Heavy Metal Magic Book One
- A Falsetto of Fury
When Heavy Metal Meets Serious Magic, Get Ready for Some Monstrous Consequences.
Lottie Ferro lives her life by order and rules, but on stage it’s nothing but chaos.
While leading goth metal band The Furies on their first tour of the year, Lottie uses her band’s witchy theme to hide her magic in plain sight. As Lottie struggles to keep their manager, Trenton from sabotaging their careers, she starts to suspect she isn’t the only one who’s hiding something. Trenton discovers her secret and offers her an ultimatum: perform a ritual for him or get shut out of the industry forever. Lottie has no choice but to tell her bandmates the truth. Together, they agree to find a way to give him what he wants.
When the ritual goes wrong, it opens the door to bigger dangers than any of them are prepared for.
From author N.J. Ember and USAT Bestselling Author Amir Lane comes a story of music, magic, and mayhem.
Tropes: Band of Misfits, Book of Spells, Reluctant Hero
Word Count: 67000
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
The gods didn’t always have names or faces, but Lottie felt them everywhere. When she found the right lyrics for a verse, in the hum of a single chord vibrating through the air, in the harmony of perfect notes, when the bass rumbled through their bones and under their feet, Lottie felt the strings of the universe tying them together.
The closest Lottie ever felt to the divine was when she was playing, especially on stage. While the chanting crowds might have felt like a group of worshippers when her band played onstage, the truth was, they were just four more devotees to the sound.READ MORE
Chasing the elusive muse wasn’t without its challenges. There was a reason muses were said to breed madness, but Lottie always felt oddly at peace in the chaotic order of their music. Maybe the gods were fickle, or maybe they didn’t appreciate her offerings as much as she hoped they would, but one thing was certain: nothing short of divine intervention would make their drummer be on time.
It wasn’t an observation Lottie really needed to make. The conspicuous lack of Nadira Asfour behind the kit wasn’t exactly hard to miss.
“She’s always late,” Amara said.
Her fingers pressed soundlessly into the keyboard, and she hummed one of the many melodies that haunted Lottie’s dreams as if it didn’t even matter that their drummer was missing. The melody was the one Lottie was supposed to be rehearsing right now.
Amara was right, but it didn’t make Lottie feel any better. It was a well-known bit of irony that their drummer was chronically late. She was somehow physically incapable of being less than ten minutes behind to anything. If she wanted to be on time, she had to plan to be half an hour early. The only thing Nadira hadn’t been late to was their high school graduation, and only because Lottie’s parents had driven them.
At least Nadira had the foresight to set up her kit before running off to record tracks for whichever band she was doing sessions for this week.
Lottie checked her phone. There was nothing from their missing drummer. It made sense if she was still recording. The only unread messages were from her mom.
Can we come see you before you play?
Lottie tapped her thumbs against the screen. It was a welcome coincidence that her parents had a performance of their own in Seattle while she was here. The band normally left from their home of Salem, Oregon — not the cool one — but their headliner was from Seattle, and it was easier for all of them to leave from the same place since they were sharing a crew.
Yeah for sure. We’ll be at the venue soon. We’re at the studio right now.
They’d already done four hours of driving, and they’d be doing a lot more by the time this tour was over. The Furies were on first at seven, which meant they had to be at the venue no later than five to unpack their equipment, run a sound check, and warm up.
“We could start without her,” Brogan said.
The suggestion was light and optimistic, but Lottie shook her head.
“This is our last rehearsal. We have to do it properly.”
And that meant waiting for their drummer to show up. The absolute last thing Lottie wanted to do was throw their vibe off before they even started the tour. It was bad luck.
Lottie raised a hand to the pendant around her neck. The pentacle with crescent moons on either side was warm from her skin. There was an almost electrical hum running through it that helped settle some of Lottie’s nerves.
“She’s got to be done recording by now,” Amara said.
She pulled up the sleeve of her green sweater to look at the watch on the inside of her wrist and frowned.
The absent strumming of Brogan’s bass stopped as she straightened to her full height, which still put her a few inches shorter than Lottie. Her entire face lit up in a way reminiscent of a golden retriever catching sight of a tennis ball.
“Here she is!”
Brogan barely finished speaking when the door to the rehearsal room opened.
