War and Famine – Chapter 1

Here’s the first chapter of War and Famine, The Second Revelation. Enjoy!

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Kim 02:01

“You killed me, Kim,” Malcom bared his teeth, but since most of his lips had rotted away, she could see not only his teeth, but the yellowed bone of his face. “And then you left me to rot.”

Rivulets of decayed flesh clung to his skull as he hoisted himself to his feet and took a step toward her. Fragments of his broken bone poked through the bloody white t-shirt stuck to his chest, from where she’d caved in his ribcage with Mjolnir.

“You left me all alone in this wasteland.” He shook his head, his dark eyes full of betrayal. “And you said you loved me.” He snorted. “Was I a fool to believe you?”

He took another step toward her, and she tried to move, tried to make herself do anything other than stand there gaping at him like an idiot. Only she couldn’t get her legs to react as he shambled closer, one hand outstretched toward her. His dirty fingernails were blackened and split, making her think of a zombie forced to claw through its coffin lid.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice a mixture of guilt and fear. Guilt at not having been able to bring him back to her, despite all her efforts to do so welled up inside her, overriding the fear at what he might do to her because of it.

“Your apology means nothing to me, Kim.” Malcom sucked in a breath that whistled through his punctured lungs. “You need to come get me, Kim. You can’t leave me alone here. You can’t.” He was nearly upon her now. His hand caressed her cheek, leaving a trail of slime on her flesh. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me here all alone.”

Kim awoke with a start. Her blanket fell off her as she sat up, leaving her naked flesh exposed to the night air. Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked around the room wild eyed. She didn’t recognize it at all. Something shifted next to her in the bed, and she glanced toward it, adrenaline still surging through her veins. A dark haired boy lay asleep under the blankets, a small puddle of drool dripping from his lips. Unfortunately, he was as unfamiliar as the room she was in with its posters of aged rock bands and graffiti covered walls.

Another surge of fear rushed through her. She’d done it again. She tried to remember last night, tried to piece together how she’d ended up here, but just like every time before, her memory was a fuzzy blank. The first time it’d happened, she’d started screaming, waking up everyone in the frat house. The second time, she’d screamed again, but only loud enough to awaken the girl sleeping next to her.

Now, fifteen times later, she was used to it as much as she could be. If only she could figure out why she kept blanking out, kept losing entire portions of her life only to awaken in the bed of a stranger. She’d thought about asking for help, but if she was honest with herself, how would she go about it? It wasn’t like she was close enough to her friends to feel comfortable telling them she was waking up in the bed of strangers with no recollection of the events leading up to it.

She shut her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. There was no use worrying about it. Still, what troubled her was the dream. Malcom showing up was becoming more and more frequent. The desperation in his voice more urgent. The anger more real. If this kept up, she might just have to find Amy or Ian and ask for their help. Doing that would mean getting dragged back into the world of the horsemen, of accepting the call of her mantle to be near them. If she did that, she’d have to acknowledge the ache inside her, the loneliness filling every part of her being now that Malcom was gone, made worse by her absence from her friends.

“It’s just a dream,” she murmured to herself, trying to force truth into the words. “Just like the last one. Malcom is gone…” She had told herself that a lot over the last several weeks because if he wasn’t gone, if he was trapped in that otherworldly dimension by himself, it was her fault. If he was still there, she had to rescue him, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t strong enough for that. What could she say to him anyway? Sorry for leaving you alone in a demon world for weeks. Thought you were dead, my bad?

Kim climbed out of the foreign bed, careful not to awaken the other occupant. It would only lead to an awkward conversation she didn’t want to have anyway. She dressed quickly. One look through the closed blinds told her it was still dark outside. Good, she could avoid a walk of shame. That was the advantage with leaving before morning. There would be no forced conversations, no knowing smiles on friends’ faces.

