The Devil You Know

Good morning, readers!

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!
Sorry. I know. I’m sure there are fewer of you checking out this space than before, and that’s entirely my fault. I forgot how much time a new baby sucks up. Then I learned how much energy a sick baby sucks up. And I found out having a series end is also kind of an enthusiasm drain, so it’s been a pretty dense couple of months so far as learning experiences go.

So it’s true? This is the last book?
Yes. The Devil You Know is the last book of the Brimstone Angels series.

I don’t like that.
I can’t say I like it either, but if it helps, the last book was nearly Ashes of the Tyrant, cliffhanger and all, so really–

I WOULD HAVE KILLED SOMEONE.
That’s kind of what I guessed. You can be a little dramatic.

The point is we’ve come to the end. It’s not the end of me, not the end of my stories, not the end of characters like Farideh and family, but it’s the end of the Brimstone Angels Saga. I worked my butt off to get The Devil You Know to you, my darling readers, in time to be published. You get an ending, and having been at this long enough to see lots of series get unceremoniously cut off, I think that’s something precious.  So barring unforeseen circumstances, The Devil You Know will be available October 4th 

Here’s the cover:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.56.02 PM

 

What’s it about?
From the cover copy:

“In the long-awaited finale of her riveting Brimstone Angels series, Erin M. Evans thrusts her signature character Farideh into an epic battle of good versus evil, rife with deception and intrigue, where the question is as much who is evil, as how they can be defeated. The stakes have never been higher, and the fallout will shake the Hells, and through them, the Forgotten Realms.

“Before Farideh took a devil’s pact, before she was Chosen by the god-king of the Hells, before any of this started, there was Bryseis Kakistos, the original Brimstone Angel, first of Farideh’s line. Now, at the end, there is also Bryseis Kakistos — but this time, instead of helping the king of the Hells achieve godhood, she’s going to kill him. All she needs is a little help from Farideh — which she should, by all accounts, be happy to give. After all, who could object to killing the king of the Hells? Except, it turns out, Farideh. Because as always, things are far more complicated than they seem.”

There are lots of long-lost family members, a trip to somewhere few dare tread, giants because giants, and more than a few gods getting good with their worshipers, because this is the Realms and that’s how we roll.

Want a sample?

I’d rather have more books.
Working on it! For now, I’ve got this. Hope you enjoy!

***

If Farideh hadn’t been warned about Kulaga’s secretive nature, about Adastreia’s reclusiveness, she wouldn’t have been able to spot the small fortress she and Lorcan were walking into. A sheer cliff face, only reached by a narrow path between two hills. The brush was thick and snagged her cloak and the wrappings on her legs as she pushed through it, toward the broken brown rock face. Even though she could see no one watching, she felt eyes on her and kept her rod in her hand.

She won’t kill you, Farideh thought, repeating Lorcan’s assurances. She’s afraid, but she’s curious.

Though, she added as she reached the gates, never curious enough to look for you. Never that. She blew out a slow breath—she didn’t want Adastreia or anyone else to have come found her, to have claimed her and taken her from Mehen. So why did it sting to know they hadn’t?

She felt the first of the protective circles as she crossed over it, as if pressing through an enormous spiderweb. The reason they couldn’t use a portal to get any closer. Lorcan cursed as he pushed through the same barrier, but it didn’t stop him.

“How many do you expect there are?” Farideh asked.

Lorcan didn’t answer. He passed her, looking tense—and damp with sweat. Farideh stared at him. “Are you all right?”

“No, I’m—“ He broke off. “I’m fine.”

“You don’t look well,” she caught up with him. “You’re sweating.”

“Well this isn’t my usual constitutional, now is it?”

“I have never seen you sweat. Not once.”

Lorcan looked back at her. “You’re remembering wrong. Please, darling, I’m fine. Come on.”

