Magic and Loss: A Novel of Golgotham

BOOK: Magic and Loss: A Novel of Golgotham
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Praise for the Novels of Nancy A. Collins

“Imaginative, dynamic, and highly entertaining.”

—Clive Barker

“Vampiric, post-punk, metal-fanged, dark-doomed romance at its best.”


Locus

“Has style, energy, and black humor to spare.”


The New York Review of Science Fiction

Praise for the Novels of Golgotham

Left Hand Magic


Left Hand Magic
is rather like a Harry Potter book with some PG-13 sex thrown in. Along with the eye of newt and tongue of bat, there’s plenty of action and some romance tossed into the recipe, along with a generous dash of humor. . . . Collins spins a workmanlike yarn, but the real attraction here is all the background detail and atmospherics wafting like a fog around Golgotham.”

—StarNews Online

“Nancy Collins builds skillfully upon the themes she established in
Right Hand Magic
. . . . Fans of the ‘urban’ in urban fantasy will love this new novel.”

—SFRevu


Left Hand Magic
was my most anticipated book of 2011. I became totally addicted with the first in the series and was blown away by Ms. Collins’s fantastical subrealm of New York and its very multilayered inhabitants. The Golgotham series is urban fantasy on a whole new level of extraordinary. I literally feel like I’m a part of the story because it’s so vividly created and narrated. The tension that grew throughout the pages of
Left Hand Magic
kept me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails. . . . I cannot wait for more Golgotham tales soon (hint, hint, Ms. Collins).”

—Manic Readers

“A great sequel to
Right Hand Magic
, revisiting the fantastical neighborhood with its remarkable denizens.”

—Night Owl Reviews

“Golgotham is brought vividly to life by Collins’s descriptive prose and intriguing characterization. Well worth your time and money.”


Romantic Times

“Collins continues to build on the diverse world of Golgotham while diving into the very real issues of racial tension and family strife. Although much of the story line has been done, the assortment of characters helps keep the plot fresh. It is interesting to see so many genuine problems faced by inner cities today cropping up in an urban fantasy and it adds a layer of credibility to the setting.”

—Monsters and Critics

“Nancy Collins’s
Left Hand Magic
continues to build strength with its elaborate world building. We, along with Tate, learn more about this richly fascinating magical city that borders New York. . . . The plot and subplots are well paced and plenty of action keeps you on your toes. . . . I enjoyed this foray back into Ms. Collins’s world.”

—Smexy Books Romance Reviews

Right Hand Magic

“Golgotham feels real, feels inhabited by real unreal people and places, and the whole book is just a joy to read.”

—Simon R. Green,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Bride Wore Black Leather

“One of the most enjoyable books that I have read all year. . . . Nancy A. Collins has reminded me why I loved [urban fantasy] in the first place. . . . Collins has created a world that makes readers want to explore it and characters that the reader cannot just care about but definitely like. . . . I’m most certainly looking forward to more books in the series.”

—BSCreview

“The danger in the book is all too real. . . . Collins is especially skilled at portraying the sweaty, nervous moments when everything goes wrong and help is too far away. . . . For readers eager to see a very well-done portrayal of a strange neighborhood amid our all too mundane reality, this is the book for you. Recommended.”

—SFRevu

“Collins’s latest novel should attract fans of Sherrilyn Kenyon, Tanya Huff, and Laurell K. Hamilton.”


Library Journal

“The intriguing setting [is] the true star of the series.”


Publishers Weekly

“Golgotham itself is a fantastically intriguing setting. . . . It inspires a sense of wonder akin to what you might have felt when first discovering J. K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. . . . The Golgotham series shows a lot of promise. The setting is fascinating, and it’s peopled with interesting characters.”

—Fantasy Literature

“[A] great beginning to what appears to be a fantastic new urban fantasy series. I look forward to reading the second story to see what the author does with this incredible and complex neighborhood.”

—Huntress Book Reviews

“The hype is well deserved . . . full of magic, romance, and an epic take on New York City.”

—Bitten by Books

“An entertaining story that demonstrates an amazing breadth of imagination and introduces a fascinating alternate society . . . [it’s] an intriguing introduction to an environment peopled with eccentric and memorable characters. Hopefully there will be many additional tales set in this new mind-boggling city named Golgotham.”

—Night Owl Reviews

“Whenever a series is named after its location, I expect that location to be as much a character as the protagonist. And the new Golgotham urban fantasy series delivers. The fictitious New York city of Golgotham is a strange and wonderful place.”

