IN THE WORKS
Sequel to Enchant the Night
At the sound of a stag's horn, twelve Knights of the Dark Wood gathered in a circle beneath a full moon. Save for a gentle breeze that stirred the hems of their hooded cloaks, utter stillness surrounded them.
More than twenty-five years had passed since the death of Elder Knight Paul 9, killed at the hand of a Hungarian vampire known as Quill Falconer. A new Elder Knight had been appointed to take his place. For a time, every Knight in the country had sought the life of the vampire, but he had taken his witch-wife, Callie, their son and their daughter, and fled the country.
Tonight, the Brotherhood had met to pledge their loyalty to the Elder Knight who had been chosen to replace Lucien 32, who had briefly replaced Paul 9.
It was no easy task, being the leader of the Brotherhood. The Elder Knight made policy, administered punishment, made sure rules were obeyed and that the members never forgot the sole reason for their existence – the complete and utter destruction of the Hungarian vampires.
As the horn sounded a second time, a stoop-shouldered man clad in a long, white robe strode into the center of the circle. Staff in hand, he made a slow turn, his steely-eyed gaze settling briefly on each man present. "We are here tonight to remember the passing of Lucian 32 who passed away peacefully in his sleep a fortnight ago. By a vote of the Counsel of the Brotherhood, Gregory 73 has been chosen to wear the mantle of Elder Knight. His name has been sent to every member of our community throughout the nation. All have taken a solemn oath to give him their loyalty and their allegiance. Gregory 73, come forward."
A tall man clad in a black robe stepped forward. He was lean and well-muscled, with thick brown hair and penetrating brown eyes beneath heavy brows. Lowering his hood, he bowed his head.
The white-robed Knight handed the staff to Gregory 73, then placed his hands on the Elder Knight's head. "This quorum, representing the combined number and strength of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Dark Wood, hereby swear their allegiance to you, Gregory 73. Will you, from this night forward, dedicate your life to the mission of the Knights of the Dark Wood? Will you do all that is required of you, and swear fealty to our cause, which is righteous and just?"
"I will." The Elder Knight's voice, filled with power and authority, echoed through the Dark Wood like thunder.
"So let it be written," the white-robed Knight declared. Drawing a jewel-encrusted dagger from beneath his robe, he made a shallow cut in the newly-ordained Elder Knight's palm. And then he did the same to each Knight present. One by one, they clasped hands with the Elder Knight, mixing their blood together.
The white-robed Knight cut his own palm last of all. Clasping the Elder Knight's hand, he declared, "By our blood united, we renew our oath to destroy the devil-spawn known as the Hungarian vampires, as well as any and all other supernatural creatures, and to shield and protect any and all humans from their evil."
As one, fourteen voices rang out in the night. "We so swear!"
Gregory 73 sat in his cell within the Knight's temple, staff in hand. It was a small, simple room, yet it held the necessary furnishings – a sofa and small table, a comfortable bed. A stout oak chest held his clothing, his now useless invisibility cloak, and what few personal belongings he possessed. His first order of business was to find and destroy the witch who had betrayed them -- Ava, by name. She had destroyed the power of their cloaks to shield their presence from the Hungarian vampires.
She had also removed the enchantment from the medallion each Knight had worn to alert them when vampires were near.
He had overheard the Brotherhood lamenting the fact that the witch, Ava, had betrayed them, even as they discussed their urgent need to locate a new witch. Gregory quite agreed. A witch was needed now more than ever since the vampire known as Quill had mated with a mortal woman, something every Knight looked upon with repugnance. Destroying the Hungarian vampires – the only kind who could mate with humans-- before they could procreate with female mortals was the primary mission of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Dark Wood.
Gregory smiled faintly. Though the Knights did not yet know it, there was already a witch in their midst. Or, more exactly, a warlock. Gregory had kept his ancestry hidden from everyone, including the previous Elder Knight. But now his moment had come. No one hated the Hungarian vampires more than did he. One of the creatures had murdered his parents but now, at long last, he would have his revenge.
Still, he was not yet ready to reveal the truth of what he was. To that end, he needed to find another witch – one to do his bidding until he was ready to reveal his ancestry. And he had the perfect sorcerer in mind.
Wand in hand, he chanted the words of summoning.
Gregory 73 reared back as an enormous black vulture appeared before him. He stared at the hideous creature, the shiny wings, the wicked talons, the slash of white on the bird's head. Lifting his left hand, Gregory waved it in front of the vulture, from right to left, murmuring, "Rivelare," as he did so. Power filled the room as the name of the man who had been be-spelled appeared in the air. "Jasper!"
The bird nodded, its black, beady eyes focused on the Elder Knight's face.
Gregory shook his head. "Who's done this to you, my old friend?" Unleashing his Dark Magic, he walked around the scavenger. "Ava." He spat the name. "Interfering old crone." He murmured the words of an ancient spell of unmaking under his breath as he walked around the vulture three times, then struck the bird with his wand.
Multicolored ribbons of smoke erupted from the tip of the wand, swirling around the vulture, and when they settled, the witch known as Jasper stood in the bird's place, stark-naked.
Wrapped in a thick, woolen blanket, Jasper huddled in a chair, a cup of strong black coffee cradled in his hands as he related the events of the past that had led to his enchantment, how the witch known as Ava had rescued a Hungarian vampire known as Quill Falconer from a Romanian vampire, destroyed the vampire's coven, and turned him into a hideous creature along the way.
Gregory nodded intermittently. He had heard stories of the notorious Quill and his witch-wife, heard rumors that the couple had produced a pair of off-spring – a male and a female – hell-spawn that should have been destroyed long ago.
"How can I thank you for undoing that hideous enchantment?" Jasper asked. "Ask of me whatever you will and I will see it done."
"Yes, you will," Gregory said. "Whatever and whenever I say."
Jasper shivered as the Knight's power rolled over him.
"Fail me and what Ava did to you will seem like a blessing in comparison."
Jasper nodded. He might be a powerful warlock, but he was no match for the Elder Knight. Of that he had no doubt.
"After you are fed and clothed, I want you to renew the enchantments on the invisibility cloaks of my Knights, and then you will fashion new medallions that will alert my people to the presence of vampires. Can you do that?"
"Yes, my lord." He would do it or die, of that he had no doubt.
Perhaps being a vulture hadn't been so bad, after all.
Ava Magdalena Langley woke abruptly, all her senses alert. Sitting up, she stared into the darkness as she felt a shift in the universe. She honed in on the magical signature that had awakened her, knew a moment of dread when she realized what it meant. Black magic was afoot in the Dark Wood. A new Elder Knight had assumed the mantle of leadership and, unlike the last one, this one was a wizard and one to be reckoned with. Dark power swirled around him as he cast an ancient spell of undoing.
Rising, she went to the bedroom window and peered into the distance. To mortal eyes, there was nothing amiss.
But for those who had eyes to see, dark magic rode the wings of the night.