Night's Templar, Page 1Joey W. Hill
A Vampire Queen Novel
Joey W. Hill
About the Author
Also by Joey Hill
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Lord Uthe, a member of the Vampire Council, was a Templar Knight centuries ago. Even up to the present day, he has attempted to honor the spirit of the Rule, despite the volatile and highly sexual nature of the vampire world. Yet now he's caught the attention of the Fae Lord Keldwyn, liaison between the Council and Fae Court. Keldwyn challenges Uthe's emotional isolation and dominant nature. When a quest from Uthe's past requires Keldwyn's help to protect both their worlds, Uthe will have to decide whether the Fae male is a gift from God to be cherished and trusted, or a curse that will make Uthe fail the Order he promised to serve all his life.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Board Resolution Copyright (c) 2015 Joey W. Hill
Cover Design by W. Scott Hill
E-Book Publication: October 2015 by Story Witch Press.
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Story Witch Press, 6823 Neuhoff Lane, Charlotte NC 28269.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher's permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author's imagination and used fictitiously.
The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned in this book.
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. Reader discretion is advised.
My eternal thanks to my critique partners, both old and new--the patient and amazing Sheri Fogarty, who has been with me since my early Ellora's Cave days, and the incomparable Angela Knight, who has more recently been inflicted with my manuscripts. As she was one of the authors who inspired my original writing style, it is an honor to have her as a critique partner. I sort of keep pinching myself to make sure it's not a figment of my vivid imagination. Thank you both for giving me content insights that made this complex story a better book.
Readers are the gifts that keep giving throughout an author's career. I am thankful for all of mine, and want to mention some in particular who helped with this book:
Thank you to Judy and Lauren, who made sure this book was up to the standards my readers expect from me. I thank them also for invaluable proofing help.
Thank you to my readers on the JWH Connection fan forum for their musings and questions about Uthe and Keldwyn. You made me consider their relationship and world from different angles, which resulted in a richer story. I also wanted to note some specific contributions in that regard:
To Shi for the idea that led to Uthe's personal conflict in this story (no spoilers!). Her questions and comments on this topic took Night's Templar in an unexpected but exact right direction.
To Meki for the discussion of Sufi poetry that led to an exploration of the word Yaar and its multiple meanings.
To Alicia for the insights about and pictures of La Couvertoirade.
As always, any mistakes or flaws in this manuscript are entirely the fault of this author. Even after my proofers go through it, I'm usually still tweaking and massaging, therefore increasing the likelihood that some gaffes will still slip through. I hope nothing is so jarring that it distracts you from enjoying Keldwyn and Uthe's journey.
Finally, last but never least, to my husband. The decision to start self-publishing some of my titles was a way to diversify my offerings to my readers. However, I could not have taken that path without his willingness to work alongside me in this crazy career choice and take over the "publishing" end of things. In a very short time, he's come up to speed on all aspects of publishing, including cover design, as the gorgeous cover to this book attests. Yet another way he has demonstrated he is my tenacious partner on this life's journey. You're my heart, darling. Thank you!
In my research on the Templars, I found three different spellings for the name of the founder of the Order, Hugh of Payns. I chose to use Malcolm Barber's version, as he is considered one of the top authorities on the documented history of the Templar Order. I didn't want those of you who are used to a different spelling to think that I had it wrong (wink).
A note on the use of historic figures in my book, like Hugh of Payns, Grand Master Gerard de Ridefort and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I'm always leery of making such people part of my story, especially if they're painted as a villain. As we all know, history is only as objective as the people who write and research it. On top of that, they're often basing their research on the accounts of historians who came before them. In short, documenting history is an enormous game of "grapevine", and it gets additionally twisted by politics, ignorance and carelessness.
So I apologize now to any of those "non-fiction" folk if I did you any injustice. In the end, my story is fiction, so I ask the reader to take whatever I've learned about these characters with a grain of salt. None of us really know if we're good guys or bad guys until we face the end--and most of the time we're usually something in between.
In most of my research, three texts were cited as the guiding principles for the Templar Order. Since Uthe quotes from them in his story, I wanted to credit these specifically, though I'm grateful for all the scholars who have researched and documented this fascinating Order. Their sources were also invaluable in writing this book.
The Rule of the Templars : The French Text of the Rule of the Order of the Knights Templar (Translated and introduced by J.M. Upton-Ward, Boydell Press)
In Praise of the New Knighthood (De Laude novae militiae) by Bernard of Clairvaux (Translated by M. Conrad Greenia OCSO)
"The Letter of Hugh peccator" circa 1130 (author unknown)
"For a member of a species that considers itself superior to all others, you spend an inordinate amount of time on your knees."