Lottie didn’t know how she did it. Brogan had some uncanny sixth sense for this sort of thing. If Lottie didn’t know any better, she might think Brogan was the empath she pretended to be as part of their act.
The thought almost made Lottie uneasy, even if she didn’t know why. Brogan wasn’t a witch. She should know.
Lottie turned and opened her mouth to chastise her almost-adopted sister, even though it would do no good, and stopped when she heard Nadira’s raspy drawl and saw her raised index.
“— you, ease up on the double bass and hit one of the bigger cymbals on every beat instead of just the offbeat. It’ll give it some more depth. Look, just tell Tommy to try it. If it sucks, he can go back to doing it the first way.”
As she spoke, Nadira unzipped and shrugged off her hoodie to reveal a black sports bra that covered part of the tree tattoo taking over the bulk of her chest and abdomen. She opened the bag holding her assortment of drumsticks and mallets. She wasted no time acknowledging her bandmates as she rushed past them to settle behind the kit. Lottie caught a whiff of sweat barely concealed by men’s deodorant as she walked past.
“Trust me on this one. Look, I gotta go rehearse. I’ll call you from the road. Yeah, you too.”
She pushed the button on the cord of her wireless earbuds and hung them around her neck. She rubbed the tree branches inked over her chest with a sigh. Her joints cracked as she stretched.
“Sorry. I swear, I finished those drum tracks for Killing January on time, but I got a call from Hale and I had to take it.”
Lottie and Nadira were the only full-time musicians in the band. When they weren’t touring, Brogan was a bike messenger and Amara worked at a daycare. Their music paid for itself, but it didn’t pay the bills. It was a sad fact that Nadira made most of her money drumming for other bands, and Lottie from the Salem symphony and teaching guitar and violin.
This tour would be the one to change all that. Lottie could feel it in her bones.
“You’re drumming for Emperor Immortal again?” Brogan asked.
She bounced on her toes a little, either from excitement or restlessness, or both.
“This was something else. I’m warmed up, so we can get started. From the top?”
It was good to see her back where she belonged. Her presence and perpetual nonchalant expression eased some of the unease tightening Lottie’s shoulders. She tried not to be overbearing where Nadira was concerned — they were both adults after all — but it was hard not to worry that her absences were because of a lapse into old habits. That didn’t appear to be the case now.
Lottie nodded. She ran her fingers up and down the neck of her guitar one last time to make sure they were warm enough, and took a drink of water.
“From the top.”
* * *
It was always surreal to see her band’s logo plastered on the side of an RV. Even though the van and trailer belonged to Strychnine Records, and The Furies logo was a decal that would come off at the end of the tour, it was theirs for the next seven weeks.
It never ceased to make Lottie giddy.
Even though they were on their third album and had done at least a dozen tours in the last six years, Lottie still couldn’t believe this was happening. She’d never thought that when they’d released their Furious EP, recorded in her parents’ home studio, that they would be opening for a band like Trial by Fire.
The only thing that could bring Lottie down was the sight of her manager.
So much for leaving without talking to him.
At least he was too busy badgering the singer of Trial by Fire to notice them yet. From the look on his face, he didn’t want to be talking to Trenton Woods any more than she did.
“Let’s get packed up while he’s distracted,” Lottie muttered.
Nadira nodded silently and started hauling equipment into the small trailer hitched to the RV. Even though it was the middle of January, she was still in nothing but her sports bra. It was like she physically rejected the cold just so she could maintain her aesthetic.
Which, Lottie had to admit, was pretty cool. Nadira was a gym rat, and it showed.
She handed Nadira the equipment as she asked for it. How Nadira always managed to fit everything in there was beyond Lottie. Every time she’d tried, it ended up being a mess.
The suitcases went in first, since they wouldn’t need them until after the show, then the equipment. Their travel bags with anything they would need immediately went in the van with them.
“Careful with that,” Nadira said.
Lottie crouched to pick up Nadira’s suitcase from the frozen ground. She wrapped her arms around it and nearly yelped at the pain that ran through her biceps as she struggled to lift it. Nadira took it from her, looking as undisturbed as ever, and shoved it into the back corner of the trailer, then picked up Brogan’s suitcase to put on top of it.
“What do you have in there? Weights?”
“Just the 15-pound ones. Pass me the... Never mind.”
