Excerpts from Book 1
The Dark Tower
by James Pipik and Joseph Vargo
Brom lunged forward, swinging his sword down on the dark form. Almost too quickly for Brom to see, a pale hand rose to meet the descending sword. He felt the blade bite hard into something, but it did not seem that it was flesh. The hand closed around the blade and wrenched the weapon from his grip. It tossed the sword aside and it clattered off into the shadows.
Brom tried to back away, but again the shadow moved with unnatural speed and caught him from behind, a hand at his throat, another clutched the knight's long mane and yanked his head back. Brom struggled to escape. The grip on his throat tightened and Brom relented, gasping for breath.
The pale hand crept from Brom's throat and sprawled its clawed fingers across the silver crucifix that hung upon the knight's chest. He felt cold breath on his neck and a coarse voice whispered, only inches from his ear. "I see thou wearest the cross of the Christ," it said, lifting the cross with a taloned finger, "though alas, not the ward thou hadst hoped." The hand withdrew from sight momentarily. "For see, I wear my own." The skeletal hand now held a crucifix just within the edges of Brom's vision. It was chained to the shadow behind him. Though tarnished almost to black, the cross was ornate, bearing the crucified likeness of Christ.
As Brom gazed at the crucifix, the thing behind him drew its head slowly forward over Brom's shoulder and into the light, revealing the face of the dreaded Baron. Gaunt and ashen, it looked upon Brom with eyes, lifeless and black. Its head was completely shaven and its ears were pointed like those of a bat. The thing drew back its lips to expose a jagged line of teeth pointed and sharp as daggers. The countenance resembled that of a grimacing skull.
The low voice whispered, "Thy destiny is sealed, my son."
by Christine Filipak and Joseph Vargo
Peering out from the cover of twisted bramble, she noticed a crumbling structure in the midst of the open grounds that lay between herself and the keep, a series of stone arches which stood to one side of the path. Spying no signs of life, she ran to the archway and clung in shadow there. She again looked toward the castle, now noticing the elaborate detail carved into the facade. Grim gargoyles peered down from the castle's heights. Graven images of demons and beasts lined the battlements. Keeping their vigil over the tower, they sat silent and deathly still. As Rianna took a step toward the keep, one dark figure raised its head and turned its ashen face toward her...
Masque of Sorrow
by Christine Filipak
Mara crept to the grand hall and threw open the doors to behold a horrific sight. Hundreds of ravens filled the hall. Enormous birds, black as night, greedily fought for rank amongst the feast. The guests lay where they fell. Some still bore their hideous masks while the faces of others had been picked clean to the bone by the ravenous birds, leaving them eyeless and leering with cadaverous grins.
Low laughter carried across the grand hall. Mara slowly advanced toward the dais. There, in the king's throne, sat the jester...
Amidst the carnage, a tall shadow stood. Leathery wings rose from its back and, though the form was that of a beast, the thing stood upright like a man. Its ears were pointed like those of a wolf or a bat. It turned to face Mara, its eyes aglow like seething embers. Its claws scraped across the floor as it stepped toward the throne.
"Hail, the Dark Queen." The creature's voice bellowed through the hall, stilling the raven's caws.
"What have you done to me?" Mara asked.
"You shall never again suffer the pains of human frailty." The thing gestured a clawed hand toward one of the many corpses at its feet. The stiffened body lay frozen in the throes of death. The demon's long tail swept across the carcass, lightly caressing its withered flesh. "These weak creatures shall grovel beneath your feet. You shall feed upon them, their fears... and their blood. All I have promised you shall be fulfilled. Your kingdom shall have no bounds on this earth."
by Joseph Iorillo and James Pipik
Upon the wall, towering above the meager silhouette of his chair, a shadow stood. Whatever was casting the shadow, whatever he had seen in the street earlier, was standing directly behind him.
Nicolai felt as if a frigid winter gale had enveloped him. His heart pounded at a dangerous pace and he had to struggle to retain his composure. He sat bolt upright in the chair, holding rigidly to its arms, his eyes riveted to the narrow shadow before him.
