alley, knocking over a stack of empty crates before sparking out in the falling ice.
“And he’s a wizard, too,” Kai muttered before, dart swinging, he leapt over the fallen crates.
More than leapt, as, to his own shock, he flew over the heap of broken wood with the ease of a lycan.
But before the question could fully form in Kai’s thoughts, he was landing, the shock of pavement running up his legs to face the dryk.
Kai loosed the dart at the same time the wizard threw a fresh cantrip.
The spell landed like a fist to Kai’s sternum, sending him flying back onto the slick ground.
Pain and and ice shot along his spine, but as his head thudded against the pavement, it was the heat Kai noticed, an explosion of flame, spreading from where cantrip struck, to spread in a scalding wave through his limbs.
He rolled forward even as the suspect stalked closer, pale hands twisting to form the next spell, allowing Kai to see the blood staining the wizard’s snow white cuffs.
It was in that moment, on seeing the trace of the dryk’s violent spree, that the heat coursing under Kai’s skin sparked into a full and living flame—and he let the burning come, allowed it to fill him, to stretch him, changing him in ways a human was never meant to change.
And though he could not see that alteration in himself, he could see it in the mirror of the dryk’s silver eyes…the massive wings unfurling… the triangle head rearing… the sharp-toothed jaws gaping wide… and, lastly, the blue-white flame shooting out.
Heat, a shriek, truncated by the muttering roar of fire, and then…
And then Kai was once again only Kai, standing in front of what had once been a living, breathing, dryk, but was now nothing more than a charred mass, smoking and hissing under the steady fall of sleet.
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