Only five days until the Opsona Journey Series goes on tour!
What better way to get ready then to have another look into Fated Betrayal, book two.
***Content below is for ADULTS, 18+***
Opsona Journey Series Book Two
Eerie reverence echoed off the marble walls of the large community room inside this sacred temple. Distant chants of monks swept through the space and brought hope with their words and harmonic voices, raising up into the open vaulted ceiling. That haunting melody reflected off windows of thick colored glass displaying the stories of creation. Colorful murals of gods and goddesses covered polished marble walls and the large pillars that divided the massive space. The world felt right inside of this place, whole and pure, it was no wonder Serenity refused to enter with me. I didn't want her here anyways, this place was too holy for something like her.
The wounded filled every inch of the room, spilling over into the hallways that branched off into the various parts of the temple. So much pain and hurt in one place. The evil that gripped onto this valley was destructive, draining all the light and color from the mortal world. Yet despite the despair that lingered among the city walls this place was left untouched. Free of the fear and heartache, and the dark reaches of Serenity and her armies. None of it entered here, not in this holy place.
A shudder a discomfort ran down my back like it did every time I entered this temple, it was another warning. This one not from the evil that settled into Tentusa, but from the divine that guarded this place. The ground beneath my feet was holy, blessed by the highest of beings and the magic that lingered here could sense my muddled heritage. A stained mark on my otherwise pure Opsona blood. Even though my intentions were honorable, the higher powers which guarded this place still offered their warning.
One I acknowledged by bowing my head in respect as I approached the main altar which extended across the backside of the chamber. On it was an array of items: freshwater pearls from the lake of Rouren, meat freshly butchered, flowers from the rolling hills, and a few other oddities and luxuries all placed at the feet of the largest statue in the temple. A recreation of the Peace Goddess, a beauty with long flowing hair adorned with weeping vines from the Willioumos trees that grew in the cove to the south. They were a symbol of her virtue, her gift to the world, peace and harmony. She was no doubt the beacon of light that had wrapped this structure in its protective embrace. The offerings at her feet incentive to bring about the end of this dark ordeal these people had found themselves entangled in.
Serenity was here which only meant this place was marked for conquest. The vampires had been trying to overrun the mortal world for centuries like all the other dark creatures trapped in their own decaying realms. The last time I met Serenity, the Vampire Nation had lost all form of subtly and marched on the mortal provinces with their new powerful general at the head. She was unstoppable, unchallenged, until I dispatched her from this life.
We were approaching ninty-seven years since that day. Ninty-seven years since I plundged my dagger into Serenity's beating heart, and waited until it stalled. How did you survive? A troubling question to add to the mounting pile of worries that had flooded my mind. Among them was the vampires' new approach to their end goal. There had been no news of vampire or any other strange activity in the mortal world, which only meant the vampires' methods for conquest had shifted. They no longer marched in the open, or tried to overwhelm the mortal population with their growing numbers. In fact there had been no talk of vampires for decades, yet here they were. By the looks of it their plans to infect this world hadn't been diverted at all with Serenity's fall in battle.
But how did they go unnoticed?
The only way it was possible was if the neutral territories had been attacked first. The mortal world was divided among the seven siblings of the first royal family ever established in human history. Each one had a province with their own natural resources shared among the other six. It ensured cooperation between the different family branches through the generations. The lands that could not be settled upon in the division became their own free territories, often controlled by the lesser of proper society. Warlords, rouges, bandits, and other people that were less than honorable. It was in these strife riddled places the vampires could operate unnoticed, as long as they didn't stray outside of those areas.
Now it looked as though they had finished with the unclaimed lands and were moving into the provinced kingdoms. It was sly and lowly of them but I had to admire it. Out of all the creatures lurking in the Underworld realms, vampires were the most intelligent. Still with their attention moving to these more peaceful lands their presence would no longer go unnoticed. It was a thought that should have eased my troubled mind about the threat of vampire domination, but instead it worried me further because it meant they were ready to strike.
If Serenity was here in Tentusa then the Vamdari must have rebuilt their army, the most brutal and powerful of their kind. I had seen a fraction of their army overtake an entire race of warrior breed elves. They washed over them like an all consuming tsunami. No hesitation. No remorse. Just pure destruction driven forward by my mysterious raven beauty.
"The Shadowed Wanderer has returned to us." A large joyous voice boomed from beside me. I turned knowing it could only belong to one person. The only one that ever called me by that name.
"Magunis, a pleasure and honor like always." I greeted him with a low bow.
The old priest bounced his way toward me with his large stomach that protruded outward and often exaggerated his bouncy walk with a jiggle or two. Pure white hair surrounded the edge crown of his head, and traveled down along his face into a long braid which was decorated with shiny yellow beads to show his stature as High Priest. Robed in the same off-white garbs as all of the others, he embraced me in his large arms. The breath rushed right out of my slender frame as I was squeezed against that stomach of his.
