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[Dragongods Saga 00] - The Demon Mirror, page 1

 part  #0 of  Dragongods Saga Series

 

[Dragongods Saga 00] - The Demon Mirror
 

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[Dragongods Saga 00] - The Demon Mirror


  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Author’s Note

  COPYRIGHT

  The Demon Mirror

  David J. Normoyle

  A vampire and a mage have one night to defeat the ultimate enemy—their own reflections come to life.

  Alessa, a vampire wanting to overcome her bloody nature, is given an ultimatum: kill for her queen, or be killed by her queen. Lionel father’s is the most powerful mage in the city, and Lionel is appointed as his father’s enforcer, only he may not have the ruthless streak required. Alessa and Lionel’s paths become entwined when they get caught in the same magical trap. To survive until dawn, the mismatched couple will not only have to solve the mystery of the demon’s curse, they’ll also need to confront the secrets of their souls.

  The Demon Mirror is a prequel to the Dragongods Saga, a new urban fantasy series. Mixing thrilling action and enthralling magic, flavored with a dash of romance, The Demon Mirror is certain to satisfy its lucky readers.

  At the end of the story, learn how to get a copy of book one of the series, The Mage Team, which will be initially released as part of the Gypsies After Dark multi-author boxed set.

  Chapter 1

  “I need you to tell me it’ll be okay if I kill again.” I strode from one end of the room to the other, my cell phone stuck to my ear.

  “What kind of greeting is that? No, hello, Kingston, how’s your week been?”

  “This is serious. It’ll happen tonight, and I won’t have a choice.”

  “We were supposed to meet a fortnight ago. Where were you then, Alessandra?”

  “I couldn’t make it.”

  “You couldn’t text to let me know? And of course your phone was off when I tried to call you. You only contact me when you need me.”

  “You’re better off that I didn’t turn up.”

  “So you admit you stood me up?”

  “Kingston, not now.” I leaned my hand against a wall and bowed my head. “Tell me it’ll be okay.”

  “Let me get this straight,” Kingston said. “You wish to drain a person’s blood, suck the life force until he or she has been reduced to an empty husk? And you want me to tell you that’s okay?”

  “Yes.” The word came out softly, like a sigh.

  “I didn’t catch that.”

  “Yes, yes, yes.” I put the cell phone closer to my mouth and raised my voice. “Yes, I plan to suck a man’s blood until he’s dead. And yes, I want you to tell me it’ll be okay. That I can come back from that.” A knock sounded on the door, a soft knock that nevertheless caused me to jerk and stare at the door in alarm. “I have to go.”

  “You can’t go back to what you were,” Kingston said. “Not after you’ve come so far. A climb of a thousand steps can be undone with a single stumble.”

  Those didn’t sound like Kingston’s words; he must have heard them from someone in his family. Kingston was a vampire like me, only he lived with a family that didn’t kill. “I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be left with no option. It’ll just be a one-off.”

  “You always have a choice,” Kingston said. “And there’s no such thing as a one-off. A seal only needs to be pierced once to be forever broken. You know that.”

  If the seal in question was draining a person’s life force, then I had pierced it a thousand times. Perhaps I was fooling myself by thinking that another way was possible.

  The knock came again, more insistent.

  “Thanks, Kingston. I really have to go.”

  “Listen, abo—”

  I hung up and threw the phone on the bed. I stalked across the room, opening the door just as the knocking came for a third time. “Who raps on my door like an unwelcome woodpecker?”

  Sistine started back, then thrust her jaw forward. “You have been summoned.”

  “I’ll be with you in a moment.” I was wearing a sea-green colored dress, but I suddenly doubted the choice. It might not take bloodstains well.

  Flanking either side of Sistine were two shirtless men wearing three-quarter-length tan trousers, smelling of massage oil, their muscles glistening. The men or women who chose to serve us were called fawns. I had long tired of having pretty man-flesh always close by just to adore me, but Sistine was still young, barely a century old.