—All Things Urban Fantasy

“Golgotham feels like the sort of neighborhood you can visit more than once, so a sequel or three to
Right Hand Magic
should prove, well, enchanting.”

—StarNews Online

“[Collins] does an excellent job of bringing Golgotham and its unusual occupants vividly to life [while] grounding the story in reality. Compelling characters and dangerous drama add up to dynamic and exciting fun.”


Romantic Times

Also by Nancy A. Collins

The Novels of Golgotham

Right Hand Magic

Left Hand Magic

NANCY A.

COLLINS

Magic and Loss

A Novel of GOLGOTHAM

ROC

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Nancy A. Collins, 2013

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

ISBN 978-1-101-59798-9

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Contents

Praise

Also by Nancy A. Collins

Title page

Copyright page

Dedication

Epigraph

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

 

Golgotham Glossary

For Judy Coppage, Golgotham’s Fairy Godmother

As you pass through the fire

your right hand waving

there are things you have to throw out

That caustic dread inside your head

will never help you out

—“Magic and Loss,” Lou Reed

Chapter 1

I
awoke, as usual, to the sound of the alarm clock, the smell of bacon, and the sight of a winged hairless cat curled up beside me. I yawned and stretched as I swung my feet out of bed, glancing at the darkness outside my window. Still yawning, I made my way to the shower. Fifteen minutes later, I returned to find the previously mentioned butt-naked bat-winged feline sprawled full-length across the bed like a bolster.

“You don’t waste any time, do you?” I chided the familiar as I put on my work clothes.

“You lose, I snooze,” Scratch replied, eyes still shut.

As I headed downstairs, the aroma of breakfast grew stronger. I entered the kitchen and saw Hexe, my landlord and lover—and, oh yeah, heir to the Kymeran throne—standing in front of the antique stove, dressed in nothing but a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and an apron that said
KISS THE COOK
. He was frantically shaking a couple of cast-iron skillets, while our Boston terrier, Beanie, sat planted at his feet, intently watching every move, just in case an errant molecule of food might find its way to the floor.

I obeyed the apron and planted a big old sloppy smooch on my six-fingered cook. I glanced down at the stove top and saw that one pan contained yummy, yummy bacon and scrambled eggs, while the other held a grayish slice of what could charitably be described as pâté frying in a half-inch of grease.

“What’s that?” I asked, cautiously eyeing the slab of mystery meat. One of the first things I had learned upon moving to Golgotham was that Kymerans had a far more,
ahem
, adventuresome palate than that of the average human, and exhibited a fondness for foods that would make even the most daring gastronome think twice. I took it as a testament of Hexe’s love for me that he was willing to make a traditional “human” breakfast every morning and send me off to work with a neatly packed lunch pail that didn’t contain such Kymeran staples as lutefisk sandwiches and white fungus soda.

“It’s scrapple,” he explained cheerfully, tossing a lock of purple hair out of his eyes with a practiced toss of his head. “It’s made from hog offal—the heart, snouts, liver, that kind of stuff—mixed with cornmeal and seasonings. Want some? It’s really good with maple syrup, ketchup, and horseradish.”

“That’s okay, honey,” I replied, pushing aside the flutter in my stomach. “Some other time, perhaps. I think I’ll stick to my usual this morning.”

“You got it!” Hexe grinned as he snatched the other skillet off the burner and slid its contents onto a waiting plate. “Your coffee’s already on the table.”

“You really spoil me,” I said with a laugh as I sat down. “None of my other boyfriends ever made breakfast for me, much less every day.”

“That’s because your other boyfriends sucked,” he replied as he flipped over the square of scrapple.

“True, that,” I agreed as I nibbled on my bacon—crisp as always, just the way I like it.

“Besides, it’s only right that I make your breakfast and fix your lunch. After all,
you’re
the one bringing home the steady paycheck.”

“You lift curses and concoct potions for your clients,” I pointed out.

“Yes, but I’m self-employed. I never know what I might make on any given day. You’re the one putting in ten hours a day, six days a week, to support us.”

“Speaking of which, I better get going,” I said, washing down my last bite of scrambled eggs with a slug of French roast and chicory. “If I’m not punched in by seven, Canterbury will be champing at his bit.”

“What time do you think you’ll be home?” Hexe asked as he handed me my lunch pail.

“Hard to say,” I replied with a sigh. “The deadline for that installation we’ve been working on is coming up fast, and we’re nowhere near finished yet. What about you? Do you have any clients lined up for today?”

