Agents of Shadow: Part I, Chapter 1

So I haven’t gotten too many questions about my book yet (I suppose that’s a good thing!). Truthfully, I expected many questions as I left a lot of things unexplained. I figured these questions would fuel my topics to write about in the “All About the Keepers of White” tab. Since my inbox is fairly empty, I thought I’d spark a little interest by giving two specific samples of my book. Chapter 1 from Part 1, and then in a couple more weeks, Chapter 1 from Part 2. The beginning of both parts is quite a paradox as one introduces the growing evil and corruption of the Agents of Shadow, whereas the other introduces a character who represents goodness. If you like what you read and haven’t yet purchased a copy of Agents of Shadow, you can always click on the “By My Books” tab and click on the link to it there. Furthermore, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me here, or you can email me at author.richardcrofton@gmail.com.

But anyway, without further ado, I present to you The Keepers of White, Book I: Agents of Shadow, Part 1, Chapter 1. Enjoy!

Chapter I

Jamie woke up to discover she was immobile and had been stripped of her clothes. Though she was disoriented, she could see the strange masks covering the faces of the men surrounding her as she lay on a cold, smooth, hard surface. As the grogginess of her anesthetic-induced sleep started to wear off, she thought that perhaps the surface she lay on was not in fact cold. She herself was, for she felt an uncontrollable shivering throughout her whole, naked body. She focused with all her might to gather her bearings, trying to determine where she was and how she got there. Coming around to an adequate alertness was not happening swiftly. Had she not been drugged, she may have still found it difficult to make an assessment of her situation, as it was completely alien to her.

Besides the strange masks, Jamie noticed the figures were cloaked in hooded robes: dark, medieval and intimidating. The masks were plain silver with little design. Mouthless, with only two thin slits for nostrils from which to breathe, they looked thick and heavy on the faces of her captors, as if they were made of chrome. For a moment she was reminded of Greek theater. The deepness of the masks appeared to hide their eyes, though she knew they could see clearly even if she could not. The dark figures seemed to be chanting something very low, and it was too inaudible for her to make out the words. It was almost melodic, but with potential malice in its monotone hum. They were standing around her, not moving from their positions, but their arms were sometimes moving side to side, as if they were passing an object among each other in their circle that formed around her. She may have been able to see what they were doing if she were able to move her head. In spite of all her efforts, she couldn’t budge an inch of her body. She lay flat on her back, forced to stare at the enigmatic men, the strange painted symbols on a low ceiling, and the dull glow of candles on a pointy designed chandelier, all hovering above her. Only her eyes found slight freedom to wander about in their sockets.

Still unable to grasp what was happening or why, Jaime lay there only trying to focus on her surroundings, only trying to understand the where and when other than the why and how. She slowly realized that she must have been lying on a table (more like an altar, judging by the tightness of the robed figures who circled around her), because she could only see the upper torsos and heads of the strangers, which could only mean that she must have been horizontally on a platform as high as their waists. The glowing candles were of a pitch-black color and started to blaze in her eyes with a reddish tint that seemed haunting. Her peripheral vision also sensed the same tint that emitted from the candles in view from directly above. The strange light forced such a pestering impact on her that, now that she was finally formulating complete thoughts, she gathered there must have been hundreds of red-glowing candles in this room: miniature dancing devils, anxiously anticipating something violent but entertaining. It could have merely been electrical lighting, but her head could not turn to its side to confirm anything.

The chandelier above her was nothing large or of anything one would find in a spacious cathedral, but it still implied a sense of something fantastical and unrealistic about this place. The ceiling, and what little of the walls that were in her limited view showed a dull-grey, large, rectangular stone pattern, but they seemed so close, that she started to feel a little claustrophobic. There was a cool, damp moisture and a dank, moldy smell of the place; she could have sworn she was in a sewer as there were so many familiarities… her mind briefly drifted to July 4th, when she was eight years old, the day she and her older brother were playing at the park and found a tunnel that led to the sewer system under their neighborhood.

The only perception that conflicted with Jamie’s theory of being held captive in a sewer of all places was that of sound. The low and indecipherable chanting of the dark figures seemed more than just intentional. There was no echo from any of the sounds she could hear. In fact, every voice sounded so muffled as if no words travelled farther than the very front of their mouths. She started to imagine being enclosed by a protective barrier that one might see on the walls in the room of an asylum’s most unstable patient, rather than by walls of stone. She also wondered if she could turn her head to view the floor; would she see a thick rug instead of stone floor beneath the feet of her captors, albeit unfitting in such a dungeon-like room.

Jamie started to become more awake, and tried to ask where she was. Though weak and mouse-like, she could hear her voice sounding out noise, but because her lips or jaw couldn’t move, save the shivering she couldn’t control, her question was not comprehensible. However, her voice managed to draw more direct attention from the strangers. They were looking directly at her through those thick, plated masks.

“She’s awake,” she heard one of the masked men speak in a low, raspy voice. “Continue with the ceremony.”

Ceremony? What ceremony? Jamie’s grogginess began to dissipate more, and she could comprehend that she was in serious danger, although she had never faced any danger like this, she still recognized it to be so. She tried to gain control of her shivering body, tried to move something: an arm, a hand, an eyelid. If only she could move her head and see what was these freaks were doing… then again, did she really want to? Still, she prayed that she would snap out of this trance and be able to escape from this insanity, but her prayers were not answered.

