Marked by Azurite - Paperback#4

Marked by Azurite - Paperback#4

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You know that sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach when things have not just gone wrong, but very, very wrong?

Yeah, that feeling.

Like when you find yourself alone, facing off against an angry pontianak, a type of Asian vampire, who on top of being powerful, magical, and deadly, hates your guts.

At the time the risk seemed worth it to find out more about my magic.

Now? I wish I’d just stuck to barbering the supernatural. Given my weak magic, I’m going to have to find a way to talk myself out of this. Fast.

🔥Grab Marked by Azurite to find out whether I make it.

 Paperback Edition 178 pages
ISBN 9782492523229
Product Dimensions 5 x 8 x 0.4 inches (12.7 x 20.3 x 1.1cm)
Language English
Publication Date 28th May 2021
Publisher Celine Jeanjean
Series Razor's Edge Chronicles #4

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I accept the drink from Chai without the shudder of dread that normally accompanies receiving one of his cocktails. That’s because he hasn’t made this one, so my tastebuds and stomach are safe. We’re sitting at the counter of the Scarlet Lounge, enjoying a drink on one of my rare nights off from the barbershop.

I take a sip. Thai-chili-infused tequila, Szechuan aloe syrup, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar. Just the right amount of tartness, and when I sip from the glass, the szechuan-salt rim tingles my lips.


Chai frowns at his drink. “I'd have done it differently, myself.”

I refrain from suggesting that any changes he'd make would undoubtedly turn this from a delicious drink to a stomach-curdling concoction. Chai’s a fantastic sculptor, a great artist, and it’s one of life’s great mysteries that he’s unable to realise just how vile his cocktails are. He gets such joy from his cocktail making that I let him torture my tastebuds regularly without telling him my true opinion. What else is friendship for?

I’ll come clean the day he decides to make a cocktail for one of his clients, though. Luckily he decided a long time ago that his public artist persona only drinks and serves champagne or whiskey when clients come to his studio.

“Classic and timeless, just like my work, darling,” he told me when I asked about it.

I take another sip, looking at the bar around me. It's the kind of place that screams 'poser'. The chairs are large and vintage, upholstered in velvet and tufted. The tables are made out of pallets and painted in garish, neon colours. Paintings in gilded frames hang from the ceiling. Lights are nestled inside champagne coupes that also dangle from the ceiling, upside down, the coupe acting like a glass lampshade of sorts.

The other patrons are mostly hipsters. Spray-on jeans, vintage black felt sombreros, eyeliner – and that's just the men. A disturbing number of people are wearing sunglasses indoors. At night.


And no, the leather, fingerless gloves I’m wearing aren’t my attempt at fashion or style. Instead, I have to keep them on to hide the silver glowing beneath the skin of my left hand, from when I freed Sarroch from Nerong’s silver cage.

The Scarlet Lounge is the kind of place I normally avoid like the plague. I'm much more partial to rundown old man pubs, or jazz dives. They feel real, authentic—the sticky floor underfoot as much a part of the experience as the jazz trumpet soloist on the stage. The Scarlet Lounge tries far too hard to be cool and arty to achieve either.

The only thing I like is a large copper sculpture of vines at the edge of the bar. Delicate copper strands run up a pillar, reaching the ceiling and fanning out into a metallic canopy. It looks remarkably realistic, and the detail is incredible. If I wasn't so familiar with Chai's work, I might think he had done it.

It’s far too tasteful for the joint, and it clashes with the very average cantopop that blares through the speakers.

“The owner has piss poor taste in music,” I comment, taking another sip. At least the drinks are good.

“Cantopop is all the rage, these days. You only think that because you're twenty-seven going on seventy,” Chai teases.

“The older generations are wise and should be respected, and with good reason. They actually had good taste in music.”

“Not everything after the nineteen fifties is rubbish.”

“I like plenty of new stuff,” I protest. “So long as it's jazz, rock 'n' roll, blues, swing,” I add with a wink. “That synthetic stuff is just noise for teenyboppers to use as background music for their selfie videos.”

Chai laughs. “Spoken like a true granny. Dismissing an entire generation as irrelevant.”

I nod. “Yep. When I’m old enough, I’ll make such a great curmudgeon. Bring on old age, I say. But anyway, why are we here? I know this isn't your kind of place, any more than it is mine. It's far too pretentious.”

