We’re hosting an excerpt from “Deltan Skies”, a fantasy novel currently on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. Enjoy reading!
Read The Excerpt
Quintanelle arrived at the Hightower lobby to find it filled with nervous-looking candidates. The only seat was next to a Deltan elf in khakis and a button-down. This time, she instantly sat down.
The Deltan elf visibly ogled her and said, “What’s a hot mage like you doing interviewing here?”
She turned, glared at him and said, “Excuse me?”
The elf leaned back and said, “Why do you hate? Anwen only got love for the Teolian mamas.”
“Because ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been told you were all evil beings who should be wiped from the face of Terrall.” Quintanelle wasn’t going to tell him the real reason she was angry was because he was hitting on her, not to mention he was an idiot.
Anwen stiffened and his face turned purplish-red. “Never mind.”
A human female in a fashionable dress who was sitting on her other side leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, he hit on me too right before you walked in. That’s why you ended up sitting next to him.” Quintanelle chuckled as Anwen groaned. “I’m Contanza.”
Quintanelle introduced herself and Contanza replied, “Are you here because Mr. Jones approached you on the way out of Detective Deegan’s office?”
“I never made it to interview with Detective Deegan because I arrived just before 17:00.” Quintanelle debated telling Contanza about Alfonso’s late night visit, but decided against telling a complete stranger.
“You’re lucky. I interviewed and was shown the door after two minutes. Detective Deegan never said why. And I have a degree in forensics from NDU.” She rolled her eyes.
“I’ve seen many job listings looking for candidates with forensics degree,” Quintanelle said.
“I know. I have few job offers already.”
“Then why are you interviewing here?”
“Keeping my options open.” Contanza replied.
Quintanelle could not help noticing how similar Contanza looked to the Uthiran who worked with Alfonso in human form. They both had the same hair and piercing eyes. But being in New Delta for as long as she had, human still mostly looked alike.
Emmanuel walked into the lobby. “Thank you all for coming. If you follow me to our auditorium, I’ll begin our presentation.”
Emmanuel took a snaking route to the auditorium, giving a small tour. Hightower’s offices were located on the highest floor of Tower E-33, built in the shape of a step pyramid. Glass wrapped the entire exterior and frosted-glass interior walls let light in everywhere save the restrooms. The offices were populated with mostly administrative staff as the detectives were out working cases.
Quintanelle noticed something telling which Emmanuel did not mention and the rest of the applicants wouldn’t have a clue about. The furniture was made from Kifari wood, which could only be obtained from Kifari trees. They were native to the Forest of Illwyn and were illegal to log. Quintanelle knew this because Kifari wood had a distinctive red tint that was impossible to miss if one had seen it before. Unfortunately, it was way too late to alert her sister, a member of the Teolian Rangers, who protected the forest.
“This is not an interview,” Emmanuel said. “If you want to work for us, you can all walk out of here with a job.”
He stood at a podium at the bottom of the small auditorium. The fold-up seats were all soft leather. They were bathed by light from the glass walls in front and to one side. It was a cheery place, but Quintanelle didn’t feel cheerful. Contanza, sitting next to her, sat with her full attention on Emmanuel.
“I know we have at least one immigrant in the audience, so let me back up,” Emmanuel said. “New Delta is simply too big and the city’s budget too small for the New Delta Police Department and its various divisions to keep law and order. Private Detectives were the solution the city’s government devised. Private detectives have all the rights and responsibilities that the official police do. The only difference is that we are paid by the clients instead of the city. It’s a conflict of interest, sure, but it’s a necessary and profitable conflict of interest.”
Contanza’s hand went up.
“But none of us are private detectives,” she said.
Quintanelle saw a purple flash out of the corner of her eye. She turned to look but it was gone.
Emmanuel smiled. “I’m glad you brought that up. To be a licensed private detective, you must pass the Private Detective Licensing Exam.”
Sighs erupted across the room.
Emmanuelle put his hands on the podium. “The PDLE is widely considered the hardest exam ever created, with a ninety-five percent failure rate the first time, eighty-three the second, seventy-five the third. It is a grueling twelve-hour virtual reality exam that will test your abilities with a constantly-changing bank of ten thousand simulations covering a millennium of history. It took me three times to pass. Believe it or not, that’s better than the average number of four.”
There was a nervous silence.
“But there is a loophole, and it’s called the Assistant Private Detective. APDs were designed to help candidates pass the exam. They can do everything a licensed detective can do except close cases. That means that only cases reviewed and presented by a licensed detective to Legaltron are legally binding. If they aren’t, civil or criminal proceedings cannot be conducted. Plaintiffs cannot be sued and arrested criminals walk out the door.”
Purple flashed outside again and this time more people turned to look. Emmanuel didn’t notice.
Contanza’s hand went up again.
Emmanuelle sighed. “Yes?”
“Can’t that be exploited so literally anyone can have law enforcement powers?”
