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During Lucifer’s absence, a tall stranger dressed all in black walked toward his throne room, a black cloth covering his eyes. Nothing seemed abnormal about this individual, aside from the fact that he walked unhindered. This alone earned him expressions of uncertainty from random onlookers. His imposing height was well over seven feet, and his straight jet-black hair reached halfway down his back. He carried many visible weapons including a sword strapped to his shoulder and a dagger with a gold-handle tucked into his black leather belt. Indeed, to all who happened to gaze upon him, fear was the first thing that came to mind, as his expression of cold detestation appeared to be intended for someone he was seeking in Hell.

As he stood in the Judgment Hall before the massive double doors, he was challenged by a group of guards. They were obviously fearful, and none would blame them, after seeing the nasty sneer on his half-hidden face.

“State your name and your purpose for being here,” the captain of the guards ordered.

“I owe you no explanation,” the stranger calmly said. His voice was as dark as his overcoat. The captain was about to speak again when the demon waved his hand to silence him. “You creatures are all the same. Get out of my way! There’s someone I’m here to see.”

The stranger attempted to walk past him, but the guard grabbed by his shoulder. “You’re not going anywhere,” the captain told him. He nodded to the other guards, signaling them to draw their weapons.

“Ah, Captain,” the stranger whispered. “That would be a very bad idea.”

The captain of the guards had barely registered his words when a cold, icy steel blade was jammed at his throat. The tall stranger smiled. In a lightning move, he plunged the knife into the captain’s chest and dragged it to his belly, rending bone, heart, and bowels. Then he pulled his knife free and drew his sword.

A black fog rose up around him. Somehow, he could sense each guard who opposed him. He faced each man as if he was sizing them up, one at a time. The guards began looking at each other with fear and uncertainty. How was this stranger even aware of them?

His smile broadened. “Who dies next?” he asked.

Without waiting to receive an answer, the stranger dashed forward and, with unmatched speed, spun around and impaled the next guard with his knife while cutting another down with his sword of shadows. The cries of the fallen guards rallied the others to fight.

This stranger was anticipating a fight such as this and was confident because he had the advantage. Darkness. The dark power was coursing through his veins. He was the vessel of his rage, and nothing would stand before him or dare to control his life.

Guards kept coming to test his blade and wrath. Not one of them could hit him, as he was a living shadow. The guards were resigned to the fact that it was better to die by his hand than their master’s. At least here, death would be quick.

The stranger glanced around him at the onlookers who were witnessing him cut down their sons, brothers, lovers, and husbands. He didn’t care. Their souls would be reunited again in this dark afterlife. He continued to fight two, three, then six at a time. Whenever a blade came close to him, he would turn that part of his body into an ethereal form, avoiding any possible damage to himself. The unlucky souls that fought him received a gruesome death in exchange for their bravery. Blocking the next attack with his sword, the stranger brought his knife up and then plunged it into a guard’s hand, impaling it and pumping poisonous magic into the guard’s bloodstream, killing him slowly, as he crumpled to the floor.

The stranger leaned back just in time to miss the silver steel of a sword fall in front of him, missing a fatal blow by mere inches. Grinning, he kicked the sword out of the guard’s hand and elbowed him in the face, knocking him back several feet. Then the dark stranger smiled again before running him through clear to the hilt of his sword. Fear filled the faces of the two remaining guards, desperate for more reinforcements from the Keep.

One of them nudged the other. “Hurry! I’ll try to hold him off as long as I can!”

Kaylin McFarren

Laughing, the stranger sidestepped the guard and stabbed him in the neck. He was now standing in the middle of the fallen guards and smoothy spun around, daring anyone to challenge him. Even though he appeared to be blind, he fought as though he could see everything before him. Not even the shadows could hide from his sight.

The doors swung open wide, and Cyrus stood before the challenger with a sword in his hand. He glanced around at the bodies littering the hallway and shook his head. “How dare you come here!” he howled. “Do you not know who our Master is? What he’s capable of?”

Several nobles and council members started to run toward the villain, but then stopped as he lifted his shadow sword in the air. “I am the wielder of the damnation and eternal night!” he shouted. Hordes of shadows were instantly drawn to his blade. “I am the vessel of darkness, and, by my command, the dead shall rise and serve me!”

He slammed his sword into the ground. Shadows flew from his sword and into the bodies of the slain guards. Slowly, one by one the dead guards started to rise once more, wounds still bleeding and with vacant eyes that were completely black. Now mindless creatures, they were bound to the dark stranger’s will.

“Destroy everything and everyone. Leave no one standing,” he yelled.

With his order given, the ghoulish guards ran at armed council members with their swords drawn, ready for battle. The two forces met with a clash of swords and screams echoed. As council members died, they in turn became new ghouls, bound to the dark demon’s will.. Soon, understanding that he was the only one left with a soul that wasn’t taken, Cyrus began immobilizing the ghouls that charged at him, believing they could be turned and would fight for him. But clearly, there was no swaying them.

