My name is Cimmerian. I’m a dragon shifter living in New Orleans. Someone is screwing up my pre-Mardi Gras plans by leaving mutilated human bodies all over town. I have to find out whether or not a demon is behind this. If so, are they building a human to animate with demon magic? If not, we have a human serial killer just in time for the town to flood with tourists.
Things were so much quieter on vacation.
Damn, I’m glad to be back at work.
“Cimmerian is a centuries-old dragon who can “shift” into human form. After a brutal confrontation with the psychotic demon Nitha, he took an “extended vacation” from his job protecting New Orleans from the forces of evil, and he just wants to relax. Then Nitha returns to the city with a diabolical plan to take over the Arcane Court, the judicial system that employs Cim and keeps the peace between the demons and the rest of the supernatural realm. Cim must team up with his lifelong friend, the half-demon, half-dragon Wretch (short for “Wretched Spawn”), and Nitha’s demon sister, Laythe, to kill Nitha and her insane demon husband before they come to power. At the same time, Cim and his team investigate a disturbing series of murders that have been leaving victims dismembered in the streets. With a practiced hand, Fox balances fantasy folklore with modernity, as when the Arcane Court sends kill orders via email, and she’s also a master of suspense….” Kirkus Reviews.
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Never play poker with a dragon. A full house in my hand, I sat at a table with five young demons playing cards. As a six foot five inch dragon living in New Orleans, I was used to dangerous situations. My name is Cimmerian, known as the Death Dealer for my ability to behead demons and drink in their putrid struggling souls. After ten years away from my job enforcing the laws of the Arcane Court here in New Orleans, I was back.
My extended vacation followed my attempted murder by a demon, Nitha. The Court removed her powers giving me a decade off. I’d saved Wretched Spawn from her four hundred years ago. From that day on, his aunt painted a red-hot target on my forehead and ass. Authority wasn’t my thing, but I had nowhere to hide from her. My best bet was to stay with Wretch and fight his psychotic aunt on the Court’s payroll. It helped too that he and I became the best of friends.
The demons and I sat around a backroom table in a bar on Bourbon Street. Tonight, in my human form, I’d decided on a game with talkative demons to see if there was anything we should investigate. Something I could use to blow off steam. My claws had started to itch.
“Are you sure you boys wouldn’t rather play Go Fish?” I looked at the demons who showed up tonight dressed for a gangster movie. “Or would you like to get back to the set of Boardwalk Empire?”
They laughed in response, and then from their appointed leader. “You don’t threaten us, Death Dealer. Your talons have been disabled.”
The largest demon in the group, who was armed with a machine gun, pointed it at my chest. Shifting to dragon was the most natural thing for me to do. I started the shift. Nothing happened. My chest wouldn’t deflect bullets without my scales, and my heart began to pound. They had spelled me so I couldn’t change. Demons were born with the ability to do magic organically. I had to get that power by devouring their souls. I was empty.
“You are useless.” The leader leaned back in his chair like this was a show.
The smell of sulfur infused every breath I took as the demons’ excited stench ran the cloud of cologne away. I tried to shift again, but when it didn’t work, I knew I was in trouble. The guy with the machine gun shot at me. I pushed down hard with my heels and pushed myself over backward in the chair. As soon as I was on the ground, demons covered me with punches to my chest and legs. The dragon strength present, even in human form, allowed me to feel the blows without pain. The only way to break the spell was by moonlight. If I waited for them to wear out, I could walk outside and shift.
They tried to pull my arms out while the man with the gun stood next to me. I flipped over to protect my heart and hands while they pulled my shirt and pants off kicking and punching me. Annoyed at their antics, I was tempted to let them continue until fatigued. This wasn’t the first time an amateurish group of demons had tried to boost their reputation by beating me up. With a stronger muscle structure and virtually unbreakable bones, their feeble blows came off as little more than stings.
The gun was the threat I needed to avoid in the room, not the demons. These idiots would make a mistake, so I waited.
“Look at the pretty colors on his back,” one said.
“Let’s see if his ass turns colors.” Another ripped off my underwear.
What the fuck? That pissed me off. I pulled my hands under my chest and pushed up while tucking my legs under in one motion. The sudden move stopped the pummeling as they regrouped, or the big guy aimed his machine gun. I didn’t know and didn’t wait to find out.
Someone’s feet appeared on my right side. I grabbed each ankle in one of my hands and yanked him as I stood up holding him in front of me. He didn’t cover my entire body only shielding my chest area. The sounds of rapid gunfire and the thrashing of the demon in my hands accompanied the reek of sweat, sulfur, and gunpowder. The shooter stopped. Lowering the demon, I peered between his legs. The rest of the group stood there dumbfounded. It seemed they had come to the end of their plans.
“That’s all you have?” I threw the demon to the floor.
“It’s still four to one.” The largest one tossed the gun away and pulled a grenade from his pocket.
“You brought a grenade to a poker game?” Outnumbered and now outgunned I didn’t have much choice. I threw the table at him and took off as he grunted on impact.
Running down the road I searched for an alley away from humans and large enough for my wings. I put twenty yards between us within the first block. Not the best way to end a poker game. I should’ve attracted attention. But it was New Orleans at three in the morning, and I was just another naked man running down Bourbon Street.