TO BE PUBLISHED MARCH 5TH!!!
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PATH OF THE HERETIC
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Jason sucked in a sharp breath as the tiny scar across the knuckles of his right hand flared with pain. Clenching and unclenching his fist, he inspected the old wound, then snapped his head up to scan the New York crowd around him.
They’re here. That freaking thing always hurts when they’re here.
Jason couldn’t see the Legates yet, but the scar served as a sign that they were nearby. Taking another breath, he squeezed his fists, annoyed by the unending prickling.
It seemed to him that the pain had never stopped, ever since that night at the Evelyn & Laurens office when he’d punched Pariah, but each time the Legates returned the sensation grew stronger, thousands of pins and needles pricking his insides.
People scurried past, unaware of the danger that could destroy them in less than a second, some even smiling at Jason.
Blissful ignorance that can turn to chaos in seconds.
He squinted at the morning sun, and its blinding white orb turned silvery. It bathed the street with a soft glimmer, turning the people to beautiful creatures, their movements bringing perfect order to the everyday chaos of life. Every time he entered the Sight he knew he was home, and part of him yearned for the Unsighted to become a part of it, to be able to appreciate what was hidden from their eyes by an invisible veil.
Everyone moved in slow motion, threads spinning and spiraling in their wake, the perfect order about to be disrupted by the appearance of the Dark Ones.
To his left, about a hundred yards away from him, Jason spotted a massive pillar of silver light that he’d never expected to see in New York, especially after he’d found out that most Sighted preferred quieter places, not megalopolises.
Furrowing his brow, Jason contemplated the energy swirling around it. The pillar was too familiar. The aura was exactly like his, and as magnificent to behold.
He felt his pockets for his cell phone, fished it out, and hit autodial. After a few moments of waiting, he heard a familiar “Hello.”
“Tyler, something’s going on. Seems like our friends are up to something.”
“Well, you should’ve gotten used to it by now. Are they back again?” the voice on the other end said.
“Yes, but it’s different this time. There’s someone else here—” All of a sudden the wound flared with pain. “Ouch!” he hissed.
“Hey, you all right?” Tyler’s voice became more concerned.
“I guess.” Jason inspected the wound with a frown.
“I’ll be r—”
The connection broke.
“Hello? Tyler?” Jason said, then looked at his phone. It was dead. “Great! That’s just freaking great.”
Then he realized why the Legates had come. They weren’t here because of him. They were drawn to the other aura, and they wished to destroy it. That was why they’d been so persistent lately.
One by one, three dark shapes slithered out of their corners, filling reality with gloom and oppression. Here you are, he thought, nodding to himself, his lips curving into a shade of a smile.
Their ominous red light swirled past New York’s buzzing crowd, sending ripples of disquiet towards the aura’s owner. They headed in its direction, and despite the commotion around him, Jason sensed every vibration they caused.
He cursed and darted forward, elbowing his way through the crowd, realizing that a second’s procrastination might cost him too much. There was no way he’d find the same aura as his here in New York. And yet there it was, not a block away. He kept apologizing to the passers-by, eager to see who it belonged to.
Jason couldn’t let the Dark Ones get there first. If they pounced on the aura’s owner here, in the middle of the crowd, he would have to strike back. With his Light burning them like acid, he knew he could drive them off.
A woman’s scream slashed the city hum as if her soul was being ripped apart. Her agony reverberated off the buildings’ façades, magnified by the crowd’s anxiety.
The crowd’s transformation poured through Jason, overwhelming his senses. Each person’s heartbeat throbbed through him, each gasp trilling in his ears. People’s thoughts buzzed in his head, and he couldn’t drown them out. The Legates chose their battlefield well, Jason thought, watching calmly as something black whooshed past him to his left, then to his right. More screams followed, panic surging through the crowd like an instantly transmitted disease.
Suddenly, there were no less than twenty Legates here. “You bastards!” Jason spat, turning his head to see where everyone was staring. The crowd seemed to part before him, frozen statues with their hearts pounding fast.
“What’s going on?” the people closest to Jason murmured.
All of a sudden, a few black streaks dissected the mass of people, injecting more fear into their blood, and sped towards Jason. They thrived on fear. Any negative human emotion gave them strength. As the darkness of their Auras pulsed, his wound prickled harder. Two of them advanced on him, a third one joining in, encouraged by his brethren’s audacity.
Jason inhaled deeply, his teeth clenched.
Three … two … one!
He crushed the nearest shadow’s chest, causing the Dark One to land on the pavement with a thud, his body convulsing in pain as Jason swiveled on his heels to meet his next opponent. The Legate sent a crimson wave of light that Jason blocked and dispersed. The Dark One crashed into him at full speed, without remorse to Jason or himself. Both toppled to the ground, but Jason was the first to regain his feet. He sprinted to the Legate and kicked the enemy in the face. Seeing the creature’s pain caused a strange warmth to spread through Jason. He knelt and grabbed the Dark One’s throat in a vise that nearly crushed his neck.
