Inferno: Dan Brow, PROLOGUE
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Inferno: Dan Brow - PROLOGUE


       

PROLOGUE

I AM THE Shade.

Through the dolent city, I flee.

Through the eternal woe, I take flight.

Along the banks of the river Arno, I scramble, breathless … turning left onto Via dei Castellani, making my way northward, huddling in the shadows of the Uffizi.

And still they pursue me.

Their footsteps grow louder now as they hunt with relentless determination.

For years they have pursued me. Their persistence has kept me underground … forced me to live in purgatory … laboring beneath the earth like a chthonic monster.

I am the Shade.

Here aboveground, I raise my eyes to the north, but I am unable to find a direct path to salvation … for the Apennine Mountains are blotting out the first light of dawn.

I pass behind the palazzo with its crenellated tower and one-handed clock … snaking through the early-morning vendors in Piazza di San Firenze with their hoarse voices smelling of lampredotto and roasted olives. Crossing before the Bargello, I cut west toward the spire of the Badia and come up hard against the iron gate at the base of the stairs.

Here all hesitation must be left behind.

I turn the handle and step into the passage from which I know there will be no return. I urge my leaden legs up the narrow staircase … spiraling skyward on soft marble treads, pitted and worn.

The voices echo from below. Beseeching.

They are behind me, unyielding, closing in.

They do not understand what is coming … nor what I have done for them!

Ungrateful land!

As I climb, the visions come hard … the lustful bodies writhing in fiery rain, the gluttonous souls floating in excrement, the treacherous villains frozen in Satan’s icy grasp.

I climb the final stairs and arrive at the top, staggering near dead into the damp morning air. I rush to the head-high wall, peering through the slits. Far below is the blessed city that I have made my sanctuary from those who exiled me.

The voices call out, arriving close behind me. “What you’ve done is madness!”

Madness breeds madness.

“For the love of God,” they shout, “tell us where you’ve hidden it!”

For precisely the love of God, I will not.

I stand now, cornered, my back to the cold stone. They stare deep into my clear green eyes, and their expressions darken, no longer cajoling, but threatening. “You know we have our methods. We can force you to tell us where it is.”

For that reason, I have climbed halfway to heaven.

Without warning, I turn and reach up, curling my fingers onto the high ledge, pulling myself up, scrambling onto my knees, then standing … unsteady at the precipice. Guide me, dear Virgil, across the void.

They rush forward in disbelief, wanting to grab at my feet, but fearing they will upset my balance and knock me off. They beg now, in quiet desperation, but I have turned my back. I know what I must do.

Beneath me, dizzyingly far beneath me, the red tile roofs spread out like a sea of fire on the countryside, illuminating the fair land upon which giants once roamed … Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Botticelli.

I inch my toes to the edge.

“Come down!” they shout. “It’s not too late!”

O, willful ignorants! Do you not see the future? Do you not grasp the splendor of my creation? The necessity?

I will gladly make this ultimate sacrifice … and with it I will extinguish your final hope of finding what you seek.

You will never locate it in time.

Hundreds of feet below, the cobblestone piazza beckons like a tranquil oasis. How I long for more time … but time is the one commodity even my vast fortunes cannot afford.

In these final seconds, I gaze down at the piazza, and I behold a sight that startles me.

I see your face.

You are gazing up at me from the shadows. Your eyes are mournful, and yet in them I sense a veneration for what I have accomplished. You understand I have no choice. For the love of Mankind, I must protect my masterpiece.

It grows even now … waiting … simmering beneath the bloodred waters of the lagoon that reflects no stars.

And so, I lift my eyes from yours and I contemplate the horizon. High above this burdened world, I make my final supplication.

Dearest God, I pray the world remembers my name not as a monstrous sinner, but as the glorious savior you know I truly am. I pray Mankind will understand the gift I leave behind.

My gift is the future.

My gift is salvation.

My gift is Inferno.

With that, I whisper my amen … and take my final step, into the abyss.




      

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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6
Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18
Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30
Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36
Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42
Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52 Chapter 53 Chapter 54
Chapter 55 Chapter 56 Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59 Chapter 60
Chapter 55 Chapter 56 Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59 Chapter 60
Chapter 67 Chapter 68 Chapter 69 Chapter 70 Chapter 71 Chapter 72
Chapter 73 Chapter 74 Chapter 75 Chapter 76 Chapter 77 Chapter 78
Chapter 79 Chapter 80 Chapter 81 Chapter 82 Chapter 83 Chapter 84
Chapter 85 Chapter 86 Chapter 87 Chapter 88 Chapter 89 Chapter 90
Chapter 91 Chapter 92 Chapter 93 Chapter 94 Chapter 95 Chapter 96
Chapter 97 Chapter 98 Chapter 99 Chapter 100 Chapter 101 Chapter 102
Chapter 103 Chapter 104 Epilogue
1. City of Bones 2. City of Ashes 3. City of Glass 4. The City of Fallen Angels 5. City of Lost Souls 6. City of Heavenly Fire