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Prologue

In which a lady named Beryl finds a dark sort of power, and the reader finds that the good people of the world are not the only ones to have been reborn in this day and age...


Takashi Glenn was a study in contrasts -- dark skin, Japanese face, tilted garnet eyes, and white-blond hair that shone like the sun. His tall, lanky frame and exotic looks cut quite a swath among the young ladies, but not one had truly ever loved him.

He smiled cynically at his master's thesis -- what there was of it, anyway. The screen showed far too much blank space, and far too little typing.

It was a comparison of timeless superstitions. Such stories were of great importance now, in the age of discovery known as the New Silver Millenium -- for when new knowledge was gained, new technology created, the old stories were bound to be lost. Unless, of course, someone like Takashi could preserve them. However, his mind was not on his work. He was thinking about matters of the heart.

His mother had disappeared when he was old enough to be weaned, and his father had spent a lifetime traveling, young son in tow, trying to find her. Although Takashi entertained the utmost cynicism in regards to his father's success, he had respect for the emotion that drove the man -- a search for true love.

It was something that Takashi would never find. The girls that threw themselves at him were interested only in his body, nothing else. And although he (like any sane, healthy man) did not mind the attention, and indeed took quite a few girls up on their offers, lust was fleeting, and love was still absent. And girls who were delightful in bed tended to be much less so when out of it.

Such as the girl he'd just kicked out of his apartment.

Takashi shook his head, and tried to collect his thoughts. "Where it is obvious that all myths and fables have significant similarities, such as great floods and such, they also each have their demons. For example, ..." He bit his lip. Where to begin? He poised his hands above the keyboard, and --

"Takashi!" An all-too-familiar female voice, raised in all-too-familiar ire. His girlfriend -- ex-girlfriend -- swept into the room, miniskirt tight against magnificent legs, long red hair loose around a magnificent face. "I can't believe you'd do this to me! Who do you think you are?"

"Yes, I closed your access to my bank account," Takashi said, giving up on his paper. "You didn't think I'd be that careless?"

"I don't have a penny to my name!" she protested shrilly. With a sudden, complete change of pace, she sank to her knees beside him, a beguiling smile curving her lips. One hand traveled up his thigh, slow and caressing, promising... "Come on, Takashi darling... you don't really want to break up with me, do you?"

She really was incredibly sexy. Takashi's body reacted despite himself, but he made his voice remain calm. "I'm sure you could use that body of yours and earn some money of your own," he answered. "Probably a lot. You won't need to steal mine."

"You bastard!" She shot to her feet, delivering a ringing slap that snapped his head back. "I'll show you." She stormed to the door, snarling. "You'll regret the day you ever messed with Beryl Winters!" The door slammed in emphasis.

Takashi sighed and dropped his head onto his hands. Beryl was incredibly good in bed -- and completely insufferable out of it. She'd also managed to hack into his bank account, which had been the straw that broke the camel's back. And yet...

Could he be missing her?

His body certainly was.

He clenched his teeth and turned to the computer once more.


Beryl Winters stormed down the sidewalk, and everybody who was unlucky enough to meet her eyes withered under the rage they saw there. Her high heels clicked rhythmically and furiously on pavement, and her face was set in tight, angry lines.

How dare he?

She had been telling the truth when she'd said she was broke. She'd splurged on a new dress, and found out too late that there hadn't been enough in her account... so she'd hacked into his. She only took a little bit -- and surely, after all the times she'd slept with him, he wouldn't begrudge her a little bit -- but he'd turned out to be a selfish, cold bastard. She'd get back at him.

Somehow.

As she walked, blindly angry, she tried to comfort herself. She still had her body. And her mind. The one she'd use to get on men's good sides, and the other she'd use to manipulate them. It would be all right. And Takashi Glenn would be sorry he'd ever turned her down. The rejection still rankled.

"Miss --" A hand reached out, touched her sleeve.

She whirled, acid words forming on her lips. The old man who'd touched her held up a hand. "Miss, you wish revenge?"

