Somehow I’ve begun to post on Tuesdays instead of Saturdays like I’m supposed to… I guess we can just chalk that up to being late. At least I’m on time with my book releases! But anyway, I’m just sitting here with my coffee, trying to think of what I can post about, and I recalled a comment I received on The Captor’s Redemption book cover when it was revealed.
Someone mentioned the dragon.
****This post contains mild spoilers for The Captor’s Redemption****
In my previous posts, I mentioned that The Captor’s Redemption takes place in a world where there are all sorts of monsters and demons. You may also have noticed that the cover depicts a man walking through a cold and barren world, and in the distant background, there is a dragon.
Why is this so? Well, we’re not talking about a traditional dragon, and yet there is a dragon in the story all the same.
In fact, Vincent and this dragon have quite a history.
I mentioned that when demons crawl in from the edge of the world, they choose their own forms, and this particular demon is one of the most important in the book. The demon is called Bo’lan, and it is a powerful force. The memory of it haunts Vincent. Why? Well, you’ll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, here’s a little teaser except, just for you.
Young Vincent couldn’t help staring at that eerie, circular graveyard every time he passed by it; Trevan the same. It had been almost a month already since they’d been pledged to this camp far out into the Outlands, since Enoch and the other clansmen had left them, and still neither boy felt settled. They felt constantly examined by the camp’s many eyes.
And something about that graveyard was driving them both mad.
This place was like all the other camps they’d seen in many ways, yet in nearly the same number of ways, it was not like the others at all—not even close to the normal air of warm acceptance. The people, for instance, were much different than they’d ever encountered, almost like an entirely new breed of clansmen.
Or zombies, Vincent had thought, but Trevan had warned him not to think it too much. He feared that if Vincent kept that on his mind, he might eventually blurt it aloud, which was probably true. Still, Vincent didn’t think much of the group. The lot of them was gruff and serious in everything they did, having absolutely no tolerance for children. They were also much too silent for Vincent’s liking. In other camps, when he’d pass, the clansmen would look down at him and smile, and make some sort of greeting. These people only looked down and scowled, saying nothing. Even so, they looked at him often.
Staring at the area of graves that appeared as if everyone had been buried on top of each other, he supposed the only thing he did like about it was that it always took his attention away from everything else in this terrible place. It distracted him from all those people around him that stared as though he was a distasteful relic.
The brothers had passed a birthday just a week ago. Eight years old… They’d gotten no present because their mother had nothing to give them. They understood, but if Vincent was supposed to feel more like a man now that another year of life had passed, he didn’t. He felt just as helpless to his situation as before. Though he didn’t feel older, if someone was to ask him if he felt different since turning eight, he would have had to say yes. He felt the wrongness of this place even more strongly. Sometimes, he had strange feelings that he didn’t understand the meaning of just by walking around the camp, and he was becoming more and more sensitive to those graves…
Their mother had told them to never leave the camp alone, and they never did—knowing it foolish—but often, they snuck out of their house and went out to stand before the graves of the dead, if only just for a few moments.
It must have been 2 o’clock in the darkness of early morning, but Trevan hadn’t been able to sleep. Oftentimes it was Vincent, but this time, his brother had been the one to desire the trip outside. After shaking Vincent awake, they’d both snuck out of the one-room house where their mother slept.
The clansmen of the night were up and about, passing by the two boys that stood at the graveyard’s edge, looking at them as they passed. But who could blame them for staring? Vincent decided that if, when he was in the city, he’d seen someone looking on at a graveyard and yet knew no one buried there, he’d question their sanity as well.
At the time, he still hadn’t realized that all the cemeteries he’d ever seen beforehand were only markers set above empty graves.
“Why do you think,” Trevan began as his eyes trailed over the circular area, “that we like this so much?”
Vincent wouldn’t go so far as to say that he liked it, just that he had a great urge to go near the place and look at it until his eyes got dry and sore, trying to figure out its mystery.
“I don’t know,” Vincent said, honestly having no theories. “I don’t really think about it. I just see it.”
“Ever since our birthday, I’ve wanted to see it more,” said Trevan, putting his small hand absently on the wooden fence.
Vincent nodded. “Me too.”
They stood silently a few moments, entranced. Vincent could hear the movement of clansmen somewhere behind him.
“I think,” Trevan started, shocking Vincent out of his blank concentration, “that it’s not supposed to be here. I never saw another graveyard in any of the other camps. Not one.”
