The Books of Raziel #2
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date of Publication: 4/1/2014
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 98,000
The haunting gothic tale started in Archon continues-a mesmerizing work of the paranormal in which a young woman discovers that she is caught in a labyrinth of intrigue where angels, demons, and all the creatures between Heaven and Hell will stop at nothing to possess her.
A year ago, Angela Mathers, a talented artist with a tortured soul, enrolled at the Westwood Academy and encountered the angels who haunted her dreams. Then she discovered the dark truth … she is the Archon, a being of supreme power who will determine the fate of the universe. But with such power comes great danger, and for every force seeking to aid Angela there is another burning to stop her. After a scheming demon kidnaps the Book of Raziel, Angela must find her way through a nightmarish game and enter the Door to Hell to rescue her only friend before it is too late.
The perilous fate of both Heaven and Hell rests on her success.
Genesis ~ The Story So Far
In the beginning of all things, there was a song, and starlight, and a Garden within eternity's shadows. There, God created three great angels, and they were destined to rule all of Heaven from three majestic thrones.
Israfel, the Creator Supernal, was considered to be the most beautiful of these angels. A vision of bronze feathers and grace, he found favor in the eyes of God and Heaven and soon outstripped his siblings in both popularity and power. His brother Raziel, the Preserver Supernal, became known for the virtues of wisdom and gentleness. And then there was Lucifel, the Destroyer Supernal embodying creation's fathomless darkness and depths, who despite her taciturn personality still managed to snare the hearts of creatures.
The storms and upsets of the universe could not touch these three angels. Sickness and death were beneath them.
But they were not immune to the passions of the heart.
As Israfel's favor grew, so did Lucifel's frightful envy and discontent.
Seeing herself as an equal to her sibling and with a loyal band of angels to support her claim, Lucifel finally broke with the established order and challenged Israfel's position as Heaven's supreme ruler under God. When Raziel--who had always seemingly vacillated in his loyalty between both siblings--took Lucifel as his lover, a bloody revolution exploded. The children of their forbidden union were executed, but in retaliation Lucifel engulfed Heaven in a War that ended in Raziel's suicide, Israfel's abdication, and her own tragic destiny.
Though defeated by both fate and circumstance, Lucifel chose to begin a new regime in lower, darker places. Yet she was swiftly imprisoned in her new kingdom of Hell.
Those who had once worshipped her in her glory were now her fearful jailers. They called themselves demons.
In the darkness below all things, caged and alone, Lucifel's ideals twisted even as her shadow of influence grew. From Hell it then spread like a poison, touching even the mortal world.
Though her true motives remain unknown, she is now suspected of wishing to open Raziel's fabled Book, seeking to use its power to silence the universe and the light within it that mocks her. Lucifel moves quicker by the day to manipulate events in her favor. But Raziel's death was not completely in vain. He has returned as the guardian spirit of a human girl to see that his sister Lucifel fails in her goal. This human girl is called the Archon.
The Archon is the only soul believed to be capable of opening the Book for the power of good. But like all creatures She has a choice, and will either stand against Lucifel and destroy her, or kill her only to take her place on the Throne of Hell and begin a darker era of Ruin.
In either instance, Her decision must be made quickly.
With the ties that once held the universe together brutally severed, an order long teetering on the edge of collapse has started to slide toward complete annihilation. A silence more threatening than Lucifel's looms over all creatures--one without hope of resurrection. The whereabouts of the Lock and Key of Raziel's Book are unknown, and the task of opening it to save what remains of the world verges on the impossible.
The Archon is a soul born in mortal misery, and she has only recently grasped the virtue of friendship. There are many who believe that her dark destiny is--like Lucifel's--unavoidable.
But if Ruin and Death born of three unhappy angels sparked the end, it is also true that covenants broken can be remade, and that the wheels of fate can be turned backwards despite all odds. Hearts call to one another, undoing the knots that have strangled hope, and imprisoned peace. For darkness to exist, there must be a brighter light. The world has always known pain, strife, and wars.
Yet it is the bonds between souls that have moved the stars.
Many doors begged to be opened in the city of Luz. Kim was certain he'd at last found the only one that mattered.
