Chapter One

Cropped Line 2


While Francine struggled to open the worn-out door, Eagen stared at the motionless body infused into the nearby wall, his senses on high-alert. To say the bricks shifting upon his approach to reveal such carnage, a man gruesomely carved up and left for dead inside the wall, was shocking would be a severe understatement.

“I got it open,” hollered Francine. “Come on!”

“This phrase on his body…does it mean…?” He rushed to catch her. “Wait! You didn’t see the murderous scene back there? The body? The passage chiseled into his flesh?”

“What are you talking about?” She shot a cynical gleam. “There’s nothing there.”

Glancing back, the bricks had already rotated back into position. The body was gone.  When he turned to Francine, she was already rushing full steam into the tunnel. For now, this massacre scene was going to have to wait.

The maze of corridors carved from the city’s deep foundation seemingly stretched and snaked forever as endless passageways to nowhere. The glows of the lamps burned brighter and the stale odor of damp air grew stronger as he followed her deeper. Many things about this sat uneasy with him, but that body, its message and Francine’s inability to see it vexed him most.

“I can’t believe I never knew these tunnels existed, and I made it my business to know such things. Everything from which buildings had secret rooms to—” He stopped to look behind.

“Eagen? What is it?”

Sticking his finger to his lips to instruct silence, he crouched and closed his eyes while placing his palms on each side of the passageway. After a moment, he stood up.

“It’s nothing. I was wrong.”

“Okay?” Francine rolled her eyes, turning to press on. “Come on. It’s not much further.”  “What was it again you said your brother did down here?”

“I don’t really know what they did. They’d hold meetings of some sort, but I was never made privy to it all. There are rooms up ahead, but I wasn’t ever allowed in any of them.”

Narrowing his eyes, “Why’d he bring you then?”

“It was only a few times and it was to bring supplies. They’d go for hours…sometimes all night. No idea why they were so secretive about it, you know? They were odd.”

Eagen met her words with silence.

“Know what I’m saying?” She halted her chubby body.

Only half listening to her, Eagen had stopped several yards back, again crouching with both palms caressing the chilly catacomb walls.

There it is again. “I knew it!” He shot up. “There’s someone here…about a hundred and fifty yards behind and closing in fast. How much further ‘til we get to those rooms?”

“I—I dunno, maybe another fifty yards or so. Not far.”

“Let’s get there quickly. We need to hide. Hurry now!”

The pair took off, running as fast as their bodies could carry them.

“No one knows we’re here,” Francine stammered between gasps. “I can’t imagine…whoever it is…would be looking for us.”

“After the last twenty-four hours, I’m not about to take any chances,” Eagen said.

The pair finally made it to the end of the tunnel where it opened into a cavernous chamber so large it was unimaginable to fathom it was all secretly hidden underneath the city streets. Eagen’s eyes darted in all directions, only to stop upon the lifelike dragon statues adorning the four corners of the chamber; each was carved with a critical stare, seemingly examining everyone and everything that entered the great hall.

These statues, he thought, they’re just like the ones we saw in the Temple. The blood-carved message, the dragons…no, this can’t be. I was assured of their demise!

His inspection of the room moved past the three steel doors on the far wall concealing the side rooms and finally settled upon the sarcophagus in the center. The eyes of the dragon effigy resting atop the tomb’s cover startlingly sprang open, and the tarnished cauldrons dangling above the coffin lit aflame, spewing with fire as he drew near.

He assured me they…but this is exactly what we saw. “Francine…where are we?”

The sound of footsteps rapidly approaching cut the woman short of answering.

“Come on…in here!” He grabbed her hand, thrusting her toward one of the doors.

After it refused to budge he stepped back and thrust his hands at the latch, sending an acute jolt of magical energy. The sealed door creaked as it opened.

“Hurry now. They’re almost here,” he urged.

After shoving the woman, he followed her into the obscurity and pulled the door until the latch clicked. He remained fixated, quietly listening with his back to the rest of the room.

The charging footsteps grew louder until finally coming to an unexpected stop. Eagen waited, ready to blast anyone who came through that door.

