Warmage Snippet #2
Okay, are you ready for the next chapter in Warmage? I know I was! This is going to be one fantastic new series. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this one!!!!
Deacon lay outstretched on his bed, resting his long, weary legs from another day of hard work. He waved his calloused hand dramatically at the window. “You have to be crazy! Look out the window. The sun is setting, man. There is no way you’re going back out there.” A look of dread came over his face.
Isaac pulled back the curtain covering the small window of their two-person, one-room wooden cabin that sat toward the middle of the Alby Ranch. A bright orange sliver peeked out over the horizon. “Not if I move quickly enough. I’m not afraid. Besides, those are just old stories about monsters told to scare children.” He punched his fist into his hand. “I have to get that harvester back.”
Deacon sat up on his bed, massaging his sore calves. “Do you even know where you left it?”
Isaac closed one eye and looked up at the thatched roof, biting his lip. His thick brown moustache curled into his mouth. “It couldn’t be more than a few dozen yards from the wall. We didn’t go out that far today, did we?”
“Nope. The polly grass was great. More than we even needed for the goats. I bet we get two… maybe three days of feed for them out of that once we grind it up.” He tilted his head back and forth, stretching out the muscles in his neck. “Makes for a good day at the office. Hell, if I’m going outside the wall for longer than I need to be. Even in the daylight, it gives me the creeps.”
Isaac marched over to the door and began shoving his feet into his work boots. Dried, caked-on mud crumbled off the edges and piled up on the woven rug. “It’s not a good day at the shop if I don’t get that harvester back.”
“What is the big deal? We probably got others out in the shed. And if not, old man Alby’s making good money right now. Ask him to buy you another one.”
“No, he won’t.” Isaac slipped on his olive canvas work coat. “The old wizard doesn’t want to foot the bill for another one. I know, because I lost one a couple months ago and he pissed and moaned about it so much, you woulda thought I lost his granddaughter or something. I could lose this job if he wakes up in the morning and that harvester isn’t here.”
Deacon shot another concerned glance out the window. “You taking a horse? You better haul ass if you’re going. Once that sun is down…”
“Horses are worth more than I am. I’m going alone and I’ll deal with it. Back in a few.” Isaac pulled open the door and slammed it shut behind him.
Deacon lay back down on his bed and sighed, closing his eyes. “Back in a few. Only if you make it back in here alive.”
Next to the door, Isaac reluctantly grabbed a bow and a quiver of arrows hanging from a thick, rusty nail. I’m a piss-poor shot, but it’ll at least give me a chance, if I need it. He could feel his heart beating hard in his chest. He was afraid of the coming darkness and what it might hold, even if he didn’t want to admit it.
A dim shade covered the ranch as the sun set. His boots flopped around loosely off his heels. He didn’t think he had time to tie them.
The gate to the Alby Goat Ranch was less than a mile from the border wall. Isaac jogged to the gate, awkwardly clutching the bow as the quiver of arrows bounced wildly on his shoulder. He stared down the gate, determined to get out and back as quickly as he could possibly move.
Sitting at the gate, two other ranch hands laughed wildly, one of them gesturing with his hands as he told a story about pulling the winning hand at a card game. “I could feel it the moment I saw my cards,” said Henry, his eyes gleaming. “Won the pot!”.
“Isaac!” Henry shouted to him as he approached the gate. “What the hell are you doing out so late? It’s not your night to stand watch. Mick, you invite him?” He elbowed his friend in the ribs, laughing and displaying a gap in his front teeth from one too many card games gone wrong.
Mick took a swig of clear moonshine from a thick glass jar. “You comin’ to keep us company, Isaac? What a sweetheart.”
Isaac slowed down to a power walk’s pace and chuckled at the two of them. “Yeah, right, like you bastards need any company. You’re loud enough on your own.”
Henry chuckled, swiping the jar from Mick’s hands to take a drink. “You got that right. But when you’re loud, the elves stay away, man.”
“We do what we gotta do to stay awake.” Mick sniffed and stood up to stretch out his back. “Can’t be sleeping on the job.”
“The way you two are drinking, I bet there will be plenty of sleeping happening tonight. While I’m out, I’ll let the elves know you’ll be passed out before the sun’s all the way down.”
Henry slapped him on the shoulder. “Seriously, what are doing out? You got a hot date in town?”
“Yeah, right. No, I can’t sit here and talk. I gotta go get my harvester from the other side.”
