The Chalice War: Cauldron

The Chalice War: Cauldron

David B. Coe

June 2023   $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-220-0

The Chalice War, Book 2

Our PriceUS$17.95
Save wishlist

An unsolved murder in the middle of downtown Sydney.
A deadly attack on the city's Sidhe community.

Sidhe sorcerer Riann Donovan has fled a tragic past in the U.S. and established herself in Sydney, Australia, as a photojournalist. Called to work a murder scene, she learns the victim is Sidhe and finds herself on the run from a swarm of demons and Fomhoire conjurers.

She turns for help to Carrie Pelsher — new in the city, not Sidhe but possessed of a mysterious affinity for magic.

Together they are drawn into a war as old as history itself, caught between forces ancient and deadly, all of them pursuing a treasure of unimaginable power. Failure would mean armageddon; success prolongs the conflict for another day.

Our world stands poised on the edge of a blade.

About the Author: David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels and as many short stories, spanning historical fiction, epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and the occasional media tie-in. His novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives with his family in the mountains of Appalachia.

"An engaging, emotional read that carves out a space of its own in reinterpretations of Irish mythology. I look forward to more!" --CE Murphy, author of The Walker Papers

"Coe balances wit and drama, [and] gives his female characters plenty of agency . . . This noir-tinged urban fantasy with real-feeling magic and multiple moral quandaries is highly recommended." --Publisher's Weekly on Shadow's Blade

To purchase from Amazon, click here.

To purchase from Barnes & Noble, click here.

To purchase from Google Play, click here.

To purchase from Kobo, click here.

