Sample Sunday ~ 12.23.12

This week’s sample is from Hesperian Dragon, the third book in the Assassin Chronicles series. The series consists of thirty books concerning the adventures of a group of semi-immortal Templar Knights left over from the Crusades waiting around for Armageddon.

The books are available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Nobles and in paperback from Amazon.

Mark frowned and then continued his pacing. He stopped again. “The Master shielded… used magick to keep the memory of it from him. He was afraid it would make him insane…” his voice trailed off and then he looked up. “There was something… else.”

Merry was horrified. There was so much she did not know about her Brothers and how could she ever hope to understand them? Even Simon.

“John Paul said but thou art he who took me from the womb,” Mark repeated the words again and went back to pacing. “Someone in that Council room knows where Simon came from. Someone took him from the womb.”

“I don’t understand at all, Mark. Someone on the Council delivered Simon when he was born?” Merry frowned at him. “What does that mean?”

“It would mean that Simon was delivered by the knife. Someone cut him from his mother’s womb. What you would call a cesarean section,” Mark told her in aggravation as if she should already know this.

Merry frowned deeply and placed her hand over her mouth. Scenes of bloody horror danced through her head. When was Simon born? In the fourteenth century? A C-section in the Dark Ages? Or was that the Renaissance? She didn’t know and didn’t care. Anesthesia was a modern medical miracle.

“I’m sorry,” Mark said suddenly and stopped once more. His expression softened “I should not be telling you this. I’m an ass.”

“Why should you not tell me?” she asked, though she did not want to hear more, she had to know. “I am not that squeamish though I know it must have been painful for his mother.”

“It isn’t proper and yes, it would have been fatal more often than not. It was used only as a last resort to save the child. The mother did not usually… survive… and was more likely dead before they cut her…” his voice trailed off and his complexion darkened. He remembered the time.

“Don’t you think I need to know these things?” she asked. “Why do you insist on keeping all these things to yourself? Does anyone else know about him that you know of? Listen, Mark, I will not say a word to Simon. I swear it! What would I say, for God’s sake?”

“Sir Philip was with the Master when Simon was found on the doorstep so to speak. He must know something,” Mark told her almost reluctantly. “But you must never tell it, Merry. Simon would not appreciate me telling you what he doesn’t even know himself.”

“He will never know it from me, Mark Andrew,” Merry assured him. She glanced at the clock on the mantel. Surely the others would be arriving soon. Perhaps the Grand Master would know how to wake Simon. He would be certainly be unhappy to hear what had happened and she did not want to be the one to tell him what had transpired concerning Elizabeth.

Bruce came in to announce that lunch was ready. They had missed breakfast and the cook would not hear of them missing lunch. The old man refused to take no for an answer even in the face of his Master’s anger.

Mark agreed to eat after a bit of cajoling and they ate in deep silence at the kitchen table. The meal was almost over when someone knocked loudly on the front door. Mark Andrew rushed from the kitchen to the foyer to answer it personally, expecting the Master.Image

Von Hetz stood on the steps looking like a vision from hell. His long, dark hair hung in his face, his cheeks were sunken, his eyes surrounded by deep shadows.

“Brother Simon,” he said without preamble.

“This way,” Mark answered without question and led him down the hall. The Apocalyptic Knight’s appearance was unexpected, but not unwelcome.

The Ritter bade them wait in the hall while he went in the room and closed the door.

A few minutes later, he emerged from the room and stood silently for several long moments in the dim light. Merry shuddered. He looked even worse than before.

“You knew of this?” the Ritter addressed Mark Andrew.

“What?” Mark Andrew answered with a question and frowned at him.

“Of this… woman?” the Ritter’s voice sounded hoarse and raspy.

“I only just learned of it this morning,” Mark Andrew answered. “I knew her when she was… alive.”

“You knew of Simon of Grenoble?” the Ritter tilted his head up slightly and narrowed his eyes at the Knight.

“Yes,” Mark nodded.

“You know who his father is?” Von Hetz continued to eye him steadily.

“No.”

Von Hetz seemed to relax almost imperceptibly, then turned his eyes on Merry. “How did the girl get in the house?”

“We invited her in,” Merry told him. “She was on foot. We had no idea that anything was wrong.”

“How long has she been here?” he asked.

“Two days,” Merry whispered. The Knight of the Apocalypse truly scared her. “I swear, Brother, I had no idea. Simon wanted to turn her out. It was my fault.”

The Knight seemed about to explode and then his features relaxed completely as he seemed to come to grips with something internally. Mark cleared his throat. He would not see von Hetz treat Merry less than respectfully. Not in his house. If the man had some idea of taking her mind by force, it would be over his dead body.

“And do you have any idea where she is now?” Konrad asked finally.

“No. She was gone this morning,” Merry answered a bit louder.

“She accomplished her mission,” he told them with some measure of resignation. “Brother Simon does not want to wake up. He wants to die. Before he can come back to us, he must face his nightmare. There is nothing I can do for him.”

“But why?” Merry looked at Mark. “It was not his fault! If the girl was… evil, and he didn’t know…”

“Ignorance is no excuse, Sister,” Von Hetz told her. “Believe me, I know. Evil spares none. Not even children. She has caused him to relive something he never knew. Her reasons are her own. I cannot fathom her mind. I dare say she has no mind of her own. Perhaps she wishes simply to hurt or destroy those close to Sir Ramsay or all in proximity of the chapel. I cannot say. I did my best to banish her and thought it done.”

“You know her?” Mark Andrew eyed the tall man suspiciously.

“I do,” Von Hetz nodded. “I would speak to you alone, Brother.”

Sep 4 ~ Sample Sunday

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.

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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!

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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.