They followed the ridge, the nobles who had lost their shoes stepping from stone to stone to save their bleeding feet from the twigs and burs of the forest floor. The travelers reached a sharp curve in the ridge and Murrogar stopped so quickly that Thantos, who was talking to him, spoke into mid-air for two more steps. Everyone fell silent, except for Sir Wyann, who laughed and took off his helmet.
Yawning against the corner of the ridge was a cave. A gaping, ten-foot-high, toothless-mouth of a cave. No blythallow or palace had ever looked so beautiful as that crude, dark cave there in Maug Maurai.
Murrogar looked closely. No vegetation touched the rocks. He scanned the forest. Every inch of Maug Maurai was covered in green. But the rocks of the cave were untouched by grass or ivy. Not even the carpet moss wanted that cave.
“We’re safe!” cried Sir Wyann. He drew a birch-bark torch from his sword belt and struck it alight while Murrogar studied the cave. “We can hold off the Beast in there.”
Murrogar shook his head. “We keep moving.”
The nobles hesitated, their gazes creeping toward the cave. Sir Wyann turned on Murrogar, his face creased so tightly that his eyes were nearly lost beneath the blond brows. “Are you mad?” He pointed to the cave. “That’s shelter! The first decent shelter we’ve seen.”
“Yup,” Murrogar motioned to the nobles with his hands, ordered them to continue walking. He eyed the cave again. There were no tracks outside. No leaves disturbed.
Sir Wyann stepped closer to Murrogar. “Why? Why?”
Murrogar grabbed the knight by the top of his breastplate and shook hard. “Because that Beast cuts us off from every hill, ridge or hole that we’ve seen. Because it let us come here. Because that cave don’t look right. Because I don’t like it. And we’re not going in.”
But someone had already gone in. A scream echoed from the cave.
The cover for book II of THE BEAST OF MAUG MAURAI (book title: Feeding the Gods) is ready! It’s similar to the cover for the first book, but more so. I’m all gushy over this one. It took ages to get the helmet to look right, but I think I got it to where it needs to be. What do you think? I know the shield in the first book cover was all rusted and rotting and stuff, and I had initially planned to do the same with this helmet. But while I was working I had this vision of the helmet reflecting the forest, and sort of shining brightly. So deal with it.
<TECHNICAL STUFF>For those of you into graphic design, the helmet was a TurboSquid purchase. I could have made one, but it would have taken me a long time and probably wouldn’t have come out as good as this one. I brought the .obj model into Maya and mapped the forest to an environment texture in the Reflection Color attribute. It took me about two hours of fiddling with the lights and the texture settings to get it to look right. The glow in the visor is a point light with glow effects, enhanced in Photoshop with several layers of paint with outer glows.I used a Lens Blur on the forest to make it fade into the background a bit, something I probably should have done on the first cover.</TECHNICAL STUFF>
I’m really looking for feedback on this, so please let me know your thoughts. Mercy buckets.
Just a quick note to let you know that I am trying to get The Beast of Maug Maurai, Book 2, out by the end of May, beginning of June. No promises, and schedules tend to change, but I am really trying to hold tight to my deadline. If you haven’t read Book 1, The Culling, I highly recommend it. Not just because I wrote it, but because reading books about Beasts living in forests is known to increase IQ by five to ten points at least. I’m sure I saw a study on it. Anyway, book 2 is coming out, so if you haven’t read book one, get to gettin’!
The Beast of Maug Maurai is an epic fantasy tale that has scooped up only 5- and 4-star reviews, except for one woman who was surprised that a three-part novel ended without resolving all the issues. Anyway, I digress, book 2, coming soon. Therefore, buying book 1 — if you haven’t already — is a moral imperative. Or something.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Thanks muchly for your continued support!