Jard is an Efreeti living on the Terran Plane. He gets along fine with everyone and has no enemies, Until now. When a demon attacks him at home, he knows things have changed. Someone believes that Jard is a threat to be dealt with, but more importantly, someone is a threat to Jard. His task is clear; he must find out who wants him dead, and why. Read the first chapter of The Prime Suspect, an urban fantasy novel, for free here:
Efreet live in the Plane of Brass. They are long lived, greedy assholes, but as merchants and craftsmen they have no peer in the Thousand Worlds. I got tired of living that way, so I left a long time ago. I am Efreeti, but I live on Earth. My name is Jard.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.
Some days you wake up to a beautiful sunrise, the birds singing, and a slight mist of dewfall on the grass. Other days you wake up to a cop beating on your door. Today was that second kind of day.
It was a hot day in Atlanta—good weather. I spread out of the fireplace and assumed human form. I could see the sun shining through the blinds, and I wondered who would visit me on Monday. I don’t get visitors on weekdays, so I walked carefully across the hardwood floor to the window and peered through the blinds. It was the police. I am not afraid of much, and certainly not the police, but I had a feeling something was wrong. There was only one officer, and I did not see a patrol car outside. Her outward appearance certainly matched that of a cop making a routine call–she had a bored expression on her face, and her body language was relaxed, but thousands of years of experience prompted me to wait before opening the door.
Instead I drew some heat from the air and channeled my energy to view her true self. Immediately I saw she was inhuman–her essence burned almost as hot as mine. She was not a creature of pure energy such as the Efreet; her soul was streaked with twisted black. Our kind is chaotic and some of us do turn out to be evil, but evil is not essential to the denizens of Brass. She was like a tree grown crooked with dark rot in the heartwood. Though her form was that of a beautiful woman, she was a demon. I moved back from the window, and I did what any sane being would do when a demon cop is at the front door; I slipped out the back door.
As I gently closed the screen door behind me, I heard more pounding from the front but much louder. She was breaking down my solid oak front door. I paid a lot for that damn door, but I doubt I’d be reimbursed. I mentioned before that it was a hot day, so I pulled the heat out of the air and channeled it to my physical form, and I am not ashamed to say that I ran. An old friend told me that when the enemy is strong, it is wise to evade. While very few of my potential enemies could defeat me at home, I was not interested in destroying my house. I also knew that whatever it was at the door wasn’t there on its own initiative. Someone sent this demon, and I intended to find out who. In the meantime, I bravely ran away.
I was already across the back yard and nearing the privacy fence, and suddenly it sounded as if the backdoor exploded. I looked back, and debris from my house was flying across the patio. She had burst through the door and was in pursuit about 200 yards behind and gaining fast. Her legs were a blur. In the split second I looked back I registered this interesting fact—her strides were tearing holes in my lawn. Her essence and her strength told me that she was a shapeshifter. In Hell’s hiearachy, only the most powerful demons can change forms. I drew in more heat and ran faster.
An imminent death focuses the mind, and once I cleared the fence I concentrated. Most people were at work, but I could sense a few cellular devices close enough for me to manipulate. I seized one and summoned a ride share to within a mile of my location. As a creature of energy, one of my favorite things about present day Earth was the abundance of electronic devices, but I digress. There was a demon about to destroy some very expensive fence panels, and also possibly me. I kept running.
I was across the next fence when I heard her ramming through mine. Now I was starting to anger, and my thoughts turned to foul language. Calming myself because “mother fucker” and “son of a bitch” are not a plan, I considered my options. I knew the terrain, so as long as she was on foot, I’d escape. But shapeshifters are bad news. The ones that inhabit this plane are more than just simple polymorphs—not only can they take the shape of another creature, they can also take on its abilities. Fortunately, they are not quick thinkers, so they can be slow to react. Also, changing shape requires a bit of time. I knew that my pursuer would soon assume a more efficient form, and just then I heard the screech of a hawk behind me. I turned hard left, jumped the second neighbor’s fence, raced to their back door and ripped it off the hinges. Once I would not have given a second thought to destroying another’s property, but today I felt some guilt. I made a mental note to reimburse them for the damages, and I walked slowly inside. To follow me, the shifter would have to change forms or destroy an entire house. I doubted she would want to call attention to whomever sent her, so she would morph and chase me inside. That gave me some time.
