(Following is a highly-edited excerpt from the first chapter of the first book from my vampire series in progress, The Second Species. High in the Carpathians lies the Decebral Valley where the aventurieri--the Second Species of Mankind--lives. Avoiding humans as much as possible, because of the fears and myths which have grown up about them, they have their own culture and religion, and their own brand of justice for those who disobey the Domnitor's Law.)


CHAPTER ONE


They felt safer when night fell.

It was only as morning came, and the sunlight cast barred shadows upon the dungeon floor, that they cringed into the safety of what little darkness remained, huddling against the stone walls far away from the bright and deadly light. Fear kept them from succumbing to sleep. Clinging to the damp granite, they watched the image of the crossed metal rods as it moved across the stone floor, becoming fainter until it faded away as the sun set.

It had been a long time now--they weren't certain how much had passed--since Ravagui's winged soldiers attacked their father's castel, killing all who resisted, gardi and servants alike. It was too soon after the sun went down, most were still heavy from slumber, and even the humans who served them were caught so unaware as to be totally helpless.

Their parents were killed with a viciousness that bespoke old grudges and long- nursed vengeance. The children saw their father wielding sword and fangs, and taking several of Ravagiu's minions with him as he went down before their onslaught. Their mother herded them into a bedchamber, thrusting their little sister into one twin's arms before locking them in, then turned to face the soldati who launched himself at her, wings flapping.

What followed was a confusion of images and sounds all drowned in the smell of blood as the door was smashed open and the four dragged out, Vlad hindered by the screaming baby in his arms, little Karoly calling for his mother, his voice rising in a shriek as he saw her bloodied body lying in a twisted heap beside the splintered door.

They hadn't been given any explanation as to why they were spared, nor did they ever see the one who had given the orders. They were simply dropped into the dark hole and left.

For ten days and eleven nights.

Eleven nights of unrelieved fear, and hunger.

On the fifth night, Andreas opened his wrist by scrubbing it against a sharp edge protruding from the dungeon wall and shared his blood with his brothers, holding Ruxanda while the child nursed at his pulse.

By the seventh night, with the hunger pangs taking continuous hold, Karoly began to cry, refusing the twins' efforts to comfort him. As the days passed, he lay on the floor, legs curled, hands fisted, moaning quietly.

When the wineskin appeared, suspended through the grate, Karoly was the first to see it.

Before the others could stop him, he scrambled to his feet, staggering toward the sunshine-filled square. Arms reaching for the wine bag, he stepped into the brightness.

"Karoly! Come back!" Andreas shouted.

A rope appeared through the bars, dropping over the child's body, lifting him off his feet.

Legs kicking, Karoly struggled to escape, while the sun shone mercilessly upon him.

His entire body became a living flame, his shrieks blending with the crackle of roasting skin, flesh along his arms bursting and splitting under the heat, amid a liquid bubbling as the blood in his veins began to boil.

The fire rushed upward, and it was over.

Only a blackened skeleton hung from the rope, twisting slowly around and around and around. Softly, it crumbled, rapidly reduced to dust.

The rope was withdrawn. A small box dropped through the bars, rolling into the shadows where it struck Andreas' foot.

He picked it up.

Cut into the underside were the words Strigoi Karoly. Below them in elegant script had been written Dormit in Infern. Rest in Hell.

Slamming the box against the wall, he began to scream, rushing toward the bright square. Vlad's grasp stopped him from dashing directly into the sunshine.

"Murderers! He was just a baby! Why did you do it? Why?"

Later, when the sun went down, Andreas gathered all that remained of his little brother, the dust and the fragments of bone and the little malachite knuckle stones, and placed them in the chest, sobbing quietly the entire time. Holding it against his heart, he crept away to huddle beside Vlad.

...then, it was over.

They heard shouts, the rapid beating of wings, the sound of swords clashing, a repeat of the nightmare that brought them to this place.

A soldati fell across the grate. There was the muffled sound of metal striking flesh and his head rolled away, the severed neck dripping into the pit.

The body was kicked away and someone knelt to peer into the darkness before rising and disappearing.

With a creaking so sharp it was almost a scream, the dungeon door swung open. An armored figure stood there, silhouetted against the torchlight, his wings casting a shadow like those of a giant raptor upon the floor.

In his right hand was a sword wet with blood. His head was unhelmed, black hair coming loose from its club, a patch covering one eye.

"Frate?" Peering into the darkness, he held out his free hand to Andreas. "Brother?"

"Marek!" Seizing the box, Andreas launched himself at his older brother, was enveloped in a hug that also included Vlad as he stumbled toward them, Vlad as he stumbled toward them clutching Ruxanda in his arms.

"Where's Karoly?" Marek turned his head, his one eye searching the dungeon's shadows.

Andreas pulled away from his brother's embrace to hold up the little box.

"Here."

He'd never seen such a look on any one's face.

"Ravagiu will die the slowest death possible when I find him!" Marek pushed the twins
toward the dungeon steps and freedom.




(The Shadow Lord is the first in the series The Second Species, following titles are Shadow Play, Shadow Passion, and Shadow Law. Shadow Law is a work in progress, Shadow Lord currently being submitted to publishers.)

4 comments

  1. Nightingale // April 20, 2008 at 3:46 PM  

    I've read this entire manuscript and some of its sequel. It is engrossing, imaginative and the characters are real. Aren't they, Toni??

    I love the photo!

  2. Beth Trissel // April 20, 2008 at 7:20 PM  

    Well, Toni, your fans are following you to this site. I just checked our stats. You rock, girl!

  3. Mary Marvella // April 20, 2008 at 7:35 PM  

    Another masterpiece. I would have expected no less!

  4. Kate // April 20, 2008 at 11:14 PM  

    I use IE7 as my browser and the blog shows up with all kinds of unusual formatting stuff like:

    !--[if !vml]--
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    !--[if !supportEmptyParas]--
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    Otherwise, great!