Chapter 1
THE TRAIN HAD just pulled out of Redfern station when the first frisson of magic brushed across Sara’s skin. She shivered, tasting darkness in its touch.
Fomhoire. Here, in the middle of Sydney. Nearby and closing in, accompanied by . . . by what? Wight? Demon? Yes, demon. All this she read in that initial contact. More, she sensed the Fomhoire had already found her, was intent on her and closing the distance between them.
Sara stood, crossed to the nearest of the sliding doors, and stared out into the inky black of the railway tunnel, desperate for the light of the next station. Never had the distance between Redfern and Central felt so great. The train car rocked, and she grabbed hold of the steel pole beside her to keep from tumbling into the lap of a young businessman.
"Pardon me,” she whispered.
His gaze flicked to her. He answered with a nearly imperceptible nod and turned his attention back to the Herald.
Morning commuters crowded the CityRail trains and stations. Surely, Fomhoire assassins wouldn’t attack her here, in front of so many.
A small voice in her mind replied, Why not?
She wore work clothes, carried her briefcase, was on her way to her office in the Central Business District. Roger, her tabby, her conduit, was at home, safe in her flat, too far away to help her with spells. She was powerless, defenseless.
The train slowed—finally!—and the train guard announced their arrival at Central Station.
"Change here for Northern, Carlingford, North Shore, Cumberland. . . ”
The moment the doors opened, she pushed her way out, heedless of the men and women in front of her and those on the platform waiting to board. People shouted after her; a few muttered obscenities. She didn’t care. She hurried to the nearest stairway, one that would take her to the concourse. The magic followed, aimed like a weapon at her back.
By the time Sara reached the top of the stairs, she was breathing hard, sweating through the blouse she wore beneath her blazer. She switched her briefcase to the other hand, wiped her slick palm on her skirt.
She kept to the crowd, surrounding herself with people, using them as shields and searching frantically for anyone who might give off enough glow to let her defend herself.
How can there be Fomhoire in Sydney?
She and the others maintained a network, a web of magic. Like Sidhe in other parts of the world, they watched for portals and Fomhoire incursions from the Underrealm. As far as she knew, they had sensed nothing.
For decades, Sara and her fellow Sidhe had protected one another, warned one another. These last several years had been quiet, peaceful. She knew other Sidhe in countries far from Australia had battled Fomhoire recently. Harrowing reports had reached her from the States, from Europe and Africa and Asia. But here. . . . Relative peace had reigned for so long, she had grown comfortable, lax. Caution needed to be a routine, like exercise. And she had grown lazy. How many mornings had she left her flat without taking the simple precaution of warding herself? This morning had been no different from yesterday, from the day before, from the one before that. Except it was entirely different. And she might well die because of it.
She exited the gates, threaded her way through the throng in the concourse, hoping to lose her pursuers among the masses. She would exit the station onto Pitt Street and grab a taxi. That was her plan, anyway.
As she neared the doors at the west end of the concourse, she sensed more magic. Wights probably, but without Roger, she wouldn’t stand much chance against them, either. She slowed, halted. People flowed around her on either side, as if she were a stone in a stream.
Eddy Street then—the nearest exit.
After a single step in that direction she stopped again. More magic. They had her surrounded.
Another train perhaps. If she could return to the gates and get to a North Shore platform, or maybe the Illawarra line. . . .
A spell electrified the air and made the hairs on her neck stand on end. Sara could do nothing except brace herself for its impact.
Magic fell upon her an instant later, obliterating thought, will, consciousness. She couldn’t say if she remained standing or fell to the floor or ran in circles like some ridiculous child’s toy. Time was lost to her.
When next she became aware of her surroundings, she was still upright in the middle of Central Railway Station’s Grand Concourse. A woman stood before her radiating so much power Sara had to resist an urge to shield her eyes.
"Hello, Sara,” she said in a cool alto and an accent that would have convinced any native Aussie.
"Who are you?” Sara asked, surprised she could speak.
The woman smiled. She was beautiful, of course. The Fomhoire always were here in the Above, regardless of how they appeared in the demon realm. Pale-blue eyes, flawless olive skin, golden-brown hair that fell in a shimmering curtain to her shoulders. As brilliant and superficial as a Carnival mask. She wore jeans and a long-sleeved Sydney FC T-shirt—nothing that would have made her stand out in a crowd.
A second form hovered at her shoulder, as hideous as the woman was lovely, as ethereal as she was solid. It appeared to be little more than a cloud—shapeless, smoke grey, undulating. What might have been eyes shone dully from within the shadow, like stars partially obscured by a nighttime haze. Its lone substantial feature was a mouth at its very center, nearly round and armed with several rows of spiny teeth.
