Stricken (The War Scrolls Book 1)

By: A.K. Morgen

The War Scrolls: Book One

Chapter One

Memphis, 2014

“Where are you trying to go, boy?” Killian St. James asked, inching toward the Elioud shapeshifter in front of him.

The wolf responded by curling his upper lip in a soundless snarl. Saliva dripped from his fangs, causing flecks of foam to form all along his muzzle. Gray fur stood on end along his back. The white, matted fur of his chest seemed to shine in the darkness. His claws clicked against the rotted wood of the floor as he backed away from Killian, moving his head side to side in search of an escape route.

There wasn’t one, of course.

Killian had made sure of that, backing the shifter toward the corner of the room with every warrior-skill he’d learned over the last two centuries. His blade-brothers, Abriel and Dahmiel, flanked him, spread out into a loose spear point to ensure the Elioud went nowhere.

He didn’t seem to appreciate their efforts.

Fury rolled from him in waves, stinging at Killian until his eyes and nose burned with the sharp, acrid scent of the diseased blood running through the infected man’s veins. Killian wanted to gag at the rancid smell but refused to give in to the churning of his stomach. He was stronger than that. He was a Warrior of Light, one of the last left to guard the world against the hordes of Hell. And Fallen warriors didn’t lose their shit in the middle of a hunt.

Besides, if Killian lost his focus now, things were going to get nasty, and quick.

As if realizing this, the shifter glanced between Killian and Abriel, his gaze flickering rapidly from one to the other. Killian watched as the shifter hesitated over the empty space between him and his brother and then on the gaping doorway beyond.

Killian was ready when the thing made a last-ditch decision to run for it.

Before the shifter even altered its stance, Killian spun the flare in his hands, sending the thin tube whirling like a dancer’s baton. Blue sparks shot from both ends, piercing the darkness with an inky-blue light. Smoke curled upward, the sulfuric stench wavering in time to the pop and sizzle of the bright embers shooting from the ends.

“Not today, buddy,” he told the shifter.

The beast raced across the rotted floor with his head low to the ground. He weaved away from the flashing sparks, aiming like an arrow down the center of the room. Killian stepped to his left to cut him off, hoping the shower of sparks would slow the creature down.

The shifter howled as embers stung him like bees.

Chills raced up Killian’s spine at the pained sound. The smoke billowing from his flare burned his eyes, but he didn’t blink as he hoisted it higher, directly over the Elioud’s head.

The shifter darted away from the sparks now falling upon him. The sharp scent of singed fur wafted toward Killian, joining the disgusting mix already clogging his nose. His stomach roiled in rebellion again.

Why couldn’t he shut out the odor?

The smell of death and disease hung in the air around them like rotting flesh on a week-old battlefield, but in the last four months, he’d learned to focus on other things. The corrosive smell of gasoline and the thick taste of tar wrapped like tentacles around human cities had been a good distraction from the walking, raving dead in the beginning, but not anymore.

The sickly stench clung to Killian’s skin. It seeped from his pores until all he smelled anymore was death, disease, and the damning scent of defeat lurking on the horizon.

The Fallen were losing.

La Morte Nera could not be stopped.

The realization stung worse than the blue embers falling upon his hands.

“Watch him!” Abriel shouted as the flare began to fizzle in a plume of dark smoke.

The crazed shifter twisted in midair, more frantic to escape now. The smoke billowed around him, confusing him as it had countless others before him. The infected didn’t like the sulfuric smoke any more than they liked dying.

Too damned bad for them.

Killian spun to cut the shifter off, but in wolf form, he was fast, far faster than Killian had anticipated. The beast raced past him, tail swinging wildly, half a second before he reached position.

The shifter curled in upon himself, getting ready to leap through the door.

Son of a bitch!

Killian tossed the flare aside and lurched forward, reaching for the pair of throwing knives hidden in their sheaths up his sleeves. He doubted he’d get the knives out before the shifter completed his desperate dive, but Killian ripped them from the leather and threw anyway.

Dahmiel loomed up in front of the doorway with a roar, his sword still strapped to his back and his tattooed arms outstretched. The Elioud caught sight of him and howled again, trying to turn himself mid-leap.

Killian shouted a wordless warning to his blade-brother, watching in silent frustration as the shifter managed to twist its massive body to the side. The knives didn’t even touch the creature as they whistled by.

Dahmiel didn’t flinch as first one and then the other silver blade sank into his arm, cutting deep from the force of Killian’s throw. In fact, Dom paid the knives no attention at all, instead grabbing the rabid shifter by the scruff of the neck and slamming him to the floor as if the knives had never touched him.

The momentum of his body slam splintered the rotting wood at his feet.

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