“Um, Eagen” Francine whispered.

“Shhh.” He waved her off.

“No, look!” she demanded, disregarding his plea for silence.

Slowly he turned around. It was as if someone had sucked the breath right out of him when a set of ghastly images emerged from the darkness.

Jeremy Shory


Cropped Line 2

Panic. Chaos. Fear. This is what you feel when you are being hunted.

Gasping for air, a man wearily braced himself against the wall of a ramshackle building the Razorback District had become so notorious for. He felt his heart thumping through his chest. To him, each beat sounded like blasts from a gun, certain to give him away. Horrifying feelings slithered across his skin like a smattering of creepy-crawling bugs. He slowly peered from the alley. The street was clear. It was only him.

Cautiously he left the protection of the darkened passage, glancing over his shoulder with every step. There was no time to stop, no time to care for the noisiness of his soggy feet, still heavily saturated from the ill-fated events of the evening’s poor decisions.

Squish. Squish. Squish.

Another corner, another deserted alley. Feelings of victory began to creep in, relaxing his stress. A long, heavy breath escaped his lips as a sigh of relief. But he was far from alone.

A pair of black stallions grunted as the reins around their massive snouts jerked them to a halt in front of him; their glowing visage was the stuff nightmares are made of. He knew these hulking horses. He knew this midnight carriage. And he knew this was the end.

Jarring himself from the stallion’s lasting stare, his focus shifted to the stagecoach window. Even though he couldn’t see them, he knew there was a pair of judging eyes fixated on him, taking note of every movement, every breath, every emotional tell. He couldn’t speak. He tried, but no words formed. In fact, he couldn’t move at all. He thought it was terror that had paralyzed him. But it wasn’t. It was magic.

“The Bureau of Race Relations is assembling to discuss tonight’s events,” thundered a voice from the carriage. “It’ll undoubtedly be pinned on some fool already being devoured by the pitiless Misereapers roaming the bastilles of Niimskarah. That fool should be you.”

In all his dealings with this mysterious man in the carriage, that was the most he’d ever heard him speak. His mind raced and his eyes darted faster yet.

“I told you to stay put. You’ve overstepped your purpose,” rumbled the voice, “made a mess that requires a bit of…cleanup. You’ve become a liability. One I can no longer afford.”

With that, the hunted man felt his back slam against the wall. The moldy bricks magically rotated and shifted, creating a crevice large enough to absorb his bulky body. He felt his skin tighten and harden as the blocks grabbed him like deathly hands, dragging him to become one with the building.  His final breath was sucked from his lungs as his body slid into the gap.


Observing the heinous murder from the comfort of his seat in the stagecoach, Leslie sat in the prickly silence of the aftermath feeling utterly alone. Abruptly the carriage door flung open and he instantly understood the gesture as his signal to leave. He nodded, then stepped out, taking pleasure in the firmness of the avenue beneath his feet. He eyed the wall.

“It’s time to unleash the Curse,” the voice commanded from inside the carriage.

With a subtle wave of Leslie’s hand, the bricks again revolved to reveal the hunted man’s lifeless body once more. A shrewd phrase smeared in blood magically appeared on his chest then slowly disappeared into nonexistence as the bricks again swallowed his body.

Leslie looked over his shoulder with a wry grin. “As you wish. Night…sir.”

Continue on to Chapter One

Jeremy Shory

Just How He Likes It

Cropped Line 2

2:00 PM Day One

As Francine trudged up the lawn, she noticed Eagen standing outside on the covered lanai. Oh boy, what’d we do now, she wondered. He never waits up unless something is wrong. “I can only imagine what his gripe will be about this time. Seems like he’s becoming grouchier the older her gets,” she muttered to herself.

“Where’s Orion?” he asked when she was finally in earshot.

“Oh, he’s out there looking for an animal he thought he heard. You know how he is, Eagen,” she lightheartedly waved at him. “That inquisitive mind tends to get the best of him some times. He’ll be up shortly though to get his afternoon snack.” She turned back, scanning the expansive forest landscape. At least he better be, or it’ll be me that’ll catch Eagen’s wrath. She opened the heavy door and headed inside. “Come on. I’ll make you a snack too.”

