Prior Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert is the featured author for today’s second Boosting the Signal catchup post. If you enjoyed Shawna’s previous posts about her Ravensblood urban fantasy series–or better yet, if you enjoyed the previous books–then you’ll be pleased to see she’s come back with an excerpt from Book 3, Raven’s Heart, available now! And if you’ve read Book 1, you’ll be able to tell very quickly that Raven’s goal here ties right back to the events of that story. Because his goal is very simple: take down a very, very bad person.
From the Author: In this excerpt, William has just killed a clerk at Raven’s favorite bookstore, although it’s likely that the intended victim was the bookstore owner, Raven’s friend Josiah. Raven, together with his fiancé Cassandra and two Guardians, is trying to figure out who the next targets might be, and how they will ultimately deal with William.
It took Raven a moment to realize that Ramirez was asking for a list of his friends. Once, it would have taken a significant and believable threat of force before he allowed such an invasion of his privacy. Once, the list would have been either incredibly short, or non-existent.
“Cassandra, of course,” he said.
“Of course,” Ramirez agreed.
His tone said don’t treat me like an idiot. Despite the grimness of the conversation, Raven managed a half-smile.
“Sherlock,” he added after a moment’s thought. “But they are less likely to go after either of them, at least until they have run out of easier targets. The same goes for Ana. She taught William’s father a healthy dose of caution in the Mage Wars, and William will not have forgotten.”
Though in other respects, Ana would be a prime target, both as Cassandra’s aunt and as the person responsible for negotiating a pardon for Raven in exchange for his betrayal of William. The thought of Eric picking off the people close to him left him with a sick feeling deep in his gut.
“Other than that, it’s hard to say. It depends on how much William knows about my associates. He’s almost certainly the one behind this, with Eric just his trained attack dog. The fact that Josiah was the first targeted suggests that he is going after personal, not professional contacts, but he might not limit himself. I usually have dinner with Madeline Love at least once when she is performing in town.”
“Madeline Love?” Donovan asked.
“Opera singer,” Raven said. “Famous in the arts and culture community. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of her.”
“Stop baiting my partner.” Ramirez said it in the same tone one might use to request someone to stop leaving the door open as it caused a draft. “Anyone else? Chuckie?”
“Maybe. We’ve worked together a few times. And of course he was instrumental in helping me prove my innocence in the theft of the Ravensblood.”
“Of course.” Ramirez’s eyes darted away.
Raven had no interest in flogging the man for past crimes; Ramirez did a good enough job of it himself. “As to others, he might target other GII members of the Wing who worked with me last year. He thought a moment longer. “The MacLeans. I would worry about them more if they weren’t all in Australia. Neither Mick nor his boys are easy targets, not by a long shot, but I’m not sure William would know that. However, I doubt William and Eric are going to travel half-way around the world to prove their point.
“Then there are any number of agents of GII I’ve worked with. It might be easier to get the list from Sherlock than rely on my memory. Generally, I am more interested in solving the puzzle than paying attention to the people around me.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” Donovan sniped.
Raven merely smiled as though he had been complimented, deliberately baiting the man. “Then there’s the handful of agents from the pub nights Chuckie finally dragged me to.”
“Pub nights?” Ramirez raised an eyebrow, clearly amused.
“Yes, well.” Now it was his turn to look away. “There were only the two times. Three maybe. Because Chuckie insisted.”
And because he could not deny his debt to the annoyingly cheerful geek mage that Cassandra had somehow managed to end up with as a partner. And because Chuckie did grow on one, though Raven would die before he admitted it.
Ramirez barely stifled a chuckle. “I’m just trying to picture you in a pub. Doesn’t GII usually hang out at the Barley Mill?”
“Usually, yes. If I am to accompany them, however, I insist on the Blue Moon. Though both are, I understand, owned by the same brothers, the Blue Moon has a certain understated elegance that I find acceptable.”
Ramirez shook his head. “Corwyn Ravenscroft in a MacMenamin’s pub. Will wonders never cease.”
“I believe we are straying somewhat from the topic,” Raven said.
“Yes, right. I’ll get the list of agents who worked cases you consulted on from Sherlock. And I’m guessing that Chuckie has a better idea of who was at those pub nights. Just in case they do decide to go after your drinking buddies.”
Ramirez said the last phrase with particular relish. Raven suspected he would be hearing about this for a long time to come.
“The thing we need to do is find William and Eric,” Raven said. “Rather than sitting around twiddling our thumbs and wondering when they are going to strike next.”
“You have any ideas on how to do that, you just let me know,” Ramirez said.
“I doubt he’s had the time to build the strength and resources for a hidden sanctuary like he had before.” Raven said. “My guess is that he’s holed up somewhere in North Portland. If I only could have managed a clearer trace on Eric’s teleport.” He ground his teeth in frustration.
“I’ll get Chuckie doing a search for any homes in the area with ownership that might trace back to William or Eric Blanchard,” Cassandra said. “If the Archmage was clever enough to hide his ownership through holding companies and the like, I wouldn’t put it past William.”
“What I want to know,” Ramirez said, pinning Raven with his gaze, “is can you take him?”
Beside him, Donovan made a choked noise of protest.
“The man is too dangerous to hold.” Ramirez answered Donovan’s objection, but his eyes were still on Raven. “We both know it. I doubt anyone on the Joint Council is going to call for an inquiry if William winds up dead rather than in custody.”
Raven rather doubted it as well. The Pro Tem Archmage had been on the front lines during the Mage Wars and had seen up close and personal what a mage like William could do. Mother Crone, with her Craft practicality, would weigh the greater good over rhetoric and the Mundane President was justly terrified of what would happen to his community if William ever achieved the rule absolute that was his goal.
Or that had been his goal the last time around. He lacked the power base now to achieve such a goal; surely even William in his madness must see that. This time, he must be after pure revenge. Which might make him even more dangerous, since he had little left to lose.
Ramirez leaned forward, deadly serious now. “My question remains. Can you take him?”
On one hand, he had the Ravensblood. And William might still be badly weakened from their last encounter.
On the other hand, William had had several years to recover. And Raven had barely won the last time.
He gave them the only answer he could. “Gods, I hope so. For all our sakes.”