The last chapter of the Assassin Chronicles series: The Red Cross of Gold XXX:. The Wayward GodKing is now available on Amazon for Kindle and at Smashwords for all eReaders. Only $3.99!
The following sample is from Book 30 of the Assassin Chronicles, Epic Fantasy Series, The Red Cross of Gold XXIX:. The Perfect Sun. It is available from Amazon for Kindle $3.99, Smashwords and other venues including paperback from Amazon.
The ragged band of Fox Soldiers stood waiting skittishly in the shade of the flapping canopy they had erected against the merciless sun. It was winter, but the seasons were skewed. Nothing had returned to normal since the floods and their hurried escape from New Babylon. They wore everything they owned on their backs and they held their automatic rifles ready to take out whatever this new threat might be.
Lucifer waved to them with his left hand and pulled the canvas bag gingerly from his sore shoulder.
“Greetings, fine warriors!” Lucifer called to them when they did not respond to his waves and Ernst grabbed his arm.
“Hold on, Luke,” he said in a low voice. “You’d best let me handle this. They don’t look very friendly.”
“Advance and be recognized!” One of the soldiers shouted to them and raised his rifle a bit.
Lucifer jerked his arm from the General’s grip, but allowed him to go in first.
“General Ernst Schweikert, Central Command Fox, Babylon!” Ernst answered the challenge and held up both hands, allowing his own rifle to hang from the straps.
“General Schweikert?” The soldiers looked at each other nervously and the name was said several times.
“Come on in, sir!” The soldier called. “We will need proof of your identity.”
“I have my papers, Corporal.” Ernst looked back at Lucifer and smiled. “Follow my lead, friend. Just keep cool.”
“Cool, yes.” Lucifer smiled and raised his own arms in the air. “A very strange greeting ritual.”
“Whatever,” Ernst mumbled and they walked into the camp.
After a tricky exchange of identification cards, orders and other official papers that now meant nothing, they settled down around the fire to share the men’s meal with them. They drank and ate and talked about nothing in particular until the Corporal asked Ernst how long before they could return to the city. Ernst had no idea what had transpired in the city. He had no idea where Omar, the Prophet, had gone or how he had found himself running for his life along a deserted highway. The last thing he remembered was being in a boat off of the coast of Ireland with Omar Kadif and his wife, Ruth.
“It might be some time before we can get the situation under control,” he told them vaguely. “Where did you say you were heading?”
“We thought to rendezvous with some of the companies that left the city ahead of us, but we are beginning to think they went north instead of south,” the corporal explained and the others nodded their agreement.
“Well, we should try to connect with Colonel Bardsley’s battalion. Is he still in Jordan?”
“Jordan?” The Corporal frowned and the others fell quiet.
“We have no battalions in Jordan, sir,” another of the soldiers answered quickly. “We don’t even know if Jordan exists anymore.”
“Yes, of course, but we have to make some sort of plan.” Ernst nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose you’re right. Well, perhaps we should head north when the sun goes down. What mode of transportation do you have?” He looked around and saw nothing, but empty rocks and the flat landscape of formerly rich farmland.
The corporal laughed and held up one foot.
“Boots, sir. That’s how we got here. Same as you.” He laughed sarcastically. “We ran out of gas before we got out of sight of the city. There weren’t many supplies left. By the time we decided to run, the good stuff was taken.”
“Then you have no command structure? No contact with HQ?” Ernst’s frown deepened.
“Are you kidding?!” One of the men burst out and then fell quiet. “No disrespect intended, sir,” he said after a moment.
“Then it would seem we are all in the same boat, sir,” the Corporal added. “We have no orders, no communications network, no transportation. No mission.”
“We are not all in the same boat as you put it, young one,” Lucifer spoke up for the first time. His strange accent and inflection caused them all to gawk at him. “I have a mission, which is quite clear from the Most High Command.”
“Oh, really?” The Corporal eyed the sergeant’s bars on Lucifer’s collar. “What mission is that, Sarge, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Lucifer stood up and held out both arms. He looked up at the sky and a beautiful smile spread across his face.
“Lo, I bring glad tidings of great news! A son will be born to you and He will be a sign unto you from the Most High. And He will be called Michael Emmanuel, the Deliverer, the Savior. You will find him lying in a manger, and He will bring a sword to cast down the Ancient One.”
The soldiers sat staring at Lucifer with mouths agape.
“He’s been affected by the sun,” Ernst shrugged and broke the silence. “It’s all right, Sergeant Ramsay. They already know that story.”
