And so came the dark years in the year 2006 AD when the Source, a tiny but powerful creature whose blood fed their immortality was stolen. With their only lifeline gone, their Empire stood on the verge of collapse, plagued by accelerated aging.
And so the search began, and for five years, all of immortal kind waited in darkness. But in the midst of their desperation facing death, fate would bring the Source to the most unlikely person - a seemingly ordinary nineteen-year-old boy named Hunter Everett.
Loyalties will be questioned. Friendships will be challenged. Love will be tested. This is his story, this will be his legacy.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.33(d)|
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BLOOD OF IMMORTALITYTHE HUNTER EVERETT CHRONICLES
By ANDREW GUARDAMANO
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Andrew Guardamano
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGreat Expectations
12:03 A.M. June 27, 2011
The entire Imperial Court in the Madrid Palace was silent and breathless. Before them, three cameras broadcasted live in front of a gold-trimmed oak desk belonging to their sovereign.
"It is with great sadness and frustration ..." announced the Emperor in Castilian Spanish, "... that despite our continued efforts to recover the Source, we have gathered no further compelling leads to its location at this time."
Never before had the Imperial Court witnessed such an open acceptance of failure by the most powerful and influential leader in all of their history; an uneasy reality that they all were cornered into—a reality which no longer could be hidden from the rest of their once oblivious race.
"Due to the increasingly high numbers of accelerated aging within our population throughout the world, I am hereby authorising the Secretariat to proceed with the Mass Hibernation Directive. All those who are severely affected by the absence of Source Blood are to report to their regional authority effective tomorrow at noon world time." The Emperor looked down for a moment away from the middle camera and inhaled deeply; something he normally wouldn't allow himself to be seen doing in front of his subjects.
"Effective on the first of day of the month of July, I, my son, Prince Valentino Semperos II, and my daughter, Princess Elizabetha Semperos, will be joining some of the High Elders in full cryogenic hibernation. As such, I hereby bequeath my powers of authority to my Viceroyalty: Lord Armando Luciano Massarotti, Lord Victor Maximus Cromwell, and Lady Amaya Gong-Chi, under direct command of my second daughter, Princess Isabella Zarzuela Semperos until my return."
"I assure you all, my people, that every effort to recover the Source shall remain the highest priority during our absence, and I am confident that in time, our hopes will be graced by its return."
"I ask all of you to stand strong and remain confident in your leaders during our darkest hours. I am greatly confident that with our combined efforts, we will restore this Empire to greatness. We will find a way. May you all live long," he said finally. And with that last statement, the global live feed to all channels were ended.
The Emperor rose unsteadily from his seat. His real face, the one everyone could see in the throne room, was far different from the broadcasted computer-generated version which showed a much younger appearance—one that most of their kind remembered five years ago before the Source had been stolen. His face was gaunt and hollowed now, covered in grey skin so translucent that the faint musculature of his face was visible even in minimal light.
"The things we do in the name of appearances. We get so preoccupied that we sometimes forget why we do it in the first place," he whispered, his voice weak and raspy. "Any word from my son?"
"There has been no news of the Crown Prince since his departure, although we have made every effort to contact him," said the Grand Viceroy. Armando was a tall, distinguishably dressed man in his early forties sporting long, dark, wavy hair and a pair of deep set eyes. He had a gentle face, but a strength that emanated clearly with the commanding tone of his deep voice. His face too suffered with signs of accelerated aging, though it was only but a fraction of the Emperor's visible afflictions.
"He always had the persistence that neither I nor his sister had. Perhaps he has found something worth all our hope." The Emperor watched the crew dismantle the cameras as he spoke, waiting for his chair to be rolled in by his aid.
"My Lord," started Victor hesitantly, standing farthest from the Emperor out of the three viceroys present. He was paler but stronger than Armando, possessing sharper features with a square jaw and sleek blonde hair topping a slightly shorter, less burly of a build. "I have been informed that every Seeker not entering hibernation has been dispatched. As of 0800 this morning, the Secretariat has confirmed three new leads in Canada, Romania, and Indone—"
"Ah, more leads," snorted the Emperor. "These are wretched times. What we need now are results, not premature hopes that do nothing but eat away at us."
"I understand, My Lord," said Victor, electing to hold his tongue rather than to push matters further. He watched with a less apparent look of concern than the others. The Emperor took a few unstable steps forward, leaning on his cane of black ivory.
"Send word once my son has returned, should that be before the first wave of hibernation begins. If anyone should be going in first, it will be him."
The Emperor reached his electric wheelchair, catching his breath as two of his assistants held his arms firmly and lowered him carefully onto the leather seat.
"It is such a great irony isn't it? That it should be the self-proclaimed Immortals who fear death even more than the humans who most of us consider inferior to our kind," he said, as he turned the chair around with a slight touch of the control stick and rolled himself towards the exit followed by his entourage.
