It’s one year today since my murdery misfit mercenaries landed! Where has the year gone? I’m currently writing book 3, ‘Toughest Deal’ and I thought posting the first chapter might be a fun way to celebrate. In true Alessa style I’m working on this to try and deal with being a burned out crazy person, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it.
Just a reminder, this won’t come until January. I’m writing the next two back to back and really want to make sure I get them exactly the way I want them before I release anything.
The night smelled of garbage and gunpowder. The first was the result of the overflowing bins strategically placed beside a filthy entrance; the latter was from the magical sigil scorched into the door’s steel surface.
The dirty man leaning against the warded entrance registered the spicy scent of cloves before a thin cigar was flicked into his face. A flash of silver and hot wet blood poured down his front from the cut in his throat. His eyes rolled up into his head in time for him to see Altun Baruk step elegantly over his body and open the door.
Altun walked carefully down a set of concrete stairs, her heeled boots clicking and the tip of her scimitar dripping. A circle of ten chairs had been placed around a small stage area that held a teenage girl strapped upright to a steel operating table. Beside her was a rack of instruments ranging from a scalpel to a board that had been hammered with nails. Upbeat dance music played through a small blue tooth speaker in stark contrast to the bleak surroundings.
A mage with a scarred face was holding a small silver knife, ready to start his ritual, and didn’t notice Altun coming down through the shadows. Neither did the occupants of the chairs.
By the time they registered a newcomer in their midst, the curve of Altun’s blade was there to meet them. She let all of her years of swordsmanship out, dancing between the flying blood and body parts, the screams washing over her while she ducked the few who tried to fight back. She left the mage for last.
He did his best, throwing his knife and the rest of his torture tools at her. Altun chuckled, her blood-flecked face like a beautiful death, and held up a hand to stop them in the air in front of her. The mage gaped and began to back away.
“I have money….”
“So do I,” Altun replied, swiping her hand to the side and sending all of the horrible objects crashing to the ground. “I thought it was well known that this city belongs to me, and I have rules about magic users and snuff clubs operating inside of it.”
“What do you care? This girl is worth nothing! No one—” the mage stopped talking as the point of Altun’s blade pressed into his bare chest.
“I was once a girl that people thought was worth nothing,” she said, her dark eyes flashing with malice.
“Please don’t do this. I didn’t know your rules,” the mage begged.
Altun’s power flared out of her like an invisible sword, and the mage’s eyes went wide before red-stained from his shoulder to his hip, and the top half of his torso slid away from his body.
“Fucking amateurs,” she growled.
Altun unbuckled the straps from the girl’s wrists and ankles. She was high on something, her pupils blown out wide.
“So much red,” she murmured.
Altun took off her black fur coat and wrapped it around the naked girl’s thin shoulders.
“This way,” she ordered and led the girl back up the stairs. Her driver and her car were already waiting as planned. What wasn’t planned was the tall blade of a man leaning against her BMW. He didn’t move as the driver stepped forward to take the girl from Altun.
“Deliver her to the usual place and see she’s taken care of,” Altun instructed. “I’ll find my own way home.” Her driver didn’t question her, just helped the now crying girl into the car’s back seat.
Altun turned to the other man. He was all hard lines, shadows, and violence. When he smiled, though, it was like seeing a streak of lightning, there and gone and capable of utter destruction.
“Aren’t you old enough to know better than to walk into a snuff club without backup?” Konstantius Zalam asked.
“You are here, aren’t you?” Altun patted the hilt of the scimitar hanging from her hip. “And I wasn’t alone. Where’s your other half?”
“Athena is training with Silas.” Kon lit a cigarette and offered it to her. “You know, if you told her of some of your extracurricular activities like this, she wouldn’t think you’re a heartless bitch all the time.”
“But I am a heartless bitch,” Altun replied, taking the cigarette and having a deep drag. “Is there a reason why you are here, Basty?”
“We haven’t seen you in a week. I was concerned,” Kon replied.
“I’m touched, but don’t worry, I’ve been busy researching.” They began to walk through the dark streets towards where Kon had parked.
“Find anything of interest?”
“Not yet. I know Dee’s weaknesses for certain artifacts, but I haven’t found something to tempt her out of hiding. Yet.”
Kon hummed thoughtfully. “Maybe she knows we are coming for her.”
“Perhaps, but she’s too arrogant to be concerned about it,” Altun replied. Her sister had always underestimated her and her magic. Altun could only hope that time hadn’t changed that.
Kon drove them back through the city, past Galata tower, and straight to Altun’s front door.
“You know, you’re not doing this on your own. You’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, Altun, but you need us. Don’t hide out anymore. We are a team,” Kon said as they pulled up.
“Konstantius a part of a team. I never thought I’d see the day when you played along with others,” she said with a soft laugh. He had always worked alone until Athena, and her misfit family of mercenaries had adopted him.
“We all need people when we are taking out a secret society.” Kon’s lightning smile flashed. “And next time you decide to clear a rat’s nest, ask Athena to help.”
Altun smirked. “I’ll think of it as a bonding exercise, shall I?”
“It’s the only kind she’d be interested in.” Kon leaned over and opened the door for her. “Come to the warehouse for dinner this week.” He wasn’t asking, Altun noticed.
“Fine. I’ll drop by when I have something useful to share,” Altun replied and patted his cheek. “İyi geceler, Basty.”
Altun watched his dark car disappear into the night and sighed deeply. She had cared for very few people in her long life, but that dangerous boy was definitely one of them.
Altun could feel the past biting at her heels, and she knew deep in her gut that her time for keeping secrets was about to end. She could only hope that when they did, they didn’t kill them all.
Altun’s home was equal parts safe house and jewel box. It was covered with protection wards and filled with rare, beautiful, and mostly magical objects.
The tension between Altun’s shoulders finally eased once she was behind a locked door and sipping on a fine brandy. After cleaning her scimitar thoroughly, she sat down at her carved wooden desk and opened a locked drawer.
Inside was a single photo. It showed a young, smiling couple standing beside an older woman holding a small boy. The boy had big dark eyes and scruffy wild hair, his arms thrown around the woman’s neck.
The photo had been taken two days before Azra and Eren had been slaughtered by Liddell, leaving Kon an orphan on the streets of Istanbul. Two days before, Altun had confronted her sister and had been stabbed three times and tossed into the deep Bosphorous. She had died in those dark, ancient waters, and when she had been washed up, she had been reborn as Altun Baruk.
“Fucking ghosts,” Altun whispered under her breath before locking the photo away once more.
Altun opened her laptop and lit one of her thin clove cigars. She skimmed the contents of her inbox with boredom. A notification flashed up, alerting her that one of the contacts who owed her a favor had found something of interest.
Altun opened the attachment and frowned. It was a bill of sale, nothing fancy or formal, just a note written out by a shaky hand for a golden necklace, the pendant a plain chunk of unpolished crystal.
The quality of the trinket wasn’t what made her pause; it was that the note claimed that the necklace had once belonged to the famed magus of Queen Elizabeth, John Dee.
Altun swore viciously when she noticed the name of the person that had bought the piece for an absolutely eye-watering sum; Julian Richard Burbank of Belgravia Antiquities, London.
Altun blew out a cloud of spicy smoke and smiled. “You sneaky son of a bitch.”
The first two books are in the series are available now!
*Laughs in evil and runs away*