Slowly, he unclenched his right hand from the arm of the chair, one flexed finger at a time. He lifted his hand so carefully that one could scarcely say it moved, then let it drift inch by agonizing inch to the pocket of his cloak. He found the reassuring weight of his dagger among its folds. His fingers deftly unclasped the sheath and drew the blade forth. He clenched the hilt in a fist damp with perspiration.
His eyes were still transfixed by the motionless shade. How long had they been locked thus? Minutes? Hours? Perhaps, Nicolai thought suddenly, it was merely an illusion of candlelight, a shadow cast by something he had not noticed upon entering the room, his grandfather's greatcoat or a tall bureau. Why else would the specter remain so still when it must know he was aware of its presence?
As if reading Nicolai's thought, the shadow stirred, lifting morbid, skeletal arms up and outward. Nicolai sat for an instant that seemed an eternity, unable to move, enthralled by the long, twisted shadows wavering in the flickering candlelight like writhing serpents...
by James Pipik and Joseph Vargo
A host of grotesque stone figures peered down out of the darkness from the ledge that supported the vaulted ceiling and various niches set high in the walls. They took on many shapes and forms, some recognizable as men or beasts, some a combination of both or a strange distortion of natural forms, the invention of some mad artist's sacrilegious imagination. Men with the wings of eagles or bats mounted the ledges as if preparing to spring. In the flickering candlelight the lifeless beasts seemed to stir and writhe. Their lidless eyes, chipped and cracked, lined with dust, followed him as he stepped onto the balcony.
A voice deep and hushed, sepulchral and cruel, now spoke to him from among the gargoyles. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."
by Robert Michaels
I began to follow her when a chill swept over me. I glanced back toward the tower and once again felt the strange sensation of movement in the shadows. Gheorghe must have sensed it too, for he had begun to stir. He sat up, but before he could get to his feet, a dark shape descended on him. Gheorghe gave a yelp and his head snapped back and dangled from his body.
I let out an audible gasp and the blood-gorged face of the fiend turned to look in my direction. I took a step back and turned to run. My muscles were tight and I could barely move, but I scrambled toward the forest path that led to the village. I could hear the movement behind me, slow, steady, shuffling strides. I tried to hurry my own pace, but my legs only grew slower and heavier with each step. I stumbled over a twisted root and fell forward onto a sharp branch which tore through my shirt and stabbed into my shoulder. The sudden burst of pain released me for a moment. The book fell free from inside my shirt. I snatched it up and started to run again. I felt dampness spreading on my shoulder and could catch a faint whiff of blood. My eyes went wide in horror, for I feared what the blood would draw.
A shadow leapt over my head faster than my eye could follow. The dark shape rose before me and I beheld a tall man dressed in black robes. Before I could move, he clutched my neck in a firm grasp. His cold, black eyes latched onto mine and held my head in place even more firmly than the hand on my throat...
by Joseph Vargo
Mara approached him, and placing her hand below his chin, lifted his head with a single, sharp talon. Behind her, lustrous black drapes streamed down from the vaulted heights of the ceiling, giving the illusion of great ebon wings rising from her back. She smiled wide enough to show her fangs, then swiped the claw across his throat, tearing it open. Aldis clutched his neck, but his efforts did little to stop the blood which began to seep through his fingers.
The Dark Queen turned and let fall her black shroud to reveal a thin, silken gown, then ascended the dais to sit upon her throne. "Bring him forth," she commanded...
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Tales From the Dark Tower is a work of art... one of the best I've had so far in my career as a book reviewer. I loved it. From the first page to the very last.
Stefan Isaksson, UFO-Sverige Magazine, Sweden
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Tales from the Dark Tower is one of the most remarkable horror anthologies ever assembled. It evokes all of the power of unearthly passion with an almost poetic sense of underlying terror. The stories bring to life the haunting and sensual art of Joseph Vargo in a manner that is both fascinating and horrific. His magnificent illustrations are alone worth the price of the book. Vargo himself contributes his muse to several tales, and the other writers have immersed themselves completely in the strange mythos Vargo has created. I highly recommend that you travel the dark journey into this realm of vampires, gargoyles, and tormented lost souls. It is a book you will love to return to again and again.