"Our enemies are lurking just outside our doors, waiting for the time when we are at our weakest. I foresee that this hibernation may exactly be that time and there won't be enough of us awake to protect those who remain."
"I assure you My Lord, that in your absence the Empire will remain unified and strong," said Armando.
"That would be vital. But I fear that those who remain may be in a further disadvantage without us."
"There is time left. Lord Cromwell, Lady Gong-Chi, and I have staggered the times when we enter hibernation, which should buy us at least three to five years more to oversee the search," assured the Grand Viceroy.
The Emperor simply nodded in contemplation, his pale, greyed eyes fixed on the Imperial Emblem of Immortality carved into the wood of the door.
"We have taken all appropriate measures. The hibernation sites are secured," Armando added.
"It is a shame ... a great shame, Armando," sighed the Emperor. "I have failed our people. When I first had the vision to bring together the countless colonies and the scattered, barbaric kingdoms of our kind, this was the last thing I feared, and in so doing I have overlooked it; a grave mistake on my part."
"My Lord, this was an act beyond any of our expectation," assured Armando.
"The Empire has stood for over half a millennium and has survived the countless attempts to destroy it. But now our lifeline to immortality is gone. We are being destroyed from within, not by armies of thousands but by one who had slipped in unseen under our very watch." The Emperor reached the opened doors leading outside where a large black armoured bus with heavily tinted windows waited. A folding ramp extended through its wide open side doors.
"There is a thief in the heart of this Empire, My Lords and Lady. The Source could be anywhere in the world as we speak. Find the traitor, and we will find the Urn."
Chapter TwoStill Waters Run Deep
He was dreaming. He was waiting for it to happen. It was inevitable.
Seven months felt like two weeks. The memories still hit him hard every time. Each wave of pain was just as strong as the last; as intense as the first; just like on the day it happened.
Piercing. Cold. Unbearable pain.
The black winter ice on the bridge deck formed too soon that year, and the asphalt surface gleamed like a mirror reflecting the slowly rising dawn over the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The thick early morning fog, which contaminated the visibility of the water's surface, crept up higher towards the deck, creating the illusion that the High Level Bridge sat right on the water. This was a rare sight, even for early winter in the city. Hunter had hoped that they would only be welcomed back with at most, a light sprinkle of wet snow.
It was Hunter's turn on the wheel driving home, finishing the six day road trip to and from Kelowna that he and his closest friends planned a year ago.
He was the only one fully awake, with his consciousness of the road hinging expectedly well on a rattling, venti-sized Pike coffee that he picked up at some Starbucks in the middle of nowhere on the way back to the city.
Glancing in the rear-view mirror, he could see the over-filled cargo section of the van, with only a lift gate holding back a large assortment of duffel bags and multi-coloured sports equipment. The rest of the seats were occupied by eight sleeping bodies—church choir friends of his who spent the previous night playing CatchPhrase in front of a roaring cabin fireplace, eating stale roasted marshmallows and putting away a few too many bottles of smuggled Corona.
Through the mirror, Hunter's eyes paused upon Christina, a red-haired soprano, one of the youngest members of the choir. She was sitting on the back most row beside Riley, a tall blond piano player who, when it came to rehearsals, didn't get along too well with Hunter despite being childhood friends.
Their friendly rivalry had long been sustained by their seemingly reflexive skill of detecting shortcomings from each other's musical abilities. Much to the hindrance of many of the choir's rehearsals, such arguments would often lead to one of them walking out. It was a permanent part of the landscape of their friendship, and Hunter was used to it since elementary school.
Hunter's gaze hovered briefly at Christina's belly, thinking that within months, the silent and tiny heartbeat other than her own would no longer be a secret. He was alone in this burden, at least for now, for he was the only one among their circle who knew about it.
To Hunter's irritation, Christina was always more than comfortable confiding in him, and the revelation last night of her unplanned pregnancy was probably the most jarring news to date. It wasn't because of her delicate condition necessarily, but it was the fact that it belonged to Riley: the last person Hunter would have wished for Christina to have the need to depend her future on.
More disturbing for Hunter, Christina chose him to be the first recipient of her secret even prior to the child's own father. But still, Christina's apprehension in telling Riley first was understandable. For he didn't, in Hunter's judgment and ironically Christina's, possess neither the necessary skills nor the enthusiasm for early fatherhood.
The extent of Christina's secret relationship with Riley was only made known to Hunter as of last night, and he couldn't help but think about her future, as though the unborn child was his own.
It was definitely not because he wanted to be in Riley's place, but it was the gnawing pity that he felt anticipating the seemingly endless struggle that she would eventually face with her fanatically Catholic parents and all the other parties affected including one party-loving Riley.
A part of him wants to be angry with her for he knew that she should have been less idiotic than to let Riley's infamous hooks snatch her future away, only to leave her with a likely painful void of uncertainty.
