Excerpt

“MacMillian. Do you have a moment?”

MacMillian saved the application and leaned back in his creaky chair. “Anything for my favorite landlord.”

Aloysius Paul strode into the office like he owned it… which, of course, he did. His suit was as sleek and sharp as ever: a well-tailored piece of what MacMillian guessed was probably black silk, shot through with hunter green pinstripes. A blood-red dress shirt completed the festive ensemble, fashionably offset by a vivid lavender pocket square. Spit-shiny pointed Oxfords gleamed on his feet.

He didn’t waste time. “I know it’s nearly Christmas, but I have a client for you. His business won’t wait.”

MacMillian raised his eyebrows. “Who am I to turn down a client?”

His landlord released a visible sigh of relief. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

He stepped aside, and another man appeared in the doorway. Rather, filled it, in a way MacMillian had never seen anyone besides Darius do. A simple black patch covered one eye. The other glittered, sharp and assessing, in a craggy, unforgiving face. His fog gray suit was almost as fashionable as Aloysius Paul’s, and matched both his beard and his shoulder-length hair. A stiff breeze ripped around him, carrying the sweet, sharp scent of birch and the acrid smell of fresh smoke through the office.

MacMillian sat up a little straighter.

“MacMillian, allow me to introduce you to… ah…” For the first time in their acquaintance, his landlord floundered. He looked to the newcomer helplessly.

The other man stepped forward. “I go by many names.” His voice was deep and crisp and even, with an accent MacMillian couldn’t place. “But for our purposes, Mr. W will suffice.”

MacMillian gathered himself and steepled his fingers on the desk in front of him. “And what can I do for you, Mr. W?”

“As Mr. Paul said, I’m in town on urgent business.” Mr. W strolled further into the office. “To put it bluntly, someone has stolen my transportation.”

MacMillian hmmed sympathetically and pulled a notepad and pen out of the top drawer of his office. “Make and model?”

Mr. W exchanged a glance with Aloysius Paul.

MacMillian looked from one of them to the other. “You know, Honda Civic, Toyota Rav-4…”

“I’m afraid you misunderstand. My ride isn’t a car.” Mr. W cleared his throat. “It’s a deer.”

MacMillian frowned. “Like the tractor?”

Mr. W’s one eye didn’t blink. “A reindeer.”

MacMillian didn’t speak right away. At last, he tossed the pen onto the notepad and shoved both away. “All right. Very funny.” He looked to Aloysius. “Did you put him up to this?”

Aloysius didn’t crack a smile. “This is serious, MacMillian.”

“Right.” MacMillian raked a hand through his hair. “Damn it, Si, I’ve got paperwork to finish.”

Mr. W’s expression darkened. “This is no joke.”

“I’m sure.” MacMillian pulled the application he’d been working on back up on his computer. “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas. Now both of you kindly fuck off so I can finish this-”

“MR. MACMILLIAN.”

Mr. W’s voice sent a flood of ice down MacMillian’s spine. At the same time, he drew himself up. His physical dimensions didn’t change, but something about him expanded. All around him, shadows darkened. Thunder rattled the office windows. Lightning crackled around the room.

MacMillian forgot to breathe. He gripped the edges of his desk until his knuckles went white.

Aloysius groaned.

“Stop wasting my time, human.” Mr. W’s voice shook what little air remained in the office. “I tell you, this is no laughing matter. I am the Storm King, come to this city to host Oskoreia. I cannot do that without Sleipnir.”

MacMillian looked to Aloysius. “Oskoreia?”

His landlord twisted. “The Wild Hunt.”

 

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