MONSTER MONTH — REBECCA YORK Back to Blog
When I heard about monster month, I thought, “Have I got a monster for you.” It’s Vandar, a very nasty dragon-shifter who lives in my alternate universe. He comes to life in DRAGON MOON, out October 6 from Berkley. I was going to give the hero the first scene of the book. But Vandar grabbed it.
Here’s the way the book begins.
His name was Vandar, and he was a creature from an ancient nightmare. A creature who had lived for centuries relying on his psychic powers, his cunning.
Now he lifted his massive head and roared for the pleasure of feeling his slaves cringe.
In his present incarnation, he was a huge, scaled being with glittering red eyes, a reptilian body, and wings shaped like those of a bat–only infinitely larger. But he was just as likely to take human form. Leaping into the air, he circled his lair, looking down with a feeling of satisfaction as he churned up the chemicals in his belly, then spewed out a blast of fire that singed the already blackened landscape.
His huge mouth stretched into a parody of a smile as he looked down on the circle of destruction. It was a warning to any enemies who dared approach this blighted place. And a warning to the slaves who lived in the huge cave he had blasted out of a mountainside. If any tried to escape, he could turn them to ash as easily as he had charred the land.
In his long life, he had seen many changes. The world of men had climbed from primitive existence to a rich civilization. Then in the space of a few years, everything had spun out of control, when thousands of people had developed psychic powers, throwing society into chaos. Governments toppled as the ordinary people fought the psychics. During those terrible times, he almost lost his life when the fearful hoards turned against him. But he had survived–and learned to use the new order to his advantage.
He had built up his own little kingdom, with his own army. The warriors helped keep his slaves in line and also went on raiding parties to the cities where they captured and brought back more slaves to serve him–and supply his food.
With his territory secure, widening his circle of influence had become one of his chief goals. Which was why he’d become excited by the news that virgin land existed for the taking, in a world parallel to this one. A world where the old rules still held sway, and the people who lived there would be helpless to fight a powerful being who could dig his mental claws into their minds and bend them to his will.
But he hadn’t lived for close to a thousand years by leaping unprepared into the unknown.
As he flew over his territory, he thought of the tasks that must be accomplished before the big invasion. He had already started his preparations for the assault by sending spies to the other universe. They were all men who had stayed for a few days and come back to give him a sense of the place. In the next phase, his agent would remain longer and provide a more detailed report.
But this time he would send an attractive woman because she would seem weak and vulnerable, yet her pretty face, sexy figure and psychic powers would give her an advantage over the men she met.
Satisfied with the plan, he circled back and landed in the ceremonial site fifty yards from the mouth of his cave. Lifting his head to the skies, he roared out four notes. Two long and two short. A signal to the people who did his bidding.
Three hundred slaves instantly dropped what they were doing and hurried to answer his call.
One by one and in groups, they stepped outside the cave, blinking in the morning sunshine.
He watched their stiff posture, their wary eyes as they stood in their color-coded tunics. White for adepts. Gray for house servants. Brown for those who did the dirtiest jobs like washing the floors and mucking out the toilets. And burgundy for his troops.
They knew what was coming, and they cringed, even as they came toward him with hesitant steps.
Standing before them, he began to change his form, his wings folding inward. His claws and his great tail retracting back into his body. The shape of his torso shrinking and transmuting to the incarnation he used when he walked among his minions.
He was vulnerable when he changed, but they didn’t know that, and they trembled as he transformed from silver-scaled monster to a tall, dark-haired man. He stood before them naked for several moments, letting them take in his well-muscled body with its impressive male equipment.
Satisfied that they had enough time to contemplate his magnificence, he snapped his fingers. Two blond-haired women clad in white came forward and walked to the carved wooden chest where he kept a set of clothing. From its depths, one of them removed a long black tunic of fine linen, edged with gold braid. As he held out his arms, one of them slipped the garment over his head and the other knelt and strapped a pair of supple leather sandals onto his feet.
When he was dressed and they stepped back into the crowd, he turned and smiled at the waiting throng, feeling the waves of tension rolling toward him.
They knew he would feed now. On one of them. He could have done that in his dragon form, of course. But this was so much more intimate, and it impressed upon them that even when he looked like a man, he was as far above them as an eagle was above an ant.
Long moments passed as he let them sweat, let them wonder which of them he would select. And why.
A man or a woman?
They didn’t know he had already made that decision. In his mind, he kept a running assessment of his slaves’ deeds–of the times they pleased him and of their transgressions. One man above all the others had earned the privilege of participating in this ceremony.
Finally, he raised his voice. “Bendel, come forward.”
The man gasped. Everyone else breathed out a sigh of relief.
For long moments, nothing happened. Then Bendel broke and ran.
Vandar was ready for the man’s futile bid for freedom. His tongue flicked out, lengthening like a whip, catching the man and pulling him back.
Bendel’s face turned white. His eyes were wide and pleading.
“Were you foolish enough to think you could outrun me?” Vandar murmured, his voice silky. “And foolish enough to steal food from the larder?”
The slave’s jaw worked, but no words came out of his mouth.
Vandar spread his lips, baring his teeth as he sent out his fangs, his gaze never leaving the man’s terrified eyes, as he grabbed his hair and arched his neck before sinking his fangs into the pale flesh.
The first draft of blood sent a burst of warmth through him. He felt the life-giving liquid flow into his mouth, down his throat and into his stomach.
The nourishment brought him a satisfying glow of energy. In his childhood, he hadn’t known what kind of creature he really was, and he had subsisted on a human diet. He could still eat small amounts of food and drink if he wanted. He had tried wine made from grapes and other fruit, and to his taste buds, the wine had a tang that was similar to blood.
He could have spared his victim’s life. Draining the lifeblood from any one individual wasn’t necessary to quench his thirst. He didn’t even need to drink human blood. An animal would do. But an animal could not fear him with the intellect of a man, and that was part of the pleasure for him. He loved feeling a victim’s terror swelling, then the inevitable acceptance as his life force slipped away.
When he had drained the last drop of sweet-tasting nectar, he cast the husk of the body onto the ground and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his tunic before raising his head to stare at the other slaves. As he searched their faces, he let the moment stretch, prolonging the little ceremony and impressing the gravity of the occasion on the group of terrified watchers. Then he snapped his fingers, calling out the two men who would take out the garbage.
This guy loves to create terror. He loves his power. And I loved setting him up as a worthy opponent for the hero and heroine of DRAGON MOON.
New York Times, USA Today best-selling novelist, Ruth Glick (aka Rebecca York) is the author of 125 books. She writes paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her many awards include a PRISM Award for “Second Chance” in MIDNIGHT MAGIC (Tor, May 2006). She has received two Career Achievement Awards from RT BOOK REVIEW magazine. Her KILLING MOON was a launch book for Berkley’s Sensation Imprint. Her Berkley Moon series continues with DRAGON MOON (October 2009) Her latest Harlequin Intrigue, MORE THAN A MAN, was out in August. Also the author of 15 cookbooks, Ruth loves cooking, craft projects and watching defunct TV series on DVD. Her garden contains rocks she’s collected from around the world.Tweet It