Leaving was easier, especially when there was no one to stop you, and if there was one thing she’d gotten good at over the last couple weeks, it was leaving. Part of her felt bad for walking out on her parents, but as far as they knew, she’d just left for college early. They didn’t know what had happened to her, to Malcom, and if she had it her way, they wouldn’t ever know. No one would ever know. Hell, if there was a switch she could flip to drive the memory of it from her mind, she’d throw it in a heartbeat.

The door to the strange boy’s room closed behind her with a soft click, and as she made her way down the hallway of the grungy apartment building, she let a single tear slip from her eye. Nights like this made her remember what had happened. Much as she tried to drown it out, tried to ignore what had happened to her, it seemed like the memories of the fight with Jormungand were destined to haunt her. Forever.

It’d be easier if she had someone to talk to about it, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t be. She could have talked to Caden. He would have listened to her, but she hadn’t so much as tried. Hell, she hadn’t even thought about him at all. Her thoughts had centered on Malcom, and how she had left him behind even though he had saved them all. It didn’t seem fair, but it wasn’t like Ian or Amy had tried to bring him back either. Then again, neither of them had dated Malcom.

“I wonder if Ian and Amy are having nightmares too?” she mused, surprising herself by speaking their names aloud for the first time since that day. Part of her knew she should find them, should talk to them about what had happened, but she knew if she did, they’d try to tell her lies. They’d try to tell her it wasn’t her fault Malcom had died even though she’d used Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, to cave in his chest while he held the demon Jormungand long enough for her to deliver the coup de grâce. They would tell her he was more than ready to sacrifice his life to save the day.

True, Malcom might have been. But she wasn’t ready to let him make that sacrifice. No, he’d forced her to sacrifice him. And now he was gone, leaving her to deal with the guilt of his death all alone.

“Malcom, why did you go and leave me?” She gritted her teeth and glanced back toward the building behind her. “Would I be waking up with random people if you were here to hold me?” She swallowed down the thought before it could take root, before it could burn her in fresh flames of guilt. No, when it came to that guild, avoidance was better. If she could avoid it long enough, maybe the nightmares would fade too.

Even if they didn’t go away, even if they haunted her until the end of time, she didn’t want to step back into that world again to find out if Malcom was still there, still somehow alive. Reliving terrible memories was one thing, forging new ones was quite another. Deep down she recognized she was being selfish, but that didn’t really change her opinion of the matter. If something else happened, Ian and Amy could take care of it themselves.

She was done. And they couldn’t make her come back. She wouldn’t let them. Not even if it would bring Malcom back. Which it wouldn’t. No. The world would have to find a way to keep on spinning without her.

“The universe wasn’t very smart when they picked me as one of its defenders.” Kim stifled a sob as she reached her car and unlocked it. The beep of the door echoed through the empty parking lot. She pulled the door open and stared at the pile of energy drinks and fast food wrappers littering the passenger side of the vehicle. “I’m a mess.”

War and Famine

Death’s Mantle is out now on Amazon. You can grab it there for only $0.99. It’s in Kindle unlimited too, so you can get it that way if you’d like.

Why? Because I finished up War and Famine, the sequel to Death’s Mantle, last week, and will release the book either next week or the week after. I’m excited, the cover is amazing. I’m sure the story is too.

I’ve got some interesting things planned for next year. You’ll definitely see the third Revelation, Conquest’s Hammer, in the early part of the year and the first Dirge Meilan book. I’ve already started writing it, and I have to say, it’s everything I want it to be!

I’ve also got a good handle on the next Lillim book too. Beyond that, I’m committing to exactly zero. I’ve found things change too much, too quickly.

It’s been a busy year, and while I’d like to say I can pump out fourteen more novels next year, I’ve found myself wishing I had held a couple back to pad my schedule.

Honestly, I’ve never been more tired. With the culmination of War and Famine, which is with the editor now, I will have written over 700,000 words in 2015 and published over 800,000 words. That doesn’t include an entire Dirge novel I scrapped.

