Authors: Karpov Kinrade
Copyright © 2015 Karpov Kinrade
Cover Art Copyright © 2015 Karpov Kinrade
Published by Daring Books
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.
Her long hair, dark with auburn streaks, falls down her back as she twirls in his arms. Her full gown—blue silk and satin trimmed in white fur and studded with sapphires, diamonds, and intricate silver thread—spins around her. Her eyes, as blue as her dress, are full of love and laughter as she looks up at him. She is angelic. Pure.
Andriy Zorin smiles down at his new bride, his heart full of heady emotion. "You are mine, dear wife."
Her smile is dazzling. "And you are mine."
Water from a nearby fountain splashes as it feeds into a small pond filled with exotic fish. Danika holds her husband's hand. "We should return to our guests, should we not?"
Zorin leans in to kiss her lips. "They can wait. We have a marriage to consummate."
She laughs and pulls away. "I do not think this is the place for that, lovely as it is."
This villa had belonged to Zorin for many years, but he hadn't spent much time in it. Now it felt like home. With Danika, it
home. They had excused themselves from their elaborate wedding reception to catch a quiet moment together in the private indoor courtyard adjacent to their bedroom suite. Zorin does not fancy returning to the many people who want to steal his attention from the woman before him, so he pulls her closer. "Our bedchamber is but a short distance away."
She laughs again, spinning out of his arms in another twirl.
He sees it in her eyes first. They are full of life in one moment, empty the next.
An empty vessel.
Her body takes a moment to catch up. To realize what has happened.
Zorin is fast, but not fast enough. For his mind also requires a moment to make sense of what is happening.
She falls into the pond, her beautiful dress spreading around her.
The thud of her skull against the stone is loud. It breaks the silence. It is all Zorin can hear.
Blood stains the water around her head like a macabre halo.
He reaches for her, cradling her lifeless body against his. Her human fragility against his immortal strength.
His voice carries through the halls and through the town, so loud is his grief and anguish.
Zorin remembers New York before it was New York. Before it was a kingdom of the Four Orders. Before the tall buildings. Before Eden Architecture and Landscaping swept through the streets and turned them into this bewitching blend of old and new. Of nature mating with science to give birth to living landscapes and skyscrapers created from earth and stone and trees. But even before all that. He remembers.
He remembers the Old World, so named back when this world was new. He remembers Broadway before it was Broadway. As his footsteps fall heavy in the unusually quiet night, he locks his dreams up in a corner of his mind and thinks about a different part of his past. One where Danika isn't dead.
One where he flies with her to see the world. One where they walked this street when it was an old footpath of the Lenape Indians in the early 1500s. Before Europe seized hold of the world.
Back then this magical street full of Fairy Trees glowing with their ripe fruit was a dirt path trodden by moccasins. He brought Danika here once, from their villa in Italy across the seas into a land of savages. But they weren't savages. They became friends with the natives. Danika and Zorin, both revered for their powers, rather than scorned.
But that was many lifetimes ago.
The Lenape people are all dead and gone.
Like that version of New York. And the one after it.
Like Danika Star.
But he's still here. He'll always be here.
Around him the Fairy Fruit glows in bright pinks, oranges, greens, blues and reds, the ripe hanging heavy on the green branches. The eScreens above him light up with news, advertisements and messages from the Pope and the Four Orders. Inquisition Guards are dispersed in pairs, monitoring the streets, looking for rebels or Zeniths abusing their powers. Zeniths who aren't tagged properly or registered.
He ignores it all in search of a bar that might house liquor strong enough to erase the shadows of his dreams.
A wooden sign sways in the gentle breeze, the symbol of the Teutonics painted in faded red ink that reminds Zorin of blood. The Knight's Inn is not an elaborate set-up by any means, which suits Zorin's mood just fine. The door swings open with a thud at a push from his palm, exposing the insides of a gluttonous tavern, complete with the stink of ale and smoke, and sweat and vomit from those who cannot hold their liquor. The scent of food, of boiled potatoes and meats and vegetables long past their prime, assaults Zorin's senses.
