Authors: John Corwin
Sinister Seraphim of Mine
Book Eight of the Overworld Chronicles
Copyright © 2014 by John Corwin.
Digital eBook Edition.
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WAR AGAINST ANGELS IS HELL
Daelissa's army is on the move and gathering force. With Synod forces, vampires, the Exorcists, mercenary battle mages, the Blue Cloak army of the Arcanes, and the insidious Nazdal at her back, Team Evil looks unstoppable. Their new head strategist, Luna, seems to outthink Justin's forces at every move. To make matters worse, the insane Seraphim has even come up with a way to revive husked Seraphim with arctech developed from one of her former minions, Maulin Kassus.
Seeing no other way out, Justin enlists the help of Jeremiah Conroy and frees Kassus from prison. But Kassus is difficult to control, and Jeremiah is so obsessed with vengeance, the duo may do more to cripple Team Good than help it.
Desperate to raise more numbers, Justin hatches an idea to steal husked Seraphim from Daelissa so they can build a Darkling army of their own, but time is quickly running out.
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The woman gasped. Blackened veins pulsed beneath her skin and her eyes rolled up until only the whites showed. Her mouth opened in a silent scream. Milky essence poured from the woman's fingertips and into Daelissa's trembling hand. The light essence trailed off into a final wisp as dark oily smoke roiled from her skin. Daelissa dropped her arm and snarled in disgust, turning away before the woman collapsed to the floor.
Serena arched an eyebrow. "Are you sated?"
"Hardly." Daelissa cast her gaze around Serena's lab, but there were no other humans left besides the Arcane. Unfortunately, she needed Serena alive. "Everything in the Gloom leaves me wanting." The Seraphim stepped toward the short blonde woman. "That includes you. Where is my prize?"
"The Nazdal are still looking." Serena didn't seem the least concerned with Daelissa's anger, even going so far as to write something in a notebook she carried everywhere.
"You have little value for your life, Arcane."
Serena tilted her head slightly. "On the contrary, Mistress. I value my life, but do not fear for it."
"Perhaps you should." Daelissa formed a simmering sphere of Brilliance in her palm and reached toward Serena.
The Arcane stood her ground, eyes defiant. "Without me, you will be unable to attune the rune and repair the Grand Nexus. I assure you, my minions are scouring the rubble. They will find the key."
The sphere flickered away. "Do not overestimate your value. You still have no proof this rune will work with the Grand Nexus."
Serena voiced a soft grunt. "Unfortunately, that is correct. Thomas Borathen wiped all the research Darkwater recorded from their time with the Gloom Initiative. Until we retrieve the rune, I can only hypothesize."
"Thomas Borathen." Daelissa bit into each word. "My sister, Nightliss, is helping him now. I should have destroyed the rebel Templars before they had a chance to take root."
"The Synod is already whittling away at their numbers," Serena said. "You need rest and sustenance. Perhaps you should return to Eden. I'll notify you the moment we find the rune."
Daelissa walked toward a gaping hole in the back wall of the lab where a door once stood. Bellwood Quarry stretched before her. It was now a pit half-filled with the rubble of what had once been a dagger of land jutting into the middle. A cavernous arch chamber had stood there not more than a few hours ago, before the battle with the Templars destroyed it. Nazdal, humanoid creatures that crawled on all fours and adorned their leaders with chains, dotted the tremendous pile of rubble like ants, combing the debris for the rune which would finally allow Daelissa to repair the Grand Nexus.
She turned to the diminutive Arcane. "You told me the Gloom mirrored Eden. Why has the ground not repaired itself?"
Serena tapped a finger on her chin. "The Gloom resets before and after a dream cycle. Obviously, that has not happened. The battle with the rebels somehow damaged the quarry in the real world."
The Seraphim raised a blonde eyebrow. "How is this possible?"
"I theorize the combination of magic and the open arch somehow caused a reality rift which—"
Daelissa waved off the explanation. "Do not bore me with trivial details."
"Very well. Suffice it to say, the damage occurred here and in the real world."
"See? Much simpler." Daelissa felt tired. Even worse, she felt weak without a full connection to Eden. The battle with the rebels had drained her more than she wanted to admit. Her shaking fingers curled tight as she surveyed the damage. Justin Slade had done this in league with his parents, Daevadius and the vile traitor, Alysea.
One happy family
. A growl rose in the back of her throat. Alysea had led Daelissa to Eden. Together, they'd discovered how feeding from humans made Seraphim more powerful than ever.
Daelissa had invited others to share in the bounty of Eden. She'd soon realized they could easily rule the entire realm. Not long thereafter, they'd overthrown their own government on Seraphina and established a regency. It was so obvious she was meant to rule. The Seraphim represented the absolute pinnacle of power. They were the rightful rulers of all. Alysea hadn't seen it that way. She'd destroyed a centuries-long friendship to whore herself out to the demons.
