Warlocks were temperamental bastards. Used to having whatever they wanted available with a swift spell, they tended to expect everything to happen on their grossly accelerated time frame. Of course, they happened to pay handsomely for their impatience. Which was why he was out at midnight, with a satchel full of crystals, herbs, and one of his many spell books. He pulled up the collar of his angular black wool pea-coat to block out the wind blowing through the open space ready to race down his collar and disrupt the warmth he retained thanks to layers and a bit of magical assistance.
The night air turned frigid with the breeze off the ocean adding dampness that created an unrelenting chill that cut bone deep. It was the business he had in the Underground and the bright pink final notice envelopes that pulled him from his cozy chair in front of the fireplace. In the mid-ninth century, Seattle burned, and the good people decided to build right over it. The deaths, location of lay lines, and careless abandonment opened a portal and with. Improper rebuilding, sealed off any chance of closing it.
If the magical community hadn’t trickled into the hidden places, manipulating the excess otherworldly energy and policing the gates to control what came out, the town would have seen more tragedy. As the darkness needs the light to have balance so was the way with magic. Approaching the small, unassuming building in the middle of ( street name) he took the stone stairs down to the heavy wooden door.
He grasped the round metal knob. A burst of energy traveled down his spine as the ward recognized him as kin. The lock released. Pushing the door inward, he passed through the portal that separated the world above from the one below and entered the Underground. To anyone nonmagical, this door would lead to a set of refurbished pathways that commemorated history.
Salty, frigid ocean air gave way to warmth and the rich, moist scent of earth. A curved brick archway above his head contrasted with the dirt path lined with trees on either side. The strip of brown wound through the impossible woods into the bustling city. The scent of cinnamon and sugar made his stomach rumble as he passed the Churro shop on the corner. Slowing his step, he eye fucked the golden pieces of bread glistening in the carefully placed lighting. The nearly negative number in his bank account flashed in his mind, dissuading him.
Living on Ramen, soup, and tuna had gotten old two weeks ago. There were only so many ways to spice up the college student staples. At thirty-five, he was past the age for the survival diet. Work had been slow. Not that the bills cared. Forcing himself away from the shop window, he wove through the crowded cobbled streets toward his destination.
Some nodded in recognition while others gave him a wide birth. Returning the acknowledgment, he let the shunning slid off the watertight barrier he’d erected around his heart. Simply being Ezra Zhao birthed him into a situation that would’ve broken a lesser person.
The acceptance of others had ceased to affect him a long time ago. It was why he’d thrived after relocating to the city. The notorious Seattle freeze had been nothing new. In the small, dreary community forming real friendships took time, years in some cases. His tiny circle of loyal friends took over five years to amass.
Conjure loomed ahead on the corner. The three-story brick pub had a speakeasy-style lower level where business deals were forged. Tinted windows kept the atmosphere the same regardless of the time of day. Like a Vegas casino, Conjure created an environment where time no longer existed. Exposed brick and dark wooden floors were illuminated by low lighting. The round tables and the bar were packed with people imbibing in various drinks.
Weaving his way through the crowded main room on the first floor, he walked down the hallway that housed the bathrooms. At the end of the hall, he knocked on the wall that appeared to be a dead end. The door swung inward. A hulking Golem guarded a long staircase. Clad in an expensive tailored gray pinstripe suit, the clay man’s doll-like features reminded him of a slightly melted plastic mask.
The features were runny and the eyes were hollow black circles. Grunting, he moved his bulk to the side to allow Ez entrance. Tamping down his urge to shudder, he began the descent into the underbelly of the popular pace. Inanimate objects brought to life creeped him out. Give me the dead anytime. His stomach tightened and a chill settled into his bones. Instinct flared to life. The pulsing energy identified the type of dead as vampire. While not alive, they didn’t have the same flat feel as a zombie or ghost.
The bottom level had the feel of a study in a mansion. Wingback chairs, round tables were littered around the room. In the back corner, he slipped behind a pair of black curtains into an alcove. A group of men who looked as if they stepped off a cover of GQ sat around a massive wooden table. A fire crackled in the fireplace below the massive mantle. Dense with the power in the room, the air stifled. Walking felt like swimming through water made of energy.
The long dark-haired vampire with delicate features frowned. His fist tightened on his lion head cane. “You didn’t tell me someone else would be joining us.”
“I prefer the art of surprise. It keeps things honest,” his client, Bronson Allerton said. The white-blonde haired man with an angular face, sharp jawline and deep-set dark blue eyes devoid of feeling curved his thin lips into a smirk that made the vampire across from him scowl.
The brunette vampire with an aquiline nose, broad forehead and pricy gray suits wrinkled his nose and frowned.
“Necromancer.” His companions shifted in their seats, watching him warily.
“You didn’t think I’d do business unprotected did you, William?” Branson asked with a sly smirk. “He’s here to even the playing field.”
The natural skill that made Ez an outcast proved to be lucrative in the freelance sector. Especially when witches and vampires did business together. With one foot in the world of the living and dead, he was an equal opportunity hire. Because his affinity with all things dead made him impervious to vampires’ potent mental powers. Taking his place at Bronson’s side, he extended his powers to encompass them both.
Unable to be compelled, his client he was free to do business confidently. Being a blocker wasn’t the most exciting gig, but it would help get rid of those pesky pink letters littering his coffee table like decoration. Zoning out, he settled in for a lengthy wait.