His sight is not hindered by the dismal lighting. Used to seeing in much darker places, Zorin scans the rugged groups of drinkers for the one face he knows will be here. He finds that face in the back, hidden by the shadows, sitting at a small wooden table alone, nursing a pint. Zorin passes the bar, where a young woman rushes to fill orders and pour drinks for her increasingly intoxicated clientele. She looks up as he enters and smiles in a way that makes Zorin pause. It's a genuine smile—authenticity in a world of posturing. He smiles back, his face stretching with the effort of kindness. The surprise on her face gives him pause. She doesn't expect kindness to be returned. She shouldn't have this much faith left in her twenties, nor should she be so jaded. It's an odd juxtaposition that bothers Zorin as he turns away from her grey eyes and pretty, but worn, face.
He sits in the seat opposite the man wrapped in a dark cloak whose wrists, still bound by broken chains, are hidden as he holds the pint to his lips and takes a long drink. The man looks up, his face showing many human years, but masking many more. "Zorin, I wasn't sure you'd come."
Zorin wasn’t sure either. "What are you doing here, Carter?” he asks. “You should not be here."
Carter reveals nothing with his face, but Zorin has known this man long enough to feel the burning energy humming beneath the calm exterior. "Is that any way to treat an old friend?" Carter asks.
"Is that what you are?" Zorin asks. "An old friend?"
Before Carter can respond, the bar maid arrives at their table. "What can I get you?" she asks Zorin. She has large grey-blue eyes and an Eastern European accent.
"I will have the strongest liquor you have," he tells her, studying her face.
She nods. "Rough day?"
"Da.” Zorin continues in Russian, saying “All days are rough, are they not?"
She smiles and replies in Russian. "They don't all have to be rough. It's all in our perspective. How do you speak Russian? Not many do anymore."
"I remember," is all he says. She raises an eyebrow but says nothing else as she walks away, the hem of her simple blue dress brushing against his leg as she does.
"You don't usually show your roots," Carter says. "You've been dreaming of her again, haven't you?"
Zorin narrows his eyes. "Never mind about my dreams. Why are you here?"
"To serve Nyx," Carter says in a soft voice. "To serve you."
"I do not need service."
Carter shakes his head. "You have not changed. All those years trapped in a box like a corpse did not soften you. That is good. Our kind needs your fire to rebuild."
"Is that why you saved me? To rebuild a Nephilim army?" The thought might have appealed to him once upon a time. Now, he's not so sure.
The eScreen above the bar plays a video of a Nephilim spiraling through the sky, surrounded by her silver wings. She tears apart a jet plane with her sword, then lands amongst a crowd of people as the aircraft crashes behind her. “The Nephilim have returned,” says the news reporter. “And this is their leader.” A pause. The camera stays on the girl as she rises. “She calls herself Nightfall,” continues the reporter. “And she claims to fight for justice. Yet, when has a Nephilim ever fought for more than power? We’ve reached out to Dr. Cane Denin, an expert in Nephilim history—”
The young waitress changes the channel to a commercial and grins. She returns with a dark bottle and a shot glass. She sets both on the table in front of Zorin. The bottle has no label and is covered in dust. Zorin looks up at her. "Dare I ask?"
She smiles. "It's a special brew. I made it myself. It'll give you what you're looking for."
"And what am I looking for?"
She tilts her head, her eyes losing focus as her small pale hand falls over his. "Redemption. But you'll settle for forgetting.
She pulls her hand away and looks around, her eyes darting and her breathing coming faster. "I'm sorry," she says. "I was just teasing. Enjoy your drink."
When she leaves, the commercial ends, the video changes to a live showing of
, the latest Broadway hit. A live retelling of how the War between Nephilim and Humans ended.
In the center of the screen, mist rises to fill an empty stage as a haunting melody in a minor chord fills the auditorium. The mist dissipates to reveal a throne carved from dark stone, floating in the air. A woman sits upon it wearing a crown of yellow and white gold, large wings glowing behind her. The Twilight Queen.
To her left and right two men hover in the air with their own golden wings. Their golden armor shines under the lights of the stage.
Zorin's back itches as he watches, his own wings anxious to come out, to feel the wind and freedom of flying. Too long trapped. Too long buried.
Below the queen, the stage moves soundlessly as three old men and a woman approach the throne.
"Who approaches the Twilight Queen?" asks one of the guards.
One of the men in the group steps forward. "Varian of the Knights Templar."
That looks nothing like Varian
, Zorin thinks, opening the mystery bottle and pouring himself a shot.
