Sneak Preview–Chapter One of Crimson Resurrection!

 

This novel may be coming along slowly but so far I really like where it’s going.  Tell me what you think!  Here’s the first chapter of Crimson Resurrection:

Chapter One

“They limped and stumbled through a bad dream to that terrible place they were bound for. Where they were traveling, the sun and moon mean nothing and winter and summer less,” Richard Adams, Watership Down

 

“You know,” Meghann O’Neill said impishly when her lover started guiding her down the steep roof stairs, “I’ve never made love during the day.”

“Little one, I’ve not had that pleasure in over four hundred years,” Simon Baldevar laughed, pulling her into his embrace. “I say we remedy this problem straightaway.”

Laughing back, Meghann took a coy step away from Simon and turned back to the roof door. Much as she wanted to be with Simon, make love and forget the horrors they’d been through the past few nights, what she wanted even more was one more look at the city bathed in daylight, at the sunlight she hadn’t seen in so long.

It was beautiful, she thought with pleasure. She’d almost forgotten what the skyline looked like etched by the rising sun, all the chrome and glass buildings reflecting the sunlight with a brass, almost insolent sheen.

The skyline?????

Meghann blinked, but the buildings in front of her were the same—those of the Manhattan skyline.

What the hell? Meghann thought. After that terrible argument she and Simon had the night before, she’d fled to his townhouse in Mid-Town Manhattan. When he tracked her down, they wound up on the rooftop and all quarrels were forgotten when they realized the coming dawn wasn’t hurting them, that they would be able walk in sunlight now that they’d partaken of their son Mikal’s blood.

Oh, Mikal, Meghann thought sadly of her slain son, dead by her own hand when he threatened all their lives. Mikal was the first vampire born, not transformed. How Meghann had looked forward to getting to know her son, taken into seculsion by Simon when he was born so no other vampires would threaten the child’s life. Unfortunately, Mikal had grown into a psychotic monster, one Meghann was forced to kill. To save Simon’s life, Meghann gave him the heart’s blood of his dead son that he might heal. Once Simon recovered, Meghann had fed from him and now she too had Mikal’s blood, blood immune to sunlight, flowing through her veins.

No, she’d never forget Mikal and she’d always regret what she’d had to do, but sadness was banished by the slowly rising sun. With the glee of small children, Meghann and Simon had watched the slowly rising sun illuminate Central Park, take the formerly dark, brooding trees and give them brilliant, gaudy life; the full green, leaves of early summer gleaming with droplets of early morning dew.

Central Park, Meghann thought with rising fear. That’s what I should be seeing. That was all you could see from Simon’s rooftop, along with some tall buildings and rooftop gardens nearby. The view before Meghann’s eyes was one you saw from her father’s house in Queens and Meghann hadn’t been on that rooftop in over sixty years.

Was the price a vampire paid for being able to walk in sunlight that you lost your mind? Meghann whirled around. “Simon?” Was he seeing things that shouldn’t be there too?

Simon was gone. Everything was gone. Everything was black—dense, fathomless black like the darkness she’d encountered when Alcuin took her and Charles to Dunmore Cave in Ireland.

“Alcuin?” Meghann called out for her vampire mentor, the man who’d rescued her from the bondage of her early days with Simon and been slain by Lord Baldevar forty years later. Even as a ghost, Alcuin was still able to come to her when she needed him desperately. If anyone should be able to help her through whatever was happening now, it should be the strong spirit of Alcuin. “Alcuin? Simon? Dammit someone answer me! Where am I? Help!”

No! Meghann thought. I won’t start screaming like some terrified child. She wasn’t losing her mind; she was just showing the strain she’d been under. The same week she’d killed her own son, she’d learned her other child, Ellie, and Jimmy Delacroix were lovers—something Meghann still couldn’t wrap her head around, seeing as how Jimmy used to be her lover. If that weren’t enough, she’d never forget seeing Simon lying lifeless and blue with approaching death after Mikal got the better of him. After all that, who wouldn’t have a flashback or whatever this was?

The first thing she had to do was get her bearings. Meghann couldn’t see or hear anything in this viscous darkness, but she did feel the roof door handle under her palm. Meghann moved her fingers and focused her sharp, vampiric eyes on the door handle. That was the first thing she’d seen the sunlight strike—the crumbling, rusting flakes that had been black when she arrived on the roof and slowly started turning reddish-brown.

There, she could see the reddish-brown flakes again—no, no, no! Terrified, Meghann yanked her hand back from the thing coming to monstrous life in front of her. In place of the crumbling chips, she saw rusty scales and the thing kept elongating until what stood before her was a three-headed serpent, hissing with each pair of hideous yellow eyes focused on her.

Aillen, Meghann thought in horror. When she was a child, her father had told her all sorts of Celtic myths. One was of the vicious Aillen, a monster of unholy strength and evil cunning that rose every All Hallows Eve from some fathoms deep cave and stalked the Irish countryside looking for prey. That was why, according to Jack O’Neill, you always made sure to be indoors before sunset on Halloween night.

