A high-pitched, manic giggle cut through the velvet blackness of the wine cellar as the echo of breaking glass faded. I took a deep breath, and the alcoholic fumes from the shattered bottle left me feeling light-headed for a moment. I had dropped the lamp when I dodged the missile. Doing this job, there's no way I'd use a modern bound-imp lamp, so I'm stuck with an oil lantern. The glass had not survived the accident, and now the old stone chamber was stygian. A slight clacking sound to my left, like a big rat in tap shoes, hinted at my quarry’s location. It was trusting to the darkness and my lowly human eyes to conceal it. I glowered into the gloom. This had been supposed to be an easy job. Lady Varra had said the tyke was only a recent arrival, a weak little refugee without the experience to be troublesome.
A sudden rattle of movement warned me that said weak little refugee was endeavouring to be thoroughly troublesome. There was a swishing sound in the still air as another choice vintage spun towards where my head currently was. I ducked, tripping against one of the wooden wine frames and jamming the neck of a bottle into my ear painfully. I swore, the epithet drowned by the latest bottle smashing on the arching stonework behind me. The smell hinted that this had been a sherry or a port. Another titter of laughter gave me some idea where my tormentor was lurking. If I lunged for it through the darkness, odds were either I'd slam into one of the rough stone pillars holding up the low ceiling or I’d bring another rack of bottles crashing to the rough tiled floor. My employer would not be amused if I wiped out half the vintages stored down here. Of course, if she’d warned me what this monstrosity was like, I would have been better prepared. My net was draped over a crate of wine somewhere in the gloom. I suspected my catching a Vildani red from 2744AA wouldn’t qualify me for my fee. Come to think of it, if this little bastard’s aim improved, my only reward would be an early arrival in the hereafter.
I love my job. Honest.
When mages make mistakes, all sorts of sadistic, giggling horrors can be unleashed upon a defenceless town.
Which is why Freebridge needs Tal Djandiss, the local impcatcher. It can be a tough business, dealing with imps on the loose. But when people start dying, Tal realises there is a bigger threat than a few rogue imps. Most high and mighty sorcerers won't listen to a collector of vermin like him.
Someone wants to silence him, though - a demon makes that very clear.
And if Tal can't work out what is going on, the whole of Freebridge is doomed.
Previous novels website: http://www.mhorann.demon.co.uk/sorrel/index.html
Peter Vialls doesn't admit he exists in real life – anyone meeting him is clearly suffering from a severely deranged imagination and needs professional help. Any rumours that he is a solicitor (attorney to you Americans) is denied. He claims he has an alibi.
He has to admit being over 50, married, with two adult children, and if he did exist he lives in Cambridgeshire, England. He has been writing since a teenager, and has four published books, three of which involve dragons and the fourth contains far too many giggling demonic horrors.
Peter is also responsible for a number of rolegaming articles and scenarios for D&D and other games, as well as a Doctor Who stageplay, The Empress of Othernow, he wrote for his local drama society and which was performed to packed houses in the early '90s.