"None are superior to God. And on one's knees is where salvation and answers are found," Uthe responded.
His tormentor shifted in front of him. Though his head was bowed and eyes closed, Uthe felt the shadow of his presence. Either the Fae Lord was trying to be as disruptive as possible, or he was blocking the view of the horizon, where the sun was seconds from making
an appearance. Uthe could feel it, like the fires of Hell rising up to claim him.
He preferred to think Keldwyn's intent was to disturb his meditation, rather than shield him. The Fae being protective of him opened the door to thoughts Uthe didn't wish to have. What was behind that door already strained its hinges.
Why now? Why all of this now?
He banished that thought in a blink. One didn't question the Lord's designs and plan. One obeyed and served His Will.
"You are on your knees before me," Keldwyn pointed out.
"I am on my knees to God. You inserted yourself into the conversation. If there is justice, a lightning strike will reduce you to a smoking pile of fancy clothes by the time I open my eyes."
"I'm not certain if a lightning strike would be fatal to me," Keldwyn mused.
"If it was the hand of God, I'm certain it would be."
Keldwyn leaned over him, because silken strands of his long, thick hair brushed Uthe's neck. "I hate how you do this," the Fae said.
"No one asked you to watch." Uthe kept his own hair severely short, shearing it frequently. One of God's sheep.
"You know, Uthe is not really a name. It's a piece of a name, a connecting word, like 'the' or 'and.' Was it the noise your mother made when she pushed you out of the womb--oof--and the doctor misheard her?"
His mother. Uthe had never known her, though there was a time he'd wished he could lift the veils of his mind that hid the memory of being inside her. His father had never spoken of it, but Uthe was sure his sire had killed his human mother moments after his birth. He'd given Uthe first blood from his own vein.
He no longer wished for a memory of her. If a woman's emotions laced the womb of her growing child like the grasses of a bird's nest, his nest had been lined with terror, pain, despair. It had not been a place of safety or warmth, an echo of the Virgin Mary's love that St. Bernard had suggested was the resting place above all resting places.
There is no rest for the wicked.
He stiffened at that voice, smooth as a serpent's tongue. Concentrating so hard that perspiration trickled along his temple, he shut out the voices of the past, present, and his absurd future, to focus on the one thing that mattered. The sun crept out from the horizon, thinking itself a stealthy hunter. He was stealthier. The key was being alert to every passing second, every change in the air around him, in the feel of the earth below him.
But what if he wasn't? He usually used Keldwyn's buzzing around him as a beneficial test of his discipline, but these unexpected thoughts of his past could throw him off. There were so many things the kiss of sunlight would end. His death would stop them before they could come to fruition, a deep relief. Yet his ease was not an option, since there was one vital thing his death would leave undone.
How much longer would it take? Will it be too late?
Keldwyn straightened. Uthe tried to ignore the featherlike retreat of his hair along his nape. It was only marginally less difficult to do that than to dispel the unsettling vision Keldwyn had planted in his head--Uthe kneeling before him.
So many secrets were bound inside Uthe, layered like fossils in the earth. It should hardly take any effort to conceal his reaction to being on his knees in front of the male who always smelled of autumn leaves and pale sunlight. Fall was a transition season, from the life and birth of spring to the death signified by winter, endings. How apt.
Now. The fingers of flame closed over his skin. As always, his heartbeat and adrenaline surged, trying to push him into headlong flight, a base survival instinct. He held fast, forcing himself to calm, even as his skin felt like it was about to erupt. Then he moved.
He sprang from the kneeling position and was running, his vampire speed making him all but invisible to the human eye. He pushed himself to the limits of his endurance and beyond, legs scissoring across the ground, arms pumping, every muscle rippling in smooth motion. Off of the grassy knoll, through the short stint of woods, then across the meadow. He thought he could detect Keldwyn's scent around him, but it was autumn here, so he told himself that was what he smelled.
The thundering of his heart was like horses' hooves in a Templar cavalry charge, sending up plumes of gritty sand while the bright sun blinded him. His hand light on the reins, sword tight in his hand. The fluttering snap of the black and white beauseant, the screams of the dying. The touch of a grateful pilgrim's hand on his calf...
By the time he reached the manicured lawn, Uthe felt like he was inside a ball of fire. He accepted and endured, never losing sight of his goal, never losing control. Only a matter of seconds between life and death. All the will of God.
