So, I just finished up a part of a project. There’s still a long road ahead of me, but I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere now.
Just to recap, The Enigma is available on Amazon, and so is the second book in the series, Becoming the Enigma. The third book, Beast Within, will be up for preorder soon and I’ll post the preorder link as soon as I’ve got it.
But, for those who are getting into the series, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve got something else in the works. If you’ve been reading my Loup-Garou series, you’ve been introduced to a bunch of awesome characters. Darren, Dustin, Ben, Logan, Forrest, Erik, Gregory, Michael, John, and many more to come that will make their debut in Beast Within. I’ve dropped MANY hints about their histories, like how some of the guys were on the Titanic and Logan’s rough dealings in Chicago during prohibition. Well, I won’t leave my readers hanging because I love y’all and want to immerse you in this universe I’ve created.
That’s why I’ve come up with a 17 (maybe 18) part novella series to explain EVERYONE’S backstories in greater detail. I’ll be working on these and releasing them starting in August. The original plan was to release a new one every month or so, but that may not happen so I won’t promise it. But I am working on them and they will continually roll out as I release the fourth book in the Loup-Garou series in January of 2018. Yes, I will be busy for a LONG time.
So, without further delay, let me give you a small taste of what you can expect from the first book of this novella series, The Legend.
The forest north of Wye was anything but quiet that night. He hadn’t known a moment of pure silence since his childhood years. From where he squatted under a sheltering oak, he could hear them all carry on around him as if nothing were wrong, as if an abomination like him never existed in their world.
The laughter of the townspeople in Wye was like a haunting reminder of everything he could never have. It was the first day of August, marking the first day of the harvest. He could imagine them all feasting on the fruit of their labors and celebrating in the Gule of August. If he breathed in deep enough, he could smell the freshly baked loaves of bread from the dinner tables of the families in Wye and in the surrounding farmlands. There was a time when he would have partaken in such festivities, but that time had long past and now his tongue may never know the rich enjoyment that a slice of bread and butter could bring to a tired and miserable creature.
Some distance away, separate from the celebration, he could hear a lone traveler snoring in his bed sack. He could hear the soft popping of the embers from a dying campfire and the savory smells of a beefy stew. His stomach rumbled, reminding him that he still had not eaten that evening. And as wonderful as the traveler’s stew smelled, it was what he needed.
An owl called into the darkness, as if asking the unanswered question of his life. Who… Who… Who are you?
He could not answer. For years, he had spent wandering in the proverbial darkness, lost in his own confusion of what life could afford for a lonely and cursed man like himself. All he did know was that life had little meaning anymore. The child who sat at the table with his family had a future. The traveler had a plan, somewhere to go and maybe someone’s arms to run to. But the man who crouched under the swaying leaves of the oak tree had nothing.
The sound he had been waiting for finally graced his ears. The frantic rustling of an animal in the deep brush of the forest. He sniffed, breathing in its fear. He took off, weaving through the tall elms and oaks whose branches shaded him from the moonlight.
When he found the fawn caught in a hunter’s trap, he ducked into the bushes so as not to alert his presence too soon. It tugged and twisted, but the noose-like knot around its ankle would not loosen for anything, not even its desperate attempts at escape. The grass and leaves around it had been scattered in its hasty efforts to regain its freedom.
Watching the animal, he wondered where its mother could be. Had she abandoned it? Or was the fawn alone in the wilderness? This was the first time he had come to find a deer so young ensnared this way. With the aid of its parent, it might have avoided such a fate.
If he had any mercy within him, he would have turned away and looked for a meal elsewhere. He could have even cut it loose so it could live another terrible day in a world that considered it to be nothing more than a beast to be killed and eaten. But he was not so merciful and the darkness within him needed to be fed.
Slowly, the demon took over his body. His nails grew into claws and his teeth elongated into carnivorous fangs that glinted in the moonlight. Eyes that were once a deep brown brightened into a golden hue that put the crown jewels to shame. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as his blood quickened at the sight of his intended meal. Nothing else mattered but this kill.
He approached the deer from behind, his bare feet silent in the lush grass. The fawn wasn’t even aware of him until it was too late. He grappled the head of the fawn and snapped the its neck with a sharp twist. He heard the bones crack and the fawn’s thin and gangly legs went still.
