Home > The Darkening (Dawn of Ascension Vol. 2)

The Darkening (Dawn of Ascension Vol. 2)
Author: Caris Roane

Chapter One

Near dawn, Samuel Daman dragged air into his lungs, each breath like fire as he surveyed the Superstition battlefield.

He’d been fighting death vampires for hours, like the rest of the Militia Warriors.

Sweat trickled from beneath his weapons harness and down his back.

Blood seeped in a few places as well since one or two swords had caught skin.

He was a f**king mess.

But the death vampires kept coming, floating through the dimension on arctic air, fresh and ready to fight, dozens of them hour after hour.

He’d never seen so many pretty-boys at a Borderland before, which meant of course that the chaos left over from Darian Greaves’s defeat in recent weeks, had turned up the heat. Maybe it was a good thing to have the Commander out of the way, but his generals had hauled the remnants of his army into pre-planned hiding places before Thorne, in charge of the Allied Ascender Forces, had been able to run them to ground.

Chaos now ruled Second Earth.

The f**king war was still game on.

At the very least, the current engagement required another eight squads of Militia Warriors. Thirty-two trained men. But what the situation really needed was another Warrior of the Blood who could handle up to eight pretty-boys at a time. Eight, while a squad of four Militia Warriors struggled to slay just one.

He extended his vampire vision and in the distance saw that Warrior Santiago battled – holy shit – thirteen death vamps, way beyond capacity even for a powerful What-Bee. Santiago fought with his back to the immense monolith of the Superstition Mountains, a Latin God in the moonlight, his sword moving like a silver streak of lightning.

Samuel whipped his warrior phone from the slim pocket of his leather fighting kilt and thumbed over the surface. He kept his sword at the ready and turned in a slow circle keeping his eye sharp for more trouble.

“Central Command, Jeannie here.

How can I help, Warrior Samuel?” He served as back-up to Section Leader Nathaniel. He didn’t like the job, but right now what anyone liked didn’t matter.

He explained the situation, that he needed another eight reserve squads called in and another Warrior of the Blood to the Superstitions on the double.

“Done.” He almost smiled as he thumbed his phone. The women at Central could handle anything. And no argument.

He took one last look at the field.

The Militia squads were holding their own so he knew where he needed to go.

One problem remained: if he didn’t release his dark power on the battlefield right now, something he never did because of the unpredictable qualities of his power, how the hell was he supposed to support Santiago? In his current state, if even three death vamps turned on him, he’d be dead.

Yet he’d vowed never to allow that power to flow again, because the part he couldn’t control forged random streams of killing energy, a terrible phenomenon that had happened a year ago, the day of his escape from a decade of captivity and torture. During his escape, launched by Warrior Duncan, Samuel’s streaming power had taken several innocent lives.

That he’d killed his captors hadn’t troubled his conscience even a little, but he still saw the faces of those guiltless men who had died despite his most strenuous efforts to corral the power and stop the deadly streams. They lived in his mind’s eye, hunched men, little better than slaves, who had cleaned his cell, bathed him while he was strung up in those heinous ropes, and who had fed him. More than once, one of those slaves had offered him a vein, which he’d taken greedily, as blood-starved as he’d been.

Their deaths lived like a terrible fire in his soul and for that reason alone he held back.

He flexed his sword in his hand, his gaze fixed on Santiago. The warrior’s situation hadn’t improved and back-up still hadn’t arrived.

Slowly he started to cross the desert in his direction. With thirteen pretty-boys still harassing him, and not one having yet fallen, it would only be a matter of time.

Shit, a single misstep on the What-Bee’s part, and he’d be dead.

Samuel needed to release his dark power, but if he did, would Santiago get caught in one of those terrible, uncontrollable energy streams?

He heard Santiago give a shout, calling for back-up.

Samuel couldn’t remember the last time a Warrior of the Blood had called for back-up.

If he didn’t do this, if he didn’t at least try, a Warrior of the Blood would die tonight and it would be on his head for eternity.

He’d just run out of choices.

Settling into himself as much as he could, he reached deep into his soul, the place where he’d found all that power, that had helped him escape a decade of torture.

With his chin low to his chest, and his gaze fixed on Santiago, he allowed the power to take him over, to rise in a dark, possessive tide, up and up, building an excess of strength into every limb until his quads twitched, his biceps flexed, and his molars ground against each other.

