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A Throne of Skulls

Riley Storm

I was a nothing mage, until a god gave me power I didn’t ask for. Now I’ve got to hunt down a terrifying necromancer that has escaped straight from a paranormal supermax prison. Just me, and the gorgeous sword-wielding warrior man from another time. No pressure, right?

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Read an excerpt from A Throne of Skulls

I screamed, free hand flailing for anything at all to grab onto as I stumbled backward. My fingers closed around the cool metal of the bars blocking the entrance to the sewers, and I gripped as tight as I could. 

“Stop that,” my assailant snarled as my body came to an abrupt halt. 

“No, thank you,” I gasped out as I strained against his pull.

“Let go!” He pulled hard, and I felt my fingers begin to slip, the slime-covered bar betraying me.

“You let go!” I shouted back, pulling away from the strange man. I didn’t make much progress, but the inch or so I managed to stretch myself was enough for my fingers to latch back on.

“It’s pointless to resist. Just let go, and let’s get this over with.”

When it came to people giving me orders I didn’t like, I had a tendency to rebel. I wasn’t one for following other people’s orders, even if they outranked me, or in that case, were stronger than me. 

What I needed was a distraction. Something to loosen his grip before he pulled me free of the gate. I couldn’t focus my mind long enough to cast a spell, not without being pulled free. I needed a bit more time. Frantically, I looked around as my wannabe-captor shook me like a dog toy, trying to dislodge me from the grate. 

Stepping back and forth, he splashed through the mucky water, spraying the cold liquid everywhere.

The water.

Inspiration hit me, and with a furious shriek, I kicked at it as hard as I could. My boot hit the gentle flow of water and sprayed it up in front of me, coating the sewer walls and the mystery man.

“Ack!” he spat as the water hit him in the face, momentarily blinding him.

I used that moment to pull myself forward. He didn’t quite let go, but my sudden movement caught him by surprise, and he lurched toward me. But I’d gained enough ground to wrap my entire arm around the metal bar before he regained control.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he growled. “Not anymore. I’m going to lock both of you up until it’s too late. Can’t have any interference.”

“Then what?” I said, trying to distract him as I pulled what magic I had into my mind and focused it.

“Then, I’ll find a way to dispose of you properly,” he said, hauling on my arm with a grunt.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to work for me,” I said. “Scheduling conflict, I’m sure you understand. Trust me, I do want to be your helpless prisoner, I really do, but I just can’t. I promised my friend I’d be her escape-a-date phone call tonight, and I just can’t cancel on her. Not again. The last time I did, she ended up going home with a troll!”

The pulling on my arm stopped as the man stopped and stared at me. “What are you talking about?”

I frowned at him in the dim light. “You don’t know what a troll is?” I asked, working on sounding truly puzzled.

“Of course I know what trolls are. Why are you talking about one?”

“Two reasons,” I said, flashing him a smile. “First, I was hoping you would know what they’re afraid of.”

“Fire. Now shut up and come with me.”

“Not going to happen,” I said, smile stuck in place now. “You see, I can’t. I just can’t.”

“I don’t care about your friend.”

“No, not that,” I said, continuing to pull in meager magic. I would only get one shot at this. “It’s because of what I know.”

“What do you know?”

“I’ve taken a few self-defense classes, you see,” I told him, rotating my wrist in his grip so I could open my fingers, palm up, in a sort of “okay” gesture. “And one of the first things they teach you in those classes is that if someone grabs you and wants to take you to a secondary location, you’re dead. You can’t let them do that.”

“Killing you is kind of the point,” the man sneered.

“For you, it is,” I told him. “But see me? I don’t want to kill myself. And I don’t really want to let you kill me either. So, I’m going to have to resist.”

“Do you always talk this much?”

“Only when a creep is trying to yank me into stinky tunnels.”

“I’m not a creep.”

“Uh huh. Well, listen, you remember the trolls?”

I could see him roll his eyes, though I couldn’t make out their color. “Yes, the trolls. They’re afraid of fire. What about it?”

“And they also drag people away to deal with them,” I said. “Which I think makes you a troll.” I winked at him.

“I’m done with you,” my captor said, snapping his fingers at something farther back in the darkness of the sewer.

I heard the sound of feet approaching but couldn’t see anything.

“Well, that’s fine. Here’s my parting gift, something you and the trolls can both enjoy.”

He tilted his head in confusion.

Fire!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs, turning my head away and letting loose with the spell I’d been building in my mind.