He breathed a prayer of thanks to the Lord above for the meal, an old habit that should have died with his humanity long ago. Then, he set to work on the trap and sliced through the cord with a flick of his sharp claw. Lifting the carcass over his shoulder with abnormal ease, he sped deep into the woods to begin his feast.
The demon within him rejoiced at the meal, but the human was disgusted. For every lamb, every cow, every deer, or small woodland critter that had met an ill fate at his hands, he died a little more inside. It was a wonder there was anything left of his sanity.
Even as he swallowed the raw, blood-riddled flesh of the fawn, he hated himself and what the demon had reduced him to. Fangs and claws slashed through the sinew and snapped the bones as if they were as brittle as a crust of bread. Blood drippled down his chin and tarnishing the cloth of his tunic.
Slowly, the maddening hunger subsided and the demon slipped away to let the man breathe easy once more. He lifted his head from the steaming belly of the fawn and regarded the bright stars that shined in the clear night sky. They were the witnesses to his beastly display and they would carry the message to God that he was unworthy of salvation. If only death would take him and send him to the lowest circle of hell that he was marked for. Then, perhaps, he would know peace again.
The world came back into focus as the demon receded from the forefront of his mind. He could hear the gentle snoring of the traveler and the happy chatter of the townspeople once more. But a new sound same to him that lured his attention away from the quarry he had stolen.
He listened to the harried voices. To the west and near the slow-moving river that snaked towards the town, there was a man, perhaps two, and a woman arguing. After living on the fringes of society for years, he had learned to distinguish the sex of passersby without the benefit of sight or sound. He needed only a sniff from downwind.
His hands went still over the mutilated fawn as he heard them scuffle on the banks. Robberies were nothing new. But from her feeble words of protest, he began to realize that this was no robbery of money or possessions. The men wanted something greater and with the wind, he could smell their carnal need for the woman. He recognized the scent. It was the same one that drift out of bawdyhouses in the cities and permeated the rooms of newlyweds. Those women gave themselves to men for money, power, or out of pure love. Yet, it was clear that she was not a willing giver.
Everything in his rational mind told him to leave the matter alone. It did not concern him. But when her scream pierced through the night, he was spurred into action.
He ran towards the distress, swifter than the flight of a hawk as it would swoop down to catch its prey.
When the shore of the river was in sight, he stalled and stayed in the sheltering shadows of the trees.
He didn’t need the moonlight to see the struggle taking place alongside the River Stour. The woman bravely resisted against the two men who were nearly twice her size. They were dressed in beggar’s clothes, loose-fitting garments stained by days spent in filthy, slothful living. Though he could not get a good view of the woman, he could feel her tenacity. She fought for her freedom with a ferocity that astonished him and endeared him to her plight.
He darted from the concealment of the bushes and crashed into the men, throwing them away from their victim with little effort. His inhuman strength could not have been used for anything more admirable than in saving the honor of a woman. With grunts and curses, the disoriented men scrambled to their feet, but he was upon them in seconds with is fangs and claws bared.
Their cries for help and mercy would go unanswered. He slashed into their throats and the last breaths of their pitiful lives gurgled forth. Blood spilled on the grassy shore of the Great River Stour and dribbled down to pollute its dark waters.
He stood over their bodies, their unblinking eyes staring up at him with horrific expressions, frozen in their last terrifying moments. They were not the first men he had killed and God knew that they would not be the last. It was his nature, something he could not control. But like the fawn, these kills were necessary. Any man who would force himself upon a woman was lower than even a mangy flea infested dog.
Without so much as a word to the lady, he turned and ran into the woods to flee. Surely, she would faint or scream and alert others to the sin he had committed. “Wait!” she called out to him, her feminine voice slowing his flight.
He heard the rustle of her skirts snagging on the brambles as she pursued him into the forest. He looked down to his hands and saw they were still caked in blood, both from the fawn and the men that he had killed. His clothes were tattered and tainted by his iniquity, hardly the sight that any lady should behold.
She approached, panting for air. It had been an immeasurable passage of time since he was in the company of a lady for more than a few moments. He immersed himself in her scent and listened to her strong, pounding heartbeat. She smelled of the forest, wood smoke, and pure womanhood with a hint of herbs like jasmine.
For a while, she said nothing. They simply shared the same space, a couple of yards apart from one another but it was enough to make his hands shake. The demon liked the woman without even knowing her and that should have been enough to convince him to run again. But he stayed. Why in God’s holy name did he stay?
