While sorting through an old estate in the basement of an auction house, Nathan finds a gold bracelet with strange markings on it. He recognizes it as an ancient language and reads the inscription out loud. This makes him the master of a man, Lucien, cursed into shadow by the Thule society during WWII. As this whole new world of the paranormal is revealed to Nathan, he finds both love and a fierce loyalty from Lucien, the man now bound to him—a loyalty he is going to need, as the men who made Lucien into what he is want him back. And they are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way.
As the sun set behind the tree line visible from the cemetery in New York, everything tightened around him and he became matter. He stood by a grave and looked at the headstone of Eric Lenz, his former master. He had stood here every night since Eric’s death in nineteen-fifty-two.
Days consisted of moving among humanity, shrouded in shadow, unable to interact with them or matter in general. But once he became matter, the bond once shared between the old man and himself urged him to stand here and keep watch—at least until someone claimed him or the sun took the sky and pushed him into shadow again.
He bent over to pick up a leaf that had landed on the headstone. It was only August, and he thought it was early for a tree to start shedding its leaves. It wasn’t cold yet, but he sat to put on his shoes and socks.
Nights were getting longer, and thus his watch by the stone. He liked being a part of the material world. Food this time of night was crappy, but it was sustenance. In the foggy landscape to which he was banished while the sun dominated the sky, there was nothing but shadows. No smells, no rise or fall in temperature, no drafts, no hunger, no thirst. Voices from the material world escaped through, yet he would have to concentrate to separate them from a constant background noise—especially in the city. It had been difficult in the beginning, but as his training went on he had learned to master this crucial skill to serve his masters well.
He thought back to his training, following a man in a uniform. His master spoke with several people and sometimes sent him behind a locked door to retrieve information. Not having anything to write on in the foggy landscape, he’d had to train his memory to half a day’s worth of information. He had trained to notice and remember details that most people would never use memory capacity to hold. And the punishment had been severe if he didn’t manage. Sometimes he would find himself locked in a tiny cement room with fluorescent light hidden behind steel wires—no shadows for him to escape through and no way for him to break the lights to create the shadows. One of his brethren creatures of shadow had once managed to do so, and the punishment had been brutal. So he learned to live through it—the pain of being separated from his master the worst punishment of all.
His first master had initially been a man he hated—a man who held him captive and nothing more. As a prisoner of war, he had been tied down to a steel table and probed and prodded by men in doctor coats and masks. They had inflicted pain and most often spoke in either German or another language, both unknown to him. But they spoke French as well. He was alone in the cold stone room most of the time, a room in a basement with no windows. A room consisting of bricks and medical equipment and nothing more. But he wasn’t the only one. He heard the others’ screams, too.
Then one day men in uniforms came in and hauled him out of the room. He was weak and unable to fight them. He had been a tall man, a strong man. But not anymore. He had seen his body deteriorate, his muscles deflate, and felt his mind no longer capable of fighting to keep the starved body alive. He was giving up.
They hauled him through stone hallways to a room with a great circular stone podium in the middle. Here they just left him on the floor. Alone and cold. His arms were unwilling to assist in pulling him up. His legs were just as unwilling at pushing him forward, so finally he just laid his head on the cold floor, too tired to keep it up. All he could see from his prone position was a tall window with no glass and a setting sun.
People arrived in long, white ceremonial robes. They walked silently with only the rustle of the fabric as they each took a place around the circle. He tried to lift his head again, straining to look around. A man in a black robe was the last to enter the circle, and one by one they began humming until the whole room sang. The man in the black robe began talking in a strange language. The only word he recognized was his own name—Lucien.
Four men from each quarter of the circle stepped forward, carrying a vase or bowl of sorts. One by one they muttered something and poured the contents over his still body. Once done, they walked back to their place in the circle. The man in the black robe muttered and four other men stepped forward, each divided by a quarter of the circle. These men turned him to lie spread eagled on the floor and cut him on both his ankles and his wrists. Lucien screamed and tried to move, but to no avail.
Those four men left and four more stepped forward to kneel around him. He saw what the two at his arms were doing. They were drawing symbols with his blood on the floor.