Godless – Shayne Silvers

The Biblical passage from Ecclesiastes softly played in the back of my mind as I stared at the entrance to Hell on Earth. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Or, in my words—a time for laughter, and a time for slaughter. Dracula’s season had come to an end. It was time for a little K.C. Slaughter I took a deep breath, forcing my pulse to slow. We stood only paces away from an open pair of thirty-foot-tall wooden doors that led into a castle unlike any I had ever seen —even in movies. Although I saw no monsters waiting inside to bestow upon us welcoming hugs and kisses—with their bloodstained fangs and razor-sharp claws—a formless, malevolent presence beckoned us to enter with a deceiving purr. ‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the spider to the fly… The massive wooden doors were decorated with dozens of scratches, gouges and indentations from blades, axes, and all manner of tool. I even saw what appeared to be broken off claws, teeth, and fingernails firmly embedded into the wood. All on the inside of the wooden doors—from people trying to escape. Castle Dracula. I shivered before I could stop myself. I concealed the movement by glancing back at the courtyard and the massive castle gates trapping us inside.

I turned back to look up at least a hundred feet to the peak of the castle entrance above the doors. Gargoyles lined the roof every few paces and, rather than looking outward like good stone sentries, they were looking straight down. At me. Their eyes flickered with literal crimson flame, emitting occasional sparks and embers that lazily drifted down, extinguishing as they burned out. The stone gargoyles were each unique in design—sporting heads of eagles, lions, crocodiles, devils, and even pudgy babies—but all were grotesque, imagined hybrids birthed only in the darkest of nightmares. Some were tall, short, spindly, fat, or muscular, but they all had wings—just as varied as every other part of their body. A few clutched weapons, but most favored their natural, devil-given claws and teeth, preferring their kills up close and passionate. Not appreciating my attention, many flared their wings and hissed at me—like vultures over roadkill when you tried to chase them away. I narrowed my eyes and slowly lifted my hand to point my finger at them. They screamed and fled, ducking out of sight.

A faint smile tugged at my cheeks. Pussies. The night sky was a dark, wine-colored red, even tinting the wisps of clouds drifting by —courtesy of the magical barrier now surrounding Castle Dracula that prevented anyone from escaping until Dracula was dead. The moon was pregnant and full, hanging heavily in the sky like a bulging droplet of blood. The Blood Moon. The main reason we—and by we, I meant Samael—had been able to set up the barrier and this secret invasion of Castle Dracula so that we could assassinate the Sultan of Suck. All without him knowing. Which, judging by the piano music and the fact that the doors had opened on their own, had officially gone to shit. Samael cleared his throat beside me. I slowly turned to look at this unknown entity, basically a stranger to me.

Samael was quite tall with broad, stocky shoulders—almost like a blacksmith. Even standing motionless in a place where we were vastly outnumbered, his aura oozed of calm, solid authority, reminding me of a military commander of some kind—one who had seen a battle go to hell and had single-handedly brought his terrified, wounded men back home, convincing them to sing a ballad of victory like they were heroes. All while the commander nodded along with a charismatic grin, wielding a cigar, an empty flask, and minimal personal casualties. If you looked closely enough, you might even catch him pinching the nurse’s ass on his way to refill his flask. And he was the kind of man who would earn only a sultry, smoky, encouraging smile in response to that pinch. We’ve all met a person like this. Charisma exudes from their every pore—the world giving them the latitude to say the most outlandish things and earn only a bemused smirk or shake of the head. His long dark hair brushed just past his shoulders and his angular face was solid and dangerous—like carved granite. To be entirely blunt, he was beautiful, and I’d caught myself admiring him several times when he wasn’t looking. Not that I was personally interested in him, but he had one of those mesmerizing looks that couldn’t help but draw attention.

A man in the prime of his life. Or an angel in the prime of his fall. I only knew a handful of things about him. He was a Greater Demon. He was incredibly powerful. And he was my Godfather—because my parents had been insane. Samael had arranged for this little field trip with his Goddaughter by setting up Roland —using the man’s grief over my alleged death—to open this otherwise impossible access to Castle Dracula so that we could kill our first Master. I’d only learned about these Masters within the last few days—a group of entitled, spoiled children ejected from the godly loins of some of the most powerful supersupernatural entities mankind knew. These children had formed a club, deciding that they’d had enough of listening to their parents and thought they could do a better job. So they’d whipped out their crayons and scribbled out a plan to take over the world—desiring to enslave the puny creatures inhabiting its surface—and kick their parents to the curb.

