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Dark Rising

Chapter One

Micah’s gaze shot over his shoulder, as shouts in the distance grew louder. “The charges are set. There isn’t much time. You have to go!”

The frigid wind howled through the six-story parking garage, sounding like a banshee coming to claim them for death. Strands of her short ebony hair blew into her face, sticking to the blood trickling from her temple. A cold shiver wracked her body, raising goosebumps across her skin.

She still didn’t understand how this colony was able to go unnoticed for so long. Blood dripped from the razor-sharp tips of her katanas. How in the hell had this gang gone unnoticed for so long?

Her fingers tightened around the hilts until they went numb. “Micah, it won’t bring her back.” She swallowed hard, fighting back the tears. “Come with me.”

He shook his head. “If she dies, then all I am is dead already.” His voice was soft but firm, the raw grief in his eyes broke her heart. “And you know it.”

And she did.

Moaning, Elora slowly woke. The dream she’d been having was a memory, but after all these years, it felt more like a nightmare she couldn’t escape. Micah. She groaned, flinging her arm over her eyes, tears streamed from the corners, rolling down her temples, and into her hair.

“Shit,” she muttered. Her lips stuck to her teeth, and she struggled to swallow, thanks to a severe case of cottonmouth. A sheen of perspiration covered her entire body, causing the thin cotton sheet to stick to her tanned skin. Her pulse throbbed in her ears, and strands of her thick, black hair clung to the sides of her face like spider webs.

Brushing the tears away, she ripped the sheet from her body and pushed herself up and back against the headboard. Blowing out a deep breath, she drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs. Her head fell back against the bond oak, and she closed her eyes, trying to shake the remnants of the dream.

His death will get easier as time goes by, they said. They were wrong. Nothing about losing her best friend, the only man she’d ever fully trusted, ever got easier.

Blood. Her fangs lengthened, pressing into her bottom lip. It’d been too long since she’d had the nourishment her body needed to sustain itself. She needed to feed, and the thought disgusted her. What kind of creature required blood to stay alive?

Resting her cheek on her knee, she stared at the bright red numbers of the alarm clock on the nightstand. Five p.m. Two hours until sundown. Her hunt for vampyers, the only thing that still gave her purpose, would begin soon.

The term “vampyers” was the collective name for all rogues, no matter their species. These rogues had chosen to hold no regard for life, innocence, or peace. They craved destruction, chaos, and fear. Luckily, most of them also had a god-complex, which usually prevented any of them from working together. There were exceptions and those who were able to work together formed colonies.

Vampyers chose to come out at night, because people were looking for a good time, and weren’t as cautious as they might’ve been in the daylight hours. Parties, clubs, bars, along with drinking, and drugs, lowered people’s natural defenses.

Vampyers who fed on blood found it much easier to drain someone’s life-force under cover of darkness when those passing by couldn’t be sure of what they saw or any specific details.

Those vampyers who fed on blood were Thasophilian, like herself, but they chose to kill those they fed on. They’d leave their bodies for human authorities to find, which was one of the reasons why Thasophilians were considered dangerous predators by many.

There was no difference between how humans and non-humans viewed them. They were either disgusted by Thasophilians or afraid of them. Even the supernatural beings who lived on this plane held no esteem for her kind, and all because they required blood to survive. It wasn’t like they had a choice.

Most of her kind preferred not to kill when feeding. With the help of blood banks, one didn’t even need to have a donor; they could drink their meal from a bag. It wasn’t the preferred method by many, but it was one she preferred to use most of the time.

Those who chose to feed from a vein had donors; both parties benefited from the consensual agreement. The Thasophilian got nourishment the way they preferred, and the donor received the euphoric sexual high they were able to give those they fed on.

Ripping the sheet from her body, she swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her muscles ached and twitched. Her body was letting her know she needed to feed, and soon. She could fall into a nutrition deprived coma, and with no one around to help her, death wouldn’t be far behind. Sometimes she wondered why she just didn’t let it happen.

Getting to her feet, she walked over to her cooler on the counter. The last thing she wanted to do was feed with her stomach turning the way it was, but if she wanted to stay conscious, there was no other choice.

Pressing her hand to her stomach, she gasped as the sharp, biting pain of a severe cramp, seized her. Doubling over, she crashed into the dresser, knocking over her ice chest in the process.

“Fuck!” She watched as her last two bags of blood landed on the floor. Holding her breath, she waited to see if a dark stain would soak into the carpet. It didn’t. “Thank the goddess for small favors,” she muttered, bending down to retrieve one of the bags.

