Audible Book Review of Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World” — Derek Barton

Eye #1

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan — an Epic Medieval Fantasy Novel

Released in January 1990 — 702 pages — Michael Kramer & Kate Reading

I have been for over a year now getting Audible books so I decided I would review and share my opinion on some of them with you. Enjoy!

This is the introduction novel into a vast and complex story told over fourteen novels (Yes, Fourteen!).  The central theme of the books revolves around three young boys who are destined to battle the devil-like, Shai’tan, in the oncoming Tarmon Gai’don, the “end of the world”.

The Synopsis:

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

 

The Review:

Jordan’s world is extremely well-defined and this book is considered “High Fantasy” — defined as fantasy set in an alternative, fictional (“secondary”) world, rather than “the real”, or “primary” world.  Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is considered one of the op High Fantasy works in literature.

The story starts out simple as it revolves around three farm boys:  Rand al’Thor,  Matrim Cauthon and Perrin Aybara.  In a single night, their lives are torn apart and turned upside down by an attack on their village.  The boys are forced to leave with an Aes Sedai, a female mage known as Moiraine and her warrior-protector, Lan.

I found the tale very intriguing and exciting.   It kept me completely immersed in its world of dangers and unknowns.  The characters are extremely well-defined with complex motives and background.  At the end of the first book, The Eyes of the World, I bought the second novel because I was hooked and couldn’t wait to read more.  I am on Book Six now and, unfortunately, my interests have waned.

My complaint would be that there are too many characters, too much information and too often the names that are unpronounceable which makes them even harder to remember.  I don’t think I have the patience in me to get to Book Fourteen!

Now, I have fallen into the same trap in my own writing and have learned that readers simply do not want to work that hard to remember that much detail.  I found that I had the same issue with George R.R. Martin’s Songs of Ice series which I had to make an Excel Spreadsheet just to remember who was where and doing what!

Great storyline, great characters and a fantastic tale that is soon to be made into a television series —

“Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.” —Variety

 

The Narration:

Eye #2

Michael Kramer and Kate Reading do an incredible job at narrating this tale with all of its intricate dialogs, multiple characters (both human and humanoid) and alternate narrative voices depending on the gender of the Point-of-View of the chapter.  Kramer has received much praise for his narrations.  Even the Library Journal stating that Kramer reads “clearly and intensely”.

Kramer lives in Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Jennifer Mendenhall (aka Kate Reading), and their two children.   Kramer also works as an actor in the local theater.

The Rating:

Four Stars as the story is exceptional and embracing.  You care what happens next to each of the characters.  It has plenty of high-action scenes balanced with in-depth character development.  RECOMMENDED!

 

By Derek Barton — Author of Dark Fantasy novels: Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  Also the author or In Four Days: a Horror-Suspense Novella and Elude: Part One (horror/crime thriller) will be on sale by the end of 2018!

 

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The Hidden — Chapter 17: ATTACK! — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 17

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN:  ATTACK!

Nate was falling. The branch, only a moment before supporting him — providing him with protection from savage death at the jaws of Chirkah and his tribe — was now a stick in his hand. It was connected to nothing and slid with him through the empty air of the forest trees. Still, he clutched it fiercely.

In his consciousness, time slowed down. Each half-second swam lazily by and movement became a sluggish procession of images and thoughts. And now, as he plummeted toward the ground, he inwardly cringed at the thought of those sharp, canine teeth tearing into his flesh. A scream of horror escaped his lips as they stretched tightly over his clenched teeth. But the scream was abruptly cut short as one end of the branch he clung desperately to wedged into a crotch of the tree and the other end tangled in the branches of a neighboring hickory. With a jerk, it came to rest, and his legs swung back and forth in the air, just barely out of reach of the savage jaws of the pack.

It took a few seconds for Nate to realize what had happened, and then he began to pull himself, “chin-up” style back over the branch. With an effort, he worked his way toward the bole of the ash tree and then transferred his weight to another, sturdier branch. Shaking and sweating, he leaned his back against the smooth bark and closed his eyes. Once more he had managed to cheat death and the swarm of voracious monsters below him of their prize. When at last he reopened his eyes, his vision was a bit blurred and he blinked rapidly several times before looking to see what had become of Chirkah.

Nate had seen wolves at the zoo. He’d spent some time staring into their soft brown eyes and wondering at the quiet nobility he saw there. Even in captivity, there was a sad kind of grace that spoke well of the beasts; and he saw a haunting sort of stern benevolence in their gaze that made him admire them in spite of his deep-seated dislike for dogs.

There was no such look in the eyes of the beast whose gaze met Nate’s this day. Chirkah glared from below with a blazing fury that threatened to melt his small, piggish eyes and send them dribbling from their sockets. Nate thought he could actually see an ember-like glow radiating from their depths and the hatred that seethed within was actually palpable in its intensity. Chirkah’s jaw muscles rippled beneath the stubbly skin on his face and his shoulders bunched in huge ropey knots of tension.

For a moment Nate was intimidated by this formidable display, but then he thought of Zelda and the unfortunate creature they had torn to bits before his eyes.  His heart became hard once again. He shook off the fear and haughtily glared back at his captor. From the safety of his lofty sanctuary, he hurled taunts, calculated to drive Chirkah mad with rage. “Sorry, old boy, guess you missed out again!” he shouted and then: “What’s the matter Chirkah? Didn’t anybody ever tell you? You can’t run with the big dogs… if you pee like a puppy!”

He laughed out loud, as much with relief as with derision, and he slid down to straddle the branch once more. He decided that climbing from tree to tree was not such a good idea. If he were to escape, he would have to think of another way.

As he sat thinking, the sun began to slant through the branches, and he became aware of the fact that it was setting and before long it would be dark. Already the morning doves were crooning their dreary notes and from high above the forest came the occasional sharp “preeent!” of a nighthawk, as it dived and swooped among the summer’s last hearty swarms of insects.

Nate’s mind ached from trying to think of a way out of this situation, and his tongue was swollen and parched. His stomach grumbled miserably and he thought back to what Chirkah had said about hunger driving him down from the trees. He tried not to dwell upon it though and continued to search his mind for an answer to this dilemma.

The creatures below became quiet, and Nate, suffering the combined effects of thirst, hunger and exhaustion, began to drift into a drowsy state of rumination. There seemed to be no solution to his problems; and so he let his mind wander as it would, resting himself mentally as well as physically.

He watched a gray squirrel gathering nuts and nonchalantly ignoring the Kophet-kur.  It appeared to be no more wary of the hideous beasts lounging among the trees than it would have been of a bunch of humans in the park.  Apparently, they presented no great threat to him and he scurried here and there amongst them with impunity. When one of the dozing monsters grunted and lowered its muzzle to sniff in its direction, the squirrel leaped nimbly off, bounding twice through the leaf-clutter on the forest floor before launching itself onto the trunk of a tree. There it scrambled quickly up the vertical trunk to the safety of a lower branch. Nate smiled, ruefully. Even the squirrels knew that the Kophet-kur were earthbound and could not harm them amongst the branches.

Chattering noisily, the squirrel hurried along the branch and flung itself into the air to land in the branches of the next tree. Nate’s smile faded as he watched it work its way through the forest and disappear in the foliage. Suddenly he felt terribly alone and frightened. The light was fading fast, and the thought of spending the night up here in the stygian darkness of the forest while a group of savage man-eating escapees from a horror movie waited below was something he was not sure he was capable of handling. City born and bred, Nate had never been alone in the woods at night. It was an alien environment, and he wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The sounds of the impending night were sweeping through the woods like a rumor through a small town. He turned the collar of his shirt up and hugged himself tighter as a cool breeze rustled his leafy bough and tossled the hair on his forehead. He looked below to the hulking shapes, now becoming vague and shadowy in the gathering gloom and once again he was a little boy, shivering alone in the dark. Again he heard his father’s voice, harsh with irritation and thick with sleep: “There’s no such thing as monsters, Natey Boy, now go to sleep!” Suddenly the voice became harsher and evil sounding. Come down! it said. Climb down from the tree, Nate!

With mounting confusion Nate realized the voice was not just a memory — he could actually hear it. But still, it seemed to come from within his mind rather than from without. Gradually his idling consciousness became cognizant of the fact it was Chirkah’s voice he was hearing. Again it urged him to Come down!  And this time the voice seemed more demanding — as though time were running out for this game of cat and mouse.