Martin V. Riccardo, Author of "Liquid Dreams of Vampires"
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 A creative collaboration among eight writers and an artist from Ohio, this unusual book tells a haunting, drama-drenched story about the loneliness of vampires. Through a series of linked stories—which, though written by different authors, are all based on coeditor Vargo's paintings—contributors recount the history of the castle's curse and of Brom, the heartbroken vampire who currently inhabits the spooky tower. "The Dark Tower" recounts the story of Brom's predecessor, the Baron. "Vampire's Kiss" (by Vargo and coeditor Christine Filipak) tells of Brom's deceased lover, Rianna; sundry other tales (by James Pipik, Joseph lorillo, Eric Muss-Barnes and others) deliver stories about evil gargoyles, freaked-out civilians and the like. Sure to be a hit among Goth-mystery lovers, this book contains all the classic elements of good vampire fiction—a self-aware, disaffected and lovesick protagonist, a mythic curse and a complex legend—along with a rich display of gothic artwork.
Jeff Zaleski, Publisher's Weekly
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Rising far above the standard vampire fare, Tales from the Dark Tower is without a doubt the best anthology of gothic fiction in years. The volume itself is beautiful to behold, with fantasy artist Joseph Vargo's haunting illustrations of vampires and ghosts providing the foundation for the stories. The thirteen tales are cleverly linked together to form a mythic saga that will leave you thirsting for more. These superbly crafted stories draw you into a sinister world of nightmares and passions, with twists at every dark corner. Light a candelabra and curl up with this one.
Vincent Kastle, Dark Realms Magazine
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Tales from the Dark Tower is a delightful trip for both the mind and the eyes. Monolith Graphics, for those of you not in the know, has been providing lovers of darkness with breathtaking art and music for several years. Everything they put out is so different, so compelling, so visually stunning, that they've been a treasured bookmark for ages. The book is well done overall, with lavish illustrations of the quality we've come to expect from Monolith. There are color illustrations peppered through the book, and they add a great deal to the enjoyment of the stories. The stories themselves are well written. They read almost like fairy tales... entertaining, with a good foundation in the mythology we've come to love in stories of ghosts and vampires and gargoyles. The characters are well drawn, the themes engaging. And Vargo's dark, richly evocative artwork is a delight in any form, but works particularly well in this book.
Angie McKaig, Pathways to Darkness
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Tales from the Dark Tower is a gothic account of a vampire's melancholy existence in a keep outside a small Romanian village. The righteous Lord Brom, a crusading knight, sets to slay an evil Baron who plagues the countryside from his ominous residence, but fate has him as the Baron's successor. Now, faced with a hunger for blood and powerful beyond human comprehension, he struggles against his nature and tries to keep to the beliefs he had as a mortal man, and succeeds... most of the time. Considering that the book was written by eight different writers, each section having been written by one or two of them, it is a surprisingly consistent piece of fiction. There is no chapter or poem I enjoyed far above another, and if I didn't know that there were so many pens put to the task, I would have been none the wiser. And I am happy to say that the book is illustrated... with haunting pictures of the hero, his beauties, and grotesqueries that abound in the stories. With Tales from the Dark Tower, illustrator, co-editor and co-writer Joseph Vargo, and seven others, have brought us a full-blooded piece worthy of your time.
Nina Mouzitchka, Rue Morgue Magazine
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 Of the works that inspired the stories in this volume, artist Joseph Vargo says: "I had created a menagerie of haunting and sinister characters throughout the years, all the while harboring my own basic ideas about their origins and the stories behind them. I envisioned this book as a collection of tales which would expand upon my early conceptions and fit together as a whole." Tales from the Dark Tower is set in a universe that slides easily away from historical reality into a twilight world, not only because evil overshadows it but because dark and light, good and evil are never far apart. The focus of this universe is of course the Dark Tower itself and the somber creature who inhabits and rules it.
