There’s no way back…past the point of no return.
Monty and Simon survived the Stormblood, but not without grave consequences. Whatever method York used to complete the ritual opened a door to something ancient, dark, and evil.
Now, that Revenant is hunting them. It needs their life force to be completely free.
There’s only one way to get it.
Eliminate them both.
Together, they must face this new threat before it becomes too powerful to stop and destroys them all.
Release date: July 10, 2022
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 243
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Listen to a sample
Orlando A. Sanchez
“Are you certain you don’t wish to join us?” Monty asked as Dex created a large, green circle in the center of our reception area. “Your insight may be crucial.”
“Aye, a fair point,” Dex said, focused on the circle on the floor. “If I want to be alive to provide future insight, I best make sure to pay Mo a visit before I join you.”
“You’re not actually scared of her, are you?” I asked. “I mean, yes, she’s up there in ‘scare your heart still’ territory, but you aren’t really scared of her.”
Dex gave me a wide smile.
“Are you scared of vampires?” he asked, still smiling. “Do you lay awake at night wondering if they will attack?”
“Not really, no,” I said. “I mean, I think I can handle myself enough to deal with a vampire.”
“I feel the same way,” he said as he gestured, causing more symbols to appear in the circle. “Vampires hold no fear for me. Now, Goddesses”—he gave me a wink—“especially those known as Death Goddesses, well, those deserve a healthy respect. Don’t you think?”
“So you’re scared of her,” I said with a smile. “It’s okay to admit it, you know.”
“Shame is not one of the qualities I’m familiar with, but I’ll ask you a question in return, before you go. Fair enough?”
He motioned for me, Monty, and Peaches to enter the circle
“Sure,” I said, stepping into the green circle as Peaches bumped my hip with his enormous head and nearly sent me tumbling across the floor. At this point, I was beginning to think his “accidental” nudges were no accident. “Ask away.”
“You’re not scared of vampires, you say, correct?”
“On the whole, no, not really. Why?”
Dex began gesturing as the symbols in the circle rotated and began to glow brighter.
“How about an ancient vampire, powerful enough to face an entire horde of vampires on her own?” he asked, his face serious now. “A vampire powerful enough to not only keep several clans of vampires in check, but numerous packs of wolves, and an enclave of mages as well—all together forming a council that could rival any sect on the plane and some off-plane. A vampire that barely fears the dawn because of her power. Would you fear that vampire?”
A chill ran down my spine. I knew who he was referring to.
“Well, I, well…”
“I see,” Dex said, nodding sagely as the wicked smile returned. “You understand perfectly. Give my regards to TK and LD. I will be there after I see Mo.”
I nodded mutely as the circle erupted with green light, blinding me. When I could see again, we were standing in a large, cramped shop.
The marble floor was covered with boxes and crates of every size. On the walls, warped shelves that appeared on the verge of collapse strained under the weight of the items taking up every available inch of space.
“You walked right into that one,” Monty said, brushing off his sleeves. “It’s best to stay away from the Morrigan as a topic of discussion with my uncle.”
“He doesn’t like talking about her?”
“On the contrary,” Monty said, peering into the distance. “He absolutely relishes regaling anyone who will listen to his escapades.”
“She doesn’t mind?”
“On occasion, she is the one telling the story, much to his delight.”
“Those two are made for each other.”
“Indeed,” he said. “He does enjoy sharing every sordid detail.”
“That’s been my experience,” I said, looking around the quiet shop. “Then what is the problem? I mean, aside from his allergy to clothing and the visuals he tries to give me?”
I shuddered at some of the memories.
“There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed,” Monty said, narrowing his eyes as he looked to the right. “The family once tried to prohibit my uncle from being with the Morrigan.”
I chuckled until I realized he was being serious.
“You’re serious?” I asked, surprised. “They tried to tell Dex what to do with his love life?”
Monty nodded, still focused on a point somewhere in the distance.
“Long ago, when my father was still alive, my uncle was more, shall we say, malleable,” Monty said, heading down the familiar narrow corridor. “He listened to my father, valued his advice. Even took instruction from him every now and then.”
“You can’t control who you love,” Monty said. “After a particularly bloody battle, he met her.”
“He met the Morrigan on the battlefield?” I asked, mildly shocked. “She left him alive?”
“Love at first sight, or so I’m told, if you believe in such things,” Monty replied, pulling up a small stool. “Everyone in the family lost their collective minds, except my father.”
“Why was your father okay with it?”
“Several reasons,” Monty said. “My father was a wise man. He knew my uncle better than anyone. He also knew that trying to prevent him from being with the Morrigan was futile, so he did the most logical thing.”
“He got out of the way and gave him one piece of advice.”
“Sounds like your dad was similar to Dex in many ways,” I said, wishing I had met Connor Montague when he had been alive. “What did he tell Dex?”
“If she makes you happy, bollocks to anyone who says different. You can’t control who you love.”
“Wow,” I said, mildly surprised. “Kind of raw, but still, honest.”
“They were brothers, after all. My father had his crude side, which is why they got along so well,” Monty said with the hint of a smile. “Dex took his advice and told the family elders to stuff it.”
