Happy Friday, y’all!
Here’s an excerpt from my story The Otherworlders. It’s a little long to make up for not posting for the past two weeks.
If you need to catch up, below are all the previous excerpts in order.**
Part 1: What Was That Thing?
Part 2: Meet Andie and Max
Part 3: Poor Jules
Part 4: Two Worlds
Part 5: Meet the Rat King
Part 6: Let’s Go Mole People Hunting!
Part 7: Found: Mole People
Part 8: Shady Shit
Part 9: Home Sweet Home
Part 10: Meet the Parents
Part 11: Not Your Average Blood Suckers
Part 12: A Little Taste
Part 13: Danger Signs
Part 14: No Rest for the Weary
Part 15: Bestia Medicus
Part 16: Bestia Medicus 2
Part 17: Playing Dress Up
**Also, check out this short story I wrote: The Thing
. . .
After about a mile, Andie stepped off the concrete and on to the grass, teetering slightly in her heels as they sunk into the soft ground. Max followed behind, keeping his hand on her back so she didn’t fall over as she yanked her shoes out of the soil. They ambled their way toward a strange looking monument between rows of gravestones. It was a square patch of green surrounded by a stone on each corner, no higher than 2 feet, linked together by two rods of iron. In the middle of the enclosure was a tall granite rectangular mausoleum. It was plain, the only adornment were circular grooves all along the top. A small iron gate stood in the center and as they crossed over the fence allowing a glimpse of the stone coffin inside.
Andie opened the iron gate without much resistance.
Max was surprised, “It’s not locked?”
“Would you come in on your own?” Andie asked.
From outside, the structure looked very large but the chamber they now stood was just small enough to fit the coffin with about two feet of space around it. Shuffling sideways around the coffin on either side, they moved toward the wall opposite the door. Once in front of it, Andie stood up straight and poked Max to do the same before she knocked on the wall three times. There was a loud echoing on the other side. A great rumbling sound ran through the chamber as if gears were turning and the wall started sliding to the side, revealing a larger room lit by torches in sconces along the walls. A staircase descended beyond sight guarded by two men in armor.
“Also, Ghregore can read minds so just keep it simple,” Andie said tapping her forehead before walking in and down the stairs without looking at the guards. Max stood stunned before following suit.
The stairs led to a large stone foyer bathed in flickering light from the torches above. Max counted twenty guards that lined the walls leading to two large stone doors intricately carved with symbols. Max noted that all the guards were tall, all at exactly the same height, wearing armor that wouldn’t look out of place during Roman rule. Framing their strangely elongated faces, were metal helmets that came to four points on either side. Their cheekbones were peculiar too, jutting out of their faces like little shelves under their completely black eyes. None made any gesture to indicate they noticed Andie and Max’s presence.
Max kept his hands to his sides and slightly tilted to his side towards Andie’s ear, who was staring at the doors in front of them, and mumbled “Should we announce ourselves to someone?”
“No, they already know we’re here. Probably as soon as we entered the cemetery. Just wait,” She whispered back, motioning her head to the door. Max stood straight and stared as well. A second later, as if waiting for Max to pay attention, the doors split open and opened into a long hall.
“Enter,” came a booming voice from inside. And so they did.
. . .
An eight foot tall man stood on a dais at the end of the hall with his arms outstretched. His head was tilted on a long skeletal neck gracefully emerging from his long silvery grey robe which hung on his impossibly thin frame. He was bald, completely hairless, with the same jutting cheekbones as the guards that lined the hall, but much sharpter. His face was all angles, straight lines cut with precision. But the most startling of all were his eyes; his irises were a pristine blazing white encircled in the blackest ink. His pupils were tiny pin pricks that pulsed with each step they took. Behind him stood a roughly cut stone throne, a guard stood on the left of it and another man, stood to the right. Where Ghregore’s features were as sharp as a knife, this man’s features were blunt and hard, Max couldn’t tell if he was angry or whether that was just how his face was set.
Andie and Max stopped about three feet away from the dais and knelt just as they had discussed on their way there. Max tried his best to purge his mind of any thought as they stood up straight.
“Welcome, friends. It has been a long time since we have had visitors,” Ghregore said, his voice was rich and deep, rolling his r’s and trailing off with sibilant s’s.
“We appreciate your hospitality, your highness. My name is Andaleeb Janjua and this is my companion Maxwell Hagan,” Andie replied as Max clenched his eyes shut.
Ghregore smiled amusedly, “How much of a companion when you do not know his name?” he countered.
