Twenty-three years ago
The forest was pitch black and shrouded underneath the veil of night. The thick tangle of pine, maple and oak trees intertwined overhead, creating a living canopy that blocked the moon’s silvery rays. A small group of people made their way through the twisted path in silent unison. Heads bowed, they walked in single file. Their long, gray robes dragged across the damp ground as they navigated the dark, twisted path by senses alone.
The nocturnal cadence of insects and creatures that normally serenaded the lush surroundings was quiet—as if nature itself sensed the power emanating from the invading group. Only the sound of light footfalls could be heard.
Destination reached, the members spread out in a well-practiced move and took their places around the sacred stone altar. Bare feet stepped into well-worn indentations formed by other worshippers throughout the centuries that had beseeched the same powers for guidance. A low, rhythmic chanting began to fill the forest. Each robe-adorned body swayed in harmony, compelled by the intense energy exuding from the blood-stained slab that they encircled. Their vibrating timbre flowed into one collective rumble as the clouds parted and the full moon’s tendrils illuminated their faces hidden beneath their hoods.
In a language spoken and heard only by those born into the legacy since the dawn of time, the elder broke the circle and glided to the front of the stone, his arms outstretched to the vibrant moon. His deep baritone voice unleashed the ancient incantations and prayers of supplication, causing the thick slab of hand-carved marble to illuminate from within. Soon, the entire open glen was awash in a sea of red and orange from the pulsating marble that began to resemble solid lava.
When the elder lowered his arms, a man and a woman immediately left their positions in the circle and ceased chanting. They moved toward each other with grace and ease. They clasped hands and nearly floated to the glowing altar, eager to make their offering.
Kneeling together at the elder's feet, brows rested upon the hem of his garment, and the smell of the dank earth filled their nostrils. An almost imperceptible shift of the elder's weight indicated it was time. A tingle of anticipation coursed through the couple. They rose and turned their eager faces to him, mesmerized by his presence and the ethereal pull of the throbbing stone that beckoned with a ferocious intensity.
With a flick of his wrist, the elder produced a dagger from within the folds of his robe. Deftly slicing through the ancient fibers of cloth, the man and the woman soon stood naked before the altar. Their sweaty bodies shimmered in the reddish glow and the bulge of motherhood on the young woman no longer was hidden.
The young man smiled at his wife, the amber red glow of the altar flickered in his dark brown eyes. He mounted the stone and stretched out his body, his torso covering the glowing rock. He reached his hand out and caressed the taut mound of his bride’s midsection and nearly groaned in delight.
It was time.
The elder stood next to the young woman and handed her the ancient dagger. Her delicate hand shook with trepidation as she clasped her fingers around the bone-encrusted handle. The elder smiled at her and asked, “Sister, do you make this offering of your own free will and enter into this blood pact with open eyes?”
Her voice resounded throughout the circle. “Yes, Elios, I do.”
The response triggered everyone to shed their robes in solidarity. Each of the twelve began to chant once again and the forest floor began to pulse. Naked, Elios resumed his position at the front of the altar and placed his hands atop the man’s head, his touch gentle and his voice low as he addressed the sacrifice by his name in their native tongue.
“Yes, Elios, I am ready. Accept my gift of blood and bless my child.”
“As you desire, so shall it be,” Elios said. He locked eyes with the man’s wife.
In quiet obedience, she raised the knife high above the chest of her mate, her voice strong and steady. “So shall it be!” she exclaimed. Ecstasy filled her face as she plunged the knife into the heart of her husband, his crimson life force splashing across her pregnant belly. Pain and pleasure intermingled across his face, his mouth forming the words that only his wife could hear.
“It has begun.”
“Daddy, how much longer before we get there? I’m hungry.”
Jacob Abshire glanced in the rearview mirror at his young daughter, Sarah. Her mass of red curls framed her sweet but impatient face. Mussed from the long car ride, sections of it stood up in clumps, resembling the cloth hair of the Raggedy Ann doll she clutched in her hands. His wife of six years, Deborah, twisted her hand behind her seat and patted Sarah’s chubby leg and replied before Jacob had the chance.
“Not much longer, sweetheart. Remember, patience is a virtue.”
Jacob smiled at Deborah, silently thanking God for the gift He gave him by placing her in his life fifteen years ago. Deborah was the epitome of a pastor’s wife: friendly, loving, intelligent and beautiful. Of course, the most important quality she possessed was her love of the Lord. She never missed an opportunity to teach their daughter valuable life lessons that would serve her well into adulthood.
“But Mommy, I’m hungry and have to use the bathroom!” Sarah whined. Her virtuous patience flew out the window, just like her stuffed bear that she let go by accident earlier when the sun was beating down on the car.