Vincent looked at his brother and at his identical eyes, hearing the words. He hadn’t thought about that before, but his brother was right. There hadn’t been a single grave at all.
“It’s not just the graves though,” Trevan continued. “Do you remember a few days ago when they brought that caged toad-creature into the camp?”
Vincent nodded. He remembered perfectly. The beast was as large as a human baby, and the sound it made as it rocked the wooden cage was terrible. He wasn’t accustomed to monsters being brought into camp, and he wondered what the clansmen had done with it. He’d never seen them release it.
“What about it?” Vincent asked.
“When they brought it in, I was standing with mother, but I knew it was there before I saw it, or heard it even. When I did see it, it looked right at me, and I got this terrible pain in my head, and I felt hot but I couldn’t stop looking at it. After it saw me, it stopped moving and stopped making that terrible complaining noise… Do you think maybe I just imagined it?”
His brother’s eyes searched his own, begging for approval. Vincent shook his head.
“No, I felt it too. But it didn’t look at me.”
Trevan took a deep breath and sighed into the cool night air. Vincent watched as his cloud of breath slowly faded away in the dark.
“I get scared,” Trevan confided quietly, “because just like I felt that toad-beast near me, I feel like those graves are calling to me.”
Trevan brought his voice down to a whisper. “I don’t want to know what’s down there, Vincent.”
The silence was strong in Vincent’s ears, granting him thought that he’d never ventured into before. Could there have been something down there that was pulling them to be snatched? Having seen some of the other monstrosities in the world, Vincent wasn’t sure he could doubt that idea. He wondered why they were desirable. Because they were children?
The voice that rose up behind them then nearly made Vincent jump at its suddenness, but only almost.
“You boys must have a great respect for the dead. Admirable; especially for such a young age.”
The twins turned to look up at the speaker, curious, because no one in the camp had bothered to speak to them conversationally since they’d been there. This was a young man, maybe twice their age, and he looked down at them from under a mess of flaming red hair. The young man’s face was dirtied with freckles. Vincent thought he’d seen him in the camp before. Maybe once. This youth was of the night groups, and since it was so late, Vincent was usually asleep when this young man was about in the camp.
“Who’s buried here?” Trevan asked quickly in case the youth decided to walk away. Vincent hoped they got an answer.
“Your mother hasn’t told you?” the red-haired youth asked in disbelief.
“She’s been busy,” Vincent excused.
The young man knelt beside them and the smells of dirt, sweat, and animal blood filled Vincent’s nostrils.
“This is where we bury the dead that have been taken by Bo’lan.”
Trevan shook his head in confusion toward his brother.
“What’s ‘Bo’lan’?” Vincent asked for both of them.
The youth was quiet a moment and then shook his head with the messy red hair. The hair was so thick it barely moved.
“Your mother really should have told you,” he said. “I learned these things when I was younger than the two of you. It’s best to learn early. But no matter. Bo’lan is the one who governs us.”
Trevan shook his head again, and Vincent just stared. He’d never heard that word governs before, but since he never had, he assumed that something about it wasn’t quite right.
“Governs? What do you mean?”
The youth smiled a little then. “In a few days, you’ll know what I mean. You’ll understand then fully, whether anyone’s told you. You’ll witness the glory firsthand.”
The youth walked away from them, heading back to his night duties, and after another moment, Vincent and Trevan left for their shelter, considering what had been said to them. The youth had been right though. A week later, they found out exactly what he’d meant.
It had been cool on the morning of the day the twins met Bo’lan, the day after a brisk rain. The boys were up at first light, carrying wood into the cookhouse as they always did. Then the smell of warm food would permeate the air, hopefully without bringing monsters. Though Trevan and Vincent were going along as they normally did, and the day seemed to be opening up as usual, that didn’t mean it was normal. It was different, and they both felt it. It wasn’t long into the foggy morning before Vincent was pulling Trevan aside behind one of the houses and out of the range of the eyes watching them.
“We can’t stay here,” insisted Vincent in a hushed voice. “Something bad is about to happen.”
Neither of the brothers got very emotional, even in younger years, but if Trevan hadn’t already known how serious Vincent was about this, he would have been able to tell by the fearful look in his eyes and the quickness of his speech.
Trevan sighed, furrowing his brow. “We can’t leave mother…”
“Mother’s not in danger! We are!”
