This week’s feature has the distinction of being the first Precinct novel published exclusively by eSpec Books. Fortunately, it will not be the last, as it was originally intended to be. We present to you Mermaid Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido, book five in the Dragon Precinct Series. Currently there are five novels and one short story collection, but more of each are planned. This series has been described as “Dungeons and Dragnet” by one reviewer and “JAG meets Lord of the Rings” by another. In either case, you get the idea. These are fantasy police procedural fun.
An early autumn breeze tickled Lieutenant Danthres Tresyllione’s blonde hair as she stood impatiently on Albin Way wishing Lord Doval would hurry up and finish his speech.
As he’d only just started talking, Danthres was less than optimistic that its end would come any time soon.
“Today happens to be the first anniversary of my ascension to the lordship of this great city-state,” Doval was saying, standing in front of the entryway to the newest construction in Cliff’s End. “When I inherited the post following the death of my father, the great Lord Albin, I didn’t imagine the first year would be so very eventful.”
Danthres snorted. Next to her, Lieutenant Torin ban Wyvald, her partner in the Cliff’s End Castle Guard, glanced at her and smiled inside his thin red goatee. The breeze barely stirred his close-cropped red hair.
She whispered to him as Doval carried on, “Funny how he’s completely ignoring Blayk now.”
“Can you blame him?” Torin whispered back.
The reign of Doval’s older brother Blayk had begun with Albin’s death and ended with Blayk’s arrest and condemnation when it was revealed that he’d been responsible for his father’s death, as well as an attempt on the life of the king and queen. His reign had been barely a month long.
“No, but I can be annoyed, since we were the ones who found Blayk out and had him arrested.”
Doval was still droning on. “…at midwinter, the incorporation of the prison barge into the Castle Guard as Manticore Precinct, and most recently the expansion of the docks. Then, of course, there was the fire in Barlin. I must say that I am very proud of how this great city-state responded to the sudden influx of refugees from our sister city, resulting in, among other things, this grand new section of town, named after my great father.”
Again, Danthres snorted. Officially the neighborhood was called Albinton, but everyone had been calling it “New Barlin,” since it was made up almost entirely of refugees from there. The origin of the fire that had devastated the city-state located to the west of here was still a mystery, as it had somehow managed to work past the fire-suppression spells provided by the Brotherhood of Wizards. However, that was a problem for Barlin’s lord and lady and their people.
“The work done by the people of Cliff’s End in clearing this section of the Forest of Nimvale and in constructing the buildings and thoroughfares of Albinton is a testament to why this is truly the finest city-state in all of Flingaria.”
Danthres rolled her eyes. Looking around, she saw that all of her fellow lieutenants, as well as Captain Dru, looked just as uncomfortable as she felt.
Well, not quite all of her fellow lieutenants. Horran was conspicuously absent and would remain so—which made his lack of a replacement somewhat frustrating.
“Having said that,” Doval continued, “our expansion has not been without its—ah, growing pains.”
Dru let out a breath, but that was the closest anyone came to a groan. Danthres was grateful that at least nobody laughed at the awful joke.
“The riot during midsummer, the rampage of the so-called Gorvangin, and the general rise in crime since the establishment of Albinton, has forced us to expand the Castle Guard. Our recruitment drive has been quite the success, and today we officially open our newest branch: Phoenix Precinct!”
That prompted applause from the gathered crowd, which was mostly those selfsame new recruits, as well as a bunch of more experienced guards. Most of the latter were being assigned to this new precinct—they were all wearing the new phoenix crest on the chest of their leather armor. The new recruits had mostly been sent to Gryphon and Unicorn Precincts, which were the castle and the upper-class district, respectively. Those two precincts had the lightest duty—mostly it involved catering to the insane whims of the rich and tiresome—and Lord Doval, Sir Rommett (the member of the lord and lady’s court in charge of appropriations and such for the Castle Guard), and Captain Dru all agreed that it was best to put the new recruits there rather than in the new precinct. Phoenix was instead staffed by transfers from Dragon Precinct, the middle-class district; Goblin Precinct, the lower-class district; and Mermaid Precinct, the docklands.
