Wolves of the Northern Rift (A Magic & Machinery Novel Book 1)

BOOK: Wolves of the Northern Rift (A Magic & Machinery Novel Book 1)
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A Magic & Machinery Novel

 

By: Jon Messenger

 

THIS book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used factiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

NO part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights.  Purchase only authorized editions.

 

Wolves of the Northern Rift

Copyright ©2015 Jon Messenger

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-63422-029-3

Cover Design by: Mae I Designs

Typography by: Courtney Nuckels

Editing by: Cynthia Shepp

 

 

“It is much easier to be a hero than a gentleman.”

-Luigi Pirandello

 

The whirling blades of the zeppelin propellers hummed within the passenger cabin, as the inflated transport drifted over the frozen landscape below. Frost clung to the windows, leaving tendrils of ice crystals reaching toward one another from their respective corners of the panes of glass. Despite the heat within the undercarriage cabin, the cold blanketed the hull of the craft.

Within one of the private rooms of the large cabin, Simon Whitlock drummed his fingers impatiently on his top hat, which rested on the table between him and his associate. Simon looked out the window, though the glass fogged almost immediately from his warm breath. He rubbed it with his suit sleeve, leaving a damp smear over the glass.

Frustrated, he sat back and pulled on the chain that dangled from his waistcoat. The pocket watch on the end of the chain slid from his vest pocket and spun lazily in the air. Simon grabbed the watch delicately and pushed the button on top. It swung open, revealing the timepiece on one side and a royal crest etched into the silver of the other. A photo of a dark-haired woman had been placed over the crest, concealing much of it. He only halfheartedly read the time before clicking the watch closed and replacing it in his pocket. The motion of brushing his suit aside revealed the butt of the silver revolver, tucked firmly in a shoulder holster. Simon hastily pulled his jacket back over the weapon and looked at his partner.

“How much longer is our trip?” Simon asked, interrupting his associate from his studies.

Luthor Strong looked up from his stack of papers on the table and arched an eyebrow inquisitively. Reaching up, he removed his wire-framed glasses, placing them gingerly on the table atop the strewn papers.

Without replying, Luthor looked out the window, admiring the snow-covered mountains over which they flew. A cold draft washed over him as he leaned closer to the window, and he shivered. He reached up absently and scratched the thick muttonchops that covered both cheeks.

“You have many virtues, sir,” Luthor said as he settled back into his plush bench seat, “but patience has never been one. We still have a few hours remaining. You could easily pass the time by resting your eyes or, if you don’t feel the inclination for sleep, you could pass me your blanket if you have no intention to use it.”

Simon frowned. “You have a cold nature about you, and I’m not referring only to your body temperature.”

He pulled the blanket from the bench beside him and passed it to Luthor, avoiding the oil lamp that burned merrily in the center of the table. Simon stared at the shorter man as he removed his jacket, folding it neatly beside him. Luthor buried himself in the thick, wool blanket, pulling it up to his chin.

“You can’t possibly be that cold,” Simon chided.

Luthor smiled at his friend. “Oh, I can assure you that it’s entirely possible to be this cold, though I might not have believed you if you had told me it was the case before we left.” He looked down at the papers spread before him. “Couldn’t we have received an assignment along the southern coast? I hear they still have yet to pull out their winter jackets.”

Simon smiled back at the apothecary. He reached up and stroked the pencil-thin moustache just above his lips. “If you were so fortunate to choose your own assignments, you would never leave the coastal resorts.”

Luthor tapped his nose knowingly. “But not you, sir. The waters never did agree with you, did they?”

Simon shivered at the thought of the endless ocean. “Never. Luckily, we don’t choose our assignments. We follow the will of a higher power.”

Simon leaned toward the window and clutched a velvet cord that dangled from the top. With a gentle tug, the thick curtain descended over the pane of glass. Though the room darkened considerably, there was an immediately noticeable difference in temperature as well.

With a satisfied sigh, Luthor pulled his arms free of the blanket.

“Speaking of assignments,” Simon said, leaving the sentence hanging.

Luthor cleared his throat and retrieved his glasses, placing them on the end of his nose. He lifted a few pages, their surfaces covered with tight, small, and meticulous writing. Setting them aside, he retrieved a folder concealed beneath them. Turning it so Simon could see, he pulled open its front cover, revealing more word-covered pages. Simon could see the corners of black-and-white photographs intermixed with the papers.

“We received reports of a supernatural occurrence within the city of Haversham, near the western coast, on the edge of White Lake,” Luthor explained.

“And the occurrence?”

Luthor looked up from the pages. “Werewolves, sir.”

Simon sighed and shook his head. “Werewolves. Of course it is.”

He reached out and brushed aside the papers, revealing a few of the pictures underneath. They were headshots of regional dignitaries whom Simon assumed had filed the reports with the monarchy, but he found no actual evidence of the reported werewolves.

“Luthor, dear chap, how many of these so-called supernatural occurrences have we investigated thus far?”

Luthor shrugged. “Six? Seven? Let’s see, there was the vampire of Dormuth Castle.”

“Which turned out to be merely a political coup against the seated governor.”

“The swamp creature.”

“A large lizard, to be sure,” Simon replied, “but hardly supernatural in origin.”

Luthor counted on his fingers. “The rising dead, the mischievous pixies, the ravenous hound, and the Grand Wizard of Templeton.”

“Lest you forget the mummy in the catacombs,” Simon added. “All debunked as charlatans.” He sighed and rested his elbows on the table. “When I took this position, I imagined myself as a stalwart defender of the crown, keeping our kingdom safe against the invading magics of the southern continent. Instead, I’m exposing fraudulent wizards who are no more adept at magic than a common circus juggler.”