“Danger; you think?” Trevan asked, surprised by the assertion. “That bad?”
Vincent was quiet a moment, beginning to rethink his feeling. Trevan didn’t feel danger? He did. All those odd looks they’d been getting and the interest everyone seemed to have in them were starting to seem like two parts of a whole. Today was their day.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that something is going to happen to us. Trust me!”
Trevan nodded. That was an easy thing to ask for.
“What do we do then? We can’t just leave. There’s no way we’ll survive the forest alone. The spiders…”
Vincent shook his head. He knew that the spider-creatures in this wood would not let them get far.
“I’ll think about it some more. You too. Just keep your ears open and try to find out what’s going to happen.”
As Trevan nodded, Vincent felt a presence emerge behind him. When he turned with a jerk, there was a man standing there, looking down at them with his large arms crossed in front of him.
“You boys aren’t trying to escape, are you?”
A cold chill ran through Vincent at those words, though no one would tell it by looking at him. The man couldn’t have asked a more terrible question just then.
“Hiding behind the house isn’t going to get you away from your chores,” the man informed them finally after a lengthy session of scowling.
Whew. That’s all you want. Vincent calmed down.
“Sorry. We were just taking a break,” Trevan told him.
“Well, break’s over. You’ve got wood to stack,” the gruff man said.
“We’ll be right there,” Vincent assured him, and the man turned and walked away from them after eyeing them another moment.
Vincent looked back to Trevan with a look that said “Keep your eyes open” and then both of them came out from behind the house and back to the woodpile.
The day carried on and the two boys were kept busier than usual. They toted wood and water and did everything that might be desired. By the time darkness was coming swiftly, Vincent had failed to come up with any ideas to escape, but it was obvious by now that something was very wrong. And Vincent and Trevan were at the center of whatever that was. They’d been watched closely all day, Vincent had observed, but not only that, no one had left or entered the camp today. The gate had not opened even once, and neither boy had seen their mother since that morning. Both boys were vexed, and neither seemed to know what would make the situation better. It was just after darkness fell when things in the camp became chaotic.
Vincent and Trevan were sitting on a bench where they’d been instructed to stay, exhausted from all their work and all their fruitless thinking.
The man that had caught them behind the house that morning had been following them around throughout the day. He now stood behind them where they sat, doubtlessly making sure they stayed there. Vincent could feel the man’s eyes burning into the back of his head. He dared not talk freely to Trevan, though he had nothing to report that would do them much good. The ominous weight in the air was over them harshly now, and Vincent guessed there was no avoiding it.
He watched the clansmen moving about, all dressed in black robes like Vincent had never seen in camps. The robes reminded him of ceremonial dress that he’d seen in the cathedrals in the cities before, except those were red. Were the clansmen preparing to have a religious ceremony that didn’t involve a demon sacrifice? This was definitely a new concept to him.
From one of the houses, Vincent saw a man emerge that he recognized as the camp Elder, though he couldn’t remember the man’s name. He had no identity, just like nearly everyone else in this camp. His robe was also black, but much fancier, with collars and with golden ropes hanging from it. He held a scroll in one hand, a torch in the other, and as the people gathered around in what appeared to be an orderly fashion, a few men stepped forward with unlit torches. One by one, the Elder lit their torches with his. After that was done and Vincent was watching with curiosity, the gate of the camp was raised, and before he could think it over much, there was a rough hand on his shoulder.
“Get up and let’s go,” the man behind them said, and the twins decided they had no choice.
They obeyed, and the man shoved them lightly toward the gate.
“Where’s our mother?” Trevan asked in a demanding tone, but the man said nothing.
Vincent and Trevan were driven through the gate like cattle, and were forced to march through the forest of sticky, glistening webs within the large group of people.
The Elder and the torchbearers were in front of them, the man that had been watching them intently all day was followed by the rest of the camp behind them. Vincent could hear Trevan’s worried breath, and he guessed that his own sounded the same. They walked on for a while through the dark and Vincent realized he couldn’t hear any of the clansmen speaking. It would be taboo to do so. The only sound was the gentle night wind and brush of the weeds as the crowd passed through them with their torches and their stern, silent faces.
