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The City
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-596-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 186 Pages
Published: July 2008
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

"Vampires? Don’t be silly. Of course they’re not real, child." A mother’s response to a question asked by her curious daughter. She’d laughed it off and hadn’t thought of it since. Her daughter was blind, after all, and there were more pressing matters to worry about than imaginary nightwalkers.

The adventure continues with book two - [Red Sky - Book One]

The City (Excerpt)


1

Her fingertips trembled against cool cement. Pain consumed her as consciousness returned. She sat up and leaned uneasily against the bars of the cage. Her vision spun with a thick black fog, glowing with sparks of green and purple that closed over her sight. Something metallic scraped over stone; then there was silence.

She moaned as the worst of the headache subsided and her vision returned. Her mouth tasted slimy and metallic; she spat and came up with a curdled bit of goop that reeked of blood. Dust motes swirled up from between the bars of the rusted bottom of her cage, which smelled like ancient air and stale earth. There were other cages in the room, maybe forty or fifty of them in various shapes and sizes. Most were intact, but some were barely-recognizable twists and chunks of metal. There were footprints in the dust, as if someone had-

"Hey, chick. Nice to see you’re finally coming out of it."

She turned to see who had spoken; the movement made the throbbing in her head explode. She gasped for breath, her body wracked with tremors as her vision blurred back into order.

He looked about sixteen. His arms and bare torso were lightly lined with muscle, but there was an almost skeletal gauntness beneath that suggested that he was not a free human. He ran a hand back through his red-brown hair.

"Hey…" she ventured.

He nodded and sauntered up to her cage. "True red’s rare. I’ve never seen hair quite like yours."

He was commenting on her hair? "Thanks."

"I was starting to think you wouldn’t wake up. Would’ve been too bad; I’m starting to like you." He smiled. Not shyly. "I mean, you’ve only been here a week and all, and I could barely get any water down your throat, but every time those green eyes fluttered, I was sure I’d caught an angel."

She frowned. Caught an angel? "Can you let me out?"

"Well…" He lingered for a moment, his grimy fingertips caressing the bars of her cage. "I could. But I think I like you better in there. For the moment, at least."

Her heart clenched, and not in a good way. She glanced past him to the single window on the far wall-the light that managed its way past the dust was dusky and low. If they were coming tonight, it would be soon.

"I named you," he said. "Oh-I’m Aymir, by the way. And you’re Intrigue."

What? Wait, what was her name?

"Now that we know each other," he continued, "I’d like to offer you something."

"What’s that?"

"I’m sure you don’t like this cage…" He looked at her expectantly. She said nothing. "One of the raters from the Factory in Macabre stopped by to taste you. He said you were delicious." He grinned broadly. She said nothing. "But the thing is, he didn’t have a knife on him, and I didn’t trust him with mine, so he had to bite you."

Her hand trembling, she reached up to feel her neck. Twin scabs marred the smooth skin; they stung when she touched them.

His smile widened and she dropped her hand. "So the tough question now is whether you’re going to live. He slipped you a little of his blood-don’t know why; I didn’t ask-so now you’re infected."

"You asshole."

Aymir shrugged. "I’m just doing my job. All I had to do was bring you here. I could’ve let you die; they wouldn’t have cared. You owe me your life, so give me your attention."

She said nothing.

"Nice. Now anyway, you seem to be healing. The effects could wear off in a few days, a few weeks…soon. If you go to the Shop, you might get bit again. That’d kill you."

She said nothing.

"I have no family. I’m tired of going to the Asylum to see girls who don’t love me. I have a house, though, so here’s my offer-be my girl. Love me and I’ll get you out of here. You’ll be safe."

Rage seethed in her veins but she tempered it. She fought her inclination to glance at the door behind Aymir, the rusting metal passage back to freedom. Her heart twisted with adrenaline, she smiled and leaned forward. "So if I go with you…submit to you…you’ll keep me safe?"

"That’s the offer," he smiled. "No one, vampire or Chaotic, will ever worry you."

"Chaotic?"

Aymir shrugged. "The bad vampires, always off freeing slaves and killing other vamps. Don’t worry about it. Are you in?"

"Promise not to hurt me?" she whispered, thinking of how those olive eyes would bulge when her hands were around his throat, tightening until-

"I promise, love."

She dragged herself to her feet. Her muscles ached, but she was sure she could overcome it-a knee to his groin and he’d be down long enough for her to get out. Revenge could come later.

Aymir pulled a key from his pocket and slipped it into the lock; the metal fell together with an easy click. The hinges squealed when he pulled the door open, and furious joy thrilled her veins as she swung her knee up-

He caught her knee and shoved her back into the cage.

"Oomph," she gasped as her sore backside struck the unforgiving bars of the cage’s bottom. The lock clicked back into place and Aymir shook his head.

"Too bad. I really wanted it to work out."

Fury threatened to melt into despair.

"Aww, don’t be too upset," Aymir laughed. "You’re still beautiful. I was just anticipating that you’d be untrustworthy. Tell you what. I’ll wait out here. If you can get out without my help, I won’t say a word. Out the door you can go; I’ll tell the transporters you died when they come to pick you up."

