SAMPLE SUNDAY: Excerpt from the forthcoming novel NIGHTWALKERS
Isle of Iona, Scotland
The Vikings attacked just after sunrise.
The thumping of axes biting into the protective wood of her sleeping chamber yanked Linares awake and upright in her bed.
Then came the yellow-white light of morning, blasting through the shattered shutters of the tower room and though the split wood of her chamber. For the first time in thirteen hundred years her flesh knew the sun.
Terrified, Linares was going to scream. But then the coppery scent of fresh-spilt blood—the scent of the dead and dying, filled her senses. She knew that blood. She had tasted it, had used its essence to replenish herself for five generations. The blood belonged to the O’Brolchain clan and their servants: men, women and children; babies. The blood belonged to people she loved and who loved her—nobleman and servant; man, woman and child—nearly two dozen souls. Her consorts were dead or dying, all of them.
Linares’ fear of daylight and her instinct for self-preservation were obliterated by her sorrow and her lust for vengeance. As the Vikings ripped apart her chamber and charged her she grabbed her blade and sprang from her bed to meet them.
She wanted death. She needed to kill. With her blade and her teeth and her fists she fell upon the Nordic warriors, slashing, pummeling, biting, until the first wave of raiders were all dead, until where the castle’s stone floor was not covered by a Viking corpse the blood stood ankle-deep. But the conflict was not done. Battle cries, clinking armor and thumping boots on the tower stairs told Linares that more were coming. The ones who had killed those she loved.
From the upper landing Linares saw the next wave of barbarians—more than a dozen—rushing up the stairs. Her bloodlust still running hot, she leapt from the landing as if diving from a cliff into a river of muscle, steel and leather. She delivered more death.
Linares fought her way down, killing as she went, until the Vikings realized that the danger had turned their way, that they were now the victims of slaughter. They fell back from the assault of the madwoman, first within the castle, then onto the grounds, and finally fleeing back toward the sea and their longboats.
Blinded by her fury, Linares did not consider the sun as she battled and drove the Vikings out of the castle and into daylight. Wild with her craving for vengeance through death, she cut them down whether they fought her or fled, slicing sinew with her blade, shattering bone with her fists, ripping flesh with her fangs until stone, grass and sand were painted with the blood of nearly one hundred warriors.
Finally she made the beach, where one Viking remained to face her. He stood with his back to the sea, his veined fists clutching the haft of his battle axe, ready for combat. The markings on his armor told her that he was their leader.
Stronger than the fragrance of the sea, stronger than the scent of fresh-spilled blood came a stench that clotted the air and made Linares want to vomit. Abdiel taught her that when she matured she would be able to recognize evil, even when it hid itself within a human host. She would sense its presence. She would know its foul odor—the stench of wickedness. The final proof was the Viking’s hate-filled eyes, gleaming rubies in their sockets. The warrior’s soul was imprisoned.
She faced a demon.
Linares understood then. The Viking leader, possessed by one of Lilith’s spawn, had led his men to the castle to kill her. They had attacked in the day, thinking that she would be helpless to defend herself, that if the sun did not destroy her, then trapped within the castle walls she would be overrun and brought down by the Nordic warriors. Her consorts—the generations of a people she had loved and lived with for over a century—were dead because a demon had come for her.
As they circled each other on the sand Linares recalled Abdiel’s teachings about the possessed. A demon could take a human weak in spirit, or in a state of great fear or hopelessness. A possessed human was swifter and more powerful than a normal mortal because the demon forced their body to toil through exhaustion and pain. Abdiel taught Linares that she could not drink the fouled blood of the possessed because it would cause her to age unto her true years and perish. A demon could only be released from its host by exorcism or by the death of its host. The demon, in its natural form, was a shadow where there should be no shadow. In its natural form it could do no more harm to mortals than a true shadow. However, for her kind its ethereal flesh was real. They could touch each other. They could kill each other. The only weapon in this realm able to pierce the flesh of a demon was her blade, which was forged from ore from the Garden.
The Viking was a bear of a man. He towered over Linares; the top of her head barely reached his barrel chest. His massive arms bulged with rocklike muscle. His powerful legs were as thick around as her waist. Clad in helmet, chainmail and leather he had to be twice her weight.
Clothed only in her sleeping gown, drenched from hair to heel in Viking blood and armed only with her blade Linares circled the demon-possessed warrior. She was not afraid.
The demon hissed, “You trick the sun but cannot win, blood drinker. You are alone in this world, and we are legion.”
Alone. All the people she loved—men, women and children—were dead; slaughtered in the castle. Because this one had come for her.
Linares screamed her rage and charged the demon.