Like all ominous things, it had materialized in the darkest hour of his life. Now he stood in front of its immense black wood and gasped for breath, cold sweat trickling down the side of his nose. A thousand warnings sounded off in his brain, and his lungs ached as they sucked in the freezing air. His hands had gone numb. Ice shellacked the tips of Kim's hair, and the strands swept punishingly against his neck. The wind strangled him with every breath, searching relentlessly for other lives to snuff out, sighing like a cold song through the alley.
A soft hiss shivered through the bone cold night, and the harsh breeze died for a moment. The damp and stone-filled city had hushed, as if waiting. Flurries drifted serenely to the ground.
Kim glanced over his shoulder, shuddering. Fear throbbed through him in waves.
He would have to move fast. He didn't have much time to make a decision before she caught up to him.
The door beckoned, suspicious and dark. Should he? Shouldn't he?
Kim stared at the door, gasping for breath. He peered at the odd carvings and symbols in the wood. Impulsively, he reached for the snake-shaped iron knob.
Reality twisted and warped like a flash of lightning. Without warning the iron serpent came alive and lunged.
Inch long metal fangs sunk into Kim's palm. Needles of agony wrenched through his arm.
Kim cursed under his breath, tears of pain bunching at the corners of his eyes. He snatched his hand out of the snake's reach, wrapping fingers around his injured palm. Blood seeped hotly between his fingers. The iron snake recoiled back to its original position, glaring into him. Its reptilian eyes glowed with an unnerving yet familiar shade of orange. Try again, they seemed to say.
Frantically, Kim searched every inch of the wood for a keyhole. But there was none, and he realized with a newer shot of panic that he had no key anyway.
Another icy hiss echoed through him, drifting through the alley along with the snow. A soft rattle, like the sound of tiny bones rubbing together, cut through the silence.
Kim peered around again, sweaty bangs screening his vision.
A pair of phosphorescent yellow eyes gleamed back at him from the end of the cobbled road. Sickle-shaped black wings flickered once within the night. The sad glow of a gas lamp brushed the tips of his cousin's nails, and then her devilish form melted back into the darkness.
In a few more breaths, those nails would rip him apart. His hunter was badly hurt, but that wouldn't buy Kim enough time to escape.
He glanced around pathetically and sucked in more horrendously cold air. Silvery ice shellacked the surrounding walls of brick and stone, the hard ground. Snow drifted, fell, tumbled in the renewed gusts of winter wind. He didn't want to die in the cold depths of Luz alone. Too much life awaited him, and possibly love.
He clung to that last hope with fanatical loyalty.
Kim clutched the cross necklace at his chest, and his mind raced and filled with thoughts of Angela Mathers and how much she needed him without even realizing it. He pictured her brave face, deep red hair, and cool blue eyes. He felt her kiss on his mouth and ached for the part of his heart he'd unwillingly left with her in a moment of such irrational anger. He heard an angel's voice say like it had said before that Kim was about to get exactly what he deserved.
A terrible, crushing sensation threatened to stop his heart. The hair stood on the nape of Kim's neck. His veins throbbed with terror. Blood rushed and roared in his ears. He fought off the screams rising up into his throat. Unseen and silent, death's stealthy approach felt keen as a knife in his back.
Kim threw himself at the door, pounding on the wood with his fists.
Seeing Angela's face in his mind one last time, he knew he'd give anything to reach her again. The screams left his mouth at last, reverberating in the icy air. Someone, anyone, for the love of God let him in. He knew footsteps were behind him and ragged breaths and pitiless teeth and the thought was unbearable. He banged harder and harder, ignoring the threat of another bite from the snake because his hands were dead with cold and pain.
He would do anything, if someone would save him.
The world paused. A voice like a snake's touched the edge of his thoughts.
Anything? It sounded amused.
Yes. Yes. ANYTHING.
A tremulous click broke the silence.
Kim jumped backwards and stared, his heart pounding. The immense black door had opened, and a sliver of nothingness peeped at him from the gap between door and wall. Like a man in a trance, he opened the door wider, revealing a worn stone stairway that led down into a dimly lit darkness. A stale but warm breeze wafted upward from the depths. There was no telling what waited for him down there. For a single moment longer, he hesitated.
Pain slammed into him like a thunderbolt.
The door slammed shut. Kim whipped sideways into the bricks, scraping his cheek on bitter ice.