Farideh was not remembering wrong. The way her clammy skin clung to his, the difference between her hand on his bare back and her hand on Dahl’s—there was no mistaking something had changed in Lorcan. She started to ask him—again—what had happened, but she stopped herself. He didn’t need to know she was worried about him.

You should be more worried about him, she thought and she wished Mehen were with them. While Lorcan had gone to make the necessary preparations to collect Adastreia, Farideh had donned her armor, belted her sword, and gone to find Mehen, to tell him she was going to go after the other heirs. To ask if he would come along—at least that had been her plan. She knew well enough she shouldn’t be alone with Lorcan, that she needed allies, that she needed her father with her.

But then she imagined a tiefling, a Brimstone Angel, with her eyes or hair or nose. Someone wicked enough to collude with Bryseis Kakistos, wicked enough to leave two newborn babies in the snow and never once be sure of their safety. How many horrible things might she say? How many cruelties would she sling at Mehen? And Farideh would have to ask him to stand there, to listen to all of it and say nothing, do nothing.

She couldn’t ask that of Mehen. She left a note instead.

Following Lorcan through another protective barrier and into the crack in the cliff face, Farideh hoped Mehen would understand. There was so little of this she could protect him from—this one moment of unfair restraint seemed a minor gift.

A grinding sound—two humanlike bodies peeled themselves from living rock, falling into step behind Farideh and Lorcan as the crack widened into a cavern, the cavern smoothed into an entrance hall, lit by hanging balls of light. Intricate chiseled patterns laced the polished stonework as they climbed a short flight of stairs, and another stone golem  broke away from a column, leading the way down into the hillside.

“Don’t talk unless I say so,” Lorcan told her. “There’s an order to this. Kulaga will need assurances that we’re not threatening him, that I don’t want Adastreia’s pact. A lot of posturing, a lot of sparring. Don’t tell him why we’re really here. And put away your rod before someone thinks you’re getting ideas.”

“What are you going to tell him we’re here for?” Farideh asked as they entered a long, rectangular room, its walls dominated by impossible windows of frosted glass. Sunlight that could not have possibly come from this deep in the ground, lit the space illumining the woman sitting at the far end of the room, and the ebon-skinned devil behind her.

Here was the source of their purplish-black hair—though Adastreia’s was streaked with silver as bright as her eyes. Here were their swept back horns, dark and neat. She could see Havilar’s mouth and the shape of her chin, but the rest of Adastreia’s face was softer, her nose a tidy line. She was paler, Farideh thought as she came closer, and shorter too—she would have come just to Farideh’s shoulder, slim as a whip in her crimson gown, her necklace of fine stones. In that moment, by the features she lacked, Farideh imagined she could picture what her father looked like.

Mehen, she reminded herself. Mehen is your father. These are the people who abandoned you in the snow.

But a lump built in her throat anyway as the other tiefling regarded her coldly.

“Well met, Lorcan,” a sibilant voice said. “And Farideh, I believe? The secret Brimstone Angel?”

In her study of Adastreia, she’d neglected the devil Kulaga behind her, still as a statue. Two hands folded over his chest as if in contemplation—two more held halberd, long axes on poles. Kulaga’s skin was as dark as Lorcan’s eyes, his eyes as red as Lorcan’s skin, and a tongue tattooed with a sigil dangled from his mouth. Something about the rune made Farideh flinch. “We meet at last.”

“Well met, Kulaga,” Lorcan said, with a sort of half-bow that held an equal mix of fear and disdain. “How fares Cania?”

The logokron’s ruby eyes didn’t leave Farideh. “Do you ask for my sake, or for Archduke Mephistopheles’?”

“I’m not acquainted with His Highness,” Lorcan said. “So consider my question to you.”

Kulaga’s long tongue flicked, and Farideh tried not to gag. How did the devil speak around it? “That’s not quite how I’ve heard it—rumors suggest you’ve made yourself the special confidant of His Majesty. Perhaps even his spy and enforcer in Malbolge.”

