Featured Excerpt: Warlord by Keith McArdle

 

Warlord: The Ironstone Saga: Book Two

 

Live on your knees a prisoner or die on your feet, fighting. 

The Huronian Army, numbering in their tens of thousands, are marching upon the beleaguered city of Lisfort, deep in the heart of Wendurlund territory. Already weakened, the army of Wendurlund won’t be strong enough to withstand the coming onslaught. 

Vyder Ironstone must travel north to his Highland home in search of reinforcements. But his welcome won’t be as warm as he’d like. Even if he succeeds in his bid, he may be too late to help defend Lisfort from destruction. 

The stakes are high and if the walls of Lisfort are breached, even Vyder’s beloved Highlands won’t be safe from the Huronian Army, or the mad king who leads them.

 

Excerpt from Chapter One:

 

Thick vines wrapped around wide trunks, climbing up their host until they reached the dense canopy in search of the sunlight they desperately craved. Some trees with which Baras was unfamiliar were in bloom, bright yellow flowers, interspersed with red, a stark contrast against the green mash of the Huronian forest.

“Sir!”

The voice broke his reverie. He returned his attention to the single file of mounted King’s Own warriors arrayed before him. The formation snaked through the woodland, moving at a fast trot towards their distant homeland. With their prince rescued from the enemy and securely positioned in the centre, their mission was complete. He caught movement in his peripheral vision, and a soldier slowed his horse from a gallop to match Baras’s steady trot.

“What is it?”

“Sir, enemy follow up.”

Gods, I’m a bugler, not a commander. Damn Rone for leaving me in charge. Guilt swept him immediately as his thoughts turned to Rone, who’d ridden back towards tens of thousands of enemies simply to retrieve the body of one of his soldiers.

Baras nodded. “Numbers?”

“At least a couple of hundred. Huronian cavalry, sir.”

He suppressed a curse. “Ride to the head of the formation, bring it to a halt. Summon Dreas to me.”

“Aye, sir!”

The man’s horse snorted and obliged its rider’s command, accelerating into a headlong gallop.

Baras felt a tap on his shoulder and flinched. I’d forgotten about the assassin!

“This is my stop,” the assassin spoke into his ear.

He twisted in the saddle and focused on the highlander. The man held his stare, that one blue eye skewering Baras’s soul.

“What do you mean, highlander?”

“My horse is tethered a few hundred paces that way.” He gestured to the right of the column. “You didn’t think I walked all this way, did you?”

“If you wait, we’ll be coming to a halt.”

“I’ll be fine, Baras.” The highlander vaulted from the horse and landed with a lithe agility that belied his powerful stature. The assassin smiled. Then he disappeared behind a stand of close-cropped trees.

Baras faced front again. Bloody madman.

The formation slowed and came to a stop, aside from two mounted warriors galloping along its length. They skidded to a halt beside Baras.

Baras pointed at the first. “Return to your post, lad.”

“Aye, sir.”

As the dull thuds of the departing horse drifted into silence, Baras appraised Dreas, the third most senior soldier.

“We have an enemy follow up.”

The man continued to glare at him as if willing the bugler to tell him something more interesting.

“We will ambush them.”

The corners of Dreas’s mouth creased upward slightly.

“I’ll take fifty soldiers and setup an immediate ambush here. I want you to take another fifty and push back the way we came. You’ll be the cut off party.”

Dreas touched his forehead with an index finger. “I can do that, sir.”

Baras was about to speak again, but movement through the nearby forest to their flank stayed his tongue. Dreas leaned forward in his saddle with lack of speed and pulled free his musket.

Soldiers close by brought the butts of muskets or blunderbusses into their shoulder, stared down iron sights, and waited.

The highland assassin, mounted on a black mare, walked into view.

Baras held up his hand. “Hold your fire.”

“Lucky boy,” Dreas muttered, sheathing his musket.

The horse was astonishing. She was tall and powerful, her silver mane and tail such a glaring difference to her dark fur.

“Nice horse.”

The assassin reined in beside him, Baras’s war horse sniffing the nose of the highlander’s mount. “I suggest I take the prince and make a break for Lisfort while we still can.”

“I had the same thought, highlander.”

“Vyder.”

Baras committed the name to memory and threw a glance in the direction of the emaciated royal mounted nearby. “Agreed, Vyder.”

“Then let us get it done. Time is no longer an option we have.”

“Keep him fed, keep him safe, and get him home. We shall fight a rear guard.”

“We go now. We go right now!” the voice of the Kalote woman cut through the forest.

The bugler noticed the woman with smoke coloured skin glaring at him through narrowed eyes.

“Aye, get you gone. Ride fast. Tell the king of what approaches his keep.”

“We shall do that, Baras. Fight well.” The assassin nudged his horse past, and then he was gone, the mount of the Kalote woman cantering beside him.

* * *

Baras positioned his men off the rudimentary track they had been traversing. The fifty mounted King’s Own warriors were spread out in extended line, hidden behind thick shrubs, or mighty trees, their horses waiting in silent patience as if anticipating what was about to take place.

He’d ordered his warriors to engage with blunderbuss. Shards of ice speared his spine. The thunder of galloping hooves and occasional shouts or laughter pervaded the woodland in which he and the men of the King’s Own waited . The incessant thudding grew in volume until the gentle whisper of wind teasing the forest canopy was drowned out. Birds took to wing, shrieking their warnings to one another.

Pushing his mount forward a step, Baras leaned in his saddle beyond the thick, tall shrub so as to see the track with better clarity. The Huronian cavalry burst into view. They were urging their mounts on hard, the horses winded, coats sleek with sweat. They can’t hold that pace for long. He allowed the first few to pass his position. When twenty or thirty had streaked past in fast order, Baras lifted the bugle to his lips and blew the command.

Fire.

The blunderbusses spoke in deafening unison. Boom!

Men and animals both screamed in pain and fear. Soldiers were bucked from their saddles, horses fell to the ground to lie beside their human counterparts, blood oozing from mortal wounds.

The bugle screeched again. Move right!

 

Buy Link:

 

Release date June 3rd, 2019

 

Author Bio and Links:

 

 

Keith was born in a hospital, somewhere in Australia, when he was very little. He owns every David Gemmell book ever written (and two versions of some books), including the graphic novels. To maintain some semblance of sanity, Keith likes writing fast-paced stories ranging from Fantasy and sci-fi, to modern military thrillers. He now lives somewhere else in Australia with his wife and two whirlwinds of playful fury (one a German Shepherd and the other an American Staffy).

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KeithAuthor/

Website: https://www.keithmcardle.com/

 

Featured Excerpt: The Angel of the Grave by Richard Writhen

 

The Angel of the Grave: The Celestial Ways Saga: Book Zero

 

BECOME THE FIRE.

An intelligent little girl encounters a talented witch at the local fair and finds out that it’s all in the family.

Interconnected by dreams, two young orphans embark on the long path to find a bloody revenge.

A wealthy lady travels hundreds of miles to become a baroness; but when she consults a diviner, she finds out that she may be in way over her head.

 

Excerpt from The Fair Witch (Chapter One):

 

It was within a village, inside a stone house, in a closet-sized room, and on a little bed that there lay a little red-haired girl. Her name was Hilde Sontire. Since she had gone to bed, she’d managed to crumple almost the entirety of her favorite purple blanket in under her chin. She crept towards the edge of slumber, snuffling great gobs of snot, as she was still getting over the last of the winter colds. The starlight bathed her window, flowing through it in wide rays; she looked out of it through half-closed eyes. She was ruminating upon the previous day’s events, breathing as deeply as she could without becoming frustrated.

As she was finally on the verge of sleep, she heard the patter of light footsteps approaching her room. When they abruptly stopped, the door opened without the base consideration of a knock. She rolled over, and by the subdued light that shone in from the hall sconce, she could just make out the familiar outline of her sister, Anne. “Hilde! Are you awake …?!” the older girl whispered to her, but Hilde pretended not to hear her for several moments, her attitude being what it was.

When she didn’t hear the desired sound of her sister leaving, she was forced to roll back over on the pallet to face the window once again, clutching her raggedy blanket to her little chin. However, Anne also bore the indomitable will of the young, and she wasn’t going anywhere.

“Guess what …?! The caravan’s finally here.”

“Wah?!” was all that Hilde could manage to say in response. Anne prattled on regardless, “I said, the fair caravan’s finally here. Oh gods, it was so incredible last time. You don’t know, ‘cause you haven’t ever been. And the word from the other villages is that now it’s even better!”

Anne turned away from the door and removed the candle holder from the hall sconce, then cupped the flame with one small hand, so that it wouldn’t blow out when she strode in the room and set it down on a side table. Hilde rolled over to face her again. “Anne, go to bed. If the caravan just got here, the fair obviously hasn’t started yet,” she groaned.

“I know, I know. Just telling you, is all. There’s no need to get all ornery.” Anne hissed back at her. She perched on the edge of a children’s chair that Hilde still kept next to the side table, despite it being too small for her. When Hilde saw her sit, she loudly voiced her disgust with the situation, “Anne, just let me sleep … !!!” The older girl smiled at her warmly. “I will … in just a minute.” She stopped, and tried a different tack. “Listen, I just thought you’d want to know …”

Hilde sighed in a huff. “Well, now I do … so get out. Wait … when is it?”

“This pulgranak and lansulmes. But there’s gonna be some kind of a kick-off, a big feast for the workers on quintague.”

“Aaaand … you know all of this how?”

