Excerpt from Redeemed © 2015 Jason K Macomson



PROLOGUE


The Purge


Snow was falling thickly over the slopes of Mount Abraham, a gauzy curtain of ice shrouding the setting sun and casting shifting shadows over the forest and surrounding countryside.  The small town of Strongfield, Maine, lay huddled quietly on the southeastern slopes of the mountain, sheltered against the coming winter night.  The streets had emptied out with the onset of dusk, most businesses had closed their doors against the darkness, and the town’s residents had all gone home now, safe and secure behind closed doors for the long night ahead. 

It was a daily ritual, borne of long practice, the evening’s preparations always done well in advance of the dark hours.  No one would ever put it into words, exactly, but there was a general consensus that it was best to be indoors when the sun set.  Visitors to the town were always warned, subtly, that it was unwise to be about after dark in Strongfield, Maine.

Just west of town, out in the forest, a small house sat by the road, near the intersection with Route 142.  No one lived there, and the old homestead had been empty for many years, but it was never really unoccupied. 

Demetrius sat in the satin wingchair before the fire, waiting, studying its depths.  Legs crossed, he contemplated the recent turn of events that had finally led to his rise as the new master of the local vampire coven.  It had only been one day since the confrontation in the barn between the Coven and the rogue vampire had led to the death of the Coven’s master.  Although the Vicar had come and rescued the rogue, along with the boy, Will, and the girl, Carol, all had not been lost.  Demetrius had been given the opportunity to slay the old master of the Coven.

Now that he was Master, he intended to consolidate his control over the Coven.  Before he could do that, though, he must make an example of some of the remaining members who were much too close to their old master.  He could not allow these to remain.  Although eliminating them would decrease the size of the Coven in the short run, ultimately Demetrius’ position as Master would be secured.

The first person that must go would be the vile pledge, Mr. Weisman.  Weisman had been cultivated by the Master as his personal servant, and the old man would never be loyal to Demetrius.  Demetrius would never consider turning him, but his death would serve as an effective example both to the remaining pledges and to any vampires who might be tempted to question Demetrius’ authority.  Then Demetrius would select several other pledges to turn, increasing his own base of support and replenishing the ranks of the group.

Once he had completed the purge, his next move would be to pursue the rogue vampire, Eric, and his two companions.  He would send his most trusted lieutenant, Darius, to track their movements.  He suspected the girl would convince the other two to return to Boston.  The Coven already knew her address, in a suburb south of Boston, in Sharon, Massachusetts, so finding them there would be simple enough.  Outside the reach of the Vicar, it would be easier to destroy them all.

Meanwhile, Demetrius would turn his attention to the Vicar himself.  A direct attack was out of the question, but perhaps there were other ways to reach the old priest.  He must be made to suffer for his part in attacking the Coven.

The door to the small house opened, and Darius entered, bowing his head.  The two vampires accompanying him ushered in Mr. Weisman between them, and the old man immediately lowered his head as well.  Attempting to look unconcerned and ingratiating, he came and knelt subserviently before Demetrius.  However, Demetrius could smell the fear emanating from the old man in thick waves, a powerful scent that masked even the reek of smoke that normally accompanied the pledge.

“Mr. Weisman,” Demetrius greeted him.  “It is indeed good to see you again, old friend.”

“And you, too, my Master.  I am most anxious to serve you in any way that you desire.”  Mr. Weisman slightly raised his head, his eyes resting on Demetrius’ collar, just short of his face.  He inclined his neck ever so slightly to the right. 

“That is certainly good to hear, Mr. Weisman.  I expected no less, yet I feared perhaps you might still retain feelings for your old master.”  His eyes narrowed in disgust at the filthy human kneeling before him. 

Weisman raised his head slightly higher before replying.  “I have no Master but you.”  His trembling lips betrayed the turmoil within.  Weisman had faithfully served his master for many years, expecting that in due time he would become a full member of the vampire coven.  With the recent spate of events, though, Demetrius had seen to it that the old man would never be turned.  Weisman still held to the slim prospect that he might at least be allowed to continue to serve as a pledge.  Hopefully, he could redeem himself so that one day Demetrius might yet consider turning him.

