I have exciting news. The first draft of Well of Bones book 2 will be in the hands of my editor quite soon. I met the deadline I set for myself which may not seem like a big deal to most people, but to me, this is an accomplishment. I’m just finishing up some minor arrangements and tweaking some little things here or there while I wait for my editor to be ready for the manuscript.
To celebrate, I’ve decided to post chapter 1 as a special sneak peek for those who have read Well of Bones. If you have not read Well of Bones yet, you are in luck. I’m still offering it completely for FREE to every new subscriber to my monthly newsletter. You can sign up on the front page or on the Well of Bones page. Just enter your email and receive a welcome email containing an .epub file of Well of Bones as well as news and exclusive offers each month. Get reading, because book 2 is right on track for a holiday 2020 release. I’m planning special pre-order offers and giveaways in the months leading up to its release as well.
Please don’t read the preview before you complete Well of Bones. IT CONTAINS SPOILERS.
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I am also excited to announce the title of book 2 as well as the title of the trilogy. So without further delay, here’s The Forgotten Ways Trilogy Book 2, Against the Rocks, chapter 1.
“Worry not when the troubles of the past come knocking, for this is the way of the mind. Worry instead when these visitations become mundane.”
The Makings of a Knight of Worth, 3126
His breath fogged in front of his face as he stared out over the smoky blue hilltops. Beyond them, Jake imagined the southern coast and the sea beyond that. Somewhere, in the middle of that sea, lay Delwhick. Somewhere on that island, Anna. This was the closest he had been to that wretched place since the Knights of Apollo left. The closest Jake had been to Anna. Perhaps he should have written, but he feared she would not remember him. It had been so long. Long enough for the war to end.
Seven years is a long time to be fighting over New World territories. Jake imagined it was also expensive, both in taxpayers’ money and human lives. In that way, no different than any other war, Jake mused.
Jake felt that uneasiness in his gut and he instantly knew what it meant. One of them was near. He scanned the hilltop where he stood and searched the woodline below until he found him. William this time. The poor young man weaved in and out of the tree’s below, blood gushing from all his wounds. It doesn’t see me yet. Then he stopped. He looked around as if he had almost found what he was searching for. Then his gaze slowly moved uphill to Jake. His crushed head seemed as if it should fall apart at any moment. One eyeball dangled from its socket. William’s body twisted and mangled as if he had been trampled by the team of horses pulling the war wagon only moments before.
William appeared as if he wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words. I should know what he wants to say, Jake thought. He’s in my head. Then William took a deep breath, inflating his crushed chest, and screamed. It sounded so weak. So distant. Not like the first time Jake had seen him walking the battlefield on Delwhick.
“Help me,” William pleaded.
If I knew how. Someone put a hand on Jake’s shoulder from behind, startling him. Lieutenant Jorn Fitzand stood there with a puzzled expression on his scarred face.
“What’s the matter, Zimmar? I’ve been calling your name.”
Jake straightened his uniform and shook his head as if it were nothing.
“We found the other body. Up this way.”
Body, not survivor. That’s a shame.
Jorn turned away to lead but Jake looked for William before following. No trace of him, as usual. Jake followed Jorn down into a thick grove of tall, twisted oaks. Acorns and dried leaves crunched underfoot as they ducked under low branches and stepped over fallen logs. Mosquitos assaulted Jake’s neck and he attempted to swat them away with little success. The odor of decaying flesh replaced the usual smell of decaying plant matter. Jake passed through an invisible curtain into the stink of death. Though Jake had grown accustomed to the smell, his nose wrinkled and his throat grew tighter. They ducked under another branch to find Dogwa, Rickart, and Margaret crouched next to a body; or what was left of a body. Much of it had been stripped of flesh to the bone.
“There you are,” Margaret said with a smile. “Did we disturb your mushroom hunting excursion?”
“You know me too well, Mags,” Jake replied without taking his eyes off the corpse. “Can’t keep me from my passion for mushrooms.”
Jake found a place on the forest floor void of bloody gore and knelt next to the body, searching it with his eyes. A young woman. Intestines scattered. Left-arm missing. Neck ripped almost all the way through. Eyes open. Face frozen in her last expression. This was not a quick death and she saw it coming. Whatever it was.
“Something was a bit hungry, eh?” Rickart scoffed. Joking was his way of coping with the extreme, but it didn’t spare him a sharp glare from Jorn.
Brutus plowed a path through the underbrush for Count Varro and an old man from the nearby village. Once he had reached the small clearing where the body lay, the giant stepped aside to allow Count Varro by.