The darkness moved straight up, invading his body, searing his muscles, power that didn’t belong in this ascended world, not on Second Earth at least. No, this had always felt like something greater, like a Third Earth manifestation.

And with the power, a smoky mist rose from his body, a dark thin cloud that swirled around him.

More power followed and the bloodied sword in his right hand no longer felt heavy from tedious hours of battling, but became light as a feather.

He held his position, however, waiting to see if the deadly streams of energy flowed from him. If they made even the smallest appearance, he’d fold himself to the middle of the desert in order to keep from killing his brothers-in-arms.

But he felt nothing as he had the night of his escape, when rage had flooded his heart and mind and delivered up this power for the first time.

In fact, he felt in control of what now possessed him and when Santiago shouted again, Samuel made his decision.

The time had come.

He folded three feet behind the arc of the black-winged bastards that kept Santiago pressed against the mountain wall.

“Hey, a**holes,” he called out.

Two of the pretty-boys turned around, a big mistake for one of them.

Santiago, who had battled at Warrior of the Blood level for most of his life, took advantage of Samuel’s move and drove his sword straight through the death vampire’s kidneys, sending his shriek into the air and his body lurching forward into cactus and dirt. Without missing a beat, Santiago returned to battling the rest of them, his sword once more moving in swift slices.

The second death vamp offered Samuel a slow smile and in any other situation, he’d have reason to fear the significantly more powerful death vampire. A big motherfucker, this one definitely carried more muscle mass, though he matched Samuel’s six-five height.

But Samuel knew his strength, so he smiled in return, which gave the bastard a moment’s pause before he engaged.

Samuel’s sword met steel, the strike sending a heavy vibration up his right arm.

He countered, and smiled as the pretty- boy took a step back. The death vampire was incredibly beautiful with long dark hair, a porcelain complexion, and an aligning of features that eventually made him and all his murdering kind look alike.

Purpose?

Enthrallment, of course.

Bastards.

The death vampire finally lost all his good-humor and came back enraged that he’d lost his easy victory. He even whistled for back-up.

Samuel’s turn to smile. “Can’t do this alone?

Bring it, pretty-boy.” The nickname sent color at last into the death vamp’s oh-so-lovely complexion as well as a series of reckless moves.

A few seconds later, as Samuel continued to match his slices and thrusts, one of his fellow vamps joined him.

Samuel kept summoning the dark power and his muscles filled with all that incredible strength. He gave it free rein because these bastards needed to die.

Death vampires drank the innocent to death in order to get at the euphoric nature of dying blood.

He folded, spun, and caught one of the death vamps straight across the hamstrings so that the pretty-boy dropped to his knees.

Just as the other turned to engage, Samuel folded again, but instead of landing on earth, he materialized in the air above his enemy, something rare in his world. He brought his dagger from his weapons harness into his left hand and as he came down on the vamp, drew the sharp blade in a clean cut across his throat.

Samuel folded once more, spinning mid-dematerialization then reappearing behind two death vamps still battling Santiago. The rest of the action became a blur of cutting tendons, running slices through wing-locks, and of course taking off the oh-so-beautiful heads of his enemy.

He breathed hard when the last headless corpse leaked blood over the dirt. He stood with arms wide, sword up, still on alert as his gaze searched for the enemy high in the air and into every crevice of the monolith.

“Samuel? Is that you, hermano?” He heard his name and spun in Santiago’s direction. A metallic smell coated the dusty desert air.

The famous warrior looked at ease, wiping his blade down with a cloth he’d folded into his hand. His sword had a ruby set in the center of the cross-guard.

“Fuck,” Samuel spit. He’d meant to get the hell out of there before Santiago took stock of him, but the battle had kicked his fighting rage into high gear and all he could think about was being ready for the next round.

Santiago drew his thin warrior phone into his hand and called for clean-up.

When he ended the call, he said, “Close your eyes.” Samuel dropped his lids and a flash told him that Jeannie had orchestrated a full scale removal of disconnected debris including corpses, body parts, and blood.

The process took only a couple of seconds, so yes, Central had power. He popped his eyes open and here was one miracle of their world, that they now had technology to leave a pristine desert behind after a battle.

“When were you going to show Luken this power of yours? Or Jean- Pierre? Right now I’m not sure which brother will be more angry with you.” Santiago still had a Spanish accent, even after several centuries, something that tended to stick for all ascenders, depending on place of birth. Santiago was from Mortal Earth Spain a few hundred years ago.

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