Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
Vampirates: Empire of Night
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $22.99 $29.99 CAD
- ebook $8.99 $11.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 5, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Vampirates: Immortal War
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at email@example.com. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.
A BAY SOMEWHERE OFF THE WEST COAST OF AUSTRALIA. THE YEAR 2512.
SIX WEEKS EARLIER
IF YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HEAD…
Sidorio stood on the beach, cradling in his hands the decapitated head of his new bride.
Lola. He opened his mouth to speak her name, but it was too painful to say the word and know that she was gone. To know that she would never again glance up at him, her eyes sparkling with dark purpose. That she would never again smile and take his hand. Never again lift one of her favorite antique glasses, filled with her own special vintage, and sip from it with all the grace of her aristocratic lineage.…
He gazed down at her in wonder. Even in this state, with her face turning as pale as the reflection of the moon on the still sea, her beauty was peerless. Lady Lola Elizabeth Mercy Lockwood Sidorio. It was not yet an hour since they had been married, and already she had been taken from him. Cruelly dispatched at the altar by his own son. A tear welled up in Sidorio's eye. It was not a familiar sensation. The bead of water escaped and fell like a raindrop onto Lola's cheek. Sidorio had a sudden hope that the water might somehow revive her. That she was not dead but only sleeping. But deep down, in the knot of his stomach, he knew she was gone. He was alone again.
Sidorio lifted his eyes for a moment and saw a small boat skimming away across the water: the pirate squad heading back to its ship, their terrible mission completed. Already, they were too far off for him to distinguish between the silhouettes of the vicious captain Cheng Li and her youthful assassin. But Sidorio held the image of the boy's face clearly in his mind. For it was the face of his own flesh and blood. His son, Connor.
"My boy," he rasped in agony.
From somewhere came a sound resembling a sigh. Instantly, he glanced down at his wife's head, wondering if there was any conceivable way the sound had emanated from her. But no. It was merely a rogue wave, lapping against the shore. Lola's face was as impassive as ever. Sidorio traced the line of his wife's cheek. Her skin had begun to change now—not only in color but also in tone—no longer the smooth alabaster he was used to.
Sidorio stared down at the tattoo of a black heart painted around Lola's left eye. That black heart, that closed eyelid, covered the most precious of jewels. Sidorio willed Lola to open her eyes just one more time. If only he could see her beautiful mahogany-colored eyes for one last, fleeting moment. But no, a single moment with Lola would be too tormenting. He would always want more. Even if he could turn the clock back a mere hour, when all eternity was spread out before them, he would always feel ravenous for more time with Lola, whose skin was growing more wrinkled with every second. Now that the seal of her immortality had been broken, the hungry years were racing to catch up with her and consume her. It was a terrible thing to behold.
Sidorio thought back to their first meeting. It had been on another beach, not dissimilar to this one. She and her crew had been playing games with him; but, as she had confessed that night, it had all been a ploy to catch his attention. How had she put it? She was so dexterous with words. "How else can a minnow signal a whale?" That's right! He could almost hear her voice. He smiled momentarily. How long, though, he wondered, before he lost the ability to recall that distinctive, cut-glass tone of hers? How long before even this memory was lost?
His thoughts moved on to the time he had trespassed onto her ship, The Vagabond—a considerably smaller vessel than his own, the mighty Blood Captain. That night, he had interrupted her as she prepared for her nightly bloodbath. It was part of her secret beauty regimen, but she had broken it for him. Instead, they had drunk together from the antique glasses she prized so dearly. She had fed him sweetmeats.
This memory soon spiraled into another—the first time they had gone hunting together. Lola was always clear that she preferred to drink blood from a glass, but still she had hunted with him, telling him she wanted to know his ways—not only to know them but to experience them. He had tried to do the same for her, too, though he had never quite understood the appeal of the glass over the human vessel. Those nights they had hunted together, like two rampant wolves, had been nights of the purest joy he could ever remember. To think of them now brought only coldness to his immortal bones and a dull, heavy ache to his head. In his hands, Lola's face grew more wrinkled with every passing minute. Her skin was so dry, it was starting to flake. She was being ravaged before his very eyes. Sidorio began to fear his beautiful wife might simply turn to dust and slip through his fingers into the night air.
