LEGIONS OF THE DARK (VAMPIRE NATIONS CHRONICLES)

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LEGIONS OF THE DARK

 

 

 

 

By Billie Sue Mosiman

 

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition published at Smashwords by Billie Sue Mosiman

 

Copyright 2011 by Billie Sue Mosiman

 

 

 

This book was recreated from OCR scans and copy-edited by David Dodd

 

 

 

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.  If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to your vendor of choice and purchase your own copy.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author

 

MORE BY BILLIE SUE MOSIMAN

 

 

 

Bad Trip South

Damaged
Unidentified
Wireman
Gold Rush Dream
Horror Tales
Horror Tales 2
From a High Window, A Travel Memoir

 

 

 

VAMPIRE NATIONS CHRONICLES:

 

 

 

Legions of the Dark
Rise of the Legend
Hunter of the Dead

 

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to my husband,
Lyle Duane Mosiman, for years of
unflagging love and support. He is the best
thing that ever happened to this writer.

 

 

 

I would like to thank Ed Gorman and
Martin Greenberg for their help with
this novel. Had it not been for them,
John Helfers, and my editor, Sheila Gilbert,
this work would not exist.

 

 

But first, on earth as vampire sent,

 

Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:

 

Then ghastly haunt thy native place,

 

And suck the blood of all thy race;

 

There from thy daughter, sister, wife,

 

At midnight drain the stream of life. . . .

 

Wet with thine own best blood shall drip

 

Thy gnashing tooth and haggard lip;

 

Then stalking to thy sullen grave

 

Go—and with the ghouls and afreets rave,

 

Till these in horror shrink away

 

From specter more accursed than they!

 

—Lord Byron,

The Giaour (1813)

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

It was an early Monday morning in March. Texas had come alive with drifts of bluebonnets and mild, warm days. Graduation was in another two months, and Della Joan Cambian could hardly wait to get to school.

It wasn't just that soon she'd have her diploma and real life could begin for her as a recognized adult in the world. She had a growing interest in Ryan Major, a new boy who had transferred from North Dallas a few weeks earlier.

Even though she always went lightly on makeup, often using none at all, today she decided to try a new shade of lipstick. What could it hurt? Besides, her color seemed to be off. Her natural olive complexion looked sallow. She tried opening the curtains on the windows in her room, letting in the morning light, and looking in the mirror again, but her skin still seemed to be some horrid shade of yellow-brown.

Applying the lipstick and hoping it would brighten her entire look, Dell paused when she saw the lesion on the back of her right forearm reflected in the mirror. She sat at her dressing table, stunned, her mother calling from the hall, warning that her primping would make her late for the school bus. Again.

Dell didn't answer her mother. She couldn't. Her arm was frozen, Cover Girl Burnt Sienna poised just a whisper from the mid-curve of her top lip. She blinked, slowly lowered her arm, and let the lipstick roll from her fingers. That's how her mother found her, staring like Narcissus at her own image.

"Dell, honey, what's the matter?"

In place of words, Dell raised her right arm until the mirror caught the pink festering oval of flesh. Her mother approached slowly and stared down into the mirrored reflection.

"Mom?"

Her mother reached out one hand as if she would touch the lesion, but her fingers danced in the air before disappearing from sight. "It's … it's just …"

"Mom? Will you look me over? Are there more? Are they everywhere?" Suddenly, Dell pushed back from the dressing table. In no time, she had her blue sweatshirt pulled high above and then over her head. As she lowered her arms to rip the shirt off, her mother caught and held her tightly. She was imprisoned by the sleeves, held in a position that afforded no movement.

"Don't, honey."

"Does it mean … ? Am I … ? Will I be like you now? Mom?" She felt tears well, and the room blurred. Over her mother's shoulder she could see her own face in the mirror. It was as if she had never really looked at herself before, as if who she saw reflected was a stranger. She was not just sallow. She was sick.

She could feel an irritation on her left shoulder. Now that she was concentrating on her body, she felt what might be another lesion on the back of her right knee. They were all over her, evidence of disease at work.

"Let me go, Mom."

Her mother released her, and she threw off the shirt and began turning and twisting to look over her body.

It was not as if she thought this day might never come. Of her immediate family, she was the last to contract the disease. They had all pretended it had skipped her. She might be spared. Others were. Her Aunt Celia hadn't ever gotten sick. Sometimes a few escaped their destiny. But very few.

The lesions indicated the beginning of a mutated form of a rare blood disease the medical community called porphyria. Next would come the terrible sensitivity to sunlight. Then her lips would feel paralyzed and betray her, so that she could not even smile. It would all pass swiftly. What took the real disease of porphyria decades to do to an afflicted human, the mutated virus would do to her within days.

The horror of it was enough to bear, more than enough to make her raving mad. But even worse was not knowing if she would turn into a Predator, a Craven, or a Natural, like those in her family. No one could predict the outcome of the process until the disease had run its course.