“I heard all about it from a friend of a friend. Well, okay … a friend of Beston’s. Wesley Strath. Neither one of them can shut up about it. Anyways, we might be going over to the fairgrounds tomorrow after school, to watch them set up. Do you wanna come with us …?” While Hilde was still very irritated, for some unknowable reason she found herself intrigued, answering, “Okay. Sure. Now go …”

“Super! Oh, Hilde … what fun we’ll have …!”

“We can talk about it tomorrow. Now please, Anne. Just leave me alone.”

And for probably the only time in their young lives, the older girl did. Anne gave her a mischievous little grin in the half-light, then closed the door behind herself. Hilde could hear the merciful sounds of her footsteps, as Anne began walking back down the hallway to her own room. Hilde settled onto her back and lay her left forearm over her forehead. Thoughts swirled in her head as she drifted off to sleep. The seasonal fairs that were held in the country of Mytrenes were infrequent bright spots in the dullness of the daily lives of its children. It was a major event when one came to the area. She couldn’t remember the last time that one had been to the nearby city of Laestane.

In truth, it’d been some four years previous, but she wouldn’t have remembered it, as she’d only been six years old then. But even so, rumors flooded her mind whenever she paused to think of it. The county fairs were supposedly always quite lavish. There were all kinds of roasted and seasoned foodstuffs, as well as various games. A variety of plays to see, and even contests of strength, for the grown men. But the only thing she cared about, at that particular moment, was going back to sleep.

 

It was just after daybreak the next day, and the village of Braundey was slowly waking. the two girls sleepily fumbled their way downstairs, and found their usual places at the dining room table. They were still yawning, but their father had already been up for hours. He was a gaunt man with a mop-like head of hair and a scruffy beard, named Simon. That day, he was dressed in a white button-down shirt, and a pair of dark brown pants; the uniform for his job as a buyer for a local merchant. Simon was avidly studying a printed scrip of the village’s latest news, with a look of absentminded concern on his lined face. He was also chewing on one of his wife’s sour-dough biscuits. It had doubtless already gone stale, as they quickly did; but he continued to munch on it regardless.

The children’s breakfasts weren’t terribly substantial. They had each received a few butter cookies, a bowl of porridge and half a fried egg, with some hot tea to wash it all down. Hilde stooped down from the table and put a small dish of food on the floor for their cat, stroking its fur for a moment, then returned to her own meal. The three of them dined for several moments in a near-silence, as the girls feared to disturb their father’s reading. Anne stirred at her porridge vapidly, trying to cool it down enough to be eaten. Several minutes later, when they had finished, and were clearing their almost clean plates, Anne whispered to Hilde, “So, are you ready to go?”

“I guess,” Hilde answered. Her tone was one of regret; her thoughts still dwelt upon the recent holiday season. It had been a joyous time of parties and cheer, then a heartwarming yule, and finally topped off with the new annum’s celebration. Yet winter’s snows had eventually melted away, and spring had sprung once again, so several minutes laterit was time to return to general school in the south-west sector of Laestane. They began to get up from the table, their tiny hands still splayed out upon it. Their father’s eyes happened to leave his scrip and fall upon them, and they both froze in place instantaneously.

Simon gulped down some water in an attempt to clear some of the masticated baked good from his mouth, then told them matter-of-factly, “It seems that the fair is coming to town again. They’ll probably be looking for some helpers.” As soon as he had finished, Anne immediately began to whine. “We know all about it, da. Beston already told meeee.” Simon frowned at them over the scrip, his glasses falling partway down the bridge of his nose. “You’re twelve now, Anne. Start acting like it. Either way, you kids should go and talk to Old Neffers.”

Anne wrinkled her nose at him. “Oh, no. That old man always smells funny. He must sleep in the pig pen with his stock.” The ends of Simon’s mouth turned so far down that they almost wrapped around his chin. “Now, now. There will be none of that talk. You two were still in your swaddlings when that “old man” became a master smith, a few years ago. And it’s his family what hosts the fair, believe it or not. So, regardless of what you two children think of him, after school you’re going to go and tell him that you’d be interested in doing some chores at the fairgrounds, and turning some coin.”

The girls got up and made to leave again, but they must have been a bit too slow going about it, because Simon suddenly rose from his chair, gesticulating with his big hands. “Now skedaddle, the both of you! OUT, OUT !!!” he yelled at them. Startled, Hilde jumped up and flew out the door like a seabird. Anne was a bit harder to frighten, but before long she had caught up with her sister, some way down one of the paths between the drab gray tents.

 

The village of Braundey was an out-of-the-way place where time itself seemed to pass slowly. It was surrounded by some sparse patches of foresting which partially concealed it from any casual passerby. Named after one of its founders, it clung almost shapelessly to the south-west corner of the city of Laestane like the barnacles that cluster on a reef. It was naught more than a disorganized cluster of flimsy huts, with some small stone houses and storage sheds, all of it randomly scattered over a couple of acres of uneven dirt. Its inhabitants had made some attempt in the recent past to construct a formal barrier, to effectively enclose its borders. The well-intentioned effort had only resulted in the kind of obstruction that their sizeable herd of goats would have been able to step over, had they been allowed to roam freely out of their pens.

If one were to take a walk through it, he or she would find all manner of familiar scents wafting on the breeze; there would be hay and horse, as well as manure and shorn grass. The sky above would be streaked with the black tendrils of wood smoke that rose from their hewn stone chimneys, to join the mist which often crept inland from the sea to hang over the city. Their winter had just recently ended, and the days had begun to dawn more clear and bright. The trees’ branches were still leafless, and resembled nothing so much as skeletal claws that seemed to clutch about the settlement protectively.

The two girls meandered together down one of the many crooked paths that ran through the village. Anne was the elder by two years and the taller of the two of them. She was dark-haired like their father, and as prim as he as well, always dressing in accordance with the current fashions. In sharp contrast, Hilde was the younger. She would have gladly walked about the village every day enshrouded in faded and dark clothing. She took after their mother physically, the result being a mere sliver of a girl with shining cascades of red hair, which fell all the way down her back to her waist. She was also the weaker child, but was gifted with an almost preternaturally high intelligence. And due to this fact, over time she had become an something of an introvert and a bookworm. While considered the baby of the family, she was also its black sheep. Somewhat incongruously, she was something of a tomboy as well, despite having these blossoming academic leanings.

Despite their being so very close in age, there was also an unspoken psychological disparity that complicated the relationship between the two girls. This was that Anne was considered by most of their peers to be as lovely as a rose, whereas the consensus was that Hilde was just a bit plainer. This fact had become the source of much jealousy for Hilde, though she also looked up to her sister. Anne had a strong sense of responsibility, though; and she always looked out for her younger sister as best she could, given that she had rather full social life and was involved in several extra-curricular activities.

The two girls had no problem crossing the aforementioned low stone wall; from there, they continued across a dewy field that marked the settlement’s very outskirts. They crossed that green expanse, then left the surrounding countryside altogether and headed along a concrete path, one of several which led over the canals that flowed into the city. As they went, they conversed quietly, only stopping briefly to flash a cluster of guardsmen at the gate on the city line their school passes.

The day was the same as any other, and Hilde was wearing a simple beige dress with a short sleeved undershirt. She had been forced to dress thus every day since she had begun to go to school as a toddler. Anne had already been accepted to the next grade level, and was now expected to wear a red cravat, a dark brown dress, and a long-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt instead. Hilde dragged her tiny feet a bit as they went, which was more than a bit ironic, as she was the only one in her family that experienced the slightest enjoyment of schoolwork, once she was fully engrossed in it. It was a predilection that her sister most definitely did not share.

On one side of the crumbling walkway was a great outdoor clock. They saw that they still had plenty of time before school, and decided to play a game, as they often did in their leisure time. First, Anne would casually point out a landmark as they walked, and then Hilde would have to tell her what it housed. They had been playing it for years, since they’d both been very small. Anne sidled up behind Hilde and pointed just over her right shoulder at one of the larger buildings off to one side of the street as they went.

“So tell me … what’s that one?!”

Hilde squinted at the featureless, columned edifice of the building and said, “That … is the Sector Records and Licensing Division building.” Anne smiled at her warmly. “Very good. One point for you.” They went on like that for about fifteen minutes. There were some good guesses and some incorrect ones, but Hilde managed to pull ahead in the long run. They reached the far side of the overpass and the relative security of the city walls, then turned down a side alley between two of the beige-painted, cement buildings.

Anne resumed a conversation they had begun days earlier. “So, about boys then. You have a shine on any of ‘em yet? It’s about that time, no …?” This was her favorite mode of teasing. Hilde looked up at her with disgust. “You act like you know all about it, Anne. You’re only a little bit older than me, remember …?” She had been cultivating that particular facial expression for years. It made an appearance every time the subject of her having any inclination towards the opposite sex was brought up. She didn’t have a boyfriend yet, which her sister well knew. Anne gave her a little shrug in return. “Yeeesss … while that’s true, these are the ‘important years.’ Well, that’s what ma always says. So answer the question.”

“Okay, okay. Relax. Do you mean the boys in school or back at summer camp?”

“There barely were any boys at camp this year. Unless you consider …no, no.” Anne stared aimlessly off to their side and snickered under her breath. “He was definitely not boyfriend material, I’m afraid. Well, there must be someone at school at least …?”

“Hmm … I don’t know. Chris and Wesley aren’t too ugly, I guess …” Hilde tried to gauge Anne’s reaction, her green eyes narrowing in the sun. “Okay, I answered your question. Now, how about you?”