“Just some salves and ointments, that’s all. Oh, that reminds me—here’s that liniment Canterbury asked me to mix up for him,” he said, handing me a bottle wrapped in twine and butcher paper. “Tell him to keep it below the waist, if he knows what’s good for him.”

As I stepped out onto the front stoop Hexe gave me my usual off-to-work kiss, a public display of affection guaranteed to scandalize the Blue Hairs, and I don’t just mean old Madam Yaya, who lived across the street. The traditional Aristocrat class of Kymeran society, the same ones who were far from pleased by the fact Hexe’s biological father was a member of the Servitor class, had made no secret that they disapproved of their Heir Apparent taking up with a—gasp!—human, even one with magical powers.

The dawn’s first blush was lightening the morning sky as I made my way through Golgotham’s winding cobblestone streets, passing shopkeepers cranking out the awnings above their stores in anticipation of another day of business. I shook my head, thinking about how many times I had witnessed such early-morning rituals while staggering home to bed after a night on the town. A year ago if anyone had told me that I would find myself romanced by a Kymeran warlock prince, disowned by my parents, and working a blue-collar job to pay the bills, I’d have laughed in his face. But here I am, knee-deep in love and gainfully employed—all for the very first time.

When I came to this ancient, exotic part of the city, all I was looking for was cheap rent and someplace where I could bang away on my metal sculptures without my neighbors trying to evict me. And, to be honest, I also sought out Golgotham because I knew my douche bag of an ex would be too chickenshit to follow me. At the time, I was on the verge of making a real name for myself, with an established gallery opening in my pocket. . . .

But there’s no point in dwelling on that. What’s done is done, and I wouldn’t change what happened, even if it were within my power to do so. My dreams of breaking onto the New York art scene might be delayed, but for the first time in my life I truly felt like I was where I belonged—although there are those who would argue that point.

There is no denying that my decision to move to Golgotham had repercussions. Many consider me responsible for establishing a beachhead for the recent influx of human artists and hipsters who have made the neighborhood the newest hot spot in the city. But then, Golgotham has changed me, as well—as evidenced by my recently acquired ability to bring the things I build to life. I don’t know whether my relocating to Golgotham awakened a latent power within me, but there’s no denying that I’ve got magic now. Who’s to say where it came from? For all I know I caught it from a toilet seat.

My daily walk to work was just long enough to qualify as exercise, and helped me clear my mind and organize my thoughts for the day ahead. However, as I strolled past the local newsstand, I made the mistake of glancing at the headline of that morning’s
Golgotham Gazette
:
MACHEN ARMS SOLD TO CHECKMATE PROPERTIES
.

Great. Just freaking wonderful. Things had finally calmed down after the race riots and the Sons of Adam panic, and now
this
. Golgothamites were worried enough about gentrification without Ronald Chess, the most rapacious real estate developer in the Triboroughs, snapping up an apartment building. This was exactly the kind of thing Hexe’s race-baiting uncle, with his Kymeran Unification Party separatist group, used to whip up fear and resentment against humans.

The KUP had fallen idle since Esau’s mysterious disappearance several months ago, which also coincided with the Sons of Adam’s suddenly going to ground. It wasn’t really
that
big a coinkydink that Esau and the SOA happened to fall off the face of the earth at the exact same time, since the necromancer was actually the one controlling the human supremacists from behind the scenes, having gone so far as to create them via alchemy. The last I saw of dear old Uncle Esau, he was being dragged to hell—or at least the Infernal Regions—by the very same demon he had summoned forth to kill me. And while the hateful old bastard was no longer around to stir up trouble, that didn’t mean there still wasn’t plenty of it to go around.

I sighed and tried to push my worries aside. Canterbury and I had a lot of work ahead of us, and fretting about something I had no control over or say in wasn’t going to help us meet our deadline. Canterbury had been paid half the commission up front, and promised the rest upon delivery. Needless to say, the financial well-being of Canterbury Customs hinged on finishing the installation on time.

I would have to say that outside of falling in love and acquiring magical powers, joining the workforce has been the biggest change to my life since moving to Golgotham. After I refused to give up Hexe and move back in with my parents, I found myself cut off from my trust fund. No doubt my parents hoped I would wither up like a worm on a hot sidewalk. However, all it did was make me even more determined to stay put.

For the first time in my life I was living without a safety net, just like most Americans my age. Luckily I had a skilled trade to fall back on—in my case, welding and metalworking. I was also lucky that Hexe’s childhood friend Kidron was willing to put in a good word for me at Chiron Livery.

