The Ancients of Light series by Heather Fleener
Excerpt from Chosen, Ancients of Light #1:
Though the scene was being witnessed by hundreds of warriors, at this moment none existed but the two before the gates. Lorcan’s tone was icy, “What know you of my mother?”
“Apparently more truth than you….Lorcan.” Her inability to locate Myrrdyn had caused her to seek the Vampire warrior; she instinctively trusted him and she needed his protection. Kaitriana had not intended to insult him nor broach the subject of his Witch mother, but the pain, fatigue and hunger plaguing her now made her testy. She was not in the mood to argue vampires and the falseness of their beliefs.
Anger rising, apparently she knew her enemy by name while he had no inkling of her origin or purpose, Lorcan still managed to check himself and he stepped no closer in response to her taunt. She had kept her head down, the curtain of her hair continued to hide her face from him. His ears and all those within the yards of the keep were keen enough to hear her sharp intake of breath, accompanied by an ever so slight moan of pain. The girl’s hands extended shakily from the skirts of her gown, still tightened in a claw-like grip as though in reaction to immense suffering. Her fingertips scraped over the snow, raising dirt as she hunched slightly forward.
He witnessed it at the same time a faint trace reached his senses; a smattering of blood was on the bodice of her gown, much more of it smeared over her arms. Anger abated slightly for the moment with the realization that the creature was suffering. Lorcan released his hand from the sword and in direct opposition to his cautionary nature he squatted closer to her level. He scooped up a handful of the powdery snowfall, patiently sifting it through his fingers. He provided her a minute, attempting to allow her to regain some composure before he pressed, “You are injured?”
Her head remained lowered and Kaitriana eased back as the wave of pain slowly subsided. She refolded her hands demurely in her lap and followed with a short, rueful laugh. “I have been tending my injuries for nearly half a millennium, Milord. At this moment I am in pain, yes… but this blood is not mine, nor have I been injured during all the bloodletting that has left me in such a state.”
Lorcan was appreciative of the response she gave though her words were a bit odd. ‘Milord’…her language was dated. Damn, if the creature would just push those curls back so that he could see her eyes and ascertain her intentions. Lorcan did not lie to himself; he was curious and cared to see if she was as pretty as he was imagining. How he could feel such intrigue towards a supposed threat he could not gather, but there was something about her that pulled at him on an instinctive level.
He could not garner a clear scent of her either, which perplexed him further. She did not reek of any of the Witch Castes. Her scent might be masked somewhat by the blood that marred her skin and gown, but to be undetectable to one with his senses was odd indeed. In order to be responsible for the death of the magnitude described by Jortha, the little thing must be Ancient and of one of the stronger Castes.
Those delicate shoulders raised, just enough to send snow cascading from them as he watched, “I am not an Ancient…nor nearly so old as you…”
Lorcan stiffened; was she probing his thoughts?
As if to confirm, Kaitriana slowly lifted her head, raising her face to his view. The effort cost her. The splitting in her head amplified immensely with the slight movement and her body felt as though it were being torn apart on the inside. Her nails began shredding the fabric of her skirts in earnest again as she attempted to control of the shrieks of agony that wanted to escape her.
Lorcan took in the pain etched in her face, the tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and the pallor of her skin. He understood immediately her issue, noting the tips of tiny white fangs and the marks they had had left on the bottom of her lower lip. Those observations registered with him simultaneously through the impact of a shock that nearly knocked him back physically. Lorcan’s gaze locked on her. Those eyes swimming behind the pools of tears appeared as shards of ice. There was no sparkle within them at this very moment but those eyes had haunted him for centuries. He knew them well and only one in the Realm had ever possessed that amazing look.
Lorcan’s entire body weakened in a rush, requiring all his brute strength to keep himself steadfast. The air expelled rapidly from his lungs as he began counting; Lorcan realized he was crazed even as he did it. Eighteen…eighteen little freckles smattered across the beauty’s face. The creature at his feet was the very image of the beautiful witch that had been burned to memory nearly five hundred years before when she had fled at the Festival of the Moon. Kaitriana. Did he whisper it aloud?
Maybe he did, he thought a smile was taking her lips before she gasped in pain again. The fang on the right side pierced her lower lip as she arched back in agony. There was a rumbling among the men behind him. They were aware too that she was near the end of transitioning. The pain of the process that changed one into the Vampire form could cause a strong warrior to beg for death. Blood traced from the corner of her mouth and this time he could scent her. Lorcan reacted, his fangs extending sharply.
He closed the distance between them in less than a blink. The streaks of light in the sky were nearly unceasing now and Lorcan thought it may be connected somehow to the pain she suffered. Heedless of the female’s current state, he knelt down in front of her; his hands tightened around her arms and he gave her body a hard shake. He was uncaring when she responded with a tortured cry. Lorcan was greatly tormented now too, the brief feeling of relief and hope that had risen in him had been extinguished just as quickly. The despair he had felt earlier this night increased tenfold as he gazed down at the being.