“Me?!” Anne smiled, her eyes wide in mock shock. “You know full well that Beston and me have been together for like, three months. I don’t need any other boys.” Hilde, who thought that Anne’s boyfriend was just about the homeliest person that she had ever had the misfortune to see, shook her head in mild repulsion and replied, “Suit yourself.” Anne faced ahead again, her dark bangs hanging in her eyes. Suddenly, they found themselves giggling together for next to no reason, and couldn’t stop for a minute or two.

When the fit had finally subsided, Anne said “So, are you getting excited for the fair yet …?” Hilde looked up at her again. “I suppose so.” Then, Anne took on this know-it-all air that she often got when she was privy to information. “I heard that they had a few accidental deaths in their troupe, and had to cancel a few cities. But they’re definitely coming here.” They saw that someone was approaching from the other end of the alleyway, walking in the shade.

“Well … look who it is,” Anne muttered under her breath. The shadows parted to reveal a boy who was around their own age. It was Anne’s boyfriend, Beston Radelyn. He was a thin boy with short brown hair, who dressed much in the same formal manner as Anne did. He lived within the confines of the city, but would usually walk out to meet the girls halfway, and then turn back around to walk them to school. Anne immediately ran over to meet him, leaving Hilde standing behind in the dust, struggling to keep up. Within moments, she was on the verge of tears. “Come on, Anne!” She whined, her face a mask of confusion. “You said we’d go together.”

It seemed as though the two young lovers were in a world of their own. They joined hands, and it almost looked for a moment as if they would kiss. Hilde made as if to look away, but before she could do so, the couple each lost their respective nerves, turned around and began walking back towards her. When Beston noticed Hilde standing there for the first time, he said “We are going together.” Anne strode around his side and bumped into his shoulder as she interjected, “She was talking to me, jackass.”

Anne beckoned to Hilde with a hand gesture, and they continued on. “Come on, keep up.” Beston looked down at the younger girl, smiling. “Ah, it’s the little one. Hilda, right …?” They took a right turn, and continued down the block once the alleyway ended. Around strangers, Beston straightened up and wore an expressionless mask. “It’s Hilde.” He looked from one of the sisters to the other, then back again. “She looks a little bit like you, Anne … I guess. But she’s much uglier.”

“Huh?!” Hilde felt herself start to blush and she stopped walking. “You … shut up, you !!!” She couldn’t think of anything better to say; her little hands balled into fists as she was consumed by an impotent rage. Anne gave Beston a hard look and said, “Now, that’s not very nice.” Then, she grabbed Hilde’s shoulder and whispered in her ear, “Come on, let’s go. We don’t want to miss the first day of the new semester. Wait … I know what would cheer you up! Why don’t we make a stop. You like art, right …?”

“Oh … yes.” Hilde started walking again, wiping her cheeks with her shirt sleeves. “But … we can’t skip class. Father will kill us if he finds out …!” Anne rolled her eyes. “He won’t. Because we’re not skipping. It’ll just be for a few minutes. There’s a new gallery over on the south side. One that’s open to the public.” The three of them went left and walked down another alley. The buildings in Laestane were all very uniform; in some areas of the city, man-made canals replaced the streets, and odd, boxy contraptions that resembled coaches but were pedaled manually by servants were as prevalent as the traditional horse-drawn carriages.

The building which housed the art gallery that Anne led them to was three stories tall, with tall columns and verandas. They went in the front entrance and were greeted by a gray-haired woman in a pink dress with a white collar. “Come on in, ladies and gentleman. Come in. There’s an important opening today.” The gallery walls were painted a darker beige than the outside of the building, and white scrollwork lined the sideboards and the outline of the ceiling. The three of them wandered about for a few minutes, marveling at the ornate dress of the artists and guests, and the vibrant colors of the works.

Hilde became distracted when she espied one man from across the room. He was tall, with a full head of curly brown hair, and a lean but tough-looking physique. He had a very bohemian sense of style, his short-sleeved tunic was open at the neck. He was talking animatedly to three other artists, while gesturing at one of the paintings every once in a while. She instinctively found him handsome, though she was too young to understand why. The older woman was passing by; she caught Hilde staring, and smiled at her warmly. “Oh yes. That’s Salague Maletto. He’s a major new talent in the art world. Unfortunately, he’s only going to be here for a few months. He’s on loan from his home town, Vostria. It’s in Optran.”

Hilde nodded in affirmation, as if any of that made sense to her; she was only ten years old, after all. The two sisters continued together down the aisle. Several beautiful paintings adorned the north wall, spaced a few feet apart from each other. They stopped at each in turn to pay their appreciation, saying little or nothing to each other, just marveling at the colors and shapes that the various works depicted. Beston said even less, being barely present. He had found a tray of refreshments on a nearby table and was devouring frosted crumpets, and ignoring the collected artworks altogether. But time had quickly flown by, and the next thing Hilde knew, Anne’s hand had fallen on her arm again, gripping it tightly. Soon she was whisked out of the double doors and back into the daylight.

 

A couple of hours later, she was sitting at one of the general school’s scarred wooden desks, trying to focus on her schoolwork as the thought patterns of a young girl stormed about in her head. She found herself bandying a freshly-sharpened pencil about from one tiny hand to the other. She brought the eraser end of it to her lips and chewed gently, but spat it out moments later, when its bitter taste found her tongue. It was all that she could do to keep from snapping the implement in half in disgust. She then distracted herself even further by looking off to her left out of the school library’s dusty windows, the spring sun’s rays shining in through them. She just sat there for a few moments, collecting her thoughts.

It was fourth period, and she was supposed to be doing some research for her upcoming botany class. She and some of her peers had been supposed to be studying for about twenty minutes by then. Before she could actually resume that activity, Anne and her obnoxious boyfriend arrived in study hall as well, their constant chatter certain to be distracting. Hilde actually spent most of her average school day attempting to avoid the two of them, but was often forced to witness their insipid interactions when walking to or from school. She was about to begin reading a relevant entry in an encyclopedia that nearly outweighed her, when she saw them out of the corner of her right eye. When they walked into the room, they sat together at a nearby desk, which happened to be built for two.

After a few minutes, Beston came over to the double desk that Hilde was sitting at and hung over her shoulder, running his finger down the page that she was reading. “Woah … I didn’t know there were so many kinds of flowers in the world.” Anne appeared over Hilde’s other shoulder and clucked at him chidingly. “There are so many kinds of life.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek, and he sat down in the table’s other chair. He was apparently unconcerned for her, which was typical of their relationship. Left to stand, she walked over to the south wall’s book-cases in search of another volume. She took down a large picture book that contained diagrams of various flora, and brought it back to the desk. She clapped the dust from its cover, the motes hanging in the air around her as she coughed. As if he had been summoned, Wesley Wride came in the library’s western entrance, wearing a foolish grin as always. Beston caught his eye from across the room, and the other boy approached them to say hello; he bore a more reasonably sized book under his arm.

About twenty minutes later, the period ended. The botany instructor swept into the room and told them that they were to attend “laboratory.” Doing so involved going outside to plant various vegetable seeds in the soil of the building’s rear yard. The plants would sprout in the spring sunshine of the next few weeks. Turning soil with a rusty trowel was a task which involved a great deal more physical activity than Hilde was accustomed to; the whole production left her weary.

 

It turned out that there were no extracurricular activities that afternoon. So after school, Anne and Beston caught up with Hilde as she was coming down the stairs to the front courtyard. From there, the three of them headed for the fairgrounds, which weren’t very far from the school. It was almost dark out by the time the three of them finally arrived at their destination. It was a huge field, sparsely covered with dull white and green grass. Some of it was still rooted and some pulled out, clumps were scattered about, and single blades danced on the wind. It was acres in breadth, and was graced with a huge wooden stage, at the center of a series of ten tents. There were three each to its north and south, two to both the east and west. There were torches on stands embedded into the dirt, every twenty feet or so.

Near where the play audiences were apparently supposed to congregate, there was a large apparatus with a table-like section. It had a round pole in its center which rose up some fifteen feet in the air. The children walked past three very hardy men who were standing around it with their sleeves rolled up. They held heavy iron mauls. “My turn,” said one. He swung the tool in a long downward arc to smite a flat round surface in the center of the board as hard as he could. As they watched, a large metal bead flew up the pole’s center at top speed and hit a bell at the top, resulting in a deep clanging noise.

Looking around, Beston saw an old man working to pinion down a corner of one of the large tents. He was wearing torn, tawny overalls over a sleeveless, mostly unlaced white tunic, and was perspiring profusely. He raised a hammer over his head, the wisps of what hair still remained to him clinging to his dome-like forehead. The three children approached him cautiously as his tool met the heel of the spike several times with dull clangs, and it plunged several inches into the ground.

“Hey, Mr. Neffers …” Hilde began in a weak voice. But the man didn’t mind her at all, so she stopped speaking and began to study the ground. Anne gave her a sidelong look. “Louder. He probably has hearing problems …” So the second time, Hilde virtually yelled at him, “MISTER NEFFERS !!!” and he straightened and turned to look at them, with a sour look on his wrinkled face. “What do you want, girl?” Anne looked up at him and took over. “Well, dath … us curs were wondering if you had some chores we could do during the fair. We’re looking to turn some coin.” The old man gave the three of them a brief once-over, then acquiesced and began to gruffly detail which chores needed minding; how much they would be paid was a ridiculously miniscule amount.