Nate looked for Chirkah and found him directly below, his forepaws braced against the trunk of the tree while he craned his neck to see Nate, among the branches.

I grow weary of this game, Nate Malone.

Indeed, the chieftain’s voice sounded tired. But Nate thought he heard something else there too — something not quite distinguishable, but definitely odd. Was it fear? No. that wasn’t possible. What could Chirkah have to fear? It was more like worry or distracted anxiety. There was a definite hint of frustrated desperation.

Don’t you see there is no hope for escape? You will die slowly, alone in the tree-tops. Hunger and thirst will take an excruciating toll of your body before leaving you dead and draped over a limb. That is… if the wood ants don’t get you first.

Nate’s knuckle still throbbed from the painful bite. He thought of hundreds of thousands of the big black insects crawling over his body, biting and stinging in the dark, and he shivered.

It will be dark soon, Nate Malone. I’m sure you don’t want to stay in that tree all night. Why not come down and get this over with. Then you can rest for as long as you want. No more pain… no more worries… only sleep… deep… quiet… peaceful sleep…

Even in his tired state, Nate could recognize the attempt at hypnosis and he fought off the heaviness creeping into his eyelids. He grinned down into the upturned face of Chirkah and said, “You’re gonna have to do better than that. I may be from the city, but I’m not stupid. I’ll be quite comfortable here in the trees, thank you; but as for you…” He looked up at the darkening sky. A few clouds were moving in, skittering before the freshening wind. “It looks like it may storm tonight. Wouldn’t you creeps feel better crawling back under whatever rock you came from?”

Chirkah stared at him, for a long time before speaking again.

Perhaps you are right, Nate Malone. After all, we have your woman so we know you aren’t going anywhere. He glanced around at the mob of monsters lounging around him. Maybe we SHOULD withdraw. If you do go for help no one would believe you. No, I think you will come down and try to find our lair. And when you do, I’ll be waiting for you there… An evil grin split his wrinkled black lips, making Nate shudder.

… And I’ll be with your mate, in the slave chambers.

With that, he signaled silently to the others and they stood up and began dispersing into the undergrowth.

Go or stay Nate Malone, Chirkah’s voice rang in Nate’s mind as the big beast walked toward the edge of the clearing. When he reached it, he turned and spoke one last time. It really matters not to me. Either way, I have won and you… you have lost.

As one, they melted into the forest like a bad dream.

Suddenly, Nate was alone in the clearing and silence moved in and nestled close about him. It happened so quickly that Nate was stunned. He sat in the tree, staring at the place where Chirkah had disappeared.

 

 

 

 

Audible Book Review of Stephen King’s “The Outsider” — Derek Barton

SK Outsider

The Outsider by Stephen King — a Supernatural/Horror/Murder Thriller

Released on May 22, 2018 — 576 pages — Narrated by William Patton

 

 

This is the first of my audiobook reviews.  I have been for over a year now getting audible books so I decided I would review and share my opinion on some of them with you. Enjoy!

 

As one of my favorite authors of all-time, I have been anxious to get my hands on the latest novel by Stephen King called “The Outsider”.  I was not disappointed in this compelling and intense story of depraved violence committed in a small rural town in Oklahoma.  (Yes!  A story that takes place actually outside the state of Maine!)

 

The Synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?

 

The Review:

Back in 2014, King produced his first grim detective/horror novel, Mr. Mercedes.  Inspired by horrific true events, King crafted a tale revolving around a retired detective is drawn out by a relentless serial killer who plowed through a crowded line of pedestrians, killing eight people and evaded capture.

He continued the story in his follow-up novels, Finders Keepers and End of Watch which became The Hodges Trilogy (named for the main character Detective Bill Hodges).  The entire series was a fascinating tale of a cat-and-mouse hunt crafted as only Stephen King can.

While The Outsider is not directly related to the Hodges Trilogy, it is told in a similar vein.  A tale where supernatural horror is blended with a true crime atmosphere.  It explores the themes of vigilantism, police abuse of power and how the media itself can become judge and jury.

An added bonus to this incredible tale is the return of a fan-favorite character, Holly Gibney (assistant to retired Detective Bill Hodges).  She is drawn into the investigation and as per her usual, adds an unpredictable yet poignant, point of view.

 

The Narration:

Patton

Again using the connections to the original Hodges Trilogy, King taps on Will Patton to read his terrifying passages as he did with Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch.  Will Patton has just the right mix of southern twang and gravel in his voice to really bring this work to the next level.  Patton is a successful actor in movies like Armageddon, The Postman and The Punisher as well as recurring roles in the television series, Falling Skies and 24.

 

The Rating:

Five Stars as the story hits on every aspect of intense plotting, incredibly detailed characters and original, exciting scenes and locations.  HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

I am an avid fan of horror and a fan of gritty crime dramas so the new mix that King is experimenting with has brought to life a brand new genre in this classic tale along with King’s Hodges Trilogy.

 

 

By Derek Barton — Author of In Four Days: a Horror-Suspense Novella, Dark Fantasy novels Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  Elude: Part One (horror/crime thriller) will be on sale by the end of 2018!

 

 

 

SECOND YEAR BLOG SITE ANNIVERSARY!!! — Derek Barton

Blog 70 Anniversary

This year has flown — I cannot believe how fast it flew by!

I started this blog in July of 2016 to help promote my new book and to do some writing research as well as experience sharing.  While the climb up the mountain is far from over, I can look back over my shoulder proudly.

Here is a list of writing goals that I have accomplished in the year since my last blog anniversary:

  • Written, edited and published The Bleeding Crown as well as designed the book cover myself!  I am super happy with the outcome of the story and hope to begin outlining the series finale soon.  Expect to see it in 2020!!
  • Written two more novellas like In Four Days.  My upcoming Horror-Suspense series, Elude: Part One and Elude: Part Two will be published by the end of the year.
  • Participated and wrote 50,241 words in the month of November for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge.  That was the first time I  took part in it and plan to this November as well.
  • Wrote and edited every couple of weeks (give or take) a horror web series with my father T.D. Barton called The Hidden.  It has been very fulfilling for the both of us I believe.  He finally gets to see his own writing come to fruition — it only took 30 years!   In the upcoming year, it will be released in full book format.
  • Partnered up with two voice actors for my works — Consequences Within Chaos (which is available now on Audible.com) and In Four Days (which will be released on Audible by the end of the year!)   Really happy with the productions and I have already gotten Laura Richcreek (the actress for CWC) to start on The Bleeding Crown.   Nothing is more thrilling than hearing your words performed.  Not a movie (yet!  heh heh heh) but very close to a play as far as performance.

Blog stats and growth since 2017 and from its start in 2016:

  • 1303 views / 862 visitors since July 2017
  • 1603 views / 659 in 2016 and all together that is 2,906 views / 1,521 people that have read and/or visited my writer’s blog since it was first started in July 2016.
  • This is the 70th Blog Post for the site!
  • 36 followers through WordPress and current email list @ 2,226!!
  • Readers have checked in from 42 different countries around the globe!!!
  • 310 Followers on Twitter, 90 Followers on my Facebook page, 25 Followers/166 Friends on Goodreads.com and now on Instagram 82 Followers! — It’s a small tribe but we are growing!

What’re my goals for the next year?

  1. Book a table at a book festival or comic-con in Arizona.
  2. Find a local bookstore to do a book-signing in Phoenix, Arizona.
  3. Maintain monthly book/audiobook giveaways.
  4. Write another novella, Elude: Part Three.
  5. Finalize and publish The Hidden.
  6. Write a fantasy novella — perhaps in the same world as the novels, but maybe something brand new?!
  7. Get The Bleeding Crown and Elude series on Audible as well!
  8. Do at least one out of state large comic-con like the Amazing Las Vegas Comic-con.
  9. Write at least another 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo Challenge.
  10. Keep on finding new ways to attract readers to this blog and find new stories to entertain you with!!

