EXCERPT: THE BURNS CODEX
The Fire Salamander Chronicles Book Four
~ Zane Burns, a.k.a. Gunz ~
Miami Beach, South Florida
The narrow suburban street was dark and empty. Every single streetlight was out, and nothing was moving in the dead of night. The approaching tropical storm was making its presence known by driving the winds and veiling the starless sky with heavy clouds. The palm trees bent their crowns and the soft hissing of ruffled leaves accompanied every gust.
Even though it wasn’t raining yet, Gunz could feel the gathering moisture in the air and his Salamander senses were screaming bloody murder, warning him about the presence of the opposing element.
“Is this the place Akira told you to check out?” Gunz asked, throwing a quick glance at Yaroslav.
The vampire nodded, slowly unsheathing his katana. He was dressed all in black, but his long golden mane was telegraphing his presence from far away.
“I don’t sense anything,” said Aidan, approaching them.
Another one with blond hair, Gunz thought and chuckled. “You guys should wear something to cover your hair. I can see you from a mile away, even in complete darkness.”
“So what?” Yaroslav shrugged nonchalantly with a wide grin that showed the points of his long fangs. “Let them see me—I welcome any monster who is fast enough to catch my hair.”
“Shh,” whispered Aidan, his eyes slightly glowing with the white light of his magic. He extended his arm, muttering something under his breath and a long sword materialized in his hand. As Aidan raised his sword assuming a combat stance, the weapon glistened like an icicle, looking deadly in his hands. “Something is coming.”
Gunz expanded his Salamander senses, probing the area and nodded to Aidan, confirming his statement. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his Swiss army knife, turning it into a sword. There was something in the area that hadn’t been there just a few minutes ago and its menacing presence was getting stronger with every passing moment.
“Well, that’s a new one,” murmured Aidan, jerking his chin toward the road as six large SUVs with tinted windows came to a screeching halt in front of them.
“No shit,” muttered Gunz, raising his blade to his shoulder. He squeezed the grip of his sword tighter, wondering why it felt heavier than usual.
At least eight men walked out of each vehicle and spread around surrounding them in a wide circle to block all possible ways out. The dark energy of their ominous magic overwhelmed Gunz’s senses, and he grunted, directing some of his fire toward his sword. As the flames went up in his eyes, he felt Aidan stepping next to him ready to fight.
“Aw, so much fun!” Yaroslav laughed, flashing his vampiric grin as he took his position, back-to-back with them.
A split-second later, the air was thick with the strikes of dark magical energy and the stench of demonic essence as all the men charged them at the same time. Their fighting style differed from anything Gunz had ever seen before. It wasn’t his first confrontation with demons. Usually demons were disorganized and chaotic, each demon caring for no one but themselves. This team was fighting like a well-oiled machine. With each step properly calculated and coordinated, they moved as one, breathed as one, and struck as one. Advancing at them like a menacing wall, they presented a true danger.
“Protect Yaroslav,” Aidan hissed into Gunz’s ear as he channeled his power.
“Praecidio Amnia,” muttered Gunz, manifesting a thick power-shield around the vampire. Once done, he turned to Aidan and yelled, “Now!”
A blast of white light expanded around Aidan, assailing the advancing enemies. Gunz expected them to fall back as demons, vampires, or any other types of supernatural beings couldn’t withstand a full assault of Aidan’s godly powers. To his shock, the men staggered back just a little, moved by the sheer force of the blast, but none of them suffered even a mild injury.
“What the hell?” Aidan hissed, gathering more of his power. But the second blast produced just as little effect as the first.
“My turn,” growled Gunz, watching Aidan wrap his protection shield around Yaroslav. “Ignius Amplio!”
His sword went up in flames and a smoldering jet of fire hit the advancing men straight in their chests. The fire flowed around them doing no damage whatsoever. Gunz increased the heat and potency of his fire strike to no avail. The fire magic seemed to be useless against them and using his elemental power wasn’t an option as he was in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.
“Aidan, take this shield off of me,” yelled Yaroslav, his eyes lighting up with a hungry scarlet glow. “Let’s do it the old style.”
As soon as Aidan brought down his shield, Yaroslav disappeared. He didn’t teleport, but he moved so fast it was impossible to see him without using magical sight. Immediately, his katana wreaked havoc among the opposing party as they recovered from Gunz’s and Aidan’s assaults and resumed their steady forward motion.
The screams of pain and furious growls accompanied Yaroslav’s progress and the stench of blood, mixed with the reek of demonic energy filled the cool night air. Gunz and Aidan exchanged a quick look and joined Yaroslav, putting their swords to business.
Gunz channeled more of his fire through his sword, making it burn brighter. He swung it down, slicing the man in front of him in two, and realized that he was just a demon—not even a demon in its pure form, but a human body possessed by demonic essence.
How is it possible that neither my fire magic nor Aidan’s godly powers worked against run-of-the-mill demons? A thought flashed through his mind and quickly disappeared as he had no time to dwell on it. Three men attacked him at the same time, and he spun around, avoiding their direct strikes. His Salamander senses told him that two of his attackers were demons, but the third one was a dark wizard who was wielding not only magic but also a dangerous looking sword, which meant he wouldn’t be easy to kill.