“Alright then,” the old man summarized. “It’s agreed. The three of you can report to Malcolm Weston tomorrow. Off ya go now.” He gave them a curt nod and then trundled off, one strap of his overalls falling off of his shoulder. The whole exchange only took about ten minutes, so after that the three of them kicked around the fairgrounds, in the manner that children often do. They picked up random sticks, swung them about, played hide-and-seek briefly, and then sat in the grass and watched the various booths get set up. Before long, the sun had gone down over the rocky hills to the west. The shadows lengthened, and they heard the sounds of a dog barking close by.

And sure enough, as they turned a corner around one of the tents on their way home, they came face-to-face with one. It was a dangerous-looking mutt with mangy gray fur. The thing was big, almost half as tall as a man. Its features were more wolfen than canine, and its eyes quivered with what almost looked like human emotion. As the three of them approached, it set its muzzle low to the ground, bared its teeth and growled at them. It was a low and threatening sound that came from the very back of its throat. Beston stared at the creature with great misgivings. “Come on … let’s get you guys home,” he said, as a cloud passed over his brow. Turning around, he led them an alternate way back to the network of streets along the canals. It had been an unusually long and active day for Hilde. When she finally got home, she immediately went to her room, sank down onto her little bed and fell asleep with her clothes on.

 

But the next day, the three of them hurried back to the fairgrounds after school. It was far less fearsome in the broad daylight. There wasn’t a beast in sight, and their fear the night before seemed unfounded. The feast tent had been completely set up; they could see that it was more substantial than the others. Its olive green folds of aged canvas had been bunched up and then tied with strong twine, to form a sort of main entrance. They circled around to the other side, not quite sure exactly where to report for duty, and Beston lifted a heavy tarp that hung over the kitchen door on the north side.

He peered in; through the next doorway, he could see about a score of the village’s men-folk sitting at long trestle tables near the center of the long tent, which ran west to east. He was about to turn back to the girls, to tell them what he’d seen, when one plump and balding early feaster crept up to the doorway on his left hand side and drew the curtain back all the way. The man fixed Beston with a rather weak evil eye, but it was enough to send him leaping back from the curtain. The man followed him outside, yelling “You, boy !!! What are you doing looking in on us …?! Go about your own business, or what have you.” Beston gulped down hard, then answered him in a cracking voice, “We was just wondering what all the revelry was about, dath. Didn’t mean nothing by it.”

“You didn’t mean…” The man stopped mid-phrase and raised his left fist upright in a threatening manner. “Why, I should cuff you right in your little head for not minding your own damned business, I should.”

“We’re actually here on business, dath. We’re trying to find a guy named Malcolm.”

As he said this, another man came up behind the first. This one wore a palpable air of hostility like a cloak. He was neither tall nor short, standing about six feet in height. He had a hard face, well lined and grizzled. He wasn’t stocky, but looked wiry and strong; his hair was so blonde that it was almost translucent. He was chewing open-mouthed on a strand of wheat, no mean feat. “Well, you might have found him,” he told them in a gravelly voice.

“Hullo, dath. I’m Beston. This is my girlfriend Anne and her sister Hilde. Mr. Neffers sent us over here … we’re supposed to help out in the kitchen.”

“Oh really?” The dour man smiled at them grimly for the first time. “Well, let’s get you kids to work. There’s no shortage of that here at the fair. Come back at six second clock, and we’ll get you started.”

So, they returned later. There was an odd purple light emanating from within the tent, which turned out to be from cloth-covered lanterns. A full bar had been set up to the north of the trestle tables. The kitchen was in the east-most segment of the huge tent. They located Malcolm again, and the children were initially tasked to peel several mountains of potatoes. They also washed countless dishes, and then scrubbed pots and pans, for what seemed like an eternity, as the cooks busied themselves with their preparations.

By the time full night had fallen, all of the torches outside had been lit. The three children were nearly exhausted, their little bodies not good for much in the way of manual labor. They hadn’t been offered any food or drink yet. Malcolm came by the kitchen to inspect their progress around eight second clock, his work boots clacking on the floorboards that had been laid to tread on. He stopped in place and said, “Well, I expect Neffers will pay you, as well. After the banquet has been served, you three can eat if you like. Then, you can go and see if you can rouse the old shite-bird.”

“About what time will that be, dath …?” Anne piped up. She was shy only around the most morally questionable company.

“Well, you will be the servers, as well.” Malcolm eyed them. “You can leave at about nine … is that going to work for you …?”

Beston hastily answered for her, “Yes, dath. No problem at all.”

“Very good, then.” Malcolm said, and then stalked off to get himself another drink. The three children bade their time as the second score or so of men that were to run the fair all week-end began to fill the feast hall. Most of them sidled up to the make-shift bar; many had already tossed back shots of Harkleberry Hedge liquor, or downed several ales, and the party was just beginning. Malcolm walked into the kitchen and opened a cupboard there, pulling out a flask to pour the children tiny cups of fruit juice, which he summarily shoved in their faces.

After waiting in the doorframe for a couple of minutes for them to finish, he then all but shoved them into the hall, saying, “Come, boy. Help me bring this beast out to the table.” With that the two males went back to the ovens, while the girls nervously edged out into the hall; they were wary of the drunken workers. Several moments later, Malcolm and Beston made their careful way to the long dining table. They bore a huge pewter tray, with the biggest roast boar Hilde had ever seen on it. The thing was so big that it looked as if it must have eaten other pigs in life, rather than slops.

Setting it down, Malcolm said, “Well, boy. There’s the cutter. On that table there. Your friends can help you slice it.” Beston followed the line of the man’s gaze, but then frowned back at him, his eyebrows drawing into arches. “That blade is uneven. How are we supposed to use it …?!” The words escaped his mouth in a rush, he didn’t think before speaking. But sure enough, what he said was true. The blade was highly ill-fashioned, and was even encrusted with dirt in several places. It was as if it had been forged by a blind man, some parts rendered small and others large. Malcolm eyed the boy dubiously, as if unsure whether to raise his ire or not. “Listen, never you mind the worksmanship. It’s a blade, right …?! You cut with it. Now, if you curs want to get started, I’d like to eat sometime tonight.”

One of the workers was almost drooling, his eyes lit up, but Malcolm edged in front of him and shoved his light brown ceramic plate almost in Beston’s face. He and Anne each took an opposing handle, and they lifted the unwieldy thing up and over the roast hog; struggling to remain roughly parallel, and thus make even cuts. As odd as the thing looked, it was razor sharp; it went through the flesh of the beast as if it were butter. Soon it was well-sliced, and was ready to be served up on the earthenware plates, with sides of mashers and gravy. Hilde picked up a pair of tongs and began to make up a plate for Malcolm as the rest of the men thronged and jostled in line.

The feast was a dull affair, the men bragging the night away with mostly untrue stories of business ventures, exotic travels and women bedded. Once everyone was done eating, they retired to the makeshift bar, or a series of couches near the west end of the tent. A painted woman came in from the main entrance, to obvious looks of delight. The plunging neckline of her blouse caught stares, and she smiled carelessly. She spent the next several minutes floating from one man to the next around the bar, but tore free immediately if they grabbed at her. After a half an hour or so, Malcolm sat down on one of the couches and the prostitute fell into his lap, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to be there.

Hilde tried not to pay the guests any mind. The kitchen needed to be swept, so she picked up a broom and got to work. Yet, she couldn’t help but overhear when the woman loudly exclaimed, “There, now. What about your old lady …?!” in a teasing tone as she all but rocked on the man’s lap. Hilde stopped at her task and walked to the doorway, knocking over a water pail that was thankfully empty. She hardly noticed, hugging the broom to her chest as she watched the revelers get even more drunk. Malcolm’s eyes widened for the first time that evening as he studied the cleavage on display. “Well, the missus isn’t here, now is she?” Some of his mates began to shake their heads in disapproval, while others began to roar laughter; all summarily drowned their sorrows in their big ale tankards.

Hilde meekly brought a big tray of sweetbreads from the kitchen over to the main trestle table, and set it down. The painted woman had gotten up from Malcolm’s lap to get a drink, and her red mouth dropped open a bit when she saw Hilde. “Oh my dear gods, but you are a cutie pie.” She stared at the little girl with a look of beaming delight on her overly made-up face, and many pairs of male eyes followed hers, making Hilde the center of attention.

“Um … I know,” said Hilde. The woman’s smile slowly faded, and after several seconds, she composed herself enough to say, “Well. That’s kind of curt, to come out of the mouth of such a pretty girl. Now, where’s your mommy …? Tell me now, and be right quick about it.”

Hilde looked about evasively. “My mommy’s not here.”

The woman flexed her upside-down index finger at her in a beckoning gesture. “Come closer. What’s your name?”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

“Me either, but I do it all the time. So what is it?”

“Hilde.”

“Well hello, Hilde. I’m Gretchen.”

“Good to meet you … I guess.”

The men were doing little more than just drinking and silently watching the two of them talk. She was not used to this; even at home she often felt ignored. So she headed back to the kitchen, but as she went, one of the drunken men stopped her and said, “Where are you off to, young miss …? If you’re going to crash a party, be ready to drink some ale.” He proffered his mug in her direction, but most of its contents just sloshed out onto the hard-pack dirt of the floor. Hilde stepped back to avoid the splash just in time, turned in disgust and went to find out whether it was nine second clock yet.

