It’s been a long time coming, but The Ghoul Hunter’s Apprentice is finally here! After writing Antigen, I wanted to write something that was jam packed with action and adventure and mayhem and explosions. I think I’ve succeeded. The Ghoul Hunter’s Apprentice is a young adult urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of The Dresden Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s not a book with cute vampires or sexy werewolves, though.
“So what do you really do?”
“I work for an organization that polices supernatural affairs. I hunt monsters. Ghouls, malingering djinn, rogue wizards, the odd politician. Things that go bump in the night. I’m one of the people that bumps back. That’s why no one else could come for Dr. Mason’s corpse. I’m one of the people that usually handles that sort of thing.”
It made sense, in a way. Her mom was on the road a lot and she often left in the middle of the night. No wonder Ana hadn’t seen any disasters in the news when her mom went out on a job.
Ana took a slurp from her limeade. “Vampires?”
“There’s no such thing as vampires.”
“So you’re telling me that fairy tales are real, but not vampires?”
“Right. Neither are werewolves. Pure fiction. Honestly, the worst monsters aren’t even supernatural. They’re people that find a little bit of power and abuse it for all they can.”
Look at that pretty lady masquerading as a sixteen year old girl…
There are secrets in the Greene house–dark, deadly secrets–and they threaten to tear Anastasia Greene’s world to shreds…
It’s hard being a young wizard in 21st century America. Dodging the Council of Wizards and staying out of the public eye is tough enough, but when fifteen year old Ezekial’s mentor Stanley is kidnapped by ghouls, Eze loses the closest thing he’s ever had to a family.
Anastasia Greene has lived with her mother and grandparents for sixteen perfectly ordinary years, but when her grandparents disappear, Ana discovers a world she never suspected. Ghouls lurk in every shadow and djinn walk the Earth disguised as humans.
Opposed by ghouls and genies, evil wizards and ancient nightmares, Ana and Eze are pushed together in a fight for survival. Ana must uncover her own hidden past, and Eze must develop his magical abilities if either hopes to find the families they’ve lost.
The hardest thing for a new author (other than writing a good book), is getting the book to readers. If you enjoy the book, tell a friend about it. Or leave a review. Or both! Every little bit helps.
And now, for your reading pleasure, the first chapter:
Chapter One – Hunting Wizards
The lights in the room dimmed as the spell gained power. Eze huddled into the corner, trying to absorb everything his master chanted. There would be a test later, and the price of failure would be more beatings and more memory exercises. Majesty, the old man that had dominated his life for the last six months, wouldn’t be happy until Eze could control a dozen ghouls. Eze had a feeling that Majesty wouldn’t be happy then, either. Nothing ever seemed to the please the wizard, not even when Eze did exactly what he instructed.
“Are you paying attention, boy?” Majesty asked. His reedy voice echoed from the bare walls.
Eze snapped his attention back to the withered man. “Yes, sir.”
“Why isn’t there a ghoul standing in my circle?”
“You transposed the last two words of the spell.”
“And why am I not a smoking husk of wizard ruins?”
“You grounded yourself to iron.” That kept him from smoking. Whether he was a husk or not was debatable.
“Maybe there’s hope for you yet. Pay attention.” The wizard gripped the radiator and began chanting again. His voice rasped and croaked like a coffee can full of old stones. Purple and blue smoke formed a hurricane of color above the chalk circle in the middle of the room. Lights flashed in the swirling mists. They dissolved to reveal a writhing, humanoid shape with
oversized shoulders and protruding spikes.
“Master. Serve,” the creature hissed.
Majesty stepped away from the radiator and shuffled around the creature. A flick of his wrist sent it a pace forward. Its head rotated; glowing reptilian eyes swept around the room and settled on Eze. It crouched, muscles straining as its expression turned from confusion to hunger.
“Do not harm the boy,” Majesty said.
The ghoul shifted its weight and looked back to Majesty. Eze realized he had held his breath and let it out with a gasp.
The wizard crossed the room to the door. “Follow me.”
The ghoul and Eze both followed him to the front of the farmhouse. The wizard’s walking stick tapped the hardwood with each stride as he led them outside onto the front porch. A distant glow lit the horizon, but everything near the house was dark.
“Stay in the shadows and await further instructions,” he commanded the ghoul.
The ghoul stomped across the porch and dropped into the darkness on the other side of the steps. It stood perfectly still, perfectly silent. It wasn’t the first ghoul Majesty had put on guard duty, but it was the first where he’d shown Eze how to do it.
“It will follow basic instructions from me alone,” Majesty said. “Are you ready to summon?”
Bile rose in Eze’s throat, burning. He swallowed it. “I guess.”
Majesty backhanded him with the stick. A line of pain erupted on the side of Eze’s face, but he kept his hands still at his side. “There is no guess,” Majesty said. “If you falter, you die.”
“And don’t even think about attacking me with a creature you summon. You’ll get a beating that will make you wish you’d never been born.” The wizard towered over him, his face contorted with fury.
“Yes, Majesty.” Eze shuffled back into the summoning room in the back of the house. He stopped by the radiator and touched the iron as he had been taught. Paint flaked under his hand. It was really an old bedroom with plywood windows, but Majesty used it for all his summoning. Eze rehearsed the spell in his head and tried to steel himself for handling magic.