The first story, "The Dark Tower" by James Pipik and Joseph Vargo, tells how the tower gains a new keeper, a knight who has made his name at the Crusades. Sir Brom of Falkirk enters the tower thinking to slay a demon; the "demon" bestows its nature on him, and with it the legacy of the Dark Tower, before willingly succumbing to death that will end its ancient hunger. Other tales—particularly "Masque of Sorrow" by Christine Filipak and "Lilith" by Joseph Vargo—give the tragic history of the Dark Tower and "the Baron" who kept it for so long, fighting his blood hunger and standing sentinel over the tomb of the evil queen who brought ruin on her house, and whose return must be guarded against.
Most of the stories, though not all, concern a vampire in some way. My favorite is "Sanctuary" by Russell Novotny, in which a young man takes refuge at nightfall and listens to an old priest's stories—stories that reach beyond facts to tell truths, as the best stories must. "Simply stories? ... God created the world with stories, did he not? ... And because the world is made of stories, you must be very cautious which tales you believe... The right story, or the wrong one, can change you forever."
If there is an overarching theme to Tales from the Dark Tower, it is the eternal verity and inevitability of justice. These tales are in their way as much old-fashioned stories as anything the Brothers Grimm passed along: oppressors are oppressed and the selfish or self-righteous humbled in poetically just endings that often have a truly Grimm-flavored grimness. Vargo's illustrations are apt for this somewhat archaic but eternal theme: detailed but never busy, stark and of course dark, they are real and fantastic at once, their flat black backgrounds, shaded gargoyles, and painstakingly textured fabrics the outward and visible sign of the unending night that we always hope awaits those who have abused us. In Tales from the Dark Tower, it does, and the proof is not only in the stories but in the balance and simplicity of the artwork that inspired and inspirits them.
Modern English, however, is the chief vehicle for these old-fashioned, timeless tales of ghosts and gargoyles, trust and betrayal, misguided kindness and Pyrrhic victory. The central figure is a darker, less loquacious version of Anne Rice's Louis: tragic and sympathetic, equally capable of kindness and cruelty—depending on which he sees in those who dare venture into the confines of his realm—The Dark Tower.
Cathy Krusberg, Vampire's Crypt
Tales From The Dark Tower 5 These tales are the perfect companion on a stormy October night, when lightning is flashing through the window and the wind is raking tree branches against the house.
Though certainly within the gothic tradition, this set of thirteen stories about vampires, ghosts, witches and ancient curses does not aim for the shocking horror of Salem's Lot or Interview with a Vampire; instead their power derives from their close adherence to the formula of the fairy tale—a "once upon a time" hook that leads into a moralistic examination of the dark side of human nature through archetypal characters and a liberal close of symbolism. The tales follow the fate of Sir Brom of Falkirk, Knight of the Scarlet Cross, who is drawn inexplicably to the mysterious tower and suffers, as they say, a fate worse than death. As readers follow the particular turns of that fate, they begin to learn the tower's dark secrets.
Thanks to Vargo's elegantly gloomy illustrations, the setting of these stories becomes a dominant force, which is as it should be. The lushness of the tales—the details of the period, the use of symbolism, and Vargo's eerie illustrations—all combine to create the kind of bedtime stories that one welcomes on a dark and stormy night.
Kate Templeton Hancock, Editor, Ohioana Quarterly, Ohio Library Association, Columbus, OH
Hello, I read Tales From The Dark Tower when I was in highschool, and fell in love with the artwork and the stories based around the mystical images. I recently purchased it again, as well as The Legend of Darklore Manor and The Gothic Tarot. I just wanted to say that I highly respect Monolith Graphics for these awesome products, and I'm happy I can purchase them. Please keep creating great art, and literature. I'll keep gazing in awe. Thanks for your time.
I am a very big fan of your works. I attempt to collect all of your work. I was just going to say I loved the story given to the Mara piece. I liked that it incorpeated the "King of Fools" and others into a story that later related her to Lilith. It was great.
