Happy Hallowe'en everyone! I have a surprise for you...it's been long time coming, but here is the opening for the as yet untitled book seven in the Persephone Alcmedi series. Please see the note at the end, and thank you all for the encouragement, the emails, and the facebook friends/likes -- and for the newbies, who, after several years, are still finding the series and contacting me to ask for more.
Book 7: UNTITLED
THURSDAY / NOVEMBER 23 / THANKSGIVING NIGHT
As the elevator began to rise, Meroveus Franciscus prepared to meet with the Excelsior. He smoothed his lapels first, grinding molars as the ache in his arm began to throb like it was being hammered. Next, a toss of his head resettled dark, waist-length curls behind his shoulders, but triggered a second shot of pain, this one barreling up his neck. Each sore twinge was ammunition for a memory of clawed fists, striking him again and again and again.
Mero had met with the Excelsior a week ago about the Northeastern Quarterlord, Menessos, whose recent actions had cast doubts upon his allegiance. The result was the release of the shabbubitum—a trio of deadly truth-seeking sisters who had been bound in stone for over a thousand years. Mero was commanded to manage and control them.
Now, one of the sisters was dead, one was eternally bound to Menessos, and the other, the most dangerous of them all, was disfigured and angry. Her whereabouts were unknown.
Mero had also been charged with the task of bringing the Lustrata here to the Excelsior…or eliminating her.
He had arrived alone.
His ascent slowed approaching the twelfth floor. After a soft chime, the doors recoiled and the smell of smoke and roses filled his nostrils.
Before him sprawled the building’s summit reception area, one worthy of an elite politician. But the electric lights remained dark, and the mob of modern furniture sat eclipsed by crowded clusters of white candles.
Though designed to accommodate a large party, the reception area was occupied by a single figure, seated on a box-style, wide-armed chair midway of the room: Deric Allier, the Excelsior and Supreme Vampire. Vases of white roses encircled him, and candles in mirrored holders ringed the blossoms. The wick-light cast prisms of light off the vases and into the air like fireflies.
Despite the distance and low light, Deric came to his feet as Mero stepped from the elevator.
“Father, what in Hell happened to you?”
Mero met his son’s scrutiny with a grimace. If not for the vampiric ability to heal, his injuries would have meant death. Only three days had passed, yet his broken bones had mended. The broad splashes of purple bruising across his face had faded to dark rings around still swollen eyes. That he could walk, talk, and had traveled nearly five hundred miles to be here demonstrated a miracle, even for a vampire.
Deric crossed the distance quickly and stopped four paces away. “Is she dead?”
Chin dropping, eyes falling downcast, Mero’s answer was gruff. “No.”
“Is she not what she claims?”
Mero believed with all of his being that Persephone Alcmedi was in fact the Lustrata. He also believed that if allied together, she, Menessos, and the Domn Lup would seek to achieve the prophesy that entwined the paramount leaders of witches, vampires, and wærewolves…a fate for which each group claimed a differing interpretation.
“She is the Lustrata.”
Deric’s jaw clenched and unclenched repeatedly. His shoulders squared. Each inhalation came sharper and quicker than the last. Mero recognized the slow burn of his son’s temper. “News that Menessos had selected an Erus Veneficus made me take notice of Miss Alcmedi. With him being one of only three vampire sorcerers, he had no need of a court witch.” His low-toned words were daggers, each sound a swift strike, stabbing the emptiness between them. “So the question begged asking. Why?” His hands curled into fists as the staccato harangue continued. “When I was informed that she was the lover of the local pack leader, it made sense. A power play. Mark her, use her for tactical advantage. Then he was revealed as the next Domn Lup. I knew the wærewolves wouldn’t tolerate a witch-loving king. So I reasoned that their Heir Apparent had the upper hand on her. Maybe he had sought a tactical advantage and planted her to spy on our Quarterlord.” Deric turned away. “Subsequently, Miss Alcmedi claimed to be the fated Lustrata, and I knew she was spying for the wizened eyes of the Witch Elders Council. The witches would never allow their Messiah to be Marked by a vampire, nor to feel any kind compulsion for the Domn Lup.”
He then softly quoted the old words:
unspoiled into the light.
Sickle in hand,
she stalks through the night
Wearing naught but her mark and silver blade.
The moonchild of ruin, she becomes Wolfsbane.”
The hush in the candlelit room grew palpable. Mero felt menace in the energy flowing off of Deric, flowing unlike anything he had ever felt from his son—who had never developed a skill for sorcery. The sensation twisted into an icy thread in his spine.
“She becomes Wolfsbane, father. I must possess her. When I do, the witches will fear me. The wolves will fear me. Mankind will fear me.” Deric spun and closed the distance between them to grip his father’s arms. “We will rule. We will be ultimately supreme.” Deric’s tone dropped lower. “And Persephone Alcmedi will pay for what she has done to you.”
Mero heard the statement with the royal ‘we’ which was interchangeable with ‘I.’ Had his son used this situation to springboard from mistrusting his Maker to justify his seeking supremacy over the world?
Shaken to his core, Mero fought to calm himself, to think through the situation, and the vehemence Deric was exhibiting. He needed time. He called on his long years as Advisor, and spoke evenly. “It was not the witch who did this to me.”
The Excelsior’s question showed on his face.
Mero answered it. “I witnessed the yet-to-be-crowned Domn Lup’s ability to partially transform.”
“He beat you?” His trembling hands lifted and gently grasped Mero’s face. “He will pay with his life.”
Mero put his hands on Deric’s wrists. Partially because it acknowledged the affection of his son’s gesture, and partially because the vibration of the energy surrounding Deric resonated over his own aura with such force it felt his own shields were cracking, buckling under pressure. “My son, I pulled straight from a ley line to attack him. He would not be stopped.”
“I will stop him, father. If I must send an army to his front door, I am prepared to do so.”
War? He would wage open war? What’s happened to him? Mero’s stomach knotted as his mind raced over myriad implications of such an action, but his thoughts swiftly returned to the madness glinting in the eyes of his progeny. He had long ago witnessed the atrocity of power-crazed men slaughtering anyone who opposed them…even their own family. “Deric.” He squeezed his son’s wrists gently, reassuringly, and managed a small smile. “We must be cautious. We need a plan.”
Deric’s fingers curled around Mero’s ears, painfully. His fangs showed as he sneered, saying, “Caution is for the weak and fearful, father. I am neither.”