“Lig dom!” Meghann shouted when the thing advanced on her. High time she remembered that she was no terrified child, but a vampire and one who’d learned a thing or two about dealing with supernatural creatures. Both Simon and Alcuin had impressed upon her that you never showed a demon (or whatever this horrible thing was) any kind of fear they could use against you.

“Nil eagla orm romhat feasta,” Meghann hissed. I don’t fear you. The thing turned, seeming to cock its hideous ears. Meghann strained her own ears and then she heard something faint—somewhere in the darkness, a child—no, at least two children—were sobbing. It was more than sobbing; the poor children sounded terrified and utterly desolate—they were in fear for their lives and something more. Meghann could feel they were scared, but of what? Not just the aillen but that it might kill something precious to them, something they’d never known but wanted desperately.

“Na dean sin!” Meghann screamed when the aillen turned from her, slithering off in the direction of those heart-breaking wails. “Don’t you dare go after those babies!” Her own fear forgotten, Meghann jumped on the aillen’s back, determined to save the children. Suddenly the Celtic cross Alcuin had given her the night she met him was in her hands and she used the sharp base to stab one of the aillen’s heads.

With a roar of outrage, the beast threw her off its back and one leathery wing knocked Meghann off her feet when she tried to stand up. She felt the breath knocked out of her, but in a painless sort of way—perhaps this was a dream. Even so, Meghann felt it was imperative that she save those children. In some primal way, she felt responsible for them.

No time to question what was happening, Meghann used to the cross to slash the aillen when it tried to claw her across the face. She might not be able to see, but she’d certainly been able to sense the blow coming at her.

As the aillen advanced on Meghann, the cries of the children grew louder and louder, as though they were terrified for her.

It was madness what she did next, but there was no time to think or wonder. The aillen was nearly on top of her, but all Meghann could think of was calming the children. Rather than scream at the monster what came out of her mouth was a soft, lilting, “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral.” Hush now; don’t be afraid, the Irish lullaby Meghann’s father had sung whenever she’d had a nightmare.

The sobbing subsided, but to Meghann’s amazement the aillen stopped moving too, as though uncertain.

“Of course,” a feminine voice said behind her. The voice was scratchy and the words she spoke were not a Gaelic Meghann had heard before, but she understood it perfectly. “So much has been forgotten, so much reliance on tedious ritual. What these monsters fear more than anything is the joy in music and song—the things they can never create or understand like love and wonder. You haven’t forgotten the power of joy over those with none in them, a leanbh mo chroi, you just haven’t learned yet how to listen to your heart.”

Daughter of my heart—that was what the unseen woman had called her.

“Mathair?” Meghann called back. Mother?

“I am the mother you’ve never known,” the voice said and it didn’t surprise Meghann at all to see a crow on her left shoulder. The oppressive darkness had lessened and Meghann could make out that it was a beautiful bird, each of its feathers a gleaming ebony.

“I am the mother you will need for what faces you,” the crow continued speaking a woman’s words but in the caw, caw, caw of a crow. “I am Mathair of the Battlefield.”

“Morrigan!” Meghann said and it seemed the bird smiled at her.

“Do you accept my aid, inion?” the crow asked. Meghann recalled that the Morrigan, an Irish war goddess, often appeared as a crow. Why she’d come to help her, Meghann had no idea but she felt honored—as well as relieved.

“Ta,” Meghann said. “What must I do, Mathair?”

“Sing,” the crow replied. “Sing in the face of madness and rage, no matter the fear you feel. Sing for your babies and I shall do the rest.”

Meghann raised her chin and glared at the aillen, momentarily silenced by the appearance of the Morrigan but now back to hideous, screeching life. It seemed the beast’s three-voiced wails lifted her hair and nearly took it off her scalp with the deadly force behind it, but Meghann did as the crow advised and sang. “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral.”

While Meghann sang, the Morrigan flapped its black wings wildly, screeching at the aillen. The monster ignored the flapping crow and focused its rage on Meghann, clawing her face. Meghann felt fear, as well as pain with each strike, but she kept singing, putting her faith in the Morrigan. She strained her ears for the crying children and theirs sobs started turning to sniffles. Then there was something extraordinary. In place of crying, Meghann heard a savage cheering; it seemed the children were encouraging her to fight. Meghann didn’t know who the children were, but perhaps she was put here to help them out of the darkness as well as herself. Maybe she’d been sent here to do a good deed after the horrible things she’d been forced to do over the past week.

Perhaps sensing defeat, the aillen roared louder and continued its assault on Meghann. She sang, though the pain in her mutilated face was horrible. She kept singing Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, the lilting rhythm in her voice matching each flap of the Morrigan’s wings.