Lottie stepped back to give Nadira space to pick up one of the bigger amps.
Almost every band The Furies had toured with got amps from the venues, including Trial by Fire. Amps were standard. Every band used the same ones.
Except for theirs.
There was one major difference about their amps.
Every single one of them was charmed.
Lottie had done them herself. It was part of their band’s theme, after all.
The Furies wasn’t every other goth metal band out there. It wasn’t just the fact that they were all women or even the fact that they were one of the few North American goth metal bands that set them apart. No, what made them unique was that they were a band of witches. Everything from the pentacle in their logo to their lyrics were based on witchcraft.
It was a cute gimmick that separated them from the many goth, power, and symphonic metal bands that came out of Europe.
Except, in Lottie’s case, it wasn’t just a gimmick.
According to their profiles on their website, they were all witches. They had all created backstories and personas for themselves to fit the theme. It was the perfect way for Lottie to hide in plain sight.
“Poor guy,” Nadira said in her usual even-toned drawl.
From the look on Sébastien Bartok’s face, he’d been trying to escape the conversation with Trenton for some time. It was a look Lottie knew all too well.
“Look,” he was saying as he took a step back, “I should help them finish packing. We’ve got a lot of equipment.”
“Of course. It’s so good to finally meet you, Seb. If you or your band need anything, you have my card.”
Seb held up the card as if to silently confirm that yes, he did have it.
Nadira snorted loud enough to make Trenton turn with his usual scowl. No longer the focus of Trenton’s attention, Sébastien rolled his eyes behind his glasses and mouthed a silent, “Wow.”
Wow was right. Was Trenton seriously trying to poach Trial by Fire from their current manager? Lottie didn’t know if it was ballsy or arrogant. It wasn’t a surprise that Trenton would want to manage them. Trial by Fire was surprisingly well-known in thrash circles. Their incorporation of symphonic elements into thrash metal somehow appealed to both sides. It was absolutely unheard of for a thrash band to have a violinist. Symphonic black metal or symphonic death metal, sure. But symphonic thrash? It shouldn’t have worked but, while they weren’t exactly Lottie’s cup of tea, it somehow did.
What they were doing touring with a goth metal band, Lottie didn’t really know. Sébastien and Nadira had put this together. She wasn’t going to complain about it. Touring with Trial by Fire was exposing them to an audience they never would have been able to reach on their own.
Whether or not that audience would appreciate them was another matter entirely.
Sébastien took the opportunity to slip away. Trenton, realizing he’d been ditched, approached The Furies with a sour look.
“Douchebag alert, level ten approaching,” Nadira muttered.
She nudged Brogan’s bass aside enough to make space for Lottie’s guitar.
“Be nice,” Lottie said.
“You’re right, you’re right. Nine and a half.”
Lottie smacked her arm. She didn’t disagree, she just didn’t want Trenton overhearing. For some reason, he hated them enough as it was.
“Charlotte,” Trenton greeted.
He paused and turned his scowl to Nadira. His eyes swept over the tree tattoo that took over most of her body with a look of disdain, as if half the people around them weren’t covered in ink.
“It’s Midnight to you. I’m going to bug those assholes.”
Nadira walked backwards, giving Lottie a thumbs-up and a broad, sarcastic grin. She whistled through her teeth to get the attention of Trial by Fire’s bassist. His head jerked up, and a grin of his own spread across his face. He ran at her and leapt into Nadira’s arms.
Lottie took a step forward, fully prepared to rescue Nadira from being crushed. Sterling was a lanky guy, closer to Lottie’s height than Nadira’s, but he still didn’t look all that light.
Instead of being crushed, Nadira caught him and spun him around the same way she often did with Brogan.
Trenton watched with a disinterested scowl.
“Does she live under a weight rack? Her parents must be so proud of her.”
Lottie’s lips twitched. Heat surged beneath her skin. She flexed her fingers to ease some of the tension in them and told herself the comment was out of ignorance and not real malice. The level-nine-and-a-half douchebag in front of her was the only thing standing between her band and a fourth album. She wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize that.
Maybe just one little curse.
She pushed the thought out of her head. Even if it would be great to make all the hair fall out of his head, it would only make him more of a douchebag. Besides, she couldn’t afford the karmic blowback when she was about to embark on tour.
“They are,” Lottie said.