"We have been saved," he exclaimed lifting me off the ground despite the fact I towered over him by half a foot. "I prayed to our Great Goddess to save us, and she sent you. Our hero!"
Cheers erupted from the wounded masses that had sought refuge in the temple, cries of joy and relief filling the room. Suddenly, the failed attempt at killing Serenity dragged my spirit down.
When I saw her there in the town I felt overjoyed. I knew what she was, I knew the darkness she harbored and the destruction she had once rained down on this world, and still I was joyed to see her. Selfishly delighted that I had failed and was now able to explore the strange attraction I had toward the vampire maiden, but my failed attempt now had me doubting my abilities. If I couldn't kill her what could I do to save these people?
And I had to save them, Rhea would have died trying to save her beloved Tentusa and I would do the same for her.
Magunis placed me back on my feet and I gasped for air, a lingering ache in my sides where his large arms had crushed me. "Please, I came to see her," I said, dropping the pleasured reunion with a solemn request.
I didn't have to say her name, nor did I want to. The thought of Rhea gone was not one I wanted to entertain. I couldn't. It would make it all to real, and it wasn't real until I saw the body.
Magunis nodded as his look of joy dropped with the sorrow of my request, and he motioned for me to follow him to the right of the altar. We made our way through a large wooden door that opened into a short hallway which narrowed into a staircase and then spiraled downward. Small candles placed in holes notched out of the old stone gave little light, because the dead didn't need it to find their way.
Below this whole valley was a massive network of chambers and tunnels that was all part of an ancient system carved out of the valley by a long lost Opsona Clan, the Fisargo. This portion, where the temple sat was the crypt, it was a place of peace for the dead and had been used over many generations. These stone chambers held the remains of nobility, a few royals, honored warriors who fell in battle, and anyone else whom earned a special place in these tombs.
The air grew thicker and chilled the farther we traveled down the darkened staircase, twisting around the worn brick walls until they turned into compacted dirt. Imprinted strokes from carving tools were still weathered into the dirt walls, little pieces of the past shining through to the present as we came to the bottom level. The stairs ended in a long tunnel which traveled to the left and right, narrowing into a faint glow at the end of each. It didn't matter which way you went, the harsh reality of mortality would be there to greet you.
That was not where Rhea was, Opsona were never buried in the ground nor held in some type of mausoleum. Our traditions called for ceremony and a fiery release from the physical form from which our souls would raise again to live on, but that would have to wait. I couldn't release Rhea until I avenged her untimely death, a promise that burned into my resolve as I watched a soft pulsing glow from a room just in front of us. She would be in there, the Dressing Chamber. It was where bodies were readied for their long sleep in the catacombs, adorned in the riches they couldn't take with them.
I felt Magunis' hand on my shoulder as he spoke breaking the deafening silence of the corpses. "I'll let you go first." I nodded without looking at him and headed for the small arch that led into the room only to halt at the threshold.
I needed to see for myself that she was gone, but I couldn't bring myself to cross into the chamber. I didn't want to know. If I didn't see her body, if I didn't touch her and know that Rhea was truly gone then it was like she was still out there. Rhea, the Great Elder gathering her scrolls and secrets, passing her knowledge on to those who would honor it. I could imagine her off to the far west, deep in the serene mounds of rolling sand that filled the wastelands. Searching for her next big secret, the proof to her wild theories and ideas… The eternal scholar.
Finally prepared I stepped into the room and the sight strangled every bit of life I had left me in. There she was, lifeless laying out on a stone slab. Candles placed all around her body in a shield of light, their wax running down onto the stone and pooling off onto the floor. I had never seen anything so startlingly beautiful with all its grim truths. Rhea was dead. My teacher…My master…My guide through the worlds cruelty. Gone from this existence so swift I couldn't even catch my breath at the thought.
I approached with uncertainty. They had clothed her in white, she would have hated that, and bowls of sweet rose water were placed near the candles to mask the scent of decay. This had to be some twisted nightmare I was being punished with. I reached out to touch her hand and I knew as a whisper of cold greeted my warm touch. It was confirmed now more definitively then before, she was gone. The mother I wished for was gone.
"How did this happen?" I asked choking back the tears that burned in the back of my throat. "How did all of this happen?"
I needed to know. Standing there in the city center and looking at the bonfire of corpses I didn't care about the details of the situation. I didn't care what was happening or what had gripped onto Rhea's beloved city. My only thought was getting to her. I knew once Rhea explained it, once I was in her council the world would be fine. We would face this danger together like we always had in the past, but now she was gone and I was alone with the demons of this world.
"She doesn't need your sorrow or rage Cret," Magunis consoled me from the entrance. "She needs an angel to help her home."
"No," I growled clenching Rhea's dead hand. "She needs this righted, and I will see it done."
Even if I need my whole-self to do it… My soul be damned!