Authors: Cyndi Friberg
Splendor and Darkness
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright © 2012 Cyndi Friberg.
Cover art by Dar Albert
Electronic book Publication, November 2012
Trade Paperback Publication, November 2012
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author, Cyndi Friberg.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Praise for Beyond Ontariese
Taken by Storm
“Taken by Storm had it all–tense action, suspense, erotic sex,
and a wildly imaginative plot
The Romance Studio
“Unplug the phone and put the kids to bed; once you start reading Taken by Storm you won’t want any interruptions!”
Fallen Angel Reviews
“For a story that will delight, entertain, and keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend TAKEN BY STORM and award it RRT's
Romance Reviews Today
“I highly recommend
it’s one of the best science fiction romances I’ve ever read
.” Perfect 10!
Romance Reviews Today
“Outstanding! This segment only whetted my appetite for more. The heat between Kyrsta and Trey could cause a nuclear meltdown
Simply Romance Reviews
City of Tears
City of Tears
by Cyndi Friberg is one amazing blend of science fiction at its best and romance at its hottest…”
Taken by Storm
City of Tears
Rage and Redemption
Echoes and Embers
Splendor and Darkness
Tears of the Dragon
Mist swirled across the rutted road, momentarily separating Nate from his outriders. Filtering dusk’s purple light, fog sped the onset of night. Tension gripped his belly. His gaze scanned the surrounding trees. Cutthroats roamed free in these woods and the sheer size of his party made them an easy target.
“It’s such an honor to serve you. I shall be the finest squire you’ve ever had.” Hamill rode at Nate’s side, overwhelming him with excited chatter. In the long hours since they’d left London, the boy had barely paused to breathe. “You won’t regret this, Uncle Nate—may I still call you uncle?”
Hamill’s father was Nate’s second cousin, so the title had never been accurate. “We’ll work out the details as we go along. Let’s get my family safely home.”
Nate’s palfrey tossed its head and sidestepped, crowding Hamill’s mount. Controlling the horse with his knees, Nate raised his hand, signaling the lad’s silence. The hairs on the back of Nate’s neck bristled as an eerie quiet descended. Heavy with the scent of impending rain, a brisk wind rustled barren tree branches.
“Are you all right, sir?” Hamill asked after a long pause.
“I’d hoped to make the inn before nightfall.” He glanced over his shoulder. His wife Catherine rode beside his brother
engaged in a lively conversation. The small wagon bearing his mother and daughter had started to lag behind. The other two men-at-arms rode behind the baggage cart. They needed to close ranks, especially in this accursed fog. “Hold up!” Nate called to the outriders. A shiver sped down his spine.
An arrow whizzed past Nate’s face, barely missing the boy. Hamill’s horse reared and the lad yelped as he struggled to maintain his seat. The first raider emerged from the shadows, followed by a horde of black-clad companions, some mounted, more on foot. Archers remained hidden in the trees, raining arrows on the travelers.
Nate drew his sword and balanced in the stirrups, wishing he were astride his mighty
. Foot soldiers surrounded him. He kicked and jabbed, maneuvering his horse in a tight circle. Screams echoed, swords clashed, but fog concealed much of the fray. Catherine fought her way toward the wagon. A brigand dragged William from his horse.
Spurred on by desperation, Nate broke free of the foot soldiers. A massive horse crashed through the underbrush. The hooded rider jerked back on the reins, forcing the horse to rear. Hooves crashed down with violent impact, one on Nate’s thigh, the other on his horse’s neck. Pain shot through Nate as his horse’s front legs buckled. The brigand didn’t pause. Charging ahead, the larger horse trampled the palfrey, dragging Nate down as his horse collapsed.
Agony exploded through Nate, blinding him and driving the breath from his lungs. His daughter’s shrill screams followed him into the void.
* * * * *
The angry words dragged Nate from the merciful abyss. Pain stabbed down his spine and exploded in his legs. Bile rose to the back of his throat, gagging him. With a breathless groan he lifted his face from the muddy ground and tried to raise his eyelids. Something warm and sticky coated his lashes.
Mist swirled around him, embraced him, and called him back to the comforting darkness. Shifting one arm beneath himself, he shoved against the ground. His eyes refused to focus through the fog.
“They have suffered enough. Release them.” A flash of gold accompanied the female voice.
Nate turned his head toward the light. Searing pain rewarded his efforts. Why couldn’t he move?
Jumbled images erupted in his mind. A sea of hooded brigands materialized out of the fog, dragging his party from their horses. Daggers flashed, swords scraped. The darkness was filled with screams of agony and pleas for mercy.
Then the acrid stench of death.
An anguished cry echoed through his mind, but the sound never passed his lips. Dry and useless, his tongue refused to move. His eyes burned as he scanned the tree-lined trail. Night had not yet fallen when the raiders attacked. How long had he been unconscious?
“You have no authority over me,” another female replied. Nate searched for the source of the argument, ignoring the agony triggered by his slightest movement.
Two figures stood backlit by the harvest moon. One was tall and slender. The elaborate sleeves of her flowing silver gown rippled in the breeze. Light emanated from her, shimmering in her hip-length hair. Even in profile her features were elegant, hauntingly beautiful. She stepped closer to the other figure, sparks trailing in her wake.
Undaunted by the aggression, the second figure held her ground. Dressed in a tunic and hose like a lad, bronze light emanated from her body, leaving no doubt about her gender. Though smaller and darker than the first, the second entity was no less remarkable.
