Berkeley Blackfriars Book 1
by J. R. Mabry Genre: Urban Fantasy
An unhinged tycoon. A lodge of evil magicians. A plan to steal every child from the face of the earth…
When Kat Webber discovers her brother’s comatose body in the midst of a demonic ritual, she knew she was in over her head…
Fr. Richard Kinney is having a crappy week. He’s not at all sure he’s the best leader for the demon-hunting Berkeley Blackfriars, and his boyfriend has just broken up with him. But when a violent demon possesses one of the richest men in the world, Richard doesn’t have time for self-pity.
Kat and the Blackfriars discover their situations are entertwined—leading them to a lodge of black magicians who make every avocado in the world disappear. Their dark power growing, they eliminate every dog from existence.
Kat and the Blackfriars find themselves in a desperate race against time as the magicians try to eliminate their next target—every child on earth. To save the world’s next generation, Kat and the Berkeley Blackfriars will have to put themselves in the line of fire instead… The Kingdom is the first book in the Berkeley Blackfriars series. If you love supernatural suspense laced with humor and danger, you’ll love J.R. Mabry’s Berkeley Blackfriars’ books. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Preacher, The Dresden Files, and the Mercy Thompson series will thrill to this new paranormal fantasy adventure.
When the demon appeared, Randall Webber nearly jumped out of his skin. He was an experienced magickian, but the appearance of an infernal dignitary is never a commonplace event, and it shook him every time. He knew that if he stepped even momentarily outside the circle he had painstakingly burned onto his hardwood floor the demon would be at his throat, and in an instant would separate his soul from his body and devour it—or worse.
Webber mustered his courage and put on his best poker face. He was in control here, he told himself. He was the magickian. He called the shots. He commanded the hosts of Hell. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and upper lip and then put his hand in his back pocket to stop it from shaking.
The demon did not speak but appeared in the form of a dragon. It hovered as an image cast upon a small paper triangle about the size of Webber’s fist, set safely outside the circle on an end table. The dragon uncoiled its tail in slow motion, gold-flecked pupils staring straight into Webber’s own. Webber gulped and willed his voice not to waver as he spoke.
“Greetings, noble Articiphus, commander of many mighty hosts, Duke of Hell. I acknowledge thee and bid thee welcome. I command thee by the holy Tetragrammaton to assume thy human form and speak with me!” So far, so good, Webber thought. He was still in one piece; the demon was still constrained within the folded paper triangle, and he thought he had just given a flawless performance of a man in command of himself. He fought the urge to run through his mental checklist to make sure he had not forgotten anything. One missing link and the whole house of cards would come tumbling down and he would be demon chow. He fought the urge. He had been careful, and if he had missed anything it was too late now to do anything about it. Right now, he needed to focus.
The triangle shimmered, and a regal-looking gentleman hovered in it dressed in ermine and satin. One half of his face was serene, the other horribly scarred. A diadem sat upon his head, and his face bore a resentful scowl. Nobody likes to be told what to do, Randall thought, least of all a man of power—or a being of power. “Hail, Articiphus, Duke of—”
The demon interrupted him impatiently. “Cut the shit, Magickian. What do you want?”
Randall’s eyes widened. He pushed a lock of long brown hair out of his eyes and consciously straightened his perpetually stooped shoulders. He was expecting the typical exchange of ritual pleasantries, a ping-pong volley of testy manners conducted in Elizabethan English, but he had never summoned this particular spirit before. This one, apparently, had no time—or patience—for small talk. Very well, Randall thought, let’s just cut to the chase. “Is it true, noble Duke, that you have the power to remove souls and put them in other bodies?”
Whether the demon’s voice was audible or whether it merely resonated in his mind, Randall couldn’t tell. It had an odd quality about it as if Randall were wearing headphones. There was no resonance in the room, so it was hard to tell. He dismissed the thought as irrelevant and willed himself once more to focus. The words were clear, regardless of their source. The big question had just been asked. And for a demon in a hurry to be rid of this pest of a human, Articiphus was certainly taking his time replying.
The demon’s eyes narrowed, and he looked like he was trying to stare past the magickian. Randall stole a glance behind him, but there was nothing. Out the window he could see drizzle swirling around a streetlamp, forming wispy ghosts that, he prayed, were neither conscious nor malevolent. In this business, however, one could never be sure.
Randall shifted nervously, noting that the meat of his thigh seemed to have gone numb. He slapped it with the flat of his hand. “What say you, noble Duke?” he called, with a note of impatience.
“I. Can.” The demon let the two words drop like ice. He squinted at the magickian. “You want to share a body with another soul.” He spoke it as a statement, but a raised eyebrow indicated that it was more of a question of clarification.
“No. I want to trade bodies.”
Randall saw the demon nodding, understanding. “Man or woman?” he asked.
“Neither one,” Randall said. He forced all the air he could into his lungs, expanding them as far as they would go given the acrid sting of the incense that hung as thick in the air of the apartment as the fog outside. “The being I want to swap bodies with is…not human.”
