Authors: David Leadbeater
Second Part Of The Chosen Few Trilogy)
Copyright © 2014 by David Leadbeater
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Horror. Occult. Supernatural Paranormal. Angels and Demons. Action & Adventure. Thriller.
The Matt Drake Series
The Disavowed Series:
The Chosen Few Series
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All helpful, genuine comments are welcome. I would love to hear from you.
I’d like to dedicate this new book, nine years on from writing the original, to everyone – family, readers, editors, cover designers, authors – who have helped make it happen. It’s not too long ago I believed it would never happen . . . you know who you are.
Ken Hamilton steeled his entire body and readied his sword. Entering the gates of hell hadn’t exactly been on his to-do list when he’d left San Francisco. But then neither had fighting the hell-bitch, Dementia, on the Bay Bridge, watching several of his new friends get murdered, and fighting in the midst of a pitched battle that ranged along most of Miami Beach. The Gorgoroth threat had been averted and his harbingers defeated, only to reveal a new danger, and something far more menacing for the survivors.
An acolyte of the Devil, Emily Crowe, had summoned the seven most powerful entities
—comprising the hierarchy of demons—to earth to hunt for seven hidden artefacts across the globe that, when collected, could summon the Devil himself. In the flesh. No sugarcoating, no April Fools nor Halloween prank, not even a hint of Hollywood being involved. Ken had seen more death and destruction in the last few days to last him two lifetimes. Three.
So why the hell am I walking through this damn gate?
There was one substantial reason. He thought he’d killed her just after she put a sword through one of his friends. He thought he’d gotten a little justice. Not so. The hellcat still lived and, not only that, she’d carried two of the mega-important artefacts with her, straight into hell.
Ken knew that because Cheyne had screamed about it.
Cheyne, the witch queen. She of the crooked nose. So he and four other valiant warriors had volunteered to follow Dementia down . . . way down. The remainder of the warriors—
he thought mournfully—had stayed ‘up top’, to chase after the other five artefacts.
Is that the only reason?
Ken would like to think so. He sure didn’t think of himself as a hero, a protector or a guardian. God forbid. His best days could be measured in the draining of a six-pack and the razing of a reefer, or the squeals and moans of a famous rock chick and her BFF, the height of a wave and the roar of a surf. Airtime won and fought for. Once upon a time, that was all he’d required.
Alongside him strode some of his new friends. The awesome Eliza, one of the most powerful Vampires in existence, clad in black leather just like Ken’s favorite Kate. That brief thought instantly altered his train of thought. Ken
sure was a ‘Kate’ man. A shallow value maybe, but one he clung tightly to now as he walked toward almost certain death.
Kate Beckinsale. Kate Hudson. Kate
Winslet. Kate from Lost. All were admired and marveled at.
His thoughts flicke
red back again like a train switching between tracks.
With Eliza came Milo, a literal man-mountain of a guy, a top-class chef and
vampire to boot. Big boy didn’t say much, at least not to Ken, but looked like a force to be reckoned with. And if they came up against any gastronomically challenged demons, then Milo could be a real player.
Also in their little group was Felicia, the sexy, bubbly, deadly
lycan. The old Ken had harbored more than one lascivious thought where Felicia was concerned. Truth be told, the new Ken wasn’t much better but at least he
to be a better man.
That left one more to their group of five demon chasers. Mai the
vampire. She’d lost her brother in the pre-battle and hadn’t spoken much since, but she was here and she was harder than a dumpster full of old nails and ready for battle.
Ken’s mind drifted briefly back to Miami Beach and what they
’d left behind there. Good people. Injured friends. Devon Summers, the healer of the Chosen, lying dead. A beach full of stunned survivors; men and women that must now instantly take up a new battle. Ken wondered who had gotten the shoddy deal. Admittedly he was going to hell—and earlier than he’d anticipated—but it wasn’t exactly going to be a happy merry-go-round for poor old Dean Logan, Cheyne and all the rest of the guys back ‘up top’.
Ken didn’t hesitate. He strode on through the pulsing gate, passing between the
earth and hell and feeling a brief, odd tugging sensation at his flesh, almost as if his skin had somehow become magnetized. A brief second, and then he was stepping out the other side . . . gaping in shock . . . stunned.
flat prairie spread out to all sides, full of waving green and brown grasses. A gentle breeze swept the plain, carrying with it a tinge of warmth.
If this is hell,
It isn’t half as bad as the church and Ozzy Osbourne made out.
He lowered his sword, letting the sharp tip brush the hard earth.
Felicia’s immediate act was to search for and point out a path through the grassland, but then Ken guessed direction was one of a wolf’s many natural instincts.
Off to the right
, trodden-down shoots were slowly trying to reassert themselves. This was the path all the evil fiends had taken then, the ones that had already invaded their world. And there had been many—from small, vicious wayclearer demons to things as savage and even larger than meat-eating dinosaurs.
Ken wondered why the influx had stopped. It certainly hadn’t been anything the Chosen or their help
ers had done. He voiced the thought aloud.
Eliza answered immediately. “
A good question.” She looked surprised. “From you. Of course, I don’t know the answer. But if I were to speculate . . . I would say it has something to do with the release of the hierarchy. They were unleashed right at the end there. And—” she paused as a distant bellow reached their ears. “It sounds like more are coming.”
Felicia was sniffing the air. “I love this place
,” she said smartly. “Look at the space! So many places to run. And the freedom . . . it sings to me.”
Ken looked around. “It doesn’t sing to me
,” he said. “Give me U2 at the arena. Now that’d sing to me.”
“U who?” Felicia was staring into the middle distance, lost, happy. Ken left her to it. He stole a glance at Eliza.
