Category Archives: Writing
Seeing how it’s less than a month until The Last Raven is released on 8th November, I thought everyone might like to have a look at the prologue.
Five Years Ago
“Are you sure you can do this?” Isaac asked me, checking on my well-being for the twentieth time in the last few hours. Isaac had a bald head and was clean-shaven, with dark skin, and eyes that appeared to bore into you. He was over six and a half feet tall and loomed over everything, and everyone, around him. I tried very hard not to sigh. He was only checking up on me. And I appreciated it, but also wished he’d just shut up for a while.
We were stood on the stern of a fifty-foot ship as it bobbed beside the dock of a small island some miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Technically, the island wasn’t meant to exist, it wasn’t on any maps. Even satellite imagery showed nothing but clear blue ocean.
It didn’t even have a name, although after learning about what was happening on it, I’d named it Hell’s Mouth.
The captain of the ship, a stout man of about fifty with long grey hair and a beard, left the galley and walked over. His crew, all half dozen of them, were busy unloading the cargo for delivery.
“If you’re going, go,” he said with slightly more irritation than was deserved, considering how much money he’d been paid to get us there. “Remember, my people know nothing about our deal. As far as anyone is concerned, you’re spare crew. We don’t want trouble.”
“I won’t do anything to jeopardise them,” I promised.
I checked the earpiece that Isaac had given me, tapping it twice.
“Thanks for that,” Isaac said with a slight wince.
We walked down the gangway onto the dock, and jumped up into the rear of the truck where the crates of cargo had been stored. I banged twice on the back of the truck cab, and we set off along the only road on the island.
It was a fifteen-minute drive at a fairly slow pace as the rain lashed against the outside and the wind whistled by the exposed rear of the vehicle.
“Lucas,” Isaac said in my ear.
“Yes,” I replied, leaning back against the side of the truck and spotting the second, identical truck with the rest of the captain’s workers aboard.
“Thank you for doing this,” Isaac said.
I let out a slight sigh. “Thank you for asking me.”
“I know it hasn’t been easy for you,” Isaac continued. “I know you’re going through some rough times. That you’ve been going through rough times since . . .”
“My friends were all murdered and I couldn’t stop it,” I finished for him.
“Yeah,” Isaac said softly. “But this could be the start of you finding your feet again.”
I nodded, realised Isaac couldn’t actually see me, and felt a bit foolish.
The truck started to slow and, a moment later, it stopped altogether. I sat still as the driver spoke to someone outside. The wind made picking up the individual words impossible, but a few moments later, a guard in a midnight blue uniform, a black hat, and carrying an AR-15 poked his head around the corner of the truck, looking into the cargo area where I sat.
“You comfortable back there?” he asked, chuckling.
“No,” I said. “But I drew the short straw, so I get to sit with the boxes. If you like, you can sit back here on the way to the docks.”
The guard laughed. “I’m good, thanks.” He banged twice on the truck, and after a count of ten, we lurched forward as we were allowed into the compound of the . . . asylum.
The asylum was originally built as a prison in the 1940s when some enterprising monster decided that, as Alcatraz was doing so well, they should build a second one, even further away.
In the 1960s, it changed to Netley Asylum. It was shut down in the 1980s when a reporter exposed the experiments that were being done on the prisoners sent there. Lots of people were quietly paid a lot of money to go away and shut up, but it reopened about five years ago and there were concerning rumours about the place we needed to investigate.
The truck moved through the outer gate of the asylum. The gates were made of iron, painted black, and sat in the middle of a hundred feet of sixty-foot-high chain-link fence. Two guard towers sat at the far end of the front fence. A guard post sat beside the entrance gates, which rumbled closed, all done through a switch inside the hut.
I looked out the back of the truck as it drove through the front courtyard of the asylum grounds. Our info showed the asylum was one main building with an entrance at the front. It had two more at the rear—which wasn’t accessible unless I wanted to climb an electrified fence, and more guards patrolling the black tiled roof of the building. There were two loading bays either side and a smattering of other exits, secured by ID cards, which we didn’t have.
The front entrance—two large, imposing metal doors painted red—was shut, and the truck continued to the side of the building, reversing into a loading bay where two guards waited.
“You new?” one of the guards, a large man with military style haircut and tattoos on the back of his hands, asked me.
I pushed down the ramp at the back of the truck. “Yep,” I said, stepping off the platform and making sure it was anchored to the bay.
I turned to find the man stood directly behind me, staring at me. He was a similar height to Isaac, so a good few inches taller than my own five-eleven.