Mick spit into the dirt and looked at Isaac as if he’d seen a ghost. “The other side? Of what, of the wall?”
“Are you out of your mind? It’s practically dark! Whatever you left out there is gone, man.”
“Not if I move fast enough. Besides, anybody out there tries messing with me, I’ll bury an arrow between their eyes.” He charged past them, kicking up dirt as his boots slammed against the ground.
“They don’t all got eyes, Isaac.” Henry crossed his legs, trying to look casual. “Some of them can feel the rumbling of your footsteps. I’ve even heard there’s something out there with more arms and legs than you can count. No eyes, no face, just big and angry. And strong.”
Isaac stopped to turn and watched him as he described the creature. His throat had grown dry and he swallowed hard. “That’s a bunch of bull,” he said, trying to hide the nervous quiver in his voice. “No one under seventy has ever actually seen one and there aren’t many left still alive over that age. Hell, half the time, those drunks in town just like to make shit up to scare people. You know how people are in Brighton. I’ll be back in less than ten minutes.” The words spilled out of him.
Mick shook his head. “If you say so. We’ll save you some hooch just in case.” Isaac jogged off and out of earshot as Mick leaned into Henry. “I’m only saving him a swig, and if he ain’t back in fifteen, I’m drinking it.”
Henry lifted the jar to his lips. “I have a feeling you’ll be drinking it alright.”
Isaac made a beeline for the wall, spotting the small Worker’s Gate. There was one guard on duty sitting in an old wooden chair that was always sitting there.
Isaac glanced at the horizon as he ran. Come on, stay with me. Just keep that sliver of light there for a few more minutes. His heart was beating faster as he ran, and he licked his lips nervously.
Once he reached the Worker’s Gate, he stopped to catch his breath.
“What are you doing here, Isaac?” Jackson looked at him over his wire rimmed glasses.
“I lost a harvester and I gotta go get it.” He nodded hard, pressing his lips together.
Jackson let out a sigh, glancing back over his shoulder at the sun. “Almost dark, Isaac. Nobody’s fool enough to head out after dark.”
“You know what’ll happen if that thing is lost forever. I can’t afford to lose this job. I’ll be in and out.”
“The going out is up to you. I’m just here to be careful about who’s coming in.”
“Okay…well… then I’m going.”
“Suit yourself.” Jackson leaned back in the chair, settling his chin on his chest.
“Aren’t you supposed to stay awake?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in your cabin? Nothing ever happens around here anyway. Hurry up now and don’t wake me when you go by.”
“Not much of an alarm system.”
“One more word and I’ll report you for that harvester either way.”
“Never mind. I’m going. Don’t let me disturb you.”
Every muscle in Isaac’s body ached from the workday, but the prospect of stepping outside the wall at dusk had filled him with so much adrenaline, he hardly noticed his sore muscles.
Lifting the iron crossbar on the tall wooden gate always let out a loud creak. He looked back for a moment, but no one was stirring.
He scanned the immediate area. Interior lights were on in most of the long low clay buildings nearby. It was dusk, which meant dinnertime when most of the kingdom retreated into their homes and secured their properties for the evening.
Isaac lifted the crossbar off the gate. A loud squeak filled the air for a moment. He winced as the sound echoed down the road, but nobody or nothing jumped up at him.
“Better hurry,” said Jackson, his eyes still shut.
Out and back.
Setting the crossbar aside, Isaac pushed open the door and stuck his head out, viewing the land that stretched out beyond the wall. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he stepped out and pushed the gate shut behind him.
The harvest had been off to the left and he ran a quarter mile toward the smooth patch of grass where it had been cut down. Each step was filling him with dread.
Hours earlier, the sun had been shining on this land, making it look like an idyllic pasture where villagers could bask in the breeze that bent the long grass.
At that hour, however, the land appeared to Isaac part wasteland and part war zone. Dark, grim, empty.
“Please let it be empty,” he muttered, clenching his fists at his side.
Isaac reached the section of the patch where he had been working and looked up at the horizon, silently begging the sun once more to stick around. The light was so dim, he could hardly see. The sun was dropping quickly into the horizon.
He squinted, trying to make out the glint of his metal harvester. But without a torch, he wasn’t be able to make it out.
Don’t just stand there. Move! Isaac slung the bow over his shoulder and dropped to his hands and knees, frantically feeling around for the harvester. “Damn thing has to be here,” he whispered, thrusting out his hands, trying not to worry about breaking a bone if his hand were to strike the tool. But he couldn’t let himself worry about that. Even a broken hand would be preferable to falling victim out there.
