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Book 1: Wanderer

By Stephanie F. All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Fantasy

Chapter 1

Her uneasiness grew with each slow step towards the gray walls that protected humanity’s one true sanctuary: Angel’s Keep. The city was the biggest congregation of humanity, numbering in the thousands when she had last been here a half-year ago. Those gray walls, taller than the old willows on the Star River, were supposed to signal safety. Only within those walls were humans guaranteed safety from the vampires.

To her it was worse than staring down mountainous gray-green thunder clouds that were so close to the land they could be touched. Ignoring the angel courier fluttering around her head, she stopped on the edges of the forest. She was in deep enough to be hidden from the guards on the wall but close enough to see the guards’ silhouettes. Behind her the sun rose and the deep gold of the rays told her it would be a rare, truly sunny day.

She watched the sun rise and saw the glimmer of the glory of Angel’s Keep: the Angel’s Cathedral. The massive building glimmered with pale golden light. The Cathedral wasn’t just the place of worship; it was also the place where the angels roosted with their couriers, angels in miniature. To make it even more special, it was where the Angel Steorra operated from when she wasn’t flying to the edges of the land managing threats the Stellar Guardians couldn’t. Which was to say she was always gone.

But it was over her shoulder that she looked longingly. The dark depths of the forest were murky rather than pitch dark and the shades of green, brown and gray blurred together. Closer by, each leaf and branch of tree and shrub alike were so clear she could count every leaf. Here the air was still and warm, filled with the smell of dead things covered by growing things. The odd spicy-sweet smell of wild roses filled the air. But it was tainted with the stench of contained humans with their rotting food and shit and piss. Here on the edge it was silent except for the birds that had no reason to know a hunter’s arrow or a child’s dagger. She had no choice but to ignore the lesson Nature had learned. She had been summoned by the Archbishop using the angel courier that was waving its hand at her to hurry. If she didn’t move soon it would start pulling her clothes.

With a glare at the courier and a bracing breath, she went to step forward when her senses pinged like the prick of a thorn. She pressed her side to the trunk of a poplar, holding very still as she breathed slowly to keep her pulse controlled. Carefully she peered around the trunk and flinched back.

Completely visible to her stood a humanoid figure barely twenty paces away in a patch of sunlight at once a shadow and a beacon. He was dressed in pitch black clothes, a long black coat with a slit in the back for horse riding but there was no horse in sight or scent. His white blond hair glowed like a candle, illuminating the gray pallor of his skin.

Vampire.

The smooth worn hilts of her throwing daggers were soft against her fingers as she gripped them. So the stories about vampires not standing the sun were lies. It didn’t surprise her but she never encountered them in daylight before in all her years of hunting them. The daggers would startle him, and even if she cut a critical artery it wouldn’t kill him. The shock however would be enough for her to get close to cut off his head with her hunting sword. But he moved just as she drew the daggers. She stiffened, going still, waiting for him to approach her. He walked away, as if he hadn’t seen her or heard the whine of her drawn daggers.

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