Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Publisher: BadBird Publications
Date of Publication: September 20, 2016
Word Count: 100k
Cover Artist: Pranav Lohani
Photo by Blackbird Photography
On 26 May 1897, Bram Stoker brought us the story of Dracula; an undead creature who terrorised the living by drinking their blood. He based his creature on the legends of Ireland and Eastern Europe, bringing it to life with all the pomp of Victorian literature. What if his concept was correct, but the execution was not? What if there was not one creature, but a band of twenty-four? Crusader knights who committed such a terrible act that the Pope of Rome and the Rabbis of Jerusalem joined together in petitioning God to bring a terrible curse upon them.Sentenced to eternal life as punishment for their crimes, yet hounded by both the clerical and the secular as they struggle to live them. The Jews called them Ga’ashekelah: the Raveners. To the Catholic Church, they are the Accursed Ones. Feasting on the bodies of the living to maintain their power.
What starts as a simple trip on the Eurostar to the buried trenches of World War One in Northern France is going to take Imperial War Museum expert Dr. Alexandra Horne on a journey she could never have conceived. From the bustling streets of Paris to the azure waters of Collioure and the very Vatican itself, Lexa will discover the Raveners and those who have sworn to hunt them down.
The cars parked in the empty spaces used by tour buses during the day. There was the odd person around but none were close. Karl and Ludwig exited the vehicle and made their way into the square, Rothschild trailing at a distance behind them. He walked passed the Luxor Obelisk. No. He was moving to the statue of Brest, near the Hôtel de Crillon.
Karl fell to his knees on the steps before the pedestal of the statue. He took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, knowing that Ludwig was close enough to protect him. It took longer than he expected to fall into a state of meditation. Deep, even breaths. More tricky than it seemed when one didn’t have to breathe as a matter of course.
He cast his mind out of his body. His conscious was moving from his head to his hands. To the ground. “I’m here, Brothers,” he whispered. “I’m here, Sisters.”
The old word was nigromantia. The modern word was necromancy. Divination with the dead. What remained when a person died had great power when one knew how to attract it. The dead often saw things on the plane of existence where they roamed if they did not go on to God’s care. Karl had learned in Asia that he was exceptionally well attuned to them. The greater the horror, the greater his ability to find those who might assist him. Souls who screamed for retribution were often amiable once their litanies had been heard. Humans universally loved attention. Death was no change.
Wind picked up in the Place de la Concorde and as it stirred his hair and clothing, he could feel them. There was so much death in Paris. So much violent death. So many untended souls and a thousand more in this place. So much terror.
He could feel it. He could smell it. He could hear the screams. He could hear the wheels of the tumbrils rattling on the cobbles. He could hear the fall of the blade as it rattled down. He could hear the wet thudding of the head hitting the basket. He could hear the cheering of the maddened, blood thirsty crowd.
The wind brought the stench to Karl’s nostrils. Rot and piss and shit. Unwashed bodies and fear. The cobbles under his fingers weren’t dry. They were wet. It wasn’t an statue before him. He was kneeling at the base of the guillotine. He licked his lips. He remembered. The rattle of the chains. They were on his wrists. He remembered the truncheons on his back as they beat him forward. Last one of the night.
He hadn’t been afraid then. He had been hungry. The smell. The blood running across the square. Slick with brown, congealing blood from a weeks worth of slaughter. How they had pushed him into the machine and he had let them. He anticipated a novel experience. The French who thought they would kill the Bavarian spy. He’d let them have their fun and then very quickly turned the tables.
And why are you so special? Why did you not die, Monsieur le Comte? Such beautiful French. He hadn’t heard it spoken that way in so long.
“I have other curses, Monsieur,” he told the shade. He did not open his eyes. He could see the man perfectly fine. Or to say the man was a misnomer. He saw the head. It had rolled under the bench reserved for the official witnesses. Clearly the basket had been too full. Yes. There it was. It had fallen over from its terrible load.
It is not for the living to dance in the Place de la Révolution, Monsieur. It is not for you to disturb us. Why? You, who should be dead and yet are made of flesh. A living man who thinks he can dance in this our place. We dance without the living, Monsieur.
The other heads were rolling from the basket to face him. Their faces yelled and jabbered with a thousand messages to people who were no longer around to hear them. It was a cacophony of sound against the rhythmic thud of the death machine in front of him.
“I need your power. I need your wisdom and strength of sight. I need to know what you see,” he told them as he rose to his feet. “I have lost a very special mortal. A very special soul. I know that sometimes your kind have knowledge outside the world of the living.”
But why should we help you. Monsieur le Comte? You are dead but not dead while we are simply dead.
Karl could see them taking shape. The thousands of people who had been killed by Guillotin’s machine. Their bodies rising from piles all around the square. Headless bodies in tattered rags, spinning across the cobbles of the old square. They danced and ran and capered. He wondered if they were trying to get away, or if they were simply being as they always were in the dark of the night. Even if only a quarter of those poor souls remained here, it was still a shocking number. He had seen more restful battlefields.
“Why not help me, Monsieur? When I give you life, if only for tonight. But I will promise to come and give you life again. I will come and listen,” he offered.
The wind swirled faster, like cyclones in the square. It tore at his clothing. They were considering his request. He raised himself to his feet and opened his eyes. Where he was had not changed. He was in the Place de la Concorde but he was also in the Place de la Révolution. The two existed at the same time and space, one over top of the other.
Why not, indeed, Monsieur? We have aught to do on this night. The head was picked up by a body in elegant apparel. A man who had been killed soon after his arrest. An important man. But my boon is that you show me how you are dead and alive at the same time. I see a living man. I speak to a dead man.
Karl ripped off his glove, to show the twisted claw on the end of his arm. “I am cursed by God, Monsieur! As I cheated the Revolution, so have I cheated death a thousand times. But I am still your Brother. As you are trapped in your place, I am trapped in mine. But I will return and I will free you!”
About the Author:
LD Towers travels the world like a rootless vagabond! A military historian, she searches out places of conflict to find a deeper insight to the things she writes about. Presently enjoying the warm weather and azure seas of Central America, she has lived all over Western Europe, including 5.5 years in the incomparable Berlin.
Primarily working in Historical and Military Fiction, LD sometimes sneaks in the odd Dystopian or Modern Thriller piece. In fact, her new book is a complete redo on the vampire concept. Look for The Raveners; coming September 20, 2016.