Hey, folks. My latest book, Crimson Dusk, is coming out this week. And I decided to post an excerpt of the upcoming book. You can also pre-order a copy for yourself via Amazon. The Kindle edition will come out soon after this week. If anyone out there would like a signed copy of the book, then please let me know and I will sign and mail it to you. If you’re on Facebook, you can also join the event party happening and maybe win some free swag! Also, I posted a drawing I did of the main character, Kalek Desmarais, below, after the excerpt. I also posted a DJ Mix I did of music I did, dedicated to the novel. Until next time!
Chapter 1: The Gift
The journey to the queen’s citadel stretched onward towards the horizon. A small carriage passed through the landscape not of sand dunes but of flat, blasted earth left parched and cracked by the sun. This land was a mummified corpse produced by the horrors of a former and long- past Great War. The vampire Avus could sense the dark and somber clouds above crying hysterically, followed by rippling thunder and clusters of flashing lightning. Avus was suddenly seized from his daydream, by a twisted, harsh, and inhuman tongue which drew his attention.
“What is it? Why have we stopped?” Avus questioned, annoyed.
The strained, raspy voice said, “There is something that you should see. I see no movement outside besides the flaming remains of a human village. I would proceed with caution regardless.”
Avus quickly emerged from the carriage and into the stormy atmosphere that hovered over the mountainous range and bridge they stood on. Ahead of the bridge appeared to be the remains of a fresh disaster upon a village that lay ahead of them, and he eyed the smoke that twisted into the sky. Avus was clad with a dark cloak flung over him. His dark, jaw-length hair framed his brooding but handsome face. His cloaked subordinate and bodyguard, Samech, sat on the driver’s seat, guiding the armor-clad horses that pulled with brute force. Avus peered into the darkened heavens and noticed the storm blocked out any source of light from the sun’s rays behind them.
Avus surveyed the torn landscape and said, “All I see is death.”
They both continued their way through the outskirts of the rubble-strewn road that lead into the flaming ruins. Smoke permeated, choking the sky until the sun struggled to breathe. The tall, dark mountains were obscured by the smoke and flame that filled the scene below. Skeletal buildings sagged as their burnt structures gave way. It was a scene from a nightmare, carnage everywhere.
It was the aftermath, and the scene seemed almost tranquil, fires burning and smoke rising from the ruined ground. Bodies of men and women alike were strewn about the filthy mire, like dolls after a child’s playtime. The lifeblood of thousands moistened the packed earth and the feet of the same thousands churned it into a viscous soup. Flies gathered in the eyes of the dead, greedily stealing the moisture. The dead became a home to eggs and writhing maggots.
Crows congregated in the field, croaking hoarsely with delight at this splendid feast set out for them. Cruel beaks plunged into eye sockets, gobbling the soft contents. The stench was horrific. The air was rank with sweat, blood, fear, and decay.
This village, once bustling and busy, now belonged to the dead. Not even a rat scurried amid the debris. The fire destroyed everything. Flocks of carrion-hunting ravens swarmed over the area, landing upon the ravaged lands, feeding upon the bodies. Avus walked away from the carriage and into the burnt village, stepping over charred bodies of villagers. Samech watched his master carefully, studying his every move. The horrible stench of burning flesh assaulted their senses.
“This doesn’t seem like the work of one of our own, now does it? These bodies aren’t drained,” Avus noted.
Samech sniffed the air and grunted. “The blood smells fresh. This was done recently.”
Avus made his own observation and responded, “This also looks like a well-coordinated attack—an ambush maybe. Then again, your eyes house different judgment than mine.”
“The storms are beginning to die down.” Samech replied.
Without warning, a hand dug its way up from Mother Earth’s womb like a sprouting plant and grasped Avus’ boot. Avus instantly hurled himself back and frowned.
“What was that?” Samech asked in dismay.
“I guess they missed one.” Avus prepared to draw his sword with caution. Samech followed suit and leveled his serrated spear against the sudden movement of the dirt.
Again, the hand grasped onto anything it could to get the rest of its body out from under the earth. Once extracted from his nearly final resting place, the stranger rolled over on his back, exhausted. He drank in the late evening air as if it were gulps of water. Avus noticed the ring the dirt-covered figure had on its finger with an embedded symbol of a Red Dragon devouring its own tail―the Ouroboros―which indicated to him the vampire’s higher-ranking status. Avus darted forth to the battered stranger laying there, asking, “What the hell happened here?”
He spat up blood and whispered, “The regents of judgment have arrived.”
“What regents? Tell me your name,” Avus asked, seeing if the man could remember anything of his past.
The stranger’s vocal chords could barely muster a reply and finally said, “Kalek.”
Large, gaping wounds covered Kalek’s torso, neck, and face. He took out a handkerchief and wiped away the dirt, blood, and spit that covered his exhausted face.
“Kill me,” Kalek mumbled in between heavy breaths. “They should have finished the job.” More blood leaked from various orifices, including his eyes.
