I am happy to share with you today an excerpt from H. L. Burke’s newest book, Spellsmith & Carver 2: Magician’s Trail.
Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Trial is the second book in the New Adult Gaslamp/Steampunk Fantasy series by H. L. Burke (wow, is that a mouthful … basically it is fantasy set in a vaguely Victorian setting with a magically animated bronze fox and snarky, kind of sexy twenty-something magicians. If that sounds like your sort of thing, read on.).
Auric Spellsmith and Jericho Carver saved the world—but the world is less than pleased.
Accused of causing a magical energy crisis and of “conduct unbefitting magicians,” the pair travels to the big city to defend their case, Rill and Jaspyr in tow. But they soon find themselves embroiled in a world where everyone has an ulterior motive. Politics are a web of deception, more dangerous than Fey magic.
Then Auric discovers Lotta, an attractive but eccentric engineer whose invention could solve the Republic’s energy crisis—if they can survive long enough to test her theories. The mysterious assassin who is after her now hunts Auric and Jericho too.
At odds with the law and criminals alike, Spellsmith and Carver will need every drop of wit and magic to survive.
Excerpt From Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Trial:
“Lottie!” Her father shouted over the clicks and whirs of their shop. Lotta Tyckner filtered him out, concentrating on getting every last bolt tight on her latest invention: an automated sweeper.
“Lottie, where are you?” The floorboards squeaked as he entered the back room from the shopfront. Sitting cross-legged on the floor behind the workbench, Lotta huffed. Yes, she was too old to be hiding in nooks and crannies to work on her devices. At nineteen, she should be finishing up engineering school or at least working alongside her father in the front, the public face of their little machinist shop. However, out there, people talked, people looked at her, people expected things from her. Here, hidden behind a table overflowing with gears and clockwork and toolboxes, she could think.
Neville Tyckner pushed aside a large, dented boiler casing and leaned over the workbench.
“Thought you could hide from me, did you?” His dark eyes twinkled. Her father had immigrated from Raumina, his brown skin, which she’d inherited, causing him to stand out amongst the pale inhabitants of the Republic. Still, he’d managed to become a respected member of the Machinists’ Guild, due in part to his charm, which Lotta had not inherited.
“I’m almost done,” she mumbled.
“Which project is this?” He stepped around the workbench, leaping over the barrier of spare parts with a spryness that belied his fifty-five years.
“It sweeps. You see this piston controls this arm while these wheels push it across the floor with the … it just sweeps.” She hated explaining her work. Why couldn’t people just take her word for it?
“I see.” He rested his hand on top of her black curls. “What powers it?”
“Wind-up, clockwork,” she grunted.
“Ah, like the little toy mouse I bought you when you were three that you immediately took apart and put back together as a beagle.” He chuckled.
A smile crept across her face in spite of herself.
Father took her hand and pulled her to her feet. “Come to the front room with me. I want to show you something.”
She gulped down the lump in her throat. The front room meant the possibility of customers, of people walking in and expecting her to converse. It meant leaving her project unfinished just when the end was in sight. “Can’t you bring whatever it is here? I don’t want to stop working.”
He slapped his forehead. “Ay! What did I do to deserve such a stubborn and disobedient daughter?”
She crossed her arms. Her father was fond of invoking the old days when young women who insisted on wearing trousers and speaking back to their parents would’ve been cast into the streets with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but he never went further than complaining.
Not since she was fourteen, at least.
That was the year he’d forced her to attend a luncheon in her best frock, planning to show her off to the eligible sons of his guildmates … only to have her collapse, red-faced and shivering on the tea room floor. People had called it a fit, a tantrum, a show of will. All Lotta had known was that she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think or speak. From that point on, social functions, which had always been nerve wracking, became debilitating.
His expression softened. “Please, Lottie. You can’t hide from the world forever. Take a little step with me? It’s just the front room of our shop.”
Her stomach twisted, but she nodded and followed him through the door.
Light flooded the clean swept, carefully organized shop, making her blink. Her gaze immediately darted towards the flip sign in the window, and relief rushed through her. He’d turned it to “closed.” Outside people, potential customers, bustled by: women who might’ve bought some wind-up toys for their children, men who may have been interested in their home security systems or automated-shoe-polishers … but for her, Father would risk the loss of business. Why did she ever doubt him?