I ignored him, walked back into the truck, and unloaded the first plastic container.
I worked there for a half hour until the second truck came in and the guards got bored watching me.
The truck was nearly empty, with most of the contents on the loading bay as the guards started to check everything.
“You can start moving it into the building,” the tall guard told me. “Just keep your nose to yourself.”
He actually flicked my nose, and it took me a good few seconds to remember I wasn’t meant to leave a body count behind.
Restraining myself, I pushed one of the plastic containers through a set of open double doors and into a large storage area. I’d studied the blueprints, so I knew that there was a door halfway down the storage room.
The door was hidden behind a tall set of shelves stacked with tins of various foods.
You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you went looking for it. The door was painted the same white as the wall. Even the door handle was painted white.
I looked behind me, checking for guards, and opened the door, stepping through into a stairwell and quietly closing the door behind me.
The stairwell was dingy; it had been a long time since it had been used on a regular basis, but there were strip lights at the top of each set of stairs, so at least I didn’t have to make the climb in complete darkness.
Four flights later, I came to the only exit. The second floor. I wished the light above my head was off, but breaking it might set off some kind of alarm somewhere, and I wasn’t about to risk it. I pushed open the door and found myself in a small room, with a black-and-white tiled floor. The light was dim and had a black shade, illuminating very little. It was enough to see the door only a few steps in front of me. I pulled the door open and stepped into the brightly lit hallway beyond.
There were windows down one side of the hallway, with six doors opposite—a fact I’d memorised from the blueprints. The last door on the left was my target. I had maybe twenty minutes before I was missed. Before the trucks headed back to the ship. Maybe thirty if I was lucky.
I jogged to the end of the hallway, paused, and peered around the corner, down the hallway that ran perpendicular to the one I was in. No one there. Maybe luck was on my side after all.
The dark wooden door looked like every other door on the second floor of the asylum, except for the metal name plate on it, which read dr callie mitchell in black capital letters. I knocked three times. Waited. No answer.
I tried the door handle and found it unlocked. The whistle-blower who’d reported to Isaac said that she never locked her door.
I pushed open the door and darted inside, closing it behind me. I immediately understood why Dr Mitchell didn’t lock her door. There was little to worry about being stolen.
There were no cupboards, just a table in the middle of the room, with a chair, a computer, and several coloured plastic envelopes. A sideboard with locked drawers sat under one long window that showed off the doctor’s various awards, and the walls were decorated with her qualifications. I wondered if they were real or if she’d fabricated them along with the reason for the island’s existence.
“Get in, get out,” Isaac said in my ear.
“Seriously?” I whispered.
“I hadn’t heard from you in a while,” he said as I walked over to the envelopes on her desk and started going through them. Each one had a different name on them.
“You have ten minutes,” he said. “My contact says she’s in the garden right now; she does it every day. Talks to a different patient out there, shows them the futility of where they are.”
“You are not helping,” I said through gritted teeth. “The files on the patients aren’t all here. These envelopes just have stuff about names and ages but nothing about what she’s actually doing here. They’re perfectly ordinary files. She’s got a locked sideboard; they must be . . .” I stopped.
“Lucas,” Isaac said, worry creeping into his voice.
“Shit. She has a Raven Guild medallion,” I said in horror, staring at the object. It was copper in colour, made from hardened stone, and was in the shape of a buckler shield with a sword and hammer crossing over each other in front. A steel raven sat on top of the shield, as if holding it. The whole thing was about the same size as the palm of my hand. It took a lot of effort not to reach out for it.
There were seven Guilds, each one named after a different bird, but only one Guild had been massacred. My old Guild, the Ravens. I felt my heart race.
“Lucas,” Isaac warned.
“Why does Dr Callie Mitchell have the medallion of one of my murdered Guild members?”
“I don’t know,” Isaac said. “But we don’t have time for this now.”
“Isaac, I need to know,” I told him. “They were my family. My friends. My Guild. I was meant to protect them. I was . . .” I stopped, and picked the medallion up, feeling the emotions crash inside of me.
“Lucas,” Isaac said, almost a whisper.
“Give me one week,” I told him.
“Have you lost your mind?” he hissed.
“There’s no intel in here; we’re no clearer on what’s happening here than before we arrived,” I bargained.
“You’re only meant to go there to find those files,” Isaac said. “My contact assured us they would be there.”
“The files are a bust,” I said. “They’re not here.”
“So, it’s a setup?” Isaac said.
“Looks like it,” I said. “Guess I’ll just have to find out what’s going on. One week.”