“It is, darling, but as you know pretentious is my bread-and-butter.”

“You want to sell them a sculpture?”

He nods. “Of course. I'm born and bred Panongian, and hipsters do love things that are locally produced. Plus, I'm gay, so I get to tick that all-important diversity box. And then of course there are my all important anti-patriarchy essays to explain the meaning of my pieces.”

I grin. “You can pretend all you want, I know you're a feminist at heart.”

“Amen, sister. Course I am. But if there are pretentious idiots who want to pay me extra for spouting pompous stuff at them, I damn well will. I’ve got the older business man market quite well sewn-up, and now I want to go after the hot young type of clients.”

“Do hot young things buy sculptures?”

“When Daddy is a Chinese billionaire, they do.”

“There are Chinese billionaires here?” I ask dubiously, glancing around me.

“No. But getting my pieces in bars considered hot and trendy in Panong will help me get into hot and trendy bars in Hong Kong. And then Shanghai. And there one can find numerous trust fund babies looking to spend Daddy’s billions.” Chai looks around. “I’m thinking my Misericordia would be a good fit here. What do you think, petal?”

It would fit, but something else is tugging on my attention, distracting me. It's not just all the pretentiousness of the place, something doesn’t feel quite right.

I tell Chai as much.

He smiles widely. “I knew you'd pick up on it! I knew you'd sniff it out like some adorable, pink-haired bloodhound. There is protection in place to keep it hidden, of course, but…”

The moment Chai mentions the word protection, I reach out with my magic. I feel it at once. In fact, it's so powerful I'm amazed I didn't get slapped in the face with it as soon as I walked into the joint.

Magic is leaking everywhere, and the air is so thick with it, it's almost like a perfume, cloying and sickly. Now that I've picked up on it, I can feel it buzzing against my skin, like the feeling you get when you lick a battery, except all over my body.

“But we didn't transition into a Mayak space,” I whisper to Chai. “Did we? Did I miss it?”

He shakes his head. “This is rumoured to be the first Mayak bar set up in the Mundane reality. That's why I didn't warn you ahead of time, I wanted to see if you would pick up on it all by yourself. You know how I'm rubbish at sensing magic—I can’t sense anything.”

“Do the Mundanes know about it?”

“Not as far as I know. It’s supposed to be a ‘regular’ bar.”
I'm still amazed that I didn't pick up on the magic straightaway. The protection spells are obviously only designed to hide the magic from the Mundanes, and they would have worked on me so long as I didn’t use my magic, since I’m human. At least I’m pretty sure I am.

Looking around the place now, we’re clearly surrounded by Mayak. I spot a couple of Touched with a powerful signature that reminds me of Chai. None of them are in groups larger than two, though, in keeping with the agreement between Touched and Mayak. The Touched don’t gather in large groups, and the Mayak leave them alone. From what I understand, Touched and Mayak fought a kind of very covert war for a time before they came to this agreement.

“Why would they open a bar in Mundane reality?” I ask Chai.

“Because we can,” a woman answers.

I turn back towards the bar, swivelling on my bar stool, to find that the bartender is standing just behind us, leaning both arms on the other side of the counter. She looks like an adult, Asian version of Natalie Portman in Leon. Sharp black bob, black velvet choker with a silver cross, stripy top. She’s also wearing circular sunglasses. Indoors. At night.

My opinion doesn’t change just because she’s Mayak. Tosser.

I also don't need to try to see past her glamour to detect that she's a predator. It oozes from her. The little hairs on my arms stand to attention, and my heart beats a little faster, no doubt my body’s natural reaction at realising on some primal level that it could easily become prey.

“You can't be hunting here,” I tell her quickly, voice low.

Things are tense enough between Mayak and Mundanes at the moment – the last thing we need is some out-of-control Mayak turning the bar into a bloodbath. And given the magic I can sense leaking from her, she doesn't have much control.

In fact, none of the Mayak here do. They feel young, inexperienced. A number of them look drunk, laughing loudly, their gestures over the top. And all of them leak magic.

Older Mayak, like Mr Sangong and Sarroch, are so restrained with their magic when out in public, I sometimes have a hard time picking up on it even when I'm actively trying to.

“We're not here to hunt,” the girl replies, taking off her sunglasses to reveal gleaming black eyes. “Yet.”

