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Follow Alex and Zeke on their harrowing battles against Odin and the monstrous Chimeras in this four book series collection.
Monsters are real. Odin, an ancient faction of wealthy elites, created the Chimeras with only one goal: exterminate the First, those from which the myths and legends of vampires derived. But Chimeras kill any and all without mercy, leaving Alex and her team of human fighters with only one choice - join Zeke and his clan of First warriors to destroy the beasts threatening both their species. It's a life of blood and horror, but they refuse to give up. They will see the end of this war… no matter the cost.
The passing rain shower didn't tame the humidity of that spring Mississippi night, but that first beastly howl finally started the mission. The human bait was running down the alleys of a desolate Jackson neighborhood, bursting puddles with every stride and clutching a bloodied rag in one hand. The distinct scent soon lured monstrous paws to slam swiftly down the pavement after it. As the beast rushed around the corner, it slid to a stop to find only the blood-soaked cloth and a dead end. Fast footsteps then raced in behind it as three tactical fighters charged in with crudely fashioned machetes and welded spears. Their faces held no fear beneath the cloth of their handkerchief masks as they looked upon the hideous fiend. It was a nightmare they were used to.
Standing on feral hind legs, its massive torso was hunched forward in an unnatural posture, while the rest of it could only be described as a vulgar cross of animal and demon. As it towered nearly eight feet tall, drool seething from its greedy fangs, the three urban warriors went at it with their sharpened steel. The beast merely stooped to leap up and over them, but another pair of fighters rushed out in unison with their bladed staffs, slicing off both its arms. Blood spattered across the alleyway as it stumbled to the ground, desperately trying to get back up and struggling just to crawl. While the rest of the team simply watched, their leader walked casually over to it. All the gear they wore was deceiving, but the slight curves of her build gave her away. Like any other soldier, she approached her enemy without fear. Lifting her staff, she brought down the blade with a rigid hack to rip through its neck, delivering the final blow.
Just then, an echoing roar snapped their eyes to the sky. At their next breath, the eager gang's leader was sprinting far ahead. The others could only hope to catch up as they hurried between the abandoned buildings. Impish howls then soared down from above and two snarling creatures crashed to the ground, scattering the gang to every direction. As they reassembled to attack, their lone comrade was too focused on her next target to notice and she never lost pace.
A few blocks away, another monster was careening down a vacant street, hunting a luring scent. Only yards ahead, a man cloaked in a hooded, mid-length trench coat was bounding as high and fast as the creature chasing him, even while holding the bleeding wound on his side. Around the bend, he rushed to an old footbridge that crossed the swift stream flowing far below. He was nearly halfway across when he felt his speed suddenly wane, so he whirled around with the draw of an elegant longsword. He slashed his blade up the fiend's chest, but it countered with a backhand, throwing the young man clear off his feet to slam him hard to the bridge planks. His stunned stare was then caught by the sudden shadow hurdling over him, before the masked fighter gored her spear through the torso of the salivating foe. Hooking back the blade to toss its blood to the wind, the beast dropped to its knees and one last slice took its head clean off.
The man was too shocked to breathe, too confounded by what he knew for sure and his loss of reason. The brave fighter in front of him was panting heavy, still poised and ready for battle, but they both went still as more howls echoed over the stream. Up ahead, a pair of monsters galloped into view and found the blood-soaked scene. Muscles tensed the moment they charged, but an entire team in hooded trench coats appeared behind them in but a blink. With assorted blades of the finest craftsmanship, they pounced on the first one with unfounded speed and ease.
At the other end of the bridge, the rest of the urban gang was halted by the unfolding fray. They were clueless as they watched the trench coat fighters, moving so fast and so effortlessly. Their fearless leader, however, just held her weapon firm. That was when a bark snarled above her and she looked up with only enough time to see another monster diving straight down on her.
Suddenly, the air was knocked from her chest as the young man hurled himself into her, just before the beast sheered its claws deep down his back. The two then crashed through the wood bridge railing, while the man's blood sprayed crimson gleams of the moonlight and they tumbled over the edge. Falling fast toward the wild waters below, a handkerchief fluttered away and the fighter's hood flew back, letting a long braid toss about the disturbing innocence of the young woman's face. Just then, the man passed out in her arms, so she latched on tight as they plunged straight into the rapids of the cool stream. The current quickly carried them out of sight.
