First three chapters from book1 of "The Knights of Elam"

"The children of the Vanquished shall awaken. The bloodline of Kings shall fall."
Taken from the original transcript of Valden's prophecy.

For a thousand years Endestra has known peace, but as Keb, an apprentice of the Knights of Elam faces his trials to join the brotherhood, an ancient prophecy is given life, casting brother against brother, tearing the kingdom apart as rival houses vie for power and truths buried will threaten the safety of all.


(ADULT CONTENT)


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1. The Sleeper

The old man lifted his head from the comforting warmth of the deep filled feather pillow leaving a curved indentation as lone evidence of his slumber. He tried to see in the darkness, but with the winter drapes pulled it was so dark in his chamber that he could barely even make out the bedposts themselves, not that he would have been able to see much more had it been fully bathed in moonlight so badly had his eyes begun failing in his advancing years. Instead he craned his head, listening intently for the faintest of sounds, straining his hearing as much as he could, trying to pick out the shuffling noise he swore had woken him a few moments before. For a few seconds there was only silence, then in the distance the bell tower at the centre of the courtyard rang once, twice, and a third time, then stillness again. Three o'clock is too early even for Arric to be up he thought. How many times had he cursed the boy when woken by his servants morning preparations? by cutlery dropped or glass broken? Always Arric was awake first, but never this early.

From the direction of the window he heard the march of booted feet crunching their way across the loose gravel in the courtyard below. Just the night patrol he realised as their footsteps passed by and drifted into the distance returning the night to noiselessness. The quiet of the dead. He shivered at the thought and deciding he had been mistaken, placed his head back onto the pillow. He took in and let out, a deep breath, drawing the bedding tight around himself as he tried once more to let sleep find him. Then he heard it again, more definite this time, a hesitant shuffle from the ante-chamber that joined his room to that of his servant.

For a moment he considered calling out to Arric then decided against it, rationalising that if there was someone up to no good then there was little advantage to be had by announcing himself to them. Slowly he pulled back the heavy woollen blankets that swamped the bed, swung out his legs and placed his feet on the sheepskin rug that lay beside it. With the assuredness that comes from knowing every inch of your environment and where everything is even in the dark, he reached out to the table beside his bed and lifted a small glass globe into his hand. Cupping it firmly he felt beneath his pillow for the knife that was secreted there. The leather sheath carrying his family crest he discarded upon the blanket as he drew out the jagged blade. Gripping its bear boned hilt tightly he padded silently towards the door ignoring the coldness that the winter had brought to the flagstones pausing only once as the shuffle came again.

Just a few feet from the door he thought as he listened, crossing the remaining distance to it in three quiet strides. Pressing his ear against the oak panelling he again heard the shuffle, closer this time. He could feel the rhythmic pounding of his heart as he planted his feet squarely on the floor bracing himself for the possible combat to come he took a steadying breath and flung open the door.

“Illuminate!” he cried, orb and knife lifted for action as a great blast of light exploded from the sphere in his raised hand revealing not an enemy but Arric's bloodied body curled on the floor. In an instant of concern and all danger forgotten the old man dropped to his knees letting the knife slip from his hand, clattering noisily on the cold flagstones as he pressed his fingers against the boy's neck. There was a pulse he realised and let out an audible sigh of relief only then realising that he had been holding his breath as he checked his stricken servant.

“Arric.. can you hear me boy?”

The servant stirred slightly at his voice but gave no more than the faintest of groans then he was gone again, slipping back into unconsciousness as his life drifted away.

“Oh Arric, Arric boy, what happened to you?” the old man muttered as he tried to find the source of the blood loss. There was a deep cut below the shoulder blade and another in the stomach that would be fatal if not treated quickly. He ripped off strips of red fabric from the boys gown and used them to try stem the blood flow. I need help and quickly. He wondered if the night patrol would hear his shouts. Too late the tingle to the hairs of the back of his neck alerted him to the presence behind him. He barely had time to curse his own stupidity for dropping his guard before they struck, there certainly was no time to turn and face his attacker let alone pick up the knife to defend himself.

The hand that clasped itself across his mouth at that instant was both unquestionably female and fiercely hot, as shocking in its temperature as in the noiselessness of his assailants approach. His hand shot up to the fingers that felt like they were literally burning his skin with their ferocious heat and tried vainly to pull them away. Instead to his disbelief he found himself being lifted off the floor by a second hand on the back of his night clothes. His arm banged hard against the wall and the glass light-ball he had been clutching dropped from his palm and rolled through the blood pooled on the floor, passing Arric's dying form and leaving a bloody trail in its wake until it was finally stopped by Arric's feet, bathing the room in a sanguine glow.

Unable to scream or shout out the old man again fought to break the grip on his mouth, to prise off the fingers or bash them away, but not even with both hands free could he release the burning fingers that held him in place as the second hand pushed him against the wall finally revealing his attacker. His eyes widened as he beheld one of the kitchen girls, a kitchen girl by the Gods! From the back of his mind the name Marie floated forward..yes Marie that was it. Her features, framed by ragged black hair twisted into a malicious grin as she saw the recognition in his face her visage a nightmare of manifest evil in the crimson luminescence of the light-ball on the floor.

 

“Marie..” he whispered through her fingers “..please Marie the boy's dying, please let me help him”

she glanced at the body on the floor but her grip only intensified as she pressed her other hand against his throat.

“I care nothing for the boy.” Her eyes were black, soulless pits, devoid of feeling, devoid of pity, devoid of humanity. “I want the Ampette.”

Now he was scared. No-one should know it was here. He kicked and struck at her desperately but she took his blows without even a flicker of emotion as the pressure on his throat forced him to open his mouth for air. As he did so she lifted away her hand and opened her lips in response. To his horror as they parted he saw something snakelike moving within. Not human..the thought flashed quickly through his mind, she's not human!

“What the fuck are you?” he gasped as her grasp tightened on his throat.

She hesitated for a second, her head turning from side to side as if she was studying him and the thing in mouth, whatever it was, withdrew briefly.

“Give me the AMPETTE!”

“I don't know what you're talking about!” he lied, terrified now.

“Give it to me or join me!”

“I don't know what you mean, I don't understand!” He wailed.

“You will” she hissed ominously and suddenly the snake was back fighting its way out of her mouth as he desperately tried to keep his own closed but her grip forced it open again and she pressed her lips to his, a deadly kiss allowing it to cross from her to him pushing itself over his tongue,filling his mouth, forcing its way down into his throat. His urge to gag or to rip the skin from his neck seared through his brain. He beat ever more desperately at her with one hand as the other scratched at his own throat where dark tendrils began to stretch out from the creature invading his body rubbing themselves against the roof of his mouth as they bonded to his nerves. He felt its coldly alien presence creep into his mind, felt the evil that controlled it and its dark plans for the world. At the same time he felt himself drift away from his physical form, felt it try to seize control of his body. No! He cried mentally, giving up the battle for his body he concentrated on the battle for his mind, trying to build walls around his thoughts to hold back the relentless dark magic that was being used upon him, but it was too late to fight and the enemy in his head was too powerful, smashing through his mental walls as if they were made of paper. Pushing his consciousness back further and further, driving him into smaller and smaller corners of his own mind. Stealing everything he was from him until his mental voice was little more than a whisper in the darkness until the man who had once inhabited his body was no more, his only dying comfort the creature's frustrated realisation that the very act of taking his body had put the Ampette beyond it's reach.

 

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