Traitorous vile creature! I will burn you in your own personal hell.
"Did you hear what I said?" Serena tapped her pen against the notebook, eyebrows raised as she regarded her mistress.
Daelissa ached to kill the woman for her insolence. Unfortunately, she couldn't incinerate Serena until she attuned the Grand Nexus. Instead of answering, Daelissa ignored the Arcane and watched the Nazdal move the mountain of rubble one stone at a time.
It reminded her of the time Ezzek Moore had flattened the top of a mountain so they could use it as a table for a picnic. A breath caught in her throat.
Why does he intrude on my thoughts?
She had been so weak then, barely able to protect herself thanks to the cruel aftereffects of the Desecration.
He had betrayed her like all the others.
Kill them all. Burn them alive! Alysea, my true sister, why did you betray me?
Daelissa bit her lip hard enough to draw blood to reign in the nearly uncontrollable rush of images and thoughts. The madness was already gripping her mind again. She couldn't remain in the Gloom a moment longer unless she fed from a human. The Nazdal were useless for such purposes.
Daelissa turned without a word and strode back into the fortress, leaving Serena to attend her duties. A flying carpet took the Brightling through the fortress and out of the front gates. Aether storms boiled on the horizon as minders drew upon the dreams of the sleeping noms in Eden and filled the world with magical energy.
Daelissa had seen the spectacle many times, but the raw display of power never failed to fill her with a sense of awe. Once she returned to Seraphina she would rebalance her mind and return herself to full control. She would learn how to harness the untapped potential of the Gloom and use it against her enemies.
She turned the carpet south towards Thunder Rock.
Alysea, Alysea, Alysea!
A scream tore from Daelissa's throat. A beam of pure Brilliance scorched a swath of trees, leaving black ash and blistered earth. Daelissa cut off the scream and looked around in confusion.
Where am I?
She brought the carpet to a halt and tried to get her bearings. Pine and oak trees carpeted the area in all directions. Just ahead, she spotted a large clearing and directed the carpet toward it. A moment later, she hovered above Thunder Rock quarry. In the real world, an interdiction shield prevented anyone from getting this close. The spells in Eden did not work across the veil separating the Gloom from Eden.
"I must return and feed," Daelissa said over and over. Repeatedly telling herself what she must do sometimes helped keep her wits longer.
She guided the carpet down into the pit. Darkwater engineers had drained the lake once, flooding the network of caves in Thunder Rock. They had also cleared the place of all the husks left after the Desecration drained the light from every being within the blast radius of the Alabaster Arch.
After several twists and turns, she entered a side room where a gray Gloom arch and sapphire demon arch sat side-by-side. She stepped off the carpet, closed the circle around the Gloom arch, and willed it to open. Strength flooded into her through the open portal. The moment she stepped through, dozens of Exorcists bowed their heads. The rebel Templars had driven the Exorcists from their church—
church—and the refugees had formed a new home in the caves beneath this place.
"It is a blessing to see you again," Montjoy said in his best groveling voice. He waved his hand. Two hooded figures brought forth a struggling young man. "Here is a pure one for you."
Hunger raked at Daelissa's insides. Without a word, she raised a hand toward the man and felt sweet essence rush into her. The man screamed until only a croaking sound emerged. His body shook. As the last bit of light trickled from his fingers, Daelissa lowered her arm and released him. He slumped in the arms of his captors. They dragged him away.
Clarity illuminated Daelissa's mind. Everything sharpened into focus. She felt whole again.
"How may we serve?" Montjoy asked, his voice quavering.
Daelissa narrowed her eyes. "You are wise to be afraid. You lost my church."
"Please forgive me, Eminence. We did not expect such overwhelming force." He bowed his head further. "With the Synod, we can retake the church from the rebels."
"Are there any here who can tell me why we lost my church?" Daelissa asked the question in a calm, cold voice.
There was a long silence. Daelissa was just about to backhand Montjoy when a female voice spoke.
"Our order relies on archaic tools and old ways of doing magic, which the Borathen Templars can easily counter." She paused. "There was no sense of tactics in our defense of your church, Mistress. We relied solely on an ambush to end the threat."
"Not true at all!" Montjoy protested. "Who is that speaking? Bring her here at once, and I will have her flogged for insubordination!"
Daelissa snarled. "You have failed me more times than I can count." She flung the hood back from his fat, balding head. "Why should I waste more time with you? You failed to banish David's demon soul. You've failed to rid the world of demon spawn. You failed to defend my church. You are useless to me, Montjoy." A ball of white fire flared in her palm. "Useless."