Jason raised his free hand up and Energy poured out of his palm, creating a dome-like silvery shield around. He didn’t know how long it’d take them to get inside. At least he had some time.
“Why wouldn’t you leave me alone?” he hissed. “What do you want?”
“It’s n-not ab-bout you. It’s about h-her,” the evil creature said, its red aura smoldering embers. “Par-riah s-sends his reg-gards.” His face contorted in agony, then he forced a shade of a smile.
Jason looked up. On the other side, the Legates kept pouncing on the shield, kicking and punching it as they tried to make their way in, but unable to get through the defense. They couldn’t stay close to his Energy for long, each of them shooting away from the silvery shining after a few seconds and then getting back. So far the shield had remained intact, no sign that it might cave any time soon.
Jason turned back to the Legate he had pinned to the ground. As he squeezed the creature’s throat harder, images tumbled through his mind. Memories. The tunnel. Emily crouching behind a shield like the one he’d just created that had helped her block out the Legates’ Energy.
What the hell? Jason screamed internally. Unwilling to succumb to the Dark One’s influence, he resurfaced for a moment.
“I w-was there,” the Legate wheezed. “I saw her y-yyielding to Pariah.”
Jason shook his head, but more images flooded his mind. Emily writhing on the stone floor, Pariah standing over her with a triumphant smile. He was saying something to her, but the words were muffled.
“Stop doing that!” Jason said through gritted teeth. “Tell me what you want.”
The Legate kept grinning, even though Jason knew his Light caused intense pain to the evil creature. Realizing he wouldn’t get a response, Jason got up and stomped on the Legate’s skull, wishing to find release from his pain.
Instead, his shield crumbled to pieces and chaos ensued. The nearby windows exploded, the crowd swept off their feet by the Energy wave, toppling like domino pieces. Jason realized his mistake, but it was too late. The woman screamed again, and Jason saw she was the only one unaffected by the explosion wave, a silhouette rooted to the spot amongst the masses scattered in all directions.
Dark curls cascaded down her shoulders, chocolate eyes filled with panic, lips trembling in horror. He knew it was the woman whose scream had started the morning’s madness. A shadow loomed behind her, its hands wrapped around the fragile frame, bony fingers clutching her throat. As Jason concentrated on the woman, his throat constricted, deadly cold seeping through his body. The Legate behind her was trying to extinguish her life force.
Those bastards! Always hiding behind the back of the weak, he thought.
“Let her go!” he roared above the crowd’s din. “You don’t want her!”
He raced towards the captor and his prey in confident strides, weaving his way through the maze of cars and past the people who got to their feet, some of them bruised and bleeding after the unexpected fall, and slowly retreated to safety.
One by one the Legates emerged, forming a circle from which Jason was not supposed to escape.
“You can’t be serious,” he scoffed. “There’s nothing you can do to me.”
The shadow behind the woman smiled, and Jason recognized it as Damien Bale, one of Pariah’s servants.
Jason raised an eyebrow, surprised to see him still alive, especially after he’d fled from Evelyn & Laurens without Pariah’s permission.
“Didn’t expect to see me, right?” Damien asked. “This is not over between us.”
“Then let’s get it over with.”
As he took a step, Jason’s Sight flickered for a moment, the silvery glimmer replaced by dull grayness, like the world’s fluorescent lamp had expired.
What’s going on? It was the first time Jason panicked, the hair on the back of his neck prickling. Although still in the Sight, he felt like he’d been forced into a zone where he could neither defend himself nor save the girl.
With a grotesque mask of repulsion on his face, Damien grabbed the woman’s chin and jerked it from left to right. As the vertebrae of her neck snapped, Jason was blinded by a sudden pain.
The Sight dulled to a constant monochrome gray as her delicate form crumpled to the ground. Everything burned within, searing his insides, breaking through the defenses that were still intact, but about to cave in. That was when the Dark Ones unleashed a flurry of devastating energy on him.
Jason raised his hands, trying to block the Energy blasts, but another force he’d been unaware of made him surrender without a fight, letting them injure him. Like a pack of wolves, the Dark Ones closed in, delivering well-calculated blows to his aura. Damien lunged towards him and punched him in the face, then pummeled him mercilessly, breaking through the remaining defenses.
As darkness was about to envelop him, Jason registered movement behind Damien, followed by a flash of blinding light.
Exhausted, he dropped to his knees. The light sent warm ripples through his body, hope swelling in his chest. Good to see you here, he thought.
Any time, my friend, Tyler responded. Seems like you got yourself into some real trouble.
Jason’s consciousness failed him as Tyler grabbed him by the collar and tugged towards a yawning blackness and oblivion.