“Lucas,” Isaac started, before sighing. “If they find out who . . . or what you are, you’re dead. You know that, right?”
“Yep,” I said. “I’m going to have to go dark, Isaac. No comms.”
“Damn you, Lucas Rurik,” Isaac said. “Not like I have much of a choice, is it?”
“No,” I told him, hearing footsteps outside in the hallway, running toward the room. “Guards are on me already. That seems unnaturally fast. Get Hannah to make me a realistic backstory. Reporter, my normal name. Got it?”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Isaac said.
“You don’t hear from me in one week, come get me,” I said, mentally preparing myself for whatever was about to happen.
“If I don’t hear from you in one week, I’m tearing this fucking island apart,” Isaac assured me.
“Stay safe,” I said.
“Stay alive,” Isaac said.
I removed the earpiece and smashed it underfoot, picking up the medallion and taking a seat in Dr Callie Mitchell’s chair as the door burst open and the tall, sneering guard ran into the room, his sidearm aimed at me. He screamed at me to get on the floor, to lock my fingers behind my head. The usual stuff. I complied and still got a kick to the ribs for my trouble.
I looked up as Dr Mitchell strolled into the room. She was forty-ish, with long dark hair touched lightly with grey, piercing blue eyes, and olive skin. She wore a black-and-white dress that stretched down to her ankles; her arms were bare, revealing a sleeve-effect of mixed tattoos in picture-perfect ink. Each tattoo was a different bird: falcon, owl, eagle, hawk, vulture, kite, and lastly, raven. The latter of the birds sat wrapped around the wrist on her right hand, and the sight of it made the anger inside me surge.
I was dragged to my feet and forced to look at Dr Mitchell as she picked up the medallion and turned it over in her hands. “Who are you?”
“I am the King of Finland,” I told her.
The guard punched me in the stomach.
“Who are you?” Dr Mitchell asked again.
“I am the Queen of Finland,” I told her.
That one got me a smash in the face with the butt of the AR-15.
My vision went dark as Dr Mitchell leaned over me with a chilling smile. The last thing I heard were her words: “Welcome to the asylum, Your Majesty.”
My next book release has gone live for pre-orders. Out on the 8th November, this is the start of a new series, in a new world, with all new characters.
The Last Raven will be out in Paperback, Kindle, and audible versions.
Lucas is a riftborn fighter bent on vengeance in this thrilling urban fantasy/detective noir series from the bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles.
The peace between the rift and humanity has always been tenuous. It’s up to the Guilds to protect it, removing whomever—or whatever—poses a threat, whether human or rift-fused. Lucas Rurik used to be part of the Raven Guild. That is, until someone murdered all of its members—except for him.
That was seven years ago. Now, Lucas keeps to himself, avoiding getting too close to anyone lest they become targets themselves. But when one of his oldest friends at the Rift-Crime Unit calls upon him for help with a case that’s already taken down people who mean a lot to him, Lucas can’t resist stepping back into the fray.
Something is killing FBI and RCU agents alike—something unlike anything Lucas has ever seen before, on Earth or in the Rift. Even more concerning, the gruesome assaults seem to be linked to Dr. Callie Mitchell, a depraved and disturbed individual who treats the rift-fused like her own personal lab rats.
And when someone Lucas thought he could trust turns on him, he realizes these killings aren’t just the random attacks of some terrifying new kind of fiend. They’re connected to whoever killed off his Guild all those years ago—and that’s something Lucas just can’t let lie . . .
Today is the day. my Science-fiction noir thriller, Blackcoat is finally out. This is just a quick post to thank everyone who decides to pick it up. I know it’s not my usual genre, but I hope you enjoy it.
When Celine Moro took a job as a Blackcoat, an elite agency tasked with investigating crimes throughout Union space, she thought she had finally put her past to rest.
Now, betrayed by her allies, her world is falling apart. Running from the corrupt politicians that she had sworn to bring to justice, Celine is dusting off the skills of her old trade in order to bring truth to light.
The only thing bringing her comfort is knowing how much worse her friends are eventually going to feel about their betrayal.
Yes, I know it’s been a while since I last posted anything, and I know I was going to keep better up to date with everything, but seeing how the kids were home for 3 months during lockdown the best laid plans flew out of the window.
So, this is just to update everyone on a few things.
I’m currently no contracted for anything, although I’ve got a book with my agent so hopefully that’ll change sooner rather than later. It’s the first book in a new world, so that’s pretty exciting.
