So, this week’s been… something, hasn’t it?
I think I’ve got emotional whiplash. I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday…
Anyway, the fifth Freya Snow book comes out in less than a week, and I felt weird posting anything about WITCH, given today’s online climate, but it’s out on Monday and there’s the Alice short to come out as well a couple of other excerpts.
And as I was reminded today, maybe now is exactly the time to be sharing stories about disabled, LGBTQ+ and POC women figuring out their places in the world and kicking ass together.
As always, if you haven’t read the series yet, you can get a DRM-free ebook copy of the first book for free from Instafreebie.
So, anyway, here’s a scene from the end of chapter two, featuring Sarah, the new character you may have spotted on the cover of this book.
By the time seven o’clock rolled around and they closed up for the day, Freya was about ready to drop off where she stood. She thought that hunting rogue Demons had physically prepared her for anything, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Usually her hunts only lasted a few hours. She still had to sleep, after all. Apart from a couple of short breaks, she had been on her feet all day. In fact, she couldn’t actually feel her feet anymore.
“You look a little droopy,” Sarah signed with a smile as Freya leaned against the wall by the now-closed door.
“I feel a little droopy.”
Sarah grinned. “On the plus-side, you just made almost sixty pounds.”
Freya did perk up a little at that, despite the number being paltry compared to her bounties.
“Though, working all day like this won’t be the norm forever. Riley doesn’t like working out front, but she does it Monday to Wednesday. Then I’ll work Thursday, you work Friday, and we’ll both work over the weekends to deal with the rush. At least, until we can convince Riley to get a third person in to help us.”
“How did you two manage it on your own?”
“We didn’t. There was another girl who used to work here, but she’s in her last year of uni, so she left back in October to focus on her academic work. I’ve been trying to get Riley to replace her ever since. Riley’s niece also stepped in on occasion, but she’s still in school so her mum doesn’t like her working.”
Freya nodded. “I think I can handle three days a week during the holidays.”
“Come on, let’s get you home before you pass out,” Sarah said, then offered her hand.
Freya smiled, pushing herself off from the wall, but not taking Sarah’s hand.
“You’re lucky that it was quiet enough before close to clean up. That’s not always the case, and then we have to stay late.”
“Then I am indeed lucky,” Freya agreed. She wasn’t sure how much more standing she could have taken. Not when she still had a Demon to catch.
“Here,” Sarah said once they were in the back room, before picking up Freya’s backpack for her. She faltered a little with the heavy bag. “What do you have in there?” she asked once she had passed the bag back to Freya.
Freya shrugged once the bag was on her back.
Usually she said LARPing gear, just in case anyone saw the armour and weapons, but she had no idea what the sign for that would be and she was too tired for finger-spelling, so she settled for “Books.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes a little, seemingly not quite believing her, but she didn’t otherwise comment.
“I’m returning them to the library now that I’m done with my assignments.”
“Okay.” She still didn’t seem convinced, but Freya decided to leave it.
Even if she didn’t believe her, it was unlikely that she suspected that she had magical armour and weapons in there.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow for the weekend shift,” Sarah said.
Freya nodded, more than a little exhausted at the mere thought of returning for another full day of work. But if she could handle Demons, she could probably handle this, she figured.
As soon as they were out of the door, and Sarah had rounded the corner, Freya glamoured herself before leaping up to the roof of the cafe. She quickly pulled on her armour and put her war hammer over her shoulder before shrinking down her now mostly-empty backpack and attaching it to her belt. The bright orange design looked out of place on top of so much black leather and metal, clashing a little with the deep red runes that kept Freya’s armour from sustaining as much damage as it would otherwise, as well as healing Freya a little. Not nearly as much as she often needed, but enough to keep scratches from bothering it.
The armour had been a “gift” from Fate after Freya’s last job for her, much as the hammer had been a gift for her first. Freya wasn’t sure how she felt about the armour. She still didn’t quite trust Fate, and so wasn’t sure if she should trust her gifts. The armour was of outstanding quality, and it fit Freya perfectly. But it used Demon colours and style. There was nothing on the armour that stated that Freya was loyal to any of the great Demon houses, or the Crown, and it wasn’t as if she hadn’t used repurposed demonic armour from her first few foes before she had known where to get her own, but it did feel a little like declaring a side.
No Angel was inherently Light or Dark. It was a choice. A choice usually influenced by the fact that Angels could be born into any bloodline, and the kind of Energy they had an easier time drawing from was heavily influenced by their dominant genes. Freya’s family had been Humans and Angels on her mother’s side for the last three generations before her, and Amber had been before that. Amber had been Human before she had bonded with the last Ancient, so she didn’t really count as either Light or Dark.
And then Freya’s father had been a Demon.
