Monthly Archives: September 2020
As you may or may not know, I have a book out on 15th September called Frozen Rage. I thought that you might like to get a look at the first chapter.
pre-order links (and the pre-order links for Hunted and Infamous Reign on Audible) are at the end.
The Realm of Dreich.
I was pretty sure I’d made a terrible decision to come here.
“No, fuck you,” the large man bellowed, getting to his feet at one end of the table laden with food and drink. He pointed a long finger at the man sat at the opposite end, thirty feet away. If I was honest, it could have been three times that, and it still wouldn’t have been long enough.
Tommy Carpenter, my best friend, stood beside me and sighed as he stroked his long, dark beard. A sure sign he was beginning to lose his patience. “I really wish I’d stayed at home,” he muttered under his breath.
Thirty people sat around a table designed for twice that number, although the shouting match between the two men at the opposing ends had everyone else move back from where they’d been seated.
The hall we were in was designed to look like something from a European palace, with high ceilings where murals of various gods—some of whom I couldn’t have named if I’d tried—looked like they’d stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. The walls were adorned with paintings, several of which I was almost sure were from masters of the craft back on the Earth Realm. At least one was an original Michelangelo, and I wondered from where they’d been stolen. The stained-glass windows that ran along one wall let in rainbows of color that bounced off the highly polished wooden floor.
“It’s fucking Shakespearean,” Remy said from the other side of me. “Maybe they’ll murder one another, and we could all stop pretending we care.”
As far as ideas went, it wasn’t the worst I’d heard recently.
“Well, it is a wedding,” Diana said from the other side of Remy. “It’s probably not a proper wedding until at least one person has been bludgeoned with something.”
“You go to some weird ass weddings,” Remy said, looking up at her.
Remy was a three-and-a-half-foot tall fox-man. He’d pissed off the wrong witch coven, and they’d tried to kill him by turning him into a fox. Clearly, it hadn’t worked but the witches had all died, and their lives had been poured into a newly fox-man shaped Remy. He dealt with it by swearing and threatening to stab people. To be honest, as far as coping mechanisms went, I’d heard worse.
The two men were now face to face, spewing insults about each other’s mothers, fathers, and at one point a particularly inventive curse about a goat and a block of cheese.
“When do we step in?” Diana asked.
Tommy sighed. Like half the people sat at the table, he was a werewolf, although he was probably stronger than any of them, and certainly less likely to pick a fight at a wedding brunch with the father of the bride.
Werelions made up the other half of the guests. There was a long and unpleasant history between the two species, mostly involving vast numbers of murders. Peace had been brokered for a few centuries but that hadn’t stopped either side trying to tear the other in half whenever the chance arose. Some don’t forgive or forget, and some are just arseholes. The father of the bride and uncle of the groom most certainly fell into those categories.
An apple was thrown, and it smashed against the wall beside Diana’s head. Diana hadn’t even flinched, she just slowly turned to look at the remains of the destroyed fruit, and then back at the no longer arguing families. All eyes rested on her.
Diana was half werebear, and not someone you wanted to anger unless you liked the idea of having your arms ripped off so she could beat you to death with them.
My mind cycled through options of what was going to happen next when I spotted the expression of glee on Remy’s face.
The doors to the dining hall were thrown open. “Enough,” a large man bellowed as he stormed inside. He had a dark bushy beard, was broad shouldered with bulging muscles on his arms, and a barrel chest. Long, dark hair flowed over his shoulders. He couldn’t have looked less like the romanticized version of a Viking if he’d been pulled into the room while standing on a long boat.
“I’m going outside,” I said. “Come get me if they start to throw anything more dangerous than fruit.”
Tommy clapped me on the shoulder, and I left through a side exit usually reserved for the staff. The castle was on theme with the dining hall, designed to resemble something from the Middle Ages, if not earlier, but it was a much more modern piece of architecture. Even so, there were several secret passages for staff to use, and on more than one occasion as I walked the long hallway—adorned with old water color paintings of wars, and a carpet that I was pretty sure was thick enough to lose yourself in if you stood still for too long—one of the larger paintings was pushed open and several members of staff emerged. Most wore an expression of oh crap on their face as they presumably tried to remember if I was one of the arseholes fighting in the dining hall.
As I exited the castle, nodding to the two guards directly outside the main entrance, I walked through the large courtyard to the sound of horses neighing in the distance. It had been snowing on and off for the twelve hours since I’d arrived in the realm, and while there were runes inscribed in the stone exterior of the castle to ensure the snow never built too high, there was still a satisfying crunch where my thick boots punched through the soft layer.
A large granite water feature sat in the center of the courtyard, depicting a sword in the stone. Water bubbled from the sword hilt, streaming down into a bowl beneath the statue. I smiled as I walked past. I’d seen Excalibur many centuries earlier, before it was lost, and I don’t remember its hilt being quite so bejeweled.
After the courtyard, where there were more guards, I headed through part of a small village that encircled the castle and separated the makeshift from the real. The village, like the castle, had been purposefully-built, although the people who lived here were the workers and caretakers, so in that respect it was a real working village. But it was still designed to look hundreds of years older than it actually was. The village was surrounded by a forty-foot high, grey stone wall. The only way out was through the portcullis and across the drawbridge. As I strolled beneath the portcullis and across the dark wooden bridge, I noticed the crystal-clear water that made up the moat wasn’t particularly deep, yet it was all part of the facade of the place.
