Fox Beckman has a new queer urban fantasy/time travel book out (gay-non-binary): Stolen From Tomorrow.
Ravi Abhiramnew’s job is simple: hunt down and neutralize supernatural threats. That is until he meets Cayenne, a charismatic time traveler who claims to know everything about him—even his most closely guarded secrets.
Going to dinner with Cayenne is probably a bad idea, and a romantic island getaway definitely is.
When a monster picks their resort as its hunting ground, Ravi’s combat skills and Cayenne’s time magic should make it a breeze to kill the monster and get their vacation back on track. But it turns out the real danger lurks much, much closer…
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Carefully peering down the sights of his 9mm, Ravi squeezes off a shot. It strikes true, lodging deep into the monster’s exposed heart. The creature doesn’t falter in the slightest, snarling in his direction as if he were a particularly irritating gnat. A perfect shot, and it isn’t good enough. Typical, really.
In all his years hunting monsters, Ravi has never seen anything quite like this before. Strips of flesh hang off grayed bones between swathes of icy-white fur, a looming eight-foot-tall humanoid crowned with twisted icicle horns, baring a mouthful of jagged fangs while the freezing air steams with its breath. The heart seems to be the obvious target, a stark knot of dark ice threading around exposed ribs into the monster’s chest, but nothing the team has thrown at it has had any effect. Val’s giant double-handed maul would surely put a crack in it, if they can get her close enough for a hit, but any time they try, the giant beast summons up a swarm of ice serpents from the surrounding snow, keeping the hunters at bay. Because being a giant, slavering behemoth with no obvious weaknesses wasn’t enough; it’s got magic too. Again, typical.
Ravi curses and ducks back to rejoin the rest of the group as the monster lets loose another bellowing roar, snaking out a many-jointed arm to rip up a huge chunk of earth and fling it at Ravi and his team. Val, eyes burning blue-white behind mirrored sunglasses, calmly steps forward and deflects the projectile with a blow of her maul. It shatters into a shower of snow and icy dirt.
“Little cover, Constance?” Harry suggests. She lowers her gun after Ravi’s shot hit dead center to zero effect, looking supremely annoyed. “Also, if you’ve got any idea what this thing is, that would be really useful.”
Constance steps forward, hands working feverishly as she pulls a tangle of thorns from her satchel and slaps it together with a handful of hastily procured dust from another pocket. A thick wall of thorns rises from the ground, cutting them off from the monster and granting a momentary reprieve. “I hast ne’er beheld such a beast ’ere, mine niece.”
“Getting a little ye olde there, Constance,” Harry tells her ancestress.
Dropping her hands, Constance turns toward the rest contritely. “Ah, yes, my apologies. I have no knowledge of this creature. Hey, nonny-nonny,” she adds with a flash of mischief.
“I think it’s a chenoo?” Nate pokes his head out from behind one of the torn-up tree trunks, still intrepidly wielding his hockey stick. He slaps one of the ice serpents away as it gets too close. “Fuck! These things are quick.”
“What’s a chenoo?” Ravi asks, eyes darting from the thorn wall and scanning the snow for more serpents. “How do we kill it?”
Nate winces. “I’m pretty sure it’s like an Algonquian version of a wendigo.”
Everyone groans. Wendigos are the worst. Harry shakes her dark hair, gun hand gesturing to the chenoo. “Okay, Professor, so how do we take it down?”
“Is it not the heart?” Val asks, peering up on her toes over the thorn wall. She’s so tall she barely needs to stretch. “It is on the outside of its body.” She ducks back down as the chenoo tears another skeletal tree right up by the roots and sends it crashing against the thorn wall.
Constance grimaces, rocking on her heels as if she’d been dealt the blow. “I cannot keep this wall up for much longer, my comrades.”
“Noted,” says Harry, forehead furrowed.
“A direct hit to the heart did nothing,” Ravi reminds her. “You’d think fire would do it, but Constance’s first spell did nothing except melt some snakes.”
Nate shakes his head. “I’m not sure what will kill it. Usually, you get the Ojibwe version of these things here in the Midwest, and the heart shot would have killed one of those. I’d have to do some research. Would have been nice if the client gave us this info before sending us here, don’t you think?”
