New Character Alert: Raphael (Book 1 of the Marked Series) Release Date TBD

Chapter Two A Slave With Two Tongues

1350 A.D.

Nothing but the sound of his own heartbeat flooded his brain as he drove his blade deep into the chest cavity of the entity that had long plagued his village with a war that seemed to be as endless as Time itself. The two clans had been warring for so long that no one really knew how or when it started. But he knew one thing; he was going to finish it one way or the other. He would not bring his children into the world to fight what their father could not, and never know the sweet joy of what true peace felt like. They would never live in fear; know what it takes to the learn the mysteries of the swords they would carry…no. This fight would end before they entered into the world; there is already enough evil and turmoil in the world that they would have to adjust to and dealing with the Lizard clan was not an option.

The sword pierced the black heart of the Lizardman before exiting through his back. The creature’s eyes widened, his red pupils expanding then retracting as he screamed and gurgled before his body finally succumbed to the darkness from which it originated from, and Raphael watched without emotion as the lifeless body collapsed onto the muddy ground. His brothers were busy themselves, fighting back the enemy that had destroyed the hundreds of small villages that surrounded their main stronghold. The Isle of Capsos’ which was just north of Ireland and almost twice its size had become a booming nation in the sea trades, and his family had not only been one of the few ruling class families that dominated the ports, but were also of warrior blood. Training in combat had been one of his family’s specialties, and many generations before him, men of his breeding also took interest in the business of mercenary work; hiring off their skill set in exchange for exorbitant pay by the princes, kings, and men of power and prestige seeking to put an end to their enemies.

He skillfully dodged a swing from behind, and turned to face his enemy: another one of those disgusting soldiers. Red hateful eyes greeted him with a twisted snarl. The human entity that met him with a serrated toothy grin, stood at almost 9 feet in height, and built like one of the many Redwoods that offered a protective refuge to his camp. The Lizard man, as those of his kind were called, wore nothing but tattered rags that barely covered his waist, leaving a great deal of his body exposed and vulnerable. Raphael reacted quickly and lowered a powerful punch into the creature’s jaw, forcing it to stumble back. Despite its lack of protection, the Lizards were a powerfully formidable race. They possessed skills that rendered them almost unstoppable in battle, well except for him and his brothers. They knew exactly how to kill them.

The creature quickly recovered and charged, moving at a speed impossible for the human eye to follow and slammed into Raphael, knocking him to the ground and into a thick puddle of mud. The impact, despite the muddy cushioning not only left him stunned, but left at a disadvantage. The entity, now piled on top of him, layered a series of punches to his face, and had it not been for Micah’s arrow piercing the creature from behind, Raphael knew that today would have been the day he met his fate. He rolled the creature off of him, as his brother emerged from the shadows, cautiously surveying the scene for a potential ambush. When he saw there was none he hurried over to his brother’s side and extended his hand which Raphael gratefully grasped, and helped him to his feet.

“Looks like you almost had it there brother,” Micah mused pointedly.

“Indeed I did…”

“Are you well?”

“Not a scratch.”

“How many?” Micah quizzed  still looking around. The sun had long set, and the surrounding darkness did nothing to ease the sense of dread that begun to fill the pit of his stomach.

“Twelve this time. They attacked the villagers on the eastern side of the lake. It was another ambush. Half of the village is either dead or dying. A few managed to escape and are taking refuge in the church where we have men standing guard.”

“They are becoming much more aggressive in their tactics brother,” Micah said rubbing the stubble that was forming on his narrow chin.

“Indeed. We need to figure out the source of their power; we know very little of their origins and have only within recent centuries have uncovered their vulnerabilities. Father says they may-“

“Enough for now,” Micah exhaled with a slight grin. “Your wife awaits you. She sits by the window  watching the sun rise and set as while the young within her grows. I believe she fears that someday you will not come home. Mother has tried to persuade to come to the gardens with her but she declines…”

“Ah, I will go to her. I had no idea that she awaited me with such longing. I have been too preoccupied with-“

“Winning a war that cannot be won. Our men are dying-“

“Which means our children will have to pick up the fight.”

Micah ran his fingers through his dark shoulder length hair that was  pulled back tightly behind his ears, and lowered his gaze. “It is an unfortunate fate to inherit.”

Raphael said nothing more as he tried to wipe away some of the mud from the back of his leathers, and tried not to think about the growing distance that seemed to have his pregnant wife beyond the edge of his grip. Something was amiss with her, and he had spent many days trying to convince her to open up but to no avail. He figured her moods may have something to do with the pregnancy and hoped by the time the babes were born, she would return to her normal talkative self.