“Be gone!” The silvery apparition gestured sharply, knocking the other back.
Terrified, Nate struggled against the oppressive weight pinning him to the ground. The bronze spirit hissed. Blue light ignited in her eyes, revealing angular features and full lips. She raised her hands, but the silver spirit launched another attack. Screaming, the bronze specter wrapped her arms around her belly and convulsed. A final burst from the silver-haired being forced the darker one to retreat. Her image wavered for a moment then faded from view.
Trembling with fear and trepidation, Nate couldn’t take his gaze off the vision. She floated toward a shape in the darkness, a denser shadow against the gloom. In a voice soft and musical, she spoke words he didn’t understand. Her slender hands hovered over a body sprawled on the leaf-strewn ground.
A hazy image jerked into focus, more agonizing than his pain. His brother frantically battling the brigands as Nate watched…helplessly pinned beneath his horse. A sob lodged in his dry throat. Tears filled his eyes.
Not William. Take me!
The specter didn’t hear him or she ignored his silent plea. She moved on, wavering light illuminating her destination. Nate trembled, tears streaming down his face as the spirit knelt beside his wife. Clutched tight in Catherine’s arms was their three-year-old daughter
. Her tiny body shuddered, struggling for breath.
Grief clogged his throat. He forced the word out and the specter looked at him. “Please. I’ll do anything! Spare them.”
Her wide, ice-crystal gaze bore into his, her expression both compassionate and confused. “I’m here to release them from their suffering. She had no right to trap them here.”
“Death is no mercy! Heal them. Right this wrong!”
“That’s not within my power.” Regret softened her tone. Her radiance shifted from silver to gold and back. “Their spirits would have departed long ago were it not for the other’s wickedness. Death is all I can offer. Would you rather they remain in agony?”
Nate couldn’t speak the words. He lowered his face to the ground. Was his mother still in the wagon? Who had arranged this slaughter?
Time passed, an eternity of agonizing moments. He imagined Catherine’s gentle smile, her eyes alight with warmth and tenderness. The memory of
sweet laughter unleashed a maelstrom of regret. He would never hear her giggle again. He wouldn’t be able to watch her grow, see her experience life’s wonders and overcome its challenges.
Now! Let the spirit take him now. He longed for Death’s embrace.
What was taking so long?
With great effort he raised his face from the mud. Her otherworldly radiance subsided as the specter knelt at his side. Her long, pale hair spilled forward, brushing his cheek. Without the illumination, she looked like an ordinary woman, her features lost in shadow.
“Am I the last?” he
his voice cold and composed.
“I have tried to free you, Nathaniel.” She gathered her hair and pushed it behind her shoulders. “You are not meant to die.”
He screamed his fury to the fog-shrouded night. “Don’t leave me here! You heartless bitch! Don’t leave me…” He lowered his head, clawing at the mud.
She stroked his cheek and whispered in her strange, musical language. He flinched from her touch, cursing his helplessness. As Nate willed himself to die, the Angel of Death began to sing.
* * * * *
Enos Diadem stared down at the crumpled body of
. Her garments were charred and dirty. Debris littered her long, dark hair. Should he restore her strength, or siphon what little remained of her energy? He shrugged and lifted her slight form in his arms. It wasn’t his decision to make. She belonged to
With a disgusted shudder, Enos sank through the forest floor and emerged in an upper corridor of the Netherworld. He scanned the chambers, searching for the master demon. His revulsion grew with each step he took. Putrid filth coated every surface. The stench of rotting flesh and decay gagged him. Shuddering, he forced himself to venture deeper.
“It’s not natural for a demon to hate Hell.”
stepped into the corridor and grinned. It was a common criticism among the master demons.
was one of the few who found Enos’ distaste amusing.
“I brought you a present.” Enos motioned to the fledgling in his arms.
ushered Enos into his chamber. “Where did you find her?”
“In the forest above the main gate.
I presumed she was trying to return to you.”
“Her assignment was simple. There’s no reason she should have failed.”
“Has she failed you before?” Enos laid her on the floor at
“Aye, but I sense great potential in her and she pleases me in other ways.” Lightly tapping one of his sharp fingernails against his chin,
paused to deliberate.
as his friend stared at the fledgling. Honey-colored hair flowed to his broad shoulders. The elegant arrangement of his features hadn’t changed since his descent into darkness. Were it not for the demonic flash of his ebony eyes,
would be able to blend with humanity. His appealing features hid an especially vicious nature. Enos often relied on his ruthlessness.
“I need to know what went wrong before I decide whether or not to destroy her.”
sent a jolt of energy into her body. Her skin
her breathing deepened and her eyelids fluttered.
“What happened?” His angry question jarred her more than the violent energy transfer.
She pushed her hair out of her eyes and struggled to sit. Her gaze appeared black, but occasional flickers of blue revealed her incomplete transformation.
“There was this…”
Her full breasts quivering beneath her linen tunic.
Enos licked his lips. They’d have her out of that soon enough. He remained well back from
, content to observe the interaction.
Did the raiders not attack as I said they would?”
Shifting to her knees, she sat back on her heels, bowing her head slightly. She should have removed her offending garments before assuming the respectful position. If
didn’t rectify the oversight, he would.
“The raiders had just finished when I arrived.” Her voice sounded stronger. She folded her hands in her lap.