Sample Chapter - Book One

The following is an excerpt from the Second Draft of Book One. It was among the first parts of the book to be created, one that I feel really gives a visceral introduction to the world of the Hrack and the Dwiimm, for good or bad.

As such, these scenes may, or may not, be used in the final version of the book. I'm pleased to place it here, for you to read; enjoy!

   Not much was left of the village. Before the Hrack Invasion, it might have been called a town. The Invasion, decades old, had leveled most of the larger buildings, but groups of smaller ones had survived. One such cluster of dwellings had remained largely intact; with missing windows covered in scavenged materials and random patches, they would have wintered many Dwiimm fairly well.
   Now, the walls collapsed on themselves as the flames fed on this last remnant of the town. Bright streaks of light threw broken shadows as debris fountained into the sky. Screaming figures were cut down as they fled along the main road or into the open plain. The eye-searing streaks danced through the village, destroying all they touched. A maelstrom of light and fire washed along the street, ending in blasted stone or sprays of bloody rags. Violent death kaleidoscoped across the small homes and reaped their contents in short deadly bursts.
   Soon the flicking pillars of flames reached into the night sky to consume the last of the buildings. No more streaks cut the night apart with whipcracks of noise to bloody eardrums. The roaring fires fed and grew, blanketing the scene with drifts of black smoke to cover the still corpses of the villagers. 
   One bundle stirred and crawled out from under a fallen awning. Charred flesh made a mockery of its right arm, yet life still beat inside a blue robe made ghastly by blood and smoke. The survivor pulled itself up against a nearby wall and crouched, furtive eyes white and round inside their hood. Hearing nothing, they moved away from what had an hour ago been their home and now burned with all their kin. 
   A few feet from the wall, a bolt of light reached from the darkness and splashed their hope bonelessly to the dirt of the street. The sound of those final shots split the night, their echoes fading until the only sounds were that of burning buildings as they collapsed into the single narrow street. 
   Three figures appeared through the drifting smoke and flickering firelight, threading through burning debris. All carried weapons in their hands, smoothly moving in arcs that covered nearby ruins from all angles. Their sure movements and watchful stance branded them soldiers. 
   Each was large, wearing cloaks across broad shoulders that whipped in the hot winds rising from the flames around them. Their faces were covered by metal, eyes hidden behind lenses that did not reflect the dead village. Their armour glinted dully under its dusty coating. Once it would have shone, gleaming under the light of day and invisible in dusk or true darkness. Camouflage was rarely needed now, as few of the weapons left on this world could pierce their armour from afar and none would come within reach of the nanoswords each carried.
   As far as the Hunters were concerned, any battle they entered could have only one conclusion.
"Clear," said the foremost, raising his short weapon to point at the sky as he knelt in the sooty street. The other two moved to flank him, their weapons still scanning the ruins for movement as they covered their leader.
   The kneeling figure brushed a hand through the dirt, tracing shapes through the debris. He studied the ground for more than a minute before he turned his head to face the others, his stubby weapon still threatening the sky.
   "They were here. Not too long ago." His voice was flat, distorted by the mask he wore. The smoky haze that clouded the street did not cause any of the three to cough; their chests barely moved under their armour. 
   One of the others nodded; he held a long weapon, deadly slim deadly and he carried it with familiar ease. His armour was dirtier than the others but serviceable despite the grime that blurred its thick lines. 
   "Are they on foot?" he asked, waving an arm towards the edge of the village. His voice was hopeful, broken by a static buzz that echoed in the quiet night. "None of these Dwiimm made it very far. No other villages for days in any direction and no other nests for them to run to in these hills." A flick of his head and the long gun both indicated the distant darkness.
   "Negative; they were part of a caravan." The kneeling Hrack paused, then stirred the dirt again as he spoke. "The target was on foot beside the wheeled vehicles. They were careless and now we can follow directly, after all this time." He stood and then moved forward, following the faint tracks slowly. His eyes scanned the ground for the trace that had eluded him for far too long. Trailing him, the two other Hunters continued to scan the murdered village as they left.
   Behind them, the pyre burned a warning into the sky.