Yes, Horsemen’s War is the end of Nate’s storyline involving Avalon and Arthur, but it’s not the end of the me writing in that world.
The first book I’ll be writing outside of the Nate stuff is the Diana Novel, titled No Gods, Only Monsters. It’s the first of 3 books that at the moment I’ve titled Antiquity, although that may change. It’s not a Diana trilogy as each book will have a different Main Character, all of whom anyone who has read the Hellequin books will have met already.
Hopefully I’ll have details of it soon.
In the mean time, my 3 current Novellas are still out there.
All 3 are available on Kindle/Paperback, and at Audible.
For years now, people have been asking me for my address so they can send me copies of books/whatever cool stuff they want to send me, and I really don’t like giving out my home address. So, after far too long, I got myself a PO Box address.
Should you wish to send me something (nothing illegal/weird/creepy/ you get the general idea), the address is:
Hidden Realms Publishing
PO Box 1925
And that’s it for the post. It was just a catch up, and I’ll be making sure to post more regularly, and also do Youtube stuff about writing now that all 3 kids are back at school and I can return to doing somewhat normal stuff.
It’s almost time for the launch of Horsemen’s War (Dec 3rd 2020 Kindle/Audible/ and Paperback, and available to pre-order right now), and I know that 2020 has been a long year for a lot of people, so I thought that I’d post the prologue now for people to read.
I hope you enjoy it.
Virginia, United States, Earth Realm
The interior of the barn was covered in blood. None of it was mine.
The two dozen inhabitants had arrived here believing they were meeting with me as an envoy from Avalon. I was meant to discuss future business deals, bring them more prosperity, and they, in return, would keep Avalon’s influence alive in the newly free country of America. Things had changed.
There was a gargle in one of the four empty stalls. The horses that had been kept there were long gone.
I walked over, stepping around the top half of a torso and a severed head, and found the still-living man inside the stall. The smell of blood and shit was overpowering, but I pushed it aside. I didn’t plan on staying long.
His tunic was bathed in blood, and more blood covered his face. There was a deep cut along his chest, and it continued to bleed heavily.
“Why?” he asked, a look of betrayal in his eyes.
I followed his gaze to the body of his nearest companion.
“You are murderers, thieves, slavers. Scum who relish and traffic in human misery,” I said, my voice completely calm. “Why should so many innocent people die while people like you continue to make wealth off their pain?”
“But we work for Avalon,” he said, his face waxy. He did not have long. “You work for Avalon.”
I nodded. “I was sent here by Merlin to ensure that Avalon’s reach continued into this new world. But I decided that it was also an excellent time to remove the rotten parts of the system.”
“We work for Avalon,” he said again.
I didn’t remember his name. It didn’t really matter. He was one of hundreds I’d killed since arriving in America in 1784. All of them had deserved it. Their deaths had made the world a better place.
“I don’t care,” I told him.
“Merlin will find you,” he said with a gasp. “He will punish you.”
I smiled at him. “And you’ll still be dead.” I drove a blade of fire into his chest, ending him properly.
I stood and removed the long black coat I’d been wearing. It was covered in blood, as were my dark trousers and black boots. I tossed the coat onto the floor. There was a second one on my horse, outside the barn.
I pushed open the partially stuck wooden door and stepped outside into the cold. I ignited my fire magic, keeping myself warm as I stared at the familiar face of the man who stood fifteen feet away. He was taller than me, with long dark hair tied back with a blue bow. He was clean shaven, and his hurt expression was clear. He wore a long black coat, similar to the one I’d dropped in the barn, and like me, he carried no weapons. He didn’t really need them. I’d once seen him tear a man in half with his bare hands.
“Tommy,” I said, feeling like the word would get stuck in my throat.
“Nate,” he replied, taking a step toward me. His voice was calm, almost sad.
“They deserved to die,” I said, my tone harder now as I let my anger fuel my voice.
“Probably,” Tommy said with a slight shrug. “Not for us to say.”
“Why?” I shouted. “Why not for us to say? We have the power.”
“Because that’s not what we do,” he countered immediately. “We’re not here as judge, jury, and executioner to people we deem to be bad. Humanity is meant to police its own.”
“Why should innocent people die and bastards like this continue to live?” I snapped, marching toward Tommy until I was only a foot away.
“Because we’re better than them,” Tommy said. “Because we can’t rule humanity—especially through fear. That’s not our place. They are ignorant of our existence for a reason. Their safety—and ours! Your actions are putting us all in danger.”
“They. Are. Monsters.” Each word was said louder, the last a bellow.