For all intents and purposes, Freya figured she should be a Dark Angel. She had always had an easier time drawing on Dark Energy, anyway. But the first real friend she had made in the magical world had been Mel, who was a Light Witch. Well, mostly… And Amber had mostly only dealt with Light creatures when she had been alive, so she steered Freya in that direction as well.
It didn’t help that the first Demon Freya ever met had been trying to kill her. He had been rogue, acting against orders from the Crown not to antagonise Light creatures or hunt Humans, but it had still left kind of a bad taste in her mouth.
Freya shook herself from her train of thought, knowing that it would go nowhere. It would only leave her confused and frustrated. Who cared what other magical creatures thought? She was just an Angel. No Light or Dark needed. She didn’t have the time or patience for their petty politics. She was only concerned with making sure that no one stepped out of line and hurt Humans.
She refocused on finding the Demon Fate had told her about. She honestly wished that she had a better description to go on, but she figured that she would eventually find them if she just kept on hunting rogues as usual.
Patrolling was the usual arduous chore. Freya would find a spot and sense for Demonic activity. If she came across a regular, harmless Demon, they usually just waved to her at this point. They were easy enough to spot by the pins somewhere on them that announced which noble they were pledged to. Freya had even started to recognise a few of them. A bird here, a sword there.
The only one she hadn’t seen was the house symbol of Lord Uther. She had spotted it in one of Mel’s magic books once. She assumed that it was supposed to be some kind of dog or wolf, but its neck was twisted around so strangely she thought that it looked like it had broken its own neck while trying to chase its tail or something. Mel had rolled her eyes and told her that she wouldn’t lend her any more of her books if she didn’t take things seriously when Freya had told her that.
Part of her couldn’t help but wonder if, when they weren’t harassing her, the rogues that attacked her wore dog pins. After all, it was strange that she had never seen them before when Lord Uther was apparently the most powerful Demon noble besides the King.
With or without pins to identify them, rogues were usually more than easy to spot by the way they would immediately start attacking her as soon as they saw her.
Freya moved through the city, sensing for Demons and then moving on over and over again. She wished that her ability to sense had a longer range, but when she was searching for something as vague as “Demonic Energy”, she could only sense a three or four streets at a time, and the city was far from small.
It took hours before she sensed any demonic activity, but, when she did, it was like a wildfire burning out of control, clashing against a similar rush of Light Energy.
She immediately rushed towards the fight, wondering who was taking on one of the rogues. Normally the local Light creatures stayed out of it. Guides were so rare that she wasn’t sure that there were any in the city, and the local Light coven kept to themselves, so they never showed. Much like Guides, she assumed the lack of Slayers meant that they too gave the city a wide berth, so that pretty much just left Neutral creatures who would never get involved anyway. Or troublemakers like the Fae, who would be more than happy to watch the rogues cause trouble for everyone else.
As soon as she arrived on the scene, however, she saw that the figure fighting the Demon was indeed a Witch. She seemed to be holding her own with a staff, spinning nimbly in and out of reach in such a way that seemed to be aggravating the Demon, making him sloppy.
“Need a hand?” Freya asked as she jumped in, drawing the Demon’s attention long enough for the Witch to get a good hit in.
Freya followed it up with a blow from her hammer, knocking the Demon down. He definitely seemed like he wasn’t going to get up from that.
“I saw him attacking some Humans on my way home from work,” the Witch explained as she retracted her staff into a wand.
Freya looked up, recognising the voice. Indeed, the Witch in front of her was Sarah of all people.
She really had to start checking the people she met for magic…
She let the glamour on her face lapse, returning definition to her features.
“Freya!” Sarah cried with a grin, pocketing her wand so that she could sign instead. “I knew it!”
“You… What?” Freya said, her hands fumbling as she tried to articulate her confusion.
“I knew that you had magic. And you aren’t part of the coven, and you don’t have a noble pin so I figured you weren’t a Demon… You pretty much had to be the Angel.”
Freya felt a little nervous at it being that obvious even in her regular day-to-day attire. She’d gotten used to most people having figured it out by now, what with everyone having attributed her early accomplishments to an Angel before anyone really knew who she was, but she didn’t exactly go around advertising who she was. That seemed like a good way to bring trouble home with her.
“I guess you caught me,” Freya signed with a shrug. She still felt uncomfortable at the idea. Almost like her breathing was becoming shallow…
“I didn’t mean to get in your way if this was one of the rogues you deal with. Just, like I said, I saw him bothering Humans and-”
Freya shook her head. “It’s okay…” she told Sarah, stepping forward, but the move proved to be a little too much for her. All of a sudden the world spun around her, black spots appearing in her vision.
The next thing she knew, the world went black.