Your fan, Slenker
Your artwork is amazing. First time I ever saw your artwork on "Born of the Night." When Tales From The Dark Tower came out, I bought it almost immediately. I loved every story, there were two stories that stuck out to me. The first, actually, was "Masque of Sorrow" and the second was "Lilith." I've read the book at least 4 times since I've had it.
I just finished reading Tales From The Dark Tower. Outstanding. I love the way that the stories were all connected. It was like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together slowly one by one. Great concept. I'm REALLY looking foward to your next book.
Tales From The Dark Tower is one of my absolute favorite books to read and I was hoping there would be more of it! Seriously, this book is so great—no words I can find would ever do justice in describing just how much I adore and appreciate the book. From first page to last, this book is magnificent.
Your artwork is truly amazing, I can not believe someone can come up with these haunting yet beautiful images.The one that truly caught my eye is the one you did in Tales From The Dark Towerfor the story "Masque of Sorrow." I adore your poem "Something Wicked." I read it over and over and yet it remains fresh and new.
I've loved your artwork for some time now, and I recently bought Tales From The Dark Tower. I couldn't put the book down. It was amazing. It was one of those books you want to read and finish it, but you want to take your time and savor the excitement. But I wanted to tell you how much I loved the book and keep doing what you do best!
This book was just calling for me to read it while sitting upon a store shelf. The drawings by Joseph Vargo are the most captivating and moving that I've ever seen anywhere. All of the stories were brilliant and tolled an awesome tale!!! I just wanted to thank you all for writing one of the best books ever!
I would like to take the time to thank you and the others who took the time and effort to put together such a great anthology... The very first night I had read it from cover to cover, which I hardly ever do, and then the next day I went back and read it once more. From that night on, I find myself picking the book up and reading it from time to time, usually all in one setting, I must confess that this is a first. Also the artwork that is displayed is capivating... my favorite is of the gargoyle in "Night Watcher." Thank you once more.
I would like to congratulate you on your work... Tales From The Dark Tower is just awsome!! I love the way the stories are told, and I also love your art.
I purchased Tales From The Dark Tower about a week ago...honestly, it is the best book I have ever had the privilege of reading. I tried to tear myself away because I wanted to save some for later...but I couldn't stop myself... I just could not put the book down. You draw so beautifully, Joseph Vargo.
Thanks for serving as my hugest inspiration.
Mind Blowing! This book is absolutely AMAZING! If you are into gothic fantasy this is definitely the book for you! It is full of lavish illustrations by Joseph Vargo of Monolith Graphics. I couldnt put the book down once I opened it! The various authors—including Joseph Vargo—do a wonderful job of painting a mental picture for you with their words. I would recomend this story to anyone looking for an extremely well put together book, but the squeamish should probably stay away, because of excess blood spillage. I would read it a thousand times, maybe more if only I had the time. Anyway, its a great read!
Michael J. Crowley
I have just purchased your book Tales From The Dark Tower and I wanted to express to the both of you how impressed I am with your work. All of the stories were very well written, including yours. I am very interested in writng and the English language and I was amazed at how well you communicated your thouhgts and ideas. I was drawn to the book by it's ineresting cover, for I am fascinated with gothic tales, vampire legends and horror stories. Joseph, your artwork clearly stands out from anything I have ever seen before! I have not yet finished reading the book, but I am greatly anticipating the tales I have left to read. I definitely think you should write more novels and stories to accmpany your fabulous artwork. I just wanted to say thanks for such a great book, and keep up the excellent work!!!
A few weeks ago I went to this store called Hot Topic. I saw your book, it had an attractive cover, so I bought it. That book, with many great authors, and the drawings, the way all of you used the words to express, was a great book, in fact my favorite. It is really the best book I've read. The cause of this email is just to ask if you are going to make another volume of this book? Well thank you and the great authors of this book for making a great book.