 * * *

   The fires burned themselves low and then smoldered, still sending columns of mourning black skyward. Dust and debris piled by the wind turned corpses into ragpiles and softened the black craters in the remaining walls.
   Putting down his binocs, a young soldier spat to clear a foul taste. He and six others crouched on a nearby hill, camouflaged by an old wall that ran from and to nowhere in this place and time. They were all dirty; no two carried the same gear and most sprawled with the limp tired grace of soldiers catching rest as they could.
   The youth scouting the dead village carried scars on the backs of his hands, burns that knotted the flesh into leather gloves. For all that, his fingers whitened as he looked at the pyres in the distance; he had known some of the corpses there. Sun-darkened skin tightened around his brown-flecked eyes as he pulled on his goggles and signaled to his troops.    With a collective groan more felt than heard, they gathered their gear as he slid backwards from the crumbled top edge of the wall. One of them looked up, his goggles caked with grime. "Anything moving, Captain Trell?" asked the soldier, patting his rifle.
   "Looks like the Hrack were here in Chorney three days ago. There's nothing left," said the youth, his voice cracking on the last word. Grimacing, he put the dead out of his mind and pulled on his heavy pack that meant a mission range of several weeks. But villages like the one below were more than resupply stops; they were what the rebels were fighting for. Every village that died needlessly meant fewer Dwiimm to rebuild when the Hrack were finally driven away. 
   As he clipped his pack into place, Trell added the dead of Chorney to the debt the Hrack owed the Dwiimm. Murdered for no reason, the village had been here since the Invasion reduced the larger town to a pocket of survivors. As far as Trell knew, the Hrack had never bothered to do more than occasionally scout the place, just like the other flyspeck villages in this part of the Kintar Plains. Apart from a few old guns and meager rebel supplies buried elsewhere in the ruins of the larger town, Chorney was like any of a hundred other Dwiimm towns on the Plains. Why then, Trell asked himself as his troop moved towards the wreckage, would the Hrack level the place so thoroughly?
   Maybe the answers would present themselves once they had a closer look. Moving down the hill, the rebels kept their eyes on the horizon and the sky, sweeping for signs of Hrack spyeyes. The devices were rare on the Plains, far thicker near the old cities, but caution had kept his soldiers alive for seasons under the noses of the invaders.
   As they neared the edge of slaughtered village, Captain Trell waved his squad to a halt. He knelt, his eye attracted to a glint in the path leading towards the village. Digging into the dirt, he pulled out a small bolt, the end bright with sheared metal. 
   "Nomads," he said, showing the bolt to his companions. "Recent, too; no rust. A ways off from their usual paths, to pass through to Chorney." He pocketed the bolt and resumed walking.
   Coming to the village perimeter, the rebels slowed, their weapons ranging over the shattered walls and dying fires. The wind brushed dust through the wreckage, hiding the sight of death but not the smell. The sweet stench brushed their faces, from bodies and blood splashed across blackened walls. Their faces hardened at the sight of the slain Dwiimm.
   The seven searched the village slowly, using their eyes and Captain Trell with a small handheld scanner that remained ominously silent in those long minutes. They stepped carefully around huddled corpses, almost reverently; none of the squad moved to touch the dead. Many of the bodies lay face-down, their wounds showing they had been shot as they tried to flee. 
   Captain Trell stopped beside one body, that of a young female whose long hair was a matted mess of blood. Her staring eyes were filmed with dust, almost hiding their startling blue in a begrimed face. Alone of the villagers, her hand clutched an old pistol, its muzzle black from use. Her body was broken, the wall behind her pocked by weapon's fire.
   "Mayiira, you never did have the sense to run," Trell bent and closed the staring eyes, leaving the worn pistol where it lay. "I always told you to bury that antique and run if the Hrack came looking for trouble." He straightened and moved on, dust hardening the lines on his face. "You never did listen."
   Completing their sweep of the village, the rebels moved down the rough trail the locals had called a road, halting after only a few hundred steps. An outlying ruin sprawled across the old road, with the trail weaving around it. Two of the rebels stood watch while the Captain and the others scoured the area for tracks. After a few minutes, one rebel signaled the others near a straggle of small trees and pointed. In the dust, three sets of tracks paralleled the road for a good five paces, then left the softer loam for the packed ground of the track again.
   Captain Trell shook his head. "Three? I make it no more. What do you say, Hrounn?" He looked at a heavyset soldier, whose beard flowed like a small dirty hedge atop his armored vest. 
   "No more than three, for certain, sir. More than that and they would have had Trirotors or Stilters along for the show." He sat back on his haunches, his weapon across his knees as he thought. "These three are on the trail of those nomads, no question, but for my eyes I don't know why. Three Hrack operating without support, this deep in the Plains? We haven't seen or heard anything in the air for weeks out this way. It doesn't make sense!" It was the longest speech Keltiin had made in days and he grinned, embarrassed at his outburst.
   "Nothing about it makes sense. Never has." His voice dropped, almost talking to himself. "Why invade us? Why level all the cities but leave the capital of Jheore intact? Why kill so many of us then just leave the rest alone?" The Captain's voice rose again, carrying an undernote of hate. "Thirty seasons they've squatted in their Citadels, picking our world clean and leaving us to play in the rubble. Yet they feed us, keep us alive to do… what? Nothing but wallow in the mess they've made of our world." 
   Snapping down his goggles, Trell slapped his weapon across his palm and stood. "Come on. We'll hunt the Hunters and see if we can get some answers." He moved off down the trail, his squad falling into a practiced line as they followed him past the dying undergrowth towards the hills beyond.

For the time being, this will be the only sample chapter I will make available on my website. Given the need to continuously edit my drafts for all three books, it's likely that I will end up with more sections that don't make the cut for the next draft. In those cases, I may then post them here, but I'll be using this guideline to decide: anything I post here can't be included in a manuscript I submit to a publisher, as I don't want to 'spoil' a deal by having a portion of my work 'already in the wild' so to speak.

Looking at the sample, I had to resist the urge to edit a bit here, a piece there... the process never stops, really, until you take a deep breath and 'fix' the writing where it stands. I'm currently working on the Fourth Draft of Book One, which I hope to complete by the end of 2015, along with the first draft of Book Two. I'll keep you updated in the News section as to my progress and as I've mentioned there, I will update this site on or before the 13th of every month.

Drop me a line with any feedback, comments or even a 'Howdy!' at storyteller @ - cheers for now!