Across the street, a group of men in tattered clothes milled about. Their expressions were dark, their movements restless. One of them motioned straight at the shop, and several of his companions followed the gesture. Lotta flinched back. Were they looking at her?
“What?” Father asked.
“N … Nothing,” she stammered.
He followed her gaze, and his brow furrowed. “With the factories closed, there are too many unemployed men roaming the streets, looking for trouble. It makes me anxious for you.”
“It’s not like I go out much.” She shrugged.
“I’m not too happy about that either, of course.”
“Can’t have it both ways.” She gave him what she hoped was a cheeky wink, though it probably just looked like she had something caught in her eye.
Father laughed then crossed the shop and pulled the shutters. “Well, if everything goes right, all will soon be mended.” Returning to her side, he turned up the gas lamp and drew a roll of paper from beneath the counter. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.
She tilted her head, recognizing the drafting paper. “It’s a schematic.”
“Yes, but of what?”
Lotta didn’t like games. It took all her patience not to scowl at him. “How can I know until you unroll it?”
“You need to loosen up a little, Lottie.”
She didn’t like being called Lottie much either, for that matter, but she bit her tongue.
He cleared his throat, then drew something else from under the counter: a leather bound notebook.
She gasped and snatched it. “You had this? I’ve been looking for it for almost a week! Why did you have it?” She flipped it open. Everything seemed to be intact, no missing pages, all her sketches and notes still legible. Of course, she shouldn’t have expected any less. Father would never destroy her notes—though him keeping them from her in the first place was problematic.
“I needed them to put this together.” He unrolled the schematic.
Her breath escaped her. There, laid out in carefully labeled bits and pieces, was her generator. Her gaze darted from the schematic to the notebook, comparing the notes she had on one page, flipping to another page where she’d sketched out the rotors and stators, checking the lists of materials. She bent over the schematic. It was perfect, all her jumbled notes and drawings, compiled into an easily understood diagram. “It’s beautiful. You did this?”
He nodded. “Your ideas are brilliant, but I know you have a hard time getting them out of your head in any orderly fashion. I wanted to help.”
“There are parts missing,” she whispered.
“Yes, it’s not a complete blueprint, just a simplified version to help with our presentation.”
Lotta’s head spun. She braced herself against the counter. “P… P … Presentation?”
“Lottie, this is exactly what the Capital needs right now: a source of power that can revive the factories. Your generator can do what magic used to, and more reliably.” He touched her hand. “This is your chance to prove to the world what a genius you are, as well as do a lot of good for a lot of people. I had to call in a few favors, but I got us a hearing with a congressional board. If they like what we present, it could lead to a contract, a chance to install one of your generators in a major factory. Once the concept is proven on a small scale, nothing can stop us.” A grin wrinkled his face, eyes bright, voice rising slightly in pitch.
Lotta felt cold all over. “You will do it, though. You’ll make the presentation.”
His smile faded. “Lottie—”
“You know I can’t!” She gripped his wrist. “I can’t. There will be strangers and they’ll … they’ll expect me to talk, to explain. I just—”
“Shh, please don’t.” He pulled her into an embrace. “You deserve this chance to show people what you can do. I know it’s hard, but think of the future it will open up to you. If I go in, they’ll expect me to head the project. That isn’t right. It’s your invention.”
“But I … I can’t …”
A bang jerked both their attention to the shuttered windows. His brow furrowed.
“What was that?” she asked.
Another crash, then raised voices. The shutters shook and broken glass clattered to the floor. Something slammed into the shop door.
Father stiffened. “Get in the back and hide.”
“No, I won’t leave you.” She drew herself up. “What is it? What’s going on?”
“For once in your life, obey me, you stubborn girl!” He shoved her.
Lotta rocked, catching herself on the counter. Father had never laid a hand on her before.
What happens next? Pick up Spellsmith & Carver: Magicians’ Trial on Amazon July 31st.
Book one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y57DTTL
Book two: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073WMM85J
Author website: www.hlburkeauthor.com