A guard in a green cloak stepped toward the front as Doval waited for the applause to die down. Danthres tried not to snarl. “I still can’t believe they promoted that shitbrain,” she muttered.
Again, Torin smiled at her discomfort. “He did save young Dal Wint during midsummer.”
“Which is the first useful thing he’s done in fourteen years on the job.”
“And now,” Doval said, “may I present the officer in charge of the day shift at Phoenix Precinct, Sergeant Rik Slaney!”
Slaney waved to the crowd, with the same stupid smile he’d had on his face when he’d left Danthres to subdue a troll all by herself, back when they both served together in Goblin Precinct twelve years previous. He’d had a mostly uneventful career, working first in Goblin, then Dragon Precinct. It was serving there during midsummer that he saved the life of the son of the construction ministers, Sir and Madam Wint. Given all the new buildings and roads going up all around the demesne, the Wints had become two of the most influential and powerful members of the court. Slaney’s promotion to sergeant was inevitable.
Doval went on: “He will be joined by Sergeant Ander Kaplan, who will be taking the night shift. He’s home in bed right now, of course, resting up for his first shift this evening. Sergeant Slaney, please say a few words.”
The smile fell from Slaney’s face, and a look of abject fear spread across his features. That change was proportional to Danthres’s own improvement in mood, as she went from annoyance at Slaney’s promotion to total glee at how scared and helpless he suddenly looked at the thought of speaking in front of all these people.
“Well, uh, I mean—” Slaney swallowed. “I ain’t much for, uh, for public speakin’, really, but, uh—well, I guess I just wanna say ’at ’s’an honor to, uh, t’be in charge’a this, well, this new, um, precinct, and I’m ’opin’, um, this’ll mean, y’know, that New Barlin’ll be, um, safer and, ah, sounder, like, y’know?”
Doval visibly winced at Slaney’s use of “New Barlin,” which gave Danthres even more joy.
From the other side of her, Lieutenant Manfred whispered to her, “Roll call’s gonna be a nightmare if that’s how he talks to the troops.”
Danthres chuckled. “And that’s one of his more lucid speeches.”
“Tell me about it—I had to work with him in Dragon, back in the day.”
Captain Dru shot them both a look and put a finger to his lips.
“Er, well, thank you, Sergeant.” Doval had obviously been expecting a longer speech. “Without further ado—guards of Phoenix Precinct, consider your first day shift to have officially begun!”
Keith R.A. DeCandido is a white male in his late forties, approximately two hundred pounds. He was last seen in the wilds of the Bronx, New York City, though he is often sighted in other locales. Usually he is armed with a laptop computer, which some have classified as a deadly weapon. Through use of this laptop, he has inflicted more than fifty novels, as well as an indeterminate number of comic books, nonfiction, novellas, and works of short fiction on an unsuspecting reading public. Many of these are set in the milieus of television shows, games, movies, and comic books, among them Star Trek, Alien, Cars, Summoners War, Doctor Who, Supernatural, World of Warcraft, Marvel Comics, and many more.
We have received information confirming that more stories involving Danthres, Torin, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Phoenix Precinct and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collections Tales from Dragon Precinct and the forthcoming More Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include A Furnace Sealed, the debut of a new urban fantasy series taking place in DeCandido’s native Bronx; the Alien novel Isolation; the Marvel’s Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels starring Marvel’s versions of Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, TV Gods: Summer Programming, X-Files: Trust No One, Nights of the Living Dead, the award-winning Planned Parenthood benefit anthology Mine!, the two Baker Street Irregulars anthologies, and Release the Virgins!; and articles about pop culture for Tor.com and on his own Patreon.
If you see DeCandido, do not approach him, but call for backup immediately. He is often seen in the company of a suspicious-looking woman who goes by the street name of “Wrenn,” as well as several as-yet-unidentified cats. A full dossier can be found at DeCandido.net