Short Stories

Powers of Detection

“The Price” (a Surreal story)
Powers of Detection: Tales of Mystery & Fantasy
edited by Dana Stabenow
Ace Books, October 2004 and December 2006
Still available in some ebook formats (May 2010)


Copyright © 2004 Anne Bishop. Used with permission.

“Well, shit, sugar. Someone had a party and didn't invite me.” And it was the kind of party I used to like. Nasty.

And yet, as I stood in the doorway, looking at what had been a nicely decorated sitting room, I felt edgy, uneasy. There's no law against murder among the Blood, and if I'd come upon a room like this when I lived in the Realm of Terreille, I wouldn't have thought twice about it. But in the Realm of Kaeleer, the Blood still live by the old ways, and the whole dance of Protocol and power usually works to keep confrontations from becoming fatal.

So what happened last night that ended with three men being hacked to pieces, resulting in a room now redecorated in a blood-and-gore motif?

And why did I think hacked? Using Craft and the power that makes the Blood who and what we are, a person could do just as much damage to a human body. But something in the room whispered to me that this was...not personal, exactly, but definitely a hands-on killing. There was a lingering sense of fury here, hatred here.

I know those feelings well, and my past contained rooms just as messy. But there was something else here that I almost recognized but couldn't quite name.

Of course, that could have been nothing more than annoyance with myself for being here at all. If I'd stayed home this morning, I would have been tucking into breakfast right now. But I'd gone for a walk and had ended up at this establishment because they serve a fine breakfast—and because this place was the closest thing to a Red Moon house in Kaeleer. So I'd come here to take a look at my past, which had contributed to my recently failed romance.

The Blood have a saying: Everything has a price. The price for my first attempt at a physical relationship with a man where money didn't change hands was a bruised heart. Funny how the heart gets bruised when someone tells you you're not what he wants—even when you already know he's not what you want either.

But there's nothing like a bit of slaughter to take a person's mind off her own problems.

Using Craft, I stepped up on air so that I was standing a handspan above the carpet. I walked into the room. Three male bodies were splattered over the carpet, the walls, the furniture, and the painted screen that turned one corner of the room into a private area. I assumed there were only three because I found three left hands—and I found other body parts in triplicate.

“Lady Surreal?”

As I turned toward the doorway, I lowered my right hand and called in my favorite stiletto, using Craft to keep it sight shielded so it wouldn't be obvious I had a weapon ready. A moment later, when I recognized the man in the doorway, I vanished the stiletto.

“Prince Rainier.”

Rainier was an Opal-Jeweled Warlord Prince from Dharo, another Territory in Kaeleer. I'd seen him a few weeks ago at a party here in Amdarh and, more recently, enjoyed dancing with him at a family wedding. I'd also noticed him in the dining room this morning, reading a book while he ate breakfast. A fine-looking man with a dancer's build, fair skin, dreamy green eyes, and a mane of brown hair, he stood out in Dhemlan's capital city where the residents had the common coloring of light-brown skin, black hair, and gold eyes. Which was, actually, the common coloring of all three of the long-lived races.

Being half-Hayllian, I had the black hair and light-brown skin, but my eyes were gold-green and my ears came to delicate points—the legacy of my mother's people. I was also a Gray-Jeweled witch, so my power was darker and deeper than his. That didn't mean I could afford to be careless. Warlord Princes were natural predators and also very protective. That should have been a contradiction, but it wasn't; it just made them extremely lethal.

Back Cover Copy for Powers of Detection:

This one-of-a-kind collection features stories from some of the biggest names in mystery and fantasy — blending the genres into a unique hybrid where PIs may wear wizard's robes and criminals may really be monsters.

Sit in on a modern-day witch's trial, visit the halls of a magical boarding school with murder on the curriculum, spend some time with Sookie Stackhouse, visit London's hidden world of the Nightside, and become spellbound with eight more tales of magical mystery.

Contributors include:

Michael Armstrong
Donna Andrews
Anne Bishop
Jay Caselberg
Mike Doogan
Laura Anne Gilman
Simon R. Green
Charlaine Harris
Anne Perry
Sharon Shinn
Dana Stabenow
John Straley

The Queen's PriceThe Queen's Price, in paperback February 2024