I'm interrupting my blog series on the Bible for a brief update on my writing progress.
As a way of saying "I'm sorry this is taking so long" to my readers, here is an unedited sample from my upcoming novel THE CHRONICLES OF FU XI, Book 3: THE BASTARD GODS.
I'm making slow but steady progress and I am still hoping for a 2018 release.
The Demon Fish
The two men stood, side-by-side at the barge’s edge, in comfortable contemplation as if pondering something so casual as an afternoon swim. Arms crossed, Levidi rested all his weight on one leg like a crane, scratching the back of his calf with his toe. Ghalen leaned lazily on his crooked spear and scratched his nose. They talked softly as the enormous fin sliced slowly back and forth in the gentle waves a few yards away.
“They’re not serious, are they?” Ezra whispered to Sana. “It’s almost a third the length of the barge.”
“Yes,” she replied flatly. Sana had seen this scene many times before among her people, the Scythians. It was the way men spoke to one another before the hunt, or before battle. These were murmurs of strategy, scheming or just mischief.
A crowd of men and boys gathered behind Sana and Ezra, careful not to get close enough to the edge, lest they unbalance the barge.
“It’s too far,” Levidi kept his voice level, but Sana could detect his excitement at the size of the monster cruising just below the surface.
“I wonder how it tastes?” Ghalen squinted, as if in deep thought.
“I bet its wondering the same thing,” Sana remarked just loud enough to ensure being heard.
Ghalen ignored her.
“Its hide looks tough,” Levidi pondered.
“Yes,” Ghalen raised his eyebrow. That it does. The spear may not penetrate.”
“Perhaps its hide is tough enough to repair our deck bindings.” Okta stepped alongside Sana, followed by Alaya.
“Don’t encourage them!” Sana gave Okta a not-so-gentle shove to the laughter of the crowd.
Okta shrugged. “It’s just a fish.”
“Men are all the same. Not a shred of sense.” Sana remembered how a much smaller demon fish had sliced a sea dog in two with just a bite. This one looked like it could swallow a man whole. Sana looked around for Aizarg. She spotted him on the opposite end of the barge, back to them and staring off into the distance.
He will be of no help, she thought.
The demon fish began to slowly cruise closely alongside the barge. Levidi, Ghalen and the gallery followed.
“We’re going to have to jab it if we stand any chance of puncturing the skin,” Levidi said.
Ghalen’s shook his head. “It’s too far for a spear jab, I’ll have to throw.”
Levidi pursed his lips and looked as if calculating the distance. “You’ll just lose the spear.”
“That twig isn’t going to penetrate that thing’s skin.” Arms crossed and losing her patience, Sana followed a few paces behind. Behind them, the Lo straggled along, heads craning and murmuring expectantly.
The sun lorded high above, the dappling reflections making it difficult for Sana to see. The big gray fin, three hands high, sliced back and forth as if daring the men to attack.
Ezra leaned toward Sana and spoke in a low tone, “Even if they do spear it, how are they going to get it on the barge?”
“I have no idea.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, they agreed to let Ghalen throw the spear.
“Remember, that is my spear,” Levidi reminded.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Ghalen screwed up his face in concentration and brushed back his thick blonde hair. Then, he cocked back his arm.
Ghalen’s skill with the spear always amazed Sana, and was legendary among the Lo. If any man here had a chance of slaying the beast, it was him.
The wooden tip hit dead square behind the shark’s head, and bounced off harmlessly. It landed with a weak splash before beginning to drift away.
Levidi shrugged. “Tough fish.”
Ghalen nodded. “It will take metal to punch through that hide.”
They looked at one another and, as if reading each others’s thoughts, grinned knowingly.
“I know that look.” Alaya grabbed Sana’s arm. “He’s about to do something stupid.”
Ghalen and Levidi simultaneously drew their daggers from their loin-cloth straps.
“They’re not…” Sana looked on in disbelief.
“They are!” Ezra smiled broadly and snatched the knife from his loincloth.
“One of us takes the top, the other the bottom,” Ghalen said.
“Fair enough, stay clear of its tail,” Levidi gave each of his legs a brief shake to limber up.
“Another good point.”
“Levidi! Stop this foolishness,” Alaya screamed.
“It’s okay, my song bird. Me and Ghalen know what we’re doing.”
“Ghalen?” Sana asked incredulously.
“It’s just a fish,” he winked at her.
“It’s a fish as big as a wooly rhino with the teeth of a lion!”
Ghalen and Levidi nodded at one another and, knives drawn, a moment later jumped on top of the beast.
A mighty cheer went up from the Lo.
Ezra scrambled to join them, but Sana snatched him back by the arm. “Don’t be stupid. You swim worse than I do.”
Knife between his teeth, Levidi dove deep as Ghalen grabbed the beast’s dorsal fin and plunged his blade just ahead of the fin.
The water exploded in spray and blood. The beast rolled and thrashed, and Sana finally saw the monster’s true size... and its teeth. Each bigger than a lion’s tooth, they stood in jagged rows. If either man lost their grip, the creature would spin about and rend them to pieces. Just as bad, its crescent-shaped tail would smash them.
Sana shuddered as she finally got a look at the beast’s eyes, which were unlike anything she’s ever seen in a fish or land dwelling creature. They were like obsidian stones, lifeless and cold.
Every roll revealed Levidi clinging to the pectoral fin; each stab created a brief red bloom on the it’s underbelly before the sea washed away the blood. Ghalen held on to a dorsal fin and sliced bloody ribbons down the beast’s back.
Okta looked on, though to Sana he didn’t seem concerned. “Ezra, go fetch one of the two good coils of rope from my raft.”
Ezra slowly backed away, as if unable to take his eyes off the battle.
“Go, son. We’re going to need that rope soon.”
The beast suddenly snapped its body into a “U” shape, shrugging Ghalen off its fin. Before Sana could register what was happening, the fish snapped the other way, slapping Ghalen with its tail so violently he sailed out of the water and onto the deck, bowling over several men lined up along the edge. His knife skittered along the deck and stopped as Sana’s feet.
Okta clenched his knife between his teeth and dove in, followed by most of the Lo men. Soon, men covered the demon fish like ants, knives piercing and slashing.
Ghalen lay unmoving, a large red abrasive rash on his chest weeping blood in some places. Sana dropped to her knees beside him, shaking his chest.
Alaya knelt beside her. “He’s not breathing!”
“Ghalen!” Sana pushed on his chest, trying to rouse him.
Ghalen reached up and grabbed Sana by the back of the neck, pulling her down and kissing her hard. He rolled over on top of her, and pressed his body against hers. At first, she resisted, but Ghalen pressed her arms over her head, and inserted his hips between her legs. She began to melt as his tongue, and the tang of salt and blood, filled her mouth and ignited her Scythian blood.
He pressed harder. She pressed back, and let a moan escape.
Alaya scooted back and giggled.
“Sana?” Ghalen whispered tenderly.
“Yes?” Sana panted and fought the urge to push her pelvis harder against his.
“Where’s my knife?”
She looked at him oddly, wondering if she heard him correctly.
He glanced left and his face lit up. “There it is!” He snatched it off the deck, scrambled up and leapt back into the water to join the melee.
Cool air invaded the spaces where hot flesh once covered. Sana exhaled and covered her face with her hands. “I hope the beast bites his head off.”
Alaya giggled again.
Did you like the sample but haven't read any of my books? Begin the adventure with the historical fantasy novel BLACK SEA GODS.