A thief, a lover and a toymaker; drawn together by fate, unlikely champions against a powerful and remorseless enemy. When not fighting each other, they must confront a powerful lord and end his plan to unleash global violence. No problem. But behind the scenes, the immortal trickster is manipulating men like puppets, changing history for his own amusement. And as an ancient plan is set into motion, the trio is faced with events they do not understand and may not survive.
Waves of Strength returned, holding a bucket of water, and in her other hand, a branding iron that glowed brighter than the lantern overhead.
“Whoa! Whoa!” Pierce shouted. “What the bloody hell are you doing with that?”
“You shot me in the ass, Landcross! I couldn’t sit properly for months.”
Despite himself, he snickered.
She took a step forward. Pierce’s lower back slammed into the crate when he jumped back.
“And I’ve apologized for that more times than I can count. Not to mention I did save the entire crew, including you and your husband, remember?”
“When you shot me, it felt like fire!” she exclaimed. “You burned and scarred me!”
There was only one way to make peace.
The burn would hurt like hell, but he’d dealt with pain before. At least he would see this one coming.
“Where? My arse?” he asked.
“Your chest. So I can see it.”
He nodded submissively and unbuttoned his shirt.
“Mind the chain, eh?”
Searing heat roasted his flesh and sizzled the skin over his heart. He screamed while she howled with satisfaction.
When the terrible brand finally lifted, he collapsed to his knees. His first instinct was to put his hand over the wound, but the raw, burning flesh wouldn’t allow any contact.
He raised his chin to her, tears and sweat rolling down his face.
“Are we even?” he hissed through clenched teeth.
She plunged the brand into the bucket of water, which hissed and steamed.
“Oui, we are even.”
Interviewer: Today I’m here with my guest at . . . at . . . well, to tell the truth, I’m not sure where we are. I was blindfolded at the meeting spot and brought here to these woods.
Pierce: Aye. It’s the safest location I could think of for the likes of me. Given my reputation, that is.
Interviewer: I understand. Just allow me to replace the record on my phonautograph, and we’ll get started. There. Done. Just speak into the cone and the vibrations of your voice will cause the stylus to etch a recording on the lampblack paper.
Pierce: I’m familiar with how phonautographs work. My old mate, Indigo Peachtree, has an older one. His isn’t as fancy as this new 1843 model, but it works just the same.
Interviewer: Indigo Peachtree? He’s the famous toymaker, right? The one who creates automatons toys here in England?
Pierce: One and the same, darling.
Interviewer: We’ll come back to him in a moment. First, tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
Pierce: Erm. S’pose I ought to start with my name, eh? My name is Pierce Landcross. I’m twenty-seven and all-around troublemaker. My life is pretty much a nonstop adventure that seems never-ending. But I’ve met some interesting people throughout my journeys, as well as made a handful of dangerous enemies. I know I was born in England, but I’m not sure where exactly. You see, my folks were Gypsies who wandered about constantly. I never had the chance to ask where my birthplace is. As youngsters, my older brother, Joaquin, and me got separated from the troupe when the Gypsies were run out of Abney Park in London while Joaquin and me were exploring the cemetery. When we returned, there was a strange woman there with violet eyes who told officers that we stole from her. Which we didn’t, mind you, but regardless, we were hauled away to an orphanage and put to work in a cotton mill factory.
Interviewer: That’s terrible.
Pierce: *Shrugs* Could’ve been worse.
Interviewer: Where is your brother now?
Pierce: Dunno, love. Him and I had a falling out some years back.
Interviewer: Oh? What happened?
Pierce: He tried to kill me.
Pierce: Not to sound rude, but could we move this along? I have a bad feeling all of a sudden.
Interviewer: Of course. I also understand that you’re also an outlaw. In fact, you’ve even been dubbed the most infamous thief in Great Britain.
Pierce: Aye, sounds ’bout right, considering I tried stealing from Queen Victoria inside her palace. Hence the secret location, eh?
Interviewer: What is the biggest challenge you face in the story?
Pierce: Staying alive, mostly. In truth, I feel cursed. It seems that every time I bloody well peek my head out for a single moment, something happens, and I wind up in another life-threatening adventure.