  “You’ll come now, Alessandra,” Sistine said. The corners of her lips curled upward. “Mortissa demands your presence. And you aren’t going to talk your way out of this one, little dove.”

  Only Mortissa called me little dove, and not as an insult. “You dare to—”

  “You have been summoned,” Sistine repeated. “Either come now, or Mortissa will know you refused her.”

  Unspoken rules and protocols underpinned all family interactions, and Sistine, with these actions and attitude toward a superior, might as well have been slapping me in the face with a glove. A burst of anger flared within me, and I felt an urge to grab her by the throat.

  Instead, I smiled. “Very well.” The dress would have to do. “Lead on.”

  Sistine shook her head curtly. “You first.”

  “Of course.” I gave her another smile as I stepped in front of her; inwardly, I seethed. My gums tingled as my fangs shifted. I restrained myself. It had been a long time since I’d experienced anger strong enough to cause a transformation, though it had also been a long time since my position in the family had been challenged. There would be a reckoning for this, for Sistine thinking she could usurp my position, but at a time and place of my deciding.

  Sistine and the two half-naked fawns followed me, their footsteps muffled by the heavy carpet. I chose a slow, deliberate pace, knowing it would annoy Sistine—who was always in a rush—as well as give me a chance to think.

  From the whispers and rumors that had been circulating, I knew that I’d have to prove myself to Mortissa, but I hadn’t expected a challenge from Sistine as well. Things were more serious than I’d realized.

  The hierarchy within the Colescu family was always well defined. Mortissa had started the family several centuries back, and she had always been its leader. I had been her second for over two centuries, ever since I’d killed the Baroness in London. A number of pretenders had come and gone, but no one had seriously threatened either Mortissa or me.

  Of course, it wasn’t Sistine who I should have been angry at—it was myself. If I hadn’t even noticed that Sistine had grown powerful enough to even think about challenging me, then I was really slipping. I was thinking too much about the world outside and forgetting about the world inside. For a vampire, the outside world was dangerous, but life within one’s own family could be equally so.

  We lived on the top three floors of an apartment building in the center of Philadelphia, but from the decor inside, we could have been living in 19th-century Paris or London. Candles in long-stemmed gold holders lit the corridor, and thick-weave dark Turkish carpets lined the floors. The windows, paned with a black glass that didn’t allow light to pass, were framed with floor-to-ceiling burgundy drapes tied off with yellow rope. The paintings on the walls included a few Renoirs, a Caravaggio, and several others by slightly less famous painters, Vermeers and similar. Nothing from the post-Impressionistic period or later. Though the outside world c
hanged rapidly, life within our family remained static.

  Or so I had fallen into the trap of thinking.

  I glanced behind me at Sistine. Her look of frustration made me slow my pace even further. She was thin, waif-like, with long limbs. Her child-like face and wide eyes gave her a look of innocence that she in no way warranted. She wore a silk dress, modestly cut, blue with white slashes across the chest.

  At the end of the corridor, two male fawns—most of the fawns in the Colescu family were male—stood guard on a set of double doors. Both of them were dressed in black slacks and white shirts, Mortissa having much more class than Sistine, though they were as handsome and well-built as Sistine’s fawns. One of them opened a door to let us through, then shut it behind us.

  Mortissa sat on a gilded throne that had once belonged to Charlemagne. At her feet, a badly injured man lay on the ground moaning. The smell of blood—thick, sweet blood—hung heavy in the air. For the second time in as many minutes, my gums tingled. Once again, I repressed the urge to transform.

  Sistine’s two fawns took up position by the door, and Sistine herself went to an empty chaise longue and lay down. In a half circle facing Mortissa, all the family vampires were arrayed out on various chairs and couches. A few of them, displaying a singular lack of control, were already in a state of bloodlust, their pupils ringed with red, and fangs protruding from their mouths. The family fawns would be receiving many passionate bites later.