The woman followed her into the kitchen. Anne and Beston had gotten off to somewhere, Hilde didn’t know where. She began to approach Hilde slowly, and the girl found herself backing up and half-stumbling towards the north doorway. Another smile appeared on the woman’s angular face, dwarfed by all of the rudimentary make-up. She held out one of her thin hands, its long fingers and nails splayed out, her palm upward, waiting for the girl to take it.

When Hilde found herself doing so, they walked through another darkened doorway that was in the tent’s northeast corner. Hilde got the impression that it was a makeshift storeroom, as there were many shadowed boxes and objects around, lining the canvas walls. A long sconce hollowed into one wall contained a lit torch stand, and by the half-light the woman stopped, just barely visible. She stared at Hilde intently, and the girl started taking shallow breaths in anticipation.

“What do you want …? I have to get back to my friends,” she managed to blurt out. The painted woman’s hands dropped down to the sash of her raggedy gray robe and she began to unknot it. Before Hilde could even begin to realize what was happening, she stood before the girl stark naked. Thankfully, the low light spared the girl from too complete a visual; yet even so, her mouth dropped open and she backed up a few paces.

“Like I said, um … miss, I have to be going. We have some more dishes to do and stuff …”

“Abscendran,” murmured the woman. It was almost too low for Hilde to hear. She pinched the skin of her forehead between her right thumb and index finger, and began to draw her hand down some invisible line at the center of her body, and to Hilde’s sheer horror, the skin drew open and then hung from her frame, like some form of suit. Beneath it was a red velvet dress; as the false shoulders fell away from the real ones beneath, Hilde saw that she was also wearing a black hooded robe. Not even the face itself had been real; the genuine one underneath was more harsh-looking, but rounded rather than jowly and angular around the chin and cheekbones.

Hilde’s mouth gaped as the suit of skin raised back up as if its own person, reformed into a whole and then walked back out to rejoin the party. It returned to Malcolm’s lap on the couches, as if nothing had changed, but the robed woman remained in the torch-lit side room. She stood grinning at Hilde, as if the two of them shared some form of private joke. “It’s nine. I’m leaving,” Hilde said as she turned and walked back towards the kitchen, unsteady on her feet. The men in the hall were achieving even greater heights of ribaldry and hilarity, as their opening night party wound its way towards twelve second clock. There were puddles of spilled beer and ale on the hard-pack floor, and many of them had mud-spattered boots and breech legs.

“So, Hilde …” The strange woman came up to her and whispered in her ear, as they stood by the doorframe back into the feasting room. “Would you like to see some more tricks …?”

 

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About the author:

 

 

Richard Writhen is originally from New England, but has also lived in New York City. He was raised on a steady diet of eighties fantasy films, horror television and universal monster movies. After briefly attending college for music and video, he began his first online serial six years ago. Richard has since been e-published on several notable blogs and websites and is now also the author of three independently published novellas on Amazon: A Kicked Cur, A Host of Ills and The Hiss of the Blade. He has also recently completed his first novel, The Angel of the Grave.

 

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Featured Excerpt: Legends of the Exiles by Jesse Teller

 

Legends of the Exiles by Jesse Teller:

 

The isolated barbarians of Neather have deep ancestry and strict traditions. Four resilient women defy tribal customs as they fight to overcome their own tragedies. Abuse. Addiction. Assault. Grief. What struggles can they endure to defend their hopes and their hearts?

Helena seeks a love as bold as she, yet finds the men of her village lacking.

Jocelyn fears her strange visions and sacrifices a life with the man she loves for the one her destiny demands.

Torn apart by abuse and grief, Ellen is a brilliant woman who must focus her intellect on finding reasons to persevere.

Rachel, a brash girl of noble heritage, dares all men to challenge her and longs for one who will.

In this set of four interwoven novellas, award-winning author Jesse Teller challenges assumptions and showcases the strength of feminine resolve.

 

Excerpt from Book One: Dreadful Desires

 

Her head hurt. She kept running. She was hungry and hadn’t eaten in days. She kept running. This was much farther out than her father had ever taken her hunting. But the image of her mother screaming with reddened face, slapping and clawing at the floor as she struggled to get to her, Helena needed to run. She needed away. This time she was not coming back. This time, she would stay in the woods until Father got home. For this time, her mother actually wanted to kill her.

Helena ran for another mile before she collapsed in a heap, gasping for breath. The dry ground beneath her puffed as her lungs worked like Tennen’s bellows. She rolled over and looked at the sunrise coming over the mountain. She stared, her vision pumping and pulsing like her heart, as darkness slipped away and day came, bringing with it sanity and misery.

Helena scowled at the tuber she had grabbed as she ran out the door. Sweat from her palm had scrubbed the root clean. It was twisted and yellow, thin, and she well knew, bitter. She had been running all night with the thing in her hand, and now that she was out of her mother’s reach with no inkling where she was, she realized this potato would have to take her far. She was far from the pastures of the village, far from the sanity of the Flurryfist tribe, and she screwed up her face at the only food she had. If her mother had made bread the last few days, then Helena would have grabbed that before dashing away. Mother had done nothing since Father left but drink and curse. Her mother’s anger, her mother’s rage, her mother’s insanity had chased Helena out here, and now all she had was a dumb tuber.

She stomped her foot and growled as she leaned back and threw the potato as far as she could.

Helena sat. She knew that was a dumb thing. She had just thrown away her breakfast—and perhaps her next meal, too. But tubers were stupid anyway, and ugly, and no one should have to eat them.

Her hands trembled and she curled them into fists. If she was older, she could handle her mother. If she was more than seven, she could stand up when her mother hit and cursed at her. Helena cursed her age, and she cursed every tuber, swearing to the Seven she would never eat another.

Then she heard a snort. She froze. A large, gusting exhale, and she knew the thing that made that sound was huge. Helena’s eyes shot to every corner of the wood, and she quickly found a fallen tree. She crawled there, ducking under it. She peered out at the wilderness around her and fought to slow her heart.

She had just run for the duration of the night. She was in perfect shape, but she could not control her frantic breathing. Her heart hammered, her forehead beading sweat, and she covered her mouth from a scream as she saw the most terrifying thing she had ever seen.

It was a small, red ball of fur, no higher off the ground than two feet. Its tiny paws dug at the ground, and its perfect, cute face peered around it for any sign of a meal. It was a baby bear, and its mother was close. Helena again heard the snort of a massive animal. She slowly panicked. Every nugget of truth her father had told her about bears fired through her head, and she cried as the mother bear looked up at her and roared.

The massive beast burst into a run, bellowing as it came. Helena shoved her feet back, pressing herself deeper under the tree. She screamed, and the bear snapped and pawed at her as it roared.

“I don’t want your baby!” she yelled. “I don’t want your baby!”

The beast could not be reasoned with. Helena shrieked as the thick paw reached her and swiped, clawing at her leg. The bear put its front paws on the top of the tree and shoved with all its weight. The tree bucked and snapped above her. Helena wailed in abject fear.

The bear screamed.

It spun and roared, running away from her. Helena turned to paw at the ground and dig deeper under the tree, deeper into the safety of the ground. Whatever was out there would be dead soon, and that monster would turn its attention back to her. She clawed with both hands as the bear wailed in agony behind her, and she kept digging.

The bear roared. She could hear its terrible jaws snapping wood before it screamed again. Helena wondered what was killing the bear, and what it would do to her. She kept digging. The bear raged one more time before it fell silent.

Helena spun, facing the new threat, reaching around for any weapon to defend herself. She found a small, sharp stone, and held it out before her.

“Leave me alone. I will kill you if you come closer!” She hoped she sounded frightening, but she was sure she didn’t. She saw the bear twenty yards downhill, with a small spear driven into its shoulder and another in its throat. It heaved one breath.

Helena stared at the beast, terrified as it shuddered.

A naked boy covered in dung and mud stepped into her view. He was barefoot, his body covered in tiny scrapes and cuts, his chest and right flank coated in blood. He swiped a bloody hand through his sty of blond hair then climbed on the bear as if it were a rock. He gripped his spear with both hands, and with a savage, wet rip, tore the weapon free.

The spear was long for his size, with a head of stone, covered in bear blood and fur. He lifted it once over his head before slamming it deep with all his might into the bear’s back. One great surge, a yelp of pain, and the beast was dead.

The boy turned with a blood-covered, mud-smeared face and looked at her as if she were a great mystery.

Helena had never been afraid of a boy before, and she was not going to let now be any different. She crawled out of her hole. The boy pulled back. She stepped closer, and he turned to run.

“No, you little beast boy, you don’t run! You stay, you stay right now!” She stomped her foot, and the boy crouched. He pulled his spear around and drove the butt into the ground. He cocked his head and stared at her. She stepped forward.

She pointed at the bear. “How did you kill that bear?” She looked around the wood surrounding them, but did not see the child’s father. Nor did she see the rest of his hunting party. She looked at him and pointed at the bear again. “Did you kill that thing by yourself?”

The boy grunted.

She grunted back and shook her head. “What was that? Did you grunt at me? What kind of way is that to talk to a lady?”

He barked out a laugh.

She looked at herself and the torn, muddy dress she wore, her filthy hands and mud-sprayed legs. She reached up to touch sweaty, tangled hair, and she stomped her foot. “Well, I might be a mess, but what are you? Half animal, I say.”

“At least half,” the boy answered.

She smiled. “Got a name, beast boy?”

“My father called me Betten before he died.” The boy picked his nose and rubbed it on his leg.