“They do?” Lucifer looked very disappointed and dropped his arms to his side.
“Of course we do, Sarge,” the Corporal said and leaned toward the General. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Say, General, sir. Is Sergeant Ramsay a guy or a girl?”
“He says he’s a man,” the General answered in like tones. “But it’s hard to tell, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm.” The Corporal nodded and then smiled at Lucifer. “Say, Sarge, we have some time before we bed down. Would you care for a shower? Bennett’s rigged one back there in the rocks.”
Lucifer frowned and glanced toward the rocks.
“A shower? You mean rain?” He asked. “I’m afraid I can’t do those anymore. At least, not yet.”
“Oh, I see.” The Corporal sighed and circled one finger around his temple in the universal sign for ‘wacko’. “Well, we’d best try to get some rest before nightfall. It’ll be too hot to sleep soon. General? We have a few bedrolls. We can share.”
Schweikert glanced at Lucifer, and then at the soldiers who were staring at him. The ‘Sarge’ seemed oblivious to them as he frowned at the water in the bottle and then made a terrible face.
“What is wrong with you?” Ernst stood up abruptly.
“I don’t know,” Lucifer looked up at him. “I think I have the same disorder Michael and Galen had.”
“Oh? And what disease was that?”
“The running off disease.” Lucifer frowned again and clutched his stomach.
“Oh! Diarrhea. Yes, well. Probably the water.” Schweikert helped his companion to his feet. “Corporal, do we have any facilities here?”
“Are you kidding, sir?” The Corporal shook his head. “We just go in the rocks like always.”
“Oh, well, then, Sergeant, just go in the rocks like always,” Schweikert said and pushed him toward the nearest likely cluster.
“Wait. Here you go!” The Corporal tossed a roll of toilet paper toward him. “Be my guest, Sarge.”
Lucifer caught the paper out of the air as a dawning realization took hold of him and he began to sweat. Another terrible thing he had to suffer in his present form. Humans were certainly messy creatures. Within the space of a few moments, the Heavenly Messenger had three lessons in human anatomy he could have done without for eons. He lost a great deal of weight and lot more dignity before it was all over, but he gained an enormous measure of humility.
Here is an excerpt from Book 2 of the Assassin Chronicles: The King of Terrors. The series follows the adventures of a group of semi-immortal Templars left over from the Crusades who are working their way through the modern world toward Armadgeddon where they intend to fight the forces of darkness in the final battle.
Heinrich’s hands were shaking as he raised the pistol, aiming it at the man’s head. He had no conscious intention of shooting anyone. The action was purely instinctive. The Knight found him only seconds later, just before he pulled the trigger. The gun went off and Gavin Nash screamed. The bullet struck von Hetz in his right shoulder and his sword went flying when the impact knocked him back against the door. The lanky Knight slapped against the steel and glass, slamming the back of his head against one of the beveled panes hard enough to leave a smattering of blood in a spider web of cracks. Heinrich huffed and puffed down the stairs, pointing the gun at the unconscious man, threatening to do all sorts of things to him in German. Gavin caught him before he pulled the trigger again at point blank range on the downed man’s head and took the gun from him.
“No!” he shouted at him. “He’s one of them. You can’t kill him.”
Heinrich stood with one hand over his heart, panting heavily. Only his current state of shock allowed the smaller man to overpower him. He heard nothing of what Gavin said. His only thought was that he was very far from the comfort of his home and in deep shit.
“Snap out of it, you fat fool!” Gavin growled at him and shoved at his upper arm. “Help me with him before he wakes up.”
Heinrich grunted and strained as they lifted von Hetz and lugged him up the stairs. The boy continued to shout the words: Knight! Daddy! Wizard! Dragon! The two, near hysterical men dragged von Hetz into one of the guest bedrooms and tied him in a chair. Blood ran down his arm and dripped from his fingertips onto the light yellow carpet creating an alarming contrast. His head hung on his chest and his long hair obscured his face.
“We’ll never get that up!” Nash groaned and pulled the quilted comforter from the bed, tucking it desperately around the chair to catch the blood.
“What the hell are you doing?!” The German shouted at him. “You stupid fucking faggot! You’re worried about housekeeping at a time like this!”
“Forensics! You blubbering gasbag!” Gavin responded in kind and then leaned to look at von Hetz’ face more closely. He grimaced at the rip in the man’s shirt and the blood dripping onto his four hundred dollar goose-down comforter. And the boy was crying and bubble-snotting all over his bathroom! They would never be able to get rid of the evidence if the police came.
