Prologue

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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
@JeremyShory
Jeremy@TheOrionChronicles.com

 

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