Title: Empyreal Illusions: Book One of The Inferno Unleashed Series
Author: Jake Bonsignore
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopia
Expected Publication: May 2013 (e-book); July 2013 (paperback)
Book Design: Regina Wamba of Mae I Design and Photography
“Make it two more shots, will you?”
Galbrecht Atalir slid a coin across the counter and watched with unnerving patience as Korvan greedily scooped it up. He tilted his head from side to side until he heard the bones in his neck crack and ran a hand through his greased hair. He had not yet reached his limits. Thirteen hearty gulps of The Laughing Banshee’s strongest whiskey had filled his gut with comfortable warmth. It also made him the center of attention for a handful of unkempt thugs. They knew better than to trouble him, though. They had seen him fight before. All he wanted was to down another half-dozen shots and return to the broken pallet in his shack. It was not too much to ask for, really.
His days had grown increasingly meaningless as of late and his evenings were no better. Sometimes, only the idea of wasting his liver away on the cheap liquor The Laughing Banshee offered kept him going. He could scarcely remember the last time he felt joy or saw beauty in the little things the world had to offer.
The chains that bind us, Galbrecht thought wryly. He casually offered a slight nod of thanks to Korvan as he finally brought more liquor. They have to break eventually.
“Took you long enough, Korvan,” he stated matter-of-factly. He exhaled deeply and let his aggression exude out his pores.
The barkeep shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a busy man. One of my girls walked out on me today and I haven’t found a replacement.”
Galbrecht ignored him and took another shot that sent a river of fire down his belly. Who was he trying to fool? He would forget his past once he started believing in a benevolent God. That, he knew, would never happen. A man did not lose everything as he had and still have conviction. Faith was a clutch for the weak and an excuse for the depraved. No superior being worthy of devotion would have forced thirty-six years of hell upon him.
Each day was typically harder than the last. He was certain he would reach his breaking point soon. What will another day at the hospital bring next?
Galbrecht toiled away in the rundown facility in western Purgaire from sunrise to sunset. The reason for becoming a doctor in the first place grew more indistinct with each passing day. After each shift he retreated into alcoholism. He had long since grown sick of Purgaire and his meaningless existence. Perhaps it was time to give up his mad mission and return to Aghiddo. He was wrong to think he could always stay away.
So that’s your answer? You will accept defeat and crawl back there? Pitiful!
Aghiddo was the place where his spirit had died almost a decade ago. Life had ceased to have any purpose for him then. Would it be any different this time around?
I doubt it.
Galbrecht exhaled deeply and drank from the other shot glass. Liquor was the only panacea for his troubling memories. Deep down, he knew that he could not push them aside forever. No amount of alcohol amended the past. Bringing dozens of the sick and wounded back from the brink of death did not, either. There was just something about tending to the infirm that made moving on impossible.
He had not always been this way, though. Once he had looked forward to a promising future. He had had a loving wife, two beautiful daughters, and a cozy home. What more could one ask for? Like most good things, though, his comfortable life in Aghiddo came to a terrible, sudden end seven years ago. He could not forget that fateful moment when he returned from work to find his home ransacked and the halls saturated with blood….
Something inside Galbrecht—then, Ghariel Lodan—snapped that day. His conviction in the world had crumbled. How could it be otherwise when his family perished under torture? Nobody deserved such a fate. Was he supposed to accept his losses and move on? Facing reality had never been harder. He had kissed Adine goodbye earlier that morning; who would have known that his wife would be a broken ragdoll just hours later? His daughters had not fared better, either. Jaila and her younger sister, Relyn, had always been so energetic. To see their fragile limbs bent at humanly impossible angles had been scarring.
Even now, reminiscing threatened to push him into an outrage.
A blunt object had crushed their bones and organs. A closer inspection of their welts and fractures told Galbrecht it was a chain. The mere thought of how they had suffered still sent shivers down his spine. Whoever had killed them had purposely dragged it out.
The constables had ceased the investigation after a few weeks. They told him the lack of evidence made it pointless. Why waste their time on a case when there was nothing for them to gain in return? Favors did not come free anywhere. He was mad to think otherwise, they insisted. Of course, that was their excuse for everything. Life goes on, they had said.
The hell it does, he recalled replying. They were not there when he cremated his family and scattered their ashes in the quiet lake where Adine had agreed to marry him. The constables did not have to live with the guilt of being apart in their darkest hour. He had vowed that proper justice would be his.
His quest to find the truth soon became a maddening obsession. He began to roam the streets at night and created an alternate persona to blend in with the seedy underworld of Aghiddo. He swore to find the answers the constables refused to seek out. Until he did, his family would never rest in peace.
Of course, it was not long before the callous, ruthless facade he had created became one with the man he had been in years past.
I’ve embraced darkness to find light and lost my way within.
“Give me two more, Korvan.”
Hear me, wherever you are. I will find you. ‘Why’ doesn’t matter anymore. You can’t elude me for eternity. Someday…someday I’ll climb out of this rut and hunt you anew.
“I said two more.”
Galbrecht glared at him icily and partially rose off his seat. Korvan’s refusal to listen made his blood boil. His stormy demeanor screamed violence.
Korvan sniveled but did exactly as the doctor commanded. He never turned down coins.
“You’ll be reusing the same glasses. Too bad if you don’t like it.”
He threw a silver onto the bar counter. “Oh? And why is that?”
Korvan nodded and began to pour the liquor. “I told you before. One of my girls walked out on me and I’m too busy to make things pretty for you. It’s all going to the same place, so what does it matter?” He paused and rubbed his chin worrisomely. “She’ll see what a mistake it was to walk out that door. She’ll come crying for me to take her back and I won’t.”
Galbrecht ignored him. He finished the trio of shots in rapid succession and sat in silence as more recollections resurfaced. Why? Just give me solace for one evening! Seven years since his family’s horrid butchering had passed without reward, the last three of which he had whittled away in Purgaire. Failure greeted him at every corner. Closure eluded him.
His obsession on finding the one that murdered his family had consumed his life. Eventually, the despair of his countless failures nearly drove him insane. How could someone disappear without a trace?
You’ve given up. You let Purgaire smother you.
Galbrecht ignored the voice of reason and let his memories wash over him again.