As she grabbed the bag, her legs became shaky and weak. She fell on her ass, back crashing against the dresser behind her. Taking a deep breath, she brought the bag up to her mouth and sunk her fangs deep.

Closing her eyes, she moaned loudly as the pain in her gut immediately lessened. She’d waited nearly too long to eat this time. Guilt snaked through her, as she thought about the damage she kept doing to her body, over and over again, almost like she was punishing herself for what happened all those years ago. What would Micah think? He’d be pissed.

A rush of arctic air washed over her, sending chills down her spine. Goosebumps spread out across her skin, and the hair on the back of her neck rose. She wasn’t alone, and she knew what it was. A ghost.

Seeing the dead was an ability she hated, especially at times like this. Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes. Standing in front of her was a hooded figure in a black ceremonial cloak. A witch?

“I don’t help witches. Not because I don’t want to, but I don’t even know where to find your kind. Given the history between my kind and witches, I doubt any would even meet with me if I did know where to find them.”

There was a long, bloody history between Thasophilians and witches. There were few witches actually killed during the witch trials across Europe. Instead, it was her people who’d almost drank them into extinction. Witches were magical creatures by nature, but their magic was different from any others.

Witches were born with their talents, known as majick, unlike the learned practice of magic. Majick could be transmitted through their blood, granting the drinker their abilities for a short time. Thasophilians found this out, and well, the rest was history.

The ghost slipped the black hood down and slowly raised her head. The young woman’s eye was swollen shut. A large gash above her eyebrow was thick, jagged, and angry looking, even though no blood flowed from it. Her full lip split at the corner, but there was no blood. Her right eye was nearly white, and there was no sign of any pupil. Underneath all those bruises and empty eyes, was a face she recognized.

Clasping her throat, she gasped. “Analise,” she whispered. “What the hell happened to you?”

“You must go. Hurry.”

The thought was forced into Elora’s head, pushing past her mental blocks. She closed her eyes tightly at the sharp pain and pressed her hands to her temples. “Dammit!” she yelled. “Analise, what the fuck are you doing?!”

“I came to warn you. They’ll be …” Analise’s voice trailed off, and her attention snapped to the window.

“What are you talking about? Who will be here?” She didn’t answer. “Analise, what … where’s Micah? What happened to you?”

“It’s too late. They’re here.”

“Who are they?” Elora rushed to the window, stepping to the side as she barely lifted the curtain. There were many advantages to being on the top floor, like being able to see the entire parking lot.

Two huge men stepped out of a metallic black Camaro. They were easily six and a half feet tall, if not more. Dressed in black leather from head to toe, with black shit kickers on their feet. Black Ray-Bans shielded their eyes. She had a horrible feeling about this.

“Monster fuck!” she hissed. It was the only way, to sum up, the situation. She rushed across the room and over to the dresser, where her duffel bag was. Unzipping it, she yanked out her twin katanas. This situation was so fucked it wasn’t even funny.

These two were on a mission, and her gut told her they were Necros—dead men who retained their essential motor functions by the use of dark magic. Necros couldn’t be reasoned with, talked to, and lived only to complete their mission. The only way to kill one was to stab it through the heart or remove its head with an enchanted sword. Luckily, she had two of them. They’d been gifted to her by a witch she’d saved during the Crusades.

The swords were crafted with the most exquisite care, inclinations of inclinations engraved into the metal in ancient Syriac. The blades were razor sharp, the blade thicker with a serrated edge ending in a sharp point. Cast in the elemental majick of fire and ice. The blades could go through vampyers with the burning sting of ice, and the blazing inferno of fire. They were swift, they were lightweight, and they were deadly.

She slipped the swords crisscrossed over her back and clutched the strap of her duffel in her hand. Looking around the room, she searched for Analise, but she was gone. Adrenaline pumped through her veins, quickening her heart rate. Anticipation knotted in her gut; her hands trembled slightly. Taking a deep breath, she calmed herself. She needed to focus, and calm down if she was going to survive this.

Twin thuds sounded on the concrete stairs a short distance away, and she froze. Dammit, she cursed silently. There was no chance of escape unless she jumped from the window two stories up, and there was no way she could do that shit in broad daylight. The video would wind up on YouTube before the night was over. There was also no escaping a physical altercation, and with these two big bastards, she’d need the element of surprise on her side.

Reaching behind her, she grabbed the red and blue intricately woven handles at her back. Unsheathing the swords silently, but quickly, she rushed to the door. Drawing her arms up against her chest, she focused, slowing her heart rate. Years of training and conditioning took over.

