Fantastic Fables welcomes Michele Lang here today! The last novel in her Lady Lazarus trilogy, Rebel Angels, was released on March 12, 2013. She is here with a version of The Firebird as it applies to her alternate history urban fantasy trilogy.
The Firebird by Michele Lang
There once was a witch, a lonely girl and a brave, by the name of Magdalena Lazarus. She had the gift and the curse of summoning, and could recall her own soul from the dead. Over and over she returned from the dead, because she refused to stay dead no matter how earnestly her enemies wished her so.
She lived in the magical and terrible city of Budapest, in the magical and terrible year of 1939. Her people, besieged by both magical and human tyrants, resorted to magic, to dream, to portent and to miracle in order to survive. Magda, an orphan, had barely enough money to buy bread and pay rent. But live she must.
At the time this tale begins, Magda had not yet learned to die. She fought desperately to live, clung to life, because she did not know yet she could return from the dead. In order to live, she resorted to the dangerous job of assisting the dread vampire Count Bathory as he held court in the mezzanine of Café Istanbul, the café of vampires.
One night, after a long and arduous shift of guarding the Count with her magical wiles, Magda wearily walked home along Andrassy Avenue, utterly spent. Human beings did not ordinarily walk abroad in the dark of night – too many magical creatures, hungry creatures, hunted the night, even inside the Ring Road, but Magda was not an ordinary human being.
And besides, she did not have the extra money to hire a cab.
As she walked, half in a reverie, half in a suppressed panic, she heard quick, muffled footfalls behind her. Heart pounding, Magda increased her pace, and the footfalls quickened in turn. She whirled to face the hunter, knowing she did not have enough knowledge of her magical creed to turn aside a determined predator.
A vampire she could have fought, or at least assailed with the name of her employer, for she walked under Count Bathory’s protection. Even a werewolf might have been impressed enough with Bathory’s name to turn aside – but the moon was new, and no werewolf stalked this night.
But Bathory’s name could not protect her now. For the creature hunting her was a demoness, with long, red hair like Magda’s own, silvery skin and long, pointed claws and teeth. She was beautiful, she was terrifying. Magda looked into the creature’s eyes, and it was like looking into a warped mirror. All of her secret fears, desires, furies, and dreams looked back at her, reflected and distorted through the demoness’s gaze.
“Sister,” the creature crooned. “Come with me, into the sky. Fly free, of your servitude, of your humanity. Taste the sky, wild flight.”
Magda’s heart thrilled at the temptation of the demoness’s words. But her mind stayed cool, sharp, and merciless. “I have better things to do,” she said, her voice implacable.
The demoness took a step toward her, and Magda took a step back. The demoness’s smile widened, and Magda’s heart pounded so hard it hurt.
“Why do you sacrifice yourself on the altar of love? How stupid,” the demoness said.
The creature somehow knew Magda’s secret.
“Do you not know who you are? What you are?” the demoness continued.
Magda did not answer. She could not run – the demoness could easily overtake her. She could not conquer her with logic or words. Her secret love, protected from the street, must remain hidden at all costs.
Instead, Magda stood her ground. She felt the power of the earth beneath her feet, the pull of the new moon above her head.
And improbably, the heartbreakingly beautiful sound of birdsong cracked the night in two. A bright light all but blinded Magda, yet still she stood her ground. But the demoness, shrieking, bent to the ground. The bright light revealed the ugliness the demoness’s artifice had so carefully hidden.
“No!” the demoness cried. “Curse you, curse your magic and the light!”
But the curse shot wide of Magda, into the darkness, clear down to the Danube. The light grew even brighter, and the demoness fled from it into the night, cursing, wailing, moaning, until her lamentations faded away.
Magda turned in wonder to her savior. At first she thought it must be an angel, some kind of celestial being who had interposed itself between Magda and a fatal evil.
But it was no angel, but a bird of fire, a glorious crackling creature of flame. “Poor Magda,” the bird sang, over and over in the way of birdsong. “War is coming. You will see.”
The bird paused in its song, and Magda, voice hoarse, could barely speak. “Thank you for saving me, beautiful bird. Are you heaven sent?”
The bird hesitated, cocked its golden head. Finally it trilled, “You must hunt for the answer. I am Firebird. I portend a quest. You will learn to die in fire, and die again. Yet to live. Keep your eyes open, and listen for the word. ”
Before Magda could say anything else, the firebird leaped into the sky and gone, as the pink of dawn chased away the darkness.
Magda swallowed away her tears as she watched the firebird shoot into the dawn sky. A part of her heart already chased after it.
She forced herself to come back to earth, leave the demoness and the firebird to shoot across the sky. As she swiped the tears away from her cheeks, Magda noticed something shimmering at her feet.
It was a feather, all of gold.
A summons to a quest, and a pretty bauble to trade for bread.
Magda was grateful for both.
Michele Lang writes supernatural tales: the stories of witches, lawyers, goddesses, bankers, demons, and other magical creatures hidden in plain sight. Author of the LADY LAZARUS historical fantasy series, Michele’s most recent book in the series, REBEL ANGELS, released March 2013.
Michele is also a lawyer who has practiced the unholy craft of litigation in both New York and Connecticut. She returned to her native New York shortly before 9/11, and now lives in a small town on the North Shore of Long Island with her husband, her sons, and a rotating menagerie of cats, hermit crabs, and butterflies.
Want to read more from Michele Lang?
This giveaway is provided by Tor!
Three lucky reader’s will win the complete Lady Lazarus trilogy!
Available March 12, 2013 from Tor
About this Book:
Magda Lazarus has twice come back from the dead to fight the Nazis’ devastating conquest of Poland. To prevent the Holocaust her sister has seen in terrible visions, Magda will need the Heaven Sapphire, a gem powerful enough to defeat even the demon Asmodel. With the future of all Europe in the balance, Magda and her husband, the fallen angel Raziel, begin a perilous journey to the Caucasus, the resting place of the fabled stone.
Surrounded by Germans, Russians, and mistrustful Azerbaijani tribesmen, Magda must summon all her magic to withstand the predations of the deadly supernatural foes. But more dangerous yet is the power of the Sapphire itself, which could stop Hitler…or destroy Magda.
Rebel Angels, the climactic book of Michele Lang’s Lady Lazarus trilogy, filled with suspense, magic, and action, will have readers at the edge of their seats until the exciting conclusion.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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