“The threat from the south is real, no matter the false reports we’ve received thus far.” Luthor removed his glasses and wiped the lenses with a handkerchief. “The Rift exists; it tore its path right through the center of their continent, nearly splitting it in two. Because of it, mystical creatures of all sorts plague their land. You may be unimpressed with the assignments we’ve been given to date, but we’re keeping our kingdom safe. It only takes one of the magic creatures to slip past our borders to cause panic throughout the lands.”

Simon sighed and sat back. He knew the dangers of the Rift. It had been twelve years since the Rift first appeared, tearing through the Kingdom of Kohvus. They had felt the earthquakes hundreds of miles to the north, within their own kingdom. Simon had only been a young man then, barely into his teens, but he remembered the horror stories of creatures of legend crawling from the Rift. The magic it had introduced was a contagious toxin that infected first Kohvus, and then neighboring lands. They had closed their own borders, severing trade and tourism with the southern continent, but they lived in constant fear that the same mystical nightmares could reach past their borders.

“Tell me more about this report of werewolves,” he said flatly.

Luthor turned the folder around and quickly read the report again. “The report was sent by Governor Godwin, on behalf of a Mister Gideon Dosett, a local business owner. Mr. Dosett operates a number of oil drilling companies, operating around White Lake. The reports of werewolf sightings are all a result of recent attacks on his drilling and refinery stations.”

“They were probably just hungry wolves or local competition sabotaging his operations.”

“A number of local politicians actually agree with you, sir. Mister Marrith Tambor, head of the Miner’s Guild, and Mister Nathanial Orrick, president of the Artisan’s Union, both think the report is rubbish and unfounded.”

“Still,” Simon bemused, “the crown thought there was enough evidence to support sending an Inquisitor to investigate.”

“Apparently, Mr. Dosett holds some sway with the local governor. The governor placed his considerable political weight behind the allegations in this report.”

Simon stared into the flickering flame. “Even so, I think it far more likely that we’ll discover another fraudulent claim. Disproving these werewolves should take little effort on our part.”

Simon pinched the bridge of his nose and furrowed his brow, like he was in pain. Luthor set aside the report.

“Are you feeling ill?”

Simon shook his head. “It’s just a headache. I think it’s the altitude. The thin air doesn’t agree with my body.”

Luthor pulled his doctor’s bag from the seat beside him and set it on the table in front of him. Despite his caution when setting it down, it still clinked as glass vials bumped together. Unclasping the top of the bag, he pulled it open.

“Please, Luthor, none of your pharmaceuticals today.”

“Your head hurts from an imbalance of air. Too much nitrogen from the height and not nearly enough oxygen. I can mix something that will remedy your ailment.”

Simon knew better than to argue with his friend. He sat back against the seat and let the apothecary work.

Luthor removed an empty vial and an eyedropper from the bag. He slid a rubber bulb onto the back of the glass pipette and drew some dark liquid from one of the concealed jars within his bag. With a measured squirt, he filled half the empty vial. The man whistled quietly to himself as he worked blissfully, drawing a few more odd chemical concoctions into the dropper. When he was done, a dark, viscous liquid sloshed in the vial.

He reached across the table, offering the mixture to Simon. “Please drink the whole vial.”

“I think ‘vile’ is a more accurate form of the word,” Simon replied halfheartedly. Despite his protests, he took the liquid and sniffed it. He immediately wrinkled his nose at the foul-smelling brew. “Are you sure this is absolutely necessary?”

“Trust in your doctor,” Luthor said. “I haven’t tried to poison you yet.”

Simon swirled the thick liquid. “But you reserve that possibility for the future?”

“Drink.”

Simon brought the vial to his lips and threw his head back. The liquid burned as it rolled past his throat. He coughed and sputtered as he fought for a breath. As his lungs finally relaxed and the mixture settled warmly in his belly, he found his headache quickly receding.

“I always doubt you, and you never cease to amaze me,” Simon said appreciatively. “What did you put in this?”

“A little of this. A little of that. Mainly a liquid distilled from the flowers of the poppy plant.”

Simon felt the stresses of their assignment lifting from his mind. “Well, whatever it was, you’re a miracle worker. I owe you thanks.”

Luthor shook his head and quickly changed the subject. “Don’t discount the possibility that these werewolves are real. All our myths are based to some degree on fact.”

Simon looked up at his assistant. He had hoped they were done with this discussion. “Are you saying that werewolves, vampires, and zombies are all real?”

“Potentially. Someone had to create the legends once upon a time. To know that these same creatures are now pouring from the Rift lends credence to the stories of old.”

“Then these magical creatures have escaped from the Rift before.”

“Again, potentially. Never to the degree that they are now escaping, mind you, but I find it hard to believe that a realm of magic has existed in parallel to ours for so many thousands of years, yet there has never been a bleeding between the two.”

Simon considered his reply but didn’t get a chance to answer, as there was a soft knock on their door.

“Enter,” Simon said.

The door opened, and a steward bowed slightly. “Forgive my intrusion, gentlemen, but the pilot wanted me to inform you that we are approaching the dock at Haversham.”

“Thank you,” he replied, and the steward quickly shut the door behind him.

Simon reached over and pulled the velvet rope, lifting the heavy curtain. Both men immediately felt the biting chill of the wintery air seeping through the thick, glass window. Despite their discomfort, they leaned closer and peered through.

The city of Haversham was a squat town but spread over a couple of miles. A wall like a castle parapet ringed it, though it served little defensive purpose. It kept the strong arctic winds and drifting snow at bay. Within the confines of the city, the streets were fairly clear of the constantly falling snow.

BOOK: Wolves of the Northern Rift (A Magic & Machinery Novel Book 1)
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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