“Is he dead?” Heinrich gasped from the door way. His breath wheezed loud enough to indicate a major coronary near at hand.
“Of course not,” Gavin looked up at him and then checked the man’s pulse on his neck. It was weak, but steady. “He’s immortal, remember?”
“Oh, ja, ja! Of course he is immortal,” Heinrich sputtered and mocked Gavin’s words. For the first time, he realized the absurdity of Gavin’s claim about the powder and the idea that some silly formula could bestow immortality. He had been a fool.
“You thought I was kidding?” Gavin looked at him incredulously.
“Well, it is very hard to believe, ja,” Schroeder nodded and then shook his head in confusion. “We are in deep trouble, my friend. Kidnapping. Assault with a deadly weapon. If he dies… murder.”
“I have to see about the boy,” Gavin told him and ignored his remarks on their predicament. If the man died, Heinrich was the murderer, he an accomplice! He would turn state’s evidence and blame everything on the German. “Stay here with him and let me know when he moves.” Already, he was going over his options. He had sizable liquid assets in several different banking accounts. He would have to make a run through town and collect enough money to get to Switzerland without sending up a red flag. Once in Switzerland, he could transfer his money to his numbered account and then head out to points unknown. He had already played through this scenario in his mind… just in case. He would leave the German to answer the questions and if caught, he would claim blackmail, coercion and so on and so forth. His father knew people in New York and Chicago. Excellent attorneys….
Heinrich was very unhappy. He turned on the television in the corner and plopped himself on the bed, keeping his eyes glued on the man in the chair as he listened to the local cable news channel. He expected to hear his and Gavin’s name any moment. He eyed the growing stain on the comforter. If this man died, he would never get home unless he killed Gavin and the boy as well, erased all traces of himself in the house and left on the next flight out. Even as he watched, the blood ceased flowing and began to dry on the Knight’s hands. Heinrich’s heart failed him when he saw the fingers twitch and heard the man take a deep breath. But his eyes remained closed. He wanted to go down and get something to eat. He was suddenly hungry; he was always hungry when he was nervous and this guy made him very, very nervous.
Mark Andrew Ramsay was alone. The place for the meeting was easy enough to find. The very same highway again. They wanted to make it easy for him, he supposed, since he was so very old and obviously stupid. The water tank was painted with an irksome picture of a smiling cowboy riding a longhorn bull. The pastures stretched out around him in every direction. There weren’t even any cows to keep him company as he waited. He paced the ground in front of the Coupe de Ville, every now and again glancing up at the vultures swirling high overhead, looking for carrion. He was surprised that they did not come down to keep him company. He was, after all the personification of the force that fed them their daily bread. What else was God going to do to him? Who was it that would play him so badly as this? Surely Dambretti was right. It could only be some one or another of his illustrious Brothers of the Order. There could be no other explanation. Unless Merry had confided to some of her former associates that he was returning to America. Someone with the same ambition and greed as Valentino. Valentino had been a snake and where there was one snake, there were usually others. The way he felt, he would kill whoever it was and leave their carcasses for the buzzards.
“Merry!” he shouted up to the smiling cowboy in frustration. “Dammit girl, where are you?”
Only the crows sitting atop the tank answered him with guffaws and squawks.
He went to the trunk of the car, took out the golden sword and put it in the front seat. How could she have done this to him? Why all the pretty poems and messages on the damned machine and now this? It didn’t make sense. What had she expected from him? Better yet, what had he expected from her? He glanced at his watch. He had run out of the hotel two hours earlier. He was supposed to meet them here at ten o’clock. He still had another half hour to go crazier. Why should he risk everything for a boy he did not even know? Mark Andrew did not understand the feeling of attachment he had already developed for a boy that he had only seen for a few minutes. He still felt goose pimples rise on the skin of his arms and neck at the memory of the electric blue eyes. John Paul was a special child and not simply because he was his son. For there was no doubt of paternity, but… It had been like looking at his brother, Luke Matthew, when they had been but lads in the lowland forests of Scotland. Only John Paul’s face had been much cleaner than he remembered Luke’s. They had always been dirty, smeared with mud and mulch from roaming the countryside. He remembered how wild they had looked with feathers and twigs and grasses tangled in their long, uneven locks. Even now he remembered how painful his infrequent baths had been when their father’s old cook had scrubbed them up and combed their hair enough to make them presentable for Mass.