RECOGNITIONS:

  • Special shout out to Ted Barton — not only my mentor and my toughest critic (lol!), but my biggest inspiration.  Without your own endeavors to push the envelope, I would not have the confidence to reach for my own.  Thank you for all your guidance and love.
  • Thank you to Nesa Miller who has diligently helped me with my work and really shown me ways to improve upon my writing.  You don’t always beat around the bush with how you feel, but your assistance and targeted editing has been a huge boost to my work!  You may not yet have your own Editing Site going yet, but when you do, you’ll be a great success!!
  • My friend and great supporter, Jon Paul Rai, who has worked with me on both of my fantasy novels and has been a strong advocate on his own Youtube Channel, Entertainment Hacker.  Check him out if you are a Star Wars Fan as he has some great material and insight into the storylines and the direction they SHOULD go!
  • Nothing but praise and gratitude to my voice actor partners (Laura Richcreek and Charles Pendleton).  You have brought to life my characters and taken the writing to that next level.  I can never repay you for your time and efforts in that!  Thanks so much.
  • My number one fans and beta-readers, Susanna Willey and Renee York!  You guys have truly made this a blast and your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have absolutely put me on Cloud Nine.  I appreciate all your efforts to spread the word and to get my name out there!
  • Last I would like to thank Susanne Lambdin for her words of advice on marketing and continued support for my own growth as a writer.  Thank you for your partnership and I look forward to the day we can attend another comic-con together!

 

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SUPPORTED, READ AND GIVEN ME ASSISTANCE WITH MY WORK!  It truly honors me any time I hear that someone has enjoyed or been entertained by my work.  There are a million storytellers in all sorts of styles and manner.  I know that for you to pick my writing to spend your own precious time with cannot be taken for granted or wasted.  Each time I think maybe this isn’t what I should be doing with my life or sacrificing my energies on, someone reminds me how it touched their world and it made a difference to them.  As a writer, I cannot ask for anything more.

Here’s to our lives and paths continuing to cross in the future!

Regards, Derek

The Hidden — Chapter 16: ESCAPE! — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH 16

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN:  ESCAPE!

Thirst tormented Zelda. Her throat felt filled with broken glass which ground together with each swallow.  Her tongue was like a fat sausage, stuffed in her mouth and growing hourly.  It had been a long time since she had drunk anything.  What she would give for a cold beer right now! Her tongue came out to gingerly trace her cracked and swollen lips. The last thing she could remember having was the wine in the clearing, beneath the trees.

Nate had held her in his strong arms and whispered words of love. As she relived these tender moments, her mind lingered upon her dead husband.  Their life was coming together in ways she hadn’t previously been able to hope for.  They’d had money and love and freedom to enjoy both.  Now, Nate was dead — possibly devoured — and she was a captive of hideous creatures, bent upon killing her as well.

How could God let this happen? Everything was finally coming right for them and suddenly their world was torn apart and stomped on.  Defiled by these ugly, stinking monstrosities, from beyond the realm of reality.

She asked herself what she had done to deserve this. How much suffering was one person supposed to endure? Had God, in his heaven decided to rescind the rules of nature simply to destroy their happiness? For what reason?

They’d been poor for a long, long time, and each of them had had their dreams go sour, like fruit left to rot in the summer sun.  In the crotch of a tree, perhaps? Rotting in the sun with the flies buzzing and the ants crawling… to survive — to succeed in spite of everything life had thrown at them. Their marriage had suffered, and they had put off having children, hoping for a better day, while they both struggled with their own private burdens.

Finally, there had come the lottery. Oh, blessed day! For three brief months, they had lived the life everyone dreams of — nearly unlimited wealth and time to devote to themselves and romance. Like children with new toys, they had reveled in the sheer luxury of life without limits. It had all culminated in that one glorious afternoon in the summer sun, beneath the trees of the clearing. For that one brief, fragile moment they were truly as one, giving and receiving love equally between themselves. At last their lives had turned around and it looked as though there was going to be a beautiful future after all.

Then, as though God had deserted them, casting them from the garden of Eden into the depths of hell, everything had come crashing down upon them. Indeed, she felt like Eve, being punished for her sin of tempting her Adam with the fruit of life. But the fruit in the tree was not the fruit of life, it was the fruit of death — death and horrifying, unholy nightmare.

Everything had turned topsy-turvy, starting from the moment she had pointed out the “hornets’ nest”. She wished she’d kept her mouth shut, and not said anything to Nate about it. She had the unshakable suspicion that somehow, if she hadn’t pointed out that gruesome mass of rotting flesh in the tree, things would be entirely different now. How long ago was that? Here beneath the ground, it could be day or night. There was no way to tell. She’d slept once since her capture. How long had she been out?

The only gauge she had of passing time was her increasing thirst, and the desire for rest. Apparently some amount of time had passed. Her inner biological clock was telling her it was time to sleep again. How ironic that was! On the one hand, she was in greater danger than she had ever been in her life — there were monsters, both real and imagined, lurking in the darkness all around her. Her senses should be tuned to the danger lying around every bend of this hell-hole.

There was every chance that, at any given moment, they would be found out and ripped to shreds by a horrible creature, deep beneath the ground and far from the light of day. Failing that, they may plunge into another bottomless abyss like the one that had just missed claiming their lives earlier. Or they may fall prey to any number of sightless, slimy denizens of the dark which may share this labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. For that matter, they might just wind up lost and wandering until they died of exposure or exhaustion.

And yet the cold and dampness of the cave made her want to curl up somewhere in a ball and drift off to peaceful, luxurious slumber. What a relief it would be to close her eyes and just shut down, escaping all of this tribulation, and releasing her mind to be cradled in the warm, soothing embrace of Morpheus — to float in sweet nihilistic repose. Her lids grew heavy with the thought, and her pace began to slacken noticeably.

Susie noticed. She tapped Zelda on the back, sharply, and whispered, “Stay awake, Zelda. We have to get out of here!”

Zelda turned and sat down, in the middle of the tunnel. “Sorry, honey,” she said, her voice husky and thick. “I’m kinda tired. Could we stop awhile?”

Susie brought her mouth close to Zelda’s ear so as to make as little noise as possible. “NO!” she hissed. “We’ve got to keep moving.” She grabbed Zelda’s face in her hands and shook her. When this failed to elicit a response, she clutched a handful of her hair and pulled hard.

Zelda winced with pain, and it brought her around somewhat, but her thoughts still drifted slowly, like a pearl in molasses. Dimly she was aware that she was approaching the first stages of hypothermia, the cold and dampness having taken their toll.

Susie didn’t know the name for it, but she could tell that Zelda was cold. Grimly, she pulled the sweat-shirt back over her head and tried to slip it over Zelda’s. “This’ll help,” she told her. When Zelda realized what she was trying to do, she snapped out of it and stopped her. “No sweetheart, I’m not that bad yet. But if I do drift off, you’ve got to promise you’ll leave me here and go on by yourself. She snuggled the sweater back over Susie’s shoulders and they huddled together for awhile, transferring body heat. Zelda’s tortured body cried out for a drink, but she didn’t dare try any of the water that puddled on the floor of the cave for fear of contamination.

“How’re you holding up?” she asked Susie.

“Okay, I guess. I’m pretty tired.”

“Me too, honey. But we’re gonna make it. It can’t be much farther now, I wouldn’t think. I noticed the floor’s gradually started sloping up. Maybe it’ll take us to the surface pretty soon.” With that, she dragged herself up onto her hands and knees, resumed crawling down the length of the tunnel, with Susie, ever vigilant, right behind. Her legs felt like dead logs trailing along behind her and her arms were numb with cold. She willed them to continue and placed one in front of the other over and over again doggedly, inching slowly along. After a time, Zelda stopped short, and Susie collided with her rear end.

“There’s a hole here,” Zelda warned. “Probably another of those wells.” With care, she skirted the opening, drawing her child shadow behind.

Susie could feel a cool draft of air rising from the well to wash her face, and she could imagine the inky depths that must lie below them. How eerie it was to consider the miles of dark empty spaces lying here beneath the surface of the world, hidden for countless eons from the light of day, and the prying eyes of man. What strange, uncanny creatures could be spawning in this lightless void, undiscovered and undisturbed — until now.

Thinking this, she drew even more closely against Zelda, and she wished for the thousandth time to be able to see again. She had been in the dark for so long, she’d begun to wonder if she had lost the sense of sight altogether. At any rate, she knew now what it must be like for a sightless person to live in darkness from day to day, unable to view colors or light or even the simple pleasures a typical day might present for inspection. How odd it would be to know that you would never see again — never witness the beauty of a sunrise or the color of a fine spring morning! Susie decided that, of all the senses, she would miss sight the most.

They had traveled only a few more yards when Zelda stopped again. “I think I see light up ahead”, she said mildly. Her voice sounded dull and stilted — as though she were unsure of herself and afraid to be overly optimistic.