At the end of the drawbridge, was a huge stone archway, and I found one of the guests from the little soiree. He was sat on a stone bench, looking out into the thick forest. Mountains, forests, and lakes made up about eighty percent of the entire realm, which was probably one of the reasons why it had never boasted a large population.
A light wooden walking stick leaned against the man’s leg, and he looked up and me and smiled.
“Gordon,” I said.
He got to his feet and hugged me. “Nate, I didn’t know you were here,” he said before re-taking his seat.
“Tommy roped a few of us in to help with security,” I said, settling beside him. “Nice beard,” I said. “Distinguished.”
“You’ve grown one too,” Gordon said with a smile, stroking his own bushy yet greying beard—being a werewolf certainly had its advantages in the beard-growing department.
I rubbed my short growth. “Laziness,” I said with a smile. “How’s things?”
“Not too bad,” he said. “Hera took London, and I hear you and Mordred fought a dragon, destroying part of the city in the process.”
“A small part,” I said with a smile. It had been a just over a year since Hera had claimed London as her own, and, if I was honest, it had been a year of peace. I, like many of my friends and allies, was forbidden from returning to London on pain of death, but Hera had needed to spend time getting her stuff sorted, and with Arthur waking from his centuries long coma, it appeared she’d been forced to take a pause and behave. At least for now. It was unlikely to last, but I’d long since learned that you took your good times where you could.
“So, how did Tommy rope you into this?” Gordon asked.
“Ah, he said I needed something to do,” I told him. “Apparently, taking some time away from destruction and mayhem is being lazy.”
“Considering how much of your life has been destruction and mayhem, maybe he had a point,” Gordon said with a smile.
“Well, this is anything but boring.” I motioned to the castle. “This whole realm is batshit crazy.”
“A hundred years ago, this whole realm was uninhabitable,” he said. “I don’t know who came up with the idea to turn it into a rich person’s getaway, but I’m pretty sure they were rich.”
“It must be nice for the people who live here all year around through,” I said. “An entire realm for a thousand people for nine months of the year, and only having to put up with people like the wedding party for three months.”
“It would be nice if it didn’t rain for seven months of the year, and then snow for the rest of it. I think warm days here make up about a week in the year.”
“Sounds like Yorkshire,” I said, and we both laughed.
“I’m going to tell Matthew you said that,” Gordon told me, his smile at the mention of his pack alpha husband, growing wider. “He grew up there.”
“Where is Matthew?”
“He likes to go for an evening run before the sun goes down,” Gordon said. “The snow gets heavier at night. The runes all around the village and castle make sure we don’t wake up with six feet of snow, but out there it’ll be different. Matthew didn’t know when he’d get the chance for another run.”
“You not joining him?” I asked.
“I don’t need the run as badly as he does,” Gordon said. “Never have. I’m more content to curl up in front of a fire with a good book. Matthew prefers to run until his heart feels like it’s going to burst.”
We sat in silence for a moment, enjoying the peace. “How long have you known the bride, or groom, or whichever one it is you know?” I asked, somewhat regretting that I had to break the tranquility.
“Bride,” he said. “She’s a descendent from the werewolf royalty who signed the pact stopping hostilities with the werelions. The royal family doesn’t exist anymore, primarily because everyone just decided to ignore them and go about their business, but it’s still a formality that they invite several alphas to their weddings, or funerals, or brunch. Matthew is one of the most powerful alphas in Western Europe, so we get the invite. There are about a dozen of them. Probably the same with the werelions.”
“Any chance all of those alphas in one place will cause a problem?”
“Yes, a big one,” Gordon said. “But most of them are sensible and don’t want trouble. There are one or two who might decide to start a cock measuring exercise, but they’re in the minority, and I’m hoping the others will calm anything before it gets out of hand.”
“There was an argument brewing in the dining hall,” I said. “It’s why I left.”
Gordon nodded. “The bride’s father and the uncle of the groom, I assume,” he said with a long sigh. “Both arseholes, I’m afraid. Thankfully, their kids are smarter than them, but they both adhere to the old idea that any slight, imagined or otherwise, must be met with aggression. Matthew can’t stand either of them, so I’m guessing by the time we’re done, at least one of them is going to get hurt.”
Gordon laughed. “No, not unless they try something with him, and that’s why Tommy and you guys are here. We both know Tommy is one of the most powerful werewolves in any realm. Everyone respects him because he’s earned it. And Diana? Everyone fears her.”
“Because they’ve met her,” I said, making Gordon laugh again. “She almost got hit by an apple earlier. Never seen so many people look like they were going to piss themselves.”
“Diana might actually be the scariest person I’ve ever met,” Gordon said.
“I’m pretty sure that’s why Tommy asked her to come along,” I said. “That, and for Remy’s amusement.”
“Some of the weres don’t know what to make of him,” Gordon told me.