She spoke, but he didn’t recognize the words. The sounds rolled off her tongue in a musical, lilting way that intrigued him. It wasn’t English, or even the uncommon barbaric language of the north. She spoke only two words, or perhaps it was one in her language. There was a distinct cadence of French, but the pronunciation was laced with something more foreign – more exotic.
She said it again with a hint of authority in her voice, as if she were demanding something of him. The demon responded to her and the coldness washed over his eyes. He knew now that they were golden, so he would not turn to face the lady. He was tired of frightening those who might have intended good will to him and he would not let the demon ruin this moment for him.
His hands curled into tight fists and he could feel the slickness of the blood on his skin. The woman spoke again, but the words were different now. She wanted something different.
He moved forward to run again, but she hurried to his side. He shied away into the shadows and finally let her see what he was. More than anything, he was curious to see what she looked like instead.
Golden eyes glared through the darkness, the moon’s glory reflecting back the demon that possessed his body and soul. The beast gazed upon the woman, who was not what he had expected her to be.
She stood some distance away, her darkened complexion declaring her foreign ancestry. She was not a slave, but neither was she a woman of status like the ladies of the royal court. Her coarse, ebony hair cascaded down her body in bounding waves while her dark eyes penetrated through to his condemned soul.
Her bare feet were set wide in a confident stance, hardly the posture of any respectable lady. A long and heavy skirt draped from her waist, obscuring any curves beneath. Yet, the collar of her blouse dipped low to expose soft skin. A wool vest hugged her breasts in place while golden rings adorned her ears. A bandana held back her hair from tumbling into her face as the winds whipped through the trees. Coins that hung from the cloth dotted her forehead, contrasting sharply with her dark skin and glittering in the moonlight.
Her brows knitted together as she looked upon him, but he sensed no fear in her. When she stepped forward, he stepped deeper into the shadows. A low, warning growl rumbled from his throat, but he would not bare his teeth at her like the animal that he was.
She shushed him, her full lips puckering as she came closer. He wanted to flee. He should have. But the longer he gazed into her eyes, so mystic and enrapturing, he found that he couldn’t move. She was beautiful and alluring beyond all reason. Never before had he seen a woman so entrancing.
The growl faded on her command and a new sound drifted through the air that sent his body into a panic.
The woman, whom he now knew was a gypsy, began to hum a sweet tune. He shuddered and his knees gave way beneath him. He collapsed to the ground under her spell.
“Away from me, witch,” he demanded.
They were the first words he had spoken to another soul in ages and he rejected her company. But there was no ignoring the way she made him feel. Defenseless, exposed, weak. His demon no longer liked her and for once, they were of one accord and wanted to flee from the woman.
But she would not let them. Her gypsy song floated through the air and wrapped itself around his head, making him dizzy and breathless.
She crouched down to him and her hands caressed his face, her fingers grazing over his beard and the blood that had dried upon his jaw.
Upon her touch, the demon quivered and withdrew, taking the golden eyes with him to make him look a little more like a man and less like a monster.
His chest heaved for air as tears wanted to spill from his eyes. This couldn’t have been a gypsy. She was an angel. Who else could wield such power over a man such as him? He had visited priests and begged for absolution, but none could provide. He had slept in the tombs of saints all across England, searching for reprieve from the darkness that encased his soul but he would always wake with the same sickening feeling in his gut that he was not cured. But this woman could control the demon, which no one could do; not even himself.
The corners of her lips tilted into a gentle smile, one fraught with pity and her song ended on a final note that lingered in his mind.
“Who are you?” he whispered. The words came out stuttered and clumsy as if he had forgotten how to speak.
She did not reply, but tucked a strand of unruly hair behind his ear to unveil some of his face. He reached up with an unsteady hand and grabbed her wrist, feeling the throbbing of her pulse in his palm.
“Who are you?” he repeated more urgently.
“It does not matter who I am,” she said and he could hear the heavy influence of French in her words. “What matters is that you are loup-garou and I need your help.”
He peered at her, his brown eyes narrowing upon her in bewilderment. Loup-garou? What was that?
“What is your name?” she asked.
Unlike her, he would not hesitate to give her what she wanted. He would give her anything after the miracle she had just performed. “John. John Croxen.”