John Paul’s smiling face was etched in his memory now just as his long dead twin brother’s visage was indelibly engraved in his brain. But why would he not speak? And what had he meant by trying to give him the little Knight? Had Merry told his son about him? Or had she told him nothing? And what, if anything, had she told him, if she had told him anything? Mark slapped himself on the forehead. These questions were as confusing as this whole situation. He couldn’t think at all. His main question now was what did they want in return for the child? He had nothing to give them. Not with him. He had nothing but himself… that was it! But they didn’t want money; they wanted his head and, if that was the case, they were in for a long ride. And further, if they wanted him, then it would be most likely his own Brothers of the Order who were behind this things. Those who had voted the black ball and lost. If they were willing to beat Lucio so cruelly for speaking up in Council on his behalf, what would they be willing to do to him?
He climbed onto the hood of the car and leaned back against the windshield keeping the sword close beside him, wondering that his Brothers would so carelessly make an appointment with Death. There was no way to prepare for this. Killing them would be the only way to stop this thing. Useless. Senseless. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The image of Merry’s face appeared before him. Why had she refused him? But she had not actually refused him, had she? She had said nothing. Was he to take nothing for a ‘no’? Silence almost always meant consent! Had he jumped to conclusions? Of course, afterwards, he had made a really serious mistake when he had met John Paul. He had not known what to say from the beginning. As he sat going over it in his mind, he realized just how terrible what he had said must have sounded. But he was not accustomed to such things. He knew nothing of children. He knew nothing of women… no, that was not true. He knew nothing of ladies except that they were out of reach, cool, aloof and very, very dangerous. And he knew nothing of love. In fact, he felt he knew nothing at all and he had already lost his memories once before, lost everything, in this godforsaken land. There had to be something he could do to make amends to her. Lucio would help him. His devoted Brother Lucio, who had decked him only the night before when he needed it most. He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. Lucio always knew what was best for him even if it was a bit painful.
If he could manage to get the boy away from these people, and get back to Merry again with their son safe and sound, she would forgive him. Perhaps they could start over. He looked at his watch again. Time was dragging. Hardly any cars passed on the country road in the distance and he watched each one of them with failing hope. The sun grew hotter and he had to abandon the hood for the shady interior of the car. Eventually, he had to start the engine and run the air conditioner as the temperature rose into the mid-nineties. He went over and over what he would say to Merry the next time he saw her. It kept his mind off the waiting and what would happen when ‘they’ showed up… whoever they were. He jumped when a tall, brown bird carrying a snake in its beak ran across the dusty road in front of the car. A bad omen. A very bad omen!
Lucio had to rent another car and, as vanity would require, he picked something far too ostentatious for the locale. A black Humvee. By the time he rented the ATV, bought a map and headed out of town toward Llano, he realized that he was attracting a lot of attention on the near-deserted Texas country roads. He found the Prairie Flats Motel with little trouble in the small town and made several passes by the weathered old place. It was hard to tell where the motel started and the junkyard next door stopped. The sun beat down unmercifully and not a breath of a breeze stirred the willowy leaves of the mesquite trees. An old man sitting in a rickety chair in front of the junk shop had noticed him and begun to wave at him on his third pass. What he would do at three was unknown. He took a long run into the open countryside, turned around and headed back, still uncertain what plan of action might be best. It was almost two as he was refilling the tank of the Hummer when an idea finally struck him.
The motel was small. One long row of rooms fronted by a covered walkway. There were only two rooms with cars in front. One of them was a nondescript white sedan and the other was an old junker van with three of its doors painted different colors. Surely his Brothers would have rented a car just as he had and not be traveling about America in a junkheap. He had almost an hour to make good his haphazard plan. He pulled into the motel-combination-junkyard office car park and went inside to rent a room, staying carefully out of sight of the windows along the front of the dust-covered building. After parking on the far side of the car park, he got out and then walked quickly down the cracked sidewalk to his room.
Once inside, he pulled one of the chairs up to the front window and situated himself so that he could see the white car. He could hear the TV from next door and various bumps and bangs, but nothing distinctive. His plan was simple. When no one showed up at three o’clock for the meeting, they would get nervous. Eventually, they would come out and when they did, he would make his move. That the men next door were his Brothers, he had no doubt. He could almost feel their presence through the thin wall separating them. He counted on blind luck and the Will of God to help him in his efforts. He sighed and looked around the dingy little room wishing he had brought something to eat and drink. God would take care of it. God had to be on his side. God could not be supporting the criminal actions of his Brothers. They had gone from sin and avarice to crime in a very short space. It saddened him to think that he might be losing another of his beloved Brothers. Perhaps two of them. If he did not stop this thing before Brother Ramsay got hold of them, they would be dead men… without redemption.
