Authors: Megan Derr
Tags: #M/M romance, fantasy, Lost Gods series
Nine gods ruled the world, until the ultimate betrayal resulted in their destruction. Now, the world is dying and only by restoring the Lost Gods can it be saved.
Sealed off from the world for nine hundred years, Schatten is a country of darkness and mystery. The power of Teufel, Shadow of the Lost Licht, keeps the rest of the world out, and his deadly Sentinels keep the people of Schatten in. Their only hope for salvation lies in a single line of ancient prophecy.
Sasha wakes up with no memory of where he is, how he got there—or who he is. All he remembers is his name, and falling to a terrible beast with burning violet eyes. All he possesses are the clothes he wears, the weapons he carries, and a strange ring. All he can do is venture deeper into the land of snow and ice in which he is lost, hoping that eventually he will find answers.
Chaos, the Lost Gods 5
By Megan Derr
Published by Less Than Three Press LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.
Edited by Samantha M. Derr
Cover designed by London Burden
This book is a work of fiction and as such all characters and situations are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental.
Second Edition September 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Megan Derr
Printed in the United States of America
Chapter One: Visions
The dark of a moonless night. Anything can happen when nothing can be seen.
Friedrich jerked his head up as he heard someone speaking, daring to interrupt him in the middle of a Seeing. Whipping around, he scowled at Karl, the Master Seer and his second in command. "What do you want?"
Karl bowed, but if ever a man could display impudence in a bow, it was Karl. "My pardon, High Seer. I only came to see how you were doing, as we have not seen you all day."
"I am Seeing; it is what Seers do," Friedrich replied.
Do they also drink the way you tend to?
"What?" Friedrich asked, realizing he had been paying too much attention to his own head and missed whatever Karl had said.
"I asked if you were all right. You have been pale these past few days and more distracted than is normal. We worry for you."
Friedrich sneered inwardly at that. The only thing Karl worried about was how much longer he would have to wait before he could usurp Friedrich's place. "There is no need to worry about me," he said and turned back to the altar he had been facing.
Normally, the Altars of Vision held obsidian bowls filled with water. When a penitent sought his future, the Seer added the penitent's blood, the Seer's blood, and Essence of Moon to the bowl. In the glow of the beeswax candles on either side of the bowl, the Seer was able to foretell the penitent's fate.
The bowl in front of Friedrich was empty, however; it had not been used since Friedrich had assumed the mantle of High Seer and the large prayer room had been assigned to him. Unlike the other priests, Friedrich needed no implements to foretell a future. All he needed was to touch someone. Occasionally, all he needed was to stare into the penitent's eyes.
And sometimes, when he was alone and let his mind float, pieces of various fates came to him: wispy images, whispers in the dark, elusive scents, or the softest brush of fingers.
"The dark of a moonless night," he muttered again, eyes going distant as the vision overtook him.
An impression of sadness and a deeply buried rage. The pure, unrelenting dark of a moonless night. Anything can happen when nothing can be seen. A choice must be made: darkness or shadows.
He broke off, head throbbing and hand trembling as he pulled out a handkerchief to mop up the sweat on his face and bare head. Movement caught the corner of his eye, and in the moment before Karl realized he was watching, Friedrich saw the envy and loathing plain upon his face. "You can leave," he said. "Assure our brothers that I am fine, merely busy answering the call of our Lord Teufel."
Karl bowed and deferentially touched his fingers to the black circle on his forehead: the Eye of Seeing, a mark with which all priests were born, making their fate clear even as they drew their first breath. "Yes, High Seer. Please summon us if you have a need."
Friedrich turned away and waited until Karl was gone before sinking to his knees and burying his head in his hands. The vision had started several days ago, faint at first, little more than smoke curling in a breeze. It taunted him, teased him, drove him right to the edge of madness—and still he could make no sense of it. Could not get a feel for whose fate he was Seeing, or why he was Seeing it repeatedly. And he had yet to see the whole of it.
Whatever was going to happen, it was going to be bad. He sensed he knew how the vision would eventually end when the whole of it finally came to him. Teufel displayed rare mercy in the way the vision crept upon him slowly, allowing him to brace for it. He loathed visions of death; they hurt and left him drained for days. Friedrich dreaded the day the penitent whose fate he was reading finally arrived to hear it.
