It’s been a long time coming, I know, and I apologize profusely. I am currently finishing the the third book in The Beast of Maug Maurai trilogy. My tentative release date is February 17, although looking at what has to be done still, that’s a bit optimistic. I do, however, want to have it released by the end of February, and I am very motivated to get it done. I might put it up for pre-order for February 29, 2015. Yeah, I know, not funny. Okay, but I’m not kidding about putting up for pre-order. That would ensure that I finish it on time. How does February 28 sound? (Edit: I had to push it back so I could make it available for pre-order. Release date is now March 10, but it will be available for pre-order very soon!)
To hold you over until then, or perhaps to tease you a bit, here’s an unedited passage from the manuscript. Enjoy! And thanks again for your continued support.
“You think it was the demons of CWNCR?” Drissdie muttered. “I heard the demons can look like trees. We shouldn’t be here, in the forest. No, we should just leave, d’you suppose?”
Lokk Lurius shoved saplings aside and stomped onward. He was never lost in a city. Cities made sense. Even the Outer Line cities of Eridia, with their cattle-path roads and winding alleyways. Cities were created by humans, and even the most twisted of settlements contained a logic that could be unraveled. Forests were unreasonable things. Twisted and purposeless. They were a disease. A crazed affliction of the land.
“I heard CWNCR is the gateway to the Dark Place,” Drissdie continued. “I heard Mundaaith himself travels through CWNCR when he comes to Celusia, d’you suppose? And that anyone in the forest when Mundaaith arrives dies. Just like that. Dead. Except I heard you get a lot of pain before you die. You fall and you feel the worst pain you ever felt. I know a lad, Frynn, he says that you stay in pain ‘til Mundaaith leaves the forest? I can’t think of nothing worse than that. You think you stay in pain for days? Wouldn’t you just die? I think you’d just die. No one could stay in that sort of pain for days, could they? You’d go mad, d’you suppose?”
Lokk Lurius spun in a slow circle, staring up into the thick canopy of Maug Maurai. How far had they gone from the camp? The imbecile had run for at least a mile. Only the sound of his sobs had allowed Lokk to find him. And when they walked back for a mile, the camp wasn’t there.
Unreasonable forest. A damned plague of the land.
“Do you think the others are dead?” Drisside rubbed his hands together, as if washing them. “Do you… do you think the demons got them?”
They had wandered for hours, shouting for the others. But the forest smothered shouts. Murdered sound. And the campsite remained hidden from them. They were lost. Ridiculously lost. Frustratingly, unreasonably lost.
Lokk walked forward a dozen paces and listened for any sound of the squad.
Drissdie had sworn that he recognized a leaning feuryk tree. Had sworn he knew the way back. So Lokk had followed the fool for another mile in the wrong direction. Traveling one mile in the wrong direction was trouble in Maug Maurai. But two miles was a death sentence. If left alone for long enough, the two of them would eventually find their way out. But Lokk had heard enough to know that Maug Maurai never left you alone.
He should have let Drissdie run to his death.
The mercenary spun again in a slow circle, but the carpet moss was like a green mist, veiling the world in sameness. How did Sage find his way through this labyrinth? How did an Eridian mercenary find himself here, lost in a murderous Laraytian forest?
The fool had doomed them both. A forest was the only enemy Lokk couldn’t kill. Drissdie Hannish had led him into a trap. An unreasonable ambush of grasping branches and slashing thorns.
“What do you think the trees were firing at us? I think it was snot. Frynn says demons can cover you in snot to keep you from moving. You think they were trying to capture us? So they could bring us to CWNCR, d’you suppose? Maybe they—”
Drissdie inhaled his next words as Lokk grabbed him with both hands and snarled.
The two soldiers plodded silently through the endless maze of Maug Maurai. Lokk wore a scowl that grew more profound with each crackling footstep. And Drissdie Hannish wore a gag.
They waded through a wide stream, plodding for several hundred paces to avoid a long line of sinister brambles. When they returned to land, it was to clamber over a fallen oak more than ten feet thick. A hundred paces past the tree, Drissdie made a series of word-shaped moans.
“Take it off again,” Lokk replied, “and I’ll have your tongue.”
Drissdie’s moans grew louder. He jabbed a finger toward the left again and again.
“If the word demon or snot comes out of your mouth,” Lokk said, “I will cut you into strips.”
Drissdie shook his head, looked toward the left and jabbed his finger again.
Lokk yanked the leather gag—made from Drissdie’s tabard—away from the young soldier’s mouth.
“We walked past that tree, d’you suppose? There was a black bird in it. Remember? It had a yellow beak. Really pretty. I remember. It was sitting on that branch, d’you suppose?”
Lokk studied the tree and shook his head. “Different tree. Put the gag back on.”
“Maybe…maybe we should just stay here, d’you suppose? Until the others find us?”
Lokk took a long breath, ran a fist over his brows. “No one is going to find us.” He turned to face Drissdie. “We are miles from anyone, in a forest that kills people.” He took a step toward the young soldier. “No one will hear us. No one will see us.” He took hold of Drissdie’s tabard again and pulled the soldier close, their faces inches apart. “Maybe I’ll just kill you now,” he snarled. “Save you the misery of being eaten. Because we’re on our own.” He shook Drissdie and the young soldier’s helm tumbled off and thumped on the moss. “Do you understand? No one is going to find us! No one!”
A voice called from the forest. “Oi! Someone there?”
Drissdie and Lokk—faces still inches apart—turned to look. A hulking shape crashed through a laurel patch.
“Found you,” said Black Murrogar. “Where are the others?”