Suddenly she gave a stifled little squeal of delight and this time, when she spoke, her voice sounded much more excited.  “I do! I see light up ahead! It’s got to be an entrance, Susie. Honey, look! Do you see it?”

Susie strained her eyes ahead, trying to pierce the dimness, and still she saw nothing. Perhaps it was true, she’d been held from the light for too long, and she’d lost her sight. “Where? I…” She stammered, partially from uncertainty and partially from the effect of the low temperatures. “I don’t see anything.”

“There ahead, you must see it!”

Slowly, Susie became aware of a dim shadow floating ethereally in the murky darkness. It seemed to be suspended in air — a filmy blue shape that pulsed and swayed in the tunnel ahead of them like a ghostly splotch on the wall of a tomb. Susie rubbed her eyes. She blinked rapidly several times, and at last she began to see the shadow take shape.

It was slowly falling into focus as dim light, shining through an opening which itself must lie around another bend; or perhaps, up a hill and out of sight from their present position. There was definitely light, however, and Susie was drawn to it like nothing before in her life. A man, dying of thirst in the middle of an arid desert, coming suddenly upon an oasis, complete with a deep blue pool of cool water would not be attracted the way Susie was to this light. If Zelda hadn’t been between her and the light, Susie would have scrambled as fast as her legs would carry her toward it, recklessly ignoring any danger of discovery or pitfall that may lie in her path.

Zelda felt the same way. She was just as anxious as Susie to return to the world of light, but she possessed the coolness of mind to realize they weren’t out of the woods yet, so to speak. She grabbed Susie and held her back, whispering for her to be cautious and go slow. “We’ve got to approach the entrance carefully, honey. Who knows what may be waiting for us there?”

Susie relaxed with only the slightest of whimpers, and fell back into position behind her. Once she was sure the child was in control again, Zelda continued crawling slowly down the corridor, and toward the light.

The urge to rush ahead, casting caution to the wind and fleeing these ghostly haunts was almost overpowering; but Zelda forced herself to stop every few steps and listen. Both of them strained their ears to hear the slightest whisper of movement either before or behind them, before moving on. As they approached the light, they could see it was definitely an opening as suddenly the bottom part of the hole cleared the ceiling of the tunnel and came into their line of sight.

A bright, sparkling ray of light struck them both simultaneously and their hearts leaped with the prospect of returning to the world of the living. The size of the opening seemed to grow as they neared it and Zelda could see they would soon be within sprinting distance of freedom. How she longed to feel the sun upon her face again! And the prospect of clean fresh air wafting gently amongst the forest green was as alluring as anything she had ever dreamed of in her life. To feel the soft carpeting of forest plants beneath her feet, rather than hard, cold limestone, would be haven to her senses. The irregular patch of sunlight revealed a bright blue sky with scrappy pieces of white, fluffy clouds, and, although it hurt her eyes to look at it, Zelda thought it was about the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She could feel Susie urging her on from behind, but she insisted on approaching slowly, and with care. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest, partially from the fear of detection, partially from the anticipation of success.

A smile stretched broadly across Zelda’s face and she turned to look at the child. To her amazement, she could make out Susie’s features. It was the first time she had ever seen the little girl and her eyes drank in the sight lovingly. Susie’s hair stood out in a tattered mass, and her face was streaked with grime and dried blood. Still, Zelda thought she was a lovely child, and tears brimmed her eyes with the sight of her. The sweat-shirt bagged loosely around her slim neck and shoulders, and draped down far enough to form a skirt about her hips. Her bright blue eyes sparkled with life and hope as she gazed back at Zelda, and the bright, shining light of the opening glistened back at her from their depths. She too was smiling happily and Zelda clasped her behind the neck and squeezed gently.

“We’re gonna make it, kiddo,” she whispered with joy. “I told ya, didn’t I?”

Susie nodded and rubbed her eyes with both fists, trying to adjust to the light. Then, as Zelda watched her, beaming ecstatically, she suddenly vanished, like a candle, snuffed out by the wind. One moment she was there, smiling innocently in the light of the opening, and the next moment she was gone. When Zelda swiveled her head around, she was horrified to see the opening had disappeared. Before them lay only darkness — eternal, impenetrable, damnable darkness. Again they were plunged into the inky blackness of the void.

Unthinking, Zelda cried out and raced ahead, arms outstretched to reclaim the sparkling prize. Her bare knees scraped on the limestone floor of the tunnel, abrading skin and flesh, but she didn’t even notice the pain, in her headlong rush for the door. She hadn’t taken three steps, however, before an ear-splitting roar erupted, point blank in front of her, and she felt hot breath and mucous spray in her face.

With a scream, she fell backwards and lay, cowering on the floor. She could hear the creature shuffling toward her in the darkness, and it terrified her to know that, while it could see her, she had no way of even knowing what the instrument of her impending death looked like. There was no defense against something which you could not see, could not even remotely hope to overpower, and had no chance of out-running. All she could hope to accomplish was to slow it down while Susie made good her escape.

With this in mind, she raised her head and shouted, “Run, Susie, Run! Go back down the tunnel, honey, I’m right behind you!” She was gratified to hear Susie’s footsteps, scurrying down the tunnel and fading in the darkness just before the creature was upon her. A smashing blow to the back of her head sent her face-first into the hard tunnel wall and the heavy body of the beast came crashing down on top of her.

As the creature rolled her over on her back, she felt its sharp talons raking her skin and smelled the foul odor of its gaping mouth drooling above her. But all this was driven from her consciousness by a terrified shriek from Susie, knifing through the gloom and echoing off the walls. In spite of her desperate situation, the moment she became aware that Susie was in trouble, she began to fight back. She drew back and drove her fist hard into the face of the attacker, feeling its moist muzzle make contact with her knuckles. It was like punching a leather bag full of bricks. The tender flesh there gave way and, for just a moment, the beast pulled back in surprise. Making the most of this moment, Zelda scrambled up and began crawling as fast as she could down the tunnel. “Susie! Susie!” she screamed.

She wasn’t able to get far, though, before the guard was on her again, and this time it spoke, Going somewhere, Meat? The voice literally shrieked in her mind. It was coarse and mean, dripping with contempt. I don’t think so. I think you’re dead.

Its huge paws found Zelda again and pinned her down. She could smell its hot, rank breath filling the air, and she could imagine its dripping yellow fangs jutting from sneering black lips, poised above her. Drool splashed in huge warm droplets upon her neck and chest and she cringed, awaiting the killing blow.

Again she was struck by the cruel irony of the situation: to think she had come through all this, only to die now, with freedom just a few feet away. There was nothing she could do to save herself or Susie. But life is seldom fair. If it were, there would have been no Jewish Holocaust, no Hiroshima bomb to blast the flesh from innocent children, and John Lennon, fierce advocate of peace and love would not have been gunned down like a punk in the streets. Life plays with no rules, no ties or obligations to justice. Its memory is short, and each moment holds no compunction for those gone by. Events happen as they will, and we are left to pay the cost.

As the realization of the hopelessness of her situation became clear to her, Zelda became still and calm. If death was in sight, then let it come for her. It would be a welcome relief after the nightmare of these last couple of days. Her only major regrets were her failure to protect the little girl, and that she hadn’t been awake to help Nate when he needed her most. She closed her eyes and braced herself.

Abruptly a new voice, flat and authoritative, cut through the darkness, halting the creature in mid-lunge.  STOP! commanded the intruder. Do not kill the female.

With a grunt of surprise, the beast looked up, seeing what Zelda could not. But when the voice came again, Zelda recognized it as that of the female creature they had encountered in her den. Slowly she approached, and Zelda was nearly over-powered by the stench of two of these beasts in such close proximity.

This one is to be the vessel of Chirkah’s seed. I spoke with it earlier, in my birthing chamber. They told me they were on an errand for one of the slave-mothers, but I didn’t believe them.

The female addressed Zelda where she lay on the tunnel floor, the guard straddling her uncertainly. You really thought I was asleep, didn’t you, bitch? An ugly, mirthless chuckle, repulsively self-satisfied in its tone, insinuated itself in Zelda’s mind. Did you think I, Tonrah, mate to the mighty Chirkah would be stupid enough to fall for your pitiful lies? I know who you are, I know Chirkah’s plans for you.