“You killed bad people,” Tommy said, his voice never rising. “But what about all the innocents who also died because of that? We don’t just blindly kill people we disagree with. We can’t. We’re not conquerors. They’ve literally just had a war here to destroy oppression. You were not sent here to decimate the population of people who you deem to be unworthy. Mary Jane would never want that.”
I punched him in the mouth, my hand wrapped in dense air magic. Tommy flew back ten meters and collided with an old wooden shed, which imploded from the impact.
The silence that followed felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure how to take back what I’d just done. I wasn’t sure how to stop the anger and hate inside of me, how to burn away the pain that had all but consumed me.
“Did that make you feel better?” Tommy asked as he hurled a large piece of wood a hundred meters into the fields beyond.
“Don’t you ever say her name,” I snapped, feeling the warmth of the hate return to push aside the pain.
“Mary Jane was your wife,” Tommy said as he strode back toward me, shrugging off his coat and dropping it onto the snowy ground. “I know her death hurt you, but it’s been sixteen years. Everyone involved in her murder is dead. You killed them.”
“I said, don’t mention her name,” I seethed.
“We found the soldier,” Tommy continued. “We found him without his tongue, his eyes, his fingers, his toes, lips, and several other parts you’d removed. He didn’t even look human. You think Mary Jane would approve of that? You think she would be standing beside you, telling you this is a job well done?”
I threw another punch, and Tommy caught it in midair as if he were catching a child’s toy.
“Mary Jane was a good woman,” he said, pushing my arm away. “You disgrace her memory with every life you needlessly take.”
I threw another punch, this one wrapped in fire, but Tommy growled, low and mean, and struck me in the chest with the palm of his hand.
I smashed through the barn doors and crashed into one of the beams inside before dropping to the floor. I charged out, leaping over the blood, directly into Tommy, who had turned into his werewolf beast form. He caught me one handed and threw me aside into the fence that surrounded the barn. I wrapped myself in air magic as I bounced along the frozen ground into the field beyond.
Dirt and snow rained down around me as I got to my feet, ready for Tommy, who was methodically walking toward me.
“I don’t want to do this,” I shouted at him.
“Then stop,” he said sadly.
I created a blade of fire in one hand and extinguished it. Tommy was my best friend. I wasn’t going to fight him. I just needed to get away; I needed to finish what I’d started.
“Mary Jane would be disgusted at what you’ve become,” he said.
Blind rage took over, and I charged Tommy, trying to drive a short blade of fire into his chest, but he punched me in the jaw with enough strength to spin me in the air but not break every bone in my face, which he certainly could have done.
“You’re not doing this for Mary Jane,” Tommy said as I spat blood onto the snow and took another swipe at him, cutting him across the chest.
“Stop saying her name,” I screamed at him.
Tommy backhanded me across the face, and I felt my entire head ring from the impact as I hit the ground once again.
“You’re meant to be my friend,” I snapped at him.
“Yes,” Tommy said. “And that’s why I’m here. You need saving from yourself.”
“Liar,” I said, spitting blood onto the ground once more. “You’re here to stop me from what I have to do. What needsdoing.”
“You’re delusional,” he said softly, even through his werewolf mouth. “You’ve lost yourself to pain, anger, hate, and hurt. You think that if you somehow drench yourself in enough blood, you’ll either make up for your wife’s death, or you’ll just become numb to it all. But it’ll never be enough, Nate. Not ever. You know this.”
“You think beating me senseless will do the trick?” I shouted.
“I’d hoped to talk,” Tommy said with a sigh.
“Why do they get to live, and Mary dies at the hands of some piece-of-shit English soldier while I’m not there? Why, Tommy?”
“I don’t know,” Tommy said softly. “I wish I did. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But neither is how you’re dealing with it. You can’t stop the hurt inside you by hurting everyone else.”
I threw another punch at my best friend, but he caught my hand again, dragging me toward him, where he enveloped me in a hug, taking us both to our knees.
“No, Nate,” he whispered softly. “No more.”
“Why is she gone, Tommy?” I screamed to the heavens. “I miss her so much,” I whispered, my voice breaking.
“I know,” he said, his own voice cracking and tears running down his face. “I’m so sorry.”
I cried then, for the first time since Mary Jane’s murder. I cried for her, for me, for the horrors I’d inflicted. I cried in a snowy, blood-speckled field in Virginia as my best friend held me and brought me back from the darkness that had enveloped me. And right then and there, I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do to repay him for that kindness.
Horsemen’s War Pre-order:
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.