Get ready to fall into this excerpt from The Boom Bands, a short story in the Ustari Cycle—the gritty supernatural series about blood magic, power-hungry mages, and one clever Trickster trying to outsmart them all.
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I STEPPED OUT INTO THE RAIN, which was coming down as a wall of water, making the dark streets even darker. I pulled my thin, well-worn jacket close around my neck and put my head down against the chill. I’d been wet and cold before. The key to survival was to keep moving, keep your blood pressure high. Which complicated things because that was fucking exhausting. If you loitered in places, people chased you off, and being in constant motion lulled you into a trance after a while.
I had a lot to think about. Murray the Fell had given us the bank details, so I thought I’d take a walk past it, poke my head in. I wasn’t a bank robber. I was a Trickster; I bled a little and cast a spell and made people like me, borrowed money from them, and walked away. Or I bled a little and cast a spell and made a dollar look like fifty, and bought groceries. I bled a little and cast a dozen spells a day and staggered home broke and shivering, weak from blood loss. I didn’t bust into bank vaults and steal ancient artifacts.
But Murray had offered me five hundred dollars to be his Scribe, and that was easy money. Most idimustari you met had learned five spells somehow and that was it. They could blind you, Charm you, kite a dollar, and maybe do some tricks, but anything subtle—anything with real power—was beyond them. Some Tricksters had more ability, sure. My old gasam, Hiram Bosch, was technically ranked ustari, a full mage, but he was really one of us, grifting his way through life. But most talented Tricksters, even ones at Hiram’s level, were awful with the Words. Larding up on unnecessary verbiage, taking endless seconds to speak ten Words to accomplish what could be done in four. That’s why Murray wanted me. He wanted his little gang to get in and out as quickly as possible, and for that he needed spells that worked right the first time, could be spoken quickly, and used as little gas from Redix as possible—not because Murray the Fell gave two shits if the big woman bled out and died while we were doing his dirty work, but because chances for success were better if we were efficient, if we were organized.
I wasn’t bleeding anyone directly, I told myself. I was writing spells. I was composing. If someone took that spell and bled Redix or someone else with it, that wasn’t me.
I thought of Mags. I’d been hard on him. He’d bled people, and he’d come up with excuses why it was okay that weren’t so different from mine. A wave of dizziness hit me, and I stumbled, going down on my knees, hard, into a puddle. There was a sound, suddenly, booming all around me, something loud and painful, like a buzz saw an inch from my ears.
Headin’ out for the hills, where the boom bands play!
I shook my head and looked around. The street was empty. The rain poured down. I was shivering from the cold. Slowly, I got to my feet and started walking again. Five hundred dollars was a lot of motivation.
The Boom BandsJeff Somers
The fourth short story in the Ustari Cycle. Lately Lem's days have taken a strange turn, always the same and yet minutely different. Lem’s constantly feeling like he’s forgetting something, like something is calling to him from the beyond, but perhaps most bizarre of all, his best friend Mags is nowhere to be found—and the police seem to want to help Lem locate him. The po-po being helpful to a Trickster like him? Now he knows something is up.
Last Best DayJeff Somers
The third stand-alone short story in the Ustari Cycle. Lem was the one person who never hurt the Mags—and so when a powerful archmage kidnaps him Lem off the streets for unknown reasons, the gentle giant embarks on a dangerous path to save his pal...one that might ruin their friendship forever.
The StringerJeff Somers
Learn the Words. Get the blood. Rule the world. A stand-alone short story in the Ustari Cycle. Most people never learn what a Stringer is—and their lives are better for it. Lem, however, gets to learn about them and possession by alien intelligences the hard way. A must-read in the gritty supernatural series that includes We Are Not Good People from the "exhilarating, powerful, and entertaining" (Guardian) storyteller of the Avery Cates series.
We Are Not Good PeopleJeff Somers
From the "exhilarating, powerful, and entertaining" (Guardian) storyteller of the Avery Cates series comes a gritty supernatural thriller featuring a pair of unlikely heroes caught up in the underground world of blood magic. The ethics in a world of blood are gray--and an underground strata of blood magicians has been engineering disasters for centuries in order to acquire enough fuel for their spells. They are not good people.