“Any ideas? I mean, like they say, if Sunset’s busy, take Hollywood. Y’know?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about
,” Eliza said. “But we should head in the direction of the sounds, only down a different track.”
“That’s what I said.”
Ken deferred to Felicia. The grass was high and dense, and could conceal any manner of creature. His hope was that the lycan’s super-sensitive nose would sniff out a safe path. In the far distance he could make out vague shapes, advancing fast. None of them looked friendly.
“I just hope they get the dam
n gate sealed up quick,” he said.
started to drift away from the group, giving him a calculating look. “Then how do you expect to return?” she asked, searchingly.
Ken opened his mouth, then shut it quick.
He hadn’t thought that far ahead. Felicia beckoned to them all.
“We should move. C’mon. This way smells safe.”
Ken stepped into line, wondering just what ‘safe’ smelled like. A locked door? A warm body? Krispy Kremes at 10 a.m.? They entered the grassland, each person not able to resist a last backwards glance as they went.
The gate that led to Miam
i Beach was a half-circle tear in the fabric of reality, vibrating around its edges, a shimmering window that led back to a world they might well never see again. Ken felt his legs slow and his head begin to pound, but then dug deeper still, finding his courage. He was Chosen—a guardian now. His power had shone forth like the radiant beams of a new dawn. Beings with great and true power had accepted him into their circle.
And belief should shine both ways.
Felicia ranged ahead, cutting a curving path away from the advancing creatures. As they came closer, Ken made out even more horrifying details. Not only were there beasts that shambled, hopped and pounded the dirt to dust, there were now fiends with wings. Flying monsters cut through the skies, screeching, flexing sharp talons and snapping wicked beaks with a sound like two guillotines striking together. Ken and the rest of the group stayed low, creeping along and fearful of being spotted and engaged in battle. Their true quarry lay ahead—escaping even now with two of the artefacts the human race so desperately needed. Chasing and hunting her down was the only sane plan.
The small group followed Felicia, trusting to the wolf’s senses. Once the woman had gauged
that they’d drifted far enough aside, she began to cut a path back through the swaying grasslands. Ken didn’t speak, just kept an eye on the strangest, most terrifying procession he’d ever seen—the slow exodus of hell’s creatures.
Milo, the enormous vampire
that never ranged far from Eliza’s side, stopped to consider the way ahead. Felicia, senses attuned, noticed and walked back to the group.
“Why have you stopped? This is not time for a break.”
Milo stared at her without emotion. “The dog leads us the right way, as far as I can tell. I see no other direction.”
lycans, had excellent vision.
Felicia blinked. “Dog?”
Eliza raised a hand in a placating gesture. “Please. He means nothing by it. Our worlds are poles apart, that is all.”
“You think you are
princes and kings. Queens of your generation. Whilst the rest of us are fit only to lope along in your shadow.” Felicia raised a hand to forestall Eliza’s protest. “No, no. I know it is true. You creatures have no idea that it is your vanity that will be your undoing. And that,” she turned away with a small grin, “is good enough.”
Ken stayed well out of it.
The rivalry and bigotry that existed between supernatural races was not his to understand. He was a simple man. Put a physical goal in front of him and he would chase it down. Take Dementia for instance . . .
“Has anyone given any thought as to how we go between levels?”
he asked. “Assuming we have to, I guess.”
Eliza looked like she was assessing him. “In vampire lore no one has ever returned from this place.”
Ken shifted. “Great.”
on ahead then, leaving at least Ken wondering if there was something she hadn’t shared. The three vampires exchanged looks then followed. Ken brought up the rear, feeling very much the odd man out.
being the operative word. All these other beings were supernatural, straight out of folklore and myth.
I’m damn happy they’re on our side.
The tall grasses helped conceal them, and the stiff wind blowing from their right carried their various scents away from
hell’s marching creatures. When the horde passed them, heading for the gate, Ken kept his head low and his fingers crossed. Fortunately, none of the creatures ranged too far; even the flying beasts stayed with the pack. Ken couldn’t make out too much detail through the grass but he did manage to see a dozen sights he wished he could instantly forget.
things lurched and shambled at the head of the pack. Some pure white, some with shaggy brown fur and others with mottled bark-like skin, all with spikes running down the spines of their backs and horns sprouting from misshapen heads. Talons jutted from paws shaped like anvils, and teeth and fangs were so twisted they sometimes looped over each other. Behind them came huge beasts that shook the ground every time they stomped forward, roaring with fury as they were dive-bombed by the far more agile winged behemoths. More than one was plucked out of the air and torn apart by an eager mouth. Ken soon found he was unable to take in any more of the vision. A man’s eyes had never been meant to look upon the horrors that frequented the netherworld.
When the immediate dreadful collection had traipsed by, Felicia again started to move.
Ken watched her blond head bob up and down as she tested the trail. This woman was phenomenal. He had once seen her transform from woman to wolf in mid-flight, ripping out the throat of an enemy as she pounced. If his life was in her hands, then it was as safe as it was ever going to be.
Felicia halted, swinging her head to the right. At the same time all three vampires cocked their own heads as if listening.
“Something’s coming,” Felicia hissed. “Stay down and get ready.”
The vampires crouched, arms stretched out with fingers flexing. Ken noticed fangs sliding from the sides of the mouths, passing over thin white lips. Felicia stooped down with them, no love lost but no risks taken by comrades in arms.
“It must be small,” Ken whispered. “I see—”
,” Felicia purred. “Wait.”
A figure burst out of the surrounding grasses
; legs pumping, jet-black hair streaming out in their wake. The person didn’t see them at first but then came to a terrified stop as all three vampires pounced.
The shriek was loud, dangerously so, and belonged to a woman.
All of a sudden Eliza was sitting astride a struggling pair of legs. Milo was kneeling beside her and staring with a bemused expression on his face.