The beast stopped and Zelda felt the hot stink of her breath on her cheeks as it leaned down over her.  What I didn’t know was what you hoped to accomplish with this clumsy escape attempt. So… I followed you. My curiosity was aroused, I thought perhaps you would lead me to some secret you were hiding from the Kophet-kur. But now I see you were only attempting to find a way out. I harbor no affection for humans, of that you can be sure. However, Zelda, I will offer you one word of advice, and you would do well to remember it in the future. The word is don’t. Don’t try to escape the Kophet-kur… Don’t make the mistake of trying to match wits with one of us… And don’t EVER make me angry. You are lucky I followed you, foolish one. This guard was about to have his way with you and then devour your flesh while you still lived. It would have been an agony too incredibly intense to describe.

She turned her attention back to the guard. And YOU, my friend, are lucky as well. My mate would have been distressed had you harmed his intended, as was your plan. Leave us now and return to your watch. I will escort this one back to the slave chambers.

Reluctant to be dismissed so summarily, the guard offered one feeble protest, And what of the other?

The small one is dead. She rushed straight into a well, farther back down the tunnel, and fell to her death.

Zelda’s heart went numb, plunged into ice-water. She remembered the well they had skirted so carefully just a short ways back. No doubt Susie had run, terrified, right into it, and that had been the scream she’d heard. Her own voice echoed in her memory: Run, Susie, Run! she had shouted. Go back down the tunnel… I’m right behind you!

But she wasn’t right behind her, and the final words she’d spoken to the child had been a lie. She had the feeling, a type of motherly instinct, that Susie had been lied to all of her short life. Now, in her final moments, as she died, all alone in the cold darkness of this cruel underground dungeon, the one friend she had left — the only person remaining for her to count on had added one more lie to that endless chain.

Wracked with remorse and sorrow, and totally exhausted, Zelda let her head hang limply in the dirt, and all the life drained out of her. When the guard pulled back and Tonrah nudged her on her way, she followed meekly, offering not even token resistance.

 

PAGE 69 CHALLENGE …Accepted! — Derek Barton

page69challenge-heavensfiction

 

 

Tonight, I answered the call out for The Page 69 Challenge:  Posting from one of my works, dialogue or paragraphs found on Page 69 and put it up against other writers.

This is a cool concept for any readers and for all writers! If you are a reader, you get nice snippets to peek your interests.  If you a writer, you get some nice exposure as well you can connect with at least three other writers (which per the rules you send out a challenge request as well!).

I posted from my newest novel, The Bleeding Crown:

He then spoke directly to Sxestic, “Perhaps you do have this information, but just do not know you possess it.  The one that betrayed your leaders and all of you, he was the one who also captured Princess Letandra.  Do you know where he might have taken her?”

Sxestic stared at him then pumped his fist into the air.  The Viestrahl vanished as fast as they had arrived.  They took the three chests but did not attack any of the five men.

The Morro grunted what resembled something close to a laugh. “We just might have an answer after all for both our problems.”

 

I really like this point in the book as it is between an old villain from Consequences Within Chaos talking to another villain, both of whom have had to turn the direction of their lives in the pursuit of the overall good!

 

Go to https://tinyurl.com/69challenge  to see all the entries and POST your VOTES!

Enjoy!

 

2018 July & August Bi-Monthly Goals — Derek Barton

July Goal

It’s time for more goal setting and goal results!

I do want to apologize that I skipped out of sending a post for May & June.  The only goals I had for those two months were to produce The Bleeding Crown and the audiobook for Consequences Within Chaos.  So for those two months, I was successful, but the effort was all-consuming.  I am frankly still worn out!

 

Now for the results of March & April Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Outline new chapters for subplots and additional material – Finish by 2nd week of March  (Success!)
  • Finish writing new subplots/additional material – Finish by 3rd week of March (Success!)
  • Complete 3rd Wave of edits & send out to Beta Readers – Finish by end of March  (Success!)
  • Complete 1st Wave of edits for Elude #1 – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Complete the Cover for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of March (Not completed until late May.  Went through over thirty variations!  But the result worked out and I am very happy with the cover.)
  • Get feedback from beta-readers – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Complete the 4th wave and final edit for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd week for April (Not accomplished.)
  • Walk 1 mile a day (60 miles for the two months) – Complete for both months (Sadly this didn’t happen either as I donated every minute into getting The Bleeding Crown ready for release.)
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month – Complete for both months (Success!)
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks – Complete for both months (Success!)

So the overall results were not pretty — 50% of the goals my lowest scoring yet — but I am still very happy with my latest novel.  I have taken the time after the book release to recoup some and will be able to jump into the horror/action/thriller.  Already, the work for Elude is going very smoothly.

 

Now for the NEW goals for July & August Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days.
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors.
  • Add a new page to the site showcasing associates and people I have worked with and what they can do for other writers.
  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance.
  • Schedule one or two more comic-cons or book festivals by the end of the year.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.

You may notice that I didn’t include any health or personal goals here.  I am working on finding a better balance with my free time with writing work and health/fitness time.  Plus I have a family that I want to see more of!

In 2016 and 2017, I walked up to 3 or 4 miles nearly every night.  In 2018, I have fallen into a bad pattern of not walking and spending a lot of time on my writing.  But my health has seriously suffered and I am my heaviest weight ever.  I am admitting this because I know that I can and will do better.  For now, I will be posting my writing goals.  Once I have decided what direction I want to take with my health, I will then maybe include those personal/health goals.

It has already been a successful and productive year and I hope to keep it growing.  I hope each of you has also had an amazing year.  Thanks to everyone who has supported me or been a cheerleader — IT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED!!

 

 

 

 

 

NEW RELEASES 2018!! — THE BLEEDING CROWN & CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS AUDIOBOOK — by Derek Barton

NOW CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS IS AVAILABLE IN AUDIOBOOK FORM On Audible.com & on Amazon  $13.96 members or 1 Credit !!!  Amazing narration done by Laura Richcreek

AND THE BLEEDING CROWN IS ON SALE at Amazon  — (The Bleeding Crown(paperback))  $11.99 !!!

 

The gripping epic fantasy continues in the worlds of Aberissc and Tayneva.

In the shocking, debut novel, Consequences Within Chaos, a banished evil had returned to the lands of Tayneva.  Blood was spilled in the streets of Wyvernshield and in the Courtyards of Castle Adventdawn!

By the end, a terrible price had been paid…

The dark sequel, The Bleeding Crown, returns with a tempest’s fury!  Prince Taihven and Princess Letandra face a harsh new reality as the butchery of the Quietus Dominion spread into both worlds!

Now, Princess Letandra, separated from her family, must survive stranded in a foreign, hostile land on her own.  Yet before any rescue attempt can be made, she is captured by the Ebon Queen of the Quietus…

Unless she risks everything to escape, an unholy army will come for Taihven.   The future of both worlds hangs in the balance!

New friends, new allies, and new horrors are discovered in Aberrisc and Tayneva!

 

Buy now to delve into the enchanting worlds from Derek Barton on Amazon & Kindle!

 

 

The Hidden — Chapter 15: CHIRKAH! — T.D. Barton & Derek Barton

TH chap 15

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN:   CHIRKAH!

 

An ice-cold dagger of steel ripped a jagged course through Nate’s guts. His eyes spread wide as he struggled to deal with the roiling of his insides.  He felt his hands shaking and the trembling seemed to travel from the tips his fingers, coursing up his veins and through his veins until it burst out onto the surface of his skin.  Slowly he sank back against the trunk of the tree. Knitting his brows, he looked back at the beast and tried to comprehend what it had just told him.

“What in the hell do you mean by ‘breeding stock’? If one of you hairy bastards has hurt her –” His voice choked with emotion and he fell silent. His loathing of the creatures had just reached a new level, far surpassing anything he’d ever thought himself capable. The hatred threatened to overtake him completely and he felt his face warming from its effect. Just what he planned to do in retaliation, he hadn’t the vaguest notion, but the thought of one of these things touching her –that way– made him furious. So angry was he, if pressed, he would probably attempt taking on the whole pack bare-handed, despite the overwhelming odds. His eyes blazed back into Chirkah’s red glare.

“Just tell me where she is”, he demanded.

It would do you no good to know her whereabouts, Nate Malone. The voice insinuated itself inside his head, and Chirkah’s eyes narrowed perceptibly as he “spoke”.  I assure you there would be no chance of succor. Should you come down from your haven among the branches, you would be overpowered in seconds. But perhaps this would be for the better. After all, you can’t remain up there indefinitely. You must come down sometime, so why not do it now and avoid all the suffering? Before long, thirst will set your tongue ablaze and then, together with hunger, it will drive you down to us. When this happens, we will NOT be kind. The Kophet-kut are nothing if not patient. We will wait. However, we do not enjoy being toyed with; nor do we take kindly to anyone reducing our ranks by three of our fellows.