The light in the window grew dimmer as the moments slipped away. She glanced around frantically. There was a bobby pin lying on the floor, easily within reach, and she snatched it. The lock was shiny and new against the rusted bars-maybe she could figure it out? She hadn’t even slipped the tip of the pin into the lock, though, before Aymir burst into laughter.

"They put those pins there on the floor as a joke."

She gritted her teeth and shoved the pin into the lock. The pin snapped in her hand and Aymir laughed again. She closed her eyes, clenching her teeth, and focused on not crying. Were there other ways out? Or were there just more jokes? The piece of the broken pin glinted in her hand, mocking her.

Aymir was still grinning at her. "Funny, right? Would you be surprised if I told you that all the catches act like that? They normally spend the rest of the day trying to chew through the bars, or some stupid thing like that."

Shut up. There was a brief pause and she closed her eyes in relief-and then he was off again, his face pressed right up against the bars of her pen.

"I know your name-the one you used to have."

She said nothing.

"I know everything about you."

Was that a crow bar beside the cage next to her? She reached for it, straining against the rusted bars that bit into her shoulder. Her fingers brushed the dust maybe three inches from the bar; she could reach no further. Her neck burned-what would happen if she became a vampira?

"If you would have been maybe just a little nice to me, I would have told you," Aymir sighed. "I might even have helped you to escape. Hell, it’s no skin off my ass, right? I’ve known you all your life."

What was that behind her cage? Her fingers explored the silhouettes beyond the bars and captured only shadow.

"I could just go catch a fresh one and you’d get to go home with me, and next week, you could tell your friends all about the time you spent penned up in the Warehouse. You’d even have the marks on your throat as a souvenir."

"Fuck off," she muttered.

He continued as if she’d said nothing. "But no, you just had to be awful, didn’t you? Wouldn’t hardly talk to me, even after I’ve spent the last week keeping you safe. Think you should’ve done better than that. Don’t you?"

Was there anything here that could get her out?

"No one else was pouring water down your damn throat. It’s getting dark now but I could still let you out. They’re almost here, but I still could let you out, take you home."

Maybe she could chew threw the bars?

"You’d like that, wouldn’t you?"

Or maybe break off the piece of metal that secured the lock?

Aymir smashed his fists against the bars of her cage. "God damn!"

A lock rattled and the door at the far end of the Warehouse opened. Aymir fell silent. He slumped against Intrigue’s cage, breathing heavily. He stared at her, his eyes wide. "Too late now."

Two burly men entered, carrying a wooden crate between them. Even in the fading twilight, Intrigue could see the tips of their blunted fangs protruding over their lips. Her stomach clenched.

"Wassamatter Aymir? You’ve been taunting the captives again, haven’t you? This one get you back? You dun look too happy." The taller of the two brushed back a handful of sweaty brown hair from his ruddy face. "They said to go ahead and ask you to come back. Hell, you are the best."

Aymir said nothing, just ran his hand back through his dusty hair and slumped to the floor.

"Thinking of maybe taking a second term?"

"Yeah, I guess." Aymir looked up at them through the faltering light. "This one’s trouble."

"Asshole," she muttered.

"If you get a chance, mention to the Shop owners that this one would be better off in a rough Nest. She needs to be broken."

When the second man laughed, the sound was deep and decidedly stupid. It was tempting to spit in their faces but even in the dim light she could see that both vampires carried small wooden clubs. Her head still hurt too much to risk a repeat injury.

The first transporter fished a key out of his pocket and jabbed it into the lock. She shrank back against the bars, but it didn’t help at all. He grabbed her ankle, dragged her out of the cage, and flipped her onto her stomach.

The door loomed across the room, open to a dark night where she might escape. The transporters were burly and idiotic-surely they couldn’t catch her? Aymir could probably catch her, but maybe he’d just let her go? She wrenched herself free, surprised by how easily the brute’s hand gave way.

She’d only taken a few steps when the second transporter grabbed her shoulder and tossed her deftly to the ground. Pain rocketed through her body. He hooked a toe under her and rolled her back onto her stomach.

"Easy there, girl…" He glanced at Aymir.

"Intrigue," Aymir said.

"Intrigue," affirmed the transporter.

"That’s not my name," she spat. She struggled to get up again; the open door was waiting.

The two flashes of pain came almost simultaneously. The first brute had slammed his club into her stomach; the second blow had grazed her skull.

"Hey, hey, easy on her head! You’ll kill her if you’re not careful. She’s already got a head injury; she’s spent the best part of the last week unconscious." Aymir met her eyes. "Feel free to beat her up good, just don’t hit her head and don’t break anything."

The clubs fell again against her arms and hips. Dizzy fireworks rocketed along her limbs and a few harsh taps at the backs of her knees dropped her to the ground. Rough hands yanked her wrists back; there was a clink of metal and cold cuffs braced her arms. More metal closed around her ankles and still more around her neck. Black swirled around her vision again, and with a sigh, she released her consciousness.

Intrigue?