Feb 16, 2013

City of Ashes Excerpt


From the book
...

Prologue
SMOKE AND DIAMONDS
The formidable glass-and-steel structure rose from its position on Front Street like a glittering needle threading the sky. There were fifty-seven floors to the Metropole, Manhattan's most expensive new downtown condominium tower. The topmost floor, the fifty-seventh, contained the most luxurious apartment of all: the Metropole penthouse, a masterpiece of sleek black-and-white design. Too new to have gathered dust yet, its bare marble floors reflected back the stars visible through the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. The window glass was perfectly translucent, providing such a complete illusion that there was nothing between the viewer and the view that it had been known to induce vertigo even in those unafraid of heights.
Far below ran the silver ribbon of the East River, braceleted by shining bridges, flecked by boats as small as flyspecks, splitting the shining banks of light that were Manhattan and Brooklyn on either side. On a clear night the illuminated Statue of Liberty was just visible to the south -- but there was fog tonight, and Liberty Island was hidden behind a white bank of mist.
However spectacular the view, the man standing in front of the window didn't look particularly impressed by it. There was a frown on his narrow, ascetic face as he turned away from the glass and strode across the floor, the heels of his boots echoing against the marble floor. "Aren't you ready yet?" he demanded, raking a hand through his salt-white hair. "We've been here nearly an hour."
The boy kneeling on the floor looked up at him, nervous and petulant. "It's the marble. It's more solid than I thought. It's making it hard to draw the pentagram."
"So skip the pentagram." Up close it was easier to see that despite his white hair, the man wasn't old. His hard face was severe but unlined, his eyes clear and steady.
The boy swallowed hard and the membranous black wings protruding from his narrow shoulder blades (he had cut slits in the back of his denim jacket to accommodate them) flapped nervously. "The pentagram is a necessary part of any demonraising ritual. You know that, sir. Without it..."
"We're not protected. I know that, young Elias. But get on with it. I've known warlocks who could raise a demon, chat him up, and dispatch him back to hell in the time it's taken you to draw half a five-pointed star."
The boy said nothing, only attacked the marble again, this time with renewed urgency. Sweat dripped from his forehead and he pushed his hair back with a hand whose fingers were connected with delicate weblike membranes. "Done," he said at last, sitting back on his heels with a gasp. "It's done."
"Good." The man sounded pleased. "Let's get started."
"My money -- "
"I told you. You'll get your money after I talk to Agramon, not before."
Elias got to his feet and shrugged his jacket off. Despite the holes he'd cut in it, it still compressed his wings uncomfortably; freed, they stretched and expanded themselves, wafting a breeze through the unventilated room. His wings were the color of an oil slick: black threaded with a rainbow of dizzying colors. The man looked away from him, as if the wings displeased him, but Elias didn't seem to notice. He began circling the pentagram he'd drawn, circling it counterclockwise and chanting in a demon language that sounded like the crackle of flames.
With a sound like air being sucked from a tire, the outline of the pentagram suddenly burst into flames. The dozen huge windows cast back a dozen burning reflected five-pointed stars. Something was moving inside the pentagram, something formless and black. Elias was chanting...