For this Serenity Sunday, I’m sharing a little excerpt from “Zikhin” featuring Riya. Enjoy!

Smiling, Riya slid her hand from Fenris’ grasp and headed for the family crypt.  She mourned longer and truer for Narendra and Narayan, but she could not bring herself to leave the cemetery without visiting her family, all of whom now occupied the foreboding mausoleum.  Forcing open the door, she stepped into the clammy gloom and let it swing shut as she paused to let her eyes adjust.

Rising from the shadows at the back on a dais surrounded by braziers towered a beautiful ebony statue of the Dark Mother.  She from whom all came and to whom all returned.  Like the icon in the family temple, she wore nothing but a necklace of human heads and skirt of arms.  Her red eyes focused on the door, guarding against those who would defile the crypt.  But instead of having ten arms and legs, she had four.  Her left hands held a sword and a severed head, her right held a trident and a skull-cup catching the blood of the severed head.

Before her the separate tombs silently stood amidst the dust, shrouded in thick sheets of cobweb.  Every sepulcher bore the family seal carved into the stone, those of the men having the added insignia of the Zikhin Knights.

Meandering among the sarcophagi, Riya absently rubbed her arms against the damp, lifeless cold sinking into her bones.  Climbing the steps of the dais the statue rested on, she lifted the skirt of her gown to kneel on the velvet cushioned hassock at its base.  A small box hidden in a secret compartment in the kneeler held pungent black powder and a tiny silver spoon which she used to make offerings of the incense to each brazier.

Closing her eyes, Riya breathed deep the anointed air.  Seeking a strengthening calm from within before standing and turning around to address the figure in the shadows.  She’d known he was there for some time.  Had known who it was and could guess fairly well what was going to happen.  Certainly not prepared for what she found, her mouth fell open in surprise when he cockily strode into the braziers’ circle of smoky light.

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite Queen of Broken Hearts.”


~ Excerpt from “Zikhin” Book One of the Tome Series copyright AJ Culpepper 2011
~ Image courtesy of


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