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Corrupted Magic is the second book in the Grimoire Society of Dark Acts series, and I’ve decided to publish the first three episodes here on my blog FOR FREE! Each week, I’ll publish a new episode, so stay tuned! If you want access to each episode as it’s published (a week earlier than here) or if you’d like to read the whole book, join my Patreon at any level—it’s pay-what-you-like.

What it’s about:

Grimoire Society of Dark Acts’s hard-won defeat of the brutal Harpe brothers should have been a relief… But through a forcedCorrupted Magic by Christie Stratos double blood-binding, Gertrude disappears right in front of their eyes. The Ruin Rats, a vicious magical street gang, is out for Dark Acts’s blood. Knox calls on the deadly gang from his past for help, but is the physical cost too high to pay? As if that’s not enough, a new corrupt form of magic is throwing the entire magical universe off balance.

Episode 1: Gone Without A Trace

Boston, 1850

Gertrude sat at the dining room table, tightly gripping her stomach where her dagger wound had been—the one Jack from Grimoire Assassins had given her in the Harpe brothers’ deadly magical realm.

Humphrey gave Gertrude’s shoulder a squeeze, kneeling beside her chair. He tapped his other hand on his knee in impatience as they waited for Anne to return with the entrapment potion that held her attachment rune stone. They needed to use it to keep Gertrude tied to Anne or the Dark Acts house—anything to keep her here, really. Anne couldn’t move fast enough for Humphrey’s taste.

“Is it getting worse?” Finnegan asked Gertrude from his seat next to her.

She breathed deeply through her nose and exhaled through puckered lips that exaggerated the minor wrinkles around them, nodding in a short burst.

All Humphrey could do was wring his hands. He moved quickly to the door and shouted out into the hallway, “Hurry, Anne!”

Gertrude gasped and Humphrey spun around to look at her. She stood, as did Finnegan beside her, her form wavering in and out of existence, becoming almost transparent before returning to normal.

“Anne!” Finnegan barked, holding on to Gertrude’s arm. Humphrey hoped his grasp could be her anchor.

“I can hear him,” Gertrude said, looking off as if listening. In a hurry, she continued, “His incantation…he’s going to keep me…” Her words faded away as she did, half here and half gone, her lips still moving. Finnegan gripping her right arm tighter, she reached out to Humphrey with her left as if he could do something. “Don’t let him—” She disappeared completely. Finnegan’s hands flew together where her arm had been just a second ago, nothing left for him to hold. He stared down at them in disbelief, his mouth open in surprise.

“I’ve got it!” Anne said, running into the room. She stopped dead when she saw no Gertrude, her blue eyes assessing the room quickly. “Where is she?”

“Just…gone,” Humphrey said softly.

“But I was only out of the room for a few seconds—well, no more than a minute, surely.”

Finnegan felt the air in front of him as if Gertrude might be hiding there, right in plain sight.

He looked up sharply at the sound of Carmichael’s voice as it came closer and closer to the dining room. “The Grimoire says it is not impossible to be part of two magical societies at once, but a person can’t remain that way—” As soon as he walked into the room, he looked up from the open Grimoire in his hands and stopped in his tracks. “Where’s—”

“She disappeared,” Finnegan said, his voice a whisper of disbelief. “Right in front of us. She said she could hear Luther’s incantations, but she didn’t get to tell us what he was saying. Just that he plans to keep her somewhere.”

Carmichael spun toward Anne. “Didn’t I tell you to extract the rune stone?”

“I went and got the potion in just a minute’s time, it isn’t my fault!” she argued, swishing the small vial around in front of him, the rune stone whirling about inside.

“We leave Luther alone for less than twenty-four hours and he’s already as bad as Jack was,” Finnegan said, shaking his head.

“We have to get over there to their societal house,” Humphrey insisted. Surely if they could find Gertrude, they could fix this.

“I’ll get Knox,” Anne said and rushed back out of the room.

