I was looking for another excerpt when I scrolled by this section and thought it was a nice introduction to the events of War of Nytefall: Anarchy. Enjoy.
Eyes hurting from the sun, Gregorio Roman stays in the shadow of an elm and presses his red-tinted goggles to his head. The Dawn Fang is thankful when a cloud materializes overhead and creates enough shade for him to relax. While he no longer has to worry about losing his powers in the daylight, centuries of living in his underground lair have done permanent damage to his eyes. The ancient gnome chuckles at how his healing abilities cannot cure him of the problem, the realization having made him feel more mortal than vampire even before he became a Dawn Fang. Leaning forward, Gregorio takes a handful of grapes from the bowl his companion has supplied for their secret meeting. He offers to refill High Priest Huntley Pyodorus’s goblet since he sees that the Garian is nearly done with the drink. The white-haired man nods his head in thanks and pushes his glasses up his nose while he watches the wine rise to the brim of his cup. His body shimmers for a moment and looks to be on the verge of disappearing until he coughs and gently beats on his chest. The old friends chuckle at how neither of them are truly enjoying being in the woods even though they previously agreed that they needed fresh air.
“A vampire and a partial phantom having a picnic,” Gregorio says as he leans against the tree. Taking a sip of his drink, the Dawn Fang eyes a basket containing a variety of pastries and dried meats. “We make an odd pair, but nobody is here to see it. That is as it should be since we have a lot to discuss. I’m worried about this war. Clyde is doing his best to keep it contained, but it is getting out of hand. Xavier and Nadia are no longer talking to me about their business, so my neutrality may be at an end. What are the mortals saying and doing in regards to our actions?”
“This wine is older than I am,” Huntley replies with a smack of his lips. He tightly grips his holy necklace, which depicts the Elven word for truth in ancient runes. “I wish I had good news, but things are looking dire. The governments of Windemere remain ignorant of the Dawn Fangs’ existence. Rumors exist, but nothing they can substantiate thanks to my order. The Duragians are helping us now, which relives me of some pressure. Unfortunately, those who follow other gods are beginning to take notice and action. The Zarians and Ramites have been talking about adopting the Duragians’ crusade against vampires. Not every member of those orders, but ones that are fairly dangerous and influential. A foolish leader has supposedly appeared and is amassing a force to put an end to the threat. You probably know the type without me having to go into details. I’m doing my best to keep information away from them, but Garians aren’t the only ones who can do research.”
“So, the paladins have finally entered the war,” the Dawn Fang softly mutters. A violent shiver runs through his muscles when he remembers his previous encounters with the greatest of holy warriors. “Those types tend to be more zealous than the leadership and battle priests. With temples giving paladins free reign to do as they wish these days, I knew it was only a matter of time. Clyde has faced a few with minimal problems, but they do hold the power to be a major threat to Dawn Fangs.”
“Paladins do prefer to disintegrate enemies, so they don’t need to know the details on how to kill your kind,” the high priest mentions after he finishes his wine. The edges of his form turn dark purple as the image transfers the delicious drink to where his body is meditating in the city of Gods’ Voice. “There is more news that is being kept hidden from the public. We’re using the increase in the old-world vampire population to cover what I’m about to say, so I ask that you tell both sides of the war that this is the story. For all I know, the events are connected and I hope it’s the-”
“You’re rambling, old friend.”
Huntley smirks and pops a date into his mouth, but his eyes turn glassy as if he is on the verge of crying. “There have been attacks on people of faith. Not only those who have a history of hunting vampires, but Garians too. The bodies have been left as displays for mortals to find, so it’s clear that somebody is sending a message. I’ve talked to many of the murdered, including my top student and successor. None of them could see who or what attacked them. Some spoke of being grabbed while others were killed by invisible elemental attacks. A Vigerun had her brain melted with no external damage, which is the worst death I’ve seen. From my count, at least thirty orders have been attacked by this mysterious enemy. There are sign that point to it being a Dawn Fang, which is fueling support for a paladin army. Windemere has never seen a unification of holy warriors to this extent. Do you believe that Clyde can handle such a threat without turning the rest of the world against him?”
Gregorio lets out a slow breath and leans forward to grab a piece of jerky he has been eyeing for the past five minutes. Taking a bite of the salty meat, he stares at the sky and runs several scenarios through his mind. The gnome’s fangs slip out from between his lips for a moment when his frustration reaches a point he has not felt in centuries. A sip of wine helps calm his nerves and he is happy to see his friend is already offering him the rest of the bottle. Finishing the food and accepting the alcohol, the Dawn Fang can do nothing more than settle against the warm tree. A musical sigh causes a bird to respond with a song, but he does not pay it any more attention than a fleeting thought. Holding up his goblet, he waits for the high priest to do the same before he speaks again.
“My son will have no choice, but to succeed,” Gregorio declares, his tinted goggles hiding the worry etched into his crimson eyes.
“A vampire and a partial phantom having a picnic” reminds me of the jokes that usually go something like, “A rabbi and a priest walked into a bar.” 😄 But good insight about the war and what’s going on in a moment of calm that is probably all too brief.
The war definitely gets more attention this time. Figured it was necessary.
Nice way to set the stage for what’s coming. I like it.
Terrific excerpt, Charles.
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