Thursday, October 6, 2011
Excerpt from VAMPIRE AUTHOR, Steven Montano's BLOOD SKIES
Something ancient has awoken. Primordial and wholly evil, a living shadow emerges from a prison made weak by the magical cataclysm called The Black. Now the Sleeper stalks the land in search of its old enemies, leaving a trail of madness and destruction in its wake.
Eric Cross, a Southern Claw warlock, has been sent to find the Woman in the Ice, the only known means to stopping this evil. Aided by a grizzled ranger and a band of wardens and inmates from a sadistic prison, Cross’ mission will bring him into conflict with an array of foes: the barbaric Gorgoloth, vampire shock troops out of the Ebon Cities, and a cadre of mercenary nihilists called the Black Circle.
On a mission that will take him from a lost temple once ruled by insidious wolf sorcerers to the vicious gladiator games of the vampire city-state of Krul to the deadly ruins of an ice city, Cross will play a pivotal role in an ancient conflict whose outcome will determine the future of the world.
Return to the world of Blood Skies in this exciting military fantasy adventure!
Excerpt from Chapter 2: Dreadnaught
They rode quietly across the ghostly ice plains. They stepped carefully to avoid sharp stones, patches of ice, and areas too brittle to support their weight.
Hours passed in near silence. Cross would have liked to sleep in the saddle, but it wasn’t going to happen. His nerves were alight, thanks in no small part to the nagging paranoia of his spirit. But that wasn’t entirely it: Cross disliked the notion of being directed by a prophecy. The fact that Sajai seemed to have known there was going to be something there in the Reach that Cross needed to follow unnerved him. It was like a trap had been laid by the universe, and he was walking straight into it.
The plains sloped down near a cluster of bone white trees rimed with dark frost. The skeletal remains of a tall humanoid creature sat near the trees; one of its hands was frozen so that it looked like it pointed back the way Cross and Dillon had ridden from.
Cross tried not to take it as a sign.
At the bottom of the slope was a thin canyon that was maybe twenty feet across. The only apparent means to cross to the other side was to use a thin log that traversed the distance like a crude bridge. Frozen pools of blood waited at the bottom of the slope, next to the log.
A cluster of thick trees and rocks waited at the far end of the gap, and beyond the tress waited the unseen source of the streaming smoke.
“You smell that?” Cross asked. He smelled fire and fuel. “It’s an airship.” They couldn’t see any wreckage from where they were, but the smell made him certain.
“Could it be one of ours?” Dillon asked.
“I can’t think of a reason why a Southern Claw airship would be this far north,” Cross said. The Ebon Cities’ vessels used hexed organic fuel that smelled entirely different than that used by Southern Claw airships, so it was unlikely that the vessel was of vampiric origins. Cross deduced that it was probably a stolen or reconstructed vessel, like those used by smugglers and raiders.
Cross’ spirit moved ahead on her own. Thin lines of spectral essence connected them, which gave Cross an awareness of the area ahead. He felt the heat of fires and he smelled burning skin. He heard voices, and saw auras of pain. Lost and dead spirits roamed the air like predators in blood waters, but Cross’ spirit had become expert at protecting herself, and she eluded those wailing souls before they could do her harm.
Cross felt multiple living presences ahead, moving on the other side of the trees and stones. There were voids there, as well, unspaces where beings should have stood, but didn’t.
“We’ve got vampires ahead,” Cross said, and he and Dillon dismounted.
They readied their weapons.
“How many?” Dillon asked.
“I’m not sure. Two, maybe three.”
“That could be rough for just the two of us.”
His spirit bristled at that. She didn’t like Dillon not counting her as part of the group. She’d developed quite the temper.
I need to be careful of that. If she flares out of control and catches me off guard, we’ll all be in trouble.
“There’s more,” Cross said. He had his HK45 in one hand; he molded his spirit in the other, his gauntleted hand. He didn’t latch onto her form too tightly, but held her ethereal tendrils like a rein, firm enough to let her know she’d be needed back soon. She extended her form to the other side of the open canyon, but at his command she moved, smoke-like, back to him, and she surrounded his body and filled his lungs with a burning sensation. Warmth filled him, vaguely erotic and invigorating, but at the same time painful and poisonous. She was like some dread hashish.
“There are a half-dozen other life forms over there, too. Maybe more…it’s hard to say.”
Dillon chewed on that for a moment. His dark beard was cut close to his angular face, which always looked grim.
“Human?” he asked.
“Damn.” Dillon spat. “Is there anything you are sure about?”
“I’m sure I don’t want to go over there,” Cross nodded.
About the author: Steven Montano started writing at the age of 18 and never really stopped. A graduate with distinction from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Steven took his Creative Writing degree and became an accountant, instead. He still hasn’t figured out why.
Now, Steven writes the Blood Skies series. His wife runs a popular online yarn shop, and his kids just drive him crazy. They all live in a rain shelter in Washington State.
Visit Steven’s official website, bloodskies.com