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Authors: Marianne Curley

The Dark

BOOK: The Dark
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Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

By the Same Author

Dedicated to the memory of the late Tony Williams,
my agent for six years,
who never stopped believing in me

Before the world can be free
A bloom of murdered innocence shall be seen
In the woods above the ancient city of Veridian
Where nine identities shall be revealed

It will come to pass that a king shall rule
But not before a leader pure of heart awakens
And an ageless warrior with an ancient soul
Shall guide with grace and providence

Beware, nine shall see a traitor come and go
From whence a long and bitter war will follow
And the Named shall join in unity
Yet suspicion will cause disharmony

A jester shall protect, a doubter cast a shadow
And a brave young warrior will lose his heart to death
Yet none shall be victorious until a lost warrior returns
And the fearless one emerges from a journey led by light and strength

Take heed, two last warriors shall cause grief as much as good
From the midst of suspicion one shall come forth
The other seeded of evil
Yet one shall be victorious while the other victorious in death

Prologue

She screams. And her scream is heard from one end of the universe to the other. The words, ‘They will suffer,’ are wrenched from between purple lips. Lathenia, the Goddess of Chaos, stares through her sphere to the past. A sphere she uses to create enough chaos to alter the present and produce a future that will have the world at her feet.

As she watches, a young soldier of the Guard pierces her lover’s throat with his dagger for the second time. She screams again. How can her soldiers stand by and allow the only man she has ever loved to die?
‘How!’

Lathenia claws at the crystal with unnaturally-long fingers, leaving permanent indents. Finally, her body shudders, in time with her love’s last breath.

Silence fills the chamber. In slow motion her head lifts and scours the marble walls. Her silver eyes flash the colour of fire.
‘They will suffer!’

A shrunken man, elderly, with eyes that have seen far, and for too long, approaches carefully from behind. ‘Your Highness, might I have a word?’

Lathenia turns. Even in the midst of grief, her ethereal
beauty cannot be concealed. ‘What is it, Keziah? Can’t you see what’s happening down there? They have killed him. Such a cunning ploy, to tempt him with the image of his own daughter! It is Arkarian’s plot. He is the mastermind of everything they do. He has tormented me for six hundred years too long!’

Keziah has seen his mistress angry before – many times – but this … this seeming loss of control is new to him. He shivers. Grief and passion make a volatile mix.

‘Tell me, Keziah, did Marduke not worship me? Why should the image of his daughter, a child he hasn’t seen for twelve years, distract him? It was a trick! What caused his blindness?’ Her eyes lower and she mutters, ‘Perhaps he still loved the woman who bore her.’

Keziah shrugs and tilts his head, snow-white hair drapes across one elevated, bony shoulder. ‘I know not, Highness, but now is not the time to doubt Marduke’s loyalty. He proved many times in the twelve years that he was your most adoring servant. You must return his mortal body, and do it quickly. Remember, he is in the past.’

She nods. Red hair, like silk woven straight from a caterpillar’s cocoon, drifts across her flawless skin. As she straightens to her full height, towering almost half a body length over Keziah’s ageing limbs, her fingers clench into tight fists. Returning to the sphere, she summons Marduke.

Even before his lifeless body completely forms before her, the Goddess moves to the crystal table and throws herself across his massive chest. Blood, still oozing from the knife wound to his throat, touches her hand. She wails, her grief a tangible entity in the circular chamber.

Once again Keziah approaches, and having known the
Goddess his entire lifetime, a mere fraction of hers, he timidly touches her shoulder.

‘What is it!’

Keziah clears his dry and withered throat, ‘The others, Highness.’

Lathenia pierces him with blazing eyes. Keziah’s heart misses two beats in a row. ‘The injured, Mistress. We can’t let them die in the past, for they could all be healed in our chambers and be of use to you again. They are your soldiers and loyal to the cause.’

She nods, and Keziah’s lungs exhale. Returning to the sphere, she waves her hand over the crystal. The room fills with the sound of moaning, the heat of mortal flesh, the scent of sweat and blood as the Goddess’s soldiers materialise. One of them, a young man, approaches. He stops mid stride at the look in his Goddess’s eyes. It is a look of such distress, he feels that to continue holding her gaze would be a physical intrusion. He bows his head deeply, ‘Your Highness, what should we do with the injured?’

She flicks her hand at him. ‘Have you no sense, Bastian? Organise those still standing to carry the injured to the healing chambers.’

Bastian flicks an uncomfortable glance at the two lifeless bodies amongst them. ‘What about the dead?’ he whispers.

‘Leave them. Their souls are already wandering the middle realm.’