He gazed slowly about at the grisly-looking group.  There are many of my followers who would gladly exact vengeance upon you, and believe me, we know ways of inflicting injuries that kill slowly and with great pain.

Nate looked too. The horrid creatures sat around in various positions of repose. He shivered at the thought of those cruel mouths stripping his flesh from his bones. He had witnessed first-hand their capacity for ferocity as they mercilessly punished one of their own for a minor infraction of the pecking order. He could only imagine how they would deal with someone they hated.

On the other hand, should you come down now, I promise to do my best to see that your death is a quick and –relatively– painless one. Chirkah grinned again, showing teeth. The uniquely human gesture looked oddly out of place upon his savage countenance.

Nate shook his head and passed his hand over his tired eyes. His head felt stuffed with cotton, and he wanted to vomit. Listening to Chirkah’s insolent voice droning on was somehow repugnant to his very core. It gave him an odd, repulsive feeling that was the mental equivalent of having a dry wooden tongue depressor shoved to the back of your mouth, or maybe, to chewing tinfoil. He shuddered and looked back down.

“Explain to me what you mean when you say Zelda’s being held as breeding stock.” he said, striving to make his voice sound calm.”

That bothers you, does it Nate Malone? Chirkah’s tongue reached out casually and gathered in a lady-bug beetle which was trundling slowly across his cheek. Munching thoughtfully, he let his gaze meander, in a lazy arc, across the bean field beyond the edge of the woods.

Out there, the sun was blazing down, drying the plants and hurrying them along toward harvest.  Here, beneath a canopy of leaves, the shade was cool and, under different circumstances, Nate would have found it soothing. He settled back down on the tree branch, waiting impatiently for Chirkah to resume.

At last, the chieftain of the Kophet-kur looked back up at him.

In your human folk-lore, there are many things which you fear. Each generation passes along stories of beasts and goblins which await the unsuspecting victim somewhere… out there. Even you, Nate Malone must be intelligent enough to realize that these legends must have some basis in fact. Somewhere along the line, someone saw SOMETHING that inspired the telling of the tale. That tale is, in turn, twisted and exaggerated a bit more by each teller until it reaches mythic proportions. Is this not true?

“Make your point, dog breath.” Nate snarled.

Chirkah paused, glaring maliciously. When this failed to have an effect, however, he continued. My… POINT, as you put it, is simply this: Have you ever heard of werewolves, Nate Malone? Shapeshifters? Lycanthropes? Of course, you have, and you’ve always considered them to be fiction — fabrications of active imaginations, is this so?

Nate refused to answer, staring icily into the deep caverns that were Chirkah’s eyes.

Well, as I’ve said, there is some basis for truth in these stories, which have been handed down for centuries. Yes, Nate, there ARE werewolves living among you. They are the spies for the Kophet-kur. They circulate among the humans, leading outwardly normal little human lives, working and playing along with the rest of the stupid, unsuspecting creatures. They hold respectable positions in your society, working as bankers and doctors and lawyers and so forth, and never once do they give any sign of being anything other than typical human trash… Except during the full of the moon.

Chirkah turned his muzzle to the sky, his eyes clamped shut, and, after a short time, Nate began to feel dizzy. It came upon him gradually, as a ship, slowly gliding into a dock to tie up. He sandwiched his head in his hands, pressing so hard his face began to distort. Chirkah’s telepathic hold was increasing. Nate felt his own will fall away, and he had the disquieting feeling that something huge and filthy was peering into the farther-most intimate corners of his mind. The voice inside Nate’s head rang like a bell, resounding in echoes that grew and grew, threatening to split his skull, as Chirkah launched into a singsong chant. The sound rose and fell like waves thundering on a desolate, rock-strewn shore.

 

“THE MOON IS OUR BEACON,

IT GUIDES THE KOPHET-KUR.

(We sing, for the moon is our pilot.)

SING US HOME, OUR FATHERS!

WE AWAIT YOUR COMING

(We sing, for the moon is the way.)

THE FATHERS GAVE US LIFE

AND NOW THEY GIVE US HOPE

(We sing, for the moon is our comfort.)

YOU COME, OH BELOVED!

WE WAIT… WE HEAR… WE FOLLOW.”

(We sing.)

 

Along with the ringing voice of Chirkah, Nate could discern a chorus of other voices overlapping each other in a hideous chaotic, mélange of sound, layered one atop another, in similar repetitive chants. The chorus built inside him, reverberating from the sides of his skull until it spilled out in an incredible crescendo of sound. It seemed to surround him, carrying him aloft and hurling him among the uppermost branches of the trees. In his mind, he looked down from a great height and all he could see was forest below. Frantically searching for some kind of stability, he looked to the horizon where sat an enormous glowing ball of fire. At first Nate’s bewildered mind associated it with the sunset, but in a second he could see that it was something entirely different.

The vocal chorus became a drumming, low pitched buzz which emanated from the glowing orb, and it began to rotate slowly, casting brilliant white-hot shafts of light haphazardly around it. These beams of light reflected off of everything they touched, doubling and trebling in quantity and intensity as they bounced and played across the scenery. Suddenly the ball of light rose into the air and shot off into the sky. Nate could feel the heat from it baking his face, singeing the hair of his brows. As it hurtled past him, he thought he could see faces – smooth, lightly glowing faces with barely discernible features – staring out at him from various places about the sphere. The faces left him cold and empty inside, and he felt a longing to cry out to them to come back. His hands reached out involuntarily, and his mind screamed “We need you! Don’t leave!” In that instant, he felt an intense, aching loneliness that threatened to consume him from the inside, leaving nothing but a dried husk to blow lightly before the wind. The sense of loss was overwhelming.

As he stared after the departing sphere, the sky became darker and darker, until it reached the ebony blackness of midnight. The sphere continued to recede into this blackness until he became aware that he was looking at the moon, shining at him from a blank, starless nigh-time sky. The moon was comforting to him, easing the hollow void within, and he found he couldn’t pull his eyes away. He needed — was absolutely compelled to keep his mind trained upon it, because it was sending him signals — some kind of message. He couldn’t make out what the message was. It didn’t seem to be coming at him in the form of words, but rather in feelings — emotions. It was telling him something he absolutely needed to know to survive, and it was oh, so soothing! The message was filled with hope and promise and triumphant, exhilarating, lustful faith. He wanted to slobber at the mouth. He wanted to strip off all his clothing and go running naked through the woods. He wanted to howl. His throat fairly burst with the desire to open up and let all of his exuberance come rushing out in a long, loud, soul-quenching bellow of lusty defiance. Laughing out loud, he opened his mouth and howled. Again he let the sound rush from his gaping throat. And then again. Each howl was louder than the one preceding it and it felt wonderful. It was a totally liberating rush of confidence and a sense of well-being he had never before experienced. He continued to wail, letting the sound of his own voice buoy him up and cleanse his spirit.

When he opened his eyes, the sun was shining and the branch was again beneath him. Looking below, he saw that all the creatures were gathered around the base of the tree, and, like Chirkah, they were watching him closely.

The moon is our pilot, Chirkah was softly saying. He sounded tired, like someone who had just quit a trance state and was not yet in full possession of his faculties. It guides us through the night. When we hunt, the moon is by our side, helping us to keep our feet on the track. When we kill, it gives us strength, and when we hide, the moon tells us where to go and what to do.

Suddenly he snapped out of it and became focused once again.

The Fathers, when they left, gave us the moon as a guidepost, it is their means of staying in touch. The telepathic ability exists in all species bearing their seed, which includes most of the remaining creatures on this earth. There had to be a way to monitor their progress here, and so, from somewhere… out there, they send a constant signal, guiding us in all that we do. The Kophet-kur retain the greatest capacity to perceive these signals, and in turn, we attempt to return our thoughts to them. The moon is the ‘transmitter’ — the mirror upon whose reflective surface the signals are bounced and magnified. And these signals have a profound effect over all the earth: birds migrate from one pole to another, navigating in blind ignorance, in response to the effect of the moon’s influence. Dogs howl, insects, responding to the call of instinct, hurl themselves into any light that resembles the moon. The animals of the sea are drawn to the surface when the moon casts its illumination upon the waters. Indeed the very tides of the ocean are influenced by the pull of the moon. Even your own human race exhibits very erratic behavior during the times of its fullness when its power is greatest. All of these things, your scientists have searched for explanations to, but the secret is there — shining in the night sky!