For a moment, Hunter's stomach felt a jolting twist at the thought of the possibility that Riley may not even want her to keep the child despite being able to easily pay child support courtesy of Riley's lawyer father and doctor mother. He and Hunter may have been childhood friends ten years ago, but since Riley's all too frequent visits to Toronto, Hunter can't imagine how the big city life may have transformed him or what he is capable or willing to do these days. Hunter knew, without a shred of doubt that Riley's loyalty was to himself first and secondly to himself as well.
Hunter's anticipation of the complications looming over Christina weighed in on his thoughts, until his mind was no longer completely on the unpredictable pavement.
At the corner of his eye, Hunter watched motionless with both hands gripping the steering wheel as a large Safeway delivery truck heading the opposite direction turned sharply to avoid colliding with a sedan that had just cut it off. With its front rapidly losing control, the truck's cargo compartment tilted dangerously at high speeds, sliding out of its frame. All this time, Hunter had hoped that should it fall over it would somehow remain on the far side of the lane out of their way.
But the swerve was too fast; the momentum too great.
The body of the truck slammed on the icy concrete, and slid towards their approaching van, sandwiched helplessly against the thin concrete barrier which was the only thing that could have prevented the icy fall onto the foggy river below.
The sheer mass of the sliding truck pushed the van through the ledge barrier like a steel mallet through a cracker, sending the van on a free fall onto the three inch thick ice cover below, nowhere near enough to support its weight. The ice broke easily upon impact, smashing the rear windows of the rapidly submerging vehicle.
Deathly cold water filled the compartment, and yet only two people remained conscious of the situation. Hunter could barely see Riley's movements underwater at the back of the van struggling to free himself from the fused seatbelt. The van had fallen rear first, and the whole compartment was filled with floating debris blocking almost every possible escape route.
Hunter's face had been sprayed by shattered windshield glass, but with the adrenaline flooding his veins, he was unaware of the curtain of blood that slowly leaked from his wet forehead and temples.
Sensing only a slight stinging numbness to his leg, pinned by the warped steering wheel and the underside of his dashboard, he pulled hard—as hard as he could, not even caring if he had shattered a bone or dislocated his heel. Panic set in, and all he knew in his mind was that he only had a few seconds to free himself. He wasn't a very good swimmer, and with the water this cold, it would be close to impossible for him to hold his breath long enough.
Hunter looked up. He could see a faint beam of light through the cracked edge of the hole at the surface of the ice. The panic brought by the cold water seemed to have dissolved all his other thoughts, except for the fact that if he wanted to live, he needed to somehow follow the beam up to the surface. With the windshield and side glass completely shattered, there were no air pockets to float the van, sinking it quickly to the bottom.
Hunter managed to break free of the seatbelt, and he knew for certain he had broken something. He supposed there was some good that came from the cold, for he couldn't imagine the full intensity of the pain had there been no numbness.
For a few brief seconds when his survival instinct drowned out everything else, he knew it would be hard to swim to the surface with a broken leg, but another thought dawned on him—his friends.
He had to choose, and choose fast. His quivering lungs slowly relinquished its grip of the limited air, forcing him to painfully accept that he wouldn't be of much help to them with his injuries. The chances of him deciding who to save first would have been impossible.
He took one last look back at them. Their eyes were shut as if in eternal sleep inside an icy underwater coffin. The impact had rendered them all unconscious except Riley, whose foot was still trapped under his now detached seat. A mixture of horror and shock filled his face, for it had only been a few seconds since the gravity of the situation had dawned on him.
Hunter reached out for him and took his hand. He could barely feel the numb fluctuations of pressure in his palms and fingers as he gripped with all his might onto Riley's. The cold had masked the subtleties of his senses, and his extremities felt like lifeless pieces of metal weighing him down, slowing his every action.
Riley opened his mouth, letting precious bubbles escape as he screamed in pain.
After the second tug, Riley's leg was freed.
Seconds after impacting the ice, the entire van touched the river bed. The two boys kicked the freezing water with their broken legs through the opening of the windshield, and Hunter struggled to hoist Riley's heavier build out without injuring himself further. His thigh had a deep bleeding gash, leaving a billowing trail of red in the murky water.
After what seemed like an eternity, the two finally managed to break the now calm surface of the frigid river.
Gasping for the precious air, they clambered onto the icy shelf, their still warm breath fogging the cold winter air that their lungs welcomed in order to feed oxygen into their bloodstream.
Hunter's head continued to bleed, but despite his more severe state, he was more concerned about getting himself and Riley out of the water before hypothermia kicked in. He was careful not to test the ice, for he feared that Riley's weight alone might be enough to shatter the shelf further.
Once Riley was safely settled onto the slippery surface, Hunter swam to the opposite side of the hole to find himself a more stable platform.
Excerpted from BLOOD OF IMMORTALITY by ANDREW GUARDAMANO Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Guardamano. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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