They made their way into the kitchen. Orion’s father, Bynam, had always envisioned his kitchen as being an inviting space where people could gather and feel completely comfortable, so it contained every luxury. Francine was a big fan of this fact as she was a sucker for luxuries, something she didn’t have a whole lot of growing up. She watched Eagen run his fingers over the fleur de lis engravings in the small glass table.

“You remember when Bynam purchased this at that small boutique in Paris?” he asked. “It was right after we moved in here.”

“I do. And he got those four chairs in Rome. He certainly concerned himself with getting the best money could buy.” Personally, I would’ve rather spent the money on a new digital sewing machine, but that’s just me.

She pulled out a fresh loaf of bread from the stainless steel refrigerator, and two jars; one peanut butter and the other grape jelly.

“Cold PB and J?” Eagen asked.

With a nod, she said, “Just how he likes it.”

After grabbing a sterling silver butter knife and a clear glass plate, she lathered the peanut butter onto one piece of the bread. She could feel Eagan’s cold eyes upon her. Trying not to pay too much attention to his burning gaze, she spun around, and in one swift move had opened the refrigerator door, put the jars of peanut butter and jelly away, and shut the door back. A magnet hanging on the fridge caught her attention; it was a picture of Bynam hugging Orion from behind. Suddenly, the painful memories began to overtake her. She laid the knife down, allowing her mind to be ferried off to a different place and time…


As if it were moments ago instead of weeks, the memory of standing in the bedroom doorway behind a stunned Orion on the day his father died burst into her mind. She could almost still smell the sweet aroma of the freshly cut daisies sitting atop the stairs. Even though it was something she’d been warned about long ago, she still couldn’t fight the dreaded feeling of not being completely prepared for the particularly agonizing events of that day.

Could this be the day he warned us was coming? Her mind raced. Is this it? I know he said it was going to happen…but today?

She could feel her heart sink deeper into her chest with every tear rolling down Orion’s cheek as he sobbed on the bedside. Bynam’s watery eyes momentarily locked with hers, and then raise his hand, with every bit of energy he had left, and rub the boy’s head one last time. The heartbreaking scene sent a gut-wrenching emotion to her core.

His last words had been, “I love you so much, son.”

Orion screamed, “No Dad! No! No! Dad! Please!” He sobbed, laying his head gently onto his father’s chest. He tightly gripped the tousled sheets in his clenched fists.

Francine slowly went to him and delicately eased onto the bed, laying her hand on his shoulder, whispering, “It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay. Everything will be alright.”

She saw something take a hold of the boy in that moment; a bitter coldness had crept into Orion’s spirit as he gazed at his dead father.

“I’m gonna find who did this to you,” he said, pounding the mattress. “I’m gonna find the person responsible…and I’ll make sure they pay! I’ll make them pay for what they did you. I promise you I will.”

She firmly grabbed his shoulders and hoisted him up, escorting him out. He abruptly stopped and turned back again, his tears not strong enough to temper the fire in his eyes. Wiping them away, he said, “We’ll find who did this.”

She lead him down the hallway back to his room, rubbing his shoulders along the way, only stopping to watch him collapse on his bed and cry into his pillow.

Poor boy, if he only knew. She quietly closed the bedroom door.


As quickly as the memory came, it faded away. Eagen still stood there in the kitchen, but his strong gaze had changed to one of sympathy and remorse.

“I know darling,” he somberly spoke. “It’s hard, and I can’t guarantee it’ll get any better, but we’ll press on. We have to. It’s up to us to make sure he knows everything.”

​“Do you think he’s ready to be told everything?”

​“I believe he needs to know now more than ever,” he replied.

​“Have you told him anything yet? Have you told him about…his family?”

​“I haven’t, but Bynam told him some things when he was younger, remember? I highly doubt he recalls anything, though. It was a long time ago.”

​She cocked her head. “You trying to say you haven’t had the opportunity to explain?”

