DemonBorn (Sample Pages)

Chapter 1

Lord Mostu sat in the dark, listening to the sounds of the sleeping house around him as he waited. The children's nursery was just down the hall from his own rooms, rather than being at the far side of the house where he could not hear their noises.

The noise of faint laughter was comforting, on nights like this.

His Clan guards stood beside the door, listening just as he did, alert and waiting for any command from their Lord.

The stars were bright beyond the window, and one edge was illuminated by the red light of the Child moon. The Mother and Father moon would rise tomorrow, while their Child raced ahead.

Faint red shadows of light illuminated the room, caught on the metal edges of his swords on their stand in the corner. Normally those would be carefully oiled and useless, kept by the Clan servants until they felt that they could no longer defend those they called their masters.

Twice in the last fifteen years he had found himself facing the shape-changing monsters with those swords. Like the children, he preferred to keep his weapons close.

He wanted to lunge up and pace, but instead he got slowly to his feet. Something about the night felt wrong. A shadow of wings flicked past his window, as it had twice before since darkness fell. He stood to one side of the window, then looked down as motion in the house gardens caught his eye.

One of the guards stepped up beside him, waiting.

The massive bird circled the grounds, silent as it would be if it was hunting, then dropped quickly below the edge of the ornamental maze that was the show-piece of the gardens.

Lord Motsu spun away and pulled the short sword, then hurried to the door of his suite, slapping the doors sideways along their tracks as he slowed. “Admin Saf,” he snapped, and glared at the two other servants standing with her. A Lander and a Builder, they shrank away from his glower but ignored the hint that they should leave.

Admin Saf bowed, slightly stiff. “Sir, you should be asleep.”

Lord Motsu seethed at that subtle command, as if he was a nursery-bound child. His guards stiffened behind him, hands on swords. Lord Motsu ignored them.

“There is something in the gardens. Come with me. All of you.” He strode through the halls, ignoring their meaningless chatter. They could have stopped him, but Admin Saf knew better than to interfere with him and the others followed her lead. The two guards traded a glance and trailed after.

It was the way of the Clans, to want someone to follow and accept that leadership once a person had been placed above them. The oldest records stated that the Clans had been created to serve the Blod, although nothing indicated how that might have been done. Their ancestors had decided that the simplest way to fill their purpose was to make the Blod dependent on them.

The easiest and most foolproof way to make the Clans follow was simply to lead.

The sword in his hand was a comfort, the Clans at his back less of one. He strode through the halls, but slowed as a servant saw him approaching and pushed the exterior door open.

On the stone patio outside Lord Motsu stopped and let the Clans come up even with him. He kept his eyes on the topiary maze, watching for any sign of the bird.

“I saw a gian come down in the maze,” he said softly, pitching his voice so that it would not pass the edges of the patio. The gian was a solitary hunter, but if it had been hunting something in the maze it would have risen again immediately—unless the hunted was too large to carry away, and the gian would seldom try for such prey.

The house admin nodded sharply, seeing his intent as easily as if she read his mind. “One of the creatures.” She caught the arm of one of her companions as he started to back away. “You're in this now. You're with me. Wodan, with the Lord.”

“No.” Lord Motsu met her eyes squarely, challenging. “We've done this your way many times, and always lost them. This time we handle it my way.”

The house admin opened her mouth. “Your way?” She sounded indecently surprised, although he had expected nothing else.

“Nets,” he said to the two men who had accompanied the house admin. “Large nets.”

“It will just change to another shape,” Admin Saf pointed out gently, as if speaking to an imbecile. Lord Motsu chose to ignore her and nodded sharply to the other two men, his eyes never leaving the maze.

With a final glance at the house admin, the two men went after the nets. They returned shortly, weighed down by the big nets used for the climber hunts. Usually thrown over trees to catch the largest number of the arboreal climbers, the nets were heavy and cumbersome.

Motsu nodded and led the way across the gardens, Admin Saf trailing sullenly after. She considered it her duty to care for Lord Motsu and his children—having him take those decisions from her hands was a form of heresy, in the Clan mind.

At the entrance to the maze he silently gestured the two servants to place the nets across the entrance, hidden in the shadows of the moonless night. Those two he stationed to the left of the entrance, with Admin Saf to the right.

If the thing they hunted followed pattern, it would only take to the skies in its gian form if it saw no other option. The things seemed to think that taking the form of a bird was beneath them, although they shifted to the forms of land animals and large humans easily.

All Lord Motsu and his team had to do was capture it.

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