“Your wounds are deep—perhaps deeper than your regeneration factor can handle,” Avus noted. In an act of pity, Avus picked up Kalek and carried him to the carriage with all his strength, placing him inside a black and intricately detailed casket hidden inside.
“What are you doing?” Kalek asked, barely audible.
“Today, fate is on your side. Your number isn’t up yet.” Avus went inside and closed the door. Samech partially revealed his blood-stained fangs and hoped he would come upon a hapless mortal for his delight and sustenance. He sat himself down again upon the rider’s seat of the carriage and signaled the horses to continue down the burnt and ruined roads and crop fields. Kalek closed his eyes and plunged deep into his unconscious night sea sojourn.
“One thousand years.”
“No,” the fledgling vampire gasped, standing in the moonlight between the trees. He was on burial grounds now deep within the forest; his kind often met in places such as this for trials, rituals, and the like. “You can’t do this to me; I’ll go mad! This life, my life, would have all been for naught! Please, you cannot do this thing; I-I’ll leave! I’ll leave forever, travel south to the African continent or to eastern Asia. You’ll never hear of me again! Fa-father! Please, surely, you can change their will…!”
The council said nothing. There were five beings wreathed in shadow save for their eyes, which reflected the moonlight with a demonic malevolence. They were seated amongst the branches of the surrounding trees, completely silent like a congregation of living gargoyles. They didn’t even seem to be breathing.
“Why do you not answer me?” Kalek pleaded, his voice breaking with ever-increasing emotion. “Don’t you realize what you’re doing to me?! It would be better for you to kill me utterly; why such a penalty for this crime? Why?”
Still no answer; the tears streamed down his face. They only looked down upon him in his utterly helpless state. He was an infant in terms of pure power to them; if he chose to fight his way out, there would be no hope at all. And it would be worse: They would break him and then imprison him, and with no fresh blood, he could not heal to such an extent. No matter. He would try to run anyway. Fear always distorted logic—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The vampire broke into a run, a sprint that not even the swiftest of beasts could hope to achieve. Running through the forest, his head was down, arms pumping madly at his sides. He tore past trees, leaping their roots, and skidded on fallen leaves in his mad dash to escape.
The tree limbs slashed through his clothes in dozens of places, but his supernatural regeneration already healed the cuts and scrapes. He was caught before he reached the outskirts of the forest; the Elders, as they were referred to, jumped from tree to tree gracefully. He kicked and bit and thrashed and screamed at the top of his preternatural lungs, shaking the nearby trees and waking villagers for tens of miles around in the serene valley but to no avail. He broke loose once or twice but got no more than a few yards before he was caught again.
Then, they started to beat him. They wanted him to see his punishment, so they directed their strikes to the lungs and throat rather than the skull. They would not murder this vampire. Rather, they would drain him of his blood, leaving only enough for him to remain aware, and then, they would ravage him until he could no longer repair his own wounds. First the lungs to impair his voice, then the arms, legs, fingers, neck. A mound of flesh and bone—undead flesh and bone—trapped for one thousand years as per the council’s verdict.
One thousand years. He couldn’t comprehend the number; he hadn’t even lived that long yet! So much was the fear of the oncoming doom that he could no longer feel the pain. The number kept running through his mind. He dissected it into months, weeks, hours, even to the seconds he would spend in isolation. It was more than torture, even for his kind. They were dragging him across land now at a great speed. He could barely see any more though they did leave both of his eyes. How long was it? It didn’t matter; he’d been cherishing and loathing every moment the wind swept by and through his body. But as all things must, his journey came to an end.
“Cu interneric vas vilieridel ai valaeridine. Mass vilahar cu tinoel,” the council said in unison. There were other sounds there: the remaining blood pumping in his ears, the labored breathing to keep the cells alive, the gentle wind, and the water. The sound of water pushed and pulled at the shore, but the shore wasn’t near him; it was above him—hundreds of feet below the surface.
There was a dull thud next to him and the sound of chains. It began. They were doing to him as they had done to few before: condemning him to a limited death but far worse than any Hell he could imagine. He had done it to one before. Well, he had been on the council. The only thing he physically did was say the final doom: “Cu interneric vas vilieridel ai valaeridine. Mass vilahar cu tinoel. The moon has set, and the new sun rises. Live to see the moon rise again.” Now, it was his turn to be bound to a locked, silver sarcophagus—the Stone of Condemnation littered with sacred inscriptions. The water quickly swept around his body, dragging him down into the watery depths of the seemingly bottomless darkness and would reemerge upon the shores of a new land.
“I have committed grave sins, enough that even tyrannical kings would blush at. They are sins black enough to blot out the brightest sun. I despise what I am, what I was made to be. I once thrived in prowling the shadows, roaring like a lion, ready to devour,” Kalek admitted to the aging sage as he faced downward to the intricate designs of battling dragons.