Weisman craned his neck even more to the right, the shifting shadows in the room revealing the scars from the last feeding by the master just before his demise.  A peace offering to the demon now sitting before him.

Demetrius leaned forward, grinning like a wolf.  “I have watched you, Mr. Weisman, over the years, and I have no doubt where your loyalty lies.  Indeed, it is time for your service to be rewarded.”

Mr. Weisman breathed a deep sigh of relief.  Perhaps he had misjudged Demetrius.  Perhaps he would be turned after all.  The day of his release was truly at hand, and he almost swooned against Demetrius in excitement.

Demetrius raised the man’s chin and gazed thoughtfully into his eyes.  Slowly he lifted the man and they both stood, the elder pledge coming only to the Master’s shoulders. 

Demetrius smiled once more and took him in an embrace.  Kissed his forehead ever so slightly, as the previous master had done so many times before.  Demetrius could feel his prey trembling in his arms.

Somewhat reviled by the man’s stench, still he coolly leaned over the proffered neck.  Caressing the hot flesh, he hovered over the man’s exposed neck, stretching his jaws, his long, sharp canines just brushing the skin there.

Mr. Weisman felt a tingling of anticipation along with a fear-induced rush of adrenaline.  He longed to feed the creature before him and give his blood vows anew, for in doing so he would forever seal his attachment to the new master.  In a moment it would be over.

Demetrius opened his mouth wide and sunk his canine teeth deeply into the pledge’s neck.  The hot dark blood flowed into his mouth, spurting quickly, and the Master drank deeply, inhaling the fear-tinged blood of his victim.

Mr. Weisman shook as the teeth sank fiercely into his body, and his vision began almost immediately to swim with blood loss.  And at that moment, the pledge knew with certainty that Demetrius would not stop until the last drop of his blood had been given. 


*     *     *


Later, after the body of the old man had been removed, Demetrius stood before the fire with Darius.  Darius was his most trusted servant, and the only one whose loyalty Demetrius did not doubt.  These were dangerous times, and Demetrius must tread carefully as he consolidated his position as leader over the Coven.

“Darius, I want you to take two hunters and find the rogue and the two humans.  Follow them discreetly, and report back to me once you have located them.”

“I will need two of our best fighters.  The rogue will have had time to rest and recuperate, and I do not want to take any risks that he might escape.”  Darius was tall with broad shoulders and a strong build.  Thick black hair contrasted sharply with a very pale countenance.  His imposing stature intimidated many lesser vampires and mortals, but inside he had dreaded that Demetrius would give him this mission.  He did not relish a fight with the rogue.  And he feared the one who was sealed.  He had no desire to deal with the boy.

“I am certain that should the time come, you would defeat him in battle.”  Demetrius stroked his chin in thought.  “However, you must also take one of the pledges with you.  You will need him to help you deal with the humans, especially the sealed one.  There is a chance that the boy will convert the girl, too, which will make your work doubly difficult.  However, let me be clear:  I want them both dead, and I will not accept anything less.”

Darius bowed his head in response.  “So I am free to take them when I see fit?  All three of them?”

Demetrius stared into the fledgling fire, its weak flames casting a flickering light about the room.  “I want you to locate them first.  Report back to me, and I will decide when the time is right to strike.  Ultimately, I want the rogue returned, here, to me, before he dies.” 

Demetrius grimaced as he recalled the events at the barn the evening before.  “I have a personal score to settle with him, and it will be best done face-to-face.”  Looking forward, Demetrius foresaw the opportunity for a great celebration on the occasion of the coming winter solstice.  He would hold an elaborate ritual marking his rise to power over the Coven, a ceremony that would see their numbers replenished and culminate in the sacrifice of the rogue. 

He drew in a long deep breath before continuing.  “As for the humans, they are of no concern to me, as long as they are both killed.”


CHAPTER ONE


When Carol woke, snow had begun to fall again, and the car was carefully driving south along the I-95 freeway.  The interstate was now covered in a thick layer of white, despite the snowplows that occasionally passed on the other side, heading north.  The sun had begun to set in the west, and it was becoming difficult to see the road signs, partially masked as they were in the dusk behind the curtain of snow.