He picked up his sword that had fallen just a few feet or so away from the fallen entity and returned it to its sheath. He took one last look at the creature whose race had plagued this nation’s history since its inception, and made a mental note to return after consorting with his wife, to properly dispose of the body. There was already enough death that haunted the valleys that kept his people awake at night, and the last thing he needed was an epidemic like that of the Black Death that was currently sweeping through Europe at rate that was almost exponential. When he was ready, he allowed his brother to take the lead, so that he may have time to gather his thoughts.

This was life for him and the people of Capsos; when night fell the blossoming economic cities had to take refuge behind monolithic gates made of iron, and the small villages had to hunker down as best they could underneath the protection of the masters of the castles that ruled over them in the areas that extended far beyond the grasp of the cities. And once daylight arrived, what it would reveal would haunt the memories of the people for a lifetime. Small towns burned to the ground, some of its residents left half eaten, or worse: turning into one of those lizard entities just to begin their own reign of terror in the next village.

They continued their walk in silence until they reached their horses on the other side of the bank, safely hidden behind a thicket of trees and bushes that provided the landscape a protective covering that would have been the perfect escape route for a villager on the run from the menacing jaws of Lizard men. Once he mounted his horse, an all-white mare of impeccable breeding, he would only have a few short hours to recover before he was out to battle again. Being a Shadow Warrior was indeed an unfortunate fate to inherit.

Annamarie sat nearest the window facing the gardens inside the stone walled monolith that not only protected her and her family from the rest of the world that is now being terrorized by the race of demonic men whose purpose was unclear. She brushed her hand across her belly, feeling the firm roundness and the tiny indent where one of her young had pressed upon with she assumed to be its foot. She smiled, but only for the minute joy of giving birth to children that are undoubtedly hers. Since the moment her nursemaid informed her that she was with child, while her husband found every moment he could to celebrate, and the entire fortress lit up with excitement, she knew that time had become her prison. Once the children were born certain undeniable truths would be uncovered, and then she would either have to flee for her life or risk being executed by the same man who protected her valiantly.

She blinked twice to shed the huge droplets that were making her eyes blurry at the thought of what may be a part of her fate. She hoped that the children come out looking so much like her that no one would dare to question their paternity, but then that was nothing more than hope. She had seen families where an entire brood of children looked like mini replicas of their mother while the father looked like the odd man out. It made her wonder if Raphael knew about her indiscretions and was simply waiting for the moment of truth before coming to a conclusion, but then again, unlike his brothers, Raphael was always the first to react.

She looked down at the gardens where she and her husband used to stroll hand in hand prior to the wedding. Unbeknownst to him, her heart belonged to another although there wasn’t anything about the warrior that made him difficult to love. It was just her father did not like the man that had stolen her heart, and he wanted her to marry someone that not only could protect her but provide for her as well; and although Raphael took his responsibilities seriously, and nor did he fail in any shape or form, but the one who was meant for the soul is the hardest to release, and that was just it in her case.

She carefully stood up so that she could grab a taste of the moonlight that washed over the acres of land that Raphael had declared as hers. The phantom moonlight caress was all that she needed to return to a semblance of “normal” just in time for her husband to arrive. She could hear him down in the main room with his brother Micah, his voice low in less than audible whispers for reasons she assumed to be so that she may be unaware of his recent battle. She dared not leave their bedroom where she had confined herself for many days because for one she was underdressed in the night gown that now failed to cover her growing assets, and two, because she just wasn’t ready to face her husband. She purposely kept her distance from him, and she hoped to do the same tonight.

She crawled into their spacious bed blanketed with bear skin, and thought to pretend to be ill so that she could avoid any of his questions, but most importantly his touch. She tied her thick waves of blonde hair high above her head to prevent him from being tempted to run his fingers through it. It had been months since they had joined together as one, and despite his bedroom skills were legendary, the burden that she carried did not allow her to enjoy his touch or his masculine scent the way that she used to. The idea of him touching her was enough to make her vomit.  She snuggled deeper underneath the blankets and closed her eyes and prayed that sleep would find her. As she heard his heavy footsteps in the hallway, his destination clear, a plan began to weave its way into forefront of her mind; and once she heard the door to the room creak open announcing his presence, she wondered if time would permit such betrayal.


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