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July 10, 2024

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From Krymsin Nocturnes by Joseph Armstead

Carstairs looked sideways at the inhumanly calm, deep-voiced black man. He didn’t want to stare at Quinn head-on. He didn’t want to risk seeing what he’d seen only once before, on the occasion of their first meeting, when Quinn’s eyes had appeared to be nothing more than windows on a madly burning inferno, when there were no actual eyes in his sockets, just sizzling red light. He still had nightmares about that. Vampires he had learned to deal with.

Olympians still made his blood run cold. Quinn was an Olympian, commonly called a Haunt. They were immortal, truly immortal. They did not die. Vampires had greatly extended lifespans and lived impossibly long lives, but, eventually, they died. Olympians didn’t. Some of them had been around since the death of Christ. The very concept was mind-boggling: beings who haunted the annals of history, interfering with a treaty here, killing a king or a czar there, the persistent voice of unnatural reason in the ear of a madman, the power behind the throne, the kingmakers, the martyr-makers, the last face you see as the axe fell. Olympians were the keepers of the secrets. They knew what happened to ancient Mu, what sank Atlantis and where the lost continent slumbered, where the Holy Grail was kept, where Arthur Pendragon’s mighty sword Excalibur was buried, what “Croatoa” meant at the colony of Roanoke. They knew the identity of Jack the Ripper, what had happened to Amelia Earhart, what happened aboard the Mary Celeste, the secrets of the Yeti and Loch Ness, and what really happened at Roswell. They knew because they had been there. They knew and they guarded those secrets jealously. Luckily, there was some strange law of Natural Order, some boundary of Universal Balance, that insured there were only 1100 of them existing on the planet at any one time.

But even among Olympians, Quinn was a rarity. Apparently, Quinn was some kind of a mutation, a variant on the Olympian species. He frightened other Olympians. He could do things no vampire and no sorcerer or warlock could do. These dark talents did not make Quinn all-powerful or godlike, but instead made him seem less human than the blood-drinkers he hunted. The Moon-Chosen were terrified of him, those that didn’t hate him with an insane enough passion to make them reckless. He was called The Adversary. No one had ever really explained what that meant, but Carstairs knew that it couldn’t be a good thing.


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