It was true. As far as they were concerned, Elena and Matteo Ferro were Nadira’s parents, not the Asfours.
Trenton ran his finger along the edge of Lottie’s guitar case. Watching him touch such an intimate part of her made her shudder. How could something so seemingly innocuous feel so sinister? He always had a way of getting under her skin.
“I’m sure you’re looking forward to this tour,” he said.
“We always do.”
It was true. Tours were the best part of being a musician. It was fast and exhausting, and she loved every part of it.
“Hm. It’s an interesting lineup. You ladies and Trial by Fire.”
He looked over at Trial by Fire’s bus with a hungry look in his eyes. It turned into another one of those scowls.
“That drummer of yours sure is friendly with their bassist.”
Lottie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. If he was implying what she thought he was implying, he was even dumber than she thought.
“They’ve known each other a long time.”
It was that friendship that had gotten them the slot on this tour at the last minute. Either that or the fact that Nadira and Sébastien had been dating for nearly a year. Brogan had teased her for weeks about wanting to tour with her boy-friend. Nadira was always pulling personal connections to get them decent tour slots. That was, unfortunately, how this part of the industry worked. It wasn’t like Trenton or the label were doing it for them.
Lottie cleared her throat and scraped the bottom of her boot on the snow-covered asphalt.
“Do you need something from me, Trenton?”
Trenton turned his attention back to her. He ran a hand through his greying hair. His gaze flickered down to her pendant for a moment. The corners of his lips tightened like he was trying to smile, but he didn’t quite know how to do it.
“Just your best. Good luck.”
He tapped his hand against her guitar case. Somehow it felt like a threat or a challenge. She wasn’t sure which.
Lottie bit the insides of her cheeks. She couldn’t let him get to her.
The sight of a bright blue jacket caught Lottie’s attention. Even though the woman’s back was to her, there was no way not to recognize her. It wasn’t just the excuse to get away from Trenton that eased some of the pressure from her chest.
“I have to go. If you need anything else, you can talk to Nadira.”
Some of the color drained from Trenton’s face. He cleared his throat and moved his hand away as Lottie closed the trailer.
“We’ll be in touch, Charlotte.” He nodded to Amara passing behind Lottie. “Miss Diya. Give my regards to Miss Milne.”
Lottie only just managed to control her expression enough to make a face.
Give my regards to Miss Milne, she mimicked in her head.
They could make fun of Trenton all they wanted once they pulled out of the parking lot. In fact, they would. She only had a few minutes to say goodbye to her mom before they had to leave for the venue.
Elena was talking to Sébastien. He was the same height as Nadira, towering over Elena by a bit more than a foot. She didn’t seem the least bit intimidated by his size or the tattoos on his hands. The glasses gave him a bit of a nerdy look, and the easy smile on his face as they spoke was reassuring.
A strange feeling of walking into another band’s territory overcame her but aside from a quick glance from Sébastien, nobody paid her any attention. She brushed her hair back behind her ears as the wind whipped it into her face.
“Hey, Mom,” she said.
Seb and Elena both turned their attention to Lottie. There was a piece of paper in his hand, and Elena was in the process of handing him a pen.
Was Elena signing an autograph for him? Lottie knew looks could be deceiving, but he really didn’t seem like the opera type.
“I didn’t know you were an opera fan,” she said, trying to keep her voice casual.
The last thing she needed was Nadira getting on her case for being mean to her boyfriend. He gave her a cheerful grin.
“Well, now we have the chance to learn these things. My sister’s a big fan of your mother’s,” he said.
His voice was tinted with the remnants of a French accent.
“She has tickets to the symphony tonight. I invited her to come with us for drinks after,” Elena said brightly.
Sébastien gave Lottie a slight nod.
“I’m going to make sure Sterling doesn’t break anything, including your drummer. I love that kid, but he’s got four left feet. It’s an honor to meet you, Madame Ferro.”
“Such a sweet young man,” Elena said, switching to Italian as she addressed Lottie. “Did you know this band has a violinist?”
Lottie almost rolled her eyes at Elena’s tone.
“I did. She’s very good.”
“Well, you should make friends with her. Not to date. I just meant it might be nice to spend some time with a violinist while you’re on tour. Maybe you two can practice together.”
This time, Lottie did roll her eyes.