“That must have gone over well,” I said. “What did they do?”
“The Montagues are a powerful mage family going back for millennia,” Monty said. “They tried…force.”
“Sounds like a bad idea.”
“It was,” he said. “This was some time ago, but my uncle has always been one of the strongest in the family. They thought they could confront him collectively. They were mistaken.”
“Your uncle faced them alone and beat them?”
“Not alone,” Monty said. “The Morrigan joined his side. She loved—and still loves—him, and he loves her. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I don’t question it…ever. I merely accept it, and her, as part of my family. If she makes him happy, that’s all that matters.”
“Shit,” I muttered. “Facing Dex alone is bad enough. I can’t imagine facing the both of them.”
“It was a brief, violent conversation,” Monty said. “In the end, the family agreed it was in everyone’s best interest to leave my uncle to his own devices.”
“I bet,” I said, looking around for the proprietors of the shop. “Where are they? Did they know we were coming?”
“We wouldn’t be inside Fordey if they didn’t,” Monty said. “My uncle would never violate their active defenses. If we’re in here, they know.”
“I knew I felt a disturbance,” I heard LD say in the distance. “Our guests are here.”
I saw TK appear at the end of the corridor. She didn’t look pleased, which meant I should be concerned.
“Monty, she looks pissed. Did you do something again?”
“I think we both did this time,” he said, keeping his voice low. “Let me handle this.”
She gave us both a long look and turned on her heel, leaving us where we were. LD waved us to follow him. TK walked ahead while LD hung back.
“She looks pissed,” I said. “Why does she look pissed?”
“That’s not pissed,” LD said, glancing up at TK. “Pissed was a few days ago when she felt whatever it is York did to you two. That was pissed. I had to close off part of the Boutique. Well, what’s left of it.”
“What made her that upset?”
“Where do I start?” LD said with a sigh, rubbing a hand through his hair. “Lost elder blood rune activated, Chaos being in play, you two going off to see Tempest without extending her an invitation at the very least, Verity is now on your asses…Oh, and that small matter of York kicking off a Stormblood, somehow pulling it off in some insane maneuver only York could do. Did I miss anything?”
“If you did,” I said, “I don’t think it would be smart to add to that list.”
“Ahh,” LD said with a nod. “You’re finally learning. Don’t worry. Even if I missed something, she won’t.”
Somehow, those words did not fill me with anything approaching comfort.
“She knows?” I asked, as LD gave me a look that plainly said: How are you still alive? “How?”
“Yes, she knows. Everyone in the Ten knows. We make it a point to stay informed with one another. Helps keep the world safe and all of us alive. Especially something like this.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, holding up a hand as we kept walking down several corridors. “Why would she be upset at us? We didn’t do anything.”
LD glanced at Monty as we kept moving.
“You want to tell him, or should I?” LD asked as he rubbed Peaches’ head. “He should know.”
“She’s more upset at me than at you,” Monty said. “Because the lost rune I used was quite dangerous.”
“I thought all lost runes were dangerous?”
“This one was particularly volatile,” Monty said after a pause, and then looked at LD. “York managed the Stormblood without negative consequence.”
“Tristan, you’re young, but you’re not that young,” LD said, shaking his head. “The lost elder blood rune was the rune of seals. You have no idea what you set off. Well, not you exactly—York—but also you. Verity is the least of your problems, our problems.”
“What are you talking about?” Monty asked. “The Stormblood was successful. York managed it without activating the rune in its entirety.”
“That would be incorrect,” TK said as we arrived in a large, circular room that was mostly white marble covered in runes. It vaguely reminded me of the room where York had trapped us to perform the Stormblood ritual. “He was rushed, which meant he was sloppy.”
“What is this place?” I asked, looking around. “I’ve never been in this room.”
TK looked down at Peaches, formed a large sausage and rubbed his head as he stepped to one side with his prize between his jaws. It wasn’t just her expression that set me on edge. She was dressed in black combat armor with the usual black-on-black accents, and her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail.
It was her eyes that made me pause.
They were extra green.
Her eyes were normally green, but this time they gave off a subtle glow. It wasn’t the look at how amazing my eyes are kind of glow. It was closer to the my eyes will be the last thing you see before I evaporate you kind of glow.
LD was dressed in mage casual: an off-white dress shirt with black slacks and comfortable house shoes. I took a step closer to LD, just in case the orbs were going to start flying.
“This room is a dampener,” TK said, turning to face Monty. “Similar to the one York probably used to perform the Stormblood ritual. We will need it to conduct an audit and see how much damage was done.”
She waved a hand, and the runes in the walls came to life with orange energy.
“Damage?” Monty said. “What damage?”
“No,” TK said, that one word a blade that sliced through any following response. “I will be asking the questions now.”
“Understood,” Monty said with a curt nod. “Please continue.”
“You found a lost elder blood rune. Where?”
Monty flexed his jaw, but remained calm. The tension in the room was a physical presence, charging the air with energy. Monty was perhaps stronger now since the last time he had faced TK in a reckoning, but I doubted he was strong enough to take her, even with Peaches’ and my help.