“They should be wary of him,” I said. “He’s small, got a big mouth, and is more than happy to back it up.”
“How many more of his people did Tommy bring?”
“Twenty-six,” I said. “Most of them are in the village getting a feel of the land, talking to the people who work here. This realm has a big security force, so they’re trying not to step on any toes, but werewolves and werelions together is not exactly a recipe for a happy time.”
“It’s all very Shakespearian,” Gordon said.
“Remy said the same thing,” I told him with a chuckle. “Hopefully, it’s less Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth, and more…” I tried to think of a Shakespearian play that fit the bill. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“I’m not entirely sure that any of his plays would make for a fun thing to live through,” Gordon said.
“Yeah, I was kind of grasping at straws there,” I admitted. “Still, if no one dies, I’ll consider this weekend a success.”
“How about the loss of a few limbs?” Gordon asked.
I was about to reply when a figure burst out of the forest. He was naked from the waist up, wearing only a pair of denim, knee-length shorts that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Hulk after he’d turned back into Banner. Matthew was a muscular, hairy man which, seeing how he was a werewolf, wasn’t exactly unusual, although he had several dozen scars over his body that he’d gotten before his change. The life of a Knight’s Templar had been a hard one for many reasons, most of which Matthew didn’t want to talk about.
“Nate,” Matthew said, walking over and hugging me.
“You smell like pine needles,” I told him.
“I’ve had an invigorating run,” he said as Gordon passed him a red hair tie. Matthew cinched his long, dark hair before kissing his husband on the lips. “I missed you.”
“It’s been an hour,” Gordon said with a wry smile.
Matthew’s grin was full of warmth. “Even so, a run with my husband at my side is always preferable to one without.”
“Go shower,” Gordon said. “You really do smell like pine needles.”
Matthew took a deep breath. “I smell of manly smells,” he said, which caused Gordon to laugh.
I smiled; it was nice to see them both happy.
“You see how I am treated?” Matthew asked me. “An alpha, and my own husband mocks me.”
“Would you prefer if I got someone else to mock you?” Gordon asked.
“Remy isn’t busy,” I said.
Matthew’s eyes narrowed as he looked between us before a deep rumble of laughter burst from him. “I will go shower and change. Can I assume the wedding parties are still at one another’s throats?”
I nodded. “I think some of the guests went to explore the realm instead, but basically, yes. It’s going to be a long weekend.”
Matthew sighed. “I was hoping they would be able to act as adults for a few days.”
“To be fair, it was only two of them when I left, although someone came in at the last minute and started shouting at everyone.”
“Ah, that would probably be Sven, one of the werelion alphas,” Gordon said. “Sven is not known for suffering fools gladly, and he’s more interested in keeping the peace than he is in getting into petty squabbles.”
“I don’t think I’ve met him,” I said.
“He’s a good man,” Matthew said, which was high praise from a werewolf. “I’m pretty sure Sven and his council are the reason the werelions and wolves haven’t gone back to the old ways. He reminds me of Diana a lot. His presence here should stop anyone from thinking about acting in a stupid way.”
“Is there a werewolf equivalent here?” I asked.
“The bride’s mother, Victoria Walker,” Gordon said. “She was one of those who left for a walk. She divorced the father some time ago, and she very much wears the alpha crown without contest. If she’d been there, no one would have started an argument. She’d have thrown them through the damn window.”
“I haven’t met her either,” I said. “Haven’t met the bride or groom for that matter.”
“Beth and Logan,” Gordon said. “Both are sweet kids, although they’re about a century old, so the ‘kids’ thing is subjective. Beth is the spitting image of her mother, in both temperament and looks. Logan is a calm, relaxed, surfer dude type. I’m pretty certain there’s never been a situation he couldn’t charm himself out of. They’re made for one another. A fact Beth’s father and Logan’s uncle both hate.”
“That’s why they were fighting,” I said.
“Those two have been looking for a fight for a long time,” Matthew said. “One killed someone the other liked, or some such. I don’t even think either of them know anymore.”
There was a shout from deeper in the forest, and all three of us turned to look in the direction.
“Did you see anyone else in there?” I asked Matthew, who shook his head.
I took a step toward the forest when a young woman with dark skin burst out of the dense woodland, stopping a few feet away. She was breathing heavily, her long dark hair sown with leaves. She was completely naked, her body covered in scratches. She looked up at us as if seeing us for the first time, horror in her face, and pitched forward onto the snow, a small crossbow bolt jutting between her shoulder blades.
“Oh shit,” Gordon said as he rushed over to her.
“I’ll get help,” Matthew said, racing off.
I removed my coat and helped Gordon move the woman on to it.
“She’s still breathing,” Gordon said.
“You know her?” I asked.
Gordon nodded. “It’s Victoria, the mother of the bride.”
“Oh shit,” I whispered as Victoria opened her eyes and screamed.
The upcoming Hellequin Novella, Frozen Rage will be released on 15th September in Kindle, Paperback, and Audible edition. But not only that, the Audible editions of Hunted and Infamous Reign will also be out on the 15th September.
Links are below the covers, and if you do plan on purchasing, please do consider pre-ordering as pre-orders are really important to a new book. Thanks.