Sorry to everyone who got an email for this the other day and then couldn’t find it. …I accidentally posted this before it even had an excerpt portion on it.
I’ve finally chosen another section for an excerpt, and I decided to go with something different. This is a piece of a battle scene featuring Rifter and the pack in a rare moment without Wren. You’ll get to see them interacting and having some fun, but I’ll go ahead and tell you: it’s going to end in a cliffhanger. :p But such is the way of it, hehe.
Excerpt from the upcoming novel Nevermor
Text copyright Lani Lenore 2012
They walked over the land until the trees changed – until the tall oaks and pines all but disappeared beneath Spanish moss. Even as their boots began to sink into the soft ground, they moved on. The stink of the sodden earth surrounded them, but they didn’t care for it. All that was important were the signs they saw all around them – the broken trees and sinkholes where water was standing. They had arrived on the trail that Rifter had spotted before.
“Something has definitely come this way recently,” Sly said, and at that moment took up one of the monster feet hanging at his belt and slid his hand into it like it was a glove. It made his hand much larger and gave him long claws – his weapons of choice. He knelt down toward the ground and examined one of the tracts in the soil.
“Trail’s cold though,” he commented.
“Alright, where is this thing?” Finn wanted to know. “I’ve got a trophy to get.” He walked on a few steps ahead.
“Don’t be so brash,” Nix warned. “We don’t even know what it looks like.”
“It’s just one more big, ugly bastard!” Mech said.
“Yeah, they all look the same to me,” Mach agreed.
Whisper settled herself down on Rifter’s shoulder, folding her wings back. Doing this helped her to settle, and if she had remained still for a bit, her light would go out so that she couldn’t be seen. She spoke to him quietly.
“I smell it,” she said. “It’s close.”
“Whisper says it’s close,” he told them lowly, drawing his sword.
“Where is it then?” Mach asked.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t think something so big could hide that well.” Finn was edging toward a deep pit of water, testing the bank of mud.
“Be careful, Finn,” Toss warned, but it sounded like pleading.
“Thanks, mum, but I’m perfectly capable of-” His words were cut off, transcending to a helpless wail. It happened quicker than any of them anticipated.
A fleshy tendril shot out of the water and wrapped around Finn’s leg. Toss was standing near enough that he grabbed Finn’s arm before the thing – whatever it was – could pull him off into the water. Rifter dashed forward and chopped down on the tentacle, but it was thick and did not slice cleanly. That was good enough, however. It abandoned the boy as its prey and retreated to the depths.
“Whisper did say it was close,” Nix observed.
“She’s not usually wrong,” Rifter agreed.
The creature rose up from the swamp, its flesh slimy and lumpy. At first glance it was like a giant toad, slick and gray, but its wide mouth was full of small, sharp teeth. It seemed to smile at them. Its amber eyes were like those of a crocodile, appraising the feast before it.
“Ahhh,” said Sly, slipping on his other glove, “Amphibious!”
“What the hell?” Finn groaned, standing with Toss’s help. “These things just keep getting weirder!”
“And it smells,” Mach added. Both twins had covered their noses and mouths.
“Stop whining,” Rifter scolded them. “This is prime Nightmare hunting. Are you with me, or do you want to run back home and hide with the girl? Are you girls?”
“Hell no!” the twins declared at once.
The tongue shot out again at lightning speed and the twins dove out of the way to avoid it. The beast turned a little, but it was not very fast. Only the tongue was able to strike with fatal accuracy.
Rifter assessed it quickly. “The tongue is important. Hopefully, it only has one. If that’s so, one or two of us can keep it distracted while the others go to work on it. Who wants to be bait?”
“Well, you are the fastest,” Sly pointed out, slipping away so that they wouldn’t be such an easy target as a cluster – and also so that he wouldn’t be tagged.
“He’s right. Good luck!” Nix said, backing off to choose the perfect weapon for this task.
Rifter laughed at the way they left him there, as the rest of them hurried away as well, but he didn’t hold them at fault for that. There were consequences for being the best.
“It’s just you and me, I guess,” he said to Whisper, knowing that this would please her. She didn’t often like to deal with the other boys when she didn’t have to. As far as she was concerned, she owed no loyalty to them.
“When you’re ready,” she told him, knowing what to do.
The beast was trying to focus on the others as they spread out around it. It made a few more attempts to catch them with the tongue. They leapt out of the way, but the rapid shots made it nearly impossible for them to aim at it or otherwise get near it at all. As much as Rifter enjoyed seeing them fall in the mud, they wouldn’t get anything done this way. It was time for the diversion.
“Do it,” Rifter instructed Whisper.