“Take cover!” Val bellows as a massive tree trunk flies their way. Ravi grabs the person closest to him. He drags Harry out of the way while Val snatches up Nate and Constance and teleports them out of sight just as earth and bark crash down through the thorn wall onto the churned-up snow where they had all been standing.
Ravi helps Harry to her feet as they take cover behind a tangle of fallen oaks. “I guess it would have been too easy if this ice monster was vulnerable to fire, huh,” she says wryly, kicking at an errant ice snake. “If I could talk to it, I might be able to figure out what it wants. We’ve talked down monsters from a fight once or twice before.”
“If it’s like a wendigo, it just wants to eat people. I could set up a sniper nest,” Ravi offers. “There are decent vantage points there”—he points up at a pair of snowy hills—“and there.”
Harry gives him an incredulous look. “Is that what you have in that big bag, a friggin’ sniper rifle? Where’d you learn to snipe?”
“Israel,” he answers shortly.
Her eyebrows lift. “What were you doing in Israel?”
Mourning. “Training,” he says. “The Trust has a few consultants in Mossad.”
Harry rolls her eyes. “Of course you do. I bet all you covert agent types get together for regular potlucks and barbeques.” She scans their surroundings. “No rifles. Let’s try to keep any more gunplay to a minimum,” she says with regret. Ravi knows how she feels. The two of them are the marksmen of the group, and sometimes it’s not easy being overshadowed by an Amazonian angel warrior with a big magic hammer and a spell-slinging sorceress. At least the new guy just has a hockey stick.
Ravi watches her face, sees where she’s looking, thinks he can intuit her plan. “You want to give Val an opening?” It’s standard ops to get a team’s main damage dealer where they’ll do the most harm, and Harry has surprisingly good instincts for team dynamics, considering she operated as a lone PI before all this supernatural shit entered her life. She nods decisively, and he holsters his gun. “Good plan. I’ll back your play.”
“Okay. Let’s do it.” She breathes out, then they both burst into motion. Harry grabs a couple of branches, hands one to Ravi, and, wielding them like clubs, they wade out into the open. The ice snakes are quick and agile, but only take a hit or two before they shatter. The pair fan out in different directions, smashing and stomping, creating a pie slice toward the others. “Constance!” Harry cries out. “Distract it!”
Constance runs forward into the cleared space, bright energy already swirling around her hands. While she gathers up her magic, Harry nods at Ravi. He nods back and moves to cover their witch, stomping an approaching ice snake’s head under his oxfords before it can get too close to her. “Where’s Nate?”
“He went down the embankment,” Val intones. “He claimed he had an idea.”
Constance finishes her spell, speaking an unfamiliar word and pulling her hands up into twin claws. Fire spreads up from cracks in the ground in front of the chenoo. It reels back, roaring with fury, and turns toward the fire, leaving its back open and unguarded.
“Let’s hope the Professor is right,” Harry mutters, thwacking a pair of ice snakes. “Val, got your wings on?”
“Always.” Val’s sunglasses reflect the blaze, and white, feathered wings appear from nowhere, unfurling behind her. With a flash, she teleports behind the creature, raises her war hammer, and slams it down onto the monster. A solid hit. The pained screech of the thing is so piercing and terrible it raises the hairs on everybody’s arms. All the ice snakes stop their advance and writhe in place.
Ravi takes the opportunity to stomp a few more of the snakes before they recover as Constance throws open her satchel. “To battle, my familiar!” Her cat, Griswold, leaps from the bag and pounces on the nearest ice snake with a bold, strident battle cry.
“Take that, loathsome serpent! Have at thee, villains!”
The cat sinks his fangs into the back of the snake’s head and shakes fiercely.
It’s a weird team, Ravi admits, but it works.
Prone to diving way too deep down research rabbit-holes and absolutely incapable of working without a curated playlist in the background, Fox Beckman lives in the Twin Cities and has far too many irons in the fire. Fox is writer, an artist, an occasional wrangler of kangaroos, a longsword fencer, an archer, a roller of dice, and a forager of mushrooms that aren’t deadly (probably).