Still, I have to say it’s been a blast. I can’t believe how many people have picked up my books. It’s a little weird because I look at Kill It with Magic and Wardbreaker. Both are Lillim books, but Kill it With Magic was released back in September 2014 and Wardbreaker in October of 2015. Almost a year apart, and the improvement in my writing quality is just amazing. Absolutely amazing. I’m not saying Kill it with Magic is bad, it’s just not as good to me as Wardbreaker is.

I hope 2016 brings even greater improvement in my writing from a craft perspective. I think I owe that to my readers. After all, you guys are pretty much my entire reason for writing. Well, that and I have so many stories in my head, I feel like my brain is going to burst.

Death’s Mantle – Chapter 1

I’ve actually had the finished version of Death’s Mantle since July or so to be honest. It was supposed to be my August release, but I held off on that so I could release it simultaneously with book 2, War and Famine. Originally, I wanted to release the first three books in December, but there’s a whole time issue. Currently Book 2 is halfway finished and should release this month, all things considered. You also ought to get book 3 in January.

After that, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ve got 3 different Lillim books rolling around in my head, and actually started working on the first Dirge Meilan book, tentatively called First Class.

Either way, I hope you enjoy the first chapter of Death’s Mantle. It will come out in a few weeks, but if you’re a member of my mailing list, you’ll receive it as a free gift next week.

**

Amy 01:01

“Jesse is that you? Are you playing a trick on me?” Amy asked, wondering what would possess her boyfriend to scale the side of her house and cover her second story window with ice. Then again, he’d been known to do crazier things, like the time he burned ‘I love you, Amy’ into his parents’ front lawn with weed killer.

She swallowed down the unease rising in the back of her throat and scurried across the room toward the open window, careful to avoid the assortment of art supplies and makeup littering the pink carpet. She stepped into a heap of clothing piled under the window and gripped the sill with both hands, peering outside into the gloom. Not only was there was no one there, but it didn’t feel that cold outside either.

“This isn’t funny,” she murmured, poking her head outside for one last look. “I’m closing the window now.” Amy took a step back and tugged the window down as hard as she could. It didn’t budge. A chill swept through her, less from the cold and more from apprehension. Why wouldn’t the window close?

She pulled on it again, straining so hard her fingers turned white with effort and the muscles corded in her arms. A moment later, she gave up and sighed as a sudden realization struck her. Normally, she would be able to see her neighbor’s veranda through the window. Even late at night, it was always lit up. Power bills never seemed to mean much to them, especially during the Christmas-light-a-than, and while it was almost spring, they still hadn’t taken down their lights.

Tonight, she couldn’t see anything through the darkness beyond her window. Teeth chattering, Amy rubbed her hands together before snatching a blanket from the pile at her feet. Wrapped in pink plush, she watched the darkness. What was going on?

The eerie sound of the wind whistling through the trees cut through the silence of the night and a thin smile crossed her lips as her heart beat furiously in her chest. “I need to stop watching scary movies… well, ever…”

A sigh escaped her as she ran a hand through her auburn hair and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. The window was just stuck. Nothing to worry about. Tomorrow, when her dad got home from his turn on the night shift, he’d fix it. She’d just use two blankets tonight. She turned, spinning lightly on one bare heel to see a man standing by her desk, brandishing a large knife, its silvery blade glinting in the light of her desk lamp.

His body rippled beneath the confines of his skin-tight black clothing as he smiled at her, pulling his perfect face into a mask of god-like condescension. His pale grey eyes sparkled with mischief as he slowly lifted his free hand and ran it through his hellishly red hair in a gesture that struck Amy as exactly like the one she’d made only a moment before. Had he been standing there this whole time, silently watching her? She tried to scream, but as soon as the sound started to leave her mouth, he waved his hand. Her scream died on her lips. What had he done? Her eyes widened as her heart nearly exploded in her chest. What was he going to do now?

