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Baculum by Christina Bauer

 

Overview: Lincoln battles Norse monsters in the Viking Games!

As King of the Thrax, Lincoln leads the most powerful demon fighting force in the after-realms… yet he cherishes nothing more than his Angelbound love, Myla. Which is why the king loses his freaking mind when the sinister Ringmaster Kell targets his pregnant wife.

So. Not. Happening.

Ringmaster Kell runs the infamous Viking Games, a series of battles where participants take on the identity of a Norse monster and fight to the death. Sounds good to Lincoln. The king sets aside his crown and enters the arena with one goal only: destroy Ringmaster Kell.

Sometimes, a warrior just needs to ignite his baculum sword and kick a ton of evil ass. But is Lincoln protecting Myla or walking into a trap? 

 

Baculum by Christina Bauer Book Chapter One

 

11:58 p.m.
11:59 p.m.
Midnight.
And my sixteenth birthday is officially here!
Some folks might celebrate with cake and presents. In my family, we hunt demons.
I know. Awesome.
Father and I march through Brazil’s largest vine forest, Mata de Cipó. In every direction, long sheets of woody tendrils sway around us. Father and I are tracking a vitis, which is a snake-like demon. There’s no rain. Winds are low. A full moon casts everything in pale light.
Perfect conditions for a hunt.
Suddenly, an electric sense of alarm rips through my nervous system. Something watches us…. and it’s close.
I picture things through my enemy’s eyes. The vitis would begin by spotting two figures in dark body armor. Next it would notice Father’s white hair and barrel chest. I’d appear younger, leaner, and much easier to kill.
Most likely, the demon will attack me first.
Suddenly, a nearby vine drifts away from the breeze. My pulse speeds. Moving slowly, I angle my head for a better view. Sure enough, that lone tendril is covered in a grid of black dots. Only a vitis has skin like that.
Father sees the danger, same as I do. He raises his fist twice. It’s a hand signal that means, Do you want me to attack?
I shake my head. No, I’ve got his.
Battle energy spikes through me. The demon’s wiry arm slowly twists nearer. A few inches from my throat, it stops.
Up close, I can see how each dark point on the creature’s skin holds a single needle. That’s definitely a vitis. I’ve never fought these before, but I know their needles inject neurotoxins. If I get enough in my bloodstream, I’ll be unconscious in seconds.
In other words, once the battle starts, I must take down this vitis and fast.
On it.
Reaching into my holster, I pull out my baculum, which are a pair of silver rods that create different angelfire weapons. As I picture the blade I need, the two bars ignite into a dagger made from white flame. Reaching forward, I angle the fiery blade toward the demon’s arm.
Somewhere in the sheet of vines, the main part of the vitis lets out a low hiss.
Clearly, I’ve got its attention now. Best to announce my purpose.
“I am Lincoln Vidar Osric Aquilus, High Prince of the Thrax. According to human news reports, a massive snake has been bothering nearby villages. Stealing livestock. Ruining fences. Almost killing a child. If this is your doing, then you must return to Hell now. I have a magical charm which will keep you there forever.”
At this point, most demons would slink away.
Not this one.
Instead, the rest of the creature oozes out behind from the wall of vines. Like a coil of wire, the monster’s green tentacles stack up, one on top of each other. Within seconds, the ropes take on a humanoid shape. The creature sports empty pits for eyes and a dark slit of a mouth. Its tentacle arm still hovers just above my skin.
“I am innocent,” says the vitis.
“Let’s see,” I state.
With my left fist, I keep my angelfire dagger angled toward the tentacle-arm. Using my free hand, I pull a quarter from my pocket.
“This is no regular coin,” I declare. “You’re looking at a truth charm.”
By the way, thrax always conceal their magical items as everyday objects. If we lose a few—which happens more than it should—then humans don’t know what they’ve found.
I speak directly into the coin. “Has this demon terrorized humans?”
A warm awareness moves through my veins. Since I’m part angel, this heat comes from the charm’s magic mixing with my supernatural nature.
White flame erupts from the coin. Angelfire. This doesn’t burn me, but it does summon Heavenly power. Hundreds of angelic voices speak at once. Their tones are so lively and musical, it’s almost enough to distract me from the vitis.
Almost, but not quite.
“Guilty, guilty, guilty,” sings the chorus.
“That settles it,” I declare. “The angels have spoken. You must leave for Hell. This is your last warning.”
The vitis howls. “Never! Die, demon fighter!”
We thrax have rules. One is to never attack unless directly threatened. In this case, just poking a tentacle near my face doesn’t count as a full-on assault.
But the words die, demon fighter? That definitely checks the attack box. And things get worse from there.
Fast as a whip, the demon’s tentacle-arm loops around my throat. Hundreds of tiny needles dig into my neck. Each pricker burns my skin as it releases neurotoxin. If I don’t do something quickly, I’ll be paralyzed under the demon’s grip.
