Immortal Dynasty, page 1
Age of Awakening
Immortal Diva Press
Copyright 2011 Lynda Haviland
Cover art design by Lisa Damerst
Kindle Edition - License Notes: This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, organizations, etc used in this novel are products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictional manner.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher, the hero hotter, or the heroine more appealing…Lynda Haviland’s world will blow you away!”
—Leigh Michaels, The Wedding Affair
Table of Contents
About the Author
Sample Scene from Immortal Dominion (Book Two)
This book is dedicated to my family, whose eternal patience with my writing binges allowed me to accomplish my dream. Thank you for putting up with dust, dirt and plenty of processed foods.
This book would not have been possible without a brilliant team of gods and goddesses. Their divine skills inspired me and gave life to this story: Ruth, my tour group goddess and mistress of symbolism; Ehab, my god of Egyptology (aka: The Silver Fox); Judy, my photographic goddess and eternal rough draft reader; Cecily, my critique goddess and convention buddy; Lisa, my graphic design goddess; and Leigh, my editorial goddess and mentor.
To all of my friends and extended family, I have always been in awe of your encouragement and complete faith that someday you’d see my book in print.
Of course, my biggest thanks to my husband Joe, the culinary god that feeds my body and soul. You have my eternal love.
Egypt, 1333 B.C.
Deir el Bahari, Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
“Do not be afraid, nefer.” Her priest stood beside, stroking her hair soothingly. She was a goddess. Of course she was not afraid. She clenched her jaw tighter to halt the chattering of her teeth.
“I will not be buried in the sand!” Vexed and impatient, she stomped a bare foot against the cold granite pedestal underneath. Alive or dead, everything here ended up buried in the sand.
“Shaila, please, you must remain very still.” His apple-scented breath whispered across her cheek. She felt his fingers trembling.
Covering his hand with her own, she reassured him. “Good life to you, my priest. You have served me with honor and loyalty.”
His eyes grew moist and shone with pride. A smile added more crinkles to his wizened face. He returned to his chant, a plea to the goddess Inanna to aid and bless this ceremony.
Flickering torchlight barely penetrated the darkness of the preparation room. Mirrors bounced images of dancing flames onto dusty walls. The smell of burning coal could not mask the acrid odor of human sweat. Her skin flinched as the priest applied the first strokes of a hot, sticky substance to her flesh. She heard two preparers laboring around her. One mumbled a prayer to the gods for forgiveness.
Anger suffused her body, giving her strength. She should have been able to live through eternity. Now she would have to hide from it. She was condemned to this fate because of Lilith.
That Underworld witch! Lilith’s dark soldiers now attacked daily, proving her determination to kill the child and anyone who guarded him. Shaila had promised to protect the babe, whom the prophecy said was destined to save her kind and human kind.
Shaila defied her priest’s order to be still and turned her head. The child, wriggling within a cocoon of linen on another table, shared her fate. She could almost smell the sweet jasmine soap his mother bathed him with. The tiny babe was eerily silent. Her lips curved into a slight smile as she remembered how strong his little fingers were. Barely a moon cycle old, yet he had gripped her braid with strength. She hoped he would be strong enough to survive this.
A preparer dipped the wrapped babe into a bowl of the sticky liquid. She could barely see the twisting form in the semi-darkness, but she heard his howls of displeasure. An instinct to protect poured like hot metal through her veins and pooled within every muscle. Sweat beaded across her forehead from the effort of keeping the beast inside her at bay, but a warning growl vibrated deep and low within her throat.
The babe grew still, and Shaila shivered as the tension in her body cooled. The preparer nestled the bundle into the stiffened arms of the wetnurse, who had earlier stepped proudly into the chamber, ready to serve her goddess. The painful process of embalming the living had wiped the pride from her face quickly. Hysterical shrieks of fear still echoed in Shaila’s mind.
A young scribe had diligently carved the magical spells of resurrection onto the lid of the sarcophagus which would carry the babe and his caregiver into the future. The walls beyond were filled with the prophecy in vibrant detail: the story and the warnings. Her priest, gifted with the Sight, had said there could be no mistakes if the prophecy was to be fulfilled.
Lilith would be told that her soldiers had succeeded in killing them. Instead, they would lie undisturbed, hiding from those who sought their destruction. Shaila would be a silent, golden guardian, protecting the tomb and its occupants until fate would free them to fulfill their destiny.
“Shaila?” She felt the priest’s fingers on her jaw, turning her face toward him as he brushed the last of the wet mixture across her forehead. In his final step, he took off his necklace. The golden symbols on the medallion glittered in the flickering light. Pure light energy pulsed around it in a blue glow. She felt him press the disk into the sticky layer across her chest like pressing a wax seal. “Close your eyes, nefer. I shall await you on the other side of time.”