“Lords of the Nine,” Lorcan said in a haughty way, “but people will repeat anything won’t they?”

“You’ve been seen talking to Shetai.”

“And now I’m talking to you,” Lorcan said. Farideh slipped the rod from her sleeve once more, the tatters of shadow smoke building along her skin. Kulaga didn’t move, and neither did Adastreia. She didn’t even blink.

“Lorcan,” she murmured.

“Because you want a proper Kakistos heir,” Kulaga finished. “Don’t deny it. You’ve never said how you found a Brimstone Angel the rest of us missed. How you kept her and yet lost all the rest of your collection. I find that curious.”

Lorcan smiled. “Have you said how you enticed your Kakistos heir? This isn’t something we talk about, so why begin?”

“Why indeed?” Kulaga said. “I hear another rumor—a rumor that this one isn’t what she seems. She was supposed to be a Chosen of Asmodeus by anyone’s tales. I hear, too, you’re saying all the Kakistos heirs were invested with such powers. As if mine is the false Brimstone Angel. All curious, very curious.”

Lorcan raised his eyebrows. “Perhaps I had bad information.”

“Perhaps you’re using Asmodeus’s temporary favor to get yourself a collection worth speaking of. Regardless, you have nothing I want.”

The Nine Hells prickled at the base of Farideh’s spine for an incongruous moment, as if she’d begun a spell, without doing any such thing—before the air around Kulaga snapped and three immense devils covered in thorns appeared. The two stone golems behind them moved forward, unarmed but for their massive granite fists.

“Shit and ashes!” Lorcan spat and drew his sword. “Kulaga, wait!”

Laesurach!” All instinct, Farideh pointed the rod and with it pulled the vent of lava into existence, making a barrier between them and the stone golems. The guardians stepped backward, considering the sudden fountain of molten rock. Farideh turned from them to the barbed devils rushing toward them. Lorcan’s sword met the first of them, slicing deeply into its spiny shoulder. The devil threw itself into the strike though, and the barbs caught Lorcan, piercing his forearm. He cried out.

Farideh turned a blast of flames on the barbed devil. Fire splashed across it’s thorny skin and it turned to regard her, as if she were flinging pebbles at it.

“This isn’t what you think!” she shouted.

A second barbed devil slashed at her with its claws, catching her armor and throwing her shoulder painfully back. She threw another bolt of fire and yanked hard on the powers of the Malbolge, opening a rent in the planes and stepping back through it to reappear on the other side of the room.

“You have always lacked foresight,” Kulaga chided. “Fire, fire, fire—what would Exalted Invadiah say about her feckless son imbuing his warlocks with such misdirected skills?” The logokron’s forward hands filled with dark shadows. “Oh, I suppose nothing. She’s rotted into the layer by now.”

Fire doesn’t hurt them, Farideh realized. She drew her sword, ducked under a ball of flame hurled from the nearer barbed devil’s hand. The fire bolt, the rain of brimstone, the blast of eldritch energy—only the last wouldn’t count as fire. One of the stone golems had sunk to its knee in the lava. The other made its way around the still burning patch of stone.

Adaestuo!” she shouted flinging a burst of energy toward the golem. Retreating, Lorcan parried his barbed devil’s claws on his silvery sword, both spattered in black blood Farideh didn’t stop to assess the source of. She held the rod parallel to the ground, perfectly still even as the barbed devils stalked toward her.

I’m sorry, she thought.

“Chaanaris!” she hissed, yanking the rod up. The floor seemed to boil, as spectral hands reached up through the polished stone. The hungry souls of the Nine Hells grasped at the barbed devils, trying to pull them back into the Hells, trying to draw energy out of them, the souls they once possessed. The spirits yanked one of the barbed devils coming for Farideh off its feet, pulling it flat against the ground and screaming. More clutched at the other barbed devils—none touched the golems as the made their stomping way through the lava.

