Preview of Meriden: Book 3

Preview of Meriden: Book 3

27 years ago…

It was not the first time his skin had been pierced with a blade.

Even through his drunken stupor and the haze of semi-consciousness he could sense the cowardly nature of the thrust. The tip pushed lamely against his skin at first, like a child testing chill in the water with his toe, before plunging in.

But plunge it did.

Once it entered his abdomen it moved more swiftly through his guts. It bit dully into his spine, before, with a shove, it altered course and found the path of least resistance out his back.

The painful acid warmth mixed and sloshed inside him, chasing the blade’s path like hounds on a traitor’s trail. The pungent smells of wine and bile engulfed him.

He was dying quickly. His life was dribbling out behind him in spurts. His strength was already leaving him. He had only enough left for one last look.

He wrenched open his left eye.

She was laughing. Candlelight flickered in her eyes as if the flames themselves were burning inside. Bertrand Ingroff, already bent to her will, heaved awkwardly against the hilt of the blade, like it was a shovel that’s struck a root in the earth. Carlton lingered warily behind them, jug of wine in hand, with a nervous look as though he would be having a really good time so long as the man on the other end of his brother’s blade died quickly and did not make too much of a mess.

A benefit of dying is the deadening of physical sensation. The agony was fading like a moon that has yet to leave the sky though the sun has risen. Leopold’s body was convulsing involuntarily, further depleting itself of precious fluids.

But none of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was Estela. The pain wracking his body was nothing next to the flaying of his spirit by her treachery. Her laughter wrapped around the boy’s cold steel like snakes of molten ore. Her deceit exploded like white-hot needles inside him, swimming through every inch of him, punishing him mercilessly with the burning wrath of her vengeance.

Leopold’s eye shuddered and drooped closed.

He would never breath again. His heart stopped beating forever.

But the Southern Sorcerer did not cease to exist. 

The bastards celebrated that night. They celebrated in front of him as only drunken boys and girls will do. And they laughed. She laughed. At him.

There was something he clung to that night. Anyone else would have given in to death completely, would have passed meekly into the shadow. But there was something too important for Leopold to let go. He wanted it fiercely with all his being, and so he desperately flung his magic out into the black void of his extinguishing mind to capture it. And by some miracle, aided by a mysterious flicker of red-hot power, his erratic lines of magic strained and hooked into something solid.

Even as his body cooled, his consciousness clutched his prize like a raft at sea. As Estela and Carlton and Bertrand reveled long into the night, feeding him with the sounds and smells of their ecstasy, he shivered atop it like a rat on debris from a wrecked ship. Ever so slowly it grew in him, and he in it, long after they carried him into the bowels of Ingroff Castle and cast his sunken old body onto the decaying pile of their many other victims.

The thing he held onto was hatred.

Leopold willed himself to subsist on earth for hatred alone.

Several years passed before Leopold had another coherent thought. His flesh quickly putrefied and sloughed away, feeding the many slithering things that bred in the growing tortured pile made of the Ingroff brothers’ tragic conceit.

Hatred echoed faintly in the corpses of the fallen all around him. Hate for the wrongful persecution of their brothers and sisters and parents and children. There were other things too, valor and love and passion and conviction, but these things were of no interest to Leopold’s new creeping existence.

His consciousness reawakened and clawed its way out of the black muck of his mind the day Carlton was killed. The death was too swift for the spoiled, deceitful boy who had watched as his brother murdered Leopold in his sleep. In flashes, though, Leopold glimpsed her labors over Carlton’s body to reanimate it. He saw her toil, her gagging at the bloated corpse, her hopelessness and despair, and these things fueled flickers of maniacal glee within him.

Then she, her resurrected monster, and the sniveling Bertrand, all died at the hands of the mobs. He dimly registered their deaths, but the extinguishing of their pitiful souls was nothing compared to the glory of the marauding villagers’ rage-fueled hysteria.

Every sense was filled at once with the deliciousness of their fury. So much so that Leopold was just barely aware of his own small son, Elias, scrabbling his way desperately through the dungeons, across the pile of death, over Leopold’s own bones, to sneak away between the bars of the secret iron grate deep beneath the castle.Many more months would pass before the bony black silhouette slipped past those very same bars—leaving behind only frost made by the complete and utter absence of good.

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