Max’s stomach dropped in his stomach before he replied, “It’s Maximilian.”
Andie shot him a furious look but recovered quickly, “Forgive me, Rege. It’s true we’ve only known each other for a short time but we have encountered more together than most friends have in a lifetime.”
“Indeed, I wondered what brought you here, daughter of Taara Janjua. It is not often a Bellator comes to speak with me, let alone with a mortal,” Ghregore sat back down in his throne.
Andie cleared her throat, “We have come for guidance and possibly, your help.”
Ghregore raised the skin where his eyebrow should have been, “Guidance? Help? You have not been sent by The High Council. They do not approach us with such caution or care.”
“They should,” thundered the vampire with blunt features, moving forward into the light. He was shorter than Ghregore but also much more muscular, he puffed out his broad chest in agitation and his white eyes stared menacingly at Andie and Max.
“My son, Marius, does not understand subtlety,” Ghregore said dryly. “His hubris comes from ignorance. We are the last sons and daughters of The Great Ancient one, Lamatsu,” he motioned to the guards and his son, whose features seemed to soften at his father’s reproach. “We are the purest of the tribes, heralding from fierce kings and queens of the Niferescul before us. But he was not there when we were cast out of our home in Romania. He does not remember the battles and wars fought to preserve us; the few Niferescul left. No, he only sees us as we are now: healthy, living with little want or need. He does not understand The High Council and the Niferescul have long honored a treaty to ensure the survival of both. We have prospered while other tribes shrank and withered away seeking shelter here. We were not thrown into the abyss of The Otherworld like tribes in other countries. I tell him time and time again a king rules for the preservation of his people, not himself. My only hope is he realizes this before it is too late,” Ghregore said wistfully. Marius, the would-be king, had dropped his fierce gaze and looked thoroughly embarrassed. “Now, Andaleeb Janjua and Maximilian Hagan, what guidance and help can I offer you?”
Andie hesitated, unsure how to proceed without offending him, “Rege, we wanted to know if you have heard anything out of the ordinary or troubling recently. There have been a number of incidences as of late that signal some kind of . . . danger.”
Ghregore was clearly unimpressed, “Your speech is vague and your mind hazy. Your unease makes me weary. Speak plainly. I can look into your mind, of course, but I am old and do not wish to exert myself.”
Throwing caution to the wind, Andie stepped forward, “Okay. Well, last night, we were attacked by unmarked hunter vampires. They belonged to no tribe. I want to know if you know something about them.”
“Insolence! You think we would allow unmarked vampires to sully our grounds?” Marius burst out, his face contorted in fury.
“Marius, you may not speak without permission for the remainder of our guests’ stay,” Ghregore snapped sharply. Marius retreated behind the throne, looking mutinous. Ghregore turned back to Andie, his pupils had disappeared, “My dear, if I wanted to harm a Guardian, I would not have sent hunter vampires. They are weak and only serve to bring food to the tribe. Had I wanted to hurt you, I would have sent one of my tutore,” he said matter-of-factly, caressing the chest of the formidable guard standing to his left. “Nonetheless, this is distressing news you have brought me. You are right to suggest I would know if mercenary vampires had crossed these lands. But had I, you would have already known as well. I, duty-bound, would have reported it to The Council. For these creatures to move undetected would require dark magic. Or perhaps,” Ghregore paused, his eyes blazing white, “this is a ruse. Perhaps you are trying to create tension between the Niferescul and The Council. You are, after all, your mother’s daughter. Prejudices do not die easy deaths.”
“I don’t want any trouble. You can find out but you’ll have to exert yourself,” Andie calmly suggested.
Ghregore stood up and stepped off the dais. He stretched out his arms and placed his spindly fingers at Andie’s temples. She looked back into his white eyes. Ghregore took a deep breath, closed his eyes and snapped them back open. His pupils dilated so large, the whole of his eyes turned black.
In a flash, Andie was back on the Long Island Expressway, the scenes of the night before unraveling at high speed as if someone had pressed fast-forward. All the images were familiar blurs until she reached the redhead. Someone hit slow-motion. The redhead tilted her head back, painstakingly, in a distorted voice, she repeated the phrase that made Andie’s blood run cold, “The Inquilab has risen.”
In a blur of black Andie was back in the flame lit hall, breathing as if she’d just run a marathon. She looked at Ghregore, and saw a glimpse of fear in his eyes. He turned and made his way back to his throne. Sitting, he steepled his fingers in front of him and hung his head down, contemplating something. Marius inched his way from behind the chair to look at his father curiously, his eyes flickered between him and the two below. No one dared say a word. Andie tried to catch her breath while Max returned Marius’s curious looks. Finally, after a few moments, Ghregore spoke.