Vincent’s mind kept telling him to run, but where would he go? His brain didn’t seem to think that mattered. Wherever he would wind up if he ran, he was sure it would be much better than what was about to happen to him in the very near future. Vincent considered what amount of Truth rested in his thoughts, but it wasn’t more than five steps before his head began to pound and a hot sensation ran through him on the inside. Whatever the danger was that had caused him fear on this day, it was nearby, but he couldn’t concentrate on escape plans with his brain shooting off like it was. It was as if an alarm was going off in his head—and suddenly, he remembered the graveyard.
“This is where we bury the ones that have been taken by Bo’lan,” he remembered. “Bo’lan, the one who governs us.”
An image of his own marker shot into his mind, striking him to the core with fear. Despite everything that seemed like logic, he wasn’t going to be a good boy any longer.
Vincent gripped his brother’s arm and ran out through the trees. He didn’t know where they would go, but that didn’t matter at the time. All he cared was that they got away from there, and fast.
There are too many clansmen though. We won’t get far.
He’d known this before he’d started running, and it was true. They didn’t get far before they were grabbed and jerked back in line with the rest, harsh fingers digging into their shoulders.
Those grips dug in harshly until they reached the cave.
When Vincent saw the entrance, he thought there should have been a sign out front that said “Danger lives here”, because that was exactly what he felt. He and his brother were about to find out what they were made of in the most literal sense.
The boys squirmed, trying to wrench their arms away to no avail. The people gathered to the cave entrance with the torch bearers in the front, all silent and still like statues. The Elder of the camp stood before them, his back to the silent crowd and facing the cave entrance. He began to speak.
“We call upon thee, oh Great and Mighty One,” he called out in a loud voice toward the cave. His voice echoed back to him. “Giver of all, bless us once more with your good graces. We come with a sacrifice.”
Vincent knew that was him. They’d changed his name without permission. His name was Sacrifice now. He looked around once for a way of escape, but before he was successful in locating a route, he was shoved forward without warning, flailing toward the cave entrance like a helpless young bird falling from the nest. He entered involuntarily with Trevan right behind him, and below him he could see that the cave sloped downward, leading into some unknown pit of darkness.
Danger lives in that darkness, Vincent thought. Its name is Bo’lan.
“Bo’lan!” the Elder cried out behind the boys. “Show your face before us again and take of our offering!”
Vincent’s ears were overwhelmed by the echoing sounds of the Elder’s voice, but somehow, beyond all that, a high voice cut above in the still forest. It was a woman’s voice, troubled as she yelled words that were indistinguishable from the distance. Still, he knew the voice.
“Mom?” Trevan uttered lowly, looking around him, but neither boy could see their mother through the trees. She seemed much too far away, and in an instant, the danger before them became real. To hear their mother’s worried cries in the distance brought a fear upon them both that they’d never felt in their lives. There really was no escape.
Vincent must have been screaming then, maybe crying, though he didn’t remember the sound. He could only hear his mother’s protests somewhere far behind him, the Elder calling upon the name of Bo’lan and reading from a scroll in some odd language, and the monster stirring somewhere up ahead.
Trevan was somewhere nearby, but Vincent didn’t know how close or far away until his brother clutched his hand. Vincent was much too concerned with the creature that was up ahead. He felt it close now, and he was afraid. The ground was beginning to tremor beneath his feet and dread swelled within him. His death was coming on, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. His head pounded with the closeness of the beast—
—and the thing emerged before the brothers out of the darkness, something that could only have stepped out of Vincent’s wildest nightmares.
It was a rusty orange beast, bigger than anything he’d ever seen. It was even bigger than the extinct creatures called elephants that he’d seen in pictures back when he was in school. It reminded him more of a dragon, which he’d also seen pictures of, but these were only drawings. Dragons were usually mythological creatures, and sometimes the images showed a knight with a sword defeating one, but this one before him was real. And he was no knight.
The beast had two heads, identical, and Vincent wouldn’t understand until much later on that the double heads were the reason he and his brother had been such a perfect sacrifice. For now, he only stared at the beast, and both heads stared at him as it approached.
It looked hungry to Vincent.
(end of excerpt)
I hope you enjoyed that glimpse into the story! The Captor’s Redemption will be available on August 8th!
I finally finished the formatting for the print version and ordered a proof, so here’s hoping that everything looks amazing. Then the print edition will be available to order too! Like my other books, The Captor’s Redemption will be enrolled in the Kindle Matchbook program, so if you purchase the print copy through Amazon you can get the ebook as well for free!
(But just as a side note, if you want to help a girl out, I get the largest royalty through the Createspace store or through Amazon.com. Just putting that out there. 😉