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Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7)
Ilona Andrews

FROM THE JOURNAL OF BARABAS GILLIAM

MY NAME IS Barabas. I was named that because my mother was ambitious. It could be worse. One of my cousins is named Lucifer. I once asked my aunt why and she said, “Because I wanted him to be beautiful and to think for himself.” Boudas, or werehyenas as most people know us, have an interesting perspective on the world. Technically, I’m not a bouda. I’m a weremongoose, but my mother is a bouda and I grew up among them.

At the time of writing this, I’m twenty-nine years old. I have a law degree from the University of Virginia and I currently reside in Atlanta. I’m employed as a Pack lawyer, which is to say I’m a member of the largest shapeshifter organization in the South and second largest on the continent of North America. I also work for the Consort of the Pack as a special advisor. The Consort refers to me as her nanny occasionally, and I find that term uniquely accurate. I would put one of those hideous child leashes on her if I could, except I’m reasonably sure she would cut my arm off.

I find myself in a strange moment in time. Something momentous is taking place right in front of me, something that I suspect will drastically alter the future of not just the Pack, not just my generation, but generations to come. I have a front-row seat. I’m in the middle of it. Yet nobody around me seems to realize that years from now our descendants will look back on this moment and wonder how it all happened. Someone must document it. After all, history is written by and for the survivors, and right now I’m not sure who those survivors will be. Don’t take me wrong, I don’t intend to roll over and fade into the night. I will rage with the best of them, just like Dylan Thomas’s poem advises. But on the off chance we don’t prevail, there must be a record of how hard we fought. It looks like I’ll be the one making that record, since nobody else can be bothered. Funny how it always turns out that way.

So, I suppose, I’ll begin at the beginning. The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. As expected, it was completely our own damn fault.

In ancient times, technology and magic existed in perfect balance, but then came the human race. They built a civilization based on magic. Creatures of terror and beauty roamed the land. Wizards with godlike power built entire cities overnight and rained winged snakes and molten metal on their enemies. (As an aside, that age must’ve been a nightmare. Concentrating that much power in the hands of individual human beings? Why, that could never go wrong or lead to horrible atrocities. Just read the Bible.) Finally the balance between magic and technology became so disrupted that magic receded. The cities wrought by magic crumbled, their wonders turned to dust, and their beasts became myth.

Fast-forward five thousand years. It’s the early twenty-first century and we’ve created a civilization based on technology. Once again, we upset the balance and magic returned with a vengeance to slap us upside the head. It floods the planet in waves. One moment technology rules, internal combustion engines work, guns fire, and electricity keeps the monsters away. The next an invisible magic wave drowns the area, choking guns and spawning creatures with nightmarish teeth and robust appetites. Then, without warning, the magic wanes and SWAT’s mages stop spitting fire and switch back to rifles.

This apocalypse is called the Shift. The Shift destroyed the technological civilization. Air travel is no longer possible, because planes fall out of the sky when the magic hits. The Internet is all but dead, because half of the time we have no electricity and magic chomps computer parts into dust. Cell phones do not work, unless you’re in the military and have really good clearance. The high-rises and skyscrapers have fallen, gnawed to nubs by magic’s teeth, but life goes on and people survive. And in the new post-Shift Atlanta, new factions and powers came into play.

First, there is the Pack. As mentioned, I am a shapeshifter and I work for the Pack, so I have a vested interest in explaining exactly who we are and what we do. The Pack is the second-largest shapeshifter organization in the country and has over fifteen hundred members. It’s segregated into seven clans, according to the species of their beast, so boudas, wolves, and so on. Each clan is led by a pair of alphas. Together the alphas make up the Pack Council. But as Disney taught us, there must be a king, and our king is known as the Beast Lord, because we, as red-blooded Americans, have an issue with monarchy. His name is Curran Lennart. Curran took charge of the Pack when he was fifteen by defeating a mad werebear nobody could touch. He unified us. He persuaded the alphas to collectively purchase land and he built the Keep, our fortress, giving us a safe place to be ourselves. He imposed rules and laws and taught us that abuse won’t be tolerated. Because of him, we live together in relative prosperity. When Curran says jump, we jump so hard, the ground shakes. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have bouts of assholeness, but all things considered, they are forgivable. He’s also a really scary bastard who is fond of “my way or the highway” style of governance. More on that later.

We, the shapeshifters, are viewed with open suspicion by the rest of Atlanta. Our existence is the result of the Lyc-V virus, and sometimes the virus overwhelms our bodies, turning us into loups. Loups are vicious, insane, cannibalistic murderers. There is no cure for loupism, which is why we all practice strict discipline and undergo extensive mental conditioning to keep our emotions in check. When everything fails, there is panacea, an herbal concoction cooked with magic. It won’t cure loupism, but about thirty percent of the time, it will reverse the transformation in progress. More on that later, also. In the eyes of the general public, every shapeshifter is a potential loup and “werewolf” is still a dirty word.

Next up we have the People. They are a nationwide organization, with offices in every major city. The People pilot the undead, specifically vampires, for fun and profit, but if you ask them, they do it for some dubious scientific purposes. Vampires have no minds of their own. The Immortuus pathogen, which leads to the death and subsequent reanimation of its victims, cleanses their bodies of everything it doesn’t require, including internal organs, hair, genitalia, and consciousness. A vampire is a feeding machine, consumed by a never-ending hunger. They don’t speak; they don’t think; they kill anything with a pulse, and stopping one requires a heavy-duty antipersonnel howitzer or decapitation. Mincing them into small pieces has also been known to work, as the Consort has proven on many occasions. A single vampire on the loose in the city results in the immediate evacuation of a ten-block radius and the dispatch of several emergency police units, because a single SWAT team will run out of ammo before they take it down.

The necromancers—they prefer to be called navigators—telepathically grab hold of a vampire’s empty mind, imposing their will on that blank canvas. This is called piloting. The navigators pilot the vampires like remote-controlled cars. They see what the undead sees, they hear what he hears, and when a vampire speaks, the navigator’s voice comes out of his mouth. They can send the vampire into danger while sipping coffee in the armored bowels of the Casino. The best navigators call themselves Masters of the Dead, because modesty is clearly their most prized virtue.

The People make their headquarters in the Casino, while our HQ is in the Keep. The People are the Pack’s biggest competition within the city. When we butt heads, people die; so a while ago, in an effort to cut down on possible bloodshed, we nominally divided the city into their “territory” and ours. It’s a bit complicated with specific streets and areas, but for simplicity’s sake, north and northeast are ours and south and southwest are theirs. When you hear one of us say “city territory,” that’s what we mean. We don’t own property in each other’s specific areas, and we patrol our imaginary borders.

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