Through her eyelids, she could see a golden light shimmering from the damp ceiling to the floor. Her priest’s plea to Inanna for aid had been answered.
A soft and familiar female voice hovered in the darkness. “I am Inanna a’k’Suen, Lady of Life, daughter of the Great Dragon Queen.” Hot air pulsated around them. Blue bolts of energy fingered across the ceiling of the dark room like lightning. “Shaila a’k’Hemet, are you certain that this is the only way?”
Shaila heard the concern in the disembodied voice. Her jaw stiffened by the hot, sticky substance, she answered back mentally.
Yes, Mother. If not this, then death will claim us before the prophecy begins. My priest has foreseen it.
“And his vision is infallible?” Disbelief infused her mother’s honeyed voice.
I would not otherwise trust my life to it. His visions are indeed vague, but have all come to pass nonetheless. And you know Lilith better than anyone. She will not stop until the babe has been destroyed.
“Cannot your powers protect you, Shaila?”
I cannot che
“His safety is indeed our responsibility. His destiny must be protected.”
And this will ensure that I am there to protect him…to train him.
“Then, we must not delay. My heart goes with you on your journey, my daughter.”
One swift bolt flashed across the tomb. An eerie silence hovered, followed by the hollow thumping of skulls landing on the stone floor. The human preparers had been silenced for eternity, so that none would know who hid in this special tomb. She hoped that all of their lives, and deaths, would not be for nothing.
“The water of life is removed from your veins.” Cold words from a voice so warm and angelic.
Shaila sucked in a deep, ragged breath as pain seared across her skin. Her flesh prickled and tightened as she felt the blood drying in her veins. She wanted to scream as fear gripped her mind. Instead, she gripped the dagger in her fist even tighter.
“Your astral spirit is separated from your body.”
Her heart pumped furiously, rebelling at the lack of blood to sustain it. Her world crushed in. Wave after wave of cold pressure pounded against her. She refused to allow fear to be the last thoughts in her mind, even as the final pulses claimed her eyes. The darkness consumed her.
The ending words of the spell were muffled as a final pulse of energy crystallized across her entire body, squeezing her as the metallic gold shell hardened. Slowly, consciousness began to fade…and she knew she feared death.
Oh, goddess, what have I done?
Present Day, Boston
Another cramp seized his thigh. Darius ached to stretch his long legs, but a few butt clenches were the best he could manage in the tiny booth. Using a napkin, he wiped the condensation off of his beer bottle and used it to attempt to remove a layer of stickiness from the tabletop.
How in the world had he let his grandfather talk him into waiting for the call in this shit hole? Like every other bar on this end of town, it was the size of a closet and packed with dusty sports memorabilia. Midnight whistled from a clock somewhere on the wall. In less than twelve hours, he was getting out of town. His first vacation in… Well, his first vacation ever. Period. Damn, what is that smell?
Slick graphics and overly dramatic music drew his attention to the small flat-screen television set hanging behind the bartender. A local newscast interrupted the basketball game with breaking news.
Police had made yet another gruesome discovery of a mutilated teenager’s body, the seventh in a string of unsolved murders in the past two months. Serial killer? Gang war? It was all speculation, but after a long, scorching summer and a hot, sticky fall, the city simmered with fear.
“Can I getcha another beer?” The enthusiasm of the cocktail server grated against his current state of aggravation. Her musky perfume did a valiant job of trying to play with his senses, but nothing could truly overpower the awful smell that seemed to permeate this place.
“No, thanks.” He shook his head. She placed the check on the table and left. Hallelujah.
Beyond his grandfather’s shoulder, he watched her flirt with a couple of guys at the next table. Tossing her deep red curls over her shoulder, she leaned over to collect the empty bottles. As her skirt lifted, he had an unimpeded view of thighs and softly rounded skin. If he’d wanted to know what went best with a plaid mini skirt— well, now he knew. A red thong.
Darius ignored the frown wrinkling his grandfather’s face. “What?”
“Are you listening to me?” The old man looked straight into Darius’ eyes. “Ah! You attempt to blank your face. You are tuning me out again.”
“Sorry, but I’m getting tired of waiting for your associate to call.” Darius covered a yawn with the back of his hand. “Why couldn’t we just meet him in his office during regular hours? We’re just picking up a few pictures. What’s with all the cloak-and-dagger drama?”
Papa Shadi shifted in his seat, pulling thoughtfully on his crisp white goatee. His face wore a myriad of wrinkles and crinkles. A few age spots dotted his coffee-colored skin, but his blue eyes sparkled like an inquisitive child. He was pushing mid-seventies, but Papa Shadi was still pretty adventurous.