To his relief, the back of his hand struck metal. “Yes!” he whispered, crawling the few feet in that direction. He grabbed his harvester from the grass and stood up. He turned to face the wall again, and his stomach sank. The glow of house lights over the wall were barely visible.
I didn’t realize just how far off we worked today. Shit, I have to move.
Isaac tucked the harvester under his arm and started to walk quickly in the direction of the gate when he felt a slight rumbling under his feet. He stopped dead in his tracks, frozen, while he listened for further movement.
Must have been my imagination. “Yeah, yeah, that’s all it is.” Being out here this late messes with your mind. Get out of here before you lose it completely. “I could use a drink.”
He hustled a little faster to the gate, pumping his legs as hard as they would move after a long day of ranching. His feet felt like they were encased in concrete. The harvester was clutched tight under his arm.
Another, stronger rumble shook the ground beneath him sending up short plumes of dust. This time, he gasped and sweat appeared on his lip. That wasn’t my imagination.
Trying his best to move even quicker, his boots flopped wildly. One of them flew off behind him, and he stepped barefoot into the damp grass, soaking his toes. “Shit!” he shouted without thinking.
His breath quickened and he turned around to grab his boot. When he bent over to pick it up, something wrapped around his bare foot and yanked it down into the soil, just over his ankle.
Isaac yelped, managing to pull his foot out from the soil. He took off in a dead sprint, leaving the boot behind. His eyes fixated on the gate. “Please, please let me make it there in time. Not much farther, not much farther…”
A wide, leathery black tentacle with lines of pincers leapt out of the soil and wrapped around his shin from behind him, and yanked him hard, dislocating his knee and slamming him face-first into the ground. He never even saw where it came from. His arms flailed about as the harvester flew forward toward the gate, skittering along the soil. Isaac managed to keep a grip on the bow, but the quiver was still around his shoulder.
“Help! Help!” He glanced toward the city walls and the gate but there was no movement.
He pulled his leg toward him and screamed in pain as he felt the jutting bone of his dislocated knee. The tentacle still had a tight grip, refusing to budge as it pulled down on his injured limb even harder. Pincers sliced open his belly, cutting through his tunic.
With no other option, Isaac rolled to his side and readied his bow. It took him three tries to reach an arrow from his quiver, his hands trembling as he tried to cock it into the bow. Finally, he was able to ready it for a shot, but when he pulled back the bow and faced the direction of his attacker, he saw nothing.
The pulsing tentacle wrapped around his shin was coming straight out of the ground. The rest of the beast was completely hidden.
“What the hell?”
The tentacle yanked him harder, this time burrowing his leg down into the ground up to his thigh. It let go momentarily, reeling into the air and slapping the bow and arrow out of his hands.
The pain from his leg almost made him pass out and he bit his lip hard enough to taste blood.
He lay back, looking toward the wall, wishing he had let the harvester go. “Deacon I should have listened.” That old witch Easton would have helped me. He took in sips of air just as the tentacles writhed through the air again, hovering over his body and grabbing hold of his injured leg again, flipping him over.
His one free leg was bent at an angle kicking in the air, and he clawed at the soil with his hands. He was trying desperately to get any kind of traction that might pull him up and away from the attack.
But the more Isaac scratched at the soil, the harder his leg was pulled into the ground. He gulped air, panicking as he dug at the ground. “What… wha…”
The ground began to swirl underneath him in a clockwise motion. His mouth hung agape as he watched it, then looked back at the gate one more time, seeing the harvester resting in the grass… and wishing he had just left it out there.
The ground was swallowing Isaac Irving, as more tentacles emerged, rising in the darkness and reaching out, grabbing his other limbs. The pressure on his body increased as he was pulled under, and he could feel his ribs cracking one by one the farther he sank.
“Nooooooo!” he screamed, bile gurgling in his throat and a spray of blood just before his chin was pulled under the surface of the ground.
The soil stopped swirling, and one last gurgle escaped from Isaac’s throat before he completely disappeared.
What??? Okay, now I’m going back to the authors and demanding the next chapter! Ugh!!!
Keep an eye out for the final snippet on February 24th!
Warmage: Unexpected, The Neverending War, Book 1 is available for pre-order now on Amazon! Goes live on Feb 26, but if you pre-order it, you’ll see it in your library the moment it’s live! Some have even reported that they got it the night before it went live, although no promises.