Cold Burn of Magic
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington (K-Teen)
Released: April 28, 2015
Series: Black Blade #1
Genre: Young Adult (Urban Fantasy)
Author contact links: Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Website
Purchase links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, iBooks, Indiebound, Kobo
I left the row houses behind and stepped onto a gray cobblestone bridge that arched over the Bloodiron River. Three Xs had been carved into a stone set into the short column that fronted the left side of the bridge. A clear warning. Another monster, this way comes.
I paused in the middle of the bridge, just before I would cross over to the far side, looked over the edge, and listened, but I didn’t see or hear anything except the soft ripple and rush of the river below. No metal clanking on the stones, no claws crabbing over the rocks in my direction, no monster licking its chops in anticipation of sinking its teeth into me. Either the lochness who lived under the bridge was cruising down the river like the black, oversize octopus it resembled or it was already chowing down on its dinner for the night.
I thought about crossing the rest of the bridge without paying the usual toll, but it was better not to chance it. Besides, it was the polite thing to do. My mom had been big on that. On paying the tolls, following the old traditions, and giving every creature—mortal, magick, and monster—the respect it deserved. Especially the ones that could eat you in one gulp.
So I dug through my pockets until I came up with three quarters. I placed the coins on a worn, smooth stone, also marked with three Xs, set in the middle of the left side of the bridge.
Pretty cheap, if you asked me, especially given the insanely high prices that the tourists and we locals paid for everything in town. I could have given the monster the crumpled, five-dollar bill in my pocket, but this lochness preferred change for some reason. Maybe because the coins were so shiny, glimmering like perfect silver circles in the moonlight. Although I had no idea what the creature could possibly do with quarters. Maybe the lochness took the change to some hidden lair, made a nest out of the coins, and slept in the middle of them, like dragons always seemed to with gold, gems, and other treasure in all those old fairy tales.
But the lochness wasn’t the only monster in town, and each kind required different forms of tribue to let you pass by safely. Small things mostly, like a lock of hair or a drop of blood or a candy bar. That last one was for the tree trolls. Apparently, they loved their sugary snacks. But if a couple of quarters or a chocolate bar kept something from attacking, killing, and eating me, then it was worth the effort to be nice and play along with the monsters.
My toll paid, I turned and walked down the far side of the bridge—
Clink. Clink. Clink.
My steps faltered, but I tightened my grip on my sword and resisted the urge to look over my shoulder to try to catch a glimpse of whatever had snatched my coins off the center stone.
Sometimes, Talent or not, it was better not to see things.