Authors: Kerri Hawkins
THE HOUSE OF ALEXANDER
Published by Red Raptor Productions, Inc.
BLOOD LEGACY: THE HOUSE OF ALEXANDER
Vol 1, 2005. FIRST PRINTING.
BLOOD LEGACY, its logo, all related characters and their likenesses are ™ and © 2005 Kerri Hawkins and Red Raptor Productions, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The entire contents of this book are © 2005 Red Raptor Productions, Inc. Any similarities to persons living or dead are purely coincidental. With the exception of artwork used for review purposes, none of the contents of this book may be reprinted in any form without the express written consent of Kerri Hawkins or Red Raptor Productions, Inc.
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THE BAND OF MEN WERE AFRAID. Rough-hewn, dirty and tired, they nevertheless stayed close behind their young master. Many of them kept looking ahead, seeking out his fair hair in the shadow of the hill, seeking reassurance by his presence. This was odd because he appeared one of the youngest of the lot, and although as tall as any of the men, far more slender. The size of the sword he held in his hand offered some degree of explanation for the trust. It seemed nearly as large as the youth himself. He swung it easily, planting it in the dirt in front of him as he paused. The men stopped abruptly in response.
The boy, for he was little more than that, cocked his head to the side as if listening to something. The men strained, but could hear nothing. He turned back to gaze at his second-in-command, nodding grimly. Although the boy’s face was startlingly beautiful, the eyes within that face were both ancient and frightening. He motioned to close ranks, and they began moving up the hill.
The band stopped on the rise, and although the men had been hardened by the last few days of horror, a few still vomited. The fair-haired one looked down on the valley below, his expression indecipherable.
There were bodies strewn everywhere, men, women, children, even animals. Some had been cut open, some had been strung up by their heels, some apparently had been beaten to death. Many were nearly unrecognizable as human, so badly mutilated were their features. The smell of death and decay wafted towards the band as the breeze shifted.
The youth glanced over at a nearby cow, who had been gutted and whose entrails were strewn about the ground, now attracting flies.
“I did not realize that cattle were Protestant.”
The voice was smooth, melodious, and far too old for the youthful figure from which it came. The comment was incongruous and caused startled, nervous laughter from a few of the men nearby.
The second-in-command glanced over at his master. The grizzled man knew him better than perhaps anyone else in the band, but that was not saying much. “I think we should continue moving.”
The boy nodded. “I agree. We are far from home, and in a country that has lost all sanity.”
Days passed and the troop continued on. The scenes of carnage repeated themselves throughout the countryside. The band would occasionally get word from frightened peasants who relayed that the Church had declared war on all Huguenots. Some would zealously profess their loyalty to the Catholic Church, at least until they realized the band was not there to bring the Lord’s justice, but was simply passing through.
The band would less frequently run into those perpetrating the carnage, but the zealots generally would give the well-armed troop of men a wide berth. Those who did not regretted their lack of judgment.
“You there, what is your business here and where do you stand in the eyes of God?”
The gray-haired man stopped at the voice behind him. He had been unaware of the horses as they approached, but knew that his master had not. That was evident by the fact the youth was nowhere to be seen.
The men in the band all turned towards the horses, eyeing the arms the mounted men carried.
“We are but friends passing through. We mean no harm and take no sides in matters of religion.”
Even as the second-in-command finished the sentence, he winced, noticing the priestly garments the man on the horse wore.
“Everyone chooses sides. Either you are with the Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, or you are a heathen and a traitor to God, worthy only of death.”
“I am probably more worthy of death than anyone here,” came a voice from the trees. “But that will not happen today.”
The youth strolled from the forest, causing the men to turn upon their horses to see him. His presence caused the horses to stir, and a strange and alien fear stirred in the men as well.
The lead priest gazed down at the youth, feeling icy fingers along his spine. Something was not right. The boy possessed an unnatural beauty and moved with grace to match. He showed no fear, and if anything, displayed indifference to the heavily armed men. To the priest himself the boy was nearly contemptuous.
“Do you intend to butcher us as you have so many idolatrous cattle? I had no idea that heresy among farm animals was such a threat to the Catholic Church.” The boy’s voice hardened. “Not to mention the women and children that were tending those animals.”
The priest’s fear disappeared in apoplectic rage. “How dare you mock the Church and those who carry out God’s will. You will pay for your insolence and your heresy.”
The fair-haired youth bowed contemptuously. “Then by all means, follow your god’s edict and strike me down.”
The priest could barely contain the sputum frothing from his lips, so angry was he. He spurred his horse forward and it whinnied in protest as he brutally slapped its flanks.