“I’m sure that’s what you meant, Mom.”
Elena smiled softly and cupped her gloved hands against Lottie’s cheeks. The fabric was cold, but Lottie didn’t pull away.
She made the drive from Salem to Portland to see her parents every other weekend when they were all home, and while it was nice to have some space away from them, she missed them. Elena and Mateo had never been anything but supportive. Some days, she really needed that.
“It’s awful that you’re playing so close and we can’t come see you,” Elena said.
“You could come see us, but I don’t think you can do Carmen without Carmen or a first violinist,” Lottie teased. “Don’t worry. I know our music isn’t your thing.”
Elena shook her head and patted her cheek.
“Carlotta, nothing in this life gives your father and I the kind of joy that seeing you—“ Something behind Lottie caught Elena’s attention. She dropped her hands and straightened to her full height, which still made her shorter than Lottie. “Nadira Asfour, you put a sweater on this instant!”
“Elena!” Nadira shouted.
Elena put her hands on her hips as she continued to shout in Italian.
“Oh, I’m sorry, am I embarrassing you in front of your musician friends?”
Nadira threw her hands up, nearly hitting Sterling in the face. He only just managed to duck out of the way with a startled yelp.
“Yes! Yes, you are!” Nadira shouted back in English.
While she’d picked up enough Italian over the years to understand most of it, she wasn’t quite as good at speaking it.
“How are you going to play if you lose one of your feet to frostbite, eh? Sweater! Now!”
Lottie covered her mouth with one hand to hide her laugh as Nadira stomped toward their van. She disappeared from Lottie’s line of vision, likely grumbling in a mix of languages.
Elena shook her head and tapped the backs of her fingers against her open palm.
“That girl, I swear to the Goddess. You would think with all the money she spends on those sweaters; she would want to show them off more than those tattoos!”
“She spent a lot of money on those tattoos too,” Lottie said.
Elena gave her a sharp look that softened immediately. She took one of Lottie’s hands in both of hers.
“You promise me you’ll look out for each other?”
Lottie nodded. Since Lottie and Nadira had met all the way back in ninth grade, they’d done their best to look out for each other. That was no less true now than it was back then. Lottie had failed twice, but she wasn’t going to make it a third time.
“Are you happy now?” Nadira shouted.
Elena motioned for Nadira to join them.
Nadira did with a petulant scowl and her hands shoved into the pockets of the same hoodie she’d been wearing earlier. She had tied her hair, naturally black instead of dyed like Lottie’s, into a high mess of a bun that showed off the shaved side of her head. Her earbuds were still hanging around her neck. One of her feet tapped to a rhythm only she could hear.
Elena clasped her hands over her heart. Her lower lip jutted out slightly and her eyes watered. She switched to English.
“Mateo couldn’t get away, but we are both so proud of you girls. Please don’t forget that,” she said.
A lump rose in Lottie’s throat. It was only a seven-week tour. There was nothing to get emotional over. Beside her, Nadira kicked the ground with the toe of her boot and looked away.
“Thanks, Mom,” Lottie whispered.
Elena’s floral perfume surrounded her as she wrapped her arms around Lottie and squeezed tightly. Lottie buried her face in her mother’s shoulder. She didn’t care that she must have looked like an idiot in front of Trial by Fire, and even Trenton if he was still around. She didn’t care that she would be thirty in a few years and was way too old to get this emotional over a hug from her mom.
“Be safe, Carlotta,” Elena said.
She kissed Lottie’s cheek. The imprint of her lipstick was warm. She pulled back to regard Nadira’s stiff demeanor. Instead of hugging Nadira the way she had Lottie, she held her hand up.
Some of the tension eased from Nadira’s shoulders. She had never been a big hugger. There were few people who could encroach on her personal space without warning. Even Lottie had to tiptoe around the edges of the circle she’d created around herself. Nadira took Elena’s hand and pulled her forward to bump their chests together in what Brogan called a ‘dude hug’, patting her back with her free hand.
“Be safe, Nadira.”
With the difference in their heights, Elena’s kiss landed on Nadira’s jaw. Nadira bit the insides of her cheek.
“We should get going,” she said, her voice more hoarse than usual despite her firm expression.
Goddess forbid she express an emotion.
“Of course. Blessed be,” Elena said.
Lottie gave her mom one last hug.