Hey folks, it’s your favorite urban fantasy author here, bringing you a sneak preview of my new urban fantasy thriller, Deadlands Druid.
Coming in at 100,000 words, this novel is the first entry in the new four-book series I’ll be writing over the next twelve months.
Deadlands Druid drops on September 15th, so feel free to pre-order it now by clicking this link.
A Druidverse Urban Fantasy Novel
Copyright © 2023 by M.D. Massey. All rights reserved.
Chapter One, Scene One
How do you capture a demonic elder vampire with nearly god-like powers?
Very carefully, or as Crowley might say, “very sloppily indeed.”
Said shadow wizard—the alternate timeline version—flew overhead, trailing smoky black tentacles and wisps of the shadow magic shell that covered him constantly these days. Having given himself over completely to dark magic and necromancy, he was crazy powerful now, and also crazy scary, in a Nazgûl-meets-the-Dementors kind of way. To be honest, the guy looked like shit, but I’d never tell him that.
Crowley’s eyes were no longer human, and instead had become two swirling pools of darkness. His pale, nearly translucent skin was streaked with gangrenous lines, and a smoky black mist swirled all over his body. Add to that the black hooded mage’s robes he wore, and he was the epitome of an RPG necromancer come to life.
Despite how scary this version of the Crowster was, I was momentarily worried that he’d been injured. But gauging by Crowley’s expression, he was none the worse for the wear, merely perturbed at being shrugged off so easily by our prey. That was unfortunate, because with my partner temporarily out of the fight, Le Boucher would be solely focused on me.
At that moment, my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I spun and conjured a thick stone wall from the ground beneath my feet, just in time to partially deflect a punch The Butcher had aimed at my chest. The wall I’d summoned cracked without shattering, but only because it’d been shored up with druid magic. Had it been made purely from mundane stone, I’d have been a goner.
Well, maybe not. But it might have put me out of commission.
Taking a single step back, I allowed my druid oak to portal me fifty feet behind my attacker, just as he struck the barrier asunder with another mighty punch. On realizing I’d disappeared, the two-thousand-year-old vampire snapped his head this way and that, moving with a speed that was both unnatural and disconcerting. To buy some time, I amped up my chameleon spell, wrapping foliage around me to hide my heat signature from his supernatural senses.
“Naughty, naughty, druid,” he said in a tone that conveyed annoyance and admiration both. “Portal magic is the sole province of the high and mighty. You’ve leveled up.”
I remained silent and still, watching him from my hiding place as I waited for Crowley to get his smoky ass in gear and put the whammy on this joker. As I observed Le Boucher—the evil alter-ego of the “good” vampire, Saint Germain—I noted that he too had been upgraded since our previous encounter. If not in powers, then certainly in appearance.
In his other form, Saint Germain was a short, portly individual, given to wearing expensive clothes and primping to the point of dandyism. That Germain was a middle-aged man of average height, with wavy brown hair, a prominent, aquiline nose, and dark eyes that alternated between mischief and sadness from moment to moment. Despite having some “dad bod” muscle beneath his paunch, he was altogether unintimidating at first glance.
But this thing? This creature was a monster out of nightmare and legend.
When I’d last seen him, he’d been starving after being restrained inside a magicked silver coffin for an extended period. Skin had hung off his skeletal frame and his face had been gaunt and sallow, a side effect of the primary vampiric entity within him feeding off his ample flesh to sustain itself. Right before we parted ways, he gorged on a legendary member of the Fomorian race—my race, on my mother’s side—and apparently, that had changed The Butcher greatly.
Since then, Le Boucher had put on muscle, making him look more like a Greek statue than a famine victim. Pale gray, almost translucent skin covered flesh that was hard as marble, and silken brown curls flowed past his shoulders in locks that would shame any shampoo spokeswoman. Yet his hands and feet were more raptor-like than I remembered. The vampire’s fingers and toes were too long, and they ended in curved nails that were likely tough enough to shred kevlar and boiled leather.
Then, there was his face. It had filled out like his body, and while mostly pale, his cheeks had a slight ruddy glow, one that could only mean he’d recently fed. Rather than becoming more monstrous, however, his features appeared almost like a work of art. His visage was perfectly symmetrical, porcelain smooth, and lacking in a single flaw, save for the rather long canines that stuck out over his lower lip when he closed his mouth.
But the oddest thing? The bat-like wings that were currently folded against his back. Each consisted of a chiropteran skeletal structure, covered in paper-thin skin tough enough to turn tranquilizer darts. When he extended them, the overall effect was that of an outcast angel, an entity only just removed from heavenly heights, fallen to Earth and yet no less magnificent for the ride down.
As far as we could tell, he was faster, stronger, and more resilient than he’d ever been. Of course, that made apprehending him a bitch for Crowley and me, but it also served my purposes quite handily. If I was going to storm the Dallas coven’s headquarters in the Hellpocalypse timeline and take out Alan Garr, I needed to recruit the toughest damned vampire killer I could get.
And according to the Luther I knew in my primary timeline, none of the Vampyri troubleshooters were more feared than Le Boucher. That was why I’d snatched him from Underhill and brought him to this deserted island in the alt-timeline Keys. All I had to do was convince him to work for me—while avoiding being eaten by him, of course.
I’d only momentarily been lost in recalling the events that had led us here, but a fraction of a moment was long enough for Le Boucher to determine where I was. One second I was staring at him across the sand, the next, he was in my face, looking me in the eye despite the fact that I was well-hidden by magic and nature both.
“There you are,” he said in his odd, sibilant voice. He grabbed me by my neck, those elongated fingers wrapping around and locking in as he tore me from the undergrowth. “Now, I shall feed.”
Deadlands Druid releases on September 15th. Click here to pre-order it now!