The Devil and Koki-Ten, Book 7 of the Demon in Exile Series, is slated for release in 2022.
‘The path from desperation to hope is paved with stones of light,’ had been a common maxim of Pastor Albyn right up until the light ran out and the demons consumed him. As the steel door slammed shut behind us, I realized our path would be more of the same; the pitch-dark tunnel offered nothing for us to see.
We felt our way forward along the rough-hewn walls, stopping every ten steps to calm our breathing and double-check our count. There were turns and drops to make and plenty of other potential exits to use, but we only had one in mind, the one nearest to Sanctuary Bay and the untended lighthouse. If there were sails in the bay, they needed to know that we were still here, that we still existed in our bodies, if not our minds, and we hoped that they might carry something to sustain us all.
While there were two simple ways into the Duke’s Hold, both gates through the curtain wall being guarded and barricaded, others allowed for a hidden escape out into the surrounding mountains or down into the port. The route we’d been given offered us little in terms of actual escape and, in fact, served us up onto the wharf-side streets among the Infernal interlopers that had overrun our city. The Castellan had agreed to the mission and shared the secret route knowing that our trek would be one way only. Not wanting us to attract anything that might be lurking below, he’d barred our use of light and any attempt at coming back up through the tunnels.
I’d take my chances and go quickly rather than fade away inside the Duke’s ‘Prison for the Privileged.’ As captain of the Duke’s Guard, I’d enjoyed the same security as a warden of sorts and could have sent another of my men on this trip, but the curtain walls were shrinking daily and the space between them was a cauldron brewing darker thoughts for everyone to drink.
Duke Kelton, the old buzzard, lived in his tower, up above the growing din of desperation in his overfilled keeps. Still, it was his daughter, Miraa, whose eyes had seen what no one else could: sails of hope on the horizon. Of course, she’d noticed them at dusk, the setting sun outlining their presence for mere moments before they disappeared somewhere near the mouth of the enormous bay. That she still gazed out into the bay with hope after so many months was merely one more testament that Lady Miraa was far above us all.
Feth her too.
“Captain!” Corporal Jenkins tugged me back. “That’s twenty.”
Sure enough, sliding my foot forward, I found the edge, and my next step forward found nothing but air. I turned around and lowered myself over the edge, dropping the last five feet onto another section of tunnel and landing gracefully on my ass.
“Nothing to it, Jenks. Short drop once you let go.” I scurried out of the way and listened, searching for the hiss or rumble of a rill.
Jenks landed beside me, keeping his feet and pissing me off in the process. “No worries, Captain. We’ll get you cleaned up once we get back.”
Had I mentioned that Leni Jenkins was my younger brother and always a bit too wise for his britches? My lack of response only fed his grin. Sure, I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there, just like Jenks knew about the filth on my backside. Brothers were like that, and we’d grown up knowing each other better than ourselves.
“Start the next count,” I said, trying to focus. “Fifty-five steps and then a right turn.”
We’d both memorized the crude map in terms of steps and directions, not being allowed to bring a lamp or even a torch. An hour after our first drop, we’d found it, an underground stream that, with the near arrival of spring, was pretending to be a river of liquid ice. Tell me a demon is going to swim up that. Not a chance. Maybe in summer it could throw a party in the tunnel below us, but not tonight.
“Jenks, do you feel that?”
“What? The icy water?”
“No, the lack of anything, the pitch-black peace. No worries, no evil buzz weighing on your brain down here.”
“So, Colum, either we’re safe for the moment, or we’re already dead.” Jenks always had a knack for hitting the mark.
That feeling of safety had eluded everyone in the city of Kelton for more than a year, starving hearts and minds of hope and the will to live. Once enough of the demons had arrived, breaching the outer wall, a hunger had settled in across the city to vie with the terror that everyone already felt. As we considered the last leg of our route, Jenks and I felt nothing, and that, in and of itself, was a boon, a kind gesture ahead of whatever waited beyond the unseen rill’s frigid flow.
“Jenks, I couldn’t have said it any better. Now, let’s catch our breath and decide who’s going to jump in first.”
We both knew it would be me.
Published on March 25, 2021 09:59
No comments have been added yet.