Turning Pages is the first book in Brhi Stokes new series The Arbiter.
We leapt and bounded across roofs that shed tiles and dirt like rain as we jumped to taller and taller decaying shells. Her leaps were impressive in spite of her injuries, and I could only watch as she launched herself swiftly to the right and entirely off the edge of the roof. Her leap carried her up and towards the thick rails of elevated train track.
There was no way I could make a jump like that.
Instead, I followed her along the rooftops below, keeping an eye on the tracks as they angled closer to the taller buildings. Finally, I spotted a jump I could make. Ignoring the strange sensation in my left arm, I waited for a place where metal pillars connected the tracks to the ground and, securing the gun between my teeth, I threw myself towards them.
I missed the tracks completely, my numb left arm apparently useless. Thankfully, my right hand snagged at the maintenance rungs towards the top of the pillar and, with some scrabbling of my feet, I pulled myself onto the tracks. Up close, I could see that they consisted of two huge metal rails, connected crossways by smaller bars of steel. It had not quite occurred to me how big the train might be, but even the single rail on which I stood completely dwarfed me. The train that traversed it must have been simply enormous.
My balance accounted for and the gun back in my hand, I looked towards the woman. She had stopped momentarily and was panting for breath as blood trickled down her back. At the sight of my weary form climbing up onto the tracks, however, she bounded away. Breathing heavily, I took aim again, the whir of the gun filling me with a strange dread. I fired.
Another cry went up as the woman stumbled and fell, her strangely shaped legs twisting and catching beneath her as the bullet buried itself in her thigh. With no real joy, I began to make my way across the tracks towards her. She was close enough for me to make out her expression and, although I found it hard to decipher the emotion in her faceted eyes, I could sense the malice which dripped from her as steadily as her blue blood. With a final growl of defiance, she wrenched herself sideways and off of the tracks.
Her body fell. It slammed into the thick gutter of the nearest building before toppling from it and tumbling all the way down to the streets below. Even from my height on the tracks, I could see that part of her skull had caved. A mix of grey, red and blue seeped onto the cobblestones around the body, visible under the light of a nearby oil lamp.
For a moment, I watched the body as its fluids seeped out, wondering if her last act of defiance had been for herself, or simply to spite me.
It mattered not. A thunderous growl from the castle’s direction told me what was coming. I knew there was no point in looking. Instead, I fished around in my pocket for a small roll of silver tape and wound it gently around my weapon. The rails shook as a deep rumbling shuddered through my bones, the roaring growing so loud that it felt as though my ears would burst.
I was ashamed to admit that in the final moments as I turned towards the enormous coal train, I gasped in fright.
As the sole transdimensional fixer – a killer and thief for hire who can traverse worlds – Page just wants to get the job done for the shadowy Masters who pass down the orders.
In this profession, however, things are never quite so simple.
When a job goes awry and other fixers start showing up – fixers who aren’t even supposed to exist – Page has to wonder what else might be untrue, just how much trouble helping these newcomers might be and if one bottle of whiskey will be enough.
Brhi Stokes writes dark urban fantasy and you can follow her on Twitter or seek her out on her website.