Two demons. One ghastly, the other lovely. Both deadly, no doubt.
None of the people passing by took note of them. Sara sensed that she, the Fomhoire, and the cloud demon were invisible to all.
Sara searched for the woman’s conduit but saw no animal, no bird, and no people loitering nearby. Could the demon be a magical source?
"You won’t harm me here,” she said, pitching her voice to carry and speaking with false conviction.
The woman cocked an eyebrow. "Won’t I?”
Before Sara could answer, the Fomhoire backhanded her across the cheek, her hand little more than a blur. Sara staggered back a step.
No one stopped to gape. No one so much as glanced at them.
"Misdirection spell,” the woman said, in a tone she might have used to discuss the latest change in the train schedule. "They can’t see us or hear us. They couldn’t care less what I do to you. They’ll never know if you survive this encounter or die by my hand.”
Sara took another step back.
The cloud dove at her, its jaws snapping with a sound like stones clacking together. She cowered, shielding herself with her briefcase.
"Don’t run,” the Fomhoire said. "You won’t get far, and it will be very bad for you. Very, very bad.”
"What do you want?” Sara asked, the words like motor oil in her mouth.
"Exactly what you think.”
"I don’t—”
Agony. Sara dropped to her knees, feeling as though she’d been gutted by a saw-toothed blade. She clutched at her stomach, briefcase forgotten, mouth open in a silent scream, eyes squeezed shut and streaming. She felt no blood; this was a magical attack. Knowing this did nothing to lessen the torment.
Commuters continued past them, oblivious.
The Fomhoire woman walked a tight circle around Sara, ten-centimeter heels clicking on the polished stone floor. "This will be easier for us both if you don’t lie to me.”
If Roger had been here, Sara would have turned her into a torch.
"Why don’t we begin with this: Where is it?”
Her gut still aflame, Sara could do nothing more than gasp.
"Oh, of course.”
As suddenly as it had come, the pain vanished. Sara dropped her head forward and pressed her brow on the cool stone.
Sara reached out with magic, searching for anyone, any creature she could use as source for a spell. She might have used the cloud demon, but she feared the Fomhoire would sense such an attempt. She needed to surprise the woman, and she would get only one chance. Besides, she and the Fomhoire were surrounded by Milesians; one of them had to be giving off some glow. Just for a single spell, just enough to get away.
The woman dug a toe into her side, and she toppled over.
"I asked if that was better?”
"Yes,” she rasped.
"Then get up.”
The shadow demon swooped closer.
Sara forced herself up, weathered a spell of dizziness. The woman continued to circle her. The cloud of evil and teeth hovered at Sara’s shoulder. She stared straight ahead, her gaze fixed on the clock at the eastern end of the concourse. Seven minutes before nine. She should have been exiting Wynyard station by now, making her way to the brokerage office on George Street. Instead, she would die here, at the hands of this Fomhoire beast, surrounded by unknowing strangers.
"Where is it? Where is the Cauldron?”
Her gaze darted in the woman’s direction. She couldn’t help herself. This was their worst nightmare realized. Not only had Fomhoire found their way to Sydney, they knew of the Cauldron. They knew it was here.
A smug smile tugged at the woman’s lips. "It’s close, isn’t it? In the city, perhaps?”
Sara said nothing.
New pain blossomed at Sara’s throat. She stiffened and hissed a breath through clenched teeth. This time she did feel blood, a warm trickle running down her neck and staining her collar.
"You will tell me, Sidhe, or you will die horribly.”
"You’re going to kill me anyway.”
"Yes. But death comes in many forms. I can kill you quickly, painlessly. Or I can set the Brollachan on you. I know it’s something of a cliché, but they really do prefer to feed on live prey. Not a pleasant way to die, or so I’m told.”
Sara cast a quick look at that shapeless form.
"It’s your choice,” the Fomhoire said, orbiting. "Your answers to my questions will determine your fate.” Her smile broadened. "Think of it as a game. A diversion before you go.”
A tear slid from Sara’s eye at the thought of those she would leave behind. Her mother, her sister, a handful of friends. She had lived a quiet life, one dictated as much by the exigencies of her magic and her people as by personal tastes. She might have traveled more. She had always wanted to see America and parts of the Middle East. But she had spent her youth in Ireland and Wales before moving here, called by duty and her hatred of the Fomhoire. Of creatures like this woman.
There were worse ways to live, even for one who had walked this earth for as long as she had. There were worse ways to die than defending those she loved and this world she cherished.
All of this occurred to her in a scintilla of a second, a single beat of her heart. The thoughts warmed her, brought a smile to her face, despite the tears.
The Fomhoire’s grin slipped.