The words were so fitting, so appealing, that they stopped her in her tracks. "Yes," she said, cautiously. "Yes, I do indeed wish revenge."

"I can help you," the old man said. His eyes glimmered up at her from the depths of his hooded cloak.

"You?" Beryl sneered and began to turn away.

"Surely you will give me a chance?" the old man said. "I can give you the ultimate revenge -- the stealing of a body, the destroying of a mind. Surely you will at least listen?"

The words, strange as they were, struck a chord of familiarity inside Beryl. She inspected the old man again, more narrowly. Although old and withered, he was well-groomed, and looked deceptively alert. She nodded shortly. "I'll hear you out."

"Then follow me," the old man said, and turned to go.

"Wait," she said, as she trailed after him. "What's your name?"

"You can call me Wiseman. I belong to the Church of the Black Moon."


Takashi, deep in his paper, was startled by the sound of a sharp knock on his apartment door. "Pizza!" a voice called.

Takashi blinked. Had he ordered pizza? He hit the "save" hotkey and went to open the door.

The pizza boy smiled charmingly at him, and chopped a firm hand down at his neck. As the world spun and went black, Takashi had time to wonder where on earth he'd seen that upside-down black crescent design before...


Beryl gazed triumphantly at the limp body that lay on the altar of the Black Moon Church. Pale blond hair fanned out around Takashi's head, almost glowing against the black marble of the altar. "Don't you feel sorry now?" she gloated. Then she turned to Wiseman. "What are you going to do?"

"I will take him," Wiseman answered. "Move away, my lady."

Beryl was not accustomed to being ordered about. However, the title flattered her, and she took a few steps back. Wiseman raised his wrinkled hands and made a couple of passes over Takashi's inert form.

He began intoning, his voice low and insistent. Black clouds of smoke came out of nowhere to billow around the old man, and the younger man on the altar. A feeling of overwhelming evil drove Beryl back a few more steps.

There was a soundless explosion.

Beryl, along with the other Black Moon people, was knocked off her feet. She skidded across the floor and thudded against the far wall. She struggled to her feet, swearing. "Wiseman! What's going on?"

There was no answer. As the smoke cleared, Beryl could see that Takashi hadn't moved, but Wiseman had fallen into a crumpled heap in front of the altar.

The acolytes murmured in concern, and one of them was brave enough to creep cautiously towards the altar. He reached over, and tugged gingerly at Wiseman's cloak.

The cloth slid easily away, revealing a skeleton. It looked old, and was already moldering. The skull grinned fiercely, in that rigid, immobile way that skulls have. The acolyte jumped back like a startled rabbit.

"Leave that old thing alone," said a clear, young voice. Takashi sat up, swinging his long legs over the side of the altar. "I don't need it any more."

The acolyte who'd touched the cloak blinked. "Wiseman?" he asked incredulously. "Is that you?"

"Yes, Rubeus," replied Wiseman. Takashi's mouth grinned fiercely. "This is a strong, healthy young body. I haven't felt this good in ages!"

"Wiseman," Beryl snapped. "What about my revenge? What is happening to the mind of Takashi?"

"He's running in fright," Wiseman grinned. "He's hiding. He's terrified. He is feeling my mind sift through his thoughts, move his body. Soon his essence will go mad, and fade away -- and I will have this body for my own."

"Perfect," Beryl cried. Then she laughed in pure joy. "I owe you a great debt, Wiseman."

"No, Beryl," Wiseman smiled, "I owe you." He brushed blond hair away from his eyes. "This mind - this man knew a lot about demons. Monsters. Of all kinds. With my power, I can summon them; with his knowledge, I can create them. You picked the perfect one for me, Beryl -- body and mind."

Beryl inclined her head graciously. "It was the least I could do."

Wiseman held out Takashi's hand to her. "Why don't we work together? I could use the strength of one such as you."

"It would be my pleasure," Beryl smiled. "You strike me as a most intriguing man. I'm sure I could learn something from you."

Their hands met, and clasped.

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