Seraphim [Changelings Series Book 1] [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Michele Hauf
eBook Category: Fantasy/Mainstream
eBook Description: Winter, 1433--and Jeanne d'Arc's ashes still glow.... In the battle between Good and Evil, the Black Knight's sword fells enemies with silent grace. The Knight has sworn that fallen angel Lucifer de Morte and his cruel brotherhood will pay for their reign of terror over France--and over the d'Ange family, where nearly all have died a terrible death. All but one? Yet the Knight's hard-won battles and dented armor hide a larger secret. For "he" is actually Seraphim d'Ange. She is traveling to de Morte's demesnes, executing his demon henchmen along the way. Now, aided by Baldwin, a family retainer, and San Juste, a mysterious stranger, Sera grows closer and closer to her final target. Yet little does she know that there is one more aspect of power she herself holds.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/LUNA
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2006
This eBook is part of the following series:
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Lucifer de Morte tightened his jaw and clamped his eyelids shut. The sheep tallow used to oil his saddle oozed between his leather-gloved fingers.
"Just last night," Mastema's emerald-liveried messenger said in a tone too soft and fearful to blossom from a whisper. "I rode all night, my lord. I beg thee forgiveness."
At a dismissing flick of Lucifer's fingers, the messenger bowed and backed from the private chamber positioned deep in the center of the fortified lair. Lucifer remained stiff, his hand fixed in a scrubbing position on the cantle of his saddle.
To his right, a blazing fire spat angry sparks across the tiled Istrian-marble floor. The hearth—forged of iron—resembled a demon's mouth, complete with curved fangs, and above the gaping jaws, carved recesses for eyes where the flames danced high, animating the macabre face in wicked design. Overhead, suspended from the pine-beamed ceiling, a stuffed eagle, preserved and mounted with its eight-foot wingspan regally spread, silently mocked Lucifer with its glistening ruby eyes.
The black knight, the messenger had said. Again.
In a rage of motion, Lucifer pushed away from the saddle stand and crossed the room, scattering tallow and steel saddle furnishings in his wake. His sword, propped by the hearth, flashed violently as he swung the jagged-edge espadon through the heat-festered air.
He spun once, his anger, the pure force of his loss, drawing the pain up through his arms and to the end of the espadon. With a grunt and a thrust, he dashed his blade against the stone wall. Steel clanged dully. Limestone chips spattered the air. He thrust again. Clang. And again. He smashed his sword against the wall until his arms burned with exertion and foul sweat poured from his scalp.
Staggering to the wall, to which his back connected with a jaw-cracking thud, Lucifer finally dropped his sword with a clatter. A spark from the hearth leapt into the air and landed an amber jewel upon the deadly steel.
Lucifer raked his fingers through his tangled mass of dark hair. He squeezed his scalp until he saw crimson behind his closed eyelids. The color of blood.
The black knight's blood.
Some fool bastard had taken it upon himself to exterminate the de Morte clan. Why?
No! It mattered not the reason. Lucifer knew well there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of reasons; the bones and scarred flesh of those reasons buried copiously beneath the frozen French soil or floating down the murky waters of the Seine.
But why now? Why, after nearly two decades of de Morte reign, had some demented soul finally decided to exact revenge? And to succeed?
Mastema had been beheaded in the middle of the battlefield. He always surrounded himself with his own men. Always. After learning of their brother Satanas's death on the field but five days earlier, surely Rimmon, Mastema's Master of Arms, must have been at his side, his eyes peeled for oncoming danger?
With a guttural grunt, Lucifer kicked at the flaming ember that simmered on his sword blade. It sailed through the air, a sizzling missile launched by hatred, to land in the fire with a grand explosion of heat and blue-red flame.
Still panting from the toil of his anger, Lucifer stood before the blaze, fists clenched at his thighs. Heat blistered his face in delicious warmth. He could feel the sweat bubble upon his flesh like the surface of a witch's cauldron. So difficult at times, this sheath of mortality that he wore.
But obviously not a challenge for much longer, if this black knight would have his way.
Satanas had lived south of Paris in Corbeil; his nickname, the Demon of the South, as the villagers had taken to calling him. Hell, half of France used the monikers years of destruction and debauchery had attributed to the de Morte brothers. Mastema, the West Demon, had resided in Poissy. Sammael, the Demon of the East, resided in Meaux. The four brothers surrounded Lucifer, who lived in Paris.
But if the black knight was systematically attempting to erase the de Mortes from the planet, north would be his obvious next move.
Squeezing his fists so tight the tallow and sweat and his own blood mixed to a hideous ooze, Lucifer decided on his course of action. He would not leave his own fortress to aid his youngest brother. Abaddon was an ox in size and vigor; he did not require Lucifer's help to flick away an offensive gnat like the black knight.
But he would send out a scout—no, a mercenary—to track this vengeful knight, and stop him in his tracks before Abaddon even need worry about defending himself against the revenge the de Morte family surely deserved, but would never tolerate.
* * *
The road to Pontoise stretched a long white ribbon this chill January eve. Flakes as light yet massive in size as swan's down fell quietly through the night. Seraphim blew a breath through her nose. Ignoring the ice-fog that lingered in a pale cloud before her, she slipped the leather hood from her head. She scratched a hand over her newly shorn locks and eased her heels into Gryphon's flanks to pick up the pace.
Gryphon had been her brother Antoine's prized mount. A fine black Andalusian bred for battle stealth and stamina, it measured near to sixteen hands. The beast's coat glimmered a blue sheen under sun and moon. "Power," Antoine had always whispered, as he'd brush down Gryphon's coat—a formidable partner to sword and shield.
Behind Sera, Baldwin dutifully followed on his borrowed roan, clad in borrowed clothes and borrowed life. He was a reluctant squire to Sera's bold, black knight. The man—teen—had been studying under the tutelage of the abbe Belloc, an ill attempt at penance against his former life, when Lucifer de Morte's raid upon the d'Ange castle the first morning of the New Year had taken down all but a handful of household servants and knights.
Copyright © 2004 by Michele Hauf