I’m not going to lie—banging out horseshoes on an anvil is hard, dirty work. After my first week, my arms were so sore I could barely lift them over my head and my left thumb was the size and color of a plum. But, instead of quitting, I took my first pay voucher and settled that month’s grocery bill. After six weeks, I was arm wrestling my coworkers on the line and no longer hitting my thumb on a regular basis. As much.

However, I will admit to being bored with the assembly line nature of the work and bummed there was no outlet for creative expression. But what bothered me the most was that by the time I got home, I was normally too tired to focus on my art.

Then, two months into my job as a blacksmith, I was approached by Canterbury and offered a job as a striker—essentially working as his apprentice. I jumped at the opportunity, as he was not only a well-regarded Master Smith but also a ferromancer.

One of the biggest misconceptions humans have when it comes to magic is that it’s like water from a tap, with the only difference being whether it’s hot or cold. The truth is, there are as many different variants of magic as there are specialties in medicine. For example, weather witches summon storms; pyromancers control fire; necromancers work dark magic using the bodies of the dead; and ferromancers shape and control metal.

While centaurs normally are without magic, Canterbury was quite literally a horse of different color, courtesy of a Kymeran father. While he could be a bit of a taskmaster at times, we got along very well together and I had become quite fond of him. In many ways he reminded me of my old art instructor at Wellesley, Professor Stobaugh, who had been the first to suggest I focus on metalwork rather than on the more traditional clay and stone.

Unlike the other businesses along Horsecart Street, Canterbury Customs did not have a proper storefront. Instead, it was located in Fetlock Mews, a dead-end alleyway situated between Perdition Street and Shoemaker Lane. The mews was lined with two-story stables that served as both places of business and homes for various centaurian farriers, wainwrights, and saddlers. Although Chiron Livery churned out most of the horseshoes used by the centaur and ipotane communities, there was still plenty of commercial business for those who catered to Golgotham’s carriage trade.

As I walked onto the shop floor, I saw my boss and mentor inspecting the armature for the wings of the clockwork dragon that took up half the workspace. The scale-model saurian was scattered about—a head here, a leg there, another leg somewhere else—like a classic car undergoing restoration. But in this case we were trying to rebuild a model that had not been seen on the road—or the skies—for over a thousand years.

Canterbury wore a leather blacksmith’s apron over his upper torso, as well as safety goggles, and kept his chartreuse mane short and tail bobbed for fear of flying sparks from his forge. Although he had the power to shape metal without the use of tools, he also utilized traditional fabrication methods as well, in order to conserve energy. After all, magic can be exhausting work, even for someone with the constitution of a horse.

“Morning, boss. Here’s that liniment you wanted,” I said, tossing him the bottle. “Hexe says to keep it off your Kymeran bits.”

“Understood,” Canterbury replied, catching the package with a six-fingered hand. “And don’t forget to punch in.”

I nodded my understanding and plucked my card from its slot on the “out” board of the antique time clock hanging on the wall and slipped it inside the slot in its face, accompanied by a loud “clunk,” then dutifully placed it in a slot on the “in” side of the board. It seemed a lot of trouble for a single employee, but Canterbury was a stickler for punctuality.

“Do you think we’ll make the deadline for the museum?” I asked as I opened my work locker and removed my safety gear.

“There’s no ‘thinking’—I
know
we’ll make deadline,” he replied. “We have to. I promised the Curator it would be ready in time for the Jubilee. I’ve got a lot riding on this piece.”

“What part of it are we working on today?”

“The right foreleg,” he replied, picking up the bar of steel sitting on the workbench in front of him as if it weighed no more than a two-by-four.

I watched in mute admiration as Canterbury stroked the metal as if it were a kitten, causing it to instantly soften beneath his touch. He then reworked it, like a potter at his wheel, with nothing more than his hands, teasing it into a new shape. Within minutes what had once been a simple steel bar was now the shin bone of a dragon.

Canterbury stepped aside, so I could pick up the piece with a pair of tongs and quench it in the nearby water bath. Although he had used his bare hands to shape the steel, the finished piece was as hot as if it had just been pulled from the heat of a forge. There was a mighty hiss and a plume of steam arose from the converted horse trough, as if the dragon we were assembling piecemeal was trying to communicate with us.

Once the tibia was properly tempered, I would then fit it into the articulated knee joint and weld it into place. After that we would construct the ankle and move on to the foot. In many ways, what I was doing with Canterbury was no different from what I had done creating my “action figures,” save that instead of scrounging salvage yards for found metal, I was working with a living machine shop who could literally fabricate any necessary part by hand.

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