“I’ve got a magic knife.” His voice was that of someone who would rip the wings off a butterfly simply to watch its vain attempts to fly. “I’m told that if I cut someone very special, she’ll bleed a river so hot and deep, it will cover the Earth in blood.” He took a menacing step toward her, his free arm swinging casually by his side as he held the knife out in front of him. Horses etched into the crimson blade glinted along the surface, casting a scarlet hue across the room.

“Wha-what d-do you want?” Amy stammered, backing up until she touched the frame of the window. A sudden burst of cold struck her between the shoulder blades, and she shivered. The hairs on the back of her neck stood at attention as his eyes crinkled, his smile stretching to his ears.

“I’m trying to find my special girl.” He waved the knife in front of him and sanguine shadows of horses leapt across the walls. “Do you think it’s you? Do you want to find out?”

She tried to speak, to say anything, but her head swam, and she forgot how to make her mouth enunciate words. Her heart thundered inside her, and the room swayed as his stormy eyes swallowed her thoughts. He took a step toward her with seamless, catlike grace, a devilish smile plastered on his lips. His muscles tensed under his clothing like those of a pit fighter circling his prey as he rendered the distance between them moot and reached out to touch her cheek. The moment he touched her, it was like he pressed an icicle to her flesh.

He exhaled a breath of mist that licked across her skin, threatening to swallow her entirely. As he trailed his fingers lightly along her mouth, her knees turned to jelly. It was all she could do to keep from collapsing to the carpet. “You may not realize this,” he cooed, breath like winter fog in her ear. “But you are very special, Amy.”

“Please… please let me go.” Amy swallowed. Her throat was so dry she couldn’t believe she’d managed to get the words out. “I won’t tell anyone you were here.”

“No one would believe you anyway.” He pulled back, smiling at her with teeth so white they were like hewn marble. Before she could react, he struck her. Pain shot through her body and white light flashed across her eyes.

Amy collapsed, her body sliding to the carpet in a boneless heap. She lay there, struggling to move, but finding it impossible as the man glanced around the room appraising its contents before grabbing hold of a lamp and tearing it from the wall. He coiled the cord in his hands, his eyes glinting darkly.

“Trust me, Amy,” the man said with a small chuckle. “One day, you’ll look back on this and realize this was the moment when everything changed…”

Amy squirmed as he straddled her chest, pinning her arms to the floor beneath his knees. He wound the cord around her wrists, tying her to the leg of the desk until she couldn’t move. Tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision.

The knife lay on the floor next to him, and he gripped it in one hand, pulling it up in front of his face. It loomed in front of her, so huge and all-encompassing the only thing she could see over the edge of the blade were his pale grey eyes.

“I won’t lie. This is going to hurt.” He leaned in, pressing the point of the blade against the hollow in her neck. “Thankfully, you’ll heal.” He touched her naked cheek once more with the knuckle of his other hand. “Unless, of course, you’re the wrong girl.”

“Please…” she whispered as he pressed the tip of the weapon into her flesh. She sucked in a breath as pain shot through her and blood pulsed from the spot.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and though his voice was hard, there was a tremor beneath the surface. He traced a line in her skin and scarlet welled to the surface, filling in the design as he drew a series of concentric circles on her throat with his knife. She tried to scream, tried to cry out in pain, but found she could make no sound.

Horrible sobbing overtook the man as he stood what felt like hours later. Her flesh burned like fire, pain distilling her senses into an endless stream of agony. The edge of a smile crinkled the corner of his mouth. “I am only a messenger, and it is time you awakened, Bellum.”

He reached into his shirt and pulled out a small silver medallion of two snakes joined together in an S-shape. He knelt one last time and pressed the object to her cheek. White flame raged along her skin. The symbols drawn across her body glowed with deep, red light that cast the man’s face in shadow. “When they come for you, and they will come, Amy, tell them my father will have his vengeance.”

He stood, leaving her to writhe on the floor as he snapped his fingers. The sound was like crashing thunder, and she shut her eyes against the sound of it. When she opened them, he was gone and a soft warm breeze whistled through her window, carrying with it the scent of springtime daffodils.