EXCERPT: THE BURNS DESTINY

The Fire Salamander Chronicles Book Six

Chapter 1

~ Zane Burns, a.k.a. Gunz ~

Coral Springs, Florida

Six Months Later…

 

A lonely rider moved slowly along a dark street, the sound of his horse’s hooves echoing through the silence of midnight suburbia. His pale face looked almost translucent in the silvery light of the full moon, and his eyes shone with a soft, reddish glow. A light, warm breeze ruffled his long, blond hair, brushing it off his face and throwing it to his back.

Despite the warmth of the South Florida weather, he wore a long leather coat, and his tall riding boots seemed to be out of place in combination with his modern jeans and tight, black shirt. His stallion was just as unusual as the rider, its thick mane and long tail sparkling gold with the reflected glimmer of the streetlights. All in all, the pair didn’t fit into the contemporary surroundings, looking strangely archaic and outlandish.

Crouching on the flat roof of a single-story building at the edge of a large corner plaza, Gunz watched as the rider promenaded slowly back and forth along Coral Ridge Drive. He shook his head, pursing his lips. “Slavik, what the hell are you doing, man?” he asked, using their blood bond. “You and Siv stand out like a sore thumb here.”

A wide grin split Yaroslav’s face, and even from this distance, Gunz could see the tips of his fangs showing from under his parted lips.

“That’s the idea,” murmured the vampire, patting Siv’s neck. “Just keep an eye on things and be ready when the time comes. They’re still far, but I can sense them already. Can you?”

Gunz nodded, forgetting that Yaroslav most likely couldn’t see him. He inhaled, detecting the barely noticeable salty odor of the ocean and the delicate scents of grass and earth. But together with the freshness of the evening, the reek of demonic essence invaded his senses, and he grunted as his stomach twitched. Sharpening his hearing, he registered the guttural roar of engines somewhere in the distance.

“I can sense them, alright.” He stared in the direction of the sound, but the street remained as dark as ever. “Demons on motorcycles.” He rolled his eyes. “What a cliché.”

“Yeah, well…” Yaroslav’s hand slowly moved down toward the hilt of his katana as he rose slightly on the stirrups. “Just because they are a ‘cliché’, doesn’t make them any less dangerous.”

Yaroslav was right. It’d been a few weeks since the motorcycle gang, calling themselves Night’s Angels, arrived seemingly out of nowhere. One day, everything was fine, and the next day, all hell broke loose. The Night’s Angels invaded the streets, robbing people, burning houses, abusing and raping residents without much care for their victims’ age or gender. They were equal opportunity destroyers, and since they showed up, people were afraid to sleep at night or step out of their homes after sunset.

The gang had spread around the area like a plague, and the police and national guard were helpless, all their efforts ineffective against the powerful supernatural assailants. The demons, even though they weren’t pureblood abominations of Hell, seemed to be impervious to modern fire weapons. Besides, some members of the gang were rogue vampires, upirs, and even werewolves, which was quite uncommon since lycanthropes preferred to keep the company of their own kind, obeying no one but their Alphas.

Reports about similar problems flooded Jim’s desk, and the FBI Headquarters turned to him, expecting him to find a silver bullet solution to the quickly spreading wave of violence and chaos. Soon, it became clear that there were only two ways of killing members of the demonic gangs—decapitation and fire. Since neither police nor national guard walked around armed with swords and incendiary devices, and exposing the World of Magic to humans wasn’t an option, Akira’s company had to step in.

At first, Akira refused to let Yaroslav get involved in the situation on the streets. His last disappearance had awakened motherly instincts in the ancient vampire with new strength, and like a true helicopter parent, she spread her wings over him, afraid to let him out of her sight. Unable to disobey his maker, Yaroslav stuck in the EverSafe Security building and no amount of begging and pleading from his side could convince Akira to change her mind.

However, after Gunz and Agent Andrews cornered her in her office, explaining why they needed Yaroslav’s help, she had no choice but to agree. Reluctantly, she allowed her son to leave the building with them but not without some stipulations—Gunz was supposed to be Yaroslav’s personal bodyguard.

It’d been a while since Gunz and Yaroslav had begun fighting on the same side, facing the followers of Chaos and other supernatural creeps. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses; they had a blood bond, which allowed them to communicate telepathically, and they trusted each other with their lives and beyond.

As far as Gunz was concerned, agreeing to be Yaroslav’s bodyguard wasn’t going to change much in their normal dynamics, and if his promise would give Akira some peace of mind and Yaroslav his freedom, it was worth it.

Angel, Uri and Svyatobor came and went, showing up only when Gunz summoned them in extreme situations. However, they couldn’t remain in South Florida on a constant basis, as they were trying to contain outbursts of chaos all over the world. Aidan had never come back from the Otherworld, helping Gwyn ap Nudd reinforce the defenses around his realm and the Isle of Legends—one of four magical nexuses on Earth. Tessa had returned to the Guardians Order, and Mrak Delar remained in Kendral. So, it was up to Gunz and Yaroslav to deal with the Night’s Angels and protect the city.