“Long ago, when the world split, the Etlu, the Watchers, those we call the Guardians here, rose to become protectors and keepers of the two realms. Though sworn to protect both this world, the Land of Watchers and the other, the Land of No Return, it was no secret they, though with elevated powers, would favor their own kind. Creatures of the light, the dark, and in between, were forced to make a choice: live among the humans where they would be under the rule and watchful eye of The Council or move to a new place where they might thrive. For us vampires, the choice was easy – we would remain where our prey remained. For others, it was not so: Those who did not wish to be governed, those who believed in their own righteousness, fought to gain control for themselves. But they were defeated, punished by death or forced into The Otherworld. Back then, death would have been preferable, I think.
But, the worlds carried on, grew and flourished, shrank and floundered, always together. When one world triumphed, the other would swell, when one world struggled, the other would limp. Interminably linked, a swirling, twirling cosmos, forever bound. There were some who wished to disturb this binding, who wished to break it, who wished to forswear their sister world, in favor of their own. They did not see the truth as those blinded by their indignation often do not: to divorce ourselves from the other will only result in the destruction of both. It is why the Niferescul were keen to sign a treaty with The High Council so many years ago. It is why many creatures willingly left this plane. However, the blind, over the years, would renew their campaign to disentangle the twin worlds. War would break out, battles fought and lost here and in The Otherworld, countries and lands utterly decimated. It is the cycle of life, I suppose, but I do not know, I have not lived for many centuries.
It became predictable until Dhruaga. Poor besotted Dhruaga believed himself to be worthy of both worlds because of his birth. He was half demon and half human. Hubris. He realized the mistake of rebellions past, it was not a matter of separating the twins, it was a matter of ruling over both. He gained a following of disenfranchised creatures and disillusioned Watchers who called themselves The Inquilab. The Revolution. He wreaked havoc and utter destruction in The Otherworld. Here, we had The Cold War, insurgencies, humans became dependent on chemicals that ate their bodies from the inside. But as before, the worlds righted themselves, the stars aligned, and Dhruaga met quietus.”
Ghregore sighed, “But you have not come here for a history lesson, Andaleeb. I do this more to benefit Maximilian and my own son, who I fear shares Dhruaga’s traits. I will tell you what I know since you have observed the niceties.” He placed his hand on his guard’s arm as if to collect himself before he continued.
“There was a disturbance not a few months ago in the deep chambers of the underground where The Mole People reign. Moledaemons escaped. One attacked your friend and his friend, as I heard from Egan. This is not news to you. But, as ever, I am burdened with knowledge I do not seek. The daemons did not return underground, they did not seek hosts. Extraordinarily, they found passage undetected to The Otherworld. I do not know how or why. The High Council seemed unconcerned as they are with most matters unless it affects their land. Yet that is precisely what concerned me. Moledaemons can only use human bodies as hosts. Why go where they cannot inhabit any creature? Why go where they are as disdained as they are here? And to only return to target two humans? I eased my mind that The Council would act if real danger were to arise. But my calm was extinguished by the same winds that carried whispers of dark, unknowable, unreachable corners in The Otherworld. Whispers of new nightmares. Now you bring me word of The Inquilab. Unmarked vampires are not easy to come by, Andaleeb. There are none in this world. To have no tribe is a disgrace for vampires of any order. Whoever has bought their allegiance has guaranteed something beyond anything The Council can offer. Our world does not seem poised to defend itself. I fear it has not yet recovered from the last battle,” Ghregore placed his hands in his lap and rested his head against the throne, closing his eyes once again.
“What can I do?” Andie whispered.
“Proceed with caution, Andaleeb Janjua. Keep your friends close. This one has a good mind. He is brave and loyal and that will be hard to find in the coming days. And Sarah Anyelle, as well. Now I must decide the fate of my own tribe. I do not believe The Council can offer much protection if The Inquilab has truly risen. My son, though I love him dearly, is not ready to rule and I cannot weather another storm,” Ghregore looked around the hall longingly, “It may be time to leave this place.”
“Thank you, Rege. The information you have given us tonight is invaluable,” Andie knelt down again as did Max beside her.
“As information always is, my friends,” Ghregore sighed.
Max and Andie left the hall with emptier minds than they had entered.
. . .