What happened next would be repeated endlessly, the details changing with every retelling. But certain events would be consistent throughout. The priest rode forward at top speed, but did not ride very far. The youth, completely unafraid, languidly raised his hand and the horse responded by sliding to an abrupt halt. This vaulted the priest forward over the horse’s head and into the air. In a seemingly impossible move and without apparent haste, the boy drew his sword and leveled it at the careening, airborne priest. In the ultimate irony, the priest’s arms were thrown outward so that his body impaled itself upon the sword in the outline of a cross. Although the full weight of the priest was thrown forward into the youth, the youth did not budge and it appeared almost as if the flailing man had struck a wall.
The priest gazed into the youth’s eyes in horror and disbelief. In a casual gesture, the boy reached up to fleck a speck of dust from the priest’s collar. He then grasped the collar firmly, and pulled his sword from the cleric’s torso. He dropped the dead man to the ground.
The boy turned to the men still on horseback. He lightly flipped the sword, then threw it with blinding speed at the man nearest him. It appeared to pass right through him and slice through a fair-sized tree, felling it to the ground. It was only after the sword came to rest with a “thunk” into a second tree that the man realized he had been cut in two.
The mounted men stared at the creature before them as their fatally wounded comrade fell from his horse. It was obvious that they were dealing with something far worse than a Protestant. When the boy genuflected towards them with an intense degree of sarcasm, the entire band turned their horses and fled.
The fair-haired one watched the dust cloud disappear. He was aware of the fear of his own men. It was finally his faithful second who approached.
“My lord, we should probably leave. Those men have fled in the direction that we must go and word will spread, making our passage difficult.”
The youth turned his impenetrable gaze on the older man. “If I am a danger to the men, I can always leave.”
Only the lieutenant would have dared rebuke the young lord, and even he proceeded gently. “You know we will be safer with you.”
The young man relaxed, unaware he had been holding so much tension. “I am sorry, Galois. I just had bad experiences with priests when I was a child.”
THE SWORDS FLASHED BRIGHTLY in the daylight streaming through the trees. The two combatants were a contrast in both appearance and style. The man was taller, broad through the shoulders, dark-haired and wickedly handsome. He fought with amazing skill and strength, the power of his blows creating sparks with every contact.
The more slender of the pair was fair-haired and beautiful, with fine features and eyes of indeterminate color. He fought with impossible speed and ferocity to match that of his opponent. Although it appeared he should have been easily overpowered, he was instead easily holding his own.
Neither of the two appeared to be exerting any effort, their battle so equally matched it appeared a dance. It was only the din caused by the clashing metal and the occasional severed tree trunk that indicated the power of the match.
Perhaps it was this great noise that drowned out the approaching roar, but so engrossed were both participants in the battle, they failed to notice the low rumble heading towards them. It was with some surprise, then, that both turned to observe the rather incongruent sight of a BMW 740i careening around the corner and then coming straight at them.
The dark-haired one was not in the path of the racing vehicle, but his young companion was dead aim of the hood ornament. The car struck him at the knees, sending him toppling over the hood and smashing into the windshield, then vaulting up over the roof. The brake lights of the BMW came on and the tires squealed as the car skid to a stop.
The smoke settled and the dark-haired one thrust his sword into the ground. There was no horror or concern on his face, but rather a look of mild exasperation as he made his way to the crumpled body in the roadway. The boy groaned and turned over, and it was apparent for the first time that it was not a boy, but rather a striking young woman. The man helped the girl to her feet as she brushed herself off, seemingly untouched by the violent collision. They both turned as the driver of the BMW stepped out into the sunlight.
True to the oddity of the situation, the woman did not appear the least remorseful for running down the girl, although she did appear a bit amused. The woman, as stunning as the pair, was uniquely beautiful in her own way.
“That wasn’t very funny, Marilyn,” Victor said dryly, releasing his companion.
“You know,” the raven-haired woman replied, “You two really should stop playing in the roadway.” She peered closer at the young woman. “No cuts, how unfortunate.”
Ryan smiled without humor. “Always looking out for my welfare, I see.”
“Hmmm, yes,” Marilyn said, her eyes lingering on the girl, then turning to her father. “That is in fact why I am here.”
Victor gave one last look at Ryan, belying his studied lack of concern. “Then let us go inside.”
Victor handed Marilyn a glass of port.
“There was a time when you would serve me more than wine, my lord,” Marilyn said, settling into one of the study’s overstuffed chairs.
Ryan cleared her throat from the doorway, and Marilyn did not miss a beat. “Or allow me other, unauthorized pleasures.”