​“No, Francine,” he answered more sternly, only to then relax his stare upon collecting himself. “I’m still trying to figure out the best way to tell him. I started to, but—”

“What do you mean you started to?”


Eagen’s eyes narrowed, but remained fixated on the woman. He couldn’t believe she actually questioned him, especially about this issue. She didn’t have the burden placed upon her, the burden of fulfilling a sacred promise.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, he thought. To tell someone the family secrets…to tell him his whole life has been a lie.

He tensely chewed on his lower lip. “I told him his father was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. And he would’ve done anything for anyone, just for the sake of helping them out…that was just the kind of person he was.” He nodded his head as if agreeing with himself. “When he asked me how long I knew Bynam, I thought that could’ve been the opportunity to explain. I told him I was present at his father’s birth, as I had been present at his. But then he asked me, ‘Were you friends with my grandfather?’”

Eagen looked up from his blank stare and the pain was evident. He stood up straight, fighting off the emotions as he placed his hands into his pockets and cleared his throat.

“I knew at that particular moment, he wasn’t ready. It was too soon…so I simply told him we were best of friends and left it at that.”

“Eagen, what did you say after we left the room that day?” Francine arched her brow.

He recalled his last promise to Bynam. The memory took him back to the room where the man breathed his last breath…


After Francine escorted Orion out, Eagen stayed behind, rubbing his beard as his eyes darted through the bedroom window to the forest outside; this was typical for Eagen, especially under less severe circumstances. He kept wondering if he’d done all he could to keep Bynam alive, or perhaps if he’d done something different, then maybe, just maybe, he’d still be here.

“And who exactly are you?” Eagen said furrowing his brow as he watched an unexpected person traipse through the woods. “You shouldn’t be here.”

After a few moments of watching the person in the forest, he looked back at the lifeless body in the bed. He grabbed hold of the covers and slowly pulled them up over the body.

Leaning close, he whispered, “You were right, Bynam. You always knew this would happen. I’ll keep my promise to you. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of…and that Orion knows everything. Don’t worry about us…we’ll be fine.”

Shaking off the memory, he peered up at Francine. “I silently swore on my life to protect Orion from the haunting secrets about to threaten his life.”


Jeremy Shory

Children’s Games

Cropped Line 2

1:30 PM Day One

Just outside the quietest little town in the heart of New Hampshire, the intense afternoon sun peered through each leafy tree branch like a child peaking through the wooden rungs of a staircase. This was a quaint corner of our world, separate from the whimsical land caressed by the subtle glows from the Sisters of Night. The young saplings lining the heavily wooded forest danced to and fro as a fourteen-year-old boy whizzed by, seemingly sprinting for his life.

Without warning, he heard a startling voice bounce off the broad tree trunk nearby.

“I’m going to find you, Orion!” The voice threateningly beckoned. “You can’t hide from me. You’re mine!”

Trying to see where the voice was coming from, the boy swiveled around in each direction; his hazel eyes frantically scanned the terrain with hawk-like precision. The unexpected crunch of steps on the thick layers of leaves coating the timbered floor sent him racing deeper into the woods, all the while thinking, I have to hide. But where? Come on, she’s coming for you…hide…NOW!

His slightly taller stature made it difficult for him to use some of the more obvious hiding spots, but he knew these woods well and there were still some places he hadn’t outgrown.

There! His focus settled on a large tree ahead. Hurry…she’s almost here.

Plopping down behind the great oak tree, he tucked himself into the knotted roots left exposed from years of weathering. Brushing his shaggy blond hair out of his face, he closed his eyes trying to slow his panting, while also listening for nearby sounds. The birds chirping their soothing and melodic song began to calm him.

As he focused on his surroundings, the recollection of the last time he was out in these woods, just three and a half weeks ago, stole his focus. It was if he was transported to that time…

The sun shined as intensely then and the trees provided enough shade to keep things cool beneath its canopy. As Orion cleared the woods, his nanny Francine joined him on the leisure walk up the freshly cut lawn towards their home.

“There’s that motherly stare,” he mocked as her green eyes were glued on him like macaroni art to paper.