He closed his eyes, urging darkness to engulf him. Now, even to think of her was a constant source of pain. But she was within him. Images of her filled his being as completely as blood cells: the time she had helped him pick out new clothes, like the wedding suit he was wearing still, though he would never again have use for such finery; the evening she had placed her tiny hand on his and shown him how to swirl the vintage inside the glass to release its aroma; then that moment—that magical moment—when she had consented to become his wife…
She had become his wife, but, more than that, she had become his world. Now she was gone.
Sidorio had been lonely before, but never like this. He let out a sorrowful roar.
The wind whispered close in his ear, as if somehow it shared his mourning. The sound came again, and Sidorio wondered if it could, after all, be the wind. The beach was calm, and the air was still and dry.
There was a third sound, not so much a whisper as a cough. Tempted to believe that some drop of life still remained in Lola, he glanced down, fearful of the bitter disappointment ahead. But he had no choice. He had to gaze again at her beautiful face. At that perfect tattoo of a black heart.
He contemplated his wife's ruby lips. Was it his imagination or had they parted slightly since he had last looked? And her skin seemed, if not smoother, then at least no more wrinkled and cracked than before. Sidorio shook his head. A man could drive himself mad with such thoughts.
And now perhaps madness had taken hold of Sidorio. Because, as he gazed at his wife's face once more, he saw a fragile eyelid flutter. The black heart was broken. And, in its place, he saw the dazzling beauty of Lola's eye.
Sidorio felt himself inextricably sinking into the depths of insanity. "No," he moaned. "Don't play tricks on me! Let me mourn her."
At that Lola's cracked lips shifted into a soft smile. Then he heard her unmistakable voice. "You're a touch premature in mourning me, my darling husband."
Sidorio froze. "No more tricks!" he cried. "Whoever you are, whoever is doing this, stop! I must let her go!"
Lola's eyes blazed with fire at that. "Darling Sid. I am not going anywhere just yet. Though if you would be a dear and hurry up and reunite me with my body, I'd happily go back to one or the other of our ships with you.…"
This was no dream. No madness. It was a genuine miracle!
Sidorio couldn't contain the waves of joy that spread through him. "You're back!" he cried, tears streaming down his face. "But how? How can it be?"
Lola gazed up at him. Though her face was creased and dried out, it was still unmistakably one of rare beauty. "Dear, dear Sid. Did you really think I'd leave you on our wedding night? Not a chance! A man like you is hard to find."
Sidorio shook his head in wonder. Now he knew he wasn't imagining this. Only Lola would say something like that. "You're back," he said. "You're really back!"
"Yes," said Lady Lola Elizabeth Mercy Lockwood Sidorio. "I'm back, husband. So let's not waste another moment. Take me to my body, and then I'm going to need something exceedingly strong to drink."
"I know exactly what you mean," he said. As he spoke, Sidorio was already striding across the sand, cradling his precious wife's head in his hands. Joyously, he broke into a run, then propelled himself up into the air. He flew up to the top of the cliff, where Lady Lola's svelte but motionless body lay patiently waiting on the cliff top, ready to be reunited with her wayward head.
Sidorio laid Lola's head down upon the grass, holding it as close as possible to the torn veins and arteries, the broken bone and muscles of her neck. As he did so, Lola closed her eyes once more. She frowned, as if in excruciating pain. Sidorio was struck with fear that this wouldn't work, but soon the fibers of her neck began to knit themselves back together.
Sidorio watched, fascinated, as Lola's bruised and bloodied skin rapidly began to repair itself. The flaking skin fell from her face, and the wrinkles ebbed away like the outgoing tide. Her face quickly regained its customary sheen and suppleness. If anything, she looked younger than before. Her eyes remained closed, and she looked peaceful now, as if she were taking a restorative nap.
