Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The Necromancer's Gambit (The Gambit #1)" by Nicolas Wilson

NOTE: This book is suitable for adults only

The Necromancer's Gambit
(The Gambit #1)
by Nicolas Wilson

You may remember Nicolas Wilson as the author of several short story anthologies previously featured here. Today I'm announcing the release of Nic's latest project, The Necromancer's Gambit, the first book in his new series The Gambit. There is also one ebook copy of this book up for grabs in the giveaway.

Knight, the sheriff of a local magical government, or "the Gambit," is called to recover a mutilated body, tainted with magic and dumped at a popular haunt. When the corpse is identified as a close associate of the Gambit, he suspects a larger conspiracy threatening the fragile peace amongst the city's magic-wielding factions. As more bodies fall, Knight finds himself fighting for the lives of those he cares about.

I’m not going to tell you my name. Names have power. But we’ll get to that. For now, know that everyone calls me Knight.
It’s raining, but this is Portland, so that’s redundant. My hair is soaked, plastered to my head. I get it cut at a little shop in Hazel Dell. The owner is a gentle, older woman who decorated the place like it was her parlor: balls of yarn, old portraiture, and a pink, flowery wall paper that all give it a 1950s feel. Each time I go, she’s decides I look like a different celebrity from the 30s or 40s, and insists on cutting my hair that way. Right now I’m Gary Cooper, apparently. But I go there anyway, because she’s the only one who doesn’t disturb my cowlicks, and make me look like Alfalfa.
I check my watch. Rook’s late. That’s not a good sign- or maybe it’s just a character flaw- I don’t know her well enough to say.
I’m huddled under an awning to stay out of the worst of it. Some poor bastard in a beat-up pick-up left his lights on. If it was warmer, or drier, I’d leave it alone- and I should. Never draw attention to yourself. It was the closest thing to a maxim my mother ever had. But the idea of someone having to walk home in this downpour, fuck- being stuck in this city’s lousy enough.
I walk slowly over to the truck, hoping a driver careless enough to leave his lights on maybe didn’t lock the doors. But that would make things simple, and this driver’s apparently a very practical moron.
Simplest unlocking spell I know involves sympathetic magic. You spit in the keyhole, to make the lock a part of you. Then you use an incantation to convince it that you both want the lock open; my favorite I learned from an Irish klepto who might have stolen my heart if she hadn’t made off with my wallet first.
Sympathizing a lock open always reminds me of that scene from Empire, where Luke can’t get his rocks up- because it only kind of works. Sometimes, you just look at the lock sideways, and it’s done. Other times, you can work a lock for hours, and nothing.
The Toyota’s lock has seen better days, and its owner isn’t gentle about shoving his key inside, so it's used to being manhandled, and gives quickly. I glance around. There are enough people on the sidewalk that I’ve definitely been seen, but nobody’s paying enough attention to care. I open up the door, and feel around for a second, just long enough to find the light switch and push it in.
“The fuck are you doing in my truck?” a man asks from behind me. He’s drunk; I’m not sure if the smell or the slur hits me first. I feel a hand on my shoulder, that works its way to the collar of my leather jacket. I turn around.
“Just turning off your lights,” I say, earnest.
“You were busting into my car.” I can’t be sure if he shoves me against his truck, or nearly passes out against his truck, and uses me to cushion his landing. Either way, it’s all I can do not to punch him right in the face. I take a breath.
“You left your lights on and your door unlocked. I just wanted to help.” I put up my hands, in surrender. He knows he’s ploughed, so he stops to think about it; he can’t decide if I’m telling the truth, and I’d guess it wouldn’t be the first time he drunkenly punched an innocent man, so he lets go of my collar.
Without my collar to steady him, he falls most of the way into his cab. He’s drunker than I thought. And even if I call the cops, they’d arrive just fast enough to be worthless. I grab hold of his shoulders, to steady him, “You don’t look so good. Maybe you should sleep it off.” He grunts, and I know I’m not so lucky. I don’t quite remember which Greek or Latin root I need to finish off a drowsiness spell. I don’t dare guess, lest I Sleeping Beauty him- because I really don’t want to have to deep tongue kiss a man tonight- especially not this man.
I slam him hard against the steering wheel. “Whoa,” I yell, for the sake of a homeless man, half-asleep in a doorway with a clear line of sight. “You okay, buddy?”
He’s got a small cut in his forehead, and it’s drooling blood around his brow. “Maybe, I, maybe I should sleep it off.” He’s not unconscious, but he’s almost passed out from the drink. I fold his legs into the cab and shut the door.
“Got plans?” Female voice. Haughty. Not authoritative enough to be a cop- but it’s nobody I recognize.
“Excuse me?” I ask as I turn around.
“You know, if you’ve got a long night of date-rape planned, I can always come back in the morning. I’d hate to intrude on your evening.” I realize then it’s Rook.
“You’re late.”
“You must be Knight; Sister Magdalene said you were grumpy. I’m-” I grab her wrist and squeeze. If she isn’t who I think she is, this is the point I get maced, or maybe a fireball cast in my underpants.
“Don’t.” I give her a second to react, and when she doesn’t I let her go. “Never use your name with anyone if you can avoid it. Names have power.” Magic draws on connection. A name is giving someone a piece of you, and a stronger connection, one they can use to burn you from a distance. “Besides which, when the Salem Circle finally sets up its government, you’re going to be their castle, so you’ve already got a title. You’re Rook.”
“But don’t titles also have power?”
“Some. But less – for the same reason that saying goddamn the President isn’t nearly as effective as casting a diarrhea spell on Barrack Obama. Specificity is your friend- and your enemy.” I’m still awkwardly holding a coffee cup, and push it out to her. “It’s cold.”
“As in ice, or you didn’t grab one of those sleeve things?”
“As in whichever extreme I ordered it at wasn’t enough to overcome your extreme tardiness.”
“I’d retort with a witticism about your tardedness if I‘d had my coffee already.” She grabs the cup and drinks it like a shot. There’s a sigil on the bottom of it. Not a spell in its own right, just an activator; the sugar in her coffee is transubstantiated. The spell turns it back into an artificial sweetener, one that in significant quantities acts as a laxative. She doesn’t notice the mark- didn’t even check for one- which almost makes me want to activate the spell.
But I don’t. Because I’m trying to be diplomatic, and there are probably gentler ways to teach her caution. “I’m still not 100% on why you’re riding along with me. Our Castle is friendly enough, loves to talk tradecraft, and actually has experience relevant to your new responsibilities.”
“I’m supposed to be Rook eventually. But right now I’m just another sister. Magdalene asked me to come and learn what I could about your gambit, so we could design our equivalent from a position of knowledge.”
“Magdalene? What is she, a first century prostitute?”
Her eyes flash with a memory, and I realize she knows Magdalene’s real name and wants to tell it to me, then she says “Names have power.” I know it, too; Magdalene and I have a history, but Rook doesn’t need to know that. History has power, too.
She takes another sip from her coffee, then asks, “So is this what a magical dick does? Sit around drinking old coffee? And why couldn’t you just wait for me to get here, then let me order for myself?”
“One, because this is the only block in Portland without a Starbucks on the corner, and two, because we have a case. The moment we're inside we're on the clock.”
“So that’s why you had me meet you outside the Cauldron. You didn’t strike me as a dance club kind of guy.”
“Am I that obvious?” I kneel in front of my homeless witness from before. It takes a moment for him to recognize me, and he worries for an instant that I mean to shut him up, until he sees the green of a bill in my hand. “Guy in the truck hit his head pretty hard. You want to keep an eye on him, for me?” He mumbles something that sounds like ‘sure’ and palms the twenty; we both wish it was more.