“This is remarkable. You yourself are vampire immortal, and yet you detest all those like you. The majority who are born in the miasma of Hell stay in Hell, totally unbound,” the gaunt-faced, cloaked man declared calmly after a brief period of meditation as he sat cross-legged underneath his vestments of white robe and red, gold dalmatic as he placed his hands palm to palm and raised them above his head and slowly brought them down while continuing, “The chrism light sacrament is meant for the living, not vampire.” The hooded priest’s voice echoed hollowly in the large antechamber, filling the silence with an eerie portent.
Kalek growled with certain disdain swirling in his mind, just begging to withhold blood-curdling conviction beneath his furrowing brow. “I am not a lowly, monstrous thrall or ghoul unable to stand against the faintest trickle of light. Only but a few years ago when I was still exiled had I learned to barely control my darkness.” Kalek paused to take in the cindering fragrance that came from the burning incense within the golden lamp beside the altar and rose.
The hooded mystic sensed the vampire acolyte’s anger while his human eyes were unable to meet the baneful glow of Kalek’s. Kalek circled him slowly, weighing the stranger’s words carefully. “What purposes have you in helping me—altruism perhaps? I find that hard to believe. You are renowned even though you are human and a desert guardian to the chief of your tribe.” The blazing eyes narrowed. “I have already been betrayed twice: once by my father and once by the tribunal of elders of my own nest. I tell you, it will not go well for you if you are the third.” Kalek swung up a spear underneath his long, trailing, initiatory garments, its shivering tip looming barely inches from the man’s throat. “I find little reason to side with you or with anyone else for that matter. Not that I have much to fear from a mortal.”
“You need not side with me but with your own strength. You called for assistance, and like you, I too was once a slave to my past’s shadow. I was a different man then.”
“Fair enough.” Kalek retracted the curved, golden blade of the spear and placed it upon an altar.
The hooded priest reiterated, “There is a certain balance at work. There must be some atonement or contrition, no matter how black your sins.”
With a sinking tone, Kalek off-handedly moaned then said in his baritone voice, “I sired abominable ghouls from men and women alike. I offered sacrifices for the sake of thaumaturgy with no great Arcanum in sight for catharsis. I was like one of the Mastema—the hostile demons of persecution and oppression who were engendered from the fire of angels and the blood of women. I was consumed with bloodlust.” Kalek turned to a sculpted, marble figure of a fiery Seraph. “Humans are just as bloodthirsty. This is a planet of the walking dead—human and vampire alike. And I don’t just mean rotting corpses who suddenly become animate.”
The hooded yet tanned and bearded man remained silent, but Kalek seemed to want his attention as he turned his grimace at him. “The old days are long gone, yet the memories stay alive like remains of the great Holocaust below the cities.”
Kalek stared into the eyes of the marble statue and remained silent for a minute. He never passed on this knowledge to anyone, so why did he feel he needed to talk about it now? But he did answer in the end. “About what occurred before I arrived here, the events that happened before I became an exile—my sealed fate from the machinations of a few craven Elders, one of which you already know.” He continued to mutter, “Why I am what I am. I was born as one of the infernal. And yet can there be salvation for me or my brethren? Or am I cursed eternally?”
“No soul can be eternally cursed, for nothing is permanent. The stings you have felt from your betrayal—you’re longing to know your families’ clandestine fortunes, the desecrating dregs of unending thirst for blood. They are the imprinting desires and attachments left from your ego that is your shadow. Wisdom is its own reward. Ignorance damns itself. God can convert and save the worst of sinners—even vampires. Are you prepared to slay the demon and channel the light from the darkness?” the hooded sage asked Kalek, who sat cross-legged with his head lowered pensively.
Kalek muttered, “Not even the divine light can illuminate my darkness. The old sun has set, and a new moon’s course is run.” His dark gaze swayed to the nude angel holding a downward, spiraling sword with eyes black as the abyss below. “May the new sunrise be great and memorable indeed.”
Inside the phantasmagoric chamber of the castle, the raven-black eye of Kalek opened. A slender, feminine form watched him in complete silence, wondering if he would recognize her. Thoughts of his past conjured up within Kalek’s psyche, utterly ravaged in the onslaught as if the Armageddon opened its sweeping mouth. A waltz of advanced mechanical rings surrounded the vampire that emanated sound vibrations, repairing the damage of his cursed flesh while Kalek made a sidelong glance over Cressida as he heard a voice call out his full name. “Kalek Desmarais, I see that you’re awake. You’re the only survivor.” The figure in his blurred vision, divorced from clarity, became more apparent as it moved closer.
Kalek could hardly speak yet attempted to do so and uttered heavily, “Cressida.”
“I’m glad to see you alive. Your reprisal is due in time.”
Kalek merely stared into nothingness as blood trickled down the side of his mouth. The queen placed her hand over the smooth, rotating sphere, and the vibrating treatment stopped. She placed her cold, pale hand on his face, removing trickling drops of blood from his mouth and, in a suggestive manner, licked it from her finger.
“Kalek, it is time you rejoin the covenant, for your period of healing is just about over.”