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Authors: David Niall Wilson,Steven & Wilson Savile

Tags: #Horror

Hallowed Ground

BOOK: Hallowed Ground
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

By Steven Savile & David Niall Wilson



First Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital

Copyright 2010 by
Steven Savile & David Niall Wilson

Cover Art by Robert
/ Cover Design by Stan Tremblay


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Ancient Eyes

Deep Blue

Sins of the Flash

The Orffyreus Wheel

Darkness Falling

The Mote in Andrea's Eye

On the Third Day

The Second Veil

Heart of a Dragon

Stargate Atlantis – SGA-15 – Brimstone (With Patricia Lee Macomber)

Vintage Soul




Roll Them Bones

The Preacher's Marsh

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature

Me, While I Kiss the Sky




The Fall of the House of Escher & Other Illusions

Defining Moments

A Taste of Blood & Roses

Spinning Webs & Telling Lies

The Whirling Man& Other Tales of Pain, Blood, and Madness

Joined at the Muse




Roll Them Bones
Deep Blue
The Orffyreus Wheel
The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature
Heart of a Dragon
On the Third Day
This is My Blood




Laughing Boy's Shadow

The Last Angel

The Sufferer's Song




The Forgetting Wood – Narrated by Ian Stuart


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They came in the night with their creak-wheeled wagons and patchwork tents, rolling down through the gulch and up the other side to pitch camp.  In Rookwood, they called it 'Dead man's Gulch,' and in Rookwood, names were important.  If you walked too far through that God-forsaken, dust-drowned ditch, you were bound to drag your boots through bones.  If you felt something sharp dig into your heel, it could be a tooth taking a last bite of something hot and living.  The Deacon stood in silent shadows watching their progress, occasionally glancing up into the pale, inadequate light of the waning moon.

He was a tall man, gaunt and pale.
His suit was dark, and despite the fact they traveled through the desert, he wore a long, sweeping coat even darker than the suit.
His hair was long, trailing down his back, dancing when the wind caressed it and dangling over the collar of his coat like thick moss.
His eyes were chips of gray ice, emotionless and cold.

The scouts had come to him two days back.
They'd found a location that suited his needs, not too close to the town, sheltered, with water nearby.
It was surrounded on two sides by rocky crags and bordered at its back by the gulch.
The Deacon timed their arrival to occur at night.
He preferred the moonlight.
Those with cause to ride out of town far enough – hunters and trappers – could watch the sunset over barren, forgotten ground. When it rose again, curious eyes would see tents glistening in the sun.
There was no breeze, had been no breeze for days, so the canvas wouldn't flap in the wind.
It would look like a mirage to any who drew near enough to see it, and that suited The Deacon just fine.

His wagon was the first to cross the gulch, and as the horses dragged it up the long, dusty incline he fell into step with the front wheels and swung up beside the driver. Sanchez held the reigns lightly, but his knuckles went suddenly tight with tension as The Deacon settled into the seat.
Sanchez was an older man.
He'd come up as a boy from Mexico, and had traveled many long roads.

"Not much farther," he said.
His gaze remained locked on the road ahead, and the tone of his voice was carefully neutral.

The Deacon was silent.
Behind them, the other wagons struggled to follow.
Some were pulled by horses, others by mules, and still others couldn't manage the crossing without their passengers crawling out like rats from sinking ships to push and pull.
They might as well not have existed, for all the attention The Deacon spared them.

They entered the camp area and circled once.
Sanchez made no move to stop; he waited. Eventually, on the second circuit of that open space, The Deacon grunted, and they rolled to a halt.
From where they sat the moon was just visible between two rocky crags.
It cast a beam of silver light that fell across the wagon, slicing it in half.

"Here," The Deacon said.

Sanchez hopped down and disappeared toward the rear of the wagon.
The Deacon sat still as a wooden Indian and watched the first of the following wagons enter the clearing.
They crawled in like vermin. They squabbled briefly over location.
Two big, burly roustabouts swaggered into the center – a large, vacant expanse – and began barking orders.

The main tent would hide them from one another.
The wagons and tents would provide alleys to hide in and shadows for his flock to call their own.
The main tent gave the camp it's heart.

The Deacon slid down from the wagon's seat and strode to the middle of the clearing.
Among the wagons and tents, conversation stilled.
Motion ceased.
They watched as he stopped dead center and turned slowly.
He missed nothing.
He placed each one of them, etched their locations into his mind.
Then he closed his eyes, rolled his head back so his face was to the sky, and glanced up into the pale face of the moon.

He raised his arms.

Maybe it was the sudden motion.
Maybe it was one of those coincidental moments in time where two concurrent events blend to a single image.
The Deacon's long dark cloak flapped around him like a shroud, or full, dark wings.

From the trees lining the gulch, the crooked, drooping shrubs and the craggy outcroppings of rock, a black cloud rose.
They screamed to the night, spilling into the sky like a dark tide.
At first they resembled a vast flock of bats -- or something worse.
Only after they spread and draped the sky was their true nature revealed.

"Rooks," a man breathed.

The Deacon opened his eyes and watched as the birds dispersed and dove, winding out of the sky like small tornadoes of shadow and returning to their roosts – or to different ones.
Further away from the camp. Further from the center.

He knew they were not rooks.
They were crows.
The old country had been alive with rooks, but this land…the carrion feeders here were larger, and darker.
Still, the significance was not lost on him.

"And the rooks shall rise," The Deacon intoned, his voice carrying across the clearing and into the night.
"They shall rise and announce the coming of death.
They shall carry the souls of the faithful home."

He knelt in the dust and pressed the tip of his finger into the dirt.
He circled that finger slowly, drawing a pattern.
The clearing might as well have been empty.
There was no sound.
The wind whirled around him and lifted the collar of his long coat to ripple across the brim of his hat.

As he worked, he spoke in very low tones, words too soft to be understood.
Though the earth was hard and dry, his finger dug through the
parched soil.
As it passed, it left a series of symbols in an odd, symmetrical sequence.
No one breathed; as if afraid the sound would reach the rooks and bid them to return.
None was ready at that moment to be called to glory.

The Deacon rose.
He turned once more, and as he spun he whispered to the wind in each quarter in its turn.
He stepped away from the center, and when he'd reached the corner of his wagon, the two roustabouts returned to the clearing and took his place.
They stepped up to the point where The Deacon had drawn in the dirt, and their four strong arms drove a sharp, rounded stake into the ground.
It was as big around as the base of a small tree, and even their combined strength could only barely embed it in the earth.
A third man stepped forward with a large wooden mallet.
The two big men knelt, and the third man drove the stake home.
He swung the mallet between the
two without regard to the proximity of their heads or hands.
His aim was perfect.
Four hard shots and the base stabilized.
It would hold the center post of the main tent.

BOOK: Hallowed Ground
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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