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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oliver Presents The Nightingale

A full moon pulsates in the blood-red sky. A werewolf howls, its keening bark echoing through the cemetery looming on the unhallowed grounds of the haunted mansion. Thunder and lightning clash and collide, giving ample warning of the coming storm. Lightning streaks across the night, splintering the sky into forks of brilliant white light.

Trying to beat the storm, The Nightingale dashes up the stone steps leading to the mansion. A raven screeches from the towering oak, its green eyes glowing in the dark. Peering down at the Nightingale, it flaps its wings before taking flight into the cemetery. Cool wind whistles through the leaves of the live oaks, sounding like the whispers of the dearly departed buried deep below in the haunted graveyard. A shiver snakes through The Nightingale as she yanks on the chain doorbell.

Donned in flowing black cape, Oliver answers the door, red eyes gleaming in the pre-dawn light. Showcasing his dazzling fangs, he bites The Nightingale on the neck and escorts her into the parlor. Organ music grinds from hidden wall speakers, the funeral dirge vibrating off the cavernous walls. Standing candelabras flicker on either side of the crimson settee, and a pitcher of gin n tonics is laid out on the coffin coffee table. The raven clock strikes the witching hour and Oliver introduces his guest.

Good Evening! It is my great pleasure to present for your listening pleasure the beautiful and enchanting NIGHTINGALE who will tell a ghostly tale followed by a delicious teaser of her latest work. Oliver sloshes gin n tonic in to glasses. The goblets clink and the tale begins.

The tower clock struck midnight.  Ravenwood tensed, glanced over her shoulder at the Sanctuary.  No lights shone in the mullioned windows.  The Masters mustn’t catch her out alone at night.  Her reputation at the school had suffered for her sister’s sin.

She lit the torch, black smoke billowing from the flame. A darkling shiver crawled down her rigid spine. The voices that had roused her from sleep whispered a warning as she crept into the abandoned barn.  A lonely owl hooted from the rafters, ruffling its feathers and blinking. Red light winked in the bird’s golden eyes.  She swallowed hard, straining her ears for any sound.  Like a chill, the eerie stillness oozed over her.

Ravenwood had come to say her last goodbye to her sister.  Tonight, Alethea slept the peace of the dead in this old outbuilding. Tomorrow, she would be lowered into unhallowed ground.  Then only God knew what the fate of a demon’s consort would be.  Her breathing rasped loud, puffing white clouds in the October air. She inched deeper into the gloom, shoved the hood of her robe back so that she could see from the corners of her eyes. A web caught in her hair, clung to her face.  Another hard shudder coursed through her, and gooseflesh prickled her limbs.  Nausea swirled in her stomach. Frantically, she swiped the crusty fly stuck in the web and the disgusting stickiness from her skin.

A shadow moved along the rotted wood pile. A mouse squeaked, scurried out and scampered away. The shade loomed larger, distorted in the flickering light. She flinched back a step. With a shaking hand, she clutched the crucifix around her neck. The shadow crossed the pitchfork, fell on the coffin.

Darkness coalesced into the figure of a winged man.  Two yellow orbs glowed in his leathery gray face.  The wings were shiny, rubbery black with spines and points.  A sweet smell rose from him, but she knew the fragrance was a glamour masking the reek of the Pit.

"Daakiel," she whispered.

"Well met, Ravenwood." A laugh rumbled from his broad chest. “Such pretty blonde hair and lovely ivory skin, but beneath your rose and gold beauty is a soul as dark as I am.”

As always, her sister’s lover was naked, his grotesque, swollen equipment proudly on display.  She shuddered head to toe, glancing around quickly, studying her options.

There were none.

The creature with hellfire eyes passed a hand with long, vicious claws over the coffin.  From inside, came a soft scratching then the lid rattled, an urgent pounding echoing in the ruined barn.

Ravenwood's heart caught in her throat.  A sudden silence crawled along her nerves.  The owl hooted and took flight, a wingtip brushing her cheek.  She flinched, clamped a hand to her mouth, but a little cry escaped.   The demon flexed his wings, stirring a tornado of moldy straw.

A malicious grin split the monstrous face.  "Come my pretty," and with the rasp of claws, he ripped the lid off the pine coffin.

Her dead sister sat bolt upright, empty fish eyes locking to Ravenwood's.   A chilling smile spread Alethea’s blue lips. Crimson pinpointed the black irises. Any innocence that might have remained in the once Acolyte had perished. Like a spider, elbows and knees arched at odd angles, she crawled from the casket.  Grave clothes clung to her pale, withered body but her breasts were exposed and bloody.  She was horrible.

Ravenwood wouldn’t give the monster the satisfaction of screaming.  She bit her tongue hard enough to draw blood.  The demon turned and stalked toward her, fangs dripping thick, green saliva. Terrified, she backed away, collided with a stack of old cans, sending them clattering to the ground.

"Dear sister."  Alethea's corpse spread her arms in invitation.  Sharp fangs dented the lower lip of her smile.  "Raven, forsake your god.  Join me."

Ravenwood ducked, grabbed the pitchfork and brandished the rusted prongs at the demon.  Another unholy laugh rumbled from its throat.

"You cannot escape, Ravenwood.  Your sister has paid her dues.  She is mine.  Tonight, Acolyte, you join me in Hell."