I frown. “I’m not picking up much in the way of Mundanes here.”

The girl pouts. “Yes, I don't know why they're not coming. We had a big launch that was covered in all the right magazines and blogs, but since then, nothing. It’s so funny watching Mundanes. They're like chickens, aren't they? So stupid, so ignorant, and so insignificant, and yet they run around, peck, peck, pecking, like what they do actually matters.”

“If that's how you spoke to them, no wonder they didn't come back,” I reply coldly.

She glares at me. “Of course I didn’t speak to them like that. I'm not an idiot. We hired a PR agency and everything — I really don't get why they're not coming.”

“They can probably pick up on your magic,” Chai says carelessly. “The human subconscious is a powerful thing, and it'll tell them that coming here makes them prey, so they'll feel uncomfortable and stay away.”

The girl leans languorously against the counter, cocking her head to the side. “Well, they are prey.”
I narrow my eyes at her. “And the Mayak Elders have given permission for this bar?”
She waves my question away. “I don't need permission.”

“Because Daddy is powerful,” Chai replies.

“It’s Mummy, actually. We’re a matriarchal family.”

Chai turns to me and raises an eyebrow. “Huh. Definitely fit for one of my essays.”

“Do your essays cover spoilt brats?” I reply. “Because it seems like they’re just as common among the Mayak as among humans.”

The girl gives us a smile that’s more a baring of her teeth. “Careful. If there's no entertainment to be had, maybe we'll have to find some by playing with a Touched.” She reaches up to toy with a lock of her hair. “Have you ever had the breath stolen from you?”

The cocktail shaker in front of her reshapes itself so that a long, sharp spike appears from the top of it. “Have you ever had your throat slit by a cocktail shaker?” Chai replies casually.

The girl laughs. “You think that would kill me?”

“No. It would hurt, and more importantly, it would cause a massive scene. And trust me that even if you’ve managed to get this far without asking for permission, the Mayak Elders will come down on you like several tons of bronze if you attack a Touched in public without just cause, break our agreement, and on top of it all cause a scene the humans will hear about. The fact that humans would never come here again would be the least of your worries. The consequences if you reveal the existence of predatory Mayak to humans…”

She curls her lip at him. “I could steal your breath before you could slice my neck.”

“Nice try, but you’re underestimating my speed. I could slice your neck before you completed stealing my breath, and even once you’ve stolen it, I can remain conscious without breathing for long enough to do some serious damage. Probably slice you up into pretty ribbons. We humans are remarkably resilient, especially those of us who are Touched by magic.” All the delicate little leaves of the copper sculpture start to rearrange themselves into sharp blades that point towards the girl. I’m sure if I look around the bar, I’ll find that all nearby metal is suddenly very aggressively pointed towards her.

For a moment she and Chai stare at each other, the tension thrumming in the air between them.

And then the girl rolls her eyes. “I’m not going to stand off with you. I have better things to do with my time.”

“Ha.” I only just manage not to laugh. She doesn’t want to admit that she faced up to Chai and lost. Chai’s badass like that.

The girl narrows her eyes at me. “Since you’re human, you make the humans come to my bar.”

My phone rings. It's my father. My mother’s out of town, so the fact that he’s calling me either means there's a crisis of tsunami-about-to-wipe-out-England proportions, or it's a pocket dial. “As delightful as this conversation is. I have to take this.”

I hop down from my bar stool, my motorbike leathers squeaking against the vinyl of the seat.

“What about my humans?” the girl complains.

“Sorry, princess,” Chai replies. He throws down some money and his business card. “But if you ever want some proper art to decorate your bar, give me a call.”

“Quite the sales pitch,” I tell him as we reach the door.

“Oh, don’t worry. She's going to call me.”

I pick up the phone. “Dad? Are you okay?”

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Hi! I'm Celine

I write different flavours of fantasy with a twist, but always with one uniting thread: quirky, flawed characters and heart-warming found families.

My books span the sub-genres of steampunk (but set in a secondary, tropical world) urban fantasy (set in Asia and London) and gothic gaslamp fantasy.

I'm French, grew up in the UK, and for the last few years I've been living a life of nomadic adventure, exploring the world with my laptop as my constant companion. My adventures have been a great source of inspiration for my stories.

These days I'm trying to figure out where in the world I might stop and setup some bookshelves.

I love to hear from readers, so feel free to contact me at

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