If a paranormal film noir was turned into a Dungeons and Dragons style RPG, it would read something like this... Wickedly awesome!
A secret society of Mages, operating under the mast of The Gambit. Like chess pieces, King, Queen, Castle, Knight, Rook and Pawn, are charged with policing the magic wielding community and maintaining the treaties with the vampire society. When mutilated and magically booby trapped "Black Dahlia" corpses start turning up, everyone becomes a suspect. Meanwhile, a rival group makes a very public play to overthrow the gambit.
Strip joints, booze, and raunchy sexual humor. This isn't for the `straight and narrow' or easily offended crowd. The jokes are often of the inside nature, you know it's funny, but you aren't quite sure why... and in the hands of a less talented author, probably wouldn't have worked. In this case, it was harmonious as Nic Wilson, whether intentionally or not, has empathetically placed us in the shoes of Rook, the new kid on the block, while she struggles to learn the ropes within the Gambit.
With the body count rising, mercenaries with a thirst for extreme violence on your tail and time running out, whom do you trust? And if you survive, how far would you go in the name of justice?

About the Author
Nicolas Wilson is a published journalist, graphic novelist, and novelist. He lives in the rainy wastes of Portland, Oregon with his wife, two cats and a dog.
Nic has written eight novels: Whores: not intended to be a factual account of the gender war, Dag, and The Necromancer's Gambit are currently available for ereader and will soon be available in paperback; Nexus, Banksters, Homeless, The Singularity, and Lunacy are all due for publication in the next two years. Nic has also written several short story collections.
Nic's work spans a variety of genres, from political thriller to science fiction and urban fantasy.
For information on Nic's books, and behind-the-scenes looks at his writing, visit Nic's website. Sign up for his mailing list to receive a free novella, Dogs of War.

Enter the giveaway to win an ebook copy of The Necromancer's Gambit, kindly donated by the author.