The short blast of a police siren ripped Gunz from his thoughts, and he leaned forward slightly, ready to jump off the roof and get involved if needed. The red and blue lights sliced through the darkness, reflecting in the windows of the vacant units of the plaza as a single police cruiser approached Yaroslav, signaling him to stop.

He halted and inclined his head respectfully, giving the police officer a tightlipped smile. “What can I do for you, sir?” he asked softly, carefully covering his katana with the side of his coat.

The policeman, a stout man in his late fifties, walked out of his vehicle, his right hand trembling slightly over his gun holster in the best traditions of western movies. Gunz snickered. He knew perfectly well that Yaroslav could rip this man apart with his bare hands before he could even think about pulling his gun out.

“Sir,” said the policeman sternly, “step out of your—” He cut himself off and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Just, um”—he twirled his hand in Siv’s direction—“get off your horse. Hold your hands where I can see them.”

Yaroslav dismounted and raised his arms. “License and registration for my vehicle?” he asked in all seriousness, but the wild twinkles of suppressed laughter danced in his eyes. Siv snorted loudly in a very un-horse-like manner. Gunz made a move to get off the roof, but as if sensing his intentions, Yaroslav glanced in his direction and gave him a tiny shake no.

“Don’t get smart with me, son,” grumbled the policeman, his face red from either annoyance or the lights of his car. He lowered his hand on the handle of his gun, ready to give another command, when Yaroslav tensed and looked to his left, his hand reaching under his coat for his sword automatically.

“Yaroslav, get ready. They’re coming… Many of them,” said Gunz as a wave of demonic essence assailed his senses with new strength. “You need to get rid of this cop.”

“Officer,” said Yaroslav, turning back to the policeman, his voice friendly but firm, “I’m sorry to cut the entertainment short, but I need you to get back into your car and leave. It’s not safe for you to be here.”

The older man’s jaw dropped, and he all but hopped in place. Pulling his gun out, he pointed it at Yaroslav’s chest and shouted, “Turn around slowly. Hands behind your head. Let’s see what you’re gonna sing after a night in jail, smart-ass punk.”

Yaroslav sighed. Still holding his arms up, he reached with his right hand and pulled the sleeve of his coat down, exposing a thick, leather bracelet on his left wrist. It was bright red, and the black logo of EverSafe Security was clearly visible even in the unsteady light of the surroundings.

The officer’s eyes widened, and his eyebrows climbed up as he stared at the red bracelet. “Are you an employee of Ms. Ida’s company?” he managed to say, putting his gun away.

“I’m Yaroslav Potemkin, part-owner of EverSafe Security, sir,” replied the vampire, lowering his arms. “I’m sorry, but shit is about to hit the fan here, and you’re not equipped to handle what’s coming. Please, allow me and my team to do what has to be done without endangering human lives. I need you to leave.”

The policeman stared at him, flabbergasted. “But you’re alone. Where is your backup, your team?” he mumbled, staring around wildly. “You’re just a boy…”

The bright headlights of the upcoming motorcycles lit up the air at the far end of the street and the roar of their engines became louder. In one swift motion, Yaroslav mounted Siv and pulled his katana out.

“I’m a dangerous boy,” he hissed, pointing the blade in the direction of the police cruiser. “I’ll be all right if you let me do my job. Leave now, sir.”

As the policeman hopped into his car, shut down the lights and left, Gunz switched his attention to the approaching gang. Being in the middle of South Florida suburbia, he couldn’t use his elemental energy, and knowing what was coming, he needed all the help he could get. He channeled his magic and connected with the Dark Codex. As the instant headache blinded him for a split second, he grunted, planting his fist against the warm metal roof.

“Slavik, I’m ready,” he growled. “I can see them.”

Before he finished his statement, the silence exploded with the thundering of engines, and the darkness shied away from the blazing beams of the motorcycles’ headlights. Gunz couldn’t quite count how many gangsters were in the group. They barged into the area, laughing and screaming profanities, but as soon as they saw Yaroslav and Siv, they slowed down and surrounded them, swarming around like a bunch of vultures.

“Gunz, stand down and watch the road,” hissed Yaroslav. “There are less than thirty of them here, but judging by the amount of negative energy I can sense, there should be a lot more. Something is not right. Once I get them off their bikes, I can deal with them on my own.”

“I know. Try to get them off the road and into the plaza,” murmured Gunz, an intense feeling of unease spreading through him, making his shoulders ache. Both Akira and Jim had directed them here. Each of them had stated that they received intel placing Night’s Angels in this neighborhood at this time. They wanted Yaroslav and Gunz not only to protect the residents and vanquish the demons but also to learn what they were searching for.

The bikers came to a screeching halt, and the demonic energy spiked around them to a new high, permeating the air with its suffocating stench. Brandishing their chains, clubs infested with metal spikes, swords and knives, they got off their bikes and moved closer to Yaroslav. The vampire didn’t blink an eye, staring down at them calmly.

“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” he asked softly, relaxing his posture as he lowered his sword arm.

A large demon, dressed in leather pants and a vest with the gang’s name on the back, stepped forward, planting his feet wide apart. With his long, overly muscled arms, and massive chest and shoulders, he was living proof of Darwin's theory of evolution. His narrow forehead with a low hairline just added to his resemblance to an ape.

