Home > Intensity (Nick Chronicles #8)

Intensity (Nick Chronicles #8)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

THE MEANING OF TIME

When the world was new and time was young, there were no guardians for the gates. In the beginning, there was no need. Being fluid and flexible, time for many creatures wasn’t a linear experience at all. Rather sentient beings moved forward and back at their whims and leisure. They could be born in the future and yet die in the past.

To them, the ability to move back and forth, forward and back, was the same as breathing. They thought nothing of it.

For mankind who was born without such privilege, the concept was always a hard one to grasp.

To those who can bend time, the idea of a rigid linear lifetime without such freedom was just as inconceivable. These creatures didn’t understand man’s obsession with measuring and preserving what to them was an infinity of interwoven circles that bent back upon themselves with fluid ease.

But as with all things, abusers were born. Rather than being grateful for the abilities they had, they chose to prey on those who lacked them. They stole time from those who could least afford to lose it and used it as currency. Held it over the heads of those who needed it.

More than that, the abusers shifted history for their own gain, and created paradoxes and changes that ill-affected the entire world.

The entire universe.

It impacted everyone.

Even the gods.

The ancient writers claimed the original zeitjäger was born, not of a mother, but from just such calculated cruelty. When a demon abused time to hunt and kill his first victim for purely selfish reasons. That blood spilled in the name of hatred and violence hit the innocent ground of mother earth and mixed with her fertile soil to create a blood-red mud that made that firstborn golem. With no other emotion to nurture it than such malignancy, the golem became an insatiable nightmare that preyed on anything with a beating heart.

It became a conscienceless monster with an insatiable hunger for blood and bone.

Until the gods stepped in and gave the monster a soul. Worse, they gave masters to those monsters and assigned them a purpose. Enslaved them for their own needs, and made time a linear requirement for almost all creatures, everywhere.

One with rules and laws.

One with dire consequences for any who dared to tamper with its new rigid sequence.

Now tampering with it was something that not even the gods could do with impunity.

Tread not with time, for it slays us all in its own due course …

PROLOGUE

The end will begin. It always does. On the wind and with stinging pain. Faster than you can see and always when least expected. Enemies will come and they will go— forever seeking to bring you low. But stand you must, and in even fewer trust. Thyself alone, thy heart of stone. One faith. One truth.

One war.

And so it was long ago, and centuries in our future. One Malachai son who began his race. Whose true love and devotion to his precious Rubati caused them all to be cursed forever. So it began.

So it will end.

One Malachai son cursed to destroy the world because of the love of one woman. Or to save it because through her faithful heart he learned of salvation and forgiveness.

His choice.

To defy his destiny.

Or embrace his fate.

To build or destroy. The same decision that all humanity faces from the moment of birth. A road wide open to all that narrows with every decision made until we make the final one that ends our days with the last exhale we take to extinguish the candle on our lives forevermore.

Pawn or master. Choose wisely or perish from the foolishness of that last poor decision.

The immovable rock or the unstoppable force.

In truth, we are both. Situations have dictated and will dictate which we must be in order to survive. Today we are bitten, yet yesterday, we bit someone else. Tomorrow has yet to tell us which role will be ours, for it is in flux and could fall to either side.

Biter or bitten.

Life is ever a complicated symphony of catastrophes. Ever seeking to lay us low and lift us higher.

And no one has ever understood this better than the Ambrose Malachai. Born Nicholas Ambrosius Aloysius Gautier. Many things to many people. Son. Friend. Boyfriend. Squire. Brother. Dark-Hunter. Malachai. Demon. Husband. Father.

Betrayer.

Destroyer of the world.

Our could-be savior.

Nick stared at the stark words that condemned him. As harsh as they were, they were made twice as bad by the fact that they’d been written in his own handwriting.

In blood.

And they struck him like a blow.

With this he couldn’t argue. His clairvoyance was flawless as he stood beside himself in the future, looking down at the words he was writing in his grimoire.

“How did I get here?” he whispered.

He still didn’t know.

Because the future isn’t set in stone.

His best friend Acheron’s voice teased him from deep inside his mind. Every decision made impacted the next. An endless rippling stream of indecision.

One moment he’d been a clueless kid in high school. The next, he’d been a willing servant Squire for the Dark-Hunter Kyrian of Thrace. One who’d helped shield the immortal warrior from humans while Kyrian protected them from the demons who preyed on their lives and souls.

The next thing Nick had known, he’d become a Dark-Hunter himself. Only to learn that Menyara, his voodoo godmother who he trusted implicitly, was actually an ancient goddess who’d bound his own powers and hidden him from his demonic father and others who would kill or use him. That his true destiny was to become the demon who ate the world whole.

That had been his first lifetime.

Until he came back and tampered with it.

Or did he?

Man, Nick could lose his mind with this. Because what Ambrose—his future self—had failed to tell him was the secret he’d learned last night.

The secret he now knew.

For the first time ever, he understood Tabitha Devereaux’s tattoo from his vision of their future fight, and why she’d placed it on her arm.

Not as a motto for herself.

A note to him to serve as a reminder …

Fabra est sui quaeque fati. She creates her own destiny.

That was why the Ambrose Malachai had stopped in the middle of battle to stare down at it. Why he’d screamed out in agony on the day he killed her.

I made myself the monster.

My choice.

Son. Friend. Boyfriend. Squire. Brother. Dark-Hunter. Malachai. Demon. Husband. Father.

Betrayer.

Destroyer of the world.

Or savior …

My choice alone.

As with all things. The future would be made by the very decisions he made today. Good, bad and indifferent. He was the master spinner of destiny.

And he, alone, would bear it out.

“He will kill you.”

Cyprian Malachai paused as those dire words hung in the air. A slow insidious smile spread across his face as he looked up from his homework to see the obsequious demon servant who stood on his left. “You don’t know my father at all, do you?”

The demon stepped back into the shadows, cringing if the truth were known. Not that he blamed the creature. It was always good to fear him as he valued nothing and no one. That was the curse of the Malachai bloodline that he’d inherited from Ambrose.

They loved nothing and no one.

Except for his father. Ambrose had been cut from a different Malachai cloth.

Nicholas Ambrosius Aloysius Gautier. The so-called Ambrose Malachai had been a unique creature unto himself. Out of all the Malachai born after their downfall and curse, he’d been the only one to ever know a mother’s love.

The only one to have a family and …

Friends.

Something that baffled Cyprian to this day as no one had ever liked him.

He’d never understood his father’s life or the loyalty of all those who’d died by Ambrose’s side when they’d faced off in final battle all those centuries in the future.

Even now, he could see them as that fateful day had dawned. Lined up for battle. Both sides stood ready at the head of their armies. Cyprian’s dark Mavromino forces had salivated for his father’s good, Kalosum blood.

The Ambrose Malachai had stood strong at the front with his wife and her brother at his side. For the first time in all of history, the Naşāru and Arelim had ridden to fight with a Malachai and his generals at their head.

As had the last Sephiroth. Brothers and sisters in arms.

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