A straggling line of slow-moving vehicles made its way south into Massachusetts, and there were even fewer cars on the other side of the expressway, heading north into New Hampshire and beyond.  A large lighted sign on the interstate welcomed them into Massachusetts, and smaller less-visible signs began to announce that the city of Salisbury was coming up soon.

Eric was driving the car, and he glanced back in the rearview mirror as Carol sat up and yawned.  Will was curled up in the front passenger seat, as much as his lanky form would permit, his long legs impossibly folded up in the seat and trailing on the floor, but he was sound asleep.  The three had been driving all day along I-95 south from Maine, through southeastern New Hampshire, and now into northeastern Massachusetts. 

The traumatic events of the last few days heavy on their minds, they had taken it slowly, meandering south and stopping often to eat and rest.  Boston and the suburb where Carol lived were only about two hours south of Salisbury, but with the snow settling in tonight, it didn’t seem to be a good idea to try to make it this evening.

“Were you able to get much sleep?” Eric asked as Carol leaned forward.   Carol rubbed her bleary eyes, taking in the surroundings and trying to get her bearings.

She grinned shyly.  “I think so, “ she said around a wide yawn.  “How long was I out?”  As tired as she felt, she had slept easily and soundly on the otherwise uncomfortable back seat.

“Maybe an hour or so.  It is beginning to get dark early.  It’s only about four-thirty, but the snow is becoming heavier, too.  I think we should find a room for tonight and then head out for Boston first thing in the morning, weather permitting.”

Will shifted in his seat at the sound of conversation and slowly sat up.  His brown hair was tousled from sleep, and he blinked wearily.  Will had been through a lot of stress lately, worrying over both Carol and Eric, and she was glad to see he had been able to get some much needed rest.  They all needed it, after what they had been through.

Over the last three days, Carol had been in a car wreck, then chased by vampires, captured and beaten, and then rescued by Will and Eric.  Even with sleep she was still exhausted, but today had been a godsend.  The long drive had given all of them some much-needed time to recover.

Eric put on the car’s blinker and prepared to take Exit 60 toward Salisbury.  There were several upscale hotels just off Highway 110, but once on the overpass, he began looking for smaller, less prominent establishments.  A sign pointed east toward Salisbury and the Motor Coach Lodge, about three miles away, and Eric turned the car this way.

“We can find a room at a less well-known motel,” Eric said as the car passed a national chain hotel.  “We need to lay low, ” he said, glancing at Will.  Carol noticed that even this far south, with Strongfield, Maine, far away to the north, Eric continued to be vigilant about their surroundings.  “It’s possible we’ve been followed, although I suspect the Coven will anticipate that we might head to Boston eventually.”  He looked back at Carol, his face impassive.

Carol understood how Eric felt about their decision to return to Boston.  They had debated, sometimes argued, all through the long day about whether Carol should return to her home. Although Will and Eric eventually relented, Carol understood they believed it was taking a huge risk.  Boston was not all that far away from Strongfield, geographically speaking, and the Coven’s reach could be long.

It was definitely dangerous for all of them to return to Carol’s apartment outside of Boston, in the smaller town of Sharon, but it might be especially hazardous for Carol.  Carol was not sealed, and Will and Eric had repeatedly warned her about the consequences should she fall into the hands of the Coven again.  While she appreciated their concern, she was growing tired of the constant reminders.

After what she had gone through, Carol understood clearly that she was not sealed, and the implications that it posed for her safety and for her soul.  Even after what she had recently experienced at the hands of the vampire Demetrius, who was now the Master of the Coven in Strongfield, she had still been unable to make a decision about accepting God, about being “saved,” as Will put it. 

It hadn’t been an easy thing for her to confront in the last few days.  She had never been religious, and to find out over a short period of time that everything she thought she ever believed about God and Jesus and religion was wrong was extremely disconcerting.  It had been difficult to believe the things Will told her about himself and his faith, but Will had been proven right over and over again, and Carol had finally come around to accepting the truth.  But it still wasn’t easy, and it was proving even harder to consider the implications of that knowledge. 

Carol wasn’t sealed because she hadn’t accepted Christ as her Savior.  Until she made that decision, she stood in a perilous position.  The vampires would kill her if they found her again, and if she died without making a decision, she would be lost for eternity.  As much as she understood Will’s concern for her, she needed time to think on her own, without the constant pressure from her two companions.