He let himself become weightless, lifting off the ground just an inch or two. The fairy flew around him in a swirl, zipping so fast that her trail of light seemed continuous all around him, making him glow. Just as he’d suspected, the flashes of light drew the monster’s attention. Nothing was quite as annoying to a beast than the lightning-quick movements of a wisp, and Rifter often used that as an advantage.
The Nightmare looked his way and forgot about the rest of them, just as he’d expected it to. He stared into the creature’s eyes, daring it. If the thing had a soul, he would have been seeking to melt it.
“Come on, you son of a bitch,” he threatened, drawing his sword. “Show me what you’re made of!”
Finn was usually easy-going, giving jokes as often as taking them, but he had his pride like the rest of them did. Even with all his goofing off, it was still unacceptable to be clearly bested by a creature in front of his brothers. He wasn’t the weakest of them, though he had to remind them of that periodically. He was determined to get his dignity back.
The group had spread out, most of them keeping on the move. A stationary target would be an easy catch for the tongue. Finn guessed that if they’d all stood in a row to wait, the tongue could have pulled every one of them to that jagged mouth in a matter of seconds. This was why they moved.
Finn had a short blade at each hip, but these were not going to do him any good for this beast. He couldn’t get close, but this was alright. He had the perfect weapon for the job.
Finn drew a pistol from his belt. This was a gun he’d gotten off a pirate he’d slain, which was how they had obtained most of their firearms in the beginning. He’d taken it apart and put it back together so many times that he had learned exactly how it worked – until he’d known everything there was to discover about it. Then he’d made it better. He’d added a rotating chamber, and now instead of two shots, he could get ten.
Perhaps he didn’t have as much useless knowledge as Sly, but no one could say that he wasn’t smart. He was a regular genius when it came to machinery.
He held the pistol with intent, already sure of what he would try.
This shouldn’t be too hard, he thought to himself. The tongue is the danger. If I can unload a few rounds into it, then maybe we can get in close enough to kill this thing.
It was a good idea, he thought – one as good as what Rifter or Nix could come up with – and he supposed they had left it that way on purpose. The rest of them were supposed to find their own way of getting at it.
Rifter had caught its attention by now, and the toad beast was intent on getting at the fairy light. Finn waited, holding his aim until the tongue shot out again, and he deftly pulled the trigger, managing to fire three rounds into the base of the tongue before it was pulled back in and the mouth closed again.
The Nightmare roared and stomped, shaking the ground beneath them and splashing great amounts of the swampy water out of the pool.
“Ha!” Finn shouted triumphantly. Though it wasn’t the final blow – yet – he felt he was well on his way to getting it. He started forward toward the Nightmare, ready to take it down – but quickly learned that it was too early to celebrate.
A dark spew began to roll out of its mouth, thick and black. The monster began to spit amounts of it from the back of its throat, and that was more accurate than even the tongue was. Within just a few seconds, there were gallons of it on the ground, and any one of them who stepped in it was immediately weighted down by the heavy mess that collected on his boots. Toss and the twins fell fate to this, and even Sly had accidentally gotten his right foot in it as he ran past. The stuff was horrible – not only disgusting but it made them much easier targets for the tongue because it was thick as tar.
“Oh yuck!” one of the twins yelled, though he didn’t give much thought to which.
Finn sighed dejectedly. Yes, he may have been a master at tinkering, but his approach in dealing with monsters was a bit lacking.
From across the way, he heard Rifter’s laughter.
Rifter laughed as he watched the others wade through the bile, convinced that he would never have made a mistake like that. They didn’t always fall to errors in trivial battles like this, but when they did, he found it impossible to be angry. He only wanted to laugh at their misfortune – considering they weren’t in any real danger, which he didn’t feel that they were.
He was laughing as Whisper dove in toward the Nightmare, drawing its attention again. The long, sticky tongue shot out toward him, and he twisted to the side as he dodged and the thing missed him. He gloated privately to himself, inwardly complementing his own swiftness, but that was before he realized that the area around him had suddenly gotten darker. The absence of light baffled him for a moment, but the color drained from his face when he realized what had happened.
The tongue hadn’t touched him, but it had caught a part of him just the same. Whisper was gone.
Rifter was stricken with a fear that shot down through his body.
This wasn’t a game anymore….
Annnnd cut! haha Sorry for that, but I just couldn’t give you the whole thing. >.>
My editing is coming along. I’m on page 109 of 256… 127K. I’ve added a few things here and there, so that has slowed me down just a hair. I’m getting ready to add a couple of new sections now. Also, I’ve sent the first half of the book to one of my beta readers so I’m excited to see what she has to say about it.
I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going as I’ve been reading through it again. It’s nice when you actually like to read your own story. I think everything is flowing really well so far and maybe I can fix most of the issues in this first read-through.
*Please do not take this text and use it anywhere else without my permission, though do feel free to share the page or reblog it if you’d like.*