Carmichael stared after Anne, clearly still annoyed with her. Returning his gaze to the heavy Grimoire in his hands, he plopped it down on the dining room table with a thump. “We can’t go running over there before we know what’s happening.” He blew out a breath. “This will be like a complex mathematical problem.” Carmichael leaned on the back of one of the chairs with both his hands.

He continued, “If we want to detach her from the Grimoire, we must find out how by way of their process, not ours, but also where she’s being kept. We must also find out if Luther has already initiated anyone else; if he reforms the society completely, their combined power may be able to force Gertrude’s initiation and finish the process.”

“Force her?” Humphrey asked. That was the most upsetting thing he’d heard so far.

Carmichael nodded, his lips in a grim line. “I wish it weren’t so, Bollington, but the longer Luther keeps her wherever he’s got her—and I’m sure he’s chosen that place strategically—the more likely it is he can use some very dark magic to undo her ties to us and force ties to them, perhaps even prohibited magic if he’s desperate.” Humphrey hoped he would remember to ask what prohibited magic was at a calmer time…if there was such a thing. Carmichael rubbed his forehead. “William,” he said to the Grimoire, “we’re depending on you to hold her tightly by her blood-binding until we can detach her from Grimoire Assassins.”

Finnegan shook his head, his flaming red hair highlighting the uneven angry blush on his pale skin. “I can’t believe this. How could Luther go this far?” He breathed deeply, his body shaking before he exhaled. “We must do away with Grimoire Assassins altogether.”

Carmichael shot him a harsh look. “Don’t aim to destroy them. The repercussions to the societal universe could be massive. We have no idea what would happen.”

“Societal universe?” Humphrey asked, glancing at the blank page of the Grimoire and then back at Carmichael.

Turning to face Humphrey, Carmichael said, “These aren’t just random societies dotted around Boston, Bollington. There is a delicate balance between us all across the world. No one knows what would happen if a society was extinguished. The imbalance could affect the world in unimaginable ways.”

Anne returned with Knox, who still looked like he was brooding over Finnegan’s suggestion that he might have to reestablish contact with his old New York gang, the Dead Rabbits. Humphrey would have to think about that. Perhaps there was a way to avoid it. After all, the Ruin Rats coming after him for the debt he owed when he’d run off without paying his gambling debt was his own problem. He’d never seen Knox like this, and he didn’t want to be the cause of so much upset.

“I really am sorry about all the trouble I’ve caused,” Humphrey said to Knox. “It seems to me I’ve been the cause of a lot of problems since my arrival.”

“You? Pishposh,” Carmichael said. “We were in all sorts of trouble all the time before you arrived. Why, when you finally found us, we were right in the middle of stirring up our own bout of problems. You stopped us from doing that when you interrupted us, so consider yourself a credit to us.” Carmichael nodded with certainty as if that closed the subject completely. If that was true, Humphrey felt slightly better. But only slightly.

Carmichael flipped to the back of the Grimoire, exposing the small cabinet the size of the book’s cover that held the part of their hearts that felt love. He put his index finger over one of the six compartments’ keyholes, the lock disappearing under his touch. Opening it via the small knob that had appeared, Carmichael nodded when he saw the bit of heart inside, sparkling blood covering it.

“If we lost this, Gertrude would be in the most trouble,” he said, closing the small door quickly, the keyhole returning. “If Luther somehow managed to steal it, he’d have a greater chance of bending Gertrude’s will. This is precisely why we must keep our loving parts safely locked away.”

He flipped back to his previous spot in the Grimoire, the cabinet disappearing in the back as if it had never been there. Glancing at Knox, he did a double take before snapping his fingers in his face. “Wake up, Knox. I know contact with the Dead Rabbits is the last thing you want, but you’ve already been to hell and seen what it looks like. You’ve been in its flames and still escaped. This is nothing in comparison. We must contact them immediately. And we might as well use them for more than one purpose; the six of us…five of us aren’t enough to take on both the Ruin Rats andGrimoire Assassins.”

