So begins the release of the first 15 chapters of HowlSage. These are still not 100% cleaned up and edited. But you're getting the first look at new content, new scenes, and even some expanded character roles. Enjoy and mostly comment what you think, or if you find a mistake, or have a question!
A bright green flash exploded across the screen accompanied by the sharp pang of metal. Then a cloak darted across the live feed.
“What is that thing?” I asked.
No one spoke.
“He can’t hear us,” Mr. Swigart said. “His earpiece is damaged.”
The image from my dad’s body camera jerked up and down. My dad’s labored breaths echoed over the speakers.
“Coordinates?” asked McGarrett.
“Last triangulation put him in tunnel K56, section 91,” Mr. Swigart said.
“If you can . . . me,” my dad said, the transmission cutting out. “I’m not . . . what . . . is . . . appears to . . . but I’ve not. . .”
The screen flashed as my dad deflected another strike.
Dad twisted, and the video bounced as he sparred. An unearthly screech sent shivers over me.
Dad backed away, his weapon before him. His opponent stood disarmed. Its image was grainy and cast in shadow. Its face remained hidden beneath a hood. The assailant bumped against the hewn rock wall behind it.
“What . . . you?” asked my dad.
A wheezy laugh filled the tunnel.
“Wh . . . are . . . y. . . called, demon?” Dad asked again.
Its teeth flashed a smile. They shone bright green through the night vision.
“Then . . . gone in the name—” the video feed jerked. A glimpse of a scaly arm and torso shot across the screen, and the camera went black.
“Dad!” I cried.
Gasping for air, my eyes burst open. My chest heaved. My white V-neck was soaked, and I wiped sweat from my forehead.
Embers crackled in the hearth. I’d fallen asleep in the blue wing-backed chair in my room. It wasn't the first time since my dad’s death that I’d had this nightmare. The memory of his last moments alive.
I rubbed away several tears. Don’t cry. You’re stronger than that.
I stared into the burning coals. A book laid open in my lap. I shoved it to the floor.
My stomach ached. My shoulders felt tense. Anxiety consumed me like a beast with cornered prey. My heart thumped. My mind felt numb, and it felt as though at any moment, I’d succumb and be forever mindless. The last two weeks were nothing but training, and now the Day of Rising was almost here.
After dinner, I went to my room to prepare. Not how you might think someone would get ready for a death-match-fight with a demon: sword practice, physical training, or test flying my jetpack. No, instead I read scripture. Scripture! I glanced at the Bible on the floor; it was my dad’s.
These stories were told to me all my life. Every year in Sunday school the teacher made the rounds: creation, the flood, Moses, Samson, David, and Goliath, etc. What did they expect me to learn now? This text was thousands of years old, and it wasn‘t changing today, or ever. A fact my trainer, McGarrett Riley, said should give comfort.
A piece of firewood popped. I could lose hours staring at the hypnotic dance of the flames. A trance might have been precisely what I needed to take my mind off of the nightmare. Off the helpless feeling that filled me.
A knock on my door ended hope of that.
“Taylor?” Ike asked.
“Come in.” I shifted lazily in the chair.
The door creaked. Ike’s footfalls were soft on the wood floor in his moccasin slippers. “Were you reading?”
“Naw.” I recalled the nightmare about my father. “Relaxing.”
Ike stood behind my chair. “I can’t sleep,” he said.
“I know the feeling.” Though our reasons were different, I couldn’t sleep because I was anxious; he couldn’t sleep because he was excited.
“I sketched a picture of it for you.” Ike handed me a drawing. “I drew it based on a description in that old journal we found: The HowlSage Haunting.”
I straightened as I looked at the grizzly, unsettling image in my hand.
“Have you read it yet?”
I paused guiltily. “No.”
“You should. You can learn from the mistakes the hunter mentioned in the journal. He was a veteran of twenty years before he got maimed.”
Ike meant well, but the fact that a twenty-year veteran got maimed despite his experience and training was what my mind focused on. I was not a veteran. I was hardly a trainee.
“If you’re going to bug me, at least bring good news.” My face flushed with frustration. As the words left my lips, I wanted to take them back. I wasn’t angry at Ike.
Without a word, his footsteps padded away and the door shut. I should have gone after Ike, but pride held me back. I pulled my knees to my chest and stared into the hearth. Scenes from the last few weeks’ crash course training flashed through my mind.
At my dad’s memorial, I overheard McGarrett talking to the head of our society, Sir Raven Grey. He had the title sir because the Queen of England knighted him.
McGarrett said, “He is the youngest hunter I have ever trained.” He seemed unsure of himself as he said it, as if asking Sir Grey to offer a different trainee to McGarrett instead of Taylor.
But Sir Grey replied, “We believe he is the youngest in all our history. But it is clear; Taylor is chosen. And you are the one to train him.”
McGarrett looked at me and then straightened when he realized I was listening to their conversation. He tried covering by calling me over for an introduction. It wasn't my youth as much as my lack of experience that put me at a disadvantage. And that’s what seemed most concerning to McGarrett at that moment.
The next day McGarrett started my formal training to become a demon hunter. He asked if I wanted to train. But a demon had just killed my father, and I wanted revenge, so there wasn’t much doubt that I would accept.
You see, the specific demon I was training to hunt wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill demon that stole candy and pinched babies to make them cry. No, a HowlSage was one of the deadliest, one of the most effective demons to walk the earthly realm. The HowlSage embodied the fierce qualities and abilities of a wolf, with the strength of ten men.
But none of that mattered. What mattered was getting revenge for my dad’s death. To banish the demon, and find out whoever summoned it, and make sure they could never do it again. We called that person the Cloak because that’s all we saw that night through my dad’s video feed: a dark figure in a dark cloak. Not much to go on, and we were already out of time.
The next full moon was in two days, October 3rd. HowlSagen, as was the plural form, rose only on the full moon before a full moon that occurred on Halloween. A full moon on Halloween was never a guarantee a HowlSage would rise, but with the increase in goblin activity at the old coal mine tunnels and the presence of the Cloak, a HowlSage rising was likely. My dad discovered the den for the HowlSage which the Cloak had built. The den had all the ceremonial items used to raise a HowlSage on the full moon. Before my dad could destroy it or tell us the den’s location, he was killed.
When we went back, his body was nowhere to be found. I still wasn’t over that. I didn't even have the chance to lay him to rest.
We searched for the HowlSage den, but it was moved. So we didn't know where the HowlSage would rise. The mines were extensive and peppered the mountain range that shadowed Ashley Meadows. And because I was still training, McGarrett wouldn't let me explore alone, stopping any chance of finding the new nest before the HowlSage rose.
I stared at Ike’s sketch, this was a HowlSage. This demon was what I would find and banish.
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