Helena screwed her face up. “You’re gross,” she said.

“You’re funny.” He walked to a filthy, bloody bag and reached into it. He pulled her little yellow tuber out of his bag and tossed it to her.

“These don’t grow in Bloodblade land,” he said. “You’re far from home.”

Helena started and looked around in fear. “Is that where I am? Are we in Bloodblade lands? Bloodblades are bad people. They started a war with my king chief.” She gasped in horror. “Are you a Bloodblade?” She decided if he was, she was going to try to kill him with her tuber.

“Bloodblades aren’t bad people. Just bad hunters.” He chuckled as if he had made the funniest joke ever, and she rolled her eyes. “We are in Bloodblade lands. You left the Ragoth nation. You didn’t seem to know where you were going so—”

“So, you followed me?” Outrage swelled within her, and she stomped her foot.

“I did. Didn’t want you to get lost.”

“I can take care of myself,” she said. She fought real hard not to look at the bear.

“I know you can. You’re Helena Dreadheart. You’re Bestic’s daughter.”

“Well, you’re naked and dirty.” She walked over to the bear and held her hand out to Betten.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“Betten, I am hungry and am making myself some breakfast. Give me your knife so I can butcher this foul thing and get us some meat.”

He laughed and handed her his blade. She looked at it for a while, puzzled. It was perfectly clean.

 

He wore a loincloth just for her, though he scratched often, and she knew it was uncomfortable for him. He seemed only able to talk about two things: hunting and Flak Redfist. Flak was a boy Betten had met when he had run through Fendis land, looking for the out-world. Betten had, of course, wanted to know if there was good hunting out there, and he had run into the boy. Betten swore the boy was a Redfist.

“How are you supposed to know if that is true? Any boy can say he is a Redfist. The boys in my village say it all the time. Their dad’s dad was a quarter Redfist, or their grandmother’s father once rubbed a stone a Redfist man had sat on, or some such nonsense. Everyone says the name Redfist. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. They are just men.”

“You will know one when you see them. I did. When he looked at me and told me his name, I believed him,” Betten said. “I’m gonna go serve him when I get older. For now, though, he wants me to learn the mountain as well as I can.”

“Why?” Helena asked. They were an hour from her house, and she knew Betten would be running off soon. The brief time she had spent with him told her he was not going to enter the village with her.

Betten looked as if he were smiling at a god when he said, “He told me to learn the mountain good so one day I could lead him back here.”

A chill ran up her spine. Helena decided she wanted to meet this Flak Redfist. She wanted to stand before him and see if he was enough of a man that she could bow to.

Helena had never bowed to a man in her life. She was sure no Redfist would change that.

 

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About Jesse Teller:

 

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.

 

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Featured Excerpt: Death and the Crone (Lucky Devil #3) by Megan Mackie

 

Death and the Crone: Book Three of the Lucky Devil Series

 

 

Why should the sexy immortal guy always go for the sixteen-year-old?

Margaret has given up on life. In her late sixties, homeless and unwanted by society, it seemed a logical thing to go with this rich, handsome stranger back to his expensive apartment. Sure, it probably would mean her death, but what did she have to lose anyway? But instead of finding her death, Margaret learns that nothing in her savior’s world is what it seems, including herself.

Set in the magical, technologically-advanced Chicago of The Lucky Devil series, this spin-off story can be enjoyed by both existing and new fans of the series

 

 

Excerpt from Chapter One:

 

The young man unlocked the metal door and let it swing open, leading the old, homeless woman inside. She stood on the threshold, a small wizened thing, wearing clothes that were never hers and stinking to high heaven of her own and others’ filth. “You are one crazy kid, you know that?” she told the young man standing next to her, as he struggled a moment to remove the high-tech key that never-quite-fit-the-lock from his door. The young man flashed his youthful smile at her, tossing his newly freed keys and his umbrella onto the glass coffee table in the open living room. Without a further response, he walked past the island—that was the only thing separating the kitchen from the living room—to a refrigerator that shone dull silver in the dim light. She stood still in the doorway, clinging onto the frame to fight her instincts to run. The room would have been less scary if it had been filled with torture equipment. Instead, there was a dark-wood dining room set and tall, throne-like chairs stood just a few feet from the doorway. To the left was a dark, leather couch with the clear, glass coffee table. Both pieces of furniture faced a wide flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. The couch sat on beige carpet while the dining room set sat on wide square blocks of smooth stone-like tile with no wall in between to separate the two rooms, like a sane person would expect. It was pure, uncomfortable luxury.

The extreme contrast of her to the world in which she now stood, was so keen even she was embarrassed by it. The feeling went all the way through her hardened shell that told the world she didn’t care what it thought of her, to touch the gentle, little girl she had once been, and in some ways still was, underneath. “Come in, shut the door,” the kid said from the kitchen. He seemed to be fetching two glasses and a bottle of something from his chrome fridge, setting all three on the island counter. Three red-topped stools waited on the opposite side for some glamorous woman in a too-short, little black dress and heels to sit upon it. Not a woman dressed in rags, old enough to be his grandmother.
When she didn’t move, he left the kitchen to come to her once more. He smiled his gentle smile, the one that convinced her to take him up on his offer in the first damn place. As the smile washed over her, it made her insides melt into warmth. Most people would shun her at first sight, try to keep upwind and at least five feet away—more if possible. It had been like that for too many years. This kid, instead, had come up to less than a foot beside her, both in the alley and now as she hovered in his doorway. Gently, he touched her shoulder to guide her inside and shut the door behind her.
“Would you like some water?” he asked. With a sense of doomed finality, he locked the door behind her.
“Whatever,” she answered and proceeded further inside. If he didn’t care about the crud on her tattered shoes staining his pretty carpet, then she didn’t give a rat’s ass either. She set her old body down onto one of the stools, which seemed to satisfy him, and he continued with that angelic smile as he poured out two glasses of bubbly water from the fancy bottle. While he did that, she studied him again in the light coming down from the three hanging lamps over the island counter.
He was beautiful. Too beautiful in her mind. Tall and thin without being gangly. The word lithe floated through her mind. He wore dark clothes, a fine black button up shirt that was open at the top, and matching black slacks with dark, square-toed shoes she had seen models wear in magazines. His hair was the longish-style that only beautiful men could pull off without it looking like a mullet. The hair itself was dark, framing a perfect, chiseled face with nice cheekbones and a sharp chin. His eyes were dark blue, so dark the pupils were hard to see. They were as equally hypnotic as his smile. To her, they seemed like eyes that had seen too much, full of understanding instead of judgment. He had long fingers that handled the bottle of water expertly and she imagined for a minute those hands wrapping around her throat, choking the life out of her while she got to look up into those dark, dark eyes. She snorted at the image.
“Look, kid, I know this has to be a part of some ritual for you or something, but you don’t have to play nice with me before you do whatever the fuck it is you plan on doing to me. I don’t really give a damn,” she said, defensively.
“I understand,” he said and slid the glass of water over to her on its own fancy-schmancy coaster made of cork. “Drink that up, we have all night and you’ll need it.”
“What is this bullshit?” she grumbled but picked up the water anyway and stared down into it. “Probably drugged anyway,” she said. Before she could take a sip, he plucked it back out of her hands with those long fingers and took a healthy gulp instead.
“What the fuck? You fucking with me?” she snapped. “Some sort of power trip you ass…”
“See, not drugged,” he said and held it back out to her to take. She eyed him and the glass with hateful suspicion for several minutes. The last thing she wanted was to reach out for it and be made a fool again. She had known several so-called men who would think yanking it out of her grasp the height of hilarity.
“I reach for that you will just snatch it back again,” she concluded bitterly.
Nodding again with those damn understanding eyes, he set the water back on its coaster and picked up his own to drink. He leaned against the far counter, putting himself out of snatching distance and watched to see what she would do.
She ignored the water. “Don’t like feeling like a goddamn lab rat,” she grumbled again. “You’ve got me up here, kid. Now, what do you want with an old bitch like me?”
“I told you, I’m interested in you. I want to help you,” he answered and sipped his water, his eyes roving her being. God knows what he could be looking at. The old woman stared down at her wrinkled, scarred hands; the skin had gone thin so that her bones showed underneath. She hated looking down at her hands; she never recognized them. Over most of her body, she wore an old, burnt-orange jacket that was made for a man three times her size and went down to her knees. She liked it because it kept her warm on cold nights like this one if she tucked her knees into it. Dirty, white sneakers that were falling apart held her feet. On her legs were three pairs of sweatpants layered over each other. She had just as many layers of shirt under the jacket and her mess of gray, dirty, greasy hair was stuffed up under an old, black, knitted hat that she hadn’t taken off for a long, long while. It was probably fused to her head by now. She hadn’t seen herself in a mirror in years. She didn’t have to. God knew how bad and ugly and old she looked, and this dumb fool just kept smiling at her as if she was…. she was…. what?
“What the fuck are you looking at, you freak?” she snapped again, with the old reliable defensiveness that was meant to keep her safe and away from harm.
He laughed, out loud. Genuinely laughed as if she had just told the world’s greatest joke. There was no malice in it, and it left her stunned. “I’m looking at you, of course,” he said, in that cryptic way that he had been doing for the last hour. Never quite answering her questions. He had picked her up in the alley only a few streets away. She had been digging through garbage when he came up beside her, an umbrella over his head to keep the light, cold drizzle of late fall from coming down onto his beautiful self.
“You want to come home with me?” he had asked after he had stared at her for a few minutes. She was hurting, hurting for another fix or another drink, anything to keep the demons away. The need was so great that her instinct to protect herself gave way to the addiction, much as it had most of the years of her adult life. She would have followed Lucifer himself if he had come a-calling.
“Why am I here?” she finally asked when the silence between them became annoying.
“Why do you think you are here?” he asked back.
“Because you either want to fuck an old cunt because you’re sick in the head or something, or you want to murder me in some horrible way because who would miss street trash? So, whichever it’s going to be, can we just get on with it?!” she shouted and swiped the glass of water off the counter. It made a satisfying, wet crash on the floor. “Because it don’t much matter to me either way. I’m done with living.”
He didn’t move when she threw away his hospitality water. Didn’t get angry either; just studied her, then slid his own glass of water across the counter to replace it and waited. She shot him an angry, black look, then picked it up. For a moment, she almost threw it after the other. It would have been satisfying, but she didn’t. This time she stared at the crystal-clear liquid with its tiny bubbles and started to drink it. It actually tasted so good in her dry mouth. She couldn’t remember the last time she had simply drunk water. As she gulped it down, she had to resist the urge to slosh it all over her face as well.
“How old are you?” he asked after she came up for air.
“Too damn old. Should have died years ago,” she answered.
“Especially after all of the drugs you’ve done,” he stated simply. Again, no judgment, just facts. She still reacted as if he was judging her anyway.
“You been spying on me, you fucking animal?”
He held up his right hand, letting the sleeve fall back to show his right wrist. He tapped the wrist with the finger of his left hand. “You’ve got scars. I bet they go all the way up, don’t they?” he said.
“Everyone’s got fucking scars.” She drank the last dregs of the water. It tasted so good, she didn’t realize it was gone until she had tried to keep drinking after it had turned to air.
“Do you like doing it?” he asked. He retrieved the glass after she set it down and refilled it from a new bottle.
“What? Drugs? No. Who the fuck does? But the demon’s gotta be fed. I owe him that much,” she answered. “What’s with the questions?”
“What demon?”
“What?”
“You said the demon’s gotta be fed, you owe him. Owe him what?”
She set the glass gently onto the counter, becoming hyperaware of the shake in her hands, her eyes drifting away to the other place. The place long in the past, the place where the demon had made its home and cried with a baby’s voice. “I owe him for keeping the pain away.”
Buy Links:
Preorder Death and the Crone: Book Three of the Lucky Devil Series here –
The Finder of the Lucky Devil: (The Lucky Devil Series Book 1)
The Saint of Liars: Book Two of the Lucky Devil Series
About Megan Mackie:
Megan is an author and playwright from Chicago. Originally an indie author, she was picked up last year and republished by Crossroads Press. Her current work is called the Lucky Devil series. She is also a contributing writer for Onyx Path Roleplaying games, currently working on their new title Legendlore RPG. She is easily identified by her nice leather hat.

