Rise of Magic is the first book in The Hidden Order of Magic world. So enjoy the sneak peek and jump into the adventure with Lia?
It was quiet, a bit too quiet for the evening, even when she was in a park. Lia shook her head. No way, the last monster appeared yesterday. There couldn’t be one that close together. It was just a relaxing evening, nothing more.
She stretched her arms, rubbing her sore shoulders from the day’s meeting. When it was noisy in the city, something could be hiding in the chaos, but when it was quiet, something could jump out of nowhere.
A cool breeze blew by her long brown hair. She shivered. She was overthinking it. When her days were spent fighting paranormal cases with her magic, it was hard to relax. She tucked back a few stray strands and fixed her thin jacket.
A few birds were singing. Some leaves fell from trees on either side of the path. One landed on her hair, slowly sliding down to the grass next to her feet. A few passers-by were jogging, a few walking their dogs. The tranquility was rare in the city.
The birdsong halted, leaving the rustling sound of branches and leaves. The birds were gone within seconds. Lia fiddled with the blue kyanite on her necklace.
Lia continued down the path. Nothing seemed to be wrong, at least for now. The trees were still the way she remembered, the rubbish bins still filled to the brim, and a few bicycles still messily parked at the railings near the fountain.
Lia’s legs ran to the source before her mind caught up. A middle-aged woman was lying on the ground. There were nasty claw marks on her chest. Her clothes were ripped open, already soaked with blood. The wound was deep, almost exposing the bones beneath.
Scanning the scene, there was nothing dangerous in sight. Lia kneeled, laying her fingers on the woman’s neck. A few passers-by started gathering around, pointing, whispering among themselves.
“You! Dial for the paramedics!” Lia pointed to a man closest to her. He scrambled, pulling out his phone.
The woman still had a pulse, but the time to save her was draining. Lia’s eyes narrowed. She could stay to help the injured woman who she didn’t have a good chance of saving, or she could hunt down the attacker.
In the corner of her eye, a glimpse of a shadow was escaping to the far side of the park, jumping through the bushes. She stood and chased after the shadow.
As she ran, she whipped out her phone, pressing down the speed dial. She focused on the shadow without checking the screen. She waited for a few seconds. “Rickson Park, go clean it up. Searching towards the river.” Her phone buzzed. She stuffed it back into her pocket, picking up speed.
Helen would probably understand what was happening. She was smart enough and had been in the game long enough. William, the team leader, would figure out the rest. Crap, the shadow took a turn and was out of sight.
Lia searched the streets, her heart racing. Whoever attacked the woman could be on their next victim. The shadow showed up by a corner, speeding. She struggled to follow it. Whatever that was, it wasn’t human. She was a magician, and there was no way some average human could outrun her.
The shadow was taller than her, with something like a tail. Running across the road, down the street, she arrived at a corner. The shadow made a sharp turn into an alley, and Lia went after it.
“Whoa!” A large garbage bin flew towards Lia’s face. “Hurk!” Lia raised her hands in front of her, just in time to summon an ice shield to block the bin.
After a loud bang, the bin landed on the ground and rolled off to the side, its contents spilling all over the ground. The rotten smell of garbage filled the alley. She winced.
The alley fell into silence. For a few seconds, all she heard was her own racing heartbeat. Everything was still. She squinted into the depths of the alley. The faint light from the other end wasn’t very helpful. For a second, she wondered whether the shadow was gone. She made her way deeper in.
She could barely make out the wooden boxes scattered on the floor. The air filled with the damp smell of something gross, sending a shiver down her spine. Backing up against the rough surface of the wall, despite her hammering heart, she kept her steps light.
She held her breath and waited, closing her eyes briefly, paying attention to the smallest sound. There were only drops of leaking water from pipes landing on the ground.
Has that thing escaped?
If the thing had gone somewhere else, she had to find it before it hurt others. She looked around for the last time and gave up her search. She turned to the exit.
A barely audible footstep sounded behind her. Lia spun. A giant monster was right above her, diving down. Its claws were inches from her head, its jaws wide open, demonstrating its sharp fangs.
There wasn’t enough time to summon magic. She raised her arms, shielding her head, and closed her eyes. Maybe she would survive a first blow and could fight back. Magicians wouldn’t fall as easy as the average human.
Seconds went by. The blow didn’t land. Some warm and sticky liquid fell on her arm. She opened her eyes, looking through her arms. The monster was hanging in mid-air, its tongue stuck out.
Lia jumped back and flung off the monster’s saliva. No, time didn’t freeze. The monster continued to hover in mid-air, its body still, except for a tiny shaking as if it was struggling against an invisible force. Its yellow eyes rolled around in the eye sockets of its exposed milky skull.
There was a light sparkle in the air. Was that a scent of magic? She furrowed her brow but pushed down the strange feeling. Not something to pay attention to when a monster was at her face.
Lia picked up a soda can from the floor and threw it at the monster, curious what would happen. Before the can hit, the monster smashed against the wall. “What the—?”
With a loud crash, it dropped motionless on the ground, its eyes dimmed. Lia froze on the spot, her eyes wide. She lifted her chin. There was nothing in sight that could have pushed the monster away.
“Your first day around?” A low and commanding voice came from deep inside the alley.
“Sorry, William, I…”
Deeper into the alley, there was a foreign silhouette.
Lia dropped into a defensive pose, ready to strike. “Wait, who are you?”
“Shouldn’t you take care of that thing first?” The stranger approached Lia slowly, gesturing at the monster on the floor. He was in a black hoodie and a pair of grey jeans. The man was tall with broad shoulders and looked much stronger than her. The faint scent of magic in the air grew as he closed the distance, menacing.
