I’m almost finished reading the new Vampirella prose novel by Nancy Collins, Vampirella: Blood Invasion. I’ll have a review of the book once I’ve completed it. In the meantime, did you know Dynamite has made the first chapter available to read for free? I’m including the preview below if you’re interested in reading it. You can pick up the book in physical, digital, and audio formats from Amazon!
The moon loomed large in the sky over the abandoned church, as if balanced atop its spire. The wind was brisk, ruffling her raven-dark bangs and forcing her to cinch the belt on her black leather trench coat even tighter. She glanced about, making sure no one was loitering on the street before making her move. The clicking of her six-inch stiletto boot-heels against the stone steps was the only thing to break the silence. The yellow caution tape and the large red ‘Condemned’ sign plastered over the wooden double-doors did not deter her. They were unlocked, of course, just as she knew they’d be.
When it was first consecrated, nearly a century ago, it was called the Church of the Holy Agony. Built in the Gothic Revival style, with pointed arches and windows and a steeply pitched roof, it towered over its flock like a watchful shepherd. But over the generations, what had once been a thriving inner-city Catholic community began to dwindle as the children of the parishioners grew up and moved elsewhere. Faced with an aging congregation that could no longer replenish itself, the archdiocese chose to put the Church of the Holy Agony out of its misery by moving the parish and putting the building up for sale. And that should have been that.
But just as nature abhors a vacuum, the supernatural adores desanctified churches the way ants love picnics. So, it wasn’t long before there were reports of weird, flickering lights and ominous chanting emanating from the former Holy Agony after nightfall. Which is where she entered the picture. Or, to be more accurate, that’s where V & P Paranormal Removals came in.
The interior of the old church was dark, but she had little trouble making out the occult symbols spray-painted onto the walls of the lobby; no doubt placed there to both mark territory and scare off intruders. She recognized the eight-pointed arrow as belonging to those who worship the Mad God called Chaos—one of the nastier interdimensional entities that straddled the line between deity and demon.
A pale, unearthly light leaked out from under the closed doors that lead from the lobby into the body of the church, and she could make out the drone of voices speaking in unison. She carefully opened the door just wide enough to allow her slender, athletic body to slip through, and found herself in the nave of the church, where once the faithful had gathered to worship. She quickly located the entrance to the old choir loft and climbed up in order to get a better view. From her vantage point she could see down into the nave and the sanctuary beyond.
Although the archdiocese had stripped the church of its altar, relics, and vestments, the raised pulpit in the center of the nave remained, in which stood a figure dressed in flowing black robes, with the horned Mask of Chaos upon his head, and a golden eight-pointed medallion about his neck. Before him were gathered twelve cultists in identical robes, echoing in unison the ancient words he chanted in a deep voice. On the bare floor of the nave was a downward pointing pentagram drawn in black chalk, its five corners pinned down by black candles. Inside the pentagram itself was inscribed the sigil used to conjure the errand boys of the Infernal Realm.
As the chanting reached its fevered crescendo, a plume of blood-red smoke rose from the center of the pentagram. At first it was just a thin tendril, but quickly bloomed into a choking column that reeked of brimstone. She grimaced and quickly pinched her nostril shut, for fear of coughing and giving away her position. A second later the curtain of crimson smoke lifted, revealing what squatted at the center of the pentagram.
The only thing hellhounds have in common with their mortal namesakes is that both are quadrupeds and loyal to their masters—after that, all comparisons fail. The creature summoned forth by the cultists was the size of an adult lion, with wide shoulders and a deep, heavily muscled chest, with shiny black horns that curved inward like the pincers on a stag beetle.
We welcome you, loyal servant of the Mad God,” the high priest intoned, his voice reverberating throughout the carcass of the gutted church. “Once more we have called you forth to bring to your master, the Mad God Chaos, a token of our fealty.” He reached down behind the pulpit and lifted up a small bundle wrapped in black cloth, from which came the thin, angry wail of a newborn baby.
Upon hearing the cry, the hell-hound tossed back its horned head, revealing a parrot-like beak set between a pair of lidless eyes the color of lead and a leather collar as wide and as think as a fat man’s belt cinched about its neck, from which dangled a length of chain.
Once again we sacrifice to the Mad God one pure soul in exchange for our thirteen impure ones,” the high priest said, holding the infant over his head as he slowly descended from the pulpit. “We offer up this unstained life so that we may continue our dark lord’s work without fear of age, want, disease or death’s hand upon us!”
As their leader approached the waiting hellhound, the assembled cultists gathered around the pentagram rent their garments and shouted the praises of their demon-god. As she watched the twelve prostrate themselves before the slavering hell-beast, she wondered how many other innocents souls had been damned to provide them with undeserved wealth and power—five? A dozen? A hundred? It didn’t matter really; she’d seen all she needed to see—it was time for action. This crap wasn’t going to go down on her watch.
She quickly tossed aside her trench coat, revealing the crimson battle-suit of her people, with its plunging neckline and open back. With a shrug of her shoulder blades she freed her wings from their hiding place as she jumped onto the rail of the choir loft, , the leathery pinions snapping open like an umbrella. As she swooped down from the shadows, the high priest instantly recognized her and shouted in alarm: “Vampirella!”