To fully kill a vitis, I must combine two potions. In one swift movement, I reset my baculum while pulling a pair of vials from different pockets on my body armor. Meanwhile, the neurotoxin spreads through my bloodstream. My head turns woozy.
I smash the vials between my palms. A small cloud of black smoke rises. The demon’s grip on my neck tightens. Now I can add lack of oxygen to my list of problems.
High-pitched ringing fills my ears. Through the noise, I vaguely hear Father’s voice. “Lincoln, are you all right?”
The mists of the two vials swirl together, but they don’t combust. I know these potions can take a few seconds to work, but this seems extreme. My legs turn wobbly beneath me.
Finally, flames erupt all around the vitis. The creature lets out a high-pitched screech before crumbling into ash.
The world around me gets even more blurry. While forcing myself to stay upright, I reach into my pocket, pull out a stick of gum, and pop it into my mouth. This is no ordinary treat but another thrax charm. As I chew, a healing spell gets released. Within moments, my mind is clear and my body’s back to normal. I straighten my stance and exhale.
My father steps to my side. “All better, son?”
“Yes.”
He pats my shoulder. “Well done. Happy birthday to you, indeed!”
“Thank you. Any suggestions?”
“Oh, it’s been years since I could teach you anything about demon fighting.” He sighs. “If only your mother could have seen that.”
Normally, my mother, Octavia, joins all my birthday patrols. This year, she’s on a demon hunting safari to find monsters in less-protected regions. Sadly, she’s uncovered a serious infestation and must stay longer than expected. I told her that I’d consider it a great birthday present if she destroyed tons of evil for me.
“Once your mother returns, I’ll share every second of that battle with her.” He beams. “We’re both so proud of the man you’re becoming.”
Father and I share a smile. My heart lightens. A memory appears. I recall toddling around with my first wooden sword while Father cheers on every swipe I make through the air. Looking back, I can draw a direct line from that instance to this battle. Sometimes, being an only child means a lot of pressure. Right now, it brings me nothing but joy.
Rustling erupts in the nearby vines, breaking up my thoughts. Birds caw as they take to the air. Monkeys chatter warnings. Something approaches, only it’s not a careful predator like the vitis. Kneeling, I set my fingertips against the soft ground. Telltale vibrations move up my arm.
Father tilts his head. “What is it?”
A few minutes ago, Father’s face was tight with concern over the vitis demon. At this point, he seems downright casual as he asks about the newcomer. No question what this means.
Father already knows who’s on the way.
“Someone’s marching through the vines.” I rise to stand. “And they’re disturbing everything in their path.”
“Oh, my.” Father blinks innocently. “Who could that be?”
“I believe you already know.”
Father winks. “You’ve got me there.”
My bet? Our surprise visitor is none other than Aldred, the Earl of Acca and the official poster boy for bag of dicks syndrome. Aldred is selfish, rude, and my father’s personal stalker.
“Ringmaster Kell is on his way,” states Father.
I take a half-step backward. That’s unexpected.
Kell runs the Viking Games, where father-son teams fight Norse monsters in a massive arena. It’s all part of a rare phenomenon called a Salient, where a chunk of one reality gets stuck in another. In this case, a bit of the Norse Universe lodged into our own.
Tapping my chin, I consider Kell’s visit. The ringmaster is a dark elf mage from the Norse Universe. If Father’s inviting the him here, then Kell must offer the thrax some kind of advantage.
A realization appears.
“The Viking Arena is built on the Purple Salient,” I say slowly. “That land comes from another reality. No one sets foot on that soil without Kell’s magical approval. Such a place could make a nice safe zone for our people. No demons. Lots of entertainment. Perhaps Kell will give us some land… for the right price.”
Father chuckles. “Exactly!”
Before us, the wall of vines shimmies and parts. Through the break in the tendrils, waves of green mist pour into the small clearing. A fresh chill crawls up my spine as my inner angelic power responds to this new magic.
For the record, I liked the warm sensation from the truth charm much better. There’s something unsettling about getting a chill in the middle of a tropical zone.
Placing the back of his hand by his mouth, Father speaks in a low and conspiratorial tone. “Kell’s a real showman. Consider yourself warned.”
The green haze solidifies into a kind of curtain before us. Transparent skulls swirl within this emerald sheet. Mystical drumbeats fill the air. A sickly-sweet smell rises.
Talk about making an entrance. Father wasn’t kidding.
Kell steps through the mist and into the clearing. Since he’s a dark elf, Kell has green skin, pointed ears, and a flat face. Scrolls hang from his belt, along with a single skull. Lines of power twist across his exposed flesh.
“Behold, I am Ringmaster Kell, Ruler of the Purple Salient and Leader of the Viking Games.”
My supernatural shiver turns even more arctic. After years of demon patrol, I know exactly what that means.
No matter what titles Kell may give himself, this guy’s a predator, pure and simple.

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