Suddenly Lorcan cried out. Two of the souls had ahold of him. He slashed at their ghostly hands as they pulled, dark red energy flowing out of him and into them. Farideh yanked on the powers of the Hells again, tearing the fabric of the planes again so that she landed lightly beside Lorcan.

A hand brushed her calf, an unholy cold spreading up through her body as it did. But Farideh gritted her teeth, grabbing hold of Lorcan’s arms and tearing the planes once more, to pull him through and land, dizzy and off-balance, out of the reach of the grasping spirits. Lorcan stumbled as she landed, one leg buckling under him as he collapsed to the floor.

“Well, well,” Kulaga said. “The little fraud can fight.” He raised his hands as if to hurl the balls of shadows at her. “So let’s make this a fight worth counting.”

“Stop!” Farideh shouted. “I want to talk to my mother!”

That gave Kulaga pause. Beside him Adastreia Tyrianicus regarded Farideh, unmoving.

“Your life may be in danger,” Farideh said to her. “So please, it’s not what you think.”

“Clearly.” Kulaga let one of the spells collapse, holding up the other forward hand in a fist. The barbed devils, climbing to their feet as the hungry souls faded back through the planes, held their positions. “When did you get yourself a daughter, my dear?” he called out.

The tiefling beside him wavered like a reflection in a pool, then vanished without so much as a sound.

“I don’t have a daughter,” a woman’s voice said. “She’s lying.”

 

Want to read the rest? Pre-order The Devil You Know from your favorite bookstore or check back here soon for information on the esigning!

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I Seize

(CW: Sick babies)

It starts with a click. A sound so small it doesn’t seem like it matters, except when his face starts to turn pink. Then a twitch—the right eyebrow shivering, then later the eyelid, winking and wincing to the rhythm of that click in the back of his throat. The jaw joins in, as if toothless, he’s trying to chew off his tongue. His heart races. His face turns purple. Then his arm, his hand gripping my finger with that preternatural strength all babies have, starts jerking in time to that horrible click.

*

In Greek, it means “I seize,” and they called it the sacred disease, a sign of the divine. In Babylon, as in most places, it was demonic. You could return an epileptic slave as “defective” according to Hammurabi.  In England they called it “falling sickness.” A hundred years ago, epilepsy would land you in an asylum. My baby would be in so much trouble, without the hospital that’s making me feel as if my whole nervous system is cycling on and off in a panic attack that will last a whole week. I remind myself of this nonstop, as more doctors and residents and nurses and technicians than I can count pass through the room: you are so fucking lucky to be right here right now.

*

Nobody can agree if these are seizures. Sometimes they seem like they must be. Sometimes they seem totally different. We have to do a chest x-ray. We have to do a CT-scan. He’s two months old and I will do whatever it takes, but for fuck’s sake, someone tell me what we’re looking for? They do, kindly, carefully, and I can’t focus. Someone gives him an IV and it misses and his whole arm swells up purple and he’s screaming. The heart monitor keeps beeping wildly, until the nurses just seem to accept it with a cautious eye. Finally (finally) they do an EEG and confirm: multiple focal seizures.

*

Even now, two months later, when I write this, I want to cry. I want to vomit.

*

There are approximately a bajillion reasons for seizures. I have been told most of them. Some are scary, some are concerning, some are kind of mundane. There are brain injuries (that’s what the CT scan was for; negative). There are structural abnormalities (that’s what the MRI was for; negative). There are viruses (multiple swabs of nose, throat, eyes, diaper area, plus lumbar puncture, plus antivirals to be safe; negative) and bacteria (same, plus antibiotics; negative). There are metabolic disorders (another lumbar puncture, more blood; negative). There are genetic disorders (blood, another lumbar puncture that didn’t work; negative).  There are developmental disorders that might be one of these or another I don’t know they all blur together in a swamp of panic and needles and kind nurses and being sent off to get coffee so I won’t faint.

