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Heroic Hearts

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Heroic Hearts

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Author: Kerrie L. Hughes
Jim Butcher
Publisher: Ace Books, 2022

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Book Type: Anthology
Genre: Fantasy
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In this short story collection of courage, adventure, and magic, heroes--ordinary people who do the right thing--bravely step forward.

But running toward danger might cost them everything....

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher's "Little Things," the pixie Toot-Toot discovers an invader unbeknownst to the wizard Harry Dresden... and in order to defeat it, he'll have to team up with the dread cat Mister.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs's "Dating Terrors," the werewolf Asil finds an online date might just turn into something more--if she can escape the dark magic binding her.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris's "The Return of the Mage," the Britlingen mercenaries will discover more than they've bargained for when they answer the call of a distress beacon on a strange and remote world.

And in #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong's "Comfort Zone," the necromancer Chloe Saunders and the werewolf Derek Souza are just trying to get through college. But they can't refuse a ghost pleading for help.



Little Things

by Jim Butcher

My name is Major General Toot-Toot Minimus, sprite in service to Sir Harry Dresden, Knight of the Winter Court and Wizard of Chicago, and captain of his personal guard. When the skies darken with smoke and ash, when wails of wrong and woe rend the night, when my lord goes to war with titans and unspeakable horrors from Outside of reality, someone must protect him from threats too small to readily discern.

That is my place: not at my lord's side, but at his ankles.

In the days since my lord had defeated a mad goddess in single combat and claimed his Castle as reward, pizza deliveries had been spotty. The troops had begun to express concern. They had, after all, fought for their right to pizza. Castle stores of inferior frozen stuff could only last so long.

There was a dark mortal entity my lord called a conomee. The conomee was very bad, because of all the rubble and the blocked streets after the Battle. Battles make conomees that were once good very bad. Now the bad conomee was preventing pizza from being delivered.

It was a matter of grave concern.

The troops talked in fearful whispers about the conomee all of the time.

"My lord," I said politely. "The troops are worried about the conomee again."

My lord opened one of his eyes and blew out a little breath from between his lips. He had been sitting on a pillow on the floor doing absolutely nothing, which was why I had picked this moment to speak to him. His hair was mussy. There were circles under his eyes. He wore a cast on one arm and had an ankle wrapped so heavily that it was almost as big.

"Toot," he said in a bleary voice. "I am meditating."

He hadn't been doing anything at all when I spoke to him, so he must have meant some other time. "When?" I asked.

He bowed his head forward sharply and sighed. Then he looked up at me and gave me a tired smile. "Shall we go put a couple of pizzas in the oven?"

"That would ease tensions greatly," I told him in my most serious voice. It was good to be very serious when bringing matters to my lord, so that he knew I would not bother him with trivial things.

"Give me a second," he said. I waited for practically forever while he unfolded himself from where he'd been sitting and clambered slowly to his feet.

My lord did not look well. Death had come for his lady during the Battle. At night, he would shut the world away from his chambers, and though he would sleep for hours and hours he never seemed rested. He moved as though the weight of an ocean pressed down on his shoulders.

"Right," he said in a rough voice a moment later. "To the kitchen." There was a rustling sound behind him. A second later, a large, gray, bobtailed tomcat named Mister brushed past his ankles, apparently in an attempt to trip him. My lord absorbed the assault with the reflexes of long practice and started walking. He stumped slowly through the hallways of the Castle, down to the kitchens in the first basement.

I did not like the kitchens. Everything was made of the Bane, which seemed completely unnecessary. Couldn't they have made it out of plastic? My lord assured me that the Bane helped keep mortals safe from illness, but I did not see how. One of the mortal refugees who was residing in the guest quarters of the Castle had left a little cloth catnip mouse out for Mister, who had become the mascot of everyone staying in the Castle. He received all the petting he wished, from which he always seemed smug. The old tomcat pounced upon the mouse happily and began batting it methodically around the large kitchen floor.

My lord tightened the belt of his robe, shivering a little against the Castle's cold as he started the ovens and walked into the freezer to emerge with a pair of frozen pizzas. He hit the switch on a battered, ancient-looking box, and very fancy-sounding human music came out of it, all crackly, like it was on the other side of a large fire.

It is not my place to judge why my lord likes his music crackly. He is a wizard. They're weird.

Copyright © 2022 by Kerrie L. Hughes

Copyright © 2022 by Jim Butcher


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