Sidorio laid the palms of his thick hands on either side of his wife's beautiful face, tendrils of her raven-black hair spilling over his grubby fingers. He could scarcely believe she was actually here; that he was not imagining this miraculous reunion. But the mere touch of her flesh felt different now. He could sense a new energy fizzing beneath the surface of her skin. He knew little of vampire biology but imagined dark cells multiplying, oscillating within her veins.
Lola opened her eyes, and an extraordinary light beamed from inside them—a light that seemed to illuminate both the life within her and the journey ahead. Now that Lola was back at his side, they could embark on their voyage together at last. Who knew where it would take them?
Sidorio felt himself coming back to life again, along with his wife. Once more, he thought of Connor. If this miraculous reunion with Lola had been possible, why shouldn't he be able to reunite with his son, too, however unlikely it seemed? And with his daughter, Grace, of course. It was time to unite his whole family.
Suddenly, he became aware of his wife staring up at him, her head pillowed on the soft grass. Sidorio leaned down, carefully stroking a stray wisp of hair away from her eyes, so that her distinctive tattoo was clear to see once more. "What's next for us, I wonder, my black heart?"
Lola's eyelids fluttered as delicately as the velvet wings of a moth. "After a wedding," she said, huskily, "isn't it customary for the groom to take his new bride on a honeymoon?"
"A honeymoon?" Sidorio found himself racing to catch up. "A honeymoon. Yes, of course. Where would you like to go?"
"Somewhere cold," Lola answered. "I'm tired of this incessant heat. Take me somewhere bitterly cold."
Sidorio beamed at her, his twin gold incisors glinting in the moonlight. "Whatever your beautiful black heart desires, my love. You know I'd do anything for you."
Lola smiled at that and lifted her hand to Sidorio's. "And I for you," she said. "For all eternity."
Connor Tempest stood poised on the ship's deck, waiting for "Cutlass" Cate Morgan to give the sign. He glanced to his right side, where his friend Bart Pearce gave him a reassuring wink. As usual, he drew strength from Bart's proximity. There was no one you could depend on more in the chaos of conflict—or, for that matter, outside of it—than Bart.
Turning to his other side, Connor saw Cheng Li up ahead. The Pirate Federation's newest captain had her intense, almond-shaped eyes trained on Cate, too. In so many ways, it was just like old times. Cate, Bart, and Cheng Li were the first pirates Connor had met and befriended when he had been taken aboard Molucco Wrathe's ship, The Diablo.
But Connor was no longer on board The Diablo, no longer shackled to Wrathe's erratic command. He and his young comrades had all traveled a long way in a short time; none more so than Connor himself. In many ways, living through these past few months had felt like riding the most extreme roller coaster ever built. But Connor didn't want to dwell on the twists and turns of his journey. Now wasn't the time for thought, but for action. His body was poised like a hawk, waiting to pounce on its prey, and his mind was psyched up for the fight. Bring it on!
His newer comrades were close by. Connor's eyes skimmed the attractive faces of Jacoby Blunt and Jasmine Peacock. The golden couple. That was how they had seemed when he had first encountered them at Pirate Academy. Jacoby and Jasmine had been two of the most talented and popular students in the graduating class. How carefree they had seemed then. Subsequently, they had served as professional pirates aboard The Tiger, commanded by Cheng Li. Their elite training had served them well professionally, but, in private, there had been developments none of them had predicted. Yes, Connor thought, as his eyes traced the contours of Jasmine's startlingly beautiful profile, there had indeed been many surprising twists and turns on the journey here.
Cate gave the signal. Without hesitation, Connor ran to the edge of the deck, then propelled himself up into the air, shoulder to shoulder with Bart on one side and Jacoby on the other. They had their swords in hand, and the battle was already under way before they landed on the deck of the adjacent ship.