Besides, we weren’t feeling particularly suicidal today.
“The Living Library,” Monty said. “Portal access to a self-contained section of the Library.”
She glanced at LD, who nodded.
“That was the recent breach Ziller reported,” LD said. “Nothing was removed.”
“Except the elder rune,” TK said. “Please secure the Library, dear.”
“Of course. Be right back,” LD said and disappeared with a gesture.
“Please stand next to each other,” TK said, turning to us. “I need to examine what York did.”
I stood next to Monty.
“York is insane,” she said with a frown. “I can’t believe he did this.”
“York is dead,” I said. “Part of the museum fell on him.”
“I’ll believe that when I see his body.”
LD reappeared a few moments later.
“Living Library secured,” he said. “Ziller extends his thanks and requests this.” He handed her a piece of paper. “No rush.”
“I should hope not,” she said, glancing at the paper before incinerating it with a thought. “We won’t have one for at least another decade.”
“I told him as much,” LD answered as he circled us. “He said as soon as we get it would be fine.”
She nodded and continued examining us with narrowed eyes.
“How bad is it?” LD asked, narrowing his eyes at us. “I can see the bonds, but there’s much I don’t see. Definitely a Stormblood, that’s for sure.”
“This was the trigger,” TK said with a frown as she cocked her head to one side. “The bonds are solid, but the lattices he used drew on the power of the elder rune. It’s ingenious in its madness. No other mage could have done this. The connections are elegant, yet completely unorthodox. We can’t unravel this.”
“No other mage we know would have attempted something like this,” LD said, holding up a finger. “Oh, wait. Maybe one.”
“Dex has done things in a similar vein with his teleportation, but nothing on this scale,” she said. “York has outdone himself and doomed us all.”
“You ever seen a shared Stormblood?”
“No, I’ve never seen a twinned Stormblood,” TK said, peering at us as she moved her fingers through the air. “This part here, see it?”
LD stepped to the location TK indicated and nodded.
“Looks like a nexus,” he said. “You think that did it?”
“I think so. It’s very irregular. One moment.” She held up a finger and moved it in the space between me and Monty. “Let me see what Tempest thinks of this.”
She created a green teleportation circle and vanished a moment later. I looked at LD.
“Did she actually just go to visit Josephine?” I asked. “Without an invite or announcing she was coming?”
“Probably the only person on this, or any other plane, who can do that,” LD said, shaking his head as he looked at Monty. “What possessed you to use an elder rune? A lost elder blood rune?”
“Extenuating circumstances,” Monty said. “We were facing an agent of Chaos. Our options were limited.”
LD stared at Monty.
“Don’t try to hustle a hustler, hombre,” LD said. “You wanted to know if it would work. At the very least admit it. You wanted to unleash the power.”
“Yes,” Monty admitted. “That was part of it. The greater part was avoiding our imminent death.”
“Your imminent death, you mean,” LD said, glancing at me. “I doubt Strong was going to have an issue with dying, being death challenged and all.”
“Be that as it may, even Simon was in danger, despite his current affliction,” Monty replied. “Mahnes was a real threat to us all.”
“So you felt the need to use this rune,” LD continued. “Which helped you defeat Mahnes, the agent of Chaos, yes?”
“Yes, but unfortunately we were unable to banish or entrap Chaos.”
TK appeared a moment later.
“Show me the rune you used, exactly,” she said. “Omit nothing.”
Monty traced the rune in the air. LD’s eyes opened wider as he hissed.
“Hombre, that rune…that rune is bad news,” he said, his face becoming slightly pale. “I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
TK sighed and gestured. The runes in the room dimmed around us. She suddenly looked exhausted. She exchanged a few glances with LD and I could sense that I was missing something, something that was potentially apocalyptic.
“You truly are your uncle’s nephew,” she said after a moment. “A talisman was required for the blood ritual. What was it?”
“Yes,” Monty said. “I formed a ring. We used it on Mahnes.”
“This ring,” she said. “Whose blood was used?”
“I thought Stark created the ring?” I said.
“Stark created the framework,” Monty said. “The rune and the blood completed his work and imbued it with power.”
“The blood?” I asked, concerned. “Whose blood, Monty?”
“My blood,” he said. “My blood gave it the final shape.”
“But Jarman? Mahnes-Chaos drained her dry.”
“No. The ring was ready before Jarman sacrificed herself,” Monty said, turning to TK. “How bad is it?”
TK looked away, but I could feel the controlled energy and anger radiating out from where she stood. If her current energy was any indicator, we had raced past bad and entered horrific. From the looks they gave each other, horrific was a pit stop on the way to Armageddon.
“An elder rune of sealing is like a door,” LD said. “Sometimes this door allows something in, rather than keeping things out.”
“Allows something in?” I asked. “What exactly are you talking about?”
“We’re not exactly certain,” TK said. “Somehow between using the elder rune and York performing the Stormblood ritual, a door was opened. A door that never should have been opened.”
Ice slowly filled my veins.
“What walked in?”
TK gave LD another glance, an entire unspoken discussion in the space of a blink.
“A Revenant,” she said finally. “One that’s coming for both of you, it seems.”
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