Jacob couldn’t hold back his laughter and Deborah shot him a look of irritation. He couldn’t help it. Sarah had him wrapped around her stubby, little pinky. It seemed that every time Deborah tried to instill a somber life lesson he would find something humorous in the reactions of his only child and render the moment less important when his amusement erupted.
They had been driving for over eight hours and even Jacob was tired of hearing the hum of the tires on the road and the feeling of numbness on his backside. They were asking a lot from a small child to remain content for such an extended period of time, no matter how angelic she normally was. He stole a peek at the dashboard clock. It was near midnight. Jacob decided they could spare fifteen minutes from the steep mountain roads to stretch their legs and find something for Sarah to eat.
Deborah stared at him, her pert lips displaying irritation but her eyes showing a portion of sympathy, too. She sensed Jacob’s thoughts and nodded slightly in agreement.
“Sarah, you help us watch for signs for a gas station and restaurant, okay? The first one we see, I promise we will stop and get you something to eat.”
Sarah’s face lit up in anticipation and she scooted around in the seat to get a better view out of the window, her light blue eyes already searching for the next road sign. “Yeah!” she squealed, bouncing her doll in her lap, both sets of red curls flopping up and down.
The mild skirmish over, Jacob focused his eyes back onto the road and his thoughts turned to their destination. He hoped his daughter would acclimate to their new surroundings as quickly as she changed moods. Uprooting his family and moving across the country was the major sticking point he had when offered the lead pastor position at Forest Hills Baptist Church. Not to mention it was located in the hills of Martin, Kentucky which he had never heard of before. But, as usual, Deborah was his sounding board and they bounced all the pros and cons of moving from their sunny, near the beach house in Pelican Point, Florida to the cold, coal mining town of Martin, Kentucky.
It came down to the fact that this was his calling. Jacob and Deborah devoted their lives to serving God and neither had walked into their roles with blind eyes.
The narrow two lanes of back roads were smothered in pitch blackness. Jacob hadn’t passed another vehicle in over two hours. Sharp, staggering mountain peaks engulfed both sides of the winding road that had been carved through the terrain in a haphazard pattern. The only road signs that Jacob had seen in the last several miles warned of falling rock.
“Honey, would you check the map and see how far we are from the nearest town?”
Deborah reached down and picked up the crinkled map from the floorboard and then fumbled around for the flashlight in her purse. Jacob almost laughed at her puzzled expression when she held the floppy paper in her lap and tried to decipher their location, his eyes leaving the road for a split second.
“You know, Jacob, I am not much use in this area. It’s like looking at hieroglyphics…”
“Oh, Daddy! Look at the pretty deer!” Sarah squealed.
But not fast enough.
Jacob felt his entire body tense when his eyes averted back to the blacktop. He tried to miss the enormous buck in the middle of the road, frozen in place from the bright headlights of their car. He overcompensated and the small sedan began to spin violently. The back tires of the car slid off the road and hit the slick shale. Jacob jerked the wheel hard to the left, but it was no use. The thick, concrete blocks that served to keep the larger pieces of falling rock off the highway connected with the front passenger side of the car. The jarring impact slammed Jacob’s head into the steering wheel. Glass and metal shattered all around him as burning pain engulfed his body. The sounds of his wife and daughter screaming terrified him until he realized only silence hung in the air when the car finally came to a stop.
Jacob was petrified.
The engine sputtered then died. Jacob tried to regain his senses and opened his eyes so he could check on Deborah and Sarah. To his horror, he discovered why he couldn’t hear them anymore. His lonely scream of heartbreak reverberated off the twisted wreckage surrounding him.
“Why God, why? Please! Oh please, dear Lord! Take me instead!” he yelled. His screams of anguish silenced as his mind slipped into unconsciousness.
Three years ago
Kiroly Adamik’s vibrant blond locks glistened like spun silk under the lights. He stood behind the podium with casual elegance. His attire was impeccable; not a hair out of place or a bead of sweat on his body. Confidence and maturity exuded from him. His mannerisms and stature were those of a seasoned politician, which the media found captivating. Kiroly was only twenty-seven, a mere pup in the political world compared to the grizzled warriors that came before him.
Today, Kiroly owned the stage as if he had been there before. His luminous eyes scanned the crowd in front of him, briefly stopping on each member’s face. A knowing smile graced his masculine features as he silently acknowledged all those present with an almost imperceptible nod of his head. Each member immediately felt a connection with the impeccably dressed man in his black, tailor-made suit. The members of the European Council were all on their feet and cheering wildly in anticipation for Kiroly’s speech.
His first speech as President of the European Council.
An electrical current spread throughout the crowd as Kiroly lifted up his hand to silence the commotion. The anticipation of what the charismatic leader would say left the members giddy with excitement.
When Kiroly spoke, the crowd hushed and hung onto every word, mesmerized by his electrifying presence.
The Lie will be available worldwide in trade paperback and ebook on October 15, 2013.