Even through the pungent bar smells, Darius could detect the scent of apple wood. The old man’s tweed jacket seemed infused with the smoky aroma from his sheesha pipe, which he’d savored at length before they left home.
“Artie Johnson is a busy man. He is the Director of the Art Fraud unit of Customs. He refers clients to us. He is my friend, and he understands the importance of the prophecy.”
Darius sighed. He was far too exhausted for another recap on Papa Shadi’s prophecy theories. “Please don’t. I’ve heard all this before.”
“I repeat it because it is important that you believe it.” Round, thin-wired spectacles framed the disappointment in his grandfather’s eyes like an art frame.
Darius had heard the same theories for more than twenty years, since he’d come to live with the old man. Always his grandfather would show visible distress whenever Darius would reject those beliefs. He knew it was a fruitless effort, but he tried again to put logic over theory.
“There is nothing to believe. Those ancient civilizations died out thousands of years ago. Even their languages are extinct. Just because they carved stories into a wall doesn’t make them any more real than the fairy tales written today.”
“How can you say such a thing?” Papa Shadi’s wooden cane thumped the floor. His emotions wobbled in his whispered voice. “You’ve seen the walls of the crypt in Denderah. You’ve read them as clearly as I did. The ancient knowledge was supposed to be preserved. The prophecy is real.”
“I’ve been collecting these old relics for you and your clients for many years. I have yet to see anything magical or meet any so-called immortal beings.”
“Ach. How would you know?” His grandfather’s hands shook as he readjusted his patch cap. “I will not give up on you, Darius. You must learn to believe the prophecy.”
“Stop it, Papa.” Darius held his palm up. “This subject makes you too excitable. Save it for your secret society buddies.”
“Excitable—” Papa Shadi abruptly stopped whatever he was about to say. “You know, believing in something and being emotionally attached are not wicked things to be avoided.”
Darius turned his head to the rain-blurred window next to their table. “I believe that success comes from great planning, and that emotional attachments can make you weak and vulnerable. I don’t believe in magic or ancient beings.”
He caught a glimpse of the redhead making her way across the bar again, checking her empty tables for tips.
There was no place in his life for women. Their kind of love sucked the soul from your body and left you in the gutter to rot from the inside out. His mother was a perfect example of that. She’d taken his love and twisted it for her own benefit. She’d taught him to steal. Then, instead of using the money to feed them, she drank it or shot it into her veins.
Papa Shadi was different. Darius would never consider his grandfather’s love and sentimentality as a weakness, because he’d also taught Darius strength, loyalty, and respect. He’d taken a rebellious kid and patiently but firmly turned that boy around. Papa Shadi was the foundation of Darius’ life. His anchor.
Papa sighed. “I hope this isn’t another wild geese chase.”
“Goose chase, and I hope it isn’t, too.” Darius ignored the stickiness of the table and leaned on his elbows. “Anything will be more exciting than this place.”
“Yes, you will be excited when you see her.” Papa was emphatic, thumping his cane on the floor again. “Artie swears that they have the statue, and he finally has the proof of it.”
“You’ve waited all these years to see that statue. A few more minutes won’t kill you.”
“I am too old to wait a moment longer. I feel old
“Yes, of course. I just feel so tired.” Papa Shadi seemed momentarily distracted, absently fingering the gold medallion he always wore.
“Now that you’ve found it, you’re going to need something new to obsess on.”
“She is not an obsession. The Lady of Flame is imperative to the prophecy. She is a medjai, a protector. She must sleep no more. The demon army grows, and while they are waiting to free the beast of the Underworld, they feed on human souls.” His grandfather pointed to the television screen above the bar. Reporters were still hovering around the bloody crime scene like flies.
“That’s not a demon army. That’s a drug war. That’s teenagers overdosing, and street gangs at war with each other. I grew up on those streets…remember? It’s always been bloody.” Darius massaged the headache blooming in the back of his head.
“No. That is the work of demons.” Papa whispered so low it was almost too hard to hear.
“Demons of teenage angst.” Darius leaned back, rubbing at the sticky residue on his shirtsleeve. “You said they have the statue. Who’s they?”
“Lilith Troy has her.” Papa Shadi hugged the cane, and leaned in closer to Darius. “And she’s declared herself to be the Dragon Queen.” He snorted, as if something about that was funny.
“You wanna run that by me again? You think a lingerie-model-turned-makeup-mogul is some demon queen? Oh, Papa. Let’s not—”
“Fine. Fine.” He patted Darius on the forearm. “Let’s not go off on a tangle.”
“Yes.” Papa Shadi seemed to retreat into his own thoughts, a wistful smile lighting up his face. Darius knew he was thinking about the statue again. “I can’t wait to finally see her for myself. It has been such a long time since—”