While we all anxiously await the publication date for The Middling Affliction (which is currently May 31, mark your calendars!) a brand new Conradverse story was published today! This story appears in Silence in the City, an anthology edited by Shaun Kilgore.
“A Dark and Stormy Night” is chronologically set after book 2 in the series (Kakistocracy, which is written and I’m revising now, and you will likely get to read in 2023) and gives you a sneak preview of one of the many problems Conrad will have to deal with in book 3.
The story is written in such a way that you do not have to have read any previous Conradverse stuff to enjoy it, and there’s only one minor spoiler that reveals something that happens to a minor character in book 2, so it should be safe to read before you delve into the novel.
Here’s a little preview:
A Dark and Stormy Night
A Conradverse Tale
by Alex Shvartsman
IT WAS RAINING in Brooklyn. Scratch that, it was pouring cats and dogs, raining men, drizzling grizzly bears, showering wallabies, and sprinkling an occasional elephant out there. I peeked out the window and could hardly see the street through the torrential downpour. It seemed I could take an evening off from patrolling the borough. Even monsters and warlocks generally preferred to hatch their dastardly schemes while wearing dry socks. I settled onto the couch and reached for a TV remote.
My phone rang.
“Hello?” I dearly hoped the unfamiliar number was only a scammer trying to sell me an extended car warranty, and not a cry for help that would result in me chasing a slime elemental through the sewers. Again.
“Conrad Brent,” the familiar voice grated in my ear. “Beware the gathering storm. The forces of darkness are amassing in the deep. The three islands face deluge. In order to save us all you must open your heart to an old enemy.”
“Agnes?” I asked gormlessly. The Oracle of Eighty-Sixth Street was a powerful prognosticator but she was not in a habit of unloading her often-alliterative prophecies on unsuspecting people over the phone, especially when those people weren’t paying customers.
“Shush,” said the Oracle. “Time’s running short. You must ride a reluctant steed into battle, ally with a serpent, and when the time comes, choose the left one—”
The line went dead. The lights in my apartment went out, as did all lights outside. It looked like the storm had caused a neighborhood-wide blackout.
I tried to activate the flashlight on my phone, only to discover that it was also dead. I had just charged the battery. Did the oracle’s magic somehow brick a smartphone? I thought that sort of thing only happened in fantasy novels. In the real world clapping doesn’t bring faeries back to life and technology is totally indifferent toward magic.
I reached for the lantern of Diogenes. It was an arcane lie detector, designed to flare up whenever falsehood was spoken within earshot. Under the circumstances, it would make do as a night light. I hefted the lantern and said, “It’s bright and sunny outside.”
Exasperated, I tried increasingly bold-faced lies. “Pasadena is the capital of Maryland. Chicago pizza is superior to New York pizza. Nickelback albums are music.”
The lantern remained dead as Diogenes himself. With a sense of dread I reached for an assortment of charms and artifacts on my shelf. Every one of them was equally useless, like a bunch of mundane trinkets.
Something terrible was happening. Something the Oracle had tried to warn me about. Thanks for nothing, Agnes. The trouble with prophecies is that they sound like gibberish until it’s too late. I shambled through my apartment in the dark, getting dressed and knocking into furniture. I retrieved a revolver from my night stand. Although it was loaded with silver bullets doused in holy water, the gun itself was mechanical, which hopefully meant it would still work.
There was an insistent knock on the door. I slid the gun into the pocket of my unbuttoned trench coat and answered it.