QSFer Angel Martinez has a new MM fantasy romance out in the Magic Emporium shared series: Geoffrey the Very Strange.
An outcast necromancer and a half-demon clerk need to save the world from seashell zombies. No pressure.
Everyone’s always told Aspic that trouble can’t help following him because of his heritage. Determined to put the lie to half-demon stereotypes, he’s finally landed a good, quiet job as an herbalist’s clerk where the owner trusts him to man the shop alone. What could go wrong selling coriander and thyme?
When Geoffrey first enters the shop, Aspic finds the little man’s eccentric appearance startling, then intriguing. Geoffrey explains, in stops and starts, that he is a theoretical necromancer researching replacements for blood magic. His current line of inquiry involves seashells—do they have any in stock? Aspic’s co-workers warn him that Geoffrey is a walking disaster, but he finds himself more and more drawn to a necromancer concerned with ethical death magic.
Aspic is with Geoffrey in his lab when he has his first success, but the results aren’t at all what he was aiming for. Instead of raising the dead rabbit on his table, the ritual animates the seashell and rock spell components, which flee the lab and cause havoc. They soon discover that the spell-animated objects are “zombies” in that they can “infect” other inanimate things.
An unorthodox necromancer and an exasperated shop clerk are going to need some unconventional help to find a working de-animation spell before the world is overrun by zombie seashells and stones gone mad.
Geoffrey the Very Strange is part of the Magic Emporium series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone’s in dire need.
This book contains theoretical necromancy.
The Muffin Man is part of the Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone is in dire need. This book contains reluctant heroes, sentient sourdough starter, lots of carbs, and a guaranteed HEA.
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In his defense, Aspic had been working for Talondon’s Herbs and Sundries less than two weeks, so he didn’t know any better. When he thought about it later, his coworkers vanishing on suddenly pressing errands should have been a red flag the size of a draft horse, but at the time, he’d been too busy taking mushroom inventory for their desertion to register.
Arrhythmic tapping on the shop’s doorframe was the first hint of something not quite right. On such a beautiful spring day, the door had been propped open, and a black placard nearly Aspic’s height sat outside the shop with OPEN written in fanciful lettering decorated with vines and birds—Heliotrope’s work. The shop was unequivocally, without a doubt, open. Customers wouldn’t have any reason to knock.
With a tiny sigh, Aspic placed his pad over the basket of snakeskin grisettes so he wouldn’t lose his place in the mushroom count, gathered up his best customer smile, and turned toward the door. The smile scampered off in shock at the sight of what had been tapping. What in that moment instead of who, since the personhood wasn’t at all a certainty. A pile of scraps occupied the lower-left portion of the doorway, tapping carefully on the frame. When the pile rose, it resolved into an outlandish, floor-length coat made of feather-shaped fabric scraps of every color and clashing pattern imaginable, interspersed with glittering bits of glass. A broad-brimmed hat completed the look, though the material appeared to be holly leaves rather than cloth.
“Can I help you, erm… citizen?”
The person-being still tapped, muttering, “Spider sprites. Sebaceous beasts.”
Human, probably. When the person turned, Aspic revised his assessment to human male, probably. He wore thick, wire-rimmed spectacles, but the lenses were a gradient of garish purple, darker toward the top and gradually lighter toward the bottom. The shadow of that hat did an excellent job of obliterating any other identifying characteristics.
Aspic hoped his smile wasn’t frozen as he repeated, “Can I help you with something?”
The person stared at him or possibly through him for a long moment that made the hairs on Aspic’s arms itch. “Half-demon. Probable ghour demon heritage.” The person tilted their head. “Possible pink rose-petal dye.”
“Excuse me, sir, but that’s really personal. And the pink hair is natural, thank you.” Aspic’s customer service voice had slipped, and he fought to regain control. Getting fired wasn’t in the plan that day. He was about to repeat his question, sweetly, when something crawling in the customer’s leaves caught his attention. “Is there… something living on your hat?”
“Geoffrey!” Mr. Talondon roared from the back room. “You leave your damn bug-infested hat outside my store!”
The customer, presumably Geoffrey, hunched farther inside his feather-rag coat. “The sebel beetles are beneficent, Mr. Talondon. They won’t harm anything.”