Steel clashed with steel. There had been times when the noise had made the hair on Connor's neck rise and his head ache. Not today. Today, the merciless noise was welcome, for it instantly shut out the internal din. Here, in the inferno of combat, there was no chance for the icy voices inside his head to be heard. Here, things were simple, achievable. He and his comrades had a job to do—a fight to win. And Connor Tempest was up for the fight.
"Follow me, Tempest!" Jacoby cried.
Connor didn't falter. Jacoby Blunt was deputy captain of The Tiger, Cheng Li's second-in-command. Whatever Connor's complicated personal feelings toward Jacoby, in combat there was a simple hierarchy to be adhered to.
The two young pirates raced down from the deck into the heart of the ship. They were on the tail of their main targets—the ship's captain and his deputy. If—or rather, when—they surrendered, the battle was over. It was a smaller ship than The Tiger or The Diablo, and Jacoby and Connor had to run in single file, kept at a disadvantage through their lack of knowledge of the ship's particular layout. Their adversaries were young and fast. Cate and Cheng Li had said that this was a straightforward mission. But Connor had already accrued sufficient experience as a pirate to know that no mission is ever entirely straightforward. There is always an opportunity for things to go wrong. It had happened when he and the rest of Molucco Wrathe's crew had been surrounded on the deck of The Albatross. Connor and Bart's dear friend Jez had lost his life as a result. Blood had flowed again during the pirates' raid on the Sunset Fort, this time through the characteristically selfish actions of Molucco's nephew, Moonshine Wrathe. Connor had had to kill, for the first time, to save Moonshine's life. Afterward, he had been deemed a hero, but the experience had led him to question his suitability for life as a pirate.
Now Jacoby and Connor came to a stairwell, spiraling down into the bowels of the ship. They could see their targets twisting and turning beneath them. As they shouted insults up at the pirates, Connor was struck not so much by his adversaries' colorful language as by the pitch of their voices. He had known from the outset that their targets were young, but exactly how young?
He had to shelve this thought temporarily in view of more pressing concerns. Top of the list was determining where the two targets were heading—and why? Their actions defied all logic. You never ran down from an open deck to the very bottom of a vessel—it was one of the first lessons in strategy ingrained in the minds of pirate apprentices at Pirate Academy. But Connor's opponents had never studied at Pirate Academy. They were "beach pirates"—treasure-hungry kids hoping to take the fast track to fame and fortune. A few years back, they just might have succeeded. Not now. Things were changing at lightning speed. The Pirate Federation was coming down hard on non-Federation vessels and their self-appointed captains. With the growing external threat on the oceans, the Federation could no longer turn a blind eye to the rogue elements within the pirate fraternity. Cheng Li and Cate had been crystal clear about the purpose of this mission—to shut down this ship and its young command with immediate effect.
Jacoby threw himself down the stairwell. As always, Connor was dazzled by his friend's athleticism. Sometimes, Jacoby's lithe and sinewy body seemed to have more in common with a panther than a human. Connor followed, not giving himself credit for the fact that he was every bit as athletic as his comrade.
"This way," cried Jacoby, as Connor's feet made contact with the floor of the lower deck. They raced along another corridor, toward the door at the end. Their opponents had to be in the cabin behind it. There was nowhere else for them to go. Connor held Jacoby back for an instant, alert to the fact that they might be racing into a trap. Jacoby got the message without a word being exchanged. It was the Synchronicity of Comrades—Connor remembered Jasmine referring to a lecture at Pirate Academy on that very subject. A lecture given by the academy's recently assassinated headmaster, Commodore John Kuo.
Kuo may have gone, but his teachings lived on. Perhaps that was the best you could hope for by way of a legacy.
Together Jacoby and Connor scanned the terrain, assessing the possibilities. Satisfied that there was only one, Jacoby turned to Connor. Connor nodded in anticipation, and the two of them charged along the corridor and hurled themselves at the cabin door.