New Release: The Complete Rhenwars Saga: An Epic Fantasy Pentalogy by M.L. Spencer

Includes all five books of The Rhenwars Saga!

 

There Is No Mercy for the Merciless.

 

The Well of Tears was created to save magic. Now the Well unleashes only destruction. There is only one mage left who can seal it — a man just as corrupt as the evil he opposes.

 


The Well of Tears was created to harness the power of the Netherworld to prevent a magical apocalypse. Now, Darien Lauchlin is the last surviving mage capable of reversing the destruction the Well unleashed. Darien will be forced to sacrifice everything of himself and everyone around him—all to preserve a nation of people who despise him.

The Rhenwars Saga is a sprawling epic set in a morally gray world where there is no clear distinction between hero and villain. Download this Special Edition Box Set to experience epic battles, flawed heroes, and a brutal struggle where the triumph of good over evil is never guaranteed.

If you enjoy the dark, sprawling world of Steven Erikson, the awe-inspiring magic of The Wheel of Time, and the compelling antiheroes of C.S. Friedman, then you’ll love The Rhenwars Saga.

 

IRDA Award for Fantasy

 

Semifinalist in Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO

 

Finalist in BookNest’s Fantasy Awards

 

★★★★★ “One of the best fantasy stories I’ve read this decade.” BookNest

★★★★★ “Betrayal, lies and destruction follow across every page.” Grimdark Magazine

★★★★★ “Shines in its damaged characters.” Fantasy Faction

★★★★★ “Some of the deepest and most polarizing characters I have read to date.” Goodreads

 

QUOTES:

 

“One of the best fantasy stories I’ve read this decade” -BookNest

“Betrayal, lies and destruction follow across every page” -Grimdark Magazine

“Shines in its damaged characters” -Fantasy Faction

“ML Spencer is a fresh new voice to the scene.” -Fantasy Book Review

“An amazingly entertaining read” -Manhattan Book Review

“Packs a strong punch” -Kitty G

“A thrilling read, fast-paced, and bitingly entertaining” -San Diego Book Review

“Dark and Thrilling” -The Fantasy Inn

“A magnificent novel” -Pumpkin and Egg

“A complete, dark, anything-goes fantasy.” -West Coast Book Reviews

“An engaging and heart wrenching tale of love, loss, deceit and desperation” -Readers’ Favorite

“I don’t believe I shall ever read another story that will test the moral compass in such a beautifully epic fashion.” -Goodreads Review

“Some of the deepest and most polarizing characters I have read to date.” -Goodreads Review

 

BUY LINKS:

 

Featured Excerpt: Crown by Jesse Teller

Brody Bedlam, immortal source of chaos, has taken over the crime network of the oldest city in the nation, holding the mayor in his pocket and the citizens in fear. Rayph and his Manhunters move to usurp him, but the street war brings casualties Rayph cannot justify. With his crew unraveling and pressure mounting from the unsatisfied king, will this mission be Rayph’s end?

Rayph stared at the most terrifying building in the whole of Lorinth. He turned to Smear and Trysliana. “He is in there, and we are going to get him out.” His anger ruptured and ran like an infected wound, filling his heart and edging him ever closer to his temper snapping and his mind letting loose of all the power at his command.

“There will be many people in our path,” Trysliana said. “This is going to get bloody.”

“How are we going to deal with the soldiers in there and the apothecaries?” Smear added.

“We are going to kill them all,” Rayph growled.

“Well, we can’t do that,” Smear said.

“Then go home. Go back to Ironfall and the Stalwart Dreark abandoned. Go back to your ranch and the cheese. Go back to—”

“Watch who you are talking to, Rayph. That was not fair,” Smear said.

“I’m going in,” Rayph said. “Follow me or go home.”

Rayph took one last look at the Crown and fought back the shudder that threatened to overtake him. Prison, asylum, hospital, and harborer of the darkness of Lorinth, in this place Phomax had hidden all his terrible secrets. This was the dark heart of the nation. Here, hunkered into the shadows of the building, hid those still loyal to the dead king. Still, they did his work, and they had one of Rayph’s friends.

Rayph spoke a word, and the air above his hand ripped open. He whistled and a pocket of air beside him spat out a creature of stone. It was canine in shape and bore little resemblance to a dog, save its body and its stone jaws. It snapped its maw shut, and Rayph stepped forward. His hound howled, and he jumped the high wall to the Crown and landed in the courtyard.

A blaring alarm ripped out over the air and doors shot open all over the building, purging soldiers like a sick beast vomiting filth. Rayph pointed at the main door, and his hound burst forth in a run. Its stone paws tore up flagstones as it ran. An instant before it collided with the door, it lowered its head to strike with the flat of its skull. The door rattled on its hinges and the wood split. Rayph turned to face the coming onslaught, grinning as two figures leapt from beyond the wall and clung to the structure with all four limbs. Smear and Trysliana crawled the towers like insects invading a corpse. Rayph spun, letting loose his first wave of terror.

He waved a hand in the direction of the coming surge and, with a word, their flesh ripped and tore into shreds of blood and muscle. The rest of the soldiers pulled back, and Rayph spun from his macabre spectacle to address them all.

“Your judgment has come for you. Too long have you preyed on the downtrodden and the sick. This place, I condemn for treachery. Drop to your knees and lay your weapons at your feet, or I will crush you all to bone and tendon.”

Every man of them dropped. Rayph held a hand up, and their weapons lifted into the air to collide with his hand. He held them all, a hundred or more weapons attracted to his hand like a great magnet before he swung his hand behind him and tossed the arsenal away and out of reach of the soldiers.

He spoke a word and stone hands erupted to grip all their thighs, pinning them to the ground. He turned to his hound. The beast nearly had the door open. Rayph passed the defeated men and climbed the stairs to the main door, tapping the fetish on his chest to communicate with his crew.

“How is it progressing?” he asked.

“I have three of my scanners placed,” Trysliana replied.

“Four more to go,” Smear added.

“We will know where they have him soon,” Trysliana said.

“Good,” Rayph said, his hand gripping the fetish. “I’m almost in.”

“Rayph,” Smear said.

“Yes?”

“Mercy is a virtue to rise to.”

“I will exercise mercy when I have Cosmo back. Until then, I know only wrath.” The door split right down the middle, falling into two halves and booming through the entire courtyard. Rayph stepped into the Crown, his sword high, his hound gnashing beside him.