Once her mother let her go, Dell sagged onto the edge of her bed. She felt panic ruling her, causing her mind to race out of control. She hardly knew what to do. How was she to control an event that was rushing toward chaos, she asked herself. "There's no point in checking anymore," she said in a resigned voice. "I feel one on my shoulder and another behind my knee. I can sense things. If I can tell where they are without looking, then I'm sick, and that's all there is to it." She lay down on the unmade bed, pulling her legs up and hugging them. She still had on jeans and shoes, but she didn't care. She heard the school bus outside, heard it brake with a hiss, and after a minute, move on without her. She would miss a trig test and have to make it up. She wouldn't see Ryan today. Or all week. If she fell ill, how could she let her interest in him continue anyway? How could she have imagined she ever had a chance at a normal life?

"I'll call Mentor," her mother said, leaning down to pat her cheek the way she used to do when Dell was little and ran a fever.

Dell nodded, closing her eyes, trying not to think about it. Mentor came on house calls when summoned in a crisis. He had to be there for the young ones who were so devastated by the change. So it was true. Her mother knew it too. There could be no mistake if Mentor was sent for. This wasn't chicken pox or some other innocuous illness. It was not melanoma or another skin disease. It was the thing that stopped the human heart from beating. It was the monster that defied death and lived on within you, hungering and unholy.

That was the one true thing about the supernatural life she was about to enter—how unholy it truly was. It wasn't true, for example, that a vampire produced no reflected image. Her mother was proof enough to dispel that old myth. She looked in mirrors to apply makeup so that she would not appear to be so pale. It wasn't true that crosses or holy water affected them. In fact, most of the old myths about vampires were wrong—all made up, fictional, and totally inaccurate. Soon Dell would know from inside the reality of the vampire's life, what it was like to be the same as her parents and her brother.

Dell choked back a sob and turned her head into the pillow.

"I'll be right back," her mother said. "Don't worry. Don't cry. Please don't cry."

Dell heard her rush from the room like a draft of wind from an open window. When she wanted to, her mother could do miraculous things. True and real things. Move like shadow. Sleep standing up. Know her daughter's pain as her own. But she couldn't keep her from death. And she couldn't keep her from crying.

Not today.

~*~

 

While waiting for help, Dell's mother sat on her bedside and smoothed her brow. Dell kept her eyes tightly shut, trembling in increasing waves that shook her body. She felt faint and thought she was going to pass out. "Mom, I'm going to faint."

Her mother shushed her and leaned in close to kiss her cheek. "The family's coining," she said.

Dell teetered on the brink of consciousness, moving in and out, feeling first her mother's cool hand on her face and then not experiencing anything but a sense of loss. She wanted to ask for Aunt Celia, but she couldn't seem to speak. She was moving inexorably toward unconsciousness, but fought against it, afraid of what lay ahead. She never knew when her mother moved from her side or when Aunt Celia and her daughter, Carolyn, entered the room. She never knew when Mentor arrived. Her first realization that he was there was when he spoke, reaching her through the veil of unconsciousness that kept her wrapped solidly in its arms.

“What are you dreaming?" Mentor asked.

She could not see him, so he must be apart from it, helping her awaken. That's what Mentor did. That was his job. Helping.

She spun away from his voice and fell through dark space until she found herself in a strange surrounding. She was dreaming, she assumed. She saw something she had to tell Mentor about.

"I'm in a dark wood. And there's a red moon rising."

"Does it frighten you?"

"Yes!" She peered through leafless trees, tripped over exposed roots, moving always toward the red moon. Though she feared what it meant to her life, she was drawn against her will. She could sense there was something waiting out there, just beyond her field of vision. If she kept moving toward it, she would learn all she ever wanted to know about the world and how it worked.

"You can speak with the moon another time, Dell. Will you open your eyes now and visit with me? We have lessons and preparations."

She feared the moon, so luminous with blood, so majestic that it seemed to fill the sky with rays that turned the landscape scarlet. What did it mean for her? Yet waking to the reality of what she would become and how to move into that becoming was even more frightening. "No, I'll just stay here," she said, more careful now as she picked her way over brown tangled roots and through thick vines that shimmered and shivered as if malevolently alive. A limb with rough bark reached out and scraped her cheek, leaving a burning trail. She flung her arms at it, skipping aside and beginning to run now.

"Dell, it's time for you to return to us."

Time. Mentor knew everything. Mentor was as old as the hills in the hill country of Texas, he was older than any vampire she knew. He was older than dirt, as her grandfather would say. "Do I have to?" she asked. She took one more step through the barren forest, looked up at the startling sky, at the moon with a face like Death … and opened her eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't think it was healthy for you to stay in that place alone."

He had forced her out and awake. She found a blanket covering her bare arms. She was hot, suffocating, a sudden sheen of sweat popping from her brow. "How long did I sleep?"

"Not long. Less than an hour. Can I see the sores?" She stretched out her arm and bent it at the elbow so that the lesion faced him.

"Are there more?"

"Two so far." She mentally searched her body and added, "No, there's a new one since Mom called you. Three more then, besides this one."

"How do you feel?" he asked.

She liked his eyes. Many of the Predators had shiny brown irises so dark they looked as black as the bottom of an oil drum. And since Mentor was technically a Predator—or had been at one time—she thought he would have eyes like that. Instead, his eyes were as warm and brown as coffee and kind, patient, knowing. There was no furtive agenda of harm hidden behind his eyes. He had come to help her.

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