The car slowed as Eric turned into the Salisbury Motor Coach Lodge and parked under the awning by the reception area.  Carol surveyed the older building critically as they eased up to the curve.  She was surprised to find that the place was actually in pretty good shape.  She had been expecting another rundown roadside motel, similar to the one back in Strongfield.

However, this establishment, although definitely not a five-star facility, was clean with well-kept grounds.  The lot was perfectly manicured, with dormant shrubs thrusting through a covering of snow in carefully tended flower beds, and there was no sign of peeling paint or broken windows or other evidence of disrepair.  The parking lot was almost completely full as well, with only a few empty slots stretching along the two-story units extending from either side of the central receiving area.

The three got out and stretched before entering the main lobby.  Inside, the plain reception desk was manned by an elderly woman who greeted them enthusiastically.  Several patrons sat nearby in comfortable lounging chairs, watching an evening news broadcast.  Carol sighed in relief to be in such normal surroundings for a change. 

“Good evening,” the receptionist said, smiling when Eric approached the counter.  “How can I help you?”

Eric could be intimidating at times, and tonight was no exception.  Dressed in winter clothes that forever seemed to be too light for the snowy weather, with dark shades and a pale, impassive face, he could present a formidable presence.  However, his physical appearance could also be deceptive, because when he spoke, he could almost put his listener into a trance with his calm, cool voice, so much that they didn’t notice anything odd about his dress or appearance.

“Good evening to you,” Eric answered, even smiling modestly at the woman, although being careful not to reveal too much of his teeth.  Carol noticed ruefully that the receptionist already seemed to be enamored of him.  She continued to smile, her gaze firmly fixated on his face, and Carol and Will may as well have not been there, for all she seemed to notice.

“We are pleased that you chose the Motor Coach Lodge for your stay in Salisbury.  How many rooms will you be requiring?”  A brief look at Will and Carol, standing quietly behind, then back again to Eric.  She was finding it difficult to stray from Eric’s gaze.

“We need two adjoining rooms, please.”  Carol had not thought about sleeping arrangements until now, but upon hearing Eric’s request, she looked appreciatively at his back.  She was glad he had not made her ask but had instead taken the lead in guarding her privacy without being awkward about it.

Now the smile faded somewhat from the woman’s face as she studied a computer screen out of sight behind the counter.  “Oh dear me, I am so sorry, but it appears we don’t have two adjoining rooms available.  We do have two rooms on the same hall, but I’m afraid they are at opposite ends.”  She shook her head apologetically.  “I am so sorry we don’t have something more to your liking.”  She was clearly upset that she could not be more accommodating for his request.

Carol stepped forward around Eric.  “Really, guys, it’s okay.”  She smiled back helpfully at the lodge employee.  “We’ll be glad to take whatever arrangements you can provide for us.”

“No, Carol, we’ve got to have adjoining rooms,” Will interjected firmly, placing his hand lightly on the small of her back and staring earnestly into her eyes.  In a much lower voice, he added, “You don’t need to be alone tonight.” 

Carol shrugged off Will’s hand, blinking to break his gaze.  She appreciated his concern and didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she was a little glad to hear she wouldn’t be that close to the two.  She felt like she did need to be alone to herself, to think a bit.

“Could you excuse us for a moment, ma’am?” Eric smiled reassuringly at the woman, who almost swooned in excitement.

“Certainly, sir, please take your time.”

The three stepped over into a corner alcove to talk more privately. 

“Carol,” Eric said, taking her by the shoulders, “you really don’t need to be by yourself tonight.  I know you can’t share a room with us, but I would feel better knowing you were right beside us.  If there were a problem,” he paused, sharing a knowing look with Carol and Will in turn, “you would be close to us so that we could help.”

Will nodded in agreement.  “Please, Carol, let’s just go to another motel if they can’t accommodate us.  I wouldn’t feel right if you were so far away.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all tonight.”  She might has well have been sent to another building, the way he made it sound.

