Excerpts from Book 2
by Joseph Vargo
A billow of smoke began to rise from the mist that encircled the stone dais. Brom watched transfixed as the black cloud took the form of a beautiful dark angel draped in velveteen shadows. Raven-black hair cascaded down over her pale shoulders and ebony wings rose from her back, spreading outward behind her.
The unearthly creature seemed to float upon the air as she ascended the steps, approaching the altar where Brom lay helpless. Tendrils of her black gown delicately wavered behind her as she moved, trailing off into the tomb's shadows like vaporous serpents. The dark angel silently hovered beside him, and Brom shuddered as she placed a chilling hand upon his exposed chest. Beneath her icy touch, an unknown energy began to spread forth within his veins, and an unholy rapture claimed him as he lay paralyzed before her.
Unable to move and powerless to supress the desires that stirred within him, Brom could not look away as the beautiful enchantress gazed down upon him. Staring into her hollow eyes, Brom realized he would not be set free by the angel of darkness that stood over him now. This unearthly creature was not his beloved Rianna—no. It was Mara, the Queen of Shadows.
by Joseph Vargo
With one stride the creature leapt high onto the wall, clinging to the chisled bricks with her talons. She let loose a shrill wail, causing dozens of bats to flee their resting places in the chamber's heights. The screeching bats surrounded the crusaders in a flurry of wings and shadows. As the descending swarm engulfed them, the knights swatted at the loathsome creatures with their swords and torches. After their swift assault, the swarm dispersed, fleeing the chamber through the various tunnels that surrounded the room, but the swirling confusion had caused the vampire hunters to lose sight of their quarry.
Stephon squinted into the darkened heights of the chamber, scanning the shadows for the unholy creature that had killed his friend. "Where is she?" he demanded.
The remaining knights held their torches high, but the meager firelight could not illuminate the full extent of the caverns above them. The crusaders stood in silence, surveying the shadowy perimeter of the chamber, listening and watching for the slightest sound or movement. Stephon peered into the bleak depths of the dark tunnels that surrounded them, uncertain of which one had led them into the chamber, and realized that he and his comrades had been lured into a deadly trap.
by Joseph Vargo
An evening fog had begun to creep between the trees, and as I drew closer to the mysterious glow, I beheld an unexpected sight in the mist-shrouded woods. A young woman draped in a sheer white gown appeared to be wandering in the dead of night. She drifted slowly through the mist toward a stone marker which stood at a crooked angle amidst a thick growth of vines. The tattered tendrils of her silken gown wavered and floated in the still night air as if held aloft by some undetected breeze. The pale blue glow seemed to radiate from her body and gown. As she drew near the marker, I could discern the details of what appeared to be a tombstone overgrown with a mesh of tangled vines. I watched in silence as the girl tenderly caressed the marker, running her fingers lightly over the twisted vines and across the weathered stone. At last she fell to her knees and hung her head, covering her face in her hands.
I stood frozen in place, mesmerized by this eerie vision, until at last I regained my composure and summoned the courage to approach her. I had advanced to within a few yards of the girl when a twig snapped beneath my foot. The sound of the breaking branch startled the girl, who at once drew back, lifting her head to gaze in my direction. Her flesh held a deathly pallor, and her eyes were completely drained of color. My mind whirled as I tried to make sense of the macabre sight before me. Her soulless eyes opened wide and I stood transfixed by her ghastly stare, then without so much as a whisper, the girl vanished into the mist.
by Joseph Iorillo
I drew her near and she clasped her arms around me. Sleek, black wings manifested behind me, rising from my back to encircle her. Her eyes conveyed a look of wonder as I held her in my angelic embrace. I looked to the turbulent storm clouds in the heavens and carried her aloft into the dark skies above. Together we ascended silently, flying over the slopes of the mountain, the cool air and the clouds rushing by us. We continued to fly upward, and in moments we landed on the rough-hewn precipice of the mountain, the winds rushing past us and howling around us like a chorus of lost souls. Her gossamer gown billowing in the wind, Iliana clung to me desperately, and I could feel the insistent pound of her heart.
The Crimson Circle
by Joseph Vargo
A tall figure stood silent and motionless at the far end of the chamber. Cloaked in the black robes of a monk, its face was concealed beneath the shadows of its hood. At first, Brom thought it was merely a statue adorning the crypt, but his senses alerted him to a spiritual presence. The figure stood before an arched passage leading into the catacombs, as if it were some ghostly sentinel at the threshold of the dead.
"Turn back," a low voice whispered, "lest ye fall victim to that which lurks below."
Still unsure whether the shadow monk was a spectral apparition or a physical being, Brom took a step closer."Who are you?"
"I am the guardian of the gateway to the necropolis. Beyond this point lies the dark kingdom of the dead. It is hallowed ground, sanctified by the blood of martyrs. It is a sacred place, but also a haven for wayward souls. Hungry spirits wander these catacombs. They feed upon pain and sorrow, emptiness and grief. In the labyrinth far below, an ancient horror lies waiting."
As Brom took another step closer, the dark monk's voice raised to a raspy rumble that echoed round the crypt. "Heed my warning, Lord Brom. This path leads to suffering and ultimate darkness, though the answers you seek lie at its end. The choice remains yours, but consider your own fate before venturing forth into the depths of the abyss. The knowledge you seek has a costly price and there are consequences for every action."
Brom paused for a long moment to weigh the dark monk's words. At last, he reached his decision. "I can imagine nothing worse than spending eternity in this accursed place, for I have known only torment in my stay here. I must uncover all that lies hidden here, no matter the cost."
"So be it," the dark monk whispered. Without another word, the figure moved aside, allowing the Tower Lord free passage to the dark realms beyond.