“I am sorry for your loss,” Count Varro said to the old man.
“She’s not mine,” he said as he took a gulp from a flask. “I’ve seen her around town though. Might be Johan’s girl.”
The Count stepped forward and walked around the corpse, inspecting it from all angles. Finally, he crouched opposite Jake and lifted several sheds of clothing to inspect the wounds underneath.
“What kind of monster could do this?” Jake asked quietly.
Varro nodded to Brutus and the giant ushered the old man back the way he had come.
“Monsters,” Varro corrected. “There are several different bite patterns over the whole body. They appear human in shape but the teeth are much sharper to rend flesh in such a manner. Most of the bite marks are small, like a child.”
“Chimera?” Jake asked.
Varro lifted his eyes to Jake without moving his head.
“We must be able to prove that, Mister Zimmar,” Varro sighed as he rose to his feet. He kicked over some leaves with the toe of his boot and searched the ground with a furrowed brow. “Footprints. Decisively not human. Also the size of a child or small woman. There are plenty of footprints around the body but none leading to or away. Much the same as the first body.”
Jake inspected one of the markings in the dirt. The basic shape of a human foot but the toes were much longer with the big toe off at an extreme angle like an ape’s. A thick claw mark at the end of each toe sent a chill up Jake’s spine.
An object fell from a high branch and Rickart shouted in surprise. The missing left arm lay in a bed of leaves next to the body. It too had been chewed to the bone in several places. Jake looked up to find Dogwa in the branches above. He began his climb down while Rickart scolded him.
“Now why wouldn’t you tell us you’re climbing up there unless your goal is to frighten us half to death?” Rickart said. “‘Hey everybody. I’m going to climb this here tree and see if I can’t find that severed arm.’ Just so. If I can do it, surely-”
“You should have seen your face,” Margaret interrupted. She laughed and Jake couldn’t help but let a smile slip.
“I also found bloody claw marks in the bark up here,” Dogwa said. “Either they move through the trees or they can fly.”
“There are no trees around where we found the first body,” Varro said.
“They’re down here,” the old man said from somewhere out of sight. When he reappeared, two knights followed him. They were not any of Count Varro’s men but Jake recognized them. The two were hard to forget. Pratt was a short albino with bright pink eyes. He always tucked away as many pistols as he could carry on his person and put them to good use in a fight. Jorgon was the northerner; one of Jorn’s tribesmen though he was much taller. He groomed his beard to a sharp point and wore his long dark hair in a bun on the back of his head. His face was mangled and scarred. The only thing uglier was the thick bladed messer he wore on his hip.
“Count Varro,” Pratt said. “Master Salvo has sent you several letters in the past weeks.”
“I have not received any letters,” Varro said.
This was a lie. Jake had seen at least two letters from Salvo. Perhaps Count Varro did not read them because of Salvo’s suspected involvement in producing chimera under Admiral Kro.
“You and your men are to report to Mount Bronta immediately,” Jorgon said in a rumbling deep voice.
“That is out of the question. I am currently conducting an investigation here and there is another incident in South Antonia on the coast we must look into. Several mangled corpses have washed ashore there.”
“Headmaster Fray is dying,” Pratt said rather bluntly. “You must attend to witness the passing of his mantle.”
Varro blinked at that. Though he did not show it, Jake could tell this news injured him. Jake did not know the headmaster personally but he had almost been a father to Count Varro.
“We have been tasked with remaining behind to finish your investigation,” Pratt said.
Without acknowledging Pratt, Varro turned to Jorn.
“Fetch the others and meet us aboard the Marion,” Varro ordered. “We set sail with the next tide.”
Varro pulled Pratt and Jorgon aside to brief them on the investigation so far while Jorn and Rickart broke into a jog to tell the others. Dogwa, Margaret, everyone collected their things and left. Jake stood there for a moment by the festering body and wondered when he would ever be this close to Delwhick again. This close to her. Then his stomach churned. Not from the stink. He didn’t even notice it anymore. It was that feeling that something had been taken from his insides. He looked around frantically. Where is he? Eyes darting from tree to tree. With his mouthwatering and that sour flavor of bile creeping up his throat, Jake found him.
Brom stood behind a tree peaking around its trunk. Jake searched for what to say. What could he say? You are not real? You’re in my head? Leave me alone? But before Jake said anything, Brom was gone.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are as excited about Against the Rocks’ release as I am, though I doubt it. I really do write for my readers. I enjoy writing for you. I enjoy the feedback I get, good and bad, believe it or not. So, again, thank you.
Until next week,