Carol bit her lip.  She was tired, and she wanted nothing more than to get into her room and get ready for bed.  The separate room was much more appealing, because if they did get adjoining rooms, Will and Eric would not leave her alone at all until they went to sleep.  The last thing she wanted to do was hurt their feelings, but still…

“Really, guys, it’s okay.  We’ll be on the same hall, and I can call you if there’s any problem.  I just want to get into a room, and we all need some more rest.  Besides, there’s no guarantee we’ll find anything better somewhere else.  Salisbury seems to be packed this evening, especially with this weather.”  She glanced around at the crowded lobby.

Will continued to shake his head.  He was not at all happy with the proposed arrangements, and he still worried about the danger that they had been followed.  Snow and ice were not real impediments to vampires.

“The only way I’ll agree is to set up outside your room tonight.”  Will was going to be obstinate about it, so Carol interrupted him firmly.

“No Will, please, I’m going to be okay.”  She grasped his hands and fixed him with a firm gaze.  “We’re going to be fine tonight.  I trust you, Will, and Eric, and I know you’ll keep me safe.  But it won’t be so bad.”  A little softer she added, “I need some time to myself to think.  About everything.”

Will rubbed his eyes, frustrated at this turn of events.  They were all exhausted, even after sleeping in the car all day, but they also couldn’t afford to let their guards down, not for a moment.  Carol didn’t always seem to remember this.

Eric intervened decisively.  “We will take two rooms as close as we can get them, and make the best of this situation for the evening.”  He rested a hand on Carol’s shoulder.  “However, you have to realize that as safe as it feels here, we are still in danger.  We will have to take certain precautions, and I am not willing to leave you by yourself for too long of a period.”

“I understand,” Carol replied.  “Let’s just get our rooms and try to get some sleep.”

The receptionist waited anxiously as they returned to the desk and was only too happy to hear that they would stay after all.  In minutes, they had been given room key cards and were on their way back to the car to pick up a few items of luggage.  The rooms were on the lower floor and faced the rear of the main building.  Eric drove the car around and they quickly settled Carol in her room.  She then accompanied them back to their room where they took advantage of room service to order dinner.  After a light meal, the two men returned with Carol down the long hallway to her room on the other end.

The rooms were fairly comfortable, with two double beds neatly made.  Will and Eric were nervous to find that each room offered a sliding glass door that opened onto the rear patio of the building, providing guests direct access to an outdoor pool area.  The pool was covered over with a snow-laden tarp and deserted in the winter, and the sliding doors were shrouded with thick heavy drapes.  Still, Will repeatedly checked the locks to be sure everything was as safe as possible.

After a careful check of the room, the three discussed what Carol should do in an emergency.  The securest area was the small bathroom, and they moved a sturdy chair from the desk into the bathroom to use if she needed to barricade the door.  Eric wrote the telephone number for their room down on the table between the two beds, and he carefully checked that the phone was in working order.

Not wanting to be rude, Carol tried to ignore the impulse to push the two out, but after Will settled comfortably in an armchair and turned the television on, Carol cleared her throat and looked expectantly at Eric.

“Will, I think it’s time we returned to our room.”  Eric shared a knowing glance with Will, who immediately turned red.  He was not ready to leave and would have stayed the whole night if Carol hadn’t objected.

Eric removed a small object from inside his coat as Will got up from the recliner.  Carol drew a deep breath when he handed her a knife, its long blade reflecting light from the wall lamps in the room.  She had not given any thought to having a weapon, and the sight of it made her uncomfortable.

“Carol, I want you to keep this close by your bedside and leave a light on near the door.  We will check on you throughout the night, but if you need anything, call us and we will be here immediately.”

Carol hesitated, then reached out and gingerly took the knife.  The hilt joined a heavy black wooden handle that she found fit her grip perfectly.  It balanced easily in her palm, and she wrapped her fingers carefully around the carved grip.  She had never owned, let alone used, a weapon in her life, and she was not sure she would be able to wield the knife if it came to it.

Eric gazed into her eyes with a kind and knowing expression.  “Do not be afraid, but be vigilant.”


Excerpt from Redeemed  © 2015 Jason K Macomson, All Rights Reserved


Book Cover Design by Jason K Macomson

Cover Art © 2015 Jason K Macomson



All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author or publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.  Names, characters, dialogue, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


Excerpt posted December 18, 2015 by Jason K Macomson