  We were the only vampire family consisting just of females. I looked from face to face, receiving back only averted gazes. No smiles. I had known most of them for over one hundred years, but how many would support me if need be? The truth was that I didn’t know. I had neglected the family for too long. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Sistine had decided to make a move.

  Mortissa’s throne was set on a platform, which meant she looked down upon anyone else, even someone standing. At gatherings such as this, I normally stood by my queen’s right elbow, but positioning myself there, given my perceived weakness, could backfire. On the other hand, I didn’t want to sit with the other vampires.

  Instead, I stepped up to the bloodied man in front of Mortissa—he was trying to push himself up onto all fours—and shoved him in the ribs with my bottom of my foot, knocking him onto his back. “This vile thing is the traitor I heard about?”

  “You heard about him?” Sistine asked. “How, when we see you around so infrequently?”

  I looked over my shoulder. “I’m around plenty, baby sister. I’ve seen it all before. What you might find new and exciting can be tiresome to me.”

  Mortissa didn’t speak, and I didn’t glance her way, but I felt her presence. From her perch on the gilded throne, she watched everyone and everything.

  The man on the ground was one of Mortissa’s fawns, a man called Gaston. I had seen him around, though never spoken to him. I hadn’t heard exactly what he’d done, just that he’d betrayed Mortissa.

  I leaned over the man. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

  “It’s not true. None of it. Connie isn—”

  I crouched down and jabbed my thumb into the wound on Gaston’s side. Gaston’s back arched, and a gut-wrenching scream tore from his throat. “If he still has the energy to scream that loudly, perhaps he is not yet ready to be killed,” I said, looking around. “Treason against Queen Mortissa is the ultimate crime. He has not suffered enough yet.”

  “Perhaps you are not prepared to kill him yet.” Sistine’s voice rose languidly from her perch on the chaise longue. “You want to show him mercy, I think.”

  “Mercy?” I put as much scorn into the word as I could. “You think wrong, baby sister.” I jammed my thumb even further into Gaston’s body, only stopping when a knuckle also disappeared into the wound. The man’s body convulsed, and his screams turned to a wail, then to sobbing.

  “Please, no more,” he cried.

  Torture, I realized. That was what I was doing. I hoped to avoid having to kill anyone, and I had started by torturing a wretched man. Whatever Gaston had done, he didn’t deserve torture. But I couldn’t allow thoughts of mercy to enter my mind. Mortissa’s lair remained part of the old world, and it was through being my old self that I would survive Sistine’s machinations.

  I grabbed hold of Gaston’s far shoulder to hold him steady, then shoved my hand further against him, getting most of my fist into the wound. Gaston gave a final shudder, then lost consciousness. I kept my hand in place as I turned to look around at everyone watching.

  Mortissa continued to say nothing, sitting still as a statue, yet the awareness of her presence was a crushing weight in the air, a second gravity. The other vampires leaned forward with anticipation, waiting for me to finish the man off, to drain his life force.

  The whispers that I no longer had the stomach to kill must have originated with Sistine, I realized. The problem was that the rumors were true. I wasn’t sure what exactly Mortissa believed, but she had set up this public opportunity for me to prove myself. All I had to do was kill Gaston. I remembered Kingston’s words. “A climb of a thousand steps can be undone with a single stumble.” It had been so difficult to get to where I was. Could I undo everything and start again?

  Keeping my fist jammed into Gaston’s side blocked up the wound, but blood still leaked down the back of my hand, caressing my skin, warm and welcoming. I was trying to avoid letting the scent fill my nostrils. But blood had a sweetness that could make my eyes roll, and it was imbued with an energy that made the synapses of my nerve ends crackle. I couldn’t resist its spell completely.

  I transformed, my fangs descending and the skin on my face tightening.

  It wasn’t that I hadn’t drunk blood lately—I needed blood to survive—but it was the last of a person’s life force that vampires craved the most. What truly sated our souls was the spurt of hot, pulsating blood in the moment a human died beneath our fangs. It had been a year since I’d experienced that, a long, hard period of abstinence that was about to come to an end.