Knox rubbed the back of his neck. “What’re we gonna tell ’em? How’re we gonna explain magic so’s they understand what they’re seein’ in us and the Ruin Rats?”

Carmichael shrugged. “Simple. We’ll tell them like a splash of cold water, then offer them temporary magic for themselves if they’ll help us.” He put his finger in the air and wagged it as he said, “And it will come with conditions, including stripping it from them if they try to use it against us. We’ll come up with highly conditional magic.”

“You’re gonna trust ’em with magic?” Knox shouted incredulously. His head jerked so hard, his oiled curly brown hair flopped atop his head. “You’re off the hooks!”

Finnegan’s lips flattened as he watched Knox intently.

Carmichael tilted his head and ran his hands down the lapels of his always-perfect black suit. “Would you rather chance giving the Dead Rabbits temporary magic, or wait and see how it goes with only five of us and no potions versus a deadly magical Boston street gang and the ugliest Grimoire society out there? And what if they realize they have a similar cause and they work together? What then?”

Knox crossed his arms. “Fine. But then I want more magic than what I got. If they’re gonna be runnin’ around with it, I gotta be better equipped. That’s a demand, not a question.”

Carmichael eyed Knox warily. “How do you feel about another enchanted weapon?”

Knox lifted his head to look down his nose, even though he was significantly shorter than Carmichael. “You gonna give ’em enchanted weapons or somethin’ better?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Knox searched Carmichael’s face—for what, Humphrey couldn’t tell. “I want somethin’ so’s I can take ’em out easy if they act like the beetlebrows I think they’re gonna.”

Carmichael nodded slowly. “I’ll come up with something for you.” Could it be that Carmichael didn’t trust Knox with certain types of magic? Why was he so hesitant to give Knox any magic he wanted? Perhaps whatever the reason was, it reflected why Knox’s Dark Acts-enchanted dagger did him damage while no one else’s magic hurt them.

“It’d better be good,” Knox warned, his hands white-knuckled fists. “You’re riskin’ us all if it ain’t. You don’t know ’em like I do. You can give ’em food and lodging and bathe ’em if ya want, and they’ll still stab ya in the back soon as ya turn around to grab ’em another loaf of bread. Don’t underestimate ’em, Carmichael. They’ll wipe us all out if they get the chance.”

Author Notes

And we’re off with a bang! The beginning of this episode was first written as it is now, but when Anne runs off to get Knox, I originally had Humphrey go get him. Since he’s our narrator in this episode, we went with him, but it proved to be too much of a slow-down for the plot at the wrong time. Instead, I sent Anne after Knox so Humphrey could remain behind and hear more details about Gertrude’s disappearance from Carmichael. Also, I had a LOT of fun with the Victorian slang in this book; you’ll see more of it in future episodes. We’re going to have plenty more problems piling up around Dark Acts quickly, so keep reading as these episodes release!

Exclusive Details

*These details are normally only available on my Patreon.*

As soon as I had Carmichael say, “This will be like a complex mathematical problem,” my mind went blank because math intimidates me and I’ve never been good at it. 😂

I planted the seed early that there will be more complexity between characters in this book. The first book was really dedicated to bringing Humphrey into the Dark Acts fold and learning his role in it, plus having him grow as a person to meet those around him. This book will expand outward from Humphrey and show more of the relationships between characters, deeper character exploration, and the complex backgrounds they have.

As you all know, I love psychology and anything related to it, so now I get to stretch my wings and add that a little more heavily into the mix in ways that strengthen the characters and the story.

Let me know if you enjoyed this first episode! If you’re not a patron yet, keep up with this weekly serial with my pay-what-you’d-like system. Got $1? Good enough. Join my Patreon!

Read Episode 2 FREE here!

© Christie Stratos 2022

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