This week’s sample is from The Assassin Chronicles, Book XIV, The Skull of Sidon. The Prologue is set in the distant past and gives a little more background about the early missions conducted by the Knight of Death for the Grand Master of the Red Cross of Gold. Please remember that the series actually takes place in the modern era and that this is Book XIV of a series. It is currently $2.99 at Amazon for Kindle, Available in Paperback and also from Smashwords.com. Find the colored letters in the sample, put them together in order and claim a free copy of this book from Smashwords.
Mark Andrew fell back from the door of the ruined church as the monstrosity within bolted, almost running him down in the mud. He slipped, slid and caught himself against a mossy block, cursing his luck and the time and the weather. In response to his curse, the glowering gray sky opened up and dumped a deluge of cold rain on his head. He cursed again and yanked the hood of his black cloak up over his hat and pulled it closer over his ears. The wind whipped the soaked tendrils of his hair in his face, making it almost impossible to see which way the creature had gone.
“Up!” He shouted as he turned to his companions. “Don’t let him get away!”
His two miserable companions slipped down the rocky, muddy slope to the ruined gate where their horses were tied. Carlisle Corrigan held an oil lamp affixed to a slender pole in one hand, attempting to shed more light on their path than the strobing effects of the lightning allowed.
“There, Master!!” Sir Ramsay’s apprentice, Gerald Hamlin, pointed and shouted when the blue, flickering light played across the boulder strewn road that was rapidly becoming a raging torrent of black, murky water, streaming down the sides of the mountains rearing up behind the old Abbey.
Ramsay jerked his head around and caught sight of the lumbering hulk shambling quite rapidly up the steep incline.
“He’s headed for the rocks!!” Corrigan shoutedx. “If he gets up there, we’ll lose him, Brother!”
Mark chewed his top lip briefly and pressed one hand against his forehead, blinking the water from his eyes. If they let the thing get away, it could take years to locate him again. The Grand Master would be livid and they would have wasted a great deal of time, money and effort for naught.
“Mount up!” he shouted and grabbed for his horse’s reins. The big horse snorted and reared momentarily, pawing the air, whinnying in protest; its eyes rolled in objection.
The three men managed to get onto their nervous mounts’ saddles and Mark led the way up the incline, allowing his horse to pick the best way around the rocks and boulders protruding from the earth. The water sheeted away behind them, making the climb difficult andk dangerous. Again and again, their horses stumbled and neighed in fright as streaks of brilliant blue lightning lit up the ragged storm clouds over the mountains.
The creature they were after was a vicious mindless monster with only one thing in mind. Survival. It had been preying on the small hamlets and villages in the region for several months, killing pigs, chickens and goats in the main, but in the last few weeks, things had taken a turn for the worst and that was when Master d’Brouchart had learned of the incidents. A visiting bishop had taken note of the peasants’ wild tales and passed them on to the Archbishop in Prague, who in turn had passed them on to one of the Cardinals at the Holy See. The Pope, upon hearing the story had sent a special envoy to see the Templar Master in Scotland, asking for his help… nay, begging for his help. The Pope, himself, could not openly acknowledge the existence of the Order of the Red Cross of Gold, but none-the-less had no problem calling upon them for assistance. The Cardinal had intimated that the Grand Master of the elusive Order of Templars still residing in Scotland had a certain interest in what the Church unofficially recognized as revenants. In this part of the world where such things were more common, they were known as Nosferatu… Wampyre or Vampires, undead, living off the blood of living creatures. This bloody bastard, who had supposedly died sometime the year before, had been the object of their pursuit for three long, miserable weeks, culminating in this stormy, midnight raid on the old Abbey just outside of a small Wallachian village northeast of Targoviste.
Chasing vampires was one of the most distasteful tasks put upon the Order’s Knight of Death and he resented the fact more and more as the years went on. Most of these missions were nothing more than fantasies in the minds of hysterical peasants, trying to explain the inexplicable. But this time, they were on to something very real and very6 dangerous. A real, honest to God vampire. He would have to run him down, cut off his head and bury his body face down in the ground. It was the fifth such creature he had hunted down in his career. They were mean, nasty and generally filthy animals, barely recognizable as having once been human. This one was huge!
They followed the thing up the hillside to another narrow lane winding up the mountainside where the ground leveled out a bit. They drew up in a tight knot and tried to scan the slope further up for signs of the regenerate. The lightning helped, but it was hard to see through the rain that continued to stand against them.
“There!” Gerald pointed again and shouted before spurring his horse8 up the lane.
Mark squinted through the rain and saw the fleeting shadow of the hulk slogging through the muddy road a few hundred yards away. He gigged his own horse and rode after the apprentice.
The creature looked back, roared at them and started climbing the slope again on all fours. This rock face was much steeper than the one they had just traversed and if they were going to follow, they would have to go on foot. The thing would have the advantage of higher ground.
Mark caught up with his apprentice and dismounted.
“We’ll go up!” he said and turned to wait for Corrigan to catch up. The Knight of the Golden Eagle dismounted and drewk his sword and dagger.
“Stay here with the horses, Brother!” Mark ordered. “Gerald and I will head him off and send him back this way. Keep an eye out. He might double back!”
Corrigan nodded and took hold of the horses’ reins and stabbed his sword in the mud before sheathing his dagger. He crossed himself quickly and said a quick prayer for protection to the Holy Mother and then held his sword at the ready in his left hand.
Half way up the slope, Mark lost sight of their quarry. The rocks, the rain and the shadows obscured him completely. They climbed on until they reached a narrow ledge where they were able to stand upright. The storm was abating, the lightning growing sparser. Gerald suddenly grabbed his arm and pointed to the right. Mark spun around in time to see the creature levering a huge boulder loose with a tree limb. The muddy ground holding the rock in place gave way and the rock tumbled toward them.
They leapt out of the way, falling face down in the mud as the first boulder crashed past them. The rock struck against more rocks, dislodging them from the mountainside as it went, creating a muddy rock slide, and picking up momentum.
“Corrigan!!” Gerald shouted and tried to climb to his feet, slipping and sliding down the slope.
Mark grabbed him and stopped him before he became part of the devastation. The lightning provided a stop-action sequence in front of their horrified eyes as a good portion of the ledge on which they stood plummeted down toward the Knight of the Golden Eagle and their hapless horses.
When the ground stopped moving, there was no sign of Carlisle Corrigan, the horses or the monster who had started the landslide.