Demon Bayou..

5 Feb

Another GSP release from Author of the Week: Tamara A. Lowery.

Demon Bayou by Tamara A. Lowery

Viktor Brandewyne’s search for the second Sister of Power leads him to the bayou country near colonial New Orleans. Along the way, he has his first encounter with vampires not made by him, as well as running afoul of smugglers. The black waters of the bayous hold their own danger as well. An ancient demon guards the way to the Sister. Worse, the siren Belladonna begins to die in the swamps. Should Viktor return the siren to the sea or continue on to the Sister? Without magic from all the Sisters, he won’t be able to break the curse that has made him a vampire before it destroys him. Without Belladonna, he cannot find the Sisters.

Excerpt:

 Chapter 1
                            I dream of childhood friends and the dreams we had—Styx

Hezekiah Grimm found his captain at the railing on the fo’c’sle. Viktor Brandewyne stood looking out at the stars, an involuntary smile on his face. Lazarus was perched on the railing in front of him. The huge black cat emitted a rumbling purr in response to the captain’s strokes.

Grimm eyed the cat warily as he joined Viktor. Although he did not know the full story behind the act, he knew the creature was not natural and was perhaps demonic. It rarely tolerated the touch of anyone other than the Captain.

Viktor nodded, not speaking.

As uncomfortable as Lazarus made him, Grimm had to admit the cat had a calming effect on Viktor. It was the only thing that convinced him the creature, which was sometimes a cat, sometimes a bird, sometimes shadow or smoke, was at least not inherently evil, at least no more evil than the vampire Grimm called Captain.

Grimm had never been as superstitious as most sailors and pirates. He’d always believed in making his own luck and that witches, ghosts and beasties were mostly stories told to frighten small children or weak-minded fools. He’d not been above using such stories to keep his crew cowed and in line, of course.

These days, however, he’d found himself forced to come to grips with the fact that such beings did exist outside of stories and nightmares.

Since joining his old friend’s crew, he’d encountered vampires, witches, shape-shifting familiars, mermaids and a sea monster. Granted, the sea monster might easily be mistaken for a mermaid by some.

“It’s been quiet the past few days,” he observed. “How long do you think Belladonna will stay gone?”

“Until I call her back,” Viktor answered. “She’s busy with some fisherman she caught.”

“You keep surprising me, Viktor. Never knew you to share a wench before.”

“If it was anyone other than Belle, I wouldn’t. I still won’t share her with any of my crew.”

“But a perfect stranger?”

“Safer that way, Hezekiah. I don’t trust her in my bed.” He smiled at his first mate. “She’s just playing with her food.”

Grimm made a face. He’d seen the siren’s eating habits firsthand. Anyone foolish enough to go in the water with her was fair game. Even Viktor had felt her teeth, and she was supposed to be there to help him.

Viktor went back to petting the cat. “I was just thinking back to when Jim and I were first starting out. Old Billy Black said Jim was as much trouble as I was.”

“Aye and the two of you were damn near inseparable, as I remember. You never have said what happened to Jim.”

“No. I haven’t,” his tone made it clear that the subject was not to be broached again. “Was there something in particular that you wanted, Mr. Grimm?”

“There was talk in the last port of a convoy. Spices mostly, but there was rumor that some emeralds were being smuggled.”

“I heard the talk, as well.”

“I checked over the charts, Captain. The timing is right, and we’re in a prime position to intercept.”

Viktor thought about it for a while. The right spices could bring a tidy sum, although the emeralds, if there really were any, would be tricky to convert into cash. More importantly, fresh provisions would be welcome, both foodstuffs and prisoners to feed the bloodlust of his small cadre of vampires and himself.

“Very well, Mr. Grimm. Have the lads ready by first light. When the convoy comes into sight, pick us out a fat one.”

“Aye, Captain.”

                                                                  ****
“What’s the word, Mr. Grimm?”

“Sniff reports five ships in the convoy. They’re just to the south of us on the horizon,” he answered as he entered the captain’s cabin. “Their current heading is north. Three look to be merchantmen. He said the lead and chase vessels appear to be smaller gun boats.”

Viktor moved to the window, opening one of the panes to smell and feel the wind. Five specks of white, the topsails of their prey, were just visible where sky met sea.

“Have the riggers furl a third of the sails,” he ordered. “Give them a better chance of catching us up. They won’t suspect our purpose until it’s too late, if they come up behind us, rather than if we turned toward them.”

“What colors should we fly?” Even though Sniff, using the glass, couldn’t see what flag the convoy ran under, Grimm knew Viktor’s eyesight was much sharper than his.

“British, Mr. Grimm.”

                                                                  ****
Even with fewer sails up, it soon became apparent it would take the merchant ships most of the day to get remotely close to the Incubus. Less experienced or less patient pirates might have turned their ship toward their prey.

But Viktor didn’t want to spook them into scattering, or to provoke their escorts. As long as he sailed as if they were of no interest, their guard would be down when he did order an attack. Past experience had taught him it was an effective ploy when encountering convoys.

At midday, Sniff called down from the crow’s nest, “They look to be changing course!”

Grimm took the glass and peered at the slowly approaching ships. Viktor stood beside him, not needing a spyglass. They watched as the ships made an eastward course change.

“Damn. Wasn’t expecting that,” Grimm muttered. “Most spice traders usually don’t head eastward until they’re far enough to the north to catch the 

Trades. Something must have spooked them.”