Their adversaries had piled their weight against the other side of the door, but it wasn't enough to stop Jacoby and Connor from breaking through. They found themselves crashing into a large, dark cabin. In essence, it was like many other cabins they had seen before. In the center of the room stood a long, heavy banquet table, surrounded by tall chairs. But attached to the walls on each side of the cabin were hundreds and hundreds of swords of all shapes and sizes. It looked as if the walls were made of steel. This was a true armory. Their opponents would have no shortage of weaponry with which to threaten them. But where were their opponents?
Looking up, just in the nick of time, Connor saw a small but athletic figure curled around the iron chandelier that hung in the center of the room, above the table. Catching Connor's gaze, the assailant swung on the chandelier to gain momentum, propelling himself toward him. As he did so, there was a battle cry, and the second assailant flew out from under the table with the force of a cannonball, ricocheting into Jacoby.
Without flinching, Connor leapt up onto the table and met his opponent head-on. For the first time, he saw his face—the boy could be no more than nine or ten years old. In any other circumstance he'd have applauded the kid's ambition, but now wasn't the time for praise. The beach pirate grinned as he drew his sword. Connor immediately blocked it with his rapier.
He heard Jacoby clash swords with the beach pirate's captain, but couldn't risk glancing away from his own opponent. The young boy was full of raw energy, and Connor had no doubt that if he was allowed to gain the upper hand, he would be merciless. Connor wasn't about to let that happen. He drew his adversary in, allowing him to make the moves, confident that sooner or later he would outfight the kid and seize victory.
Connor met every strike of his opponent's sword. The boy was slight and couldn't rival Connor in force, but he utilized his own weightlessness to great acrobatic effect. The lightness and agility of his movements were dazzling. He made Connor, at fourteen, feel old and heavy by contrast.
Connor was impressed by both the boy's nerve and his raw talent as he made a fresh lunge at him. He could imagine the teachers at Pirate Academy piling praise on the boy or Cheng Li taking him under her wing as she had lately with Bo Yin. But, in a flash, the kid's inexperience in combat revealed itself. He had allowed himself to be backed into a corner. The fight was over. The beach pirate had been easily outmaneuvered by the professional. In the throes of conflict, they had seemed equals, in spite of their difference in age. Now Connor found himself staring at a terrified kid. Albeit one who spat and hurled a stream of profanity at him. Connor decided it was time to teach the kid a lesson.
He extended his blade to touch his opponent's face. Carefully, Connor drew the tip across the boy's cheek, watching as a neat line of blood appeared on his downy skin. He could see the raw terror in the boy's eyes, knew that he had clarified who was now calling the shots. He had the power to choose life or death for his opponent. It was then that Connor realized just how angry he was. Angry that these "beach pirates" were out at sea, messing with real pirate crews, like his own, who had serious business to accomplish. Angry too, that he had been denied the full, challenging fight that another professional would have given him—a fight he needed, that his body and mind were crying out for. But, mostly, angry with himself. For things utterly beyond his control.
"It's over." He heard Jacoby's voice, addressing the young captain who had been forced easily into submission. Jacoby turned to his comrade. "It's over, Connor. Draw down your sword!"
Jacoby's voice was so clear, so confident. It had been an open-and-shut mission for him. That was how Jacoby saw each battle, each mission, each passing day and night. In patterns only of black and white; no gray. Things will never be that simple for me, Connor thought bitterly. For him, there would be no more simple beginnings and endings. Not after what he had learned about himself, about what he was and his inability to do anything to change it. Forevermore, for all gnawing eternity, his only truth would be that his name was Connor Tempest, son of a vampire.
THE BLACK SEA, ODESSA, UKRAINE
"I do so love it here," Lola declared, turning her gaze from Sidorio out to the frozen sea. "I knew you'd choose the perfect spot for our honeymoon." It was so cold that the ocean waves were freezing as they hit the shore. It was a rare and magical sight, made yet more magical by the violet tint of the moonlight and the soft hush of the waves in the distance, sounding their final sighs before they changed from liquid to ice.
A fresh drift of snow began to cover the table between them. Lola turned to face her husband, reaching out her hand to him. "How clever you are," she said.
- On Sale
- Dec 5, 2011
- Page Count
- 512 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers