Lord of Darkness

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Heart stammering, tripping over roots and shrubs, I stagger forward through the dark, fog rising up around me like gunsmoke. Beyond the fog there is nothing; I do not know which way to go.

Howls sound from all directions in supplication to the Lord of Darkness, the ancient, bloodthirsty god who seeks my ruin. The hunt is on, those canine voices say, and I know that if I wish to escape, I must be fast.

Gnarled roots push up from the ground like zombies from rotten, decrepit tombs. They grab at my legs, my ankles, my feet, and in the fog-filled darkness they attempt to pull me down.

“I won’t give up,” I shout, and for a moment those howling voices grow quiet.

I can do this. I can find a way out. I can survive.

Then a rock emerges from the earth below. Where did that come from, I think after my foot makes contact and I tumble forward into the soil. But I already know the answer.

The howling resumes, a rhythmic, ceremonial ululation that sets my teeth on edge and the hairs on my neck on end. I scramble across the forest floor, desperate to find my footing once again, but the vines have already started to close around my arms and legs, slowing me down, and when I look up, gagging in the midst of the thickening fog, there stands the Lord of Darkness himself, flanked by a pair of snarling death hounds.

He takes a step in my direction. I crane my head to meet his eyes, but those creeping vines have too tight a hold and all I can see are those fabled black leather boots, covered in mud.

“You have been a worthy opponent,” he proclaims, “but now the hunt is over and it is time for me to take what’s mine.”

“No,” I say, then cough. The fog has turned hot and humid and I find that I can hardly breathe. “No,” I say again, forcing the words out. “I will not surrender.”

“No,” the Lord of Darkness agrees, “you won’t. And that’s precisely why you were chosen.”

That background howling transforms into frantic, hooting laughter, and the hounds at the ancient god’s side inch closer, muzzles stained by blood and clay.

“I’ll fight you,” I spit out, choking on air that’s turned to poison. “With my dying breath, I’ll fight you.”

The Lord of Darkness leans close, and in a conspiratorial whisper, confides, “I’m counting on it.”

Then the hounds are upon me, and soon enough the Lord of Darkness is feasting on my manic cries.

Stephen King meets Neil Gaiman in this thrilling supernatural epic.

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