Those left on the bridge above could do nothing, while the warriors in the trench coats had already vanished.
About a half-mile downstream, the woman finally reached the calm pools along the shore to take in a few breaths. She hadn't really thought anything through. She didn't need to. She knew what had to be done. So, she heaved the weight of the wounded man onto her back and made her way up the shore. With the toes of his boots dragging at her heels, she climbed the banking to a neglected schoolyard. The dusty swings swayed lightly in the breeze as they passed by.
Then, she felt a slow breath draw near her ear.
"This is unnecessary," he strained to speak, "Just leave me be."
"You saved my life," she almost laughed, "Ya' think I'd just leave ya' here to die?"
With their clothes dripping wet, she was grateful of the Southern heat. She lugged the man past the hobo district of trashcan fires and unnamed smells and then the rubble of a burned down shoe factory. Barely noticing the odd, silver rod bolted to a street pole, an eerie quiet settled in as she headed down the alleyways. A faint light was just beginning to crawl across the city horizon.
"The sun…" said the man, "…is rising."
"That's a good thing," she told him, "They hate the sun."
His tired eyes looked at her then, but she didn't know it. Her trying steps had finally brought them to a rundown house, one impervious to the distant police sirens, and she dug out her keys to start on the trio of locks. Inside, she turned on no lights, locked the door behind them and finally closed and secured a heavy gate of bars over it. She then carried the young man down the corridor, while he glanced into the passing room. It was empty, with all the windows reinforced with bars and sheet metal. As they followed the hallway, he could feel his energy draining. The next door she opened led to a staircase down into the cellar.
"You should have left me," he said, nearing exhaustion, "My clan would have found me."
The woman merely turned to drape his arm over her shoulders and reached a firm hold around his waist. It caused him to cringe, but she knew she had to hurry. With a small light on her belt to guide them, they made their way down the steps. The entire space was open and unused, with just a few dusty boxes stacked in the corner. Beyond the ancient furnace and chimney, they stepped past a cast iron hatch hinged to the brick wall and the woman locked them both inside. She then set the man down atop a tattered mattress on the floor and his exhaustion forced him to lie down, while she lit the wick of an oil lantern. Now moving more quickly, she unfastened the strap of his broad sword and set it aside, before she took the utmost of care to remove his coat. Then, she lifted his shirt to see his wounds.
One was deep, following the line next to his spine, with another slashed across his side. She grabbed a nearby knapsack, took out a small tin box of medical supplies and began cutting away his gray linen top. As she cleaned his cuts, she was surprised to see how much they had already clotted. She also spied his listless eyes gradually open and shut as she applied his bandages. He looked as if he would speak, but he was far too weak to form the words. By the time she finished, he had passed out completely.
After she slipped off his boots and covered him in blankets, she dared to reach for the silver chain around his neck. The pendent was an old coin medallion, its center carved with a coiling design like nothing she had ever seen. Along the edges, letters spelled out a Latin quote. She found herself whispering it aloud.
"Strength through loyalty…"
Those three words meant more to her than any other words in the world. They urged her to pick up his gallant weapon, a claymore of superior craft. She found the cross-guard and pommel of the hilt with similar engravings. Visions of his encounter with that beast on the bridge replayed in her head and she recalled his stunning speed when he fought it. As she hung his hooded coat to the wall for it to dry, she was suddenly caught in a stare with the long tear down its back. That was supposed to be her wound.
She had to find out who he was, to know more about his clan and their intentions. They shared the same enemy and yet they knew nothing about each other.
Feeling a chill start to get to her, she quickly changed her clothes and turned up the lantern for a bit of warmth. She wrapped herself in the last of her blankets and made a seat at the end of her raggedy bed. The man was sleeping deeply next to her and so she let her eyes find inspiration in the dance of the soft flame. Faithfully, it lured her to sleep. Though morning was just beginning to dawn, the two of them had suffered a great battle that night… and it would certainly not be their last.