“Who are you?” Keeping her guard raised, Lia tensed as the stranger came nearer.
“Rookie, I could have stood around, and you would have died. You don’t even care to thank me.” He turned sideways, leaning against the wall. He pulled down his hood to cover his features.
Lia shivered standing near him. He wasn’t someone she should mess with. Lia took a step back. With half her attention on the stranger, she turned to the monster.
“I guess… thanks?” Lia lowered her arms. She raised her palm to the monster, casting a frost beam and freezing it into a giant ice cube. She turned back to the stranger, but he was nowhere to be seen.
He had to be there a second ago. Lia ran her hand through her long messy hair, getting it tidy behind her ears. The scent of magic soon dissipated, as if she was alone for the entire time. Who was he? What was happening?
She kicked the iced monster. Yes, it was there, this wasn’t a dream. The woman in the park flashed in her mind. Hopefully, she was fine. Well, optimistic never worked well.
“Hey, everything alright here? I hurried after I got your message.” A blonde-haired woman ran into the alley. Helen was wearing a plain t-shirt and a pair of tracksuit pants. She pulled Lia into a firm embrace.
Helen was in her late-twenties, like Lia. She was slightly shorter than Lia. Her hair always tickled Lia’s nose, and she often risked sneezing on Helen’s head as they hugged.
“As good as it can be. How’s that woman?” Lia hugged Helen back with a frown on her face.
“She should be in the Emergency Room by now. Hopefully, the doctors can save her. It was chaotic outside—glad I was close enough to help.” With a faint sigh, Helen pulled away from the hug.
Helen kneeled next to the monster. “So, this is it.”
They both took a closer look. It had a lizard-like tail covered in scales, while the rest of its body was covered in fur, like a wolf with pointy ears. The rest of the head was skinless, revealing its skull.
“Look at those fangs and claws; they look deadly. Glad you managed it.” Helen took a step closer to the block of ice, poking it.
Making sure Helen wasn’t looking, Lia grimaced. “Creation of the meteorite?”
“It could be. Maybe this was once a cute puppy dog.”
“One that wanted to tear me to pieces.”
This would have gone terrible if not for the mysterious stranger. A chill ran down Lia’s spine. She leaned against the wall to hide her shakiness, trying to slow her breathing, her heartbeat deafening.
Now that she thought of the stranger, she rubbed her forearm. How did he move the monster without touching it? She didn’t recall learning about that kind of magic. Wait, was there any other magician in the city other than the team?
“Are you OK?” Helen rubbed Lia’s shoulder.
Lia shook her head. “I’m fine.”
“C’mon, you aren’t a good liar at all. What happened?”
“I wasn’t expecting a monster shortly after the slime. Then this happened, and that woman…” Zitannas, the city, would never stop giving the team trouble.
“At least the monster can’t hurt anyone anymore.” Helen stroked Lia’s arm in small circles, her eyed filled with concern. Helen always saw the good side.
Lia stared at the ground sheepishly. It would be much better if it had been her who defeated the monster. At least the end result was the same.
A siren came from afar, breaking the silence between the two. Helen nudged Lia towards the main street before they were spotted. While it wasn’t detrimental if that happened, it was extra trouble they didn’t need.
Closing the door of her apartment behind her, Lia let out a relaxed sigh. Finally, she was home. She set down her take-away on the coffee table in front of the television, staring at the messy pile of snack packages with a groan. Maybe she should get better at tidying up. One day, she would.
Instead of tidying the table, she grabbed her clothes from the chair in her room and headed for a shower. Afterwards, she slumped onto the couch, resting her legs on the armrest and unwrapping the food.
She planned on spending the rest of the night relaxing, enjoying her food, but her mind kept wandering to the woman in the pool of blood, the scream was still in her ears. She pulled out her phone and scrolled through the news headlines, hoping the woman had survived.
There were two lines about a woman found injured in Rickson Park. There were few details other than the time and location, nothing more than what she already knew. Lia flicked her eyes to the corner of the screen.
The page had been updated almost an hour ago, and it was already getting buried by other news. No surprise when William always hid paranormal occurrence from the public. Maybe she would ask tomorrow.
Something was off. A deep frown formed on her face as she chewed fried chicken. If the meteorite was the cause, could there be more monsters lurking around, preying on innocents? Lia shook her head as if that would clear the fog from her mind. She called it a day, and a stressful day it had been.
Lia retreated into her room, wanting nothing more than her pillow and blankets. She lay on bed face up like a starfish. She spent minutes staring at the ceiling until she almost drowsed off. She reached out for her pillow when something graced her fingertip. It wasn’t her pillowcase, strange.
She flipped the switch, turning on the lamp on the bedside table. On her pillow was a card which she didn’t remember leaving there. She lived alone.
It was a white card, if it hadn’t materialized on her pillow out of nowhere, nothing suspicious. On one side of the card, in hand-written words, it read: Hello, Rookie.
Lia jumped out of bed, now wide awake. She looked around her room and went over every corner of her apartment, checking the windows and the door to the balcony. Nothing noteworthy. She went back to her bedroom and checked the window—perfectly locked, as she had left it that morning. The lock on the door was intact.
Nobody calls me ‘Rookie’, not even William. Except that strange guy…
Lia gritted her teeth, her eyes narrowed. She flipped the card over. Also in hand-written words, it read: Join me for burgers tomorrow night? Grill ‘n’ Chill.
She placed the card on her bedside table and went through her apartment again, making sure the door, the windows, and the entrance to the balcony were safely locked up. Despite that, she couldn’t shake the feeling someone was watching her.