Ilona Andrews: Dark and Stormy Knights

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Ilona Andrews Dark and Stormy Knights
  • Название:
    Dark and Stormy Knights
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    ST. MARTIN'S GRIFFIN
  • Жанр:
    sf_fantasy_city / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2010
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-0-312-59834-1
  • Рейтинг книги:
    3 / 5
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Dark and Stormy Knights: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Elrod's second urban fantasy anthology is not quite as good as 2009's , though the one author both volumes share, Jim Butcher, does his usual top-notch job with the Dresden Files tie-in "Even Hand," a dramatic character study of Chicago crime boss John Marcone and his little-known but powerful drive to protect small children at any cost. Equally as good is Carrie Vaughn's taut and suspenseful "God's Creatures," in which a hunter searches for a werewolf among the residents of a Catholic reform school. Rachel Caine's "Even a Rabbit Will Bite," in which a dragon slayer is rendered redundant by the near extinction of her quarry, is unexpectedly poignant. Six less memorable stories round out the volume.

Ilona Andrews: другие книги автора


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DARK and STORMY KNIGHTS

EDITED BY P. N. ELROD

A QUESTIONABLE CLIENT

by ILONA ANDREWS

The problem with leucrocotta blood is that it stinks to high heaven. It’s also impossible to get off your boots, particularly if the leucrocotta condescended to void its anal glands on you right before you chopped its head off.

I sat on the bench in the Mercenary Guild locker room and pondered my noxious footwear. The boots were less than a year old. And I didn’t have money to buy a new pair.

“Tomato juice, Kate,” one of the mercs offered. “Will take it right out.”

Now he’d done it. I braced myself.

A woman in the corner shook her head. “That’s for skunks. Try baking soda.”

“You have to go scientific about it. Two parts hydrogen peroxide to four parts water.”

“A quart of water and a tablespoon of ammonia.”

“What you need to do is piss on it. . . .”

Every person in the locker room knew my boots were shot. Unfortunately, stain removal methods was one of those troublesome subjects somewhere between relationship issues and mysterious car noises. Everybody was an expert, everybody had a cure, and they all fell over themselves to offer their advice.

The electric bulbs blinked and faded. Magic flooded the world in a silent rush, smothering technology. Twisted tubes of feylanterns ignited with pale blue on the walls as the charged air inside them interacted with magic. A nauseating stench, reminiscent of a couple of pounds of shrimp left in the sun for a week, erupted from my boots. There were collective grunts of “Ugh” and “Oh God,” and then everybody decided to give me lots of personal space.

We lived in a post-Shift world. One moment magic dominated, fueling spells and giving power to monsters, and the next it vanished as abruptly as it appeared. Cars started, electricity flowed, and mages became easy prey to a punk with a gun. Nobody could predict when magic waves would come or how long they would last. That’s why I carried a sword. It always worked.

Mark appeared in the doorway. Mark was the Guild’s equivalent of middle management, and he looked the part—his suit was perfectly clean and cost more than I made in three months, his dark hair was professionally trimmed, and his hands showed no calluses. In the crowd of working-class thugs, he stood out like a sore thumb and was proud of it, which earned him the rank and file’s undying hatred.

Mark’s expressionless stare fastened on me. “Daniels, the clerk has a gig ticket for you.”

Usually the words “gig ticket” made my eyes light up. I needed money. I always needed money. The Guild zoned the jobs, meaning that each merc had his own territory. If a job fell in your territory, it was legitimately yours. My territory was near Savannah, basically in the sparsely populated middle of nowhere, and good gigs didn’t come my way too often. The only reason I ended up in Atlanta this time was that my part-time partner in crime, Jim, needed help clearing a pack of grave-digging leucrocottas from Westview Cemetery. He’d cut me in on his gig.

Under normal circumstances I would’ve jumped on the chance to earn extra cash, but I had spent most of the last twenty-four hours awake and chasing hyena-sized creatures armed with badgerlike jaws full of extremely sharp teeth. And Jim bailed on me midway through it. Some sort of Pack business. That’s what I get for pairing with a werejaguar.