Emmanuelle nodded. “That’s why it’s considered a loophole to get around the PDLE. However, an APD must work under a practicing licensed detective. That detective is criminally liable for any illegal actions their APD commits.
“Moving on, while submitting to Legaltron is the preferred method of handling things, it’s a huge hassle. Legaltron is a computer! You have to present your cases in a certain format and even when you do, Legaltron could throw your case out on some technicality and order your payment be refunded to the client. We do things differently here at Hightower. We give the target of our investigation a choice. They can either pay up or they can try their luck with Legaltron. And trust me, we always make sure that the money we demand is a punishment in itself.”
It seemed odd to Quintanelle that Emmanuelle would freely admit to Hightower being an extortion racket, but considering his arrogant attitude, it was not very surprising.
Quintanelle stood and silently shuffled toward the door. Contanza was right behind her.
“You know you ladies are turning down six figures by leaving?” Emmanuel said.
They ignored him and swept out of the room.
“Well, now that everyone who hates money has left, let’s get down to specifics.”
“I think we’re lost,” Contanza said as they went down a dead-end hallway and ended up in yet another office with workers who shooed them off.
“I swore the lobby was this way.” They backtracked, went left instead of right, and came to the lobby.
They walked towards the lifts when Contanza stopped them. The walls were turning purple. Murmurs could be heard all over.
“We need to leave,” Quintanelle said.
“No, you’re safe with me.” Contanza gripped her hand, hard.
Quintanelle faced her. “Why—“
An epiphany went off in her head. Contanza had legitimate job offers, so working for an extortion racket didn’t make much sense. Then despite not knowing her, Contanza stuck by her since the moment she arrived, as if she was watching her.
“What aren’t you telling me? Did Mr. Deegan send you too? What is going on?”
Loud shrieking shook the walls.
“My name isn’t Contanza; she didn’t make it in this morning. My real name,” her brown eyes shimmered deep red as a primeval growl escaped her throat, “is Selkath.”
“You’re an Uthiran too!”
Selkath didn’t flinch. She looked beyond Quintanelle. “Have you ever dealt with the Avian Syndicate?”
Glass began to shatter. “What’s the Avian Syndicate?!”
Screams echoed as blood splattered against the walls. ”You’re about to find out!”
Selkath slammed Quintanelle to the floor and transformed into a Red Uthiran. She coiled her tail around Quintanelle as the lobby walls shattered. Several avians flew into the lobby.
Avians were five-foot tall purple birds with short, laterally-immobile arms attached to their upper torso. Quintanelle had seen pictures of avians and thought their arms were awkwardly placed. Now she was terrified of what those arms would do with the various blunt and edged weapons they wielded.
Selkath incinerated the avians with several short bursts of fire. She then swung Quintanelle onto her back as a familiar red Uthiran stormed past, chewing on an avian. Alfonso appeared behind him, blasting away with twin laser pistols. The last glass wall burst when an ogre smashed through batting one avian with another.
The remaining avians fled in all directions.
In what seemed to be only a minute or two, the fancy Hightower Detective Agency was nothing more than a blood-covered wasteland of glass, wood, and corpses, ruffled and tossed by the howling winds.
About Deltan Skies
Author: Noah Murphy
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
A young elven mage named Quintanelle Fillion flees from her totalitarian homeland to New Delta, a dense metropolis made up of hundreds of mile-high towers. She finds employment working for New Delta’s top private detective, a human named Alfonso Deegan, and his red dragon associate Mordridakon. Quintanelle’s first case thrusts her in the middle of New Delta’s own problems.
After millennia of oppression, members of the disenfranchised avian race have taken complete control of the criminal underworld, but what they want is the one thing they can’t steal. To achieve their goals, the avians’ charismatic leader enlists the help of a goblin shaman cast out from her own suffering people. Together they create a risky and daring plan that involves everyone from the city’s inept mayor and a corrupt city senator, to Quintanelle’s new boss and even her own family.
As their plan unfolds, a dark reality emerges. New Delta stands on the brink of total annihilation, and Quintanelle may be the only one who can stop it.
Noah Murphy grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland which features prominently in his writing. After graduating from Goucher College with a double major in philosophy and religion, he began a pet sitting service. In his spare time Noah volunteers at a not for profit parrot rescue. His love of animals provides inspiration for many of the anthropomorphic characters in his books.
Part of the generation just before autism awareness began, Noah was diagnosed at age 26. For him, a later diagnoses was a hidden blessing. Being forced to be “normal” gave him the skills and knowledge to publish and run a business. Autism also unhinges his mind, allowing him to approach situations and characters in strange new ways, and seriously enough to make them work.
An avid writer, Noah Murphy is the author of the fantasy novel Deltan Skies, and the superhero novel Ethereal Girls. He also enjoys sharing his opinions on life, literature and popular culture with his 29,000 followers on Twitter and on his blog.