Nate sensed an amount of sincerity in what Chirkah was telling him. For the first time since he’d begun this conference with the devil, Nate began to believe what he was being told. It was incredible and more than a little unsettling to think that the human race, indeed, nearly every manner of creature on earth was the product of some bizarre genetic experiment by alien creatures from another planet. It undermined all that he had ever believed in and left him feeling unstable and somehow up-rooted. His mind seemed to be floating in a deep void where everything was backward and opposite. He struggled to gain control — to shrug it off as impossible. However, the evidence that something highly unusual had occurred sat below him staring hungrily up into the tree. And, what Chirkah was saying explained many things, among them the strange effect the moon had upon the earth and its inhabitants. Here also was a possible explanation for the reports of such strange creatures as Bigfoot and the Yeti of the Himalayas; perhaps even the Loch-Ness monster sightings.

And now, Chirkah was offering an explanation to the centuries-old myths about werewolves. Could there be actual creatures who were able to assume human form part of the time, and then become something similar to these misshapen horrors when the moon was exerting its mysterious influence upon them? How could he exercise logic and reason when for the past few hours he’d been having a conversation with a monster? Everything he’d ever believed to be true in a rational, sane world was now put to question. WERE there such things as monsters? Did humans evolve naturally from apes — or were we the product of creation by a divine being? Perhaps all the stories of creation in the Bible were the result of simple, uncivilized minds attempting to explain the unexplainable. Is there a God in heaven, or does our creator traverse the skies in a miraculous ship built of strange, alien metals from another planet — another galaxy, far from our own?

Below him, Chirkah, savage, brutal king of the monsters, sat staring up at Nate as though he were aware of the conflict troubling his mind, and was waiting to regain his attention. Nate swallowed hard and felt something click in his throat. Dimly, he became aware of the first stirrings of thirst. Chirkah had been right about this, he COULD use something to drink. But more importantly, at this point, he still wanted to know about Zelda.

“So what has all this got to do with my wife?” he asked, cautiously. Slowly, Chirkah nodded, in a sage-like manner.

When the fathers left us, they made a promise to return someday; and when they do, they will select the most successful of their progeny to continue the experiments. They will teach the winning species the ways of their planet and give them absolute domain over all the remaining creatures on this one. Eventually, the chosen species will evolve into beings closely approximating the fathers. This is the way their genetic code works. After millennia, the Kophet-kur are beginning to look less like our lupine ancestors, and more like the fathers — just as humans are distancing themselves more and more from the apes which bore them. At the time of their return, the fathers will further advance this process, so that their favorites can only be guessed at, but one thing is certain: the Kophet-kur do not wish to come in second. For you see, it is a race — the Kophet-kur MUST gain the technology which has so advanced your species, thus making us the most successful. At the same time, humans are beginning to become aware of their own latent telepathic abilities, and may someday soon stumble over the secrets which, until now, are possessed only by the Kophet-kur. We CANNOT allow this to happen. To do so would be to lose all that we have dreamed of and waited so patiently for since the dark beginnings of time.

 Chirkah paused for a moment, seemingly gathering his thoughts before continuing.

This is why we take prisoners. The women of your species carry the recessive gene needed to serve our purposes. Therefore, we capture only females. Besides, the male of your species could not be forced to copulate. The bitches, however… his narrative trailed off and he nodded to one of his rank and file — an apparently pre-arranged gesture that sent this lieutenant bounding off into the brush. In a moment, however, he returned to the clearing with something that made Nate’s hair rise on his scalp and he snapped to attention, every nerve twitching.

Walking docilely before the beast, head hanging and shoulders sagging, was a human female — at least what was left of one. The woman was of indeterminate age — she could have been fourteen of forty – with matted, bedraggled brown hair hanging in her face. Mud and blood smeared every square inch of skin that was exposed, and the ragged shift she wore was so filthy he could not make out the color, even on a sunny day such as this. The woman walked, barefoot, with the air of someone who had grown accustomed to constant torture and abuse, long since abandoning all attempts at escape or hope of rescue.

She stumbled once, and the creature escorting her nipped savagely at her heel, opening up yet another wound, and bringing Nate to his feet on the branch once more. His heart went out to the poor wretch and he called to her.

“Hey!” he cried. “Hey, you! Up here… in the tree. I’m up here!” But the prisoner paid him no attention. Nate couldn’t tell whether it was because she was in a state of shock and simply beyond hearing or because she was afraid of the retribution such insolent behavior might bring from her captors. Still, he felt he should try to offer some comfort. “Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to get you out of here!” This sounded silly, considering the circumstances, even to him. Apparently, his audience agreed; for suddenly, in his mind, he heard gales of malicious laughter and, looking at the creatures sprawled about the clearing, he saw several with their tongues hanging out and their black mouths split in wide canine grins. Even Chirkah guffawed heartily at this, before giving another telepathic signal to the creature acting as guard to the helpless prisoner.

Without warning, the beast raised up and slapped the woman brutally on the side of the head, sending her sprawling. She lay on the ground, obviously stunned for a moment and then staggered to her hands and knees, where she did a most peculiar thing. Reaching stiffly around behind, she gathered up the hem of her skirt and pulled it up, exposing her bruised and battered buttocks to the air. There she waited patiently while the brute came up behind her and slowly sniffed. Nate felt his gorge rising and tried, unsuccessfully, to pull his eyes away.

The creature rose and placed his forepaws on the back of the poor wretch, digging his claws in carelessly as he went, apparently unconcerned about what damage they may do to her. From his belly protruded an enormous, pink-tipped erection which dipped and swayed as he shifted from foot to foot. The monster absolutely dwarfed the poor woman, and Nate was sure she would die should the beast carry out its obvious intentions.

As the huge, hairy creature entered her, she turned her head slowly around to look at Nate, and her hair fell from her eyes. There was horror in those eyes — a livid, unspeakable, screaming horror that would haunt Nate’s dreams forever. She made not a sound, and her face remained a stone mask of expressionless sorrow. But there was one thing more in her eyes, and when Nate saw it he wished her dead. At that moment he knew that, if he had his gun back, he would spend his last bullet not in defense of his own life, but in the merciful cessation of hers. For glistening in her eyes he saw tears — silent tears — which spilled over and coursed down her grimy cheeks and told him that she was not in shock, but rather in full possession of her senses. She was experiencing the dreadful pain and humiliating degradation of this rape by a beast so despicably evil as to defy logic.

With her gaze, she begged him to end her suffering. Her eyes pleaded with him to put an end to this nightmare — if rescue were impossible, then killing her would suffice to remove the agony she was enduring. His hand came to his mouth and he gnawed helplessly on one knuckle as he watched the monster ruthlessly battering the woman and occasionally reaching down with its dripping snout and nipping her cruelly on the neck and shoulders, sending rivulets of blood coursing down her back.

A trickle of drool inched its way down Nate’s wrist and his eyes bulged in desperation. There was nothing he could do. Obviously, this was not the first time the woman had been so used, and should he try to affect her rescue, he would be torn to shreds before he ever reached her side. There would be no point in trying, of that he was as certain as he was of his own name. He must think of Zelda. Perhaps there was still a chance to rescue her, although his hopes were rapidly fading. Still, as long as there was breath left in his body, there was always hope for a miracle. There may yet be some way of reaching her — some chance, some avenue of escape that had not yet presented itself. He could not afford to throw away her only hope by wasting his life in a useless act of kamikaze-like suicide.

And yet it clawed relentlessly into his guts that he was standing here, letting this pitiful woman be victimized sadistically and was doing absolutely nothing. The wretched creature was communicating as well telepathically as Chirkah had ever done. Nate could hear her screaming in his own mind, beseeching him to act — to do something to end this nightmare. He felt his face blush beneath her imploring eyes, and at last, he averted his gaze. Live or die, he didn’t think he would ever be able to forgive himself for his own inadequacy in this situation.

You should be watching this, Nate Malone. The insidious voice of Chirkah cut into his thoughts. You see, THIS is what we capture female humans for. The bitch you see here has born many of our children. Some remain here with us, and some have been sent out into your society, to retrieve the knowledge we so desperately require. We hope to someday have enough slaves to begin building — forges to produce metal, mills to refine and shape it. We will have mining operations, staffed by our slave-children assistants to stock us with the materials we need to make gunpowder and other weapons which we may use to overthrow the humans from their oh-so-precarious perch of power.