He shot across the threshold of the side entrance to the Savannah estate. It was a stone structure appended to the main house, an enclosed rock patio that provided a pleasant place in summer for those who wanted to enjoy the view of the side lawn and the forest beyond it. It also had a trap door that led to the underground rooms housing guest vampires, like himself. As he fell back against the cool wall, which enclosed him in shadows, a shard of sunlight speared the ground at the archway like an enemy lance, falling just short of its mark. Uthe narrowed his eyes, watching the spread of the light. Vampires could see the individual motes, threads, bands and bars of sunlight in a way humans couldn't. It was a language a vampire couldn't read for long, though, unless he wanted to burn out his retinas. He averted his eyes.
Keldwyn was leaning against the stone wall to his right as if he'd been there all along, waiting for him. While the Fae Lord had an exceptional ability to blend into his environment, such that he could seem to appear or disappear at will, he was also capable of a swiftness that surpassed even a vampire's.
"Would you like me to open the trap door?" Keldwyn asked pleasantly, though there was a sharpness to his onyx eyes that reminded Uthe of the sun's threat to wrap him up in flame.
"If you are planning to stay on this side of it after it closes."
It was always safest to keep Keldwyn in his peripheral vision, because gazing directly upon the Fae Lord could be as hazardous as staring at the sun. During Council meetings, he usually eschewed his assigned seat, wandering through the spacious chamber as the meeting was conducted. Despite his restless behavior, they'd learned they had his full attention, for Keldwyn wouldn't hesitate to interject a pertinent comment when needed, whether it was while he sat on the edge of the koi pond with its gurgling fountain or from a perch on one of the crisscrossed ceiling beams.
His preferred spot, however, was the stretch of wall behind Uthe's chair. It was an unexpected choice. At social gatherings, a vampire's servant would stand behind their Mistress or Master. Uthe's third marked servant, Mariela, was a quiet presence behind him at such events. Even if he could not see her, he always had a connection to her mind. He had no such connection to Keldwyn, yet he was as aware of the Fae's presence behind him during Council meetings as he was of his own servant's breath and blood.
Keldwyn was no servant. Not even in Uthe's imaginings, though he'd tried once or twice to put him there, with some very disturbing results.
He'd learned to treat his growing reaction to the Fae Lord as another challenge to his discipline and resolve. He compartmentalized his response, handling it the way he handled Council business. Steady, thoughtful, with an eye to short and long term results. No anger, always calm. No harmful passions.
To test that discipline and resolve now--or so he told himself--Uthe looked directly toward his troublesome companion.
The male was a temptation to any species. Lord Keldwyn, liaison to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, first ever Fae liaison with the Vampire Council, was of high Fae birth. Years of exposure to perpetual vampire beauty should have made Uthe immune to a handsome face, but a high Fae eclipsed even a vampire's appeal, because their beauty was mixed with an unearthly quality that was unsettling, dangerous, irresistible. Keldwyn's face and form were a blatant reason for every cautionary tale about crossing into the Fae world and never being heard from again.
is nose and cheekbones were like honed blades, his black hair thick as a curtain. It fell to his waist, tangling over his arms when loose. The pointed tips of his ears parted the flowing strands, though sometimes they were concealed, like when he leaned over a table to study a document, his long-fingered hands braced on the wooden surface. Or if he tilted his head up to look through the domed ceiling of the Council chambers to study the moon and stars through the skylight.
His body was just as distracting. Right now his arms were crossed over his chest, which was broad and well developed despite his lean form.
A reaction to physical features was mere lust, easily dismissed. It was the deeper qualities that he sensed in Keldwyn, elements eluding definition in his soul, which tangled up Uthe's mind. The only thing that should be indefinable--that was indefinable, he corrected himself--was God. Curiosity was not a sin, but when his interest in those qualities heightened his awareness of Keldwyn's physical features, then there was a problem.
The introduction of Keldwyn as liaison to the Vampire Council had been an historic moment between two species who were sworn enemies. Lady Lyssa, the current Council head and last of the vampire royalty, a Queen of the long vanished Far East clan, had made that possible due to her half-Fae blood. As her right hand on the Council, Uthe knew he would have the most interaction with the male, beyond the Fae Lord's relationship with Lyssa herself, but Keldwyn had taken a disconcertingly keen interest in Uthe from the beginning. At first, Uthe had been amused. Of late, it had become a challenge to the core of who he was. He wasn't sure of Keldwyn's intent. But then, that was the nature of the Fae. Elusive, hard to pin down.
The thought produced an intriguing vision of pinning Keldwyn to a board like a butterfly by his stunning golden, red and yellow wings, which he mainly brought out for formal occasions, having the ability to summon or cloak them at will. Uthe thought of him like the surface of a lake, hinting at an array of concealed exotic wonders. All he had to do was step into the waters, let the cool currents take him forward, under...