Nightfall (Pact Arcanum Integrated Serial Edition)

BOOK: Nightfall (Pact Arcanum Integrated Serial Edition)
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Table of Contents

Prologue

Part I:  Nightfall

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Part II:  The Gauntlet

Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14

About the Serial Edition

About the Author

NIGHTFALL

 

PACT ARCANUM SAGA

PART I

 

INTEGRATED SERIAL EDITION

 

 

 

BY

ARSHAD AHSANUDDIN

 

 

 

COPYRIGHT 2013 BY ARSHAD AHSANUDDIN

 

PROLOGUE

 

August 2008; Alexandria, Egypt

Antonio Martinez examined the cream-colored stone edifice through his scrying spell. The building was largely devoid of human worshippers at this time of night, so he was easily able to pick out the signatures of the Nightwalker guards that surrounded the structure and infested the actual tomb within. He snorted with disgust.
Trust the Children of Darkness to choose the grave of a saint as the gateway to their greatest fortress.
If the vampires had known the tomb they used as an entrance to the Court of Shadows would someday be incorporated into the largest mosque in the city, they would probably have picked a different place to tunnel. As it was, however, the adjacent holy site placed them at a tactical disadvantage to their enemies, the Sentinels.

Antonio knew he was missing something.
They’re not stupid, whatever Vincent thinks. There must be a reason why they’re confident enough to leave this entrance open.
Unfortunately, Antonio was third in rank among the leaders of the Sentinels, so his opinion didn’t carry enough weight to overrule the Wind of Earth’s decision to attack.

“There can’t be more than thirty of them down there,” said Edgar, his lieutenant. The other Fire Sentinel frowned. “This is a major access point to the Council Chamber Complex. That’s not enough manpower to hold a strategic position of this importance. What are they hiding?”

Antonio didn’t answer, merely broadened his focus to examine the mosque in more detail.
There.
“I knew it was too easy.”

Edgar poured some additional power into the spell to get a better look, then sat back on his haunches in shock. “The minaret is deconsecrated. How is that possible?”

“It must have taken some work to undo two hundred years of worship.” Antonio laughed. “It’s a perfect sniper post. Any sizeable attack through the square will be cut to pieces by suppression fire from the tower.”

Edgar went pale. “We have to call off the assault. Our forces will be slaughtered when they try to take the building.”

“Try telling Vincent that. Our great leader is convinced that the key to victory is to cut off the head of the snake. He won’t back down now.”

Edgar swallowed. “Antonio, you’re the Wind of Fire. Surely Lord Vincent will accept your judgment.”

Antonio shook his head. “He’s made up his mind, Ed. All three of us have tried to convince him that the Court is beyond a military solution, but he insists on pursuing it to the end. If we weren’t genetically programmed to obey him, maybe we could make some headway, but he doesn’t shy away from using his authority to force the rest of us to go along with him. He even ordered us not to dispute his strategy in public, in order to reassure the troops.”

Edgar looked appalled. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“Against a spoiled teenager with absolute power? No, not at all.”

“I thought you were friends.”

“We are. I’ve known him for years. That doesn’t blind me to his faults.”

A voice spoke in their minds.
“Talking out of turn again, Tony?”

Antonio rolled his eyes.
“Just giving him fair warning, Malcolm. This is a suicide mission.”

The Wind of Air sighed from halfway across the city.
“What did you find out?”

“The square in front of the mosque is a deathtrap. They’ve got spellcasters in the minaret poised to destroy any force that approaches the mosque through the streets.”

“Damn. We’ll have to find another way in.”

“The entrance in the catacombs is too well defended, and we can’t force more than a handful of soldiers through the tunnels at any one time by that route. This is the only access point large enough to allow a sizeable force to enter. You have to convince him to call it off.”

“Easy to say from a distance, Tony.”

“Do your best.”

The link broke, and Antonio turned his attention back to his lieutenant, who was monitoring the vampires in the minaret through the scrying spell. Antonio watched while the younger man reached up to his collar and rolled a silver locket between his fingertips. It was a plainly unconscious action. Edgar noticed Antonio’s stare and flushed when he realized what he was doing. “Sorry, I forgot where I was.”

Antonio glanced at the locket. “We all have someone we’re fighting for.” He pulled his collar aside and lifted into view the white and yellow gold cross he wore at his neck. “My mother gave me this after my first communion. She said it would keep me safe.”

Edgar nodded. “I envy the humans their faith. They don’t know what kind of evil is really out there.” He opened his pendant and showed Antonio two locks of hair, one brown and one blond, braided together. “My wife gave me this to remember her and our son when I travel. She thinks I’m a computer salesman.” He closed the locket and slipped it back into his shirt. “I should have left Claire when my Gift kindled. It would have been easier than lying all the time, but she was already pregnant by then, and I couldn’t bring myself to abandon her.” He turned back to face the view of the scrying spell. “Then Nick was born, and I realized that running away would have only postponed the inevitable.”

“Meaning what?”

Edgar stared fixedly at the minaret. “Turns out my wife is a half-blood.”

“Oh, God, Edgar. Your son, is he one of us?”

“Fire latent.” The Sentinel’s voice was bitter. “I tested him as soon as he was born. Someday, he’ll break his mother’s heart and get himself killed for the cause, just like I will.”

Antonio tried to think of something to say, but in the end, everything Edgar said was true. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Edgar scowled. “What we do is necessary. Even if we never win, we can at least keep these Nightwalker bastards from taking over the world.”

Malcolm’s voice spoke in his head again before Antonio could answer.
“Vincent says you have to find a way to neutralize the jumper block before sunrise. Then I’ll teleport our strongest forces into the square. Hopefully, a surprise attack will be able to take out the minaret before they can counterstrike.”

“In broad daylight? The humans will be all over the square by then. How are we supposed to hide that?”

“The humans will blame any damage and loss of life on terrorists, or they’ll find some other explanation.”

“That’s insane. Let me talk to him.”

“He won’t care.”

“Then it won’t make any difference. Tell him I want to open the Wind Link. We can hash this out amongst ourselves.”

“You’re wasting your breath, Tony.”

“At least I’ll have tried.”

The voice was silent for a moment in his head. Then a psychic probe reached out to Antonio, and he touched it with his mind. In an instant, his personality was submerged in the unity of the mental fusion between the Four Winds.

Fire spoke to Earth.
“Brother, this is madness.”

Earth was amused.
“We exist to smite our enemies. Are you not up to the task?”

Water spoke to Earth.
“He is the eldest of us. Should you not heed his counsel?”

Earth faced the other three Winds.
“My decision is made. We attack with the rising sun.”

Air tried to reason with him.
“Brother, your proposal will expose us to the humans, for only the slimmest chance of victory. All simulations acknowledge this fact.”

Earth smothered his irritation, but a hint of resentment bled into his psychic voice.
“Do you question my authority?”

“Yes, Brother,”
said Fire.
“Your foolishness will cost us all our lives.”

Earth sneered.
“Then we will die. But we will take the enemy with us.”

“Brother, please—”

“The audience is ended.”

Antonio was slammed back into his body again. He staggered where he stood but kept his feet. “That damn child! This is no time for a tantrum!”

Edgar chuckled. “I take it the news isn’t good?”

Antonio snarled. “We have until sunrise to break through the jumper block, so they can mount a surprise attack on the mosque.”

Edgar’s jaw dropped. “
Sunrise?
After morning prayers have already started? What, are we going to massacre the humans to get to the Court?”

“Looks like it.”

“But—”

“Edgar, there’s nothing you can say that I don’t already know. Now, we have to get to work.”

Edgar closed his mouth. “Where do we start?”

“If we can weaken the spellform to the point that it fails right at sunrise, they might not have time to renew it before daylight forces them inside and they have to shift the defenses to their human allies. We have a narrow window of opportunity to make this work, so let’s get to it.”

 

* * *

 

Fire teased apart the energy flow of the jumper block spell, little by little. Finally, as the lightening of the sky reached a peak and the scarlet edge of the sun finally edged up above the horizon, he unleashed the last part of the spell he had been weaving for the last hour. The teleport barrier shuddered and collapsed.
“Now, Brother!”

Air flexed his strength, and the strike force appeared in the square below. They rushed the building, weapons drawn, while the humans gaped at them. Fire gathered his strength back to himself and prepared to attack the tower.

Beside him, maintaining their defensive wards, Edgar glanced at his watch when it beeped sharply. “Oh, my God.”

Fire faced him. “What is it?”

Edgar’s face was ashen. “My alarm was set for dawn, not sunrise. I forgot about it.
They tricked us!

Fire snapped his gaze up to the minaret just as the great illusion spell that surrounded the city evaporated, and the early morning sunlight disappeared, leaving only darkness lit by a glow at the horizon. Three Nightwalkers emerged from behind a shroud of invisibility at the windows of the tower. Fire knew them all: Luscian Firstborn, the Huntmaster of the Court; Aleksei Magister Talizered, his second-in-command; and the Night’s Herald, Chief Inquisitor of the Court’s spy network. Luscian turned his head to stare directly at Fire’s hiding place and grinned, showing his fangs. The Night’s Herald stepped off the minaret to land lightly on his feet at the end of the square nearest the mosque. Immediately, scores of Nightwalkers emerged from hiding all around the periphery of the square, blocking all the exit routes.

Desperately, Fire reached out to the other Winds, feeling the renewed jumper block snap into existence.
“Brothers, flee!”

Earth ignored him, running ahead with sword in hand to engage the Night’s Herald, followed by thirty battle-tested Sentinels, including Water and Air. The Nightwalkers surrounding the mosque leapt forward in his way, forming a wall of bodies between Earth and the Herald. Meanwhile, the Herald raised his arms to either side, and a vertical sheet of white flames appeared behind him, spreading out along the periphery of the square to seal them all inside.

Antonio staggered, his personality reasserting itself as the Wind Link was severed. He watched helplessly as the Night’s Herald closed his eyes and chanted softly. He couldn’t hear the words, but he could see the spellforms with his other senses.
Radiant Burn.
“NO!”

Edgar knocked him to the floor and cast a shield ward over them. The view of the square was suddenly eclipsed by a blinding white light. The floor heaved under them, and the building shuddered from the shockwave.

Antonio threw Edgar off of him and stumbled back to the window. The entire square was a glowing red pool of molten glass, though the damage was limited to the area enclosed by the Herald’s containment spell. Nothing from either side remained.

BOOK: Nightfall (Pact Arcanum Integrated Serial Edition)
11.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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