“I don’t care if they’re moon-cursed gold beetles with gold-plated wings and gold blood who shit gold!” Mr. Talondon had stomped out to the front counter, his face dark with rising anger, the hair on the backs of his hands a little too long and thick and getting thicker by the moment. “Hat out now, Geoffrey!”
The bundle of rags scurried out, and though Geoffrey returned without his hat, he’d pulled his coat up over his head. Aspic’s brain invented a hundred reasons for this from a hair day from hell to tentacles growing out of Geoffrey’s head. Hey, he looks more or less human. Doesn’t mean he is.
Aspic first glanced at Mr. Talondon, who nodded and shambled back to his office before addressing Geoffrey again, “What can we help you find?”
“This shop isn’t warded.” Underneath the coat, Geoffrey’s head twisted right to left as if he could take in all the shelves at once. “What magic shop has no defenestrative wards?”
“No idea, sir. But this isn’t a magic shop. We sell herbs and spices. Dried flowers and seeds. That sort of thing.”
Geoffrey’s stare clearly conveyed you idiot without a word uttered. It was a look Aspic had seen enough to recognize even behind dark glasses. Right. Geoffrey obviously lived here, since Mr. Talondon knew him. He knew what the shop sold. “Shells.”
Sure. Don’t make it easy for me. “Of course, sir. We have nutshells for your garden path. Or beetle shells for dye—”
“No, shells,” Geoffrey barked out, the hand not keeping his coat on his head waving wildly.
Aspic’s thoughts froze. He couldn’t think of any other shells, and the customer was going to start getting angry because Aspic wasn’t clever enough. “Um…”
“Sand. Water. Shells!”
“Oh, seashells. I’m sorry.” He was sorry, since he should have thought of something so obvious, but more importantly, that was How to Talk to Customers. “We don’t have any in right now, but we could order some? How many do you think you need?”
Geoffrey pointed to one of the tall baskets that held cattails.
“You’d like a bushel’s worth?”
The strange little man held up three fingers.
He nodded sharply and hurried out of the shop. Tempting, to go to the door to make sure he continued walking down the street rather than vanishing in a puff of smoke, but after their conversation, Aspic had trouble getting his feet to listen to him. He was still staring at the doorway when Heliotrope popped around the counter.
“Your first Geoffrey the Very Strange encounter!” Her pointed little gnome ears wiggled at him in amusement. “Now you officially work here.”
“That’s his name?”
“It’s what everyone calls him.”
Aspic twitched his tail and smacked her on the hip. “You deserted me. Traitor.”
“Trial by fire. Everybody has to learn to deal with the town eccentrics.” She tried to punch him in the shoulder and couldn’t quite reach high enough. At least she missed his elbow.
“Oh great,” Aspic muttered, rubbing his arm. “Eccentrics. Plural. So what’s his story?”
“He’s a necromancer—”
“What? You let them in town?”
“Cool your horns.” Heliotrope waved a hand at him as she climbed onto her stool behind the counter. “Theoretical necromancer. Interested in the occult science of death, not taking over the world. He has some weird ideas, but he’s harmless.”
“Uh-huh. Necros are never harmless. Why does he need his head covered?”
“His hat and coat have special wards. Protection. Not sure against what. Probably other necromancers. Never met a necro who wasn’t paranoid.” Heliotrope shrugged. “His beetles won’t hurt the stock—he’s right about that. Dire just doesn’t want other customers seeing bugs in the store.”
Aspic wasn’t sure he would ever be comfortable enough to call Mr. Talondon by his first name, but Heliotrope had known him for years. “And his speech, um, issue? With the wrong words?”
“I think it happens more when he’s nervous.” She had the gall to wink at him. “I think you made him very nervous.”
“Not like I can help how I look.” Aspic struggled to keep his smile from sliding away.
“Oh, sweetie. I didn’t mean he was scared of you. Well, not in the scared-of-demons kind of way.”
He met her gaze, eyes dancing with laughter, and finally caught on. “Oh. Oh. Flattering, but nothing close to any of my types.”
“Heartbreaker.” Heliotrope snickered, then pulled the book of suppliers out from under the counter. “Now. Let’s see who can get us a bulk order of seashells.”
Angel Martinez writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.