And in that moment, Sara felt it. Power. Distant, but approaching. A human conduit, unbound, its strength neutral, balanced between the murky dark of Fomhoire and the radiance of Sidhe. Glow, ripe for the taking. She would have but one chance, and she couldn’t try yet. She needed the conduit to come closer.
"What are you smiling at?”
"You,” Sara said, emboldened by hope. "You think I fear death.”
"I know you do.”
She shook her head. She needed time, and that meant provoking the woman. A dangerous game, but as long as she could keep the Fomhoire casting spells herself, drawing upon her own conduit, she wouldn’t notice the glow of this other source.
"You know nothing. You’re a child, like all Fomhoire. You have power, and I’ll grant that you might have cunning as well. But you believe those qualities bring you wisdom, and you’re wrong. Your ignorance will be your undoing.”
"Where is the Cauldron?” the woman demanded, her studied charm forgotten.
Searing torment in Sara’s chest drove her to her knees once more. This time she did cry out, though doing so did her no good. No one heard. None of those around them paused to stare, much less help.
"If you kill me, you’ll be no better off than you were. You’ll have wasted your time and your magic, and you’ll have alerted others of my kind to your presence here in Sydney.”
"Where?” the Fomhoire shouted.
Drawing on strength she hadn’t known she possessed, Sara raised her head and smiled again. At the same time, she reached for that glow of power. She would have preferred to wait a few seconds more, but she didn’t believe she had much time left. She hoped arrogance and overconfidence had kept the Fomhoire from warding herself.
Sara lashed out with her spell. Hers were not the magics of a warrior. She couldn’t cast blade or impact spells. She would have relished the chance to crush the Fomhoire’s skull, but she couldn’t. She could throw flame, though. She could light the woman’s hair and clothes on fire. Which is exactly what she did.
The Fomhoire screamed like a wild thing and tore at her burning clothes. The Brollachan flew around them both, as if unsure of what to do.
Sara cast again, a second fire spell directed at the woman’s heart. It didn’t kill the Fomhoire instantly, as she’d hoped, but it added flame to flame, allowing Sara to believe for an instant that she might incapacitate the Fomhoire and escape.
But the woman was too strong, and Sara was no warrior. She didn’t possess the power necessary to kill a Fomhoire as strong as this one. And before she could throw another spell, the Fomhoire cast a spell of her own. A warding. Sara’s next conjuring had no effect.
A new spell fell upon her and she crumpled to the floor, her limbs useless, her will shattered, her ability to resist torn from her. What hope she had of an easy death withered.
"You will pay dearly for that, Sidhe!”
Already the Fomhoire had extinguished the fires. Her hair and the blackened tatters of her clothes continued to smolder.
With a snap of bone, pain exploded in Sara’s arm. The magic pinning her to the floor didn’t even allow her to scream.
"I’ll break every bone in your body. I’ll pull out your nails and take out your eyes. You’ll beg me to stop, to have done with it and kill you. And even after you’ve told me all I wish to know, I’ll let the Brollachan feed on your living form.”
She couldn’t move. She couldn’t fight back or flee or cry for help. And even if she could, none of it would have done her any good. Here, surrounded by thousands, she was as alone as she had ever been. But she was not helpless. She would not submit to this dark fate.
The Milesian conduit had passed them by, but a hint of glow lingered within Sara’s reach. She reached for it now, glimpsing a last path to salvation. Not an attack. Rather a way to spare herself.
One final fire spell.
She thought again of her ancient mother, held in her mind an image of the smiling face, the bright-blue eyes.
Forgive me!
She whispered the incantation in Gaelic, shaping each word with precision, unwilling to risk getting this spell wrong. Flames, aimed at her own heart.
"What are you doing?”
Sara tried to smile, hoping to confound her enemy. Small vengeance. She released the magic.
It hurt more than anything the Fomhoire had done to her. This reassured, soothed in a way.
We are strong still. You haven’t won yet!
Her back arched with the agony of her own casting. Even the woman’s magic couldn’t prevent it. Another small victory. As if such things could matter anymore.
The Fomhoire’s wail of frustration seemed to come from a great distance. Sara heard her shout something at the demon, felt an odd sensation in her midsection. The flame in her breast, however, had carried her beyond pain, beyond caring.
A last thought: Who will alert the others?
Darkness took her.

Please review these other products:


David B. Coe

October 2021 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-166-1

Our Price: US$14.95

click to see more


David B. Coe

February 2022 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-174-6

Radiants, Book 2

Our Price: US$15.95

click to see more

The Chalice War: Stone

David B. Coe

May 2023 $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-217-0

The Chalice War, Book 1

Our Price: US$17.95

click to see more