She landed on the hell-hound’s back, retracting her wings to keep them from being broken in the fight as she dug her high-heeled boots into its sides. The demon roared in consternation, throwing back its head in an attempt to dislodge its unwanted rider. She snatched the chain attached to its collar as it swung by, quickly wrapping it about the hell-beast’s neck above its collar and pulling it tight. Hellhounds might be demons, but they’re fairly minor ones—and subject to physical damage while in the mortal realm. While they might make a fearsome opponent for a human—well, she wasn’t human, wasn’t she?
The hellhound shrieked, its beak clattering like a castanet as it reared up onto its hind legs, forelegs clawing desperately at the empty air as she pulled the chain even tighter, choking it. Then, as she yanked the chain with all her might one last time, she heard the monster’s neck snap and the hell-hound’s body instantly went limp, dropping to the floor like a sack of wet cement.
Without a backward glance she jumped free of the dead demon-dog and headed towards the masked priest, who held the baby in one hand and a ritual knife in the other. “You may have killed our lord’s pet, Vampirella, but that will not stop me from making the sacrifice!” he taunted as he lifted the hapless infant by its ankles and pressed the tip of the knife to its exposed belly. The baby wailed in pain as a tiny bead of blood welled from tender flesh.
Give me that child!” she snapped. “It’s done nothing to deserve this! It’s innocent!”
Yes, that’s the whole point,” the high priest laughed.
I saidgive me that child!”
Her voice echoed in the Chaos priest’s head like a thunderclap. Shaken by its force, he raised his eyes to hers—eyes that shone like emeralds held before a fire—and was instantly trapped within her gaze, snared as easily as a fly in a spider’s web. Without his willing it, the high priest dropped the knife and handed his tiny captive to the raven-haired beauty with the glowing green eyes who stood before him. As she snatched the child away, a pair of bat-like wings sprouted from shapely bare shoulders and she shot up into the church’s arched rafters, leaving the high priest of Chaos and his followers to deal with the consequences of an unfulfilled bargain.
Within the space of a single heartbeat every cultist gathered in the nave, as well as the fallen hellhound, spontaneously burst into flames. The Chaos worshippers shrieked as the hellfire consumed them, calling out for forgiveness from their dark master as their skin blistered and sloughed away and their eyes boiled in their sockets. Yet, despite their intense heat and the mad gyrations of the burning cultists as they dashed about in a vain attempt to escape their fate, the infernal flames did not spread to the surrounding building, but only consumed those who had broken faith with their Mad God.
The high priest cried out in unholy agony as the hellfire melted the golden horned mask that was the mark of his office, fusing it to his head. Blinded by pain, he tried to rip it from his face, only to sear the flesh from his fingers, exposing the bones and tendons. With his dying breath he cried out to his demon lord, hoping to keep Chaos from collecting his due. “We kept the bargain! It’s not our fault! Vampirella is one who cheated you, mighty Chaos! Not us!”
But as the high priest, of all people, should have known—the Mad God is not one to listen to reason.
Hush, little one; everything is going to be all right,” Vampirella said gently, as she wrapped the crying baby in her discarded trench coat. The infant fell silent, staring up at her with eyes so new they had no color. She could see that it was a boy, and, judging by the freshly dried fluids and severed umbilical cord, probably less than an hour old. She wondered what had befallen the mother, then quickly put the thought out of her mind. It didn’t matter what this poor child’s origins were—at least now he had a future.
She hurried out of the church with her precious cargo, tuning out the chorus of agonized death screams behind her. She had no sympathy for cultists, regardless of what they worshipped. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes; in this case, a horrific death and eternal damnation.
As she exited the front door of the church, the chill night wind struck her exposed skin, making her shiver. But then again, she was usually cold on this world. She hurried down the stone steps to the black limousine waiting at the curb.
The rear window on the passenger side powered down, revealing her client–a moderately famous real-estate developer known for converting unconventional existing structures into luxury condos.
Are they gone?” he asked, glancing past the scantily clad beauty before him to the looming bulk of the former Church of Holy Agony.
Don’t worry, mister; your satanic squatter problem is taken care of, with minimal damage to the property. Although you’re probably going to need a shovel or two to clean up in there. I’ll take the second half of my payment now.”
The client nodded and reached into the breast pocket of his suit, removing a bulging business envelope. “Fifty up-front; fifty upon completion, as agreed. Do you want to count it?”
That’s okay. You seem smart enough not to get on my bad side,” she smiled, making sure he saw just enough fang to make his hands shake. As she took the proffered envelope, Vampirella shoved her bundled trench coat through the open window and dropped it onto his lap.
What the Hell–?!?” the client yelped, upon seeing the sleeping baby. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
Raise him as your own, perhaps?” Vampirella replied, with a shrug of her shoulders. “Or you could abandon him at the nearest hospital emergency room. Whatever you chose to do, it’ll be an improvement over what I just rescued him from.”
With that she turned and shrugged her shoulders once again, setting free her wings, pausing only to give one last bit of advice to her client before soaring into the night sky.
I don’t’ know anything about real estate; but I’d salt the earth before I turned this place into condos if I were you.”
I finished the novel yesterday and am curious about what you think. I think that Nancy A. Collins has again done a very great job and offered a refreshing new take on the origin-of-Vampirella story. But I won’t give away more at this point:)