Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1
Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1
Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1
Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1
Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1
Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1

Duel of the Damned: Shadow King Series Book 1

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Shane Ryan’s ultimate battle is about to begin…

In back alleys and hellholes across the world, ravaged souls and scarred warriors whisper of the Iron Tournament. A savage game of death, pitting living fighters against caged spirits, all for the amusement of a mysterious audience.

But a new challenger is about to enter the ring—ghost hunter and retired Marine Shane Ryan. He’s never backed down from a fight. And he’s not about to start now.

When a mysterious invitation arrives on his doorstep, Shane finds himself swept into a world of underground death matches, supernatural gladiators, and tortured souls. And in this sadistic arena, there is only one rule: Winners live, and losers die…

But Shane quickly discovers a sinister presence behind these dark, bloody battles… A ravenous force that feeds on death and suffering.

Can he defeat this supernatural enemy in mortal combat before it unleashes unthinkable carnage upon the world?

Or will Shane have to back down from a fight for the very first time?

PUBLICATION DATE October 31, 2022


Chapter 17: Lazarus

“That’s a proprietary matter. The Colonel doesn’t share the eleven secret herbs and spices, now, does he?” Guthrie said from the doorway, surprising both Shane and the spirits in the room. Shane turned around to face the man, and the chill of the room seemed to pull away as though someone had turned on a vacuum to draw it out. The temperature rose by degrees as ghosts fled. Only Maisie remained that Shane could see.

“Are you telling me this is trademarked?” Shane asked.

Guthrie smiled, and behind him, Grub stood as still as a statue, white eyes staring straight ahead. The very tone of Guthrie’s voice suggested he had been trying to unnerve Shane, get the drop on him for sneaking around. But Shane didn’t want to play.

“Not technically, no. But we all have our secrets, don’t we, Mr. Ryan?”

“Keeps life interesting.”

“And may I ask what you’re doing here, hmm?” Guthrie asked, gesturing around the darkened room. “Sneaking through private rooms? Does it also ‘keep life interesting’?”

“Mostly,” Shane said. “I wanted to see where the ghosts stayed. No one mentioned a rule against it.”

“Quite right,” Guthrie agreed. “Maybe we’ll change that rule for the next one.”

“Happy to have helped change policy,” Shane said.

Guthrie chuckled and folded his arms over his chest.

“It’s not what you think, you know? I can see those cogs turning in your mind, looking for some kind of insidious subterfuge or nefarious plan. You won’t find one.”

“No?” Shane asked.

The other man laughed again.

“Of course not. I assure you, I engage in all subterfuge and nefariousness in the open. But you see, my partner—the one you are so very much interested in—has a skill unlike any of their kind.”

He paused for effect and kept his eyes on Shane.

“He can take a ghost and the item they are attached to and pull them apart like he was peeling a banana. These items that used to house spirits are nothing more than remnants now. Mementos of the prisons the dead used to be confined to!”

“This is all about freeing spirits? That doesn’t track,” Shane told him. Guthrie shrugged.

“Of course it doesn’t, because that’s not what I said. He has that skill. But that’s not what he’s doing. That’s not what I’m doing. Do you have any idea how much money this is worth? My goodness. I’d be able to buy islands when I’m done. I’ll start my own space launch company and take people on trips to the moon. You name it.”

Shane glanced at Maisie, but the ghost seemed as out of the loop on Guthrie’s speech as he was.

“You’re just not a big picture guy, Shane. And that’s okay. The world would eat itself if everyone was a big picture guy.”

You can eat a fist in a minute, Shane thought, glancing at Grub. The pale ghost had not moved at all. He wasn’t about to risk a fight with Grub over Guthrie’s bluster.

“Paint the picture for me, then,” Shane said instead.

Guthrie laughed again, uncrossing his arms.

“Oh, Shane. I like you. A lot. You’re so… tough. You’re the perfect bad boy. Mean, suspicious, skilled, deadly. But there’s a heart of gold in there, isn’t there? A tragic backstory? An awkward romance? I’ll produce a movie about you one day. Give you a more action-y name though. Brock Van Damme or Lance Colton. I don’t know, we’ll workshop it.”

His smile seemed genuine, making it much more objectionable to Shane. If he didn’t know better, he’d think the man was genuinely trying to get punched, but maybe he just had no self-awareness at all. Perhaps he really thought he was funny or charming or whatever he was trying to be.

“It’s all quid pro quo, Shane. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Of course, Lazarus doesn’t want money. But I do. So he gets me money, and I get him what he needs. He’s not a real people person, you see. No business sense. He needs me for that. I get the butts in the seats. I get the word on the streets.”

He’s skirting the issue, Shane thought, and it’s getting tedious. What the ghost was getting out of the whole operation was what Shane wanted to know. And of course, Guthrie knew that.

Shane opened his mouth, teetering between a response that would get him killed and just a simple request for clarification. Then his breath puffed out before his eyes. The onset of the cold was swift and so brutal it stung his eyes.

The shadows against the wall drew together, and the dark figure Shane had seen in the owner’s box manifested in front of Maisie, next to the table of items. It had the shape of a man, but there was so little form to it that it was hard to say it was the ghost of anyone or anything in particular.

“Maybe you’d better understand what we’re doing here if you saw it for yourself,” Guthrie suggested.

A sound bubbled forth from the shadows, like the chatter of voices behind a closed door. Nothing was distinct, and if they were words, they were impossible to understand.

Lazarus plucked the razor blade from the table. Maisie’s eyes widened, and she opened her mouth. The scream that began was cut off instantly. It was like the firing of a gun, a single loud sound that reverberated through the space. She reached out, and then Shane realized he wasn’t looking at Maisie at all but the afterimage of where the ghost had been, a white and purple glow in his own eyes that then faded to darkness.

The selenium bars that lined the room flashed as one. Maisie’s essence was torn away from the razor that linked her to the world. The thin piece of metal fell from Lazarus’ dark hands, discarded and unneeded. Energy, felt but unseen, rushed towards the shadowy form.

The chatter of muffled voices spoke again, words or sounds that had no meaning, and then it was gone. Shane’s skin prickled as he exhaled in a gasp that sent a puff of white mist before his face. He felt energized, like he had just been hit with a rush of adrenaline.

“Maisie?” he called into the darkness. It had happened so fast that he hadn’t even had a moment to react. He swung the phone from left to right, scanning the room. Metal panels reflected light back at him, as did a handful of relics and items on the shelves. Maisie wasn’t anywhere in the room.

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