The following sample is from a WIP that I am currently working on as a YA series accompaniment to The Red Cross of Gold Assassin Chronicles series. These novels will be from the perspective and point of view of the apprentices to the Knights of the Council. The new series will follow the story line of the original series, but will be directed at younger audiences. In this scene Armand de Bleu has been very ill from an injury to his thumb.
“Wait!” Armand shouted and sat straight up on the couch. He sat with both arms outstretched in front of him, staring into nothingness.
“Armand?!” Collette dropped her pen and paper on the floor when he startled her.
He turned his sunken golden eyes on her and blinked in confusion.
“Where did she go?” he asked.
“The… the…” he stammered and then drew a deep breath. “How long have I been sleeping?”
“Long enough,” she said. “How do you feel?”
“Better,” he said and it was true. He felt hollow and tired, but he felt no pain at the moment. He looked down at the neat white bandage on his thumb. “You dressed the wound?” he asked in dismay.
“Yes,” she said. “My father is a physician. I’m studying medicine at UPMC in Paris. I’m going for research biology eventually.”
“I see,” Armand said. He was impressed. Beautiful, smart, dangerous and totally out of place. “I must thank you and ask you to leave, Collette. You do not understand my circumstances here.”
“I may understand more than you think, Armand de Bleu,” she said with a mischievous smile on her face. “But that is a fine way to say thank you.”
“I’m sorry, truly, but every moment you stay makes my heart skip a beat,” he said miserably and swung his bare feet to the floor. His clothes were damp and he could smell his own sweat. He had been very, very ill.
“Ahh, I make your heart skip a beat?”
“Please, yes, you do,” he said and his face turned red. “My… roommate will be returning any moment and he is a strange bird. You see, he owns this place and he is…”
“An ass,” she finished. “Yes, I know. You told me all about him.”
“I did?” Armand’s eyes widened.
“Yes, while you were talking in your sleep.”
“Oh! Sacre bleu!” he said.
“Do not worry, little bird,” she said and stood up. “I have left new bandages, antibiotic cream and alcohol in the bathroom for you. Plus you will find more of the Cipro in your bed under your pillow. Take them according to the directions on the bottle. Take them all so that the infection is completely cleared up. Change that bandage everyday and make sure you change it every time you get it wet or dirty. Drink lots of water. Eat some chicken broth or soup if you have it. You will find fresh bread, cheese and wine in the larder. No, no, no,” she cut off his protests before he could speak. “You saved my life and I return the favor. I like you, Armand. You are an interesting little bird.”
“Thank you,” he said weakly.
“You are welcome and…” she picked up the little green book that she had been reading. “I have been studying these spells in your magic book.”
“Yes, who is this Mark Andrew Ramsay fellow?”
“You mean Bartholomew of Sussex?” he asked in confusion.
“No. The credits in the back of the book say that the original Auld Englyshe edition of the book was authored by this Mark Andrew Ramsay. I have an interest in magic. Nothing important, just I have never heard of him. I have read most of the historical manuscripts on magic and sorcery as well as the Inquisition.”
“Oh, I don’t know who he is,” Armand lied.
“Well, if you are interested in magic,” she said. “Then we might get together and try some of these spells. If they enhance learning, then I could certainly use it. Anatomy, physiology, advanced chemistry. I can handle them, but mathematics? I have a problem with math.”
“Oh,” he said again and stood up, desperate to have her out of the house. “Well, then. We should have a look at those some time.”
“Great!” she said and then took his face in her hands and kissed him on the lips. “Thank you for saving me, Armand! Do what I have told you and I will see you when you are feeling better.”
Armand stood in the parlor, mouth hanging open where she left him for several minutes unable to move or speak. She had kissed him! A female had kissed him!
“Sacre bleu,” he whispered and staggered into the bathroom. A shower would be nice.
There is much bad blood between the Knights of the Council and it is easily abraded to the surface when tempers run hot. The Red Cross of Gold III:. The Head of the Crow. Assassin Chronicles.
“That’s absurd! She would not have you. As for your trust of the Scotsman, you are sadly mistaken. All it takes is one good argument and off they’ll go! I know her and I know Mark Ramsay. You are insane to trust him.”