Book 1

Blood Blade

Marcus Pelegrimas


A steely wind howled. Like a colony of orange-vested ants swarming a freshly stomped hill, workers navigated the mess behind the mansion. The old house sagged and was collapsing in places that were cordoned off by bright yellow tape and sheets of clear plastic. At the back of the mansion, floodlights illuminated a massive heap of rubble separated from the dilapidated structure by no more than twenty yards.

As night had fallen, the land beneath the workers’ feet had grown hard and cold. Clouds filled the sky, smearing away whatever light might have been cast by the stars and the milky half-moon peering down upon the site. Scattered among different spots on the property, workers took measurements or huddled around small heaters that chugged next to portable generators connected to the mansion by thick cables. Beyond the reach of those lights, the workers farthest from the house walked on the fringes of shadow. One such worker stood motionless at the top of the heap, with one hand wrapped around a thin metal post and the other shoved deep into the pocket of his dirty coat.

The worker shifted from one foot to the other, doing his best to keep his balance on top of what was essentially a giant pile of dirt, bricks, and cracked wooden beams. Removing the hand from his coat pocket, he brought a walkie-talkie to his mouth and asked, “Did you hear that?”

A colleague near the western corner of the mansion pressed his eye against a small telescope mounted onto a tripod. When the walkie-talkie on his belt crackled to life, he lifted it to his ear and replied, “You say something, Brian?”

“Yeah,” the worker on the pile replied. “I asked if you heard that.”

“Heard what?”

“Some kind of rumbling.”

The man at the telescope chuckled. “The owner of this place said he heard screams a few times. You didn’t hear screams, did you?”

Picking up on the sarcasm coming through the radio, Brian said, “No. It was rumbling. Like…under my feet.”

“Just hold still so I can get these measurements.” Squinting through the telescope, he struggled to take advantage of the pathetic light and scribble his notations into a notebook strapped to his wrist.

“Can you even see me out here?” Brian asked.

“Barely, but I want to get this done so we can get the hell out of here. It’s bad enough we’ve got to do a topographical study of an old pile of garbage, but the deadline they gave us is complete—”

The view through the man’s telescope turned black, making him think his eyes had finally been strained past their limit. When the man looked up, he saw that someone had stepped directly in front of him to gaze out at the heap of rubble.

“Hey,” the worker said from behind his tripod. “Are you supposed to be here?”

The figure blocking the telescope wore a black coat that hung well past his waist. It might have been leather, but it had a slicker, shinier quality, as if it had been dipped in oil. He was a tall, bald man with black marks on his neck that stretched all the way up the back of his head. Before the worker behind the tripod could get a better look at the meandering tattoo, the stranger turned around and stared intently at him.

“Scott?” Brian asked through the radio. “Who is that guy?”

Stepping out from behind his instrument, Scott replied, “I’m about to find out.” He lowered the radio and raised his voice to the level that usually caused his subordinates to rethink whatever they’d been about to mess up. “What the hell are you doing out here? Don’t you know this is private property?”

The tone wasn’t working on the bald man. His eyes remained fixed and he whispered, “Stay,” as if commanding an overanxious dog.

“What?” Scott grunted. “All right. Whatever you’re doing, I don’t got time for it.”

Just then the ground rumbled and shook beneath Brian’s feet. He tightened his grip upon the post he’d been holding for Scott to see but was unable to keep from falling as the heap beneath him caved in.

Unable to hear the rumbling, Scott couldn’t miss the screams that followed.

The other ten workers, too busy to notice the man in the black jacket, now all looked to the heap where Brian had been. Those who hadn’t seen him fall were drawn to his pained cries. Scott tried to rush past the stranger in the black jacket to see what had happened to his partner but was knocked off his feet by what felt like a cement post slamming against his chest.

The bald man stood with his arm effortlessly outstretched after hitting Scott, as if working a kink out of his shoulder. As the other workers hurried to the top of the heap, the stranger crouched over Scott’s crumpled body and grabbed him by the hair. The surveyor wheezed and fought to refill his lungs as his head was yanked upward and pointed toward the heap. When he tried to pull away from the bald man’s grasp, Scott was driven to the ground by an elbow that pounded directly between his shoulder blades. There was a sharp, burning pain at the small of his back, followed by something sharp that ripped away the side of Scott’s neck.

“I told you to stay,” the bald man hissed.

The screams from the collapsed heap became louder as more and more workers added their voices to the mix. Some of the workers disappeared as if swallowed up by the heap itself. Others ran panicked from the mound, wanting only to get away. Just…away.

Scott could hear long, controlled gasps coming from the man pinning him down. Fighting back proved to be useless. All he could do was watch helplessly as part of the heap rose up, stretched out, and swung at one of the fleeing workers.


Scott couldn’t tell if the word was a statement or a question. He didn’t know if it was meant for him or someone else. He couldn’t even tell if he’d heard it or thought it.

The figure emerging from the heap was just a lump at first. It moved and swayed and flailed its arms, but it didn’t seem able to lift its own head. As it kept moving, more of the dirt was shaken off. Once enough of it fell away, the rough outline of shoulders and arms could be seen. Long legs, thick with muscle, held the figure upright. Its arms were uneven, yet powerful enough to knock one worker off his feet and send another to the ground amid the crunch of breaking bone. And still its head swayed back and forth like a disconnected pendulum.

Some of the workers managed to get away from the thing, but they didn’t make it far before the beast leapt up high enough to close the distance between them. It clipped one worker’s head as it landed, and rolled for a few feet before scrambling back to its feet to slam a fist into another worker’s chest and tear away a chunk of flesh.

“Get them all, Henry,” the man in the black jacket whispered. “Gather every last one.”

Scott knew he had to get away from there or end up like Brian and the others. He had to move and call for help, but the crazy bald asshole was pinning him down. As much as he wanted to run, as badly as he wanted to fight, his body would not comply. When he realized he couldn’t feel his legs or arms, Scott knew he was done. The ground was warm and wet with blood that had come from his own veins, explaining the cold dizziness filling his mind.

The crazy man knelt beside him. Blood dripped from the man’s mouth and coated his hands in a slick crimson paste. Every so often he glanced down at Scott, but most of his attention was fixed upon the filthy thing that recklessly jumped from one worker to another, snapping legs and clubbing heads with thick, flailing limbs.

“Leave some alive,” the crazy man whispered.

Then Scott heard a groaning wail that was too powerful to have come from any of the workers. The sound aspired to be human, but fell noticeably short of the mark. As the cry drifted through the air, the monstrous shape near the heap of rubble turned toward Scott and rocked back and forth. Despite his condition, Scott could still see

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