She narrowed her focus by blocking out all other noises, from the loud traffic on the freeway, to the woman fighting with her husband down at the opposite end of the motel. The footsteps drew closer and closer.

The knob on the door jiggled for a moment before it was kicked in. Elora turned her head and braced for the impact against her torso. It didn’t even touch her. Successfully hidden, she pressed her back to the wall and kept her gaze locked on the ground a few feet from her.

One black boot stepped into the room, followed by the other until both feet were in her line of sight. They’d need to come into the room more before she’d be able to make her move. She waited, but the Necro didn’t take another step. Instead, his weight went against the door, pushing it into her, pinning her against the wall.

An arm reached behind the door trying to grab her. She needed to get her sword down, but she couldn’t move. There was only one option. She released her grip on the handle, and the sword fell. The razor-sharp blade sliced through flesh, ligament, and bone, effectively severing the arm from its owner. The Necro didn’t make so much as a peep.

Slipping out from behind the door, she dropped to her knees, grabbing her other sword. Grasping the handle, she swung backward, slicing off his leg just below the knee. He fell to the ground heavily, and a second later, she chopped off his head. Before she could go on the offense, the other Necro grabbed her right arm. She shot out with her left sword, bringing the blade across his neck, slicing through skin and spinal cord. His head fell onto the ground with a heavy thunk.

Necromancy was illegal and punishable by death if one got caught practicing it for well over a century. To become a necromancer, the dark witch had to make a pact with a powerful demon, or Jinn, who could grant the gift of black majick. The cost of such a gift was the witch’s soul.

She raced to the bed and yanked on her black jeans. She slipped her boots on and slid her swords back into the leather scabbards at her back. Shouldering her large duffel bag, she stepped over the Necros and slipped on a pair of dark sunglasses. It would be one more thing in a list of details onlookers would be pressed to recall, and become confused about remembering correctly.

Bending down, she felt for the keys in the pocket of the Necro’s jeans. “Yes,” she hissed, yanking them out. Slipping her black sweater on to hide the swords at her back, she pulled the hood up, tucking in her black hair. Sirens sounded in the distance. Shit.

Racing outside and across the balcony, she ignored the stares of those who had stepped out of their rooms to see what was going on. Lowering her head, she ran across the parking lot to the midnight black 1970 Dodge Charger with blackout windows. It was a fantastic car, with a beautiful engine—a WSS with a Supercharged Mopar Performance 9.4L / 572 Hemi V8-engine—if her guess was correct. A speed machine was just what she needed.

There was only one place she could go for answers, Sanctum and it held mixed memories for her. She was anxious about returning there but she’d have to push those feelings aside. It was the one place that could help her understand what was going on. To completely understand Sanctum, one needed to understand the origin of its Warriors.

Thasophilians were among the first known warriors who fought against the vampyers. Thasophilians Warriors were chosen as children, and they chose meticulously. Children with accelerated speed, strength, and intelligence were selected to be Warriors. Their training would begin on their sixteenth birthday. At that time, they were taken to a secret training facility, where they would undergo rigorous mental and physical training for ten years.

Limikkins and shifters had their problems with the rogues of their species. They counteracted them the best way they could, and despite being different species, they worked together. Limikkins were a species similar to shifters. Instead of shifting into an animal, they had their animals tattooed across their entire back. These animals morphed from drawings etched in their skin, to flesh and blood creatures.

Unlike Limikkins and shifters, Warriors worked alone. This separation changed during the Crusades when many Thasophilian Warriors were killed by vampyers, who came for them under the guise of knights fighting for the church. Vampyers, aided by their disciples, were nearly able to crush the Thasophilian first line of defense.

The Council of Twelve could no longer stay out of Thasophilian business. Vampyers were growing in number and attacking all species. Everyone was living in fear; something had to be done. They decided it would be best to combine forces where these rogues were concerned. Sanctum, an agency created specifically with the task of eradicating all vampyers, became home to Warriors of every race. From then on, anyone who wanted a chance to fight against vampyers was free to sign up to go through the rigorous training. Whether or not they made it, was entirely on them.

Sanctum held mixed memories for her, and she wasn’t anxious about returning there. She’d have to push those bad feelings aside because it was the one place that could help her understand what the hell was going on.

Sliding into the muscle car, she slammed the door as she cranked the engine. In fifteen years, no one had ever been able to find her, so why now, after all this time? No one even knew how to find her, and she made sure she kept it that way. She never left a trace of anything behind or a way for anyone to be able to trace her. So how in the hell had a Necromancer witch, of all things, found her?

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