As she kept singing, the wings were no longer flapping from Meghann’s shoulder. Looking down, she saw the wings were hers—she was the Morrigan and the Morrigan was her! Meghann flapped her wings mightily and it seemed each feather sprouted one of the Celtic crosses Alcuin had given her. Now it was her stabbing the aillen with the power of a goddess! The beast stopped howling and started trying to shield its hideous faces.

Meghann had never felt anything like this in her life! Even when Simon had let some of his dark power into her, it felt nothing like this extraordinary rush. She felt at once wild and invincible, capable of great power and even greater darkness. But the darkness inside her was a natural thing, nothing like the evil she sensed in the aillen. She felt darkness inside her, but she also felt beautiful and natural at the same time. It was like she was a beautiful meadow at sunset, yet simultaneously she was a tornado bearing down on that meadow.

Meghann kept striking the aillen, feeling blood from the wounded creature splash on her face.

Blood. Fresh Blood.

Meghann blinked, and the oppressive darkness was gone but she wasn’t on the rooftop anymore. She was in a room—a bedroom—that she’d never seen before. She had a confused impression of cypress wood floors and a large, crude hole in the wall where a window should have been.

Meghann couldn’t focus on any other details—even so simple a one as where she was, whose house was this? —because of the sickness roiling through her. Meghann hadn’t been mortal long, but there had been several memorable teenage hangovers before she’d transformed. Her throbbing head, sour mouth, and queasy stomach brought back the memory of them in excruciating detail.

What’s wrong with me, Meghann thought and put her hand to her head. To her horror, her hand came back slick with blood. Whether she’d merely dreamed the aillen, something had disfigured her badly. She had to feed to heal; she needed blood immediately.

Behind her someone was moaning. Meghann spun around on her knees and saw a mortal man. Badly wounded by the look of him and moaning incoherently. When Meghann crawled closer to him, he didn’t appear to notice her. He had a gash on his forehead and blood was flowing freely.

With the smell of fresh blood in her nostrils, that loamy scent of iron and copper, any thought for right or wrong deserted Meghann. She grabbed by the man by his grubby T-shirt and attached her mouth to his neck.

Dear God, how wonderful the blood tasted! Meghann feasted on and on, feeding on the man like a starved leech. Dimly she had an impression that it had been quite some time since she fed on fresh prey, but that couldn’t be right. Hadn’t she and Simon fed just last night? Meghann felt her face heal, the nausea and headache faded to nothingness, but some instinct whispered to her that a deeper healing was going on, like she was recovering from a protracted illness.

When the blood drained to a mere trickle, Meghann raised her head and wiped the blood off her mouth with the back of her hand. Before she could feel remorse for killing this unknown man, something in his departing spirit caught her attention. It wasn’t anything like the ancient malevolence of the aillen, but nor was this man some innocent victim. Meghann had a fleeting impression of a hateful soul, some rotten corrupt mortal that hurt those too weak to stop him. A child abuser, perhaps.

Meghann dismissed any more thought of him as easily as she flicked his body to the far side of this unknown room with one careless swipe of her hand. She had to figure out where she was; where had Simon disappeared to?

Meghann looked down at herself and saw one familiar thing. She was wearing the lacy, white negligee Simon had given her the night she’d transformed. After she’d escaped him, Simon had saved all her clothes and gave them back to her when they reunited.

A few feet from her was an enormous rice bed covered in gauzy mosquito netting. Pushing aside the netting, Meghann saw a man’s denim shirt on the ivory bedspread. She put the shirt on, wanting a more substantial covering while she figured out her surroundings.

Meghann sat on the bed and stared at the gaping hole in the wall across the room. The air drifting in was dense with humidity, it almost felt like water settling over her. It reminded Meghann of the weather in Cuba, where she’d lived with Simon the first thirteen years they were together. Was she in the Caribbean?

An open door on that side of the room revealed a bathroom. To Meghann’s left were two double doors slightly ajar, probably leading to a dressing room. Meghann’s sharp ears detected hitched breathing in the dressing room—low and treble like children.

Dear God, there were children in this unknown house! Meghann’s cheeks burned with shame when she realized she’d just fed on and killed a man in front of innocent children. They were probably terrified! Meghann had no idea where she was or why she was alone in a house with children, but the most important thing was calming them.

Meghann hopped off the bed and crossed the room, stopping a few feet from the open mahogany doors. She didn’t want to go in the dressing room and frighten the children any further—better for them to come to her.

“Please come out,” she said in her most coaxing tone. “I won’t hurt you.”

“Oh, we know that,” a young voice replied. What struck Meghann was the confidence the boy spoke with. It was as though he knew her well, and had no doubt she wouldn’t harm him. “You’d never hurt us.”

“Who are you?” Meghann said, feeling more confused by the moment. What in holy hell was going on here?

The mahogany doors swung all the open, and two young boys clasping hands came into the bedroom. They smiled, and Meghann gasped at two pairs of blood-teeth gleaming in the moonlight.

The one on the left smiled and spoke to Meghann. “We’re your children. Hello, Mum.”

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