Interviewer: You’re in the middle of your own story, it seems, but some who have read the first couple of novels have called you, quote, “The highlight of this book with his debonair wit and glittering cleverness. A fabulous character. Flawed yet a compassionate thief." And one critic even said, quote, “Landcross I always adored. And with each chapter, I loved him more and more. He was just charming as hell. My heart was all a flutter.” And another stated, “I loved Pierce. He is hands down my favorite character in this book. I know that he is supposed to be a criminal and a thief, but I cannot see him this way.” It looks like you’re the protagonist for a reason, wouldn’t you say?
Pierce: *Nervously clears his throat and rubs the back of his neck* I s’pose.
Interviewer: Going back to Indigo Peachtree, I heard he went missing for a spell.
Pierce: I wouldn’t say he went missing, more like he went into hiding. There’s this cocker, Tarquin Norwich, who was after the Toymaker.
Interviewer: How do you know this?
Pierce: ’Cause I was roped into finding him. After a major failed heist, I tried fleeing the country. I made it all the way to Le Havre, France, aiming to board a ship and escape the Royal guards that are still on my tail as we speak. And just as I was about to find a bloody vessel to escape on, I was snared by Tarquin’s son, Archie, and his little sister, Clover. They tried bringing me back across the Channel and hand me over to Tarquin. The bloke wanted me to tell him where Indigo’s journal was, you see. We never made it, though, ’cause I was rescued by my good mate, Chief Sea Wind, captain of his ship, the Ekta.
Interviewer: Captain Sea Wind? He and his crew are Apache sailors who call themselves Sea Warriors, right?
Pierce: Aye. That’s them. And believe me when I say it wasn’t the first time they’ve saved my skin, but that’s a story for another day. While that halfwit, Archie was taking me back to England, Clover informed me about how her father was hunting for Indigo. *Snorts* Clover is a clever little lass, dunno how she and Arch are related. After the Sea Warriors saved me, I made a bargain with Archie that if he helps me find Indigo before his dear ol’ dad does, I’d get him the journal.
Interviewer: That’s all really exciting. What’s next for you?
Pierce: After all that businesses with the Tarquin and Indigo is taken of, I’m off to the Netherlands, following a series of clues that’ll lead to an inheritance left to my family.
Interviewer: Is anyone joining you on this trip?
Pierce: Aye. Her name is Taisia Kuzentsov, a Russian lass who grew up performing in the circus before setting off on her own to explore Europe. Tai is very brave and can hold her own in the face of danger. She’s also a protector who has no quarrel about putting herself in harm’s way to keep her loved ones safe. I daresay she’s the one for me.
Interviewer: Tell us about the world you live in.
Pierce: My world is one heading steadfast into the next new cycle of human innovation. Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, there has been this strive to invent new gadgets and machinery by inventors known as Contributors. These sods are working their way up to the peak of this steam-powered age to reach the new era, The Age of the Machine. Whether it’ll actually occur or not is anyone’s guess, but I’ve seen a thing or two not to discredit that such a stage will come about.
Interviewer: What is all in store for you?
Pierce: A lot, apparently. My grandmother used to be a fortuneteller of sorts. She once told me each life has many paths that splinters off in different directions. No one can truly see into the actual future because the future is always changing. I dunno my whole story yet, but I can tell you it involves me dealing with the Hellfire Club in Scotland before sailing off to Sonora, Mexico with the Sea Warriors where I’ll be hunting for fugitives. Sometime after that, I’ll be breaking Chief Sea Wind and his crew out of jail in New Orleans, and then returning to England to face my most feared enemies.
Interviewer: That sounds incredible! What else can you tell us? What’s in Peachtree’s journal? Are you and Taisia going to end up together? What’s the reason for going to Scotland? Who are these fugitives you’ll be tracking? Why will the Sea Warriors get arrested, and who are these enemies you will face?
(Unknown voice): Over there! I see him!
Pierce: Bugger me! It’s the bloody guards! Listen, love, it was nice chattin’ with you. *Kisses my hand* Perhaps we can continue this another day? *Dashes off to his horse*
Interviewer: Wait! How do I get out of the forest? Oh, well. I suppose I can find my way. That was the charismatic Pierce Landcross, ladies and gentlemen. I must say he’s most certainly an interesting character. I truly hope to meet him again someday.
Michelle E. Lowe is the author of The Warning, Atlantic Pyramid, Cherished Thief, and the Legacy series. Children’s books, Poe’s Haunted House Tour, and The Hex Hunt series. Her works in progress is her next steampunk series, The Age of the Machine. Currently, she lives in Lake Forest, California with husband Ben, and their two daughters.
You can get your copy of Legacy on Amazon.