He halted next to Siv, taking in Yaroslav’s appearance, and his thick lips stretched into an ugly sneer. Tapping his metal club on the palm of his hand, he turned to his gang, flicking his bushy eyebrow.

“This one is a vamp, yah know?” He jerked his chin at Yaroslav and pointed his club at one of the gangsters. “Your kind, Dick. Wanna have a word with him before I tear him a new one?”

A vampire, presumably Dick, stepped forward, followed by at least ten more vampiric members of the gang. He cocked his head, his uneven smirk exposing his dangerous blade-like fangs.

“Long, blond hair,” he hissed, his eyes shining scarlet. “Katana. I bet you anything, this is Yaroslav Potemkin. If I’m right, he stopped being my kind when his maker, the Scarlet Queen, sided with humans, fighting against us.”

Yaroslav smirked and waved his hand at the vampire lazily. “Bell bottom jeans, obnoxious polyester shirt… Hmmm, let me guess?” He tapped his finger against his lips. “At the beginning of the seventies, you were turned accidentally by a drunk vampire who was getting high on your LSD-spiced blood?”

The vamp howled in anger and launched himself at Yaroslav. The katana swooshed through the air, and flakes of gray ash fell to the ground in the place where the vampire Dick had been standing just a second ago. The rest of the gang shouted and shifted closer, their weapons at the ready.

“Slavik, if you and Siv step away, I can turn them all into ashes before they know it,” projected Gunz, ready to spring into action.

“Something is not right, Gunz. I was expecting a lot more of them. Keep your strength. I’ll deal with them on my own,” replied Yaroslav, switching his attention back to the gang.

The rest happened so fast that Gunz could barely follow their movements. Yaroslav laughed and gave Siv a light kick in his sides. The horse reared and neighed angrily, smoke and fire coming out of his ears and nostrils. He pushed off the ground and jumped over the heads of the monsters, landing onto the pavement of the empty plaza. The demons shouted all at once and followed them, surrounding the vampire.

One moment, Yaroslav was still on his horse, and the next moment, he had vanished. The vampiric gang members followed him, becoming nothing more than a blur. The sound of metal on metal, cries of pain and curses rose in the air, but all of that lasted no longer than a few seconds. The remaining group of gangsters stood back to back in the center of the plaza, staring around with wide eyes as they searched for Yaroslav, the weapons in their hands trembling. Both the horse and the rider were gone, leaving behind piles of dust and ashes.

Straightening to his full height, Gunz scanned the plaza but couldn’t see his friend anywhere. Bright flares of light a few blocks away attracted his attention, and he sharpened his senses. Closing his eyes, he opened himself to the flow of magical energy and used his other sight to investigate the area.

“Slavik, where the hell are you?” he yelled through their blood bond. “Something is going down a few blocks north. We need to get moving.”

The ground trembled under the even beat of Siv’s hooves, and the rider, terrifying in his fury, materialized in front of the demons. Without slowing Siv down, Yaroslav flew off the horse and landed on the pavement softly—graceful and dangerous like a nocturnal predator. Before the bikers could react, he went through their lines, leaving piles of dead bodies behind. Siv neighed, crushing the remaining demons with his hooves, showering them with smoke and flames.

Once the last demon fell, Yaroslav swung up into the saddle and waved for Gunz to come down. Gunz jumped off the roof and grabbed Yaroslav’s hand, getting behind him on the horse. Moving at a fast gallop, Siv passed through a couple of city blocks and came to a sharp halt, remaining under the cover of the shadows on the side of the road.

Past the intersection, a dark wall of demons stretched across the street, blocking their way. All of them were dressed in the Night’s Angels’ getups, armed to the teeth, and looked even more ferocious than the previous group. Their motorcycles were parked behind the front line, barricading the road. Spread from the fence on the left side of the road to the fence on the right side, they had made sure there was no way around them. The only way to pass was through them.

“Dammit,” exhaled Gunz, probing the new obstacle with his Salamander senses. “Why do I have the feeling that someone knows we are here and—”

“Doesn’t want to be disturbed,” Yaroslav finished his statement.

“I can carry you over them before they would even know what happened,” suggested Siv, observing the motorcycle gang with his eyes narrowed. “No biggie.”

“And leave behind at least a hundred supernatural hostiles?” asked Gunz, shaking his head. “We can’t do it. Thousands of innocent humans live around here.”

He dismounted and tapped Yaroslav on his knee, pointing at the wall of demons.

“Slavik, I’ll take the friendly bunch on the right,” he said, manifesting his sword. “You and Siv can take the ones on the left. Just stay as far away from me as possible.”

“Sounds like a grand plan. Let’s not keep their bosses waiting.”

Yaroslav winked at Gunz, a mischievous grin on his face out of place in combination with the dangerous glow of his eyes. Gunz chuckled, shaking his head—taking things seriously wasn’t in his friend’s nature.

“Fire Salamander—go!” Yaroslav murmured and urged the dancing stallion toward the left side of the street.

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