Lorcan dragged her writhing form flush against the metal plating on his chest, demanding through gritted teeth, “What treachery is this? The witch is dead!” His mind was not making sense of her appearance and fury ensued. Lorcan shook her again, harder, before tossing her bodily ten feet from him to the snowy ground. A bolt of sizzling light flew from the sky and pierced the ground but a few feet from him, accompanying her shriek of pain. He was oblivious to the threat but his men began to shift uneasily as Lorcan ground out “Answer me!”
She moved not from where she landed but only drew her knees towards her chest. Kaitriana was panting through the pain, tears freely flowing down her cheeks. She lifted those watery eyes to him, hearing the crunch of his boots over snow as he approached, and extended a trembling hand in his direction.
Was she attempting to ward him off or reach for him? Having seen enough transitions to know that she was in the final stages, he also knew that in such state, no matter how powerful, she would be in no condition to fight him. He crouched on a single knee next to her, using her extended hand to jerk her roughly to him. Supporting her torso on that bended knee, he encased her upper body in the steel bands of his arms. Lorcan’s fangs extended further, his eyes blackening with his rage. He leaned to put his face in hers, his voice deadly cold, “Tell me, you deceitful bitch, why I do not tear your throat wide and end you now?”
Her lids lowered slowly, she thought the pain must have made her daft. The blackness of his eyes, induced by his Vampiric traits when his emotions were heightened, was ringed in vivid blue. She experienced a rush of cool breath from his mouth as his fangs touched the vein of her neck in warning. She would not give him the pleasure of witnessing her fear, just as she had not with those evil vampires of the Dark that fateful night long ago. In the throes of her misery she was too beleaguered by it to spend energy imagining her death at his hands. Death would be a welcome escape from the relentless agony that had arrived so suddenly. Overwhelmed by it, she had possessed barely the strength to take leave of the last of Rhydach’s manors that she had destroyed.
In her quest for the death of a killer she had destroyed any and all of Rhydach’s possessions and people that stood in her way. She had found the other bastard responsible for her parents’ murder and had exalted in his torment and the horror of his allies before she had ended them all. The pain that had come upon her immediately afterwards was crippling; although she had called desperately for Myrrdyn, he had not come to her rescue. Her memories had pushed her here and God had answered her prayers. Lorcan was in residence this night.
Another series of knifing pains shot through her entire being and the moan of misery escaped despite her best efforts. In response she rolled her body tighter against Lorcan, as if seeking comfort in the fold of his arms, rather than away from the threat he currently presented. Buried under that pain, in the recesses of her mind, she still had a tenuous grip on the deep-rooted belief that he would protect her. Her action exposed the slim column of her neck to him only more fully.
He found it odd that she offered no defense. Was there no fight in her? To him her silence was an admission of guilt, treachery. Lorcan tucked her up higher against him as he readied her neck for his bite; he wanted her tormented and he wanted her fear. Her blood stained hands splayed across his chest, but she did not push, she did not resist. Damn it, he wanted her to fight and he wanted to relish in the victory of her death. Lorcan grazed his lips over her ear and paused there to whisper as she shivered, “I will have you begging for my mercy.”
His mouth slipped downward and his fangs found the top of her throat, under the jaw line. He pressed only hard enough to drag sharp tips roughly down the entire length, leaving two thin trails of blood glistening against her pale skin. This evil would cower to him. By all that was Ancient, the creature would be begging for the end when he decided to deliver it.
Excerpt from Forsaken, Ancients of Light #2:
His voice was firm because he knew she would balk at sympathy, “The band needs to come off so that you will heal, Witch. I require your vow that you will not raise your magic against me.”
She dropped her lids, once more shutting him out, “I would rather die that vow anything to you.”
He drew her up in his arms and he had to steel himself against releasing her when she started to tremble. Nicholas knew she was in tremendous pain from the injury, but he needed her upright to drink the potion. Pressing the glass containing the mixture of blood and medicine to her tightly compressed lips, his tone reflected a harshness he did not actually feel, “You will drink this Ella, or I will knock you unconscious and pour it down your throat. The effect will be the same.”
Her frown furrowed her brow and her eyes remained closed, but she did part her lips. The mixture contained blood as well as what tasted of various herbals. While it rankled her to know that he was most likely feeding her the liquid from his own vein, she was parched and decided not to resist for that reason. She also had little doubt that he would do anything that was necessary to get the mixture into her, as he had promised. Ella remained still while he fed her the contents of the cup, and wished she had to strength to pummel him when he tormented her at the end, “So cooperative, good girl.”
Quickly reassessing her condition, Nicholas knew that he was not going to have her conscious for much longer, so he held her tight to him, “Your vow, Princess, no magic.” Her lips were pressed firmly together once more and she stared at him defiantly through barely slit lids. He flashed a bit of fang at her, his eyes flickering, “If I have to I will join you in this bed and have that delightful body of yours so consumed with pleasure that you will vow me anything…everything.” He added the last word meaningfully and he saw panic shift across her features. Even though he knew she’d pass out long before he could accomplish it, he trusted that she was addled enough by the fever not to realize the foolishness of his boast.