People faint a lot, they tell me, when someone sticks a needle in their baby’s back. Makes sense.

*

(The reasons they won’t tell me, I try to Google. I find one answer so indescribably terrifying I immediately throw up and almost can’t stand back up. It takes me a day to confess this to the neurologist, the one I like and am by then starting to trust, and I only do it because she insists. Negative–oh, God, negative, and she promises not to hide it from me if they know anything like that.)

*

They glue wires to his head—the fumes smell like a nail parlor, the kind with mannequin hands sporting fanciful acrylics in the window. They have to monitor him for days to watch the medicine take effect. Or not take effect. We’ll see. In the meantime, I can’t hold him. And he can’t nurse—he can’t even eat. He might throw up, he might aspirate, he might, he might…

*

The hardest part (aside from needles) is the fact that no one can give you answers. Even knowing he has seizures, it might be something minor (they don’t say this with a lot of enthusiasm). It might be something lifelong and serious (they say this quickly so you don’t dwell). They have to do tests and they might not find the answer. You might never know. Even if it stops, you might never know if it’s coming back.

I start to realize that this is really the terrifying part of being a parent: Ultimately, you cannot protect them. At any moment, I could lose them.

*

I refill my clonazepam prescription.

*

I write a lot about parenthood. (I think sometimes that people don’t notice because they get distracted by the fact that people also have sex in my books and this is something everyone seems to get het up about.) I write a lot about that part of parenthood where you have to let your children go off and make their own mistakes and their own lives, even if it scares you. The point where your family becomes your “family of origin.” It started, if I’m honest, as a way to wrap my head around doing this with my own parents, the push and pull of trying to escape into adulthood that honest to god felt as if it took until I had my own children to settle.

I feel like I get it—I can certainly imagine it. The thought of my own little sons deciding to move across the country or across the world leaves a knot in my stomach even as I know that I’d want them to have adventures. When they’re older. Like twenty-five. Or you know, thirty-five.

But buried in this, I see now, is the truth that being a parent means more than accepting you don’t have control over your kids—you don’t really have control over anything. And you can’t let them know that too quickly.

*

My older son is four. I tell him his brother’s in the hospital because the parts of his brain aren’t taking turns with each other. They’re shouting out of order, and the doctors have to figure out how to make them take turns again. He can’t visit because his brother’s on a floor with other kids who are very, very sick, and any germs he might have would be really bad for them. He tells me that he wishes he were a doctor, so he could touch his baby brother’s hand.

*

The grease pen they use to mark where the leads go is bright red, the same color of my baby’s blood in the endless samples. “Why do you use that?” I ask. “It looks ghoulish. Don’t they make green or purple or black?” The technician agrees—it looks terrible. But she doesn’t have a reason. I tell her that the editors I know—the ones that still work on hard copy—have switched to other colors of ink because red has become kind of traumatic to writers. I don’t know if it helps. Maybe we just end up scarred by green.

*

I have a book due in two weeks. I know there’s no chance of an extension—my publisher’s made that very clear. I finish it, or it goes away. I write the same scene for almost this whole week. It’s dead, the emptiest thing I’ve ever written. I don’t have enough empathy in me to pretend to be a selfish cambion. On the third try, I change the viewpoint to the main character’s father, and it’s hard not to let my fear bleed all over the page. I want to throw out everything I’ve already written: I feel like I know things now I didn’t before. I feel like everything else is pointless.

But if I do that, this book will be abandoned. Someday I’ll care more about that. I’ll care a lot. And here, only here, can I control what’s happening.

*

There’s a baby next door that gets morphine in her bottle. There’s a boy down the hall who had to be intubated as I walked by, off to feed myself hospital food. I hear the nurse calling his parents, He’s not doing well. You need to come down here. As much as I’m scared for my baby, I’m terrified for these babies, but I ask every day when we can leave.