The woman cried out softly and Nate looked back just long enough to see fresh blood speckling the insides of her thighs.

I’m sure you have wondered, Nate Malone, how we have come to know so much about you and your civilization. The answer is simple: our spies bring us the information. In our lairs, deep beneath the ground, we have set up schools where the Kophet-kur and their half-breed ‘werewolf’ children are taught what we will need to know to conquer the world and make it our own.

Chirkah turned to look over his shoulder at the rapist. At long last, he had become still, but he remained mounted above the woman and Nate was forced to recall seeing dogs that became stuck together after mating, due to a swelling that occurs in the male’s organ. As children, this had been the source of many humorous stories and jokes. Now, however, there was nothing funny about it at all.

This is why human females are so important to us, Chirkah continued. And so valuable. It is not that we ENJOY mating with humans more than our own kind – well, perhaps there are SOME of us who do… Chirkah indicated with a nod the creature who had just performed the exhibition, and his little jibe was greeted with more cruel laughter from his constituents. They sounded to Nate like a bunch of dirty old men at a club smoker where strippers had been brought in to perform. Only these dirty old men had fangs. The rapist now sat beside the prostrate body of the woman, one leg in the air, grooming himself. The woman’s dress was still hiked up around her waist and she made no effort to correct this immodesty.

For most of us, it is a means toward an end — an end to your domination of the earth and a beginning of ours.

Nate refused to acknowledge his little play on words.

Occasionally, we capture female children and we raise them and nourish them carefully, taking as many children as possible from them until they are used-up and worthless to us.  He nodded to the woman again. This one is old and will probably bear no more children. Therefore, she is no longer of any value.

He paused long enough to pass a silent command to the rapist who reached out with a stiffened paw and flipped the exhausted woman over on her back. With one of its hooked talons it opened her abdomen from breastbone to pubic mound in a movement so swift and yet so casual as to take Nate quite by surprise. The woman was surprised too as she jerked to a sitting position and looked down to see her entrails spilling out onto the ground between her legs. She looked up, startled, and found Nate’s eyes. Just before she died, he saw a flicker of relief sweep across her face and then she collapsed, with a thud, to the trampled grass on the forest floor.

“You son-of-a—-” Nate’s curse was drowned out by the sound of trampling feet as the entire pack jumped up and rushed to throw themselves on the woman’s body. Snarling and quarreling viciously, they tore off great chunks of flesh while each vied for the best positions around the feast. Here and there, one would try to sneak off with an entire limb, but this would only result in attracting the attention of others who would then break off from the main group to investigate. Soon, there were three or four small groups of grunting, choking, slobbering beasts gorging themselves on the fresh bloody remains.

Chirkah sat, observing these proceedings, and then, almost as an afterthought, rose and slowly walked over to the scene of the carnage. As he approached, his stance became stiff-legged, and the hair on his back and shoulders stood up straight. The others made way whenever he came near, and a little path was opened for him as he neared the body. Straddling the bloody mass, he glared back at Nate, and his red-rimmed little pig eyes blazed with malevolence. With haughty grandeur, he claimed the prize as his own, and none dared defy his authority. His lips curled back to expose yellow, crooked teeth. Three-inch-long fangs flanked his chin. Each was as sharp as a dagger and curved slightly between the tip and the brown-stained base. His gums flashed a brilliant pink as he opened wide his mouth and plunged it into the corpse. With a deep, satisfied grunt he buried his muzzle and began to feed slowly and deliberately. Chirkah’s crooked spine bent and the muscles in his back bunched as he hunkered down over his royal dinner. The others either stood or squatted near-by, licking their paws, or moved over to join one of the other groups. Chirkah was left to his own.

Nate didn’t observe much of this. From the time Chirkah put his head down to feed, he averted his eyes. The woman had died bravely, and with as much dignity as her situation would allow, and Nate was determined to exact revenge upon her persecutors. Chirkah had been wrong about one thing, of that Nate was certain. This was not a race, it was a war. There wasn’t room on this planet for both human beings and Kophet-kur — one of them must go.

Nate was emotionally exhausted. His mind reeled with conflicting passions. Fear, revulsion, hatred, worry, his thoughts ran the gamut, and he was certain he couldn’t take much more. Soon the excitement swirling around inside him would overwhelm him completely and he would fly into a fit of hysteria. Or, perhaps he would just swell up and burst, exploding in a dozen different directions. He would splatter the foliage about with himself, leaving a bloody lump on the branch to mark his passing. He struggled to regain control, concentrating upon his breathing, willing it to slow down. At last his frazzled nerves began to calm, and he was able to think again. It scared him, though to think how close he had been to total collapse — shut down all systems and say good-night, Natey Boy’s had enough. With a trembling sigh, he shook these thoughts aside and began looking about the branches, searching for a way out.

His escape had now become a more important issue than just his own survival. The survival of the entire human race might well depend on his returning to tell the authorities what he’d seen here. He couldn’t be certain that Zelda was still alive. Chirkah could just be leading him to attempt a rescue. But, until he had proof to the contrary, he was going to have to play along. He had to assume she was being held somewhere near here — probably in one of the underground lairs, Chirkah had spoken of. His eyes searched for a branch near enough to allow him to move to another tree. If he could work his way from tree to tree, he might be able to search the woods for an entrance to this lair. He couldn’t imagine how he was to affect a rescue once he’d found it, but at least searching was better than just sitting here watching these bastards enjoying their blood-bath. Perhaps, after gorging themselves, the creatures would become sleepy and he could slip away into the forest. Or maybe he could come down from the tree and make his way back home for help. The only trouble with this second plan was that he knew he could never leave without taking Zelda with him.

“Well,” he muttered aloud, his eyes searching the foliage around him. “We’ll just have to come up with a plan when the time comes. One step at a time, Natey Boy, one step at a time.”

A branch the size of his forearm passed within a yard or so from the one just above his head. It appeared to be just what he was looking for, an avenue into the neighboring tree. It would be a bit dicey, but he had to try for it. He cast an apprehensive glance back at the creatures. They were too caught up in their grisly repast to notice his absence. Slowly he inched farther out on his supporting branch, easing his way along while clinging to the branch over his head. As he moved away from the trunk, the limb below his feet began to grow smaller and to sag a bit with his weight. This was not going to be easy. Nate silently wished he’d spent more time in the park as a child, climbing trees.

Now both branches were sagging and swaying in the breeze and sweat stood out on his brow. His intended, however, was growing nearer and soon he would reach a place where he might feasibly make an attempt. As he gazed longingly at the branch, trying to gauge its size and how much weight it might support, a white hot pain shot up from his right hand. Looking up, he saw a large black ant, nearly an inch long clinging to the knuckle of his index finger. The thing thrashed and wiggled as it buried its needle-like pincers in his tender flesh. With a sharp exclamation, he drew his hand from the branch and smashed it against his side, simultaneously obliterating his attacker and sending the branches providing his precarious support pitching wildly in opposite directions. In seconds he lost his footing entirely and was left hanging breathlessly by one hand, from the overhead branch. The branch yawed and swayed, sending a loud cra-a-ack! reverberating through the woods. Smaller, dead branches around him were shaken loose and fell noisily to the ground below.

Nate breathed a silent prayer that the branch wouldn’t break, as he swung there, scrabbling frantically to regain his hold with the other hand. He caught on just as another, somewhat louder crack tingled its way along the branch. Looking down, he found himself staring directly into the blood-splattered face of Chirkah, chief of the Kophet-kur, who was licking his lips and grinning broadly. Nate gasped great gulps of air as his fingers burrowed into the bark, and his legs kicked wildly in mid-air. Again Chirkah’s Machiavellian voice rang in Nate’s mind: Why don’t you just let go and COME DOWN, NATE MALONE, COME ON DOWN!

Once more, Chirkah was trying to use his telepathic powers to shock Nate into letting go. Nate closed his eyes and held on, trying to concentrate on how stupid Chirkah sounded. Like Bob Barker on ‘The Price is Right’, he thought. He smiled at this and felt himself relax a little. If the limb in his hands would hold on for just a little longer, he would be able to regain his footing and move back to safety. But his thoughts were cut short as another resounding crack rent the air and he felt the branch he was clutching let go.