Playing for time, she flung the pitchfork at the demon and dropped the torch.  Smoke billowed from dry straw. Flames sprang up, reaching for the cracked roof.  Laughter boomed in the fire.  Engulfed in the holocaust, her sister's horrified face branded the nightmare in memory.  The demon's leering smile didn’t falter.

She whirled and fled, her legs pumping, her feet going nowhere.  The school seemed hundreds of miles away and her feet leaden.  If she reached the Sanctuary—

A claw sliced her shoulder.  Pain scalded her arm.  Blood oozed warmth down her back.  She whirled, staring straight into the demon's burning eyes.  Lethal pointed teeth lined the creature’s gaping maw.

A scream ripped the black velvet night, searing her throat.  She stumbled a retreat, praying aloud.

“No answer?” Daarkiel cupped a hand to his pointed ear. “Pray to someone who will hear you.”

The ground beneath her feet rolled and tossed.  She fell to her knees.  Fear lodged in her dry throat, strangling her prayers.

“You have taken my lover from me. Burned her alive, you did.”  The creature beckoned with a bloody claw.  “You will replace her.”

An image of her sister’s living cadaver blinded her. She shook her head.  “Never.”

The earth opened, swallowing her.  Down she plunged into a loamy grave, the velocity of her fall sweeping her robe over her head.  Her feet scraped something hard.  Bones.  She didn’t have time to scream.  The hole closed over her head, burying her alive.

Insects climbed over her feet. Something slithered up her neck.  She swallowed the horror and the bile burning her throat. The black dirt caressed her naked arms and legs and matted her hair. Trapped in the earth and in her robe, unable to claw for the surface, she held her breath until her lungs threatened to implode.  Terror gripped her heart in an icy hand.

 I’m going to suffocate.

Your soul is as dark as I…Darkiel’s curse reverberated through her being.

A desperate gasp for breath sucked the fatal soil into her mouth and nose.  Ravenwood whispered her final prayer.  For forgiveness.

About Linda Nightingale:

Born in South Carolina, Linda has lived in England, Canada, Miami, Atlanta and Houston. Somewhat of a gypsy, she's seen a lot of this country through the window of a truck pulling a horse trailer. She bred, trained and showed Andalusian horses, rode sidesaddle and did musical freestyle exhibitions to Phantom of the Opera. Her stallion Bonito, imported from Costa Rica, was twice National Champion at halter. She is a Legal Assistant at a world-renowned cancer center and is a volunteer with the Houston Symphony League. Besides writing, she loves horses, sports cars, books and piano. She is the mother of two wonderful sons, Ian who lives in England, and Simon, web designer/artist extraordinaire.

Linda’s latest release is NIGHT BEFORE DOOMSDAY.  A free excerpt is available for download.

Blurb:  In Genesis, "The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took wives for themselves from those who were pleasing to them."

Azazel was a leader of the Grigori, the angels sent to Earth to teach Mankind after the oust from Eden, how to survive in a less hospitable environment. Nine-tenths of these powerful angels fell from Grace, but was it love or lust?

This novella presents the Grigori's tale in first person from Azazel's point of view--the temptations, his struggles and the final realization that Heaven doesn't speak to him anymore.


Nightingale said...

Good morning Sharon! Thanks for letting me be part of your Halloween festival! Smoochers Oliver and may I have a Mimosa please.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hello Linda

Ooh what a creep setting Sharon and Oliver have set up for you - and what a chilling excerpt! Ideal for Halloween!

Wishing you much success and many, many sales.

Nightingale said...

Thanks for the good wishes and for stopping by Hywela Lyn. I started this little Halloween story last year and didn't finish it. Sharon's Countdown inspired me to finish!

desitheblonde said...

i can say i love the info you added the horse is great and beautiful and i love the way you did the page go for the Halloween thing you can in joy it no matter what age you are
we are dressing the dog up

Sharon Donovan said...

Always a pleasure to have Linda in the haunted mansion, oooh where did the blogger take the mimosa never mind always another, cheers!

Sharon Donovan said...

Lyn dear, as always, thank you for decorating my blog with such spooky finesse! Yes here's a mimosa and wishing much success to Linda's latest.

Sharon Donovan said...

desitheblonde, we used to dress our Buttons up each year as a teddy bear, our huge terrior/poodle. The kids loved it!

Mary Marvella said...

Ahhh, Linda, I would have known who wrote that without the ID! Excellent!

katsrus said...

That had me sitting on the edge of my seat! Very chilling. i could just feel the earth surrounding me too.
Sue B

Nightingale said...

Am I that predictable, Mary? ha ha

Nightingale said...

Katsrus--thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and found it chilling. Thanks also for dropping by to visit!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mary, thanks for joining the party, have a mimosa!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Sue, always a pleasure, join us for a toast!

Mindy said...

Hi Sharon, Linda and Oliver :)
Wow, what a cool scary story!
Is their a chance you will expand it into a novella/novel?
I'd love to know what happens to Raven.
The blurb for Night Before Doomsday is eyecatching too, the thought of Angels among us is interesting to me.

Mindy :)

Pat Dale said...

Chilling! This one is written to raise the hackles, and succeeds beyond expectation. Well done!