“It is odd,” Viktor agreed, “but not as odd as how the middle ship is sailing.”

The first mate focused on the vessel indicated. “Interesting. Looks like she’s pulling away from the pack and returning to the original heading. Wonder why she’d leave the protection?”

The vampire sniffed the air. Viktor’s heightened perceptions greatly augmented his already well-honed weather eye. “The wind is going to hold steady for at least another day. Our stray little lamb should be pulling even with us by dusk. That should be perfect.”

“Thinking of trying the harpoon and counterweight system?”

“Aye. It’s set up to pull them right to us. I want to see if it works.”

“I’ll have the lads get the buffers ready to take the brunt of the impact. What’s the plan if the contraption doesn’t work?”

“It would do my little cadre good to indulge in a fresh feed,” he said, referring to the five crewmen he’d turned. “The rum and blood blend is sustaining them, but blood is much better in its pure form straight from the source.”

Grimm suppressed a slight shudder. He’d seen the vampires in a feeding frenzy back when Viktor had set them on the pirate hunter who had managed to capture the first mate. He’d never wanted to be the target of their Hunger.

“If you say so.”

                                                                      ****
It was moonless that night, a fact that normally would preclude any kind of pirate attack. The merchantman only had one man on watch.

Nighttime, however, was no barrier to Viktor Brandewyne. For that matter, neither was daylight, since his vampirism was the result of a curse placed on him by an irate witch. He had never actually died, unlike his cadre of five. They were now permanent members of his crew, pirates he had killed personally when his blood Hunger had threatened to overwhelm him.

Since the five were true vampires, they had the same weaknesses described in most of the legends: sunlight and holy objects. There was another weakness one had discovered the hard way. Viktor had originally made six vampires, but one had made the mistake of trying to feed on Belladonna. The siren’s blood had been instantly fatal to the vampire.

Brandee had the cadre assembled on deck. He’d already ordered all the topside lamps shuttered, so as not to give away their position to the other ship. The Incubus was a dark shadow against the star-studded sky and all but invisible.

Silently, the pirate ship maneuvered alongside the merchant vessel. Large cork buffers were hung over the side facing their prey. Using the swivel guns mounted on the rails, the pirates launched several harpoons. As soon as he heard them thud home into the wood of the other ship, Viktor gave the signal to release the counterweights.

Line attached to the harpoons passed through small ports in the deck via pulleys and attached to heavy iron weights. These were shoved out the lower gun ports. The result was that the other ship was rapidly pulled to the pirate vessel. The cork buffers prevented the hulls from damaging each other.

The sleeping crew of the merchantman was taken completely by surprise, jarred awake by the collision. Within seconds, the vampires were on board. Two quickly silenced the lone watchman; he was drained and dead in a matter of minutes. The other three swarmed the rigging, in case any sailors were in the crow’s nest.

Quickly and quietly, Viktor sent a large part of his crew over, led by the Grimm Reaper, to secure the ship. Most of the merchantman’s crew was still half-asleep, making for a swift victory.

The ship’s captain must have been a heavy sleeper. Not only had the colliding of the ships not wakened him, but Grimm had to shake him a few times to get him on his feet. The man was only half-dressed and disheveled, when Viktor entered his cabin.

“I apologize for this untimely interruption of your voyage, sir, but I believe you and I have some urgent business to attend to.” Brandee gave a mock bow. Before he could continue, however, Lazarus darted past him. In a black blur, the demon cat launched himself at the prisoner, clawing and biting any part of the man he could reach. This did not fit in with Brandee’s plan.

“Lazarus! Return.”

The cat abandoned his attack and leapt to Viktor’s shoulder in one fluid movement. He glared and growled at the merchant captain from his perch.

Brandee narrowed his eyes at the man. “My friend does not like you, sir. Have we perhaps met before? What is your name?”

“I’ve never set eyes on you before in my life,” he spat. “I am Captain Thomas Brumble. Who the hell are you?”

“Brumble? Brumble. Hmm, that would explain it, then. Your father wouldn’t happen to be Tobias Brumble?”

“I am his younger son. Who are you, and how do you know my father?”

“Captain Vik Brandee, sir, at your service. You’ve already met my first mate, Hezekiah Grimm.”

The young captain blanched, recognizing the names of the two most feared pirates to sail these waters.

“I don’t know your sire personally, Mr. Brumble, but an old friend of mine once spent six miserable months as cabin boy to that cowardly piece of shit. I promised him that I’d pay the bastard back, with interest, for every lash of the whip he’d given my friend unjustly.”

“Then I am a dead man. I know the reputations of Bloody Vik Brandee and the Grimm Reaper. All I ask, sir, is that you allow me to dress, so that I may face my fate with some dignity,” Brumble requested.

“What say you, Lazarus?” Brandee asked, stroking the agitated cat’s head.

Lazarus stopped growling, yawned and stretched out one paw, toes and claws spread. “Meh,” he mewed. Then he proceeded to groom the paw and ignore the prisoner.

“Very well, Mr. Brumble. Mr. Grimm, if you will escort our guest topside once he’s properly attired? I shall be inspecting our prisoners and new recruits.”

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/TamaraLowery.html#DemonBExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Bayou-Darkness-Tamara-Lowery-ebook/dp/B009ZKEWB4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391619397&sr=8-1&keywords=demon+bayou+tamara+A.+lowery

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