The problem was that they had grown up since those early days, and rather than putting their childish fancies away, they had dusted off their manifesto and gotten to work. They were an elusive bunch—the most secret of secret societies. The infamous Count Dracula was the only one I knew of. Correction—the only one I’d been told was a Master. But demons had a friends-with-benefits relationship with the truth. It was just their nature. Even though I’d learned that my blood was powerful enough to exchange with another person to form a magical Blood Bond—a tie that allegedly prevented the other person from betraying me—I wasn’t fully invested in this family road trip. I was just traveling in the same direction as my Godfather. If I focused intently, I could see the Blood Bond that connected Samael to me, and it was significantly thicker and stronger than any I shared with my other friends. Even still, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

He was way too excited about our budding relationship. He’d known about being my Godfather pretty much since my birth, but I’d only found out about it less than an hour ago and definitely had mixed feelings. Samael, on the other hand, had been excited for quite some time, explaining that the only reason he had hunted and pursued me over the past few years was to teach me how to be strong, and to make sure I had what it took to fight the Masters. So he was already starting off on the wrong foot. I was absolutely done proving to anyone what I was or wasn’t capable of. Godfather, I thought to myself. I’d called him Godless when he’d tried to get too chipper a few minutes ago. The irony of it all—if not for the macabre scenery—was not lost on me. A Greater Demon—an angel who had chosen not to follow his daddy, God— was excited to be my Godfather. Which really made me begin to doubt my mother’s sanity.

I mean, who chose a Greater Demon to be a God-father? It was kind of in the freaking name. Maybe the hospital had been experimenting with some new pain meds when she had me. Because all these obviously rational thoughts contradicted the Blood Bond connecting us. And he’d given me the choice to come here—even kneeling at my feet less than an hour ago, giving me the option to kill him if I thought he was lying. In a crazy, brokenhome kind of way, his actions over the past few years had checked out. Which left me sitting on the fence, debating which way to lean. I felt him watching me, so I turned to face him. “Why did you really choose to work for my mother? Agreeing to become my Godfather?” I asked, not buying his earlier answers. This strong, charismatic, authoritative man…bit his lip, looking extremely uncomfortable. “You wouldn’t believe me,” he finally said.

I narrowed my eyes. “True. And you’re still going to tell me.” He sighed wearily. “First Corinthians, chapter thirteen.” I grabbed him by the collar and slammed him up against the door, banging his head against the wood and very seriously considering choking him to death. “Don’t you dare joke about my mother like that. She loved Titus, not you.” Because that was the passage about unconditional love. Despite my aggression, Samael nodded patiently.

“Entirely true.” When I still didn’t let go, he jerked his chin towards the castle. “We have more important things to worry about inside, Callie…” I grunted, letting him go forcefully. “We’re not finished with this conversation, Sammy,” I finally muttered. He beamed excitedly, despite my obvious displeasure. “Nicknames. Alright, Call—” He cut off abruptly, scratching at his jaw, obviously unable to come up with a nickname since my real name had already been shortened. Excalibur had become Callie. Because I’d learned that when my mom wasn’t auditioning the worst of the worst to be my Godfather, she’d been bonding a piece of Excalibur into my very soul. The Name.

Thankfully, it no longer resided inside of me, having been transferred to an old leather sheath locked away with Pandora in Nate Temple’s Armory. But once I finished my date with Dracula, I was supposed to personally deliver the sheath to…well, someone in St. Louis. I wasn’t even sure who. I’d been on such a wild excursion in Kansas City over the last few days that I hadn’t even bothered asking Nate about it. I’d had enough on my plate. And why worry about the little things when probable death had been on my calendar? I walked past Samael to enter Castle Dracula, shivering at the thought that I was walking into the mouth of a Beast. Because that was exactly what we were doing. Much like Nate Temple’s mansion in St. Louis, Castle Dracula harbored a Beast—a celestial entity of some kind that had successfully bonded with the sprawling castle so that it was actually a living, sentient being.

The humans who had been able to successfully bond with Beasts had been known as Makers—and Makers were to wizards what wizards were to non-magical humans. Their thoughts were literally magic—they could think something and make it become reality. No middle steps. If a wizard wanted a fireball thrown at you, they had to draw heat from their surroundings, ignite it, and then draw more energy from the air to get the necessary propulsion to throw it at you. Not hard, but several steps. If a Maker wanted a fireball thrown at you…ya’ just became a flamer, bro. Period. Because Makers were empowered—or assisted by—the Beasts clutching their souls like parasites. Except sometimes Beasts chose locations over people. Ever heard about the Bermuda Triangle? Beast.

Volcanoes that erupt out of nowhere? Beast. Certain places around the world that were famous for giving visitors some extremely strong sensation—whether it be fear, bliss, romance, et cetera? Beast, Beast, Beast, Beast-cetera. Nate Temple’s mansion was possessed by a Beast named Falco—not needing a Maker to keep it in line. Castle Dracula was no different. So as I stepped through those doors, I was—quite literally—walking into a set of open jaws. And I was pretty sure I could feel the Beast inhaling my scent with a purr of anticipation. The only way out was to find the Beast’s gag reflex. According to Samael, there was a weapon deep within the center of Castle Dracula, and it was the only thing capable of ending the Master. Dracula’s Bane. Ripping out Dracula’s tonsils was pretty much our only goal on this field trip.

Otherwise it was just an elaborate, $6.99, suicide-mission-special.

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