The rough draft of VULCAN’S FURY: THE DARK LANDS is nearing completion! Of course, it won’t be published for a while yet, as it has to go through the red ink car wash of the editorial process. But it’s definitely time to start teasing you about it! Herewith is the premise of the story:
A few thousand years after Old Rome was destroyed in Vulcan’s Fury, as the ancient world’s fiery ruination was known, the descendants of the Roman Survivors finally achieved what their predecessors had not: domination of the entire known world, all save the Dark Lands. Hidden behind a barrier of smoldering volcanoes and the deadly Haunted Sea, the Dark Lands were at the heart of fearful legends of terrible beasts, and worse, that had once feasted upon the flesh of men.
But ancient tales held no fear for Princess Valeria, daughter of Caesar Tiberius Claudius Augustus, Emperor of Rome. Enthralled by reports of strange happenings along the coast and bored by the life of a young noblewoman, Valeria begs her father to allow her to travel to the coast of the Haunted Sea to indulge her curiosity. Tiberius grants her request, anxious to see her safely away from Rome, where the Senate is plotting against him. Together with her closest companions, including her enormous hexatiger, Hercules, Valeria sets off on her adventure, unaware that she has become part of a chain of events that could once more bring humanity to the brink of extinction.
And now, a small snippet (caveat: totally unedited, as yet!) from the book for your enjoyment…
The beast wove its way with great care through the lush vegetation as it stalked its prey. It stalked its prey in slow, sinuous movements, so low to the ground that the white fur of its belly brushed against the manicured grass. Its coat of black stripes against dusky orange made it nearly invisible as it wended its way among the shadows, its long fur-covered tail trailing behind it like a serpent. Through the sweet fragrance of the many flowers in bloom it could make out the smell of Man. It was a pungent mixture of sour human sweat, spices and wine on their breath, and the oil and polish used on metal and leather. Drawing in a silent breath, it could make out eleven individual Man-scents nearby. They were not prey, but obstacles standing between the beast and the one it truly sought. The prey-scent was altogether different from those of the Men, for the prey was a young human female. She, like all living things, had her own unique scent. But here, amidst the many flowers, it was difficult for the beast to locate her, for she smelled much like a flower herself.
Hearing a deep voice call out, the beast froze, its amber eyes staring through the foliage in the direction of the Man-sound, its six legs tensed to seize an opportunity to attack, or to turn and flee. One of the Men, far to the beast’s left, crashed into the greenery, calling to its fellows, no doubt hoping to have found the monster stalking them. The other Men, demonstrating far greater wisdom, remained silent. But even standing still as a stone, the Men made noise. The great beast could hear their tense breathing, whispered Man-speak, the subtle sigh of grass as they shifted weight from one foot to another, and the clink of metal on metal or the soft squeal of leather. Only one among them, the eldest and most fierce, was truly silent. Of the Men the beast now faced, he was the only one it had any reason to truly fear. The beast likely would have chosen a more direct approach to reach its prey, save for this particular Man. The others were as helpless, bleating goats compared to him, and it was the fear of this one Man that dictated the beast’s oblique approach.
Certain now that it had not been detected, the beast used the noise made by the Man beating through the greenery to mask its approach. Still staying low to the ground, it moved forward in a series of rapid but silent steps, its tail low to the ground, shifting slightly from side to side to help it maintain perfect balance. After a momentary pause to make sure it remained undetected, it made another dash to a dense hedge, beyond which lay the prize. After sinking to the ground, it slowly, ever so slowly, crept forward until it could see through the hedge. Just beyond the living wall was a large circle of grass upon which stood the humans. At their center was the prey, and beside her was the One-To-Be-Feared, the metal armor girding his chest gleaming silver in the sun, as did the helmet with the red crest. He was never far from the prey’s side, and his eyes were never still.
With a tremor of excitement, the beast saw that those eyes were now fixed on the Man still stomping through the greenery. The Man gave a startled yelp, then cried out in pain as he stumbled upon the nest of bees the beast had earlier steered well clear of during its approach. The Man crashed back through the hedge into the grassy circle, slapping at his tiny tormentors. The other Men laughed at their companion’s antics, and even the attention of the One-To-Be-Feared was riveted on the spectacle.
It was an opportunity the beast could not pass up. Backing away from the hedge, the beast quickly retreated several paces. Then, turning back in the direction of the humans, it dashed forward. At the last possible instant it leaped into the air, clearing the hedge with room to spare, before it landed on the grass on the far side. Dashing past the nearest Men, it let out an ear-splitting roar as it bore down on its small human prey, her defenders too far away now to save her.
The prey, eyes wide, whirled around and beheld the nature of her doom. She opened her mouth and screamed…
P.S. This post is part of a giveaway contest – click here to learn more!