Bastian cringes at the thought. Though he knows little of this place called the middle realm, he knows it is another world entirely. Once, he thought there was only earth. He has learned a lot in his time with the Order. More than he could ever have learned if he had chosen
to remain unenlightened.

As Bastian organises the removal of the injured, he realises one soldier is missing.

‘She has turned traitor.’ Lathenia verbalises his suspicions. ‘She will die.’

‘I’ll find her.’

‘Forget her for now. The Guard will protect her and keep her hidden for a long time. But your chance will come.’

With the last of the injured removed, Bastian makes for the door, but Lathenia calls him back. ‘Stay, I must talk with you.’

Bastian inhales a deep breath, his hands clasped tightly before him. They’re shaking and he doesn’t want his Goddess to see this weakness. He has never seen her so distraught before. Losing Marduke appears to have destabilised her. Although familiar with her usual violent temper, her added distress brings a stab of terror to his heart. But what could he have done to stop that blade from repeatedly slashing the master’s throat? It was as ugly as it was incisive. It was also skilful. ‘Yes, Highness?’

‘Tell me what happened.’

Green eyes widen for an instant, then flick briefly around the smooth white walls, and he swallows. Surely she must already know, having seen everything through her sphere, or why would Marduke’s body be lying before her now on that narrow crystal table?

At his hesitation Lathenia screams her words from across the room, ‘Tell me how the best of my soldiers can be defeated by so few of theirs! Tell me, Bastian, the name of the one whose hand held the lethal dagger!’

‘He … he appeared young, Highness.’

‘You are forgetting that while in the past, all are disguised.’

‘Yes, but … his eyes. There was something about his eyes. And well, as you know, eyes don’t change—’

She cuts him off with a wave of her hand. Of course she knows how it works. Wasn’t she the one who started it all? Conceived first, she should have been born first! Sharing the womb with Lorian had been difficult from the start. He continually manipulated her position until her life-cord became wrapped around her neck. But even this inconvenience couldn’t stop her from claiming her rightful first position. Except Lorian shoved her to the rear at the very moment of birth, forcing his way past her into the loving arms of a very proud father. So she’d had to find a way to overcome the obstacle of being born second. She spent centuries figuring out a way to cause enough chaos to disrupt her brother’s ministrations. She learned that chaos gave her power. She found it by tampering with the past. And the stronger she became, the more she understood anything was possible, including total domination of all the worlds.

She started gathering an army of similar-minded followers, and built a time-shift labyrinth with bricks that could not be seen by human eyes. She called her army the Order. Others called it the Order of Chaos. But as her powers surged, so did that of her opponents. Assembling a Tribunal with Lorian at its head, they formed a guard against her. Whenever her soldiers used the labyrinth to venture into the past, so did the soldiers of the Guard, causing her to fail many times. Needing a sanctuary that could be safe from both mortal and immortal hands, she started constructing a city. But Lorian revealed hidden powers to usurp her. He stole
her ideas, her designs. The construction became the Citadel. Today, her soldiers only use the adjoining labyrinth, where time travellers from both alliances are endowed with the special knowledge needed before venturing on their journeys. Lorian controls the Citadel, but she wants it back! And this time she will fortify it so that no one, not even her power-hungry brother, will steal it from her. And at last she will rule over all!

Lathenia’s eyes linger on Bastian. She remembers how he came to be a part of her Order – a lonely child, living in poverty with parents constantly feuding. How he wanted to scream at
them
for a change, instead of cowering beneath his makeshift bed or inside a narrow closet with his hands thrust tightly over both ears. Why couldn’t he have a home like the other children at school? Why couldn’t his parents stop screaming at each other? Why did they both drink so much? But most of all he wanted to control his world, and he wanted the pleasures that he sensed the world could give him.

He also had power. So she waited and watched. The day he ran off into the woods, tears of pain and hurt and frustration streaming down his face, she found him. It was his eighth birthday, the day his parents decided to separate. She offered him everything he dreamed of. And he accepted greedily. She gave him a new name and taught him many skills. And while he continued to live with his father, the man remained a drunkard and oblivious to his son’s otherworldly life. And her victory was sweet, for here was one soldier her brother would not get his hands on.

As her thoughts return to the present, she notices Bastian’s hands shaking, and wonders if she made a mistake. But no, he has been true to the Order from the day of his
Initiation, eight years ago. It is why he is so highly ranked among her elite. But today …
today
, he let her down. Without any warning she slaps his face. The force of it sends Bastian to the floor. ‘You should have done more!’

BOOK: The Dark
7.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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