Cyrus was grabbed from behind, and at the same time, a ghoul on the floor began crawling up his leg. He batted the hand away and looked behind him. All of the ghouls were rising to their feet again.

“You will die for this!” Cyrus yelled at the nameless entity. “You should have done what you were ordered to do. Did you think my message was merely a threat? That I wouldn’t follow through with my plans?”

“You’re crazy for coming here! Lucifer’s power is immense,” Cyrus bellowed. “He will destroy you!”

“Let him try.”

Cyrus growled and charged at the dark stranger with a scythe, attempting to impale him with its blade. But he quickly sidestepped the attack, catching the scythe with the hilt of his long knife. He knocked Cyrus back with his elbow. Again, Cyrus tried to attack. Both weapons were locked together, and he was knocked back and fell onto his knee.

“You’re getting slow in your old age, Cyrus,” the stranger said, after deflecting his attack a third time. “And very predictable.”

“Who are you?” Cyrus demanded to know. “You speak as though you know me.”

Smiling, the stranger pushed his hair back from his forehead and pulled the cloth from his face. Then he opened his eyes, revealing empty eye sockets emitting a brilliant red glow.

“Vetis Kidadl! It … it isn’t possible. I … I murdered you years ago.”

Vetis charged at Cyrus’ face with his dagger and plunged it into his right eye. He smiled, pulling the knife free. Blood poured from Cyrus’ ruined eye socket. He collapsed to his knees, moaning, and raised his head slowly. “I’m sorry for the role I played in all of this. I only hope Lucifer forgives me when he sees the destruction you left behind.”

Vetis glared at Cyrus. “I’ll never forgive Lucifer for his curse and the part you played in it. A Black Dragon at night and frightening freak during the day. You should have killed me while you had the chance.” He sheathed his weapons and stood before Cyrus. “Your corpse will be of great use to me. When the time is right, it will assist me in destroying Lucifer and his psychotic, ill-tempered daughter.”

Vetis grabbed hold of Cyrus’ head and held it in a vice-like grip.

“Wha…AH!” Cyrus continued to scream as Vetis painfully held his head and remolded his face, completely changing his appearance. He stepped away long enough to pluck an eye from a dead guard. Then he jammed it into Cyrus’ empty eye socket and breathed a stream of black mist into his open mouth. When he was finished, Vetis stepped back for a final assessment and smiled.

“Perfect. Lucifer won’t ever recognize you.”

Cyrus’ corpse crawled closer and bowed his head in respect. A deep voice came from his throat, foreign and yet familiar. “Master Vetis …” He looked up at him with glowing green eyes. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve you again.”

“Rogue, you served me well in the past and I give you the honor of doing so again.”

Vetis looked at the bloody corpses surrounding him and the damage he had caused inside Lucifer’s Chamber of Justice. Mindless ghouls were still milling about, tearing arms off and chomping into them. Vetis realized these creatures no longer served a purpose, not in his deadly scheme. He waved both hands in the air and uttered Latin words, reversing the magic that bound them. They dropped to the floor, mindless waste to be cleaned up by Lucifer’s remaining guards.

Vetis chuckled and casually strolled back through the tunnel leading to the Gates of Hell. He had every intention of returning when the time was right—when he could face Lucifer and Lucinda and deliver overdue justice. He had also taken a liking to the auburn-haired beauty whom he had encountered as a dragon. One day soon, he would claim her as his own, stealing her away from Lucifer.

Ah, Samara Daemonium. You and I will meet again, I can promise you that, he said to himself. However, if you thought the Devil was brutal and cruel, you haven’t seen anything yet.



Kaylin McFarren has received more than 60 national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious Golden Heart Award nomination for FLAHERTY’S CROSSING – a book she and her oldest daughter, New York Times/USA Today best-selling author Kristina McMorris, co-wrote in 2008. Prior to embarking on her writing journey and developing the popular THREADS psychological thriller series, she poured her passion for creativity into her work as the director of a fine art gallery in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; she also served as a governor–appointed member of the Oregon Arts Commission.

When she’s not traveling or spoiling her two pups and three grandsons, she enjoys giving back to her community through participation and support of various charitable, medical and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Her latest time-travel adventure, HIGH FLYING, asks challenging questions that will linger long after the final twists are revealed. Recently jumping to the supernatural thriller genre, Kaylin’s clever GEHENNA series leads readers into the pit of Hell, through the mechanisms of secret societies, and across the earth’s crust, ever raising the stakes for her leading duo—a wicked demon and a saintly angel with secret earth-shattering agendas. With each story she writes, this author delivers unexpected twists and turns and keeps her readers on the edge of their seats, leaving them guessing and thoroughly entertained.