Another speaks. "Titus of the Teutonic Knights."
The third man addresses the Queen. "Victus of the Inquisition."
And finally the woman speaks. "Marian of Knights Hospitaller."
Varian continues speaking. "Our alliance grows frail, Queen Seraphina. There have been men turned against their will. Babes stolen to be nothing more than food. You must uphold your oaths."
The Queen speaks from her floating throne. "I have punished those who have transgressed, and new policies are being put in place, so that this does not occur again."
Varian bows his head a fraction. "Then our alliance holds."
"Our alliance holds," the Queen agrees.
The stage grows darker and thunder claps overhead as a voice off stage calls out, "No!"
Mist forms around the stage, and lightning flashes through the auditorium. A man flies above the audience, emerging from the mist, his wings glowing darkly. He wears a white mask.
Nyx, the leader of the Nephilim during the war.
Zorin swallows the shot, feeling it burn down his throat. He pours another drink. And another.
As Nyx flies overhead, audience members cry out, shrinking from the sight of him.
"You have been deceived," he says to the representatives of the Four Orders. "There will be no alliance."
Seraphina rises from her throne, her body floating in the air above them. "Be silent."
Nyx does not back down. "No. Too long have we tempered ourselves. Too long have we allowed a lesser race to rule."
Seraphina's guards charge forward, but Nyx disarms them instantly with a sword black as night. He moves for the Four Knights as other Nephilim, clocked in black, join him from around the auditorium, flying over the audience like avenging dark angels to surround the Knights and the Queen.
"Now," Nyx says, holding his sword high and hovering above the slain bodies of the guards, "It's our turn." The stage roars with thunder, and lightning rips through the darkness.
The audience cheers.
Zorin takes another drink.
He half-watches, shuffling a silver coin across his knuckles. The show continues for hours.
Nyx overthrows the Queen, but Varian escapes. Battles blaze above as Nyx and his army of Nephilim win victory after victory.
The climax mounts as Nyx and Varian set to duel each other.
They battle, Nyx flying through the sky, Varian fending him off with two swords expertly wielded. The fight is long and brutal.
That part is true enough
, Zorin thinks. His blood feels hot.
In the end, both Nyx and Varian are wounded and can no longer fight.
It looks to be a draw. Neither can defeat the other.
But then the winds of battle change. The Pope arrives with reinforcements. Varian never needed to best Nyx one-on-one. He just needed to distract the Nephilim long enough for backup to arrive. It was all a trap.
A trap. Zorin drinks again.
The play ends with Nyx executed by beheading and Varian bowing before the Pope as he is named King of the re-established kingdom of Sapientia, a vast land spanning the south of England, once great but lost even in stories long ago. Varian's father died in the war, making Varian heir to throne.
He receives his cloak and sigil, a golden raven on black and, as he leaves the ceremony, his three small children run up to him, hugging him. Two boys and a girl. He's finally reunited with his family after many years of bloody war.
The stage goes dark and the crowd rises to their feet in cheers and applause.
"The Nephilim should have won," a quiet voice says beside Zorin. He looks up to see the young woman holding a pitcher of ale and staring at the screen.
"Be careful where you say such things," Zorin warns her, noticing the belligerent men next to them paying attention to their words.
The biggest of that group stands and walks over to them, putting his body too close to the girl. "You one of those Nephylites? Think they'll come flying out of the sky to save you? We killed them all off, the bloodsucking cockroaches. We won."
She squeezes past the brute’s putrid body and scurries to the back of the bar, disappearing behind a door.
"They are not all dead, are they?" Zorin asks, to pull attention away from the girl.
The man looks down at him and sneers. "You mean that biter everyone calls Nightfall? She'll get hers."
His friends laugh and cheer him on. One chimes in. "She'll get hers soon. Haven't you heard? Varian the hero is back. He'll kill her just like he killed Nyx."
Zorin stands and towers over the other men. His eyes harden. "What are you talking about?"
"King Varian," the biggest, drunkest one says. "He's back in New York. Pope sent him to wipe out the last of the Nephilim once and for all. So all you blood sucker lovers can go to hell."
Zorin looks over at Carter who is still shrouded in his cloak. "Did you know about this?"
Carter looks down. "I was going to tell you. The girl is in danger, and I don't think you should get involved."