High Moor 3 – Blood Moon – Prologue – Rough Version
We are only a couple of months away from the release of the new book. I’ve got a few more chapters to finish off then its off to the editor. The cover is coming along nicely as well. The image I’ve posted below is still concept art, but the elements are there and the rear cover blurb is almost done apart from a couple of little tweaks. Once we get this in full detail it’s going to look awesome.
Anyway, as I promised on the books Facebook Page, here is the current prologue of High Moor 3. It still needs work and hasn’t been past the editor yet so please forgive any errors and technical issues. Hopefully it will start getting you excited about where we are going with Blood Moon, though.
28th August 1995. Kozara National Park. Bosnia. 20.15.
Michael burst from the trees and sprinted across the clearing towards the old oak in the centre of the village. Filth and drying blood covered his naked body, and as he slowed, the last twinges of transformation began to fade from his aching limbs. He paused in front of the assembled villagers, struggling to catch his breath.
“They’re…coming. Over the mountain pass from Dera. Maybe five miles away, if that.”
Marie stepped forward and placed a blanket around her brother’s shoulders, then passed him a cup of water. She glanced at the other pack members, then turned her eyes downward, cheeks flushed scarlet with shame. Without a word, she shuffled backwards, away from Michael.
A murmur of uneasy conversation broke out among the pack members. A mixture of fear and outrage, depending on the temperament of the individuals. Connie and Isaac held little Megan close to them, whispering to her that everything would be alright, an action mirrored by the other parents as they attempted to sooth their worried children, while the more militant pack members bristled and snarled in outrage.
Markus, the pack alpha, motioned for silence, and the murmuring faded away. He turned his attention to Michael, fixing him with his clear green eyes. “How many, Mikhail? How many of them are coming?”
Michael shook his head. “I don’t know. Dozens. Maybe a hundred or more. Most of them looked like they were regular troops. 1st Krajina Corps maybe. But there were some special ops with them, and they had armour. I spotted two Gvozdika howitzers before I had to get out of there.”
Markus stroked his silver flecked beard, considering the information. “Are you certain that they are coming here? For us?”
Lukas Kassik pushed his way to the front of the crowd, his face a mask of barely suppressed rage. “Of course they are coming for us.” He motioned his head towards Marie, “That stupid whore left one of them alive after she went on her little excursion. They had a damn Moonstruck tear through their garrison on the last full moon. They may be little more than ignorant peasants, but they know the legends, and they know the paths their ancestors avoided. There can be no doubt as to their intentions.”
Kryztof Balazs, a huge, muscular Armenian with jet black hair and