She chuckled, placing her chubby arm around his shoulders. The pair passed the well-groomed rose garden and made way for their mansion of a home. The teen always felt small in comparison to the towering home, but he loved the fact it had a charming feel about it, as if it were inviting you to come stay awhile. It was the house he’d grown up in and enjoyed as it was full of winding passages and dark hiding spots, perfect for the secret games of children.

“I promise you,” Francine started, “one of these days, I’m going to find you, and then you’ll sing my praises to Eagen, like you promised.” Her grin spread from ear to ear. “I’m going to be the hide-and-seek champion.”

“Well you’ll have to find me first. And even if you do, it’ll still be like a hundred to one.”

As they drew near to the house, the home’s elderly butler walked out onto the covered terrace. Orion saw him briefly rub his closely-cropped white beard, which blended in with the little bit of hair he had left atop his head.

“I see he decided to wear his usual—black shirt, black pants,” he joked.

The man yelled out to them, “You two, come quick! Bynam needs you both immediately!”

Francine, nervously tucking her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears, stammered, “What the—”

After hoisting her tight blue jeans, which were probably one size too small for a plump woman of her magnitude, they both darted to the house. They entered the double doors into the enormous library, which was so full of unfamiliar books that Orion had often wondered to himself where all of them were from; the aroma of leather binding and aged paper poured out of the room when they opened the doors.

“Watch the lamp…” the nanny warned as the boy funneled past the Italian reading sofas, “and the laptop—”

Rushing their way through the adjoined television room, Orion pointed to the far wall. Oh crap. “He probably wants to yell at me about the T.V. being on again.”

He dismissed Francine’s vague brow raise as the two of them sprinted through the foyer to the grand staircase. It was a mahogany staircase that he had played on while growing up, sliding down the banister despite instructions to the contrary; it also served as the background for many family portraits. Orion hustled up the stairs, shielding his face from the blinding sunlight reflecting off of the crystal spires dangling from the ornate chandelier above.

Francine yelled out between heavy breaths, “Orion Landis Martins…do not take these stairs two at a time, young man. If I’ve told you once…I’ve told you a thousand times…you could trip and fall.”

Paying no attention to the middle-aged woman’s warning, the teenager continued racing up the staircase. As he reached the top, he nearly slid into a table holding some freshly cut flowers in a pink crystal vase. The sweet aroma of daisies was something his mother had always loved, so there was always the assurance of a fresh batch atop the staircase. He then headed down the hallway to a room where the door was wide open. The sound of blood-curdling screams coming from inside the room, screams of pain, halted him dead in his tracks.

Orion guardedly crept into the brightly lit room where he saw the elderly man who beckoned to them moments earlier. Standing next to a large, four-poster bed, the man looked upon him with dark, wisdom-filled eyes. Staring past the man in black, he zoned in on the pale, sickly-looking person underneath the disheveled bed sheets. It was uncanny how even at this moment of illness, the man in the bed looked like an older, but identical version of Orion.

“You must drink, Bynam,” the butler said forcing a glass of clear liquid to the lips of the ailing man. “It’ll help ease your pain, I promise you it will,” he encouraged.

Bynam weakly took the glass; the skin hung loosely from his arm like over-elastic rubber. “I can’t…” he said, choking on the contents.

“It’ll help you. Trust me. Finish the little bit left,” the elderly butler said, forcing the glass back to his lips. “Come on now.”

“Eagen…No, I can’t…I can’t, Eagen,” he replied, turning his head.

It was then that Bynam noticed Orion standing in the doorway with Francine behind.

“Son, please come here,” he said, looking up; the large purple bags hung underneath his strained eyes like saggy bags of water.

Orion cautiously shuffled to the bed, and held onto the tall bedpost at the foot.

“It’s okay, son. Come sit down…next to me.”

He hesitated before creeping slowly to sit alongside his father. “Dad, what happened? Why do you look so…weak? What’s going on? You’re scaring me here.”