As fast as Gunz moved, he could never be as fast as Yaroslav and today he felt slower and heavier than usual. One of the demons caught his thigh with his blade and Gunz dropped to his knee, a pain-infused grunt escaping his lips. The dark wizard didn’t wait for him to recover and blasted him with a powerful magical strike. Gunz cried out and fell on his back. He hit the ground hard, losing his breath, and his fingers unlocked. His sword dropped to the warm asphalt with a loud clang.
The wizard cackled and struck him with his magic again, overwhelming his senses and sending his mind into a wild frenzy. The wizard raised his sword ready to push it through Gunz’s chest, and with horror, Gunz realized that he was completely immobilized by dark magic. Helpless and desperate, he watched the blade slowly lowering down, only one thought clear in his mind—if he died now, hundreds of humans would die with him.
“No…” he exhaled, struggling against the hold of dark magic.
A second before the sharp end of the blade pierced his chest, the mighty strike of a katana deflected it. One more strike and the head of the dark wizard rolled off his shoulders, hitting the road with a sickening thud. Bright red blood pumped from the headless neck and a second later the dead body dropped to its knees and then collapsed forward. Before the lifeless corpse fell on top of Gunz, Yaroslav’s hand jerked him up to his feet.
“What’s wrong with you, Salamander,” hissed the vampire, thrusting Gunz’s sword back into his hand. “You’re slower and weaker than usual. If that’s even possible.”
Gunz rolled his eyes at him and sidestepped the next attacker, allowing Yaroslav to swing his katana one more time, slicing the demon in half.
“Yaroslav is right.”
Gunz heard Aidan’s voice somewhere on his left but had to ignore him, engaging the demon who attempted to punch him in his face. Easily avoiding his attack, he seized the demon’s arm, flipping him over his hip. The demon fell to his side and Gunz twisted his arm at a painful angle, while running his blade through his neck. The dark shadow of the demonic essence separated from the body and shimmered into the night.
The shrilling sound of police sirens sounded somewhere in the distance and flares of multicolored lights illuminated the air at the far end of the neighborhood. To Gunz’s surprise, the remaining men took off. They hopped into their SUVs and a heartbeat later all vehicles were gone.
Gunz lowered his sword, taking in his surroundings. At least fifteen dead bodies were sprawled motionless on the asphalt, their black eyes staring into the dark sky. Severed heads and body parts were floating in puddles of blood. Aidan and Yaroslav stood with their blades down, their blond hair now more red than gold, their clothes torn and covered in scarlet stains of blood—theirs and their opponents.
The first drops of rain fell from the sky and Gunz flinched from the touch of water to his skin. The police sirens now sounded closer and he didn’t think it was a good idea for local authorities to find the three of them standing with their swords over a pile of corpses. FBI agent or not, Jim would have a hard time explaining all of this to both the police and his superiors.
“Aidan, Yaroslav, you need to leave,” he said, turning to his friends. “I’ll take care of the dead bodies. Police can’t see this battlefield.”
“How are you going to do it, Pyro?” Aidan asked, a light smirk playing on his face covered in blood splatters. “You can’t use your elemental power here and fire magic won’t do the trick fast enough.”
“I can’t,” agreed Gunz, returning his smirk, “but I know someone who can. Now leave, both of you.”
Aidan’s lips parted, forming the shape of a letter “O” and he nodded to Yaroslav. “I’ll see you both tomorrow for training in my school.” He snapped his fingers and vanished from the street.
“Zane,” said Yaroslav wiping his katana on the ripped sleeve of his shirt, “are you sure you’re going to be okay?”
“Yes,” replied Gunz impatiently, “but I need you to leave, Slavik. Something tells me you are not going to appreciate the fire show.”
A wide grin split the vampire’s face, and he was gone in a heartbeat. Gunz raised his hand up and tapped his finger on the surface of his wristwatch.
“Mishka, I need your help,” he said quietly.
With a light pop, Mishka the wyvern materialized in front of him.
“I’m here, boss, what can I—”
The wyvern fell silent, twirling in the air, circling above the improvised graveyard. As he returned to Gunz, a sarcastic glimmer shone in his igneous eyes.
“Wait. Don’t tell me,” said the wyvern hovering in the air in front of him. “Clean up on aisle three, Mr. Burns?”
Gunz nodded, guilt swirling through him. But as the bright lights of the approaching police vehicles lit up the street, he forgot about feeling guilty.
“Mishka, please,” he hissed, throwing his hands in the air. “I can’t leave this Deadsville for the police to find! And I can’t use my elemental power around humans. So cut the crap and help me clean this mess up, would yah?”
Mishka huffed, rising back up in the air. “Fine, fine, but you’ll owe me one.”
“I owe you more than one, my friend.” Gunz chuckled, turning his sword back into the Swiss army knife and shoved it into his pocket. He waved his hand, unfolding the fire curtain of his portal and turned around.
“Now go!” yelled Mishka, the cloud of fire energy surrounding him. “When Mishka the Cleaner is at work, little fire lizards should run.” He tittered, spitting tiny fireballs.
“Are you sure—,” Gunz started to say, but Mishka waved his wings vigorously interrupting him.
“The police are going to be here in a minute,” he hissed, showering him with fire and smoke. “Fire Salamander—go!”
Gunz nodded and walked through his fire portal.