  Everyone within the room was waiting, and I knew I had no choice. There was no other way to dispel the doubts about me that Sistine’s whispers had generated. Gaston’s life was already forfeit, and if I backed out of finishing him, I could end up on the carpet by his side. And the deeper part of me, the ancient part, the part that was all vampire, wanted the taste of Gaston’s blood, wanted to feel the life leave his body. It wanted that more than anything, a fierce need coming from a primal desire too long denied. Both head and heart were in agreement. And yet.

  And yet.

  Suddenly, I laughed.

  I wasn’t sure where the laugh came from, but it bubbled up out of me, and I filled it with all my scorn and derision, and I aimed it straight at Sistine.

  Sistine, surprised, didn’t know how to react. As I continued laughing, her smile began to crack—not at the mouth, for her lips remained frozen in an upward curl, but her eyes hardened and all mirth left her face.

  “Come, baby sister.” I beckoned her. “Share this meal with me.”

  Sistine shook her head. “I wouldn’t deprive you. You need it more than I do.”

  “You are worried about my need? That is kind, baby sister, but you have no cause.” I leaned down close to Gaston and took a sniff. Even as he edged ever closer to death, his blood brimmed with life. “That’s a difference between you and me, baby sister. You are still a slave to your urges.”

  Each time I used the phrase “baby sister,” I inflected more mockery into it. Not as a conscious plan, simply as a truth welling up inside me. Sistine was not half the vampire I was. She was barely a century old. Who did she think she was to challenge me like this? The anger that expanded within filled me with ice rather than fire, and within the icy rage, my mind was racing. Sistine’s premature challenge may have given me an opportunity. Perhaps I could defy her and satisfy Mortissa without having to kill.

  “What are you talking about?” Sistine asked, confused. She glanced up at Mort
issa, who remained unmoving.

  I wrenched my fist from Gaston’s wound, and blood spurted out, splattering my dress. Gaston stirred, and he moaned, a thin, reedy sound. Blood pumped from his side, staining the carpet beneath him. He was beyond help.

  When a vampire moved at top speed, the air blurred around them, and without warning, I sped to where Sistine lay. She reacted almost as fast, springing to her feet, a knife appearing in her hand. “No need for a weapon, baby sister,” I said. “I propose a peace offering.”

  “A peace offering?”

  I raised my blood-drenched hand, and held it in front of her, letting her get a good whiff of the blood. I then held my hand against my face, smearing my nose and lips. An all-consuming desire filled me. My fangs lengthened. I sensed Gaston’s heart beating his precious blood throughout his body, and pumping it out onto the floor. No, it wasn’t his blood any longer, it was my blood. The sweet blood that my body craved, that my body needed.

  I forced myself to ignore the cravings, and focused on Sistine, whose own bloodlust had transformed her. She stared at me with red, hungry eyes.

  “You are weak,” I said to her. “Just a vessel for your desires. Do you have any control at all?” She shivered. I licked blood off my fingers, and Sistine watched me like a ravenous dog. “Pathetic,” I said.

  Even as I watched Sistine’s baser instincts take over, my own willpower began to crumble. My eyes closed. The taste of blood exploded within my mouth. A rushing sound inside my ears blocked out all other sound, and my being was filled with nothing but want and need.

  My bloodied hand shook, and I couldn’t resist any longer. I spun toward Gaston, my eyes springing open, set to throw myself upon him.

  Except I was too late.

  Sistine lay over Gaston, her lips glued to his neck, gulping noisily. Gaston’s moan changed from one of pain to one of ecstasy. His body convulsed one final time, then stilled.

  I had seen many people die. Poets might mention dark raven wings passing overhead, or talk of noble features frozen forever, or write lyrically about a peaceful repose, but most people left their life as they entered it—helpless and messy. And as Gaston’s life force drained into Sistine, his blood lost its allure, and another smell rose up to take its place.

 
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