I was tired, dirty, and hungry, and my boots stank.

“I just finished a job.”

“It’s a blue gig.”

Blue gig meant double rate.

Mac, a huge hulk of a man, shook his head, presenting me with a view of his mangled left ear. “Hell, if she doesn’t want it, I’ll take it.”

“No, you won’t. She’s licensed for bodyguard detail and you aren’t.”

I bloody hated bodyguard detail. On regular jobs, I had to depend only on myself. But bodyguard detail was a couple’s kind of dance. You had to work with the body you guarded, and in my experience, bodies proved uncooperative.

“Why me?”

Mark shrugged. “Because I have no choice. I have Rodriguez and Castor there now, but they just canceled on me. If you don’t take the gig, I’ll have to track down someone who will. My pain, your gain.”

Canceled wasn’t good. Rodriguez was a decent mage, and Castor was tough in a fight. They wouldn’t bail from a well-paying job unless it went sour.

“I need someone there right now. Go there, babysit the client through the night, and in the morning I’ll have a replacement lined up. In or out, Daniels? It’s a high-profile client, and I don’t like to keep him waiting.”

The gig smelled bad. “How much?”

“Three grand.”

Someone whistled. Three grand for a night of work. I’d be insane to pass on it. “In.”

“Good.”

I started to throw my stink-bomb boots into the locker but stopped myself. I had paid a lot for them, and they should have lasted for another year at least; but if I put them into my locker, it would smell forever. Sadly the boots were ruined. I tossed them into the trash, pulled on my old spare pair, grabbed my sword, and headed out of the locker room to get the gig ticket from the clerk.


When I rode into Atlanta, the magic was down, so I had taken Betsi, my old dented Subaru. With magic wave in full swing, my gasoline-guzzling car was about as mobile as a car-size rock, but since I was technically doing the Guild a favor, the clerk provided me with a spare mount. Her name was Peggy, and judging by the wear on her incisors, she’d started her third decade some years ago. Her muzzle had gone gray, her tail and mane had thinned to stringy tendrils, and she moved with ponderous slowness. I’d ridden her for the first fifteen minutes, listening to her sigh, and then guilt got the better of me and I decided to walk the rest of the way. I didn’t have to go far. According to the directions, Champion Heights was only a couple miles away. An extra ten minutes wouldn’t make that much difference.

Around me a broken city struggled to shrug off winter, fighting the assault of another cold February night. Husks of once mighty skyscrapers stabbed through the melting snowdrifts encrusted with dark ice. Magic loved to feed on anything technologically complex, but tall office towers proved particularly susceptible to magic-induced erosion. Within a couple of years of the first magic wave they shuddered, crumbled, and fell one by one, like giants on sand legs, spilling mountains of broken glass and twisted guts of metal framework onto the streets.

The city grew around the high-tech corpses. Stalls and small shops took the place of swanky coffee joints and boutiques. Wood-and-brick houses, built by hand and no taller than four floors high, replaced the high-rises. Busy streets, once filled with cars and buses, now channeled a flood of horses, mules, and camels. During rush hour the stench alone put hair on your chest. But now, with the last of the sunset dying slowly above the horizon, the city lay empty. Anyone with a crumb of sense hurried home. The night belonged to monsters, and monsters were always hungry.

The wind picked up, driving dark clouds across the sky and turning my bones into icicles. It would storm soon. Here’s hoping Champion Heights, my client’s humble abode, had someplace I could hide Peggy from the sleet.

We picked our way through Buckhead, Peggy’s hooves making loud clopping noises in the twilight silence of the deserted streets. The night worried me little. I looked too poor and too mean to provide easy pickings, and nobody in his right mind would try to steal Peggy. Unless a gang of soap-making bandits lurked about, we were safe enough. I checked the address again. Smack in the middle of Buckhead. The clerk said I couldn’t miss it. Pretty much a guarantee I’d get lost.

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