The demon opened his mouth to speak but then closed it again, furrowing his brows instead.
“Oh yeah,” Randall added. “When I go, I need to take this with me.” And he held forth a purplish-green fruit.
“What are you going to do with an avocado?” asked the demon, now truly curious.
Suddenly, Webber was not nervous at all. He knew what he had to do, and he knew he had the means at hand to do it. He didn’t answer the demon but only smiled.
J.R. Mabry roams the earth like the ghost of Jacob Marley, searching for the perfect omelet pan. He writes thoughtful urban fantasy and science fiction. When not haunting high-end cooking stores, he lives with his wife and three dogs in Oakland, CA. He is allergic to coffee, tea, and alcohol, and for this reason the hills resound with his lamentation. He is also generally a cheery guy.
Check out the relaunch of The Kingdom, out now from Apocryphile Press. The relaunched The Power will be out next month, followed by the all-new The Glory—also known as the Berkeley Blackfriars series. The Berkeley Blackfriars aren’t your ordinary priests—they curse like longshoremen and aren’t above the occasional spliff or one-night-stand. But if you’ve got a nasty demon on your ass, they’re exactly the guys you want in your corner.
For a free short story in the Berkeley Blackfriars universe, download The Demon Bunny of Ipswich. For more on The Kingdom and the Berkeley Blackfriars, visit J.R. Mabry’s website at www.jrmabry.com.
Urban Fantasy is all about magick—magick that somehow leaks into and affects the normal daily lives of folks like us who live like we live. But, as with all fantasy literature, for a story to be compelling, it must contain a coherent theory of magick. In other words, the magick in a story can’t be willy-nilly—that’s not fair to us as readers. It must operate according to some kind of logic, however idiosyncratic. It has to be predictable, it has to have rules, we have to understand, at least on a superficial level, how it works.
In my Berkeley Blackfriars novels--The Kingdom, The Power and The Glory—I don’t need to invent a system of magick, because I’m using the real stuff. None of the magickal theory in the Blackfriars novels is made up, it’s the real deal. If you have ever studied Wicca or ceremonial magick or goetic magick, you’ll recognize many of the main elements of those magickal systems in the Blackfriars stories.
This is why I spell magick with a “k” at the end. Magic is made up. In a fiction story, it is the literary equivalent of stage magic—like a magic show, complete with card tricks and sawing a lady in half. Real magick, though, is spelled with a “k,” after the usage of Aleister Crowley, one of the most famous and influential real-world ceremonial magickians.
This kind of magick is not about illusions or card tricks. This is ceremonial magick. This kind of magick is about harnessing the corresponding energies latent in nature and in the human psyche in order to impose one’s will on the universe. Then there is goetic magick. “Goetia” is an ancient Greek word that originally meant “sorcery,” but has become associated specifically with the raising of demonic entities and coercing their activity. A goetic magickian will use magick to force a demon to do his will, often causing great havoc and destruction—both intended and unintended.
This is an inherently dangerous activity, because 1) demons are nasty, brutish, and powerful; 2) nobody likes to be told what to do or forced to do something they don’t want to do (especially demons); and 3) goetic “magickians” are often inexperienced dabblers who have absolutely no idea what they are doing, make stupid mistakes, and don’t understand why the demons they are trying to bend to their will take advantage of every possible opportunity to turn on them, eat them for lunch, and destroy their lives.
“Wait!” you say, “You’re talking about this as if it’s real! This is fantasy.” Well, it is and it isn’t. Fantastical things happen in the Blackfriars books, but every bit of it is grounded in real-world magickal theory. In other words, this shit is real.
So you might be asking, “Why do you know so much about this? Are you a magickian?” Uh…yes and no. There’s an awesome novel by Susanna Clarke called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, in which magick has gone underground in nineteenth-century England. No one practices it, but those who study it fancy themselves “theoretical magickians.”
Likewise, I study magick, but I do not practice it. The Blackfriars take the same approach. There is a difference between mysticism and magick. I have no problem with mysticism, but when you try to impose your will on the natural world—and on supernatural entities—you’re in a moral gray zone which can turn dark pretty quickly and easily.
My character Terry Milne practices Enochian magick, but the difference there is that Enochian magick is not coercive. It’s about asking angels, not telling demons. Big difference. Persuasion is good and moral, coercion is…well, problematic at best.
The best sort of magick influences the world by sending your thoughts and energies out into the universe with the intention of healing and doing good. Wicca works on this principle, and it’s why I treat Wicca more as a religion in the Blackfriars books than as a system of ceremonial magick. But it strikes me that writing is much the same.
When I sit down at the keyboard to write, I am sending out my thoughts and energies into the world, intending to do good. Good writing is healing, both for the writer and the reader. There’s real magick in this—good magick. Magick you don’t have to be afraid of, or even careful with. There’s no coercion there, only—if it’s skillful—persuasion.