Any spell he cast made his stomach heave. It was like eating peas and chicken livers, but worse. Like eating cold chicken livers. Magic made his whole body ache, but Majesty didn’t care. Eze couldn’t understand how wizards cast multiple spells a day and controlled multiple ghouls at a time. He didn’t have much choice but to try, not if he wanted to avoid another beating. Not if he wanted to eat.
“Any day now, Ezekial.” Majesty slapped his cane against his palm.
Eze closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Ash allu kan—”
Something feral roared outside the house, breaking Eze’s concentration. He stopped the spell, and a thin layer of lavender mist dissolved at his feet.
“What the devil?” Majesty stalked to the bedroom door and threw it open.
The creature roared again, but cut off mid-cry. Loose boards on the porch creaked. The front door of the house banged open and a cloaked figure swept in from the darkness, metal glinting before him.
“Inferne!” Majesty shouted. A ball of flame gushed from the end of his staff and exploded over the intruder, charring him to cinders.
Only it didn’t. The intruder dropped his arm from his face and revealed a woman with the hardest eyes Eze had ever seen. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” she said. The pistol in her fist popped twice.
Majesty’s body jerked. He dropped to his knees. As he fell, he lifted his staff again.
The pistol popped a third time. Majesty crumpled. The staff clattered away.
Eze stared at the woman, dumbfounded. She aimed her pistol at him, but didn’t shoot. His knees trembled.
“Who are you?” he asked, his voice cracking.
“I’ll ask the questions here. Hands up.” She marched forward, the dark hole of the barrel never wavering from him. “What’s your name?”
“Ezekial.” He glanced at Majesty. “You shot him.” He poked Majesty with his toe. The wizard didn’t move. “I think he’s dead.”
The woman ignored Majesty and the blood puddling out from him. Eze backed away from the corpse, his heart pounding. Majesty had talked about raising corpses, but Eze couldn’t remember the words. He didn’t want to remember the words.
“Stop.” She moved closer and motioned toward the floor with the gun. “On the ground. Hands behind your back.”
He stared at her, his mouth dry. “Who are you?” he whispered. “What are you?”
“On the ground!”
Eze settled on the floor. The old wood scratched at his knees. She had an aura of command that Majesty could only have imagined.
“Face down.” She pulled his hands behind him and tied them together with something thin that bit into his wrists. “How old are you?”
She circled around and crouched before him, her long jacket splayed out on the floor. “How long have you been with Hiram Majedski?”
Her mouth tightened. “The wizard.”
Eze shrugged; his cheek scraped the floor, aggravating where Majesty had hit him. “A few months.”
The woman stared at him until he couldn’t match her gaze and looked away. “You’re his apprentice?”
“I didn’t want to be.”
“But you were?”
He closed his eyes. She was going to shoot him. “Yes,” he whispered.
“Do you have a family?”
“No.” Not anymore. He blinked away the tears.
“What happened to your family?”
“My momma she… drugs.” It was believable. He hoped she wouldn’t press him on it.
“I see. Have you opened a summoning portal?”
Eze opened his eyes. “Yes,” he whispered. Here it comes. She was gonna shoot him for sure.
“What happened when you did?”
“A ghoul came through. A small one.”
“What happened to you?”
“Threw up on the floor and Majesty beat me with his stick.” He studied a splinter protruding from the floor a few inches from his nose.
Her jacket rustled. She sighed. “I’m going to give you a chance, kid. Don’t screw it up.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet. The handcuffs cut into his wrists.
“What do you mean?”
She guided him forward, toward the open door. “I know another wizard, one that’s not a megalomaniac necromancer. He’ll help you.”
“I don’t want to be a wizard. Majesty didn’t give me any choice.”
“You don’t have any choice. Once you start, you either learn to control it, or you become a public danger. You’re already a risk.”
She took out a cell phone and thumbed the front cover. “This is Helena. I found the source of the ghouls.” She paused, listening. “Just a cleanup crew. No one else was here.” The phone clicked as she ended the call.
“What was that?”
She looked at him blankly and waited a moment before speaking. “If you have any clothes, we need to get them out of here. Do you have a room?”
“In the back.”
“Lead the way. I’ll do the packing.”
It didn’t take long for him to point her to his few shirts and spare pair of pants.
“You got a suitcase?” she asked.
She searched the room and settled on a pillowcase. His clothes were promptly stuffed inside. “Let’s go.” She motioned him toward the open front door.
On the front steps, the ghoul lay dead. The back of its head looked like a smashed pumpkin, but it stank like rotten eggs. Eze’s stomach did a flip.
She led him around it and into the darkness, seemingly unafraid of any of Majesty’s other guardians. He glanced into the night, looking for the other ghoul. It worried him that he hadn’t seen it. Those things didn’t ask first before attacking.
“You, uh, kill any more ghouls out here?” he asked.
“No. Were there others?”
“Majesty had another one on guard.”
“No, he didn’t.”
Eze wasn’t sure what to make of that. He’d seen the thing himself. Unless Majesty had sent it back.
The woman led him down the driveway to the blacktop road and along the edge a ways. Eventually they stopped at a gray sedan parked half in the ditch. She opened the passenger door and waited for him climb inside.
Eze tried to make himself as comfortable as possible with his hands locked behind his back. Whoever she was, whatever she was, she hadn’t hit him yet, and that was a step up.