That panic he witnessed meant that she thought he was capable of doing it though. It buoyed his spirits and that was reflected somewhat by his softened tone, “Vow to me, Ella, that you will not raise your magic against me again. I need you to live.” She answered with a stiff nod. He could see the loathing in her eyes at being trapped into giving in to him. He leaned down so that his lips brushed hers when he spoke, “The words Ella…I want the words.”
Shifting to move her mouth away from his, her eyes were brimming with tears once again, but were icy. She managed enough strength to say plainly, “I give you my vow not to use my magic against you…” Ella waited until she heard the clasp release and felt the heavy metal lifted from her arm before she finished, “You vile, repulsive, bloodsucking parasitic worm.”
Nicholas laughed heartily at that, “Shhh….you foul mouthed little vixen.” He felt her stiffen when he slid down to the bed and locked her against his chest, “You need to rest now; you can insult me when you are better.”
Excerpt from Broken, Ancients of Light #3:
She tore into his throat, reveling in the violence of it as much as the taste of Witch, while a thunderous banging began on the other side of the barred door. The magic that kept her within was also most effective at keeping the others out, Kylie had gambled on that. The Vampire could not shadow inside to reach her and neither they nor the Witch could break the magic barrier coupled with the strength of her own Vampire abilities holding the door. Cade could undo the spells, but it would take him any number of minutes and by then she would drain the Warrior Caste leader.
Giggling, she tore another gaping wound into his flesh and purred while she lapped up the blood, his struggles already weakening, “Mmmm….you taste as sweet as you look, Kendrick, like cotton candy and sugar cookies .” She took another bite just as the door exploded inward. The force rocketed Broderick across the room with the remnants of the door, a large thud echoing when he collided with the far wall. He had not regained his feet when Lorcan and Sayer rushed in.
Kylie calmly withdrew her bite and eyed them. Kendrick was too weak to resist her, and satisfaction gleamed in her eyes, “If you come near me, I will tear his throat so wide there will be no hope that you can heal him.”
Her eyes sparkled with evil when she locked on Sayer, “I waited for you, honey, just like Cade suggested. I even saved you some – to share.” She extended a hand, as though offering him a taste. The thick blood that ran from Kendrick’s throat coated both her hands where she had them knotted in the front of his tunic. No small amount of the same was smeared over her cheeks and mouth. Kylie knew she looked monstrous and she delighted in Sayer’s horror.
She was eyeing Kendrick’s throat like a starved lion, and Sayer attempted to talk her down, “Kylie, give Kendrick to Lorcan and I will take you home.”
It only irritated her, souring her expression, “You should address me as Callie because Kylie is unlikely to listen to you.”
Sayer’s jaw clenched tight and his reaction made her want to dig deeper at his pain points, “Do you know why my eyes are always veiled in black, love?” She chuckled and made an exaggerated lick at Kendrick’s throat to give Sayer time to hazard a guess. When he didn’t, she went on nastily, “It is because your little Kylie harbors so much hatred for you….thin line betwixt love and hate and all that. Why do you think it was so easy for me to slip here and take over? Kylie is strong, so for me to gain foothold, she had to surrender. The girl would rather be dead than be here, with you, in the Realm.”
Lorcan growled, but Sayer paled, her suggestion of Kylie’s hate for him impaled him as effectively as any weapon she might wield. Kylie leaned in once more to lick a rivulet of blood from her wrist before looking back at him, “As if Blackmore’s torture wasn’t enough…then the poor girl went through the transition, all by herself, in a cold, dark dungeon. They let her starve for three days with bloodlust, before Turloch decided to make her into his own little Frankenstein. Do you think getting all this Darkness into her soul was painless?”
Sayer visibly recoiled, prompting her cackling laugh, “It hurt like hell, but her mind never snapped, Sayer. You know as well as I that Kylie was too strong to break, but unbridled hatred will allow Dark magic to take hold very, very easily.”
Running her free hand through Kendrick’s hair, she tightened her fist in the sandy strands of blond. With her hold she jerked his head to and fro looking for the next best place to bite. Continuing to examine his neck, all the while she kept Lorcan and Broderick in her periphery, “You knew she was terrified to let anyone into her heart, but you convinced her she was safe with you. The very next night you abandoned her, and all her faith and trust in you was demolished during those weeks of torture when you never tried to save her.”
The blood began dripping to the floor, and she watched the wasted drops of crimson spatter beautifully, finishing, “You shattered her already broken heart. Bits and pieces, Sayer….that is Dark, very Dark. Are you playing for the right team?”
There was not nearly so much strength in Sayer’s command this time, but he latched on to one thing that Kaitriana had explained to them earlier, “Kylie, put Kendrick down. The magic has made you think you are Callie, but she is not here. You are here with me.”
Kylie sneered, “If you would like to jot that down, I will be certain to pass that message on to her too, the next time your wee little human decides to pop in.”