A month ago today Echoes of Balance was released via REUTS Publishing. It’s crazy – it still seems so surreal that something I wrote is now being read by other people. I want to take a second to thank everyone at REUTS and everyone who posted a blog for the tour and just everyone generally, for being so supportive and amazing and for reading my work. This post is a day late because it’s really hard to be a writer who also works, especially in a high stress, busy job. But I still come home at the end of the day and power up Twitter and see some nice words and supportive folk and I so dig it. So that being said, y’all have earned yourselves some bonus content – lots of bonus content.
So with that being said, here is what Gregory Ducante was up to in the months preceding the events in Echoes:
Echoes of Ducante
From afar, Ducante knew the sleepy town of Molton didn’t look like much of an investment opportunity. It was, of course, why it suited his needs so perfectly. The real estate was relatively inexpensive, and the sleepy residents were all too eager to try something new. And then there was the more underground clientele that he banked on attracting.
A month after his new opening, he was pleased to see that his revenue stream was already solidly in the black: both monetarily and educationally. None of it was particularly newsworthy; roughly what he had expected from a small city and the range of powerful beings it could hold. That was what he had thought a month in.
One day later, however, and his opinions had changed.
He had all but forgotten the smell that invaded the town. It was rare in his big-city outposts, unheard of in other small town staples, all but banned from his Selvmar location. But here it was.
He expected it to pass quickly, and in that initial week, it did. It lingered, never close enough to his bar to feel threatening, and then vanished for another month.
And then it returned. This time, for longer. It left again – and then it returned, even longer, this time, and this faithful day, it stayed.
It still never came near his bar. It must have been young and undertrained, or perhaps it never expected to find someone like Ducante in such a mild mannered place. He imagined that it might be some of the draw of Molton for one of those. Overall, though, he tried not to focus on it. It stayed away, and focus only brought the sharp realization that the smell was not just recognizable:
It was familiar.
When the presence and stench that came with it began to linger in Molton on a more permanent basis, Ducante turned to his clientele. He was frustrated to find that they were particularly useless: they either had no idea, or they brought back vague stories of some sort of hunter. A witch, maybe, and a pretty one at that.
“Helpful,” Ducante growled sardonically, twitching a stack of papers behind the bar.
His staff, being especially standard and dramatically mediocre, were also of no help. It became something of a pet peeve, this distant presence that never came close enough for him to gather anything more but the tangy stench of raw power.
It became clear, eventually, that if he wanted to know more, he would have to do so himself. It was particularly unbecoming: he hadn’t needed this level of sneakery in years, and he much preferred his space behind the bar than one in the thick of things.
Ducante decided that he would investigate on a Thursday. The presence was always on the far side of town, the side near the old, overgrown forest, and he saw no reason why she wouldn’t be there – picking off rogues, no doubt – on that day, the same as any other.
But then, as he twitched more papers into neat stacks, he felt it. He smelled it. Closer, this time, in the city proper. He glanced around the bar, at his nervous bartender and his morose looking bouncer. It would make no difference, business wise, if he were to slip out.
And so he did, quickly out the back door.
The smell got stronger as he twisted around blocks and blocks. It seemed to be coming from the other side of a building through a narrow alley, which he ducked down quickly, clinging to the shadows like bed sheets on a cold night. He swathed himself in them careful as he crept closer, closer, the slight figure coming into view at the other mouth between the two buildings.
She had just finished her work, the work all his clientele had warned him about, and was carefully looking over the body of a felled vampire before her.
For a moment, Ducante felt a certain iciness settle over him. From afar, she looked the same. The same as the last time, all those years ago, but then… but then she turned, and no. She was different, she was new. She wiped her knife at her jeans mildly and he took it in: she was pretty, yes, but the eyes were different, and the hair. The nose, just slightly so.
“Interesting,” he murumured, sinking back into the shadows. “Very interesting.” The corner of his lips twisted up into a smile. “I look forward to meeting you, Naimei.”
And what else do we have…? Oh, a giveaway, you say? That sounds about right. And you’re sick of just getting a BOOK for your troubles? Alright, alright. I got you. This giveaway, ending February 1st, will net you a paperback copy of Echoes of Balance (can we give Ashley from REUTS some big ups for that cover?) and a hand drawn Mucha-esque portrait of Chloe. Drawn by moi. ‘Cause art school.