*

Enough phenobarbital and he stops having seizures. He finishes the antivirals, the antibiotics. He goes long enough and I plead hard enough that they let him eat again, let me nurse him. He kicks the second port in his foot right out and they opt to leave it out. I cling to every victory like someone’s going to steal it back, and I fight for everything in reach. We move to the regular floor. They start him on oral medication. They finally agree to let his brother visit. After a week, they make plans to let us go home.

*

The first night, I sleep with his medicine on the nightstand and I miss the heart monitor’s frantic, misplaced beeping. It’s a preposterous amount of medicine—it takes nearly five minutes to get it all into him—but the neurologists assure me that it’s only a moderate dose. We can go up if we need to. The next morning, he spits up bright pink, a mix of milk and red dyed syrup. I call and call and call, trying to figure out the messaging system. Apparently everyone else is calling too—it takes hours to hear back that it’s not a worry, but they’ll log it. He’ll probably keep doing that.

*

He starts smiling. He starts laughing. He kicks like a mule and swats at everything. He hates being on his stomach, but I make him stay any way I can. His neck was “too floppy” and if it’s because of the same something that makes him seize then I’m glad the neurologist spotted it, but I’m not going to let them do another lumbar puncture without making sure it’s not because he’s got a gigantic head and was lying on his back for a week straight. Sure enough, he figures out how to roll onto his back…then he figures out how to roll onto his belly, and decides it’s not so bad.

*

Every time he flinches, my heart stops. I can’t stop staring at his right eye.

*

Three months pass. There are no more seizures. He develops normally. He develops ahead of schedule. He likes the Keppra but he learns to push the phenobarbital out of his mouth with his tongue. The neurologist is so surprised and pleased at his smile and his giggle and his neck strength that she moves up his EEG from six months to the next day. It comes back normal.

I cry again and scream in the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office. It’s funny how the joy and sorrow can make nearly the same noise.

*

There’s still no reason. There’s still no answer. The hope is that there will never be an answer. This will be a terrifying thing that happened and we’ll never know why. This was the worst week of my life, and while it’s foolish to hope nothing will ever top it, at least I hope nothing tries for a long while.

 

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ASHES OF THE TYRANT Giveaway Winners!

Good afternoon, readers! The giveaway has ended, the names have been chosen. We drummed up 186 entries–which isn’t too shabby considering I’ve been otherwise occupied, everyone’s distracted by holidays, and Amazon tightened up their algorithms so you hardly see my Facebook reminders.

Lots of you love drow! Lots of you love tieflings! And lots of you brought up cool nonhuman races that I’d almost forgotten were so cool (special shoutout to the khephri entry. I wish I could find the picture of the year I dressed as one.)

That means there are four winners! Here are the entries that won a copy of Ashes of the Tyrant:

Mik Calow
As a player I like either dwarves (I get to be grumpy in a fun surrounding) or tieflings (especially dark pact warlocks – its all your fault 😉 ).

Grana
Looking forward to the new book!  I’ve got to say I’ve been playing tieflings since 3rd, and using (as a DM) tieflings since 2nd, and have been really happy to see an author really delve into their history and lore.  Such a fun class to RP!

Ken Hart
Favorite fantasy race: Redcaps. I love fey & fairie myths, and the redcaps are intriguing because they’re the opposite of what typically comes to mind when people think of fairies. They’re rude and murderous (they soak their hats in the blood of their dead foes? Whoa!), yet they are firmly established in the fey hierarchy, such as it is. I like them so much that I’ve inserted one in my WiP just because he raises the tension a bit — and allows for more snark in the dialogue.

And the grand prize winner of a full Brimstone Angels Saga set…

Michael Whaley
I’m torn between Ludo, the gigantic beast in Labyrinth, and Goblins. I know Ludo was  tortured  by goblins, but everyone has a Good and Bad side. . . right ?

 

Thank you all for participating! If you didn’t win, but still need a copy, don’t forget the e-signing is still on.

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