From The Darkness, Before The Light – Excerpt
By Jason Zapata
Bridgett descended towards Reginald’s campfire slowly. She dimmed her aura and landed behind him, beyond the campfire’s light. The fallen knight wore a familiar garment. A cloak the Romani, Nadya made for him. Two years after their parting and he still thought of her…
For the first time she understood the implications of her actions. Having witnessed this mortal’s suffering, she did pity him. But she could not ease his burden. She was fighting on multiple fronts in a war spreading across the globe. A conflict between heaven and hell that mankind was entirely ignorant of.
None of her comrades took such drastic measures. They believed victory was still possible waging war in the traditional way. The old enemy counted on this. She knew better. A new element needed to be introduced into the struggle —
“The darkness does not become you, Bridgett. Why don’t you step into the light?” Reginald asked.
Bridgett’s heart leapt into her throat for just a moment. How was he able to sense her? Her composure reasserted itself quickly as she approached. Reginald’s head was tilted down towards the fire. Much of his face was obscured in the shadows of his cloak.
“How are you fairing with the extermination?” She inquired.
Reginald said nothing for several moments before answering, “The beasts have been seen less frequently. No one has even heard about the attacks in the last two hamlets I passed through. If you are here, you must have found their source.”
For the past year Reginald had followed her orders to defend small hamlets and villages along the Holy Roman Empire’s eastern frontier. A sudden and inexplicable outbreak of monsters plagued the countryside. Strange beasts began to prey upon farmers and settlers with impunity. Given the distance from the capital – many of the reports went without investigation or were labeled gruesome campfire tales.
Bridgett knew these weren’t just stories. She dispatched Reginald to the slay the beasts while she uncovered their origin. A small settlement named Düsternis had uncovered an ancient and cursed relic. A tablet forged by the Old Ones – the defeated race that dwelled within the darkness long before God’s light. Like so many other incidents – Düsternis initially prospered under the influence of the relic. This was until its power utterly corrupted them.
Bridgett wanted to destroy the artifact immediately, but its presence was lethal to angels. Humans possessed a degree of resistance. This was the reason why the relic worked so hard to make itself indispensable to potential worshippers. It was hard for mortals to destroy anything that caused their crops to flourish and livestock to grow.
“Yes, I have. You must depart from here and travel to the settlement of Düsternis. Its people have in their possession a cursed relic that’s causing the outbreak. I wanted to destroy this artifact myself – but I cannot get near it. You must complete this task in my place,” she elaborated.
The knight did not answer — only poked at the fire. Sparks shot up into the night sky. Bridgett forced herself to remain calm in the face of the mortal’s insolence, “You’ve been given your orders. I take my leave –”
“What have you done to me?” Reginald asked.
This was the question Bridgett expected for years. Even with that amount of preparation she was no more comfortable answering it. When she sentenced Reginald – Bridgett knew his damnation would grant him great strength. She also knew it would be at the expense of his humanity.
“I made you an instrument against the darkness,” She answered without hesitation.
Reginald shot up to his feet and whirled to finally face Bridgett, “You turned me into a monster!”
She nodded, “A necessary consequence. It’s given you the strength to withstand the enemies you have faced.”
Reginald’s back went rigid at her curt explanation. She had never provided warning of this outcome and the mortal resented her for it. Bridgett used his shocked silence to continue,
“And a condition that can be reversed. Go to Düsternis – destroy the artifact and take another step towards redemption.”
With that she left the knight. She told herself that there were many other fronts in this war that needed her attention. But that wasn’t the real reason. She hated the accusing glare of Reginald’s eerie eyes.
This scene was a lot of fun to write. I’m determined to do a better job using Bridgett’s viewpoint to advance the plot. The angel is more than Reginald’s keeper. She’s an officer in heaven’s army whose conscripted the knight in a struggle against the forces of evil. And she does this without hesitation.
Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Helsing was a big inspiration for me. She is utterly confident in her decisions and determined to see the enemy defeated. I want to make Bridgett as compelling a character throughout this ongoing series. I fully intend to display her martial prowess at some point as well. But primarily she is a brilliant strategist ahead of the angelic curve.
This installment is also influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. The master of instilling a quiet sense of dread in readers. His Great Old One’s are corruptive beings that work well in most horror/fantasy settings. I’ve wanted to tell my own Lovecraftian story for a long time. Düsternis, the settlement where this story takes place, is inspired by Innsmouth. The cursed relic is similar to the repulsive idol recovered from the swamps in Call of Cthulhu.
I also wanted to continue building the tension between Reginald and his allies. He has spent the last six years struggling to survive. This has driven him further into darkness, making it difficult for him to maintain positive relationships. From The Darkness, Before The Light is the story that highlight’s Reginald’s transition from man to monster. It will be much shorter than the previous installment – A Shadow Beneath Leipzig.