Cruely Yours, Miss Widow
It was December and I had just experienced my first flying trip not a few days earlier. My sister and I had flown to Utah to visit family. We were buying some Vamp T-shirts when I saw the book Tales From The Dark Tower. Having never seen it back home I decided to buy it. Although I am not done yet I am taken with the power of lust and dark beauty with in it. Never before have I ever read such an amazement. The art is breath taking but the stories you have created behind them are even more. By far my Favorite is "Born Of The Night" for I feel like the moon waiting for my night and at least now I know how to feel and not just lost in this world with no real reason to keep looking or waiting. I feel that one day he will spread his dark wings and find me awaiting.
Takenly Yours, Andrea
Awesome Book... It's got great tales, awesome art work, and sexy scenes. You can't get any better than this.
Beautiful art for the gothic side of our souls... This is an amazing book for any horror/goth enthusiast. The art inside the book is disturbing and gorgeous. This is the most decadent book that I have ever picked up. I loved every page of it. If you love vampires, ghouls, and the supernatural. Buy this book—it is one of a kind. A+
Tales From The Dark Tower, with characters based on Vargo's art work, is unlike anything you could imagine. Classic Gothic work at its very best. Although I am not a huge fan of fiction, I came across this book, and it is set apart from the norm or anything else for that matter. Along comes all that the gothic community has been waiting for—something that defines the word Gothic. Reminiscent of the old black and whites that used to fill James O'Barr's work (creator of The Crow), Joseph Vargo's haunting images from his artwork is what this book was based upon. Beautiful artwork, dark stories, and characters that your own father wouldn't choose for a hero, but you're not your father are you? Highly recommended for anyone who roots for the moody, dark, vampiric hero. Enter the delicious world of Vargo.
I have recently bought your book Tales From The Dark Tower, and I would just like to let you know it is the most amazing thing I have ever read. I think everyone who was involved in it are truly talented and amazing. I really love this book, and I greatly appreciate all of the time and effort that you put into it. It is truly an amazing piece.
A true fan, Dusty Tucker
I really am quite undone by Tales From The Dark Tower in all its majesty. I am a fan of Dark Realms Magazine, and recently purchased this book, and I must say that you all amaze me. I've been studying vampire lore for quite a while now, and most of the books I've read say the same things. But after reading these tales, I felt most enlightened by the dark persona and ambiance. The stories made me feel like I was actually there. My mouth hung open as you richly described the Tower and its dark setting, and the artwork is outstanding. Darkest greetings and praise...
I received your book, Tales From The Dark Tower, a couple weeks ago and I can't put it down. I love all the tales, and the images in the book are excellent and go with the tales. This is one of the best I've ever read and now it is one of my favorites. I love it. Brom is truly a great character. I would love to see another book come out by Monolith Graphics. Congratulations all.
I received my copy of Tales From The Dark Tower. Your fast return of my order was GREAT and the packaging of the book was well done. Thanks again for excellent service and top quality shipping on your products. This book is just what I expected it to be, it is very dark and gothic. It kicks major ass!!!
I just wanted to let you know that I love your artwork and the creativity behind the stories Tales From The Dark Tower. Mr. Vargo, you are very truly a great artist. I also think that Miss Filipak's writing is poetic and entrancing. Thank you for giving me the pleasure in reading this and I look forward to future material...
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how impressed I am with the quality of your items. The book is fabulous and I haven't put it down since it arrived. You guys are the absolute greatest artists alive...
The art was fabulous, and now the story behind each image is revealed. All of the tales were excellent, drawing me into the shadowy realms. I couldn't set it down.
Tales From The Dark Tower far surpassed my expectations. I absolutely love it. I will always treasure this book and Joseph Vargo's extraordinary work. My congratulations to Monolith Graphics for a job well done. I certainly hope you have another book in progress.
I received your book a couple of days ago and I can't put it down. The stories are so intense that they keep you mesmerized.
Marianne Bellocchio, Pennsylvania
Well worth the wait... Exemplary work.
I couldn't put it down. The stories and the illustrations are so rich they weave a spell around you! I certainly hope you're entertaining the idea of another one soon. Thanks!