Turning, he sat down on the steps that led up the altar and braced his elbows on his knees. He tilted his head up to stare at the ceiling, which was decorated with an elaborate geometric design in black, gray, and violet. After a few minutes, it added to his dizziness and he dropped his head, closing his eyes to try and make the world hold still.
He heard the footsteps coming in the jangle of spurs and stood up before the knock came at the door. "Enter."
Two men stepped into the room, dressed in black leather and dark violet tunics split up the middle. They wore large swords at the left hip and coiled whips at the right, the metal bits at the end gleaming in the candlelight.
Friedrich drew his hands into the sleeves of his own dark violet robes and stood tall, staring down the sorcerers who regarded him with arrogance. They bowed low, before the bolder of the two said, "High Seer, we apologize for disturbing you. We come with troubling news and hope that you might offer us your wisdom and power."
"It is my duty and honor to assist those who serve our Lord Teufel," Fritz replied. "Tell me of your troubles, sorcerers."
The quieter one reached into a pouch at his waist and pulled something out, holding it out so Friedrich could see it clearly. It took Friedrich a moment to realize what it was: a Sentinel scale. It was the size of his hand and gleamed in the light, black as pitch but with dozens of colors deep within. Friedrich did not touch it. "That is the scale of a Sentinel. How do you come by such a thing?"
"We found it dead, High Seer. Not far from the village of Deer Run, half a day's ride up the Haunted Mountains on the path to Sorrow Cliff."
Dead? A full grown Sentinel? "How was it killed?"
"By blade and magic, though the residue of the magic was nothing like we have felt before," said the first sorcerer. "Men are guarding the body, and we have priests investigating the locals, but so far no clue has been found. It is like it was slain by a ghost."
"Absurd," Friedrich said dismissively. "Come, we'll go to the Hall of Vision." He led the way out of his private prayer room and down the hall of prayer rooms, beckoning to half a dozen priests as he saw them. Though he loathed Karl, the man was a good Seer, so Friedrich beckoned to him as well.
By the time they reached the Hall of Vision, he had collected eight priests in total. He walked down the long hall, which was made from gleaming obsidian heavily spelled to last the ages and resonating with the power of Seeing.
No one should be able to kill a Sentinel,
the voice in his head said pensively.
Friedrich flinched inwardly.
Well, should does not always mean much. Be quiet. This is not going to be an easy Seeing and your nattering won't help.
Rumbling softly, the voice nevertheless obeyed and subsided. Relieved, Friedrich took his place at the vision pool. It was built in the shape of a crescent moon, the black walls of the pool making the water dark. The eight priests he'd brought with him gathered around the outside of the crescent, from tip to tip, while he stood in the curve.
Drawing the knives kept at their waists, each priest slit his thumb and let their blood drip into the black water. Friedrich slit his own thumb, but let the blood drip into a small crystal bottle in which swirled the silvery, pearlescent Essence of Moon. It turned pink with his blood, and he poured the whole of it into the pool.
It shimmered briefly before it settled into darkness again, but swirled occasionally with red and silver. Closing their eyes, the priests began to pray. Nine priests to lend their powers of Seeing to reach across all the land: eight to anchor, one to See.
The vision, when it came, started out surprisingly gentle. Friedrich wished it hadn't, because what started easy usually ended with him unconscious. But such things were his fate, and so he stared into the depths of the pool and let the vision have him.
Darkness. A natural darkness. It was night and the moon had only just begun to wax. He felt the beast before he saw it, a pool of gleaming black that made the night around it a paltry imitation of darkness. Its breath steamed in the cold air, clawed feet crackling the snow and ice. Its eyes gleamed violet, burning stars fallen to the earth to menace the children of shadows.
Friedrich felt contempt ripple through his mind, but also amusement, as he uncoiled the whip he wore at his right hip. He flicked it with practiced ease, cracking the calm of the night. The Sentinel growled, the sound so deep it vibrated in his chest.
Another crack. Another. Alarming the Sentinel, whose eyes burned but could not see well. With its hearing fractured by the cracking of the whip, it faltered, reared back, slipped in the snow, and then roared in pain and anger as the whip came down and struck a real blow.