The Terran plane is one of the few universes that is not controlled by a single Prime. Instead it is contested by two Primes, and one of them was the controller of the plane you would call Hell. Among humans there are no shapeshifters, but some of the inhabitants of Hell are changers. Since the Prime of Hell exerts some control over this plane, his minions are able to access Terra. I had already established that she was a demon, but what kind?
If you are wondering why I referred to the shifter as a she, it’s because I assumed my pursuer was a Succubus. Succubae are demons of legend that appear to men as beautiful women in order to take a human’s essence. Since there are very few women who need to give up their soul for sex, there’s little demand for Incubi on Earth. But all demons of that type are shifters, and I simply assumed the shifter was Succubae.
Knowing I had about 10 seconds or so before the demon could change shapes and follow me inside, I stopped for a second to collect my thoughts. Demons are like werewolves and vampires–they are susceptible to silver. Looking around I saw quite a bit of antique wooden furniture in the house. I reached out to my pickup location, and I sensed no one within a mile; my ride was not close. I took a chance there would be silverware, and scouted quickly through the house.
I heard a screech outside the backdoor and knew I had maybe 30 seconds before I was attacked. I ran into the kitchen, and there it was, a silver tea set in a China cabinet. Thank the Flame for the elderly! I threw open the glass display doors and grabbed a shiny metallic tray. I heated the silver to make it malleable while focusing on changing its shape. Then I heard slow footsteps from the back entry. She knew I was inside, and now was in no hurry. I focused harder, and the cup began to change into the image I was holding in my mind. That’s when she found me.
“Hello there,” she said, and I turned around carefully to conceal the silver behind me. Her voice was soft and light. She was a red-haired beauty with dark skin, and I thought to myself that they must know me very well to have sent one that looked like this.
I pushed away the thought of making love to her on the kitchen table because she would just rip out my heart and drink my blood—yes the same as a mortal woman, except literally.
I started taking deep breaths because I wanted her to think I was aroused. Honestly this wasn’t too much of challenge because she had a voluptuous body, and she was completely naked. And also, I was aroused, so there was really nothing to fake.
I looked deep into her eyes, and I reached out again. This time I sensed my ride was close to the pickup point, so I licked my lips and said “come here, baby.”
While you might think she would not be fooled by my act (not really an act), Succubae also have mind control powers. They are not strong, but when coupled (ahem) with their shape shifting abilities they are overwhelming to mortal men. I am however, no man. Mortal yes, but not a man.
All warfare is based on deception, so I let my eyes glaze over a bit as she got closer. She pressed her large, heaving breasts into me and leaned forward to bite off my head. At that moment the cup I was molding behind my back had changed to the shape I required: a long silver dagger.
The demon’s head suddenly transformed. Her mouth elongated into a snout and sharp fangs erupted from the slobbering maw. When demon shifters succumb to bloodlust, they often transform into near animal form, and in her case she now resembled a wolf from the waist up–the better to gobble me up my dear. But just before she could complete the change, I winked at her, and her eyes went wide. She had expected fear, but what she got was a silver knife in the chest.
Silver is not a hard metal, but it cuts through demon kind easily and today was no different. Did she scream or did she roar? I don’t know because I had already pushed her away, and I was moving fast for the front door. While demons are, let’s say sensitive to silver, they are still hard to kill. I knew it would take her some time to recover but recover she would.
I hit the street running, and turned right towards the stop sign on the corner. I had used an address near my home, so I was backtracking towards my ride. I cut across the lawn of the corner house, and I heard the demon roar behind me. She had recovered and returned to the chase. Looking back, I could see she hadn’t bothered to shift into any earthly form, instead she had resumed the natural shape of the Succcubae. It seemed she was no longer concerned with stealth, but efficiency.
Her head was human, but she had sharply pointed ears and long, slightly curved horns pointing upwards. The rest of her face was beautiful with an elegant nose and thick but small red lips – pouting, of course. Long disheveled black hair surrounded her face and dark strands fell into blood red eyes. In the center of each eye was a black, slitted iris. She had my makeshift dagger wrapped in cloth in her right hand. It appeared that she intended to give it back.