Home > Shadow's Claim (Immortals After Dark #13)

Shadow's Claim (Immortals After Dark #13)
Author: Kresley Cole

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


My deepest appreciation goes out to Louisa Edwards, Beth Kendrick, Kristen Painter, Gena Showalter, and Roxanne St. Claire, all fabulous friends who happen to be incredible writers (keep doing like you do).

 

 

GLOSSARY OF TERMS FROM

THE LIVING BOOK OF LORE . . .

The Lore

“. . . and those sentient creatures that are not human shall be united in one stratum, coexisting with—yet-secret from—man’s.”

• Most are immortal, can regenerate from injuries, and can only be killed by mystical fire or beheading.

• Their eyes change to a breed-specific color with intense emotion.

The Vampires

“In the first chaos of the Lore, a brotherhood of vampires dominated by relying on their worship of logic and absence of mercy. They sprang from the harsh steppes of Dacia and migrated to Russia, though some say a secret enclave, the Daci, live in Dacia still.”

• Each adult male vampire seeks his Bride, his eternal wife, and walks as the living dead until he finds her.

• A Bride will render his body fully alive, giving him breath and making his heart beat, a process known as blooding.

• Tracing is teleporting. A vampire can only trace to destinations he’s previously been or to those he can see.

• Three vampire factions exist: the Forbearer Army (turned humans), the Horde (flesh-takers), and the Dacians . . .

The Dacians

“Whispered to have vast intellects and stony hearts, the vampires of mist and legend observe the Lore with dispassionate eyes. Cursed with unending strife until the House of Old rises. . . .”

• Dacia’s closed kingdom, the Realm of Blood and Mist, is said to be hidden within a hollowed-out mountain range.

• Do not drink blood from the flesh.

• The Daciano royal family consisted of five arms, each with a sacred duty to the realm.

• Upon the old king’s death, and the rightful heir’s disappearance, the family fractured into warring houses.

The Sept of Sorceri

“The Sept forever seek and covet others’ powers, challenging and dueling to seize more—or, more darkly, stealing another’s sorcery. . . .”

• Born with one innate power, their root power.

• One of the physically weaker species in the Lore, they used elaborate armors to protect their bodies. Eventually they held metals—and especially gold—sacred.

The Demonarchies

“The demons are as varied as the bands of man. . . .”

• A collection of demon dynasties.

• Most demon breeds can teleport to places they’ve previously been.

• A male demon must have intercourse with a potential mate to ascertain if she’s truly his—a process known as attempting.

The Death Demons

“Violent, warlike, and ruthless, they constantly hunger for their next kill—and the strength it brings. . . .”

• A demonarchy located in the plane of Abaddon, once famed for its blood sport tournaments.

• Harvest power with each kill they make.

The Vrekeners

“Death descends on swift wings. The righteous reckoning of the Lore, they strike like a plague from the heavens, their wings blocking out the light of the sun, casting the land in shadow.”

• Mortal enemies of the Sept of Sorceri, who they consider wicked and unclean.

• They live in the air territories. Their royal seat is Skye Hall.

The Accession

“And a time shall come to pass when all immortal beings in the Lore, from the Valkyrie, vampire, Lykae, and demon factions to the phantoms, shifters, fey, and sirens . . . must fight and destroy each other.”

• A kind of mystical checks-and-balances system for an ever-growing population of immortals.

• Two major alliances: the Pravus Rule and the Vertas League.

• Occurs every five hundred years. Or right now . . .

 

 

“Wrong an assassin’s woman—and he will make you pay.”

—TREHAN CRISTIAN DACIANO,

PRINCE OF DACIA,

LAST SCION OF THE HOUSE OF SHADOW


“I thought gold was the most precious and beautiful thing on earth. Until I met him.”

—PRINCESS BETTINA OF ABADDON,

KINGDOM OF THE DEATHLY ONES

 

 

A savage kick to Princess Bettina of Abaddon’s back severed her spinal cord.

A blessing.

The searing pain that had been clawing through her entire being faded below her waist to pinpoints of pressure, then tingles, then . . .

Nothing.

Blessing. She’d long since stopped begging for her life, knew she’d never leave this field of poppies alive.

The four winged monsters who’d dragged her here had plans for her: as much agony as possible before her death.

Just as their kind had delivered to her sorceress mother twenty years before.

Though half demon, Bettina was weak in body, hopeless at fighting. She’d depended on her Sorceri power for protection—the one that these Vrekeners had siphoned from her as easily as they’d snatched the clothes from her body.

No longer could she open her swollen eyes. Her last sight? The leader standing over her, brandishing a scythe, his eyes frenzied. His claw-tipped wings had blocked the light of a low yellow moon. The scythe’s blade wasn’t fashioned out of metal, but of black flame. . . .

Yet Bettina could still hear, was still aware. In the distance, a new age band played in an outdoor arena. Young mortals danced and sang—

The force of one kick jostled her over onto her belly. Her mauled face shoved against crushed poppies. The leader played with her as a hawk would a mouse, ravaging the meat from its bones. His followers jeered and doused her with bottles of spirits.

Menacing yells, steel-toed boots, the blistering sting of alcohol.

Ah, gods, she was too aware. She tried desperately to lose herself in memories of a boy with smiling blue eyes and sun-kissed hair.

He doesn’t know how much I love him. So many things I wish I’d done—

Her upper body exploded with even more pain, as if to compensate for the numbness in her fractured legs. She could perceive her broken ribs jutting from her skin. Her mangled arms draped limply across the ground where they’d fallen when she’d last tried to protect her head. . . . Anguish multiplied.

Or perhaps the Vrekeners’ blows rained down more swiftly. The kill was near.

All she’d wanted was to go to a party with her mortal college friends. She’d been excited, happy to fit in with them, or to appear to—as a halfling, she’d never fit in before. Little did she know that she’d already drawn her enemy’s notice with her sorcery. She’d never intentionally used it—

Over all other pain, she perceived the heat of that burning scythe descending ever closer to her. Hotter, hotter, scorching.

Alcohol on her skin, the black flame . . .

Bettina choked on a sob. They planned to burn her?

Suddenly she felt weightless. This is what dying feels like?

No, she was traveling. Summoned? Dear gods, yes, the demon in her had been summoned across realms. Naked, powerless, sightless, she slipped from that field in the mortal world to her home plane of Abaddon.

In a flash, the poppies were replaced by cold marble, a balm on what was left of her skin. That awareness returned. I’m lying on the floor of my castle’s court, broken, wearing only my blood and the Vrekeners’ rank liquor. The courtiers still gossip and laugh. Can’t they see me?

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