Rayph met all aggressors with fire and steel. His spells were muted here. His potency curbed to light magic and lesser powers. Truly devastating spells dissipated in the air as he fought to cast them, but he had a few powerful items at his command. He reached the bottom of a long row of twisting staircases, and he stopped. Seven staircases squirmed before him like a set of stone serpents, each rising to a different tower, each of differing ages and stabilities. Rayph knew not which rise to take, so he waited. The alarm screamed, more and more soldiers rushing to meet him. He patted his hound, and the next wave of enemies hit him. He cast as they collided with him, and an invisible wall sprang out in both directions, leaving a thin narrow corridor for them to get through. He stood in the breach, chopping and firing until Smear sounded off in his head.

“He is in the decrepit tower, the Stone Snake. You must be careful, Rayph. It is falling apart.”

“Meet me there. Trysliana, find me an escape point. Set the charges and get out of the way. I’m headed to the Viper.”

He tossed his sword and the air zipped closed around it. He spoke a word, his bow dropping into his hands. He pulled at a pocket of air above his shoulder and drew a long arrow boasting an ivory-colored fist where an arrowhead should have been. He pointed it at the most degraded of the flights of stairs and grinned when the fist opened and gripped the stone. A flaming cord trailed from the arrow’s wake. Rayph gripped it tight and spoke a word. The flaming cord pulled tight, and Rayph flew into the air. He screamed out to his hound to keep fighting. He whipped through the air until he reached the doorway at the top of the stairs leading to the Stone Snake. He entered the darkness and stowed his bow, calling once again for his sword and enjoying the way it felt in his grip. He stepped onto the staircase that would take him to the top of the tower, bracing himself for the climb.

 

From: Crown, The Manhunters Book Three

 

Links:

 

 

CROWN pre-order is now available !

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FC9FBZ3/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40126457-crown

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PathtoPerilisc/

Website: https://jesseteller.com/

Monthly Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/q1h1k4

 

About the Author:

 

 

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues. He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.

Featured Excerpt: Kill Switch by Sean E. Britten

‘Slayerz’, it’s America of the not-too-distant future’s favourite bloodsport. Fifteen pairs of criminals taken from either death row or a life sentence enter the arena and only one team leaves. Each team of two are linked together by a device called a ‘kill switch’. If one contestant dies they’ll take the other with them, forcing the pairs of ultra-violent odd couples to work together or perish.

The following is an excerpt from Kill Switch by Sean E. Britten

 

“Slayerz is brought to you by the following sponsors!”

A small, dark-skinned child sits down heavily in the dirt outside a wooden hut, looking dazed. A pear-shaped potbelly protrudes from his waist while the rest of his body is nothing but a badly put together collection of skin and bones. Clusters of flies gather around the corners of the child’s mouth and eyes, suckling at the moisture. There is a third, spindly arm emerging from a knot of flesh in the centre of the boy’s chest, and this third arm slaps weakly at the insects.

“Little Cayuga is one of thousands of children born with various mutations and abandoned by their parents as a result of the African Bio-Wars. Every day, Cayuga walks six miles in the desert sun in order to find drinking water that isn’t dangerously irradiated. Along the way he faces threats from wild animals, other, dangerous mutants, and Abominations.”

“For less than the price of a cup of synth-coffee a day, you can get Cayuga the food and water that he needs, send him to school, have the arm-shaped tumorous growth on his chest removed and help his village build a steel-reinforced concrete bunker where they can hide from the Abominations at night. Please give generously, for every child you save the Abominations get that much weaker and might one day be contained. Press the button on your screen to donate now.”

 

Meanwhile, in another part of The Gauntlet, the team of Odie King and Gabriella Gigi had been hurrying down the path set out for them. Odie had the old-fashioned Type 69 rocket launcher that he’d been given cocked over his shoulder, although he had no idea how to operate it. His head was tucked in low and he moved from shipping container to shipping container like a mouse. He knew, although no one had come out and said it, that the two of them were expected to have no chance once they entered the arena and had to go up against the other teams. They would make easy prey, even with the powerful rocket launcher, and might as well have targets painted on their backs for any of the contestants looking to make an easy kill. If she was aware of any of it, however, Gigi seemed curiously unbothered at the thought of dying. She sauntered along behind Odie, the MP5K submachine gun she’d been given dangling off her shoulder on its strap.

“What did you say your name was again?” Gigi asked, airily.

Odie tried to shush her, scanning the ground for booby-traps, “Odie, my name is Odie.” He said, “Weren’t you paying any attention when they introduced us?”

“That’s a dog’s name.” Gigi said.

“I know! Shut up!” Odie said, looking toward the camera drones that were bobbing along behind them. He idly wondered how many people he had known back in high school were watching right now.

“Say it, say ‘I hate Mondays’.” Gigi said, as they continued down the path.

“That’s not the dog, that’s the cat.” Odie replied.

“Well, how am I supposed to know? Those movies are like a hundred years old.” Gigi said, “Did your parents give you that name?”

“Yes.” Odie said, stopping and checking their surroundings at the next corner before continuing onward.

“Is that why you killed them?” Gigi said.

“So you were paying attention.” Odie said, smiling grimly, “Do you even realise what’s happening to us, here? We’re being hunted!”

“I know.” Gigi replied.

“We’ve got no hope against most of those guys once we get out in the arena!” Odie said, “The best thing we can do is lay low and try to stay out of the fight, which is going to be easier said than done once these shitty things on our wrists start telling everybody where we are every half an hour! Just-, just stay close to me and we’ll keep moving, constantly, and ignore any of the food or weapon packages that they drop, or they’ll just lure us in!”

Just as Odie finished speaking they heard the loud clunking noise that reverberated throughout The Gauntlet, “What’s that?” Gigi said, and pointed.

Odie turned to see one of the enormous cranes that had seemingly just appeared around The Gauntlet. With its powerful electromagnet it was carrying a shipping container by one end, the doors at the other end dangling open. Moments later the container dropped and went plummeting to earth with a ground-shaking smash in some other section of the arena.

“Oh, shit! We’ve got to get out of here!” Odie said.

Another crane passed overhead, low over the walls, and the magnet suddenly became active. Gigi’s SMG swung upright on the end of its strap and she almost lost it, while Odie felt the magnet try to tear the Type 69 rocket launcher out of his hands. It lowered itself onto one of the walls and pulled it sideways so the stack of shipping containers came crashing down, annihilating the section of path that the two of them had just walked down.

“How can this get any worse?” Odie said, literally hugging the rocket launcher to his chest as the crane pulled away and attached itself to another giant crate.

“What do we have here? Two little ponies, Applefeather and Sparkletush!” A deep voice carried over the sound of the metallic chaos that had engulfed The Gauntlet. Two figures emerged through the cloud of dust over the tumbled wall, “Gosh, they’ve fallen afoul of the big, bad Cannibal King, stay tuned, folks!”

“Fuck me, it’s Maneater!” Odie said.

The towering black man climbed on top of one of the shipping containers, holding his flamethrower. A small tongue of fire licked around the muzzle as Maneater laughed. Simpering, his partner Han Chow hung at the huge man’s hip, hunkered down as he too climbed onto the shipping container.

“Come on, little ponies, I won’t hurt you! Your power of friendship has melted my heart, and we’ll skip away together to the land of lollypops and veal cutlets!” He said and he squeezed his trigger, a long streak of orange flame cutting through the air toward Odie and Gigi.

Gigi shoved Odie by the shoulder, “Move your sweet ass, honey!” She said, and the two of them dived around the nearest corner. Fire licked the edge of the shipping container and the two of them felt the heat of the flamethrower as they sprawled in the dirt.

Maneater climbed over the shipping containers after the pair. Odie scrambled with the body of his rocket launcher, trying to figure out the safety, “Come on!” Odie said, and then he slung the Type 69 launcher to his shoulder. Odie edged around the shipping container, aiming the rocket at Maneater, as the maze was still shaking with destruction. Han Chow fell over backwards trying to get away but Maneater only stood there laughing as Odie fired.

The olive rocket exploded from the muzzle of the launcher, leaving a long, white streak of smoke behind it. It arrowed toward Maneater but then veered suddenly upward. The crane had come back, hovering overhead and holding onto another container. The RPG was attracted to the powerful electromagnet and pulled off course. Hissing white smoke, the rocket wound around the floating shipping container like a vine and plunged into the magnet. There was a massive explosion over their heads, an orange fireball that consumed the top of the shopping container. The explosion ripped apart the mounting of the electromagnet and it broke away from the crane, plunging to the earth. With a tremendous crash the container and pieces of the crane came down between the two teams, of Odie and Gigi, and Maneater and Chow. The middle of the container crumpled up, blocking the path, and a huge gust of dirt erupted outward.

 

From: Kill Switch from Sean E. Britten 

 

Aavailable now on Amazon. A sequel, Kill Switch: Serial Escalation is coming July 2018.

 

 

About the author:

 

 

Sean E. Britten is an author and radio presenter from Sydney, Australia. An avid consumer of everything from classic literature to pulpy paperbacks, Sean channels his love of horror, serial killers and things that go bump in the night into writing in an attempt to stave off the dark mutterings at the back of his mind, to varying degrees of success. He is also the host of the American news and politics-centric podcast “U.S. of Ed”.

 

 

Links:

 

Author Website: https://seanebritten.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seanebrittenauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeanEBritten

Kill Switch on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Kill-Switch-Sean-Britten/dp/1540346471

Kill Switch on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kill-Switch-Sean-Britten-ebook/dp/B01N05XZ5F

Kill Switch on Amazon Aus: https://www.amazon.com.au/Kill-Switch-Sean-Britten-ebook/dp/B01N05XZ5F