His hunter rolled to the slippery ground next to him, her sparsely feathered wings beating the stone in a frenzy. Ice cracked and split beneath her weight. Cold air rushed over him in merciless waves.
Scabs covered Troy's black pinions, and her entire body had become even leaner with hunger. Growls of rage peppered her almost unintelligible words. Kim stole one more glimpse of his cousin's lethal angelic beauty, the sight of her sharp teeth, the terror of her hypnotic eyes, and he wrenched himself from the slick wall and once again flung open the door.
Troy grabbed his leg, cutting more blood out of him.
Frustrated shrieks sliced into him like her nails. Her broken ankle had cost her time and speed, but it was her other injuries that had brought her close to starvation. Kim screamed a prayer.
Shuddering, she let go.
In a second she was on her hands and feet, preparing to pounce again. Kim swung himself through the doorway.
Troy's bony hand grasped the bloody tatters of his coat and pulled. Kim slammed to the ground. Her wings buffeted him, punishing his legs and waist. She scrabbled for a foothold on the unfamiliar ice, and he fought against sliding into biting range. Troy's hot breath reached his skin. The chain of his necklace threatened to choke him.
Kim pulled with all of his strength.
The coat fabric ripped from between her fingers. The necklace chain snapped. With a cry of triumph he dashed for the stairway again and turned, slamming the door shut.
Troy's feet and hands clanged like a sharp wind against the wood.
Kim staggered back, nearly pitching down the stairs. Grasping blindly, he clung to an iron bar on the door's inside, trying to keep his balance. In a fury of Jinn nails and thundering wings, Troy scratched against the door and rasped his name, screeched out her fury. Her voice was like a song of terror.
The door shivered beneath the onslaught. Kim was sure a mere two inches of wood separated them.
It didn't seem to matter. Something was protecting him and Troy knew it.
Her hisses of defeat continued, cutting through him like poisonous ice. Kim let go of the iron bar and stood at the top of the stairway, keeping his hand on his other bleeding palm, whispering every exorcism prayer in his memory.
Hours passed. Every so often, chalk-white fingers and sharp nails slipped under the door, searching for Kim's skin. Above the howling wind, he heard Troy's hiss or the rattle of the bones in her hair, and sometimes the screech of the crow that haunted her side. So he waited with her, certain that one of them would eventually give up but that, God willing, it wouldn't be him.
Finally, unbelievably, she left.
Kim's sanity returned by degrees. With it came suffocating hunger and thirst. He'd been running from Troy for so long, food and drink had become hasty and disgusting occasions. Now the overwhelming need for both began to overcome his terror at what might be waiting outside the door. He touched it, weighing his fortunes. No, he couldn't bear it anymore--
Kim set his jaw, pushing on the door from the inside.
It wouldn't budge. There was no interior knob either, only the iron bar that had left his arm muscles aching. He was trapped.
A warm breeze rose out of the darkness and brushed against his skin. The ice coating his hair dripped onto the stone.
Kim patted his chest, sensing emptiness. His cross necklace was gone, probably lying on the icy ground where Troy had torn it from his neck. There was no sense in grieving. That memento his foster-father had given him was now long past its usefulness. The memories it symbolized would best stay where Kim had left them, half-buried in snow and ice. Besides, he couldn't return even if he wanted to.
With the most furtive glances, Kim examined the staircase.
He breathed hard, his chest aching. His throat was raw from screaming, and as he stood, every muscle screamed back at him in protest. Carefully, he stepped onto the first set of stairs.
Troy's steady breathing sounded from the door's other side.
She'd never left at all.
With his next step, she breathed louder, as if growing desperate.
Kim knew better than to walk down a mysterious set of stairs, after entering a mysterious door, all because he'd made a desperate promise. Yet he had no other choice, and deep inside, he couldn't help feeling that this was somehow the right one. A whisper at the edge of his memories called from far below. Perhaps this was the moment he'd been waiting for.
Here is your chance, the voice called to him again.
Despite Kim's better judgment he believed it. He needed to believe it. So he left death behind to meet salvation where it waited--darker and darker down.
About the Author:
Sabrina Benulis graduated with a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She currently resides in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania with her husband Mike, and her spoiled cockatiel Caesar. COVENANT is the follow-up to ARCHON, her first novel.
3 print copies of ARCHON (Book 1 in the Books of Raziel series-US ONLY)