The one who spoke, who was standing at her bare feet reached toward her, and she could feel something cold and solid slide up the inside of her quivering legs. Suddenly she felt the object press against her, a round, hollow item that seemed to cover her womanhood. She immediately remembered that she was on her period; she was bleeding, almost as if at the command of the masked devil who was holding the hard object against her. She wasn’t bleeding much; only enough to stain whatever the hard, metallic object was that pressed against her. In another moment, when the cloaked figure raised it into view from between her legs and up to his masked face, she saw what it was.  A goblet; some black cup of darkness that looked like it belonged with many others in a great hall somewhere from the days of kings, knights, and ancient cults one would only read about these days. Jamie could see that the rim of the goblet, though black as it was, was stained crimson: a redness that defied the obsidian background of the cup and remained visible, refusing to be drowned out by the color of night that almost glowed from the object.

Blood. Her blood.

Jamie struggled again to regain control of her motor systems. Still she could not move. She could not feel anything that would restrain her. There seemed to be no ropes, chains, or any poisonous drug coursing through her veins that would invoke paralysis. She just couldn’t move. Besides the warmth of her blood seeping out of her womanly passage, she remained cold all over, and she was gripped with fear: a fear that held her against her will, freezing every muscle of her naked body; an unnatural fear that would not let her go. She then decided it was this living fear that stole her ability to move. It almost felt as if the terror that seized her did not come from her own mind and heart. She sensed it was an outside force, almost tangible, that invaded her like a virus. Her awakening logic screamed out that this was impossible but, God help her, it was nevertheless there; an artificial fear that these five masked men in cloaks (one of them may be a woman, she suspected) somehow were channeling into her, either from their gibberish chanting or by some other method. The realization of this concept only enhanced the intruding horror that imprisoned her, and all desperate attempts to break free were futile.

Suddenly the chanting ceased. The man with the goblet made a subtle nod to another cloaked figure on his left, and a sinking feeling filled Jamie’s stomach as this solitary hooded figure reached into his sleeve and pulled out a sharp, medieval looking dagger with a silver blade. From midway to the point, it was razor sharp on both sides. The bottom half of the blade had a thin slit down the middle, and its edges serrated like a short row of tiny shark teeth. At the base of the blade, separating it from the hilt were two bones of silver that formed an “X,” and below a hilt decorated with rows of miniature skulls as metallically silver as the rest of the weapon. But the eyes of each skull held and empty blackness that seemed as deep as any abyss of lore.

Her eyes tried to widen at the sight of this, for what monstrous acts these dark men were about to perform, Jamie didn’t want to know. But there was something about the dagger that she recognized. She had seen this before… just recently. She prayed that this was all just a nightmare, and that she would soon wake up in her fiancé’s arms, back at her off-campus apartment where she should be, but her prayers were not answered.

The first dark man with the raspy voice raised the goblet above his hooded head and spoke again: “In the name of the dark lord and his minions, we draw the life force of the virgin so that we may serve him with the power that will be ours. We will use this power to carry out his message to humanity; the message that he is the one who will rule for all eternity, and only his true followers will receive his generous rewards and share his dominion over man.”

The other four beings responded in unison, “We are his servants and his agents forever.”

If she had control of her facial expressions, Jamie’s eyes would widen with astonished horror. How did they know she was a virgin? How could they possibly know that this twenty-year old college student, who was raised with a sense of true Christian morals by strict but wise and loving parents, had chosen abstinence; had resolved to save herself for only one man? She was considered by many young men (and some free-spirited women) to be quite attractive, and she had been propositioned on more than one occasion by the typical frat boy with beer-breath to “live a little” and dismiss her reputation of prudence. She had even been tempted to venture the world of sexual pleasures, if only for educational purpose or to satisfy curiosity, but her steadfast upbringing always kept her actions in check.

Then, during the first semester of her sophomore year at Gettysburg College, she met Neal. He was humble yet confident, with so many dreams and aspirations to change the world for the better. His philosophies were so much like her own, and his drive to make a difference as a future educator like herself drew her to him like a bear to honey.

She remembered the first day she saw him. She remembered the first time they spoke; mainly chit-chatting about their thoughts of the future. He mentioned his goal of helping families as a dedicated social worker. She first explained a desire to teach underprivileged children, but then revealed her bigger dream of working for the Department of Education and eventually moving through the ranks in order to help make decisions in fixing a broken system. They hit it off immediately. It wasn’t long after that day that she knew.

After six months of being exclusive, he started to make subtle attempts to pressure her into taking their relationship on a more physical level, but she patiently explained the importance of waiting; how much more special it would be, and more intimate than any premarital activity could ever feel. Although slightly irritated with his immature persistence, she tolerated it. Her mother had often warned her about boys. Enough to instill in her a belief that most boys were cursed with a lack of willpower, but Neal did not fall into the typical behavior that most boys she met and dated usually displayed when they were told they couldn’t have what they wanted. Instead, he smiled a simple and pleasant smile, assuring her that he was more than willing to wait, because she was worth it.

For the next few weeks, the topic of sex was often present in their conversations, but Neal never allowed those talks to degrade to an emotional level. They both felt assurance that these conversations remained solely philosophical, so they could understand each other’s thoughts on the matter objectively. It only strengthened their love for each other. In a short time, Neal came to agree completely with her ideals. He admitted that he saw the rewards of waiting: that they would form a bond that would be so much more inseparable, and with their faith in God and each other, they would have a better chance of preventing becoming another statistic of divorcees in a country so abundant with them.

A year later they were still abstinent and still deeply in love. Neal proposed, and she said yes. It was the happiest day of her life. The second happiest day came shortly after when they broke the news to her parents and they expressed their approval and joy with a celebratory dinner. Everything she had accomplished, everything she was, came from their unconditional love and everlasting guidance. She prayed she could feel their love and receive their guidance now at this moment, but her prayers were not answered.

For several delusional seconds, she could not fathom how these twisted, cloaked devil worshipers could know of her life choice. Nor how she even wound up in this cursed place. Then, like a switch that flipped on with an automatic timer inside her mind, a more short-term memory sparked into light…

 

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