The boy’s father looked at Eagen and then back to him as he struggled to sit up, grimacing in pain. He pulled the covers away from his body, revealing a bulky bandage covering the right side of his neck. Orion watched as he gradually reached up, pealing part of the bandage; his dark red and purple veins throbbed with each beat of his weakened heart.

“Son, something’s happened to me. It’s hard to explain.”

“How? How’d this happen?” I don’t understand what’s going on. “What’s going on? What happened to you?” He looked to the nanny and butler as they exchanged a silent glance. “Someone answer me, please!”

Bynam reached out and touched his son’s shoulder. “It’s so difficult to explain and I wish I had more time to do it. One day Eagen will explain everything to you.”

​“Dad, what are you saying? Why are you talking like this? What do you mean more time? I don’t understand…”

“You remind me so much of your mother,” the sickly man shuddered from emotion. “She always asked so many questions, and you inherited her inquiring mind. You have so many good traits from her. Listen closely now,” he coughed, “you need to know I love you…and I always will, but Eagen and Francine will be taking care of you now.”

​“Dad? What’s happening to you?” Orion’s eyes began to overflow with tears as the weight of reality set in.

“You’re going to be fine, trust me.” He turned his head, gnashing his teeth in pain as he let out a yelp. The tears streamed heavily down his cheeks.​ “Please make sure you do what you’re told,” he said through clinched teeth. “They know what’s best for you.”

“What about our family? Mom’s dead. Now you’re dying—what’s happening to us?” What am I supposed to do?

“It’s time he knows,” Bynam nodded at Eagen and Francine. “Make sure he knows the whole story.”

“What’s he talking about, Eagen?” Orion pleaded. “What ‘whole’ story?”

His father embraced him one last time. “Soon you’ll know everything. You’ll learn what happened to your mother, what happened to me, you’ll learn about our family. Most importantly, you’ll find out just how special you are. Promise me you’ll do as Eagen and Francine tell you. Promise me.”

Orion softly uttered the words, “I promise.”

He watched his father muster as much of a smile that he could. “I love you so much. Everything I’ve done in my life has been for you, and one day you’ll know exactly what I mean. I love you so much, son.” His saddened eyes slowly closed.


Orion was abruptly jolted from his memory by the sound of a breaking branch a few feet away. His eyes shot open just in time to see a figure rush through the brush.

He quickly jumped to his feet and shouted, “You know, you’re supposed to be finding me, not running from me. You better not be trying to scare me again.”

Francine stumbled up out of breath from the opposite direction. “What are you talking about? I‘ve been looking for you this whole time. That’s what we’re doing right,” she teased, “playing hide-and-seek?”

Snapping his head back to the brush, “I could‘ve sworn I saw something—I thought it was you.”

​“It was probably an animal…most likely a deer. You know how this forest is just littered with them.”

​“No, I don’t think so.”

​“Ah, forget about it. How about you come in and I’ll fix you something to eat. I’ll make a cold peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, exactly the way you like it. What do you think? I’ll even have one with you.”

His determined focus remained on the foliage. “Okay, sounds good. Go on ahead though. I’ll be there in a few minutes. I want to see if I can find what it was—”

​“Eagen already told you,” she interrupted, “that he wanted to finish your lessons for the day. And you know how he gets when he’s not able to stick to his schedule.”

​“I hear ya. I won’t be long. I’m just going over there to see if I can find anything, and then I’ll be right behind you. I promise.”

“Okay. You have ten minutes young man,” she ordered, beginning to walk away.

Brushing off her final command, something glimmering in the sunlight caught his eye; it was a silver necklace.

“What in the world is this,” he asked himself aloud as he inspected the tiny bottle charm dangling from the piece of jewelry. “I bet this yellow stuff could glow in the dark.” Maybe Francine lost it.

As he pulled the charm closer to inspect, a deep breath from inside the shrubbery caused him to shift his focus beyond the charm. A pair of eyes, human eyes, was fiercely staring back at him.

Continue on to Chapter Two: Just How He Likes It 

Jeremy Shory


Cropped Line 2

Death is only the beginning.

In the middle of Gimmeth Alley, nestled behind the seedy Wolfsbane Tavern, a chubby man dripping of nervous sweat frantically cast his eyes in all directions as if searching for something, or someone. The light from the trio of moons, known to the locals as the “Sisters of Night,” did not touch this vapid part of the city, leaving it as dark as the brilliant precious stones found in the deepest parts of the Faynesma’ar River. He clasped his hands tightly together atop a rotund gut, barely covered by his tattered and torn clothes.

Most would’ve said this was the perfect ending to the perfect day, but he knew the kind of dark secrets the evening truly held.

“He sssaid thisss wasss the ssspot. I’m right where I’m sss’posed to be,” he whispered to himself in his snake-like lisp, while running his grimy hand through his short curly hair that resembled more of a shabby birds nest than anything.

The several days’ worth of stubble on his cheeks sounded like coarse sand paper grinding on wood as he fretfully pawed at his chin; his jowls were so massive they would make even the largest great white shark jealous.

The vibrant fireworks from the opening ceremony of the Frugg’al Games booming in the distance startled him as his attention turned to the other end of the alley; it was completely vacant…or was it?

Focusing his beady eyes, he felt the blood drain from his face as the object he was waiting for appeared before him. The influx of colored illumination from the fireworks brought prominence to the blackest of carriages sitting in the deepest recesses of the alley.

Reluctant to move, he focused on the jet black stallions pulling the stagecoach and fearfully shuddered as he locked on their blood-red eyes. The clop of the stallion’s hardened hooves against the cobbled alley startled the jittery man, sending a shiver to his soul.

He saw a well manicured hand slowly extend from the stagecoach window, motioning him forward. As he inched closer to the carriage, the flabby man began trembling. He removed his raggedy handkerchief from his back pocket; the sweat-stained piece of cloth served as a security blanket.

Being stout, it was hard for him to peer into the window, not that it mattered as sheer darkness was all he could make out inside anyway. He wiped his neck with the discolored rag.

Quietly, he squeaked out, “Yesss sire.”

A deep, sinister voice spoke from inside the carriage, “Have you completed what was required of you, Hortwangler?”

“Uh, uh, yesss sire,” he stammered from intimidation. “I did…jussst like you asssked sire, it’sss complete.”

“Was it done exactly as instructed?”

“Yesss sire.” He fidgeted with the dingy cloth.

“Good. Everything I’ve long planned shall take place very soon. You’ve done well for me, Hortwangler. I believe I’ve promised you a reward.”

“Yesss, the reward sire,” Hortwangler said, excitedly dabbing the bead of sweat falling near his brow. “You did promissse me a reward.”

The man in the carriage held a small red bag out the window, and the clink of the coins brought a crooked smile to Hortwangler’s face. He extended his grungy, hairy hands up as the bag was fleetingly tossed at him. He took a greedy look at the polished gold coins inside, which made his normally beady eyes grow almost as large as his smile.

“Hortwangler, it’s time…you must go now.”

“Sssire, do you not have any more jobsss for me?”

“No, and as we previously agreed, never speak of our arrangement.”

“Yesss sire,” Hortwangler said, turning from the carriage. He began to stroll away, counting each coin inside the bag. Once he completed counting, he cheerfully whispered to himself. “Tonight, I’m gonna get the good ssstuff!”

Suddenly, his eyes turned as pale as the three moons above and his teeth lengthened into pointed fangs, piercing through his wicked smirk. His fingernails became razor-sharp talons as he clumsily turned the corner of the tavern and was no longer in sight.


Perched atop the midnight-colored stagecoach, the driver of the carriage leaned down from his seat and asked the man sitting inside, “Sire, would you like for me to take care of him?”

“No, Petteway,” he replied, leaning back in the plush leather seat. “Hortwangler could still come in handy yet. When the moment’s right, I’ll not only take care of him, but I’ll take care of everyone…in both worlds!”

With a quick snap of the reigns, the carriage lurched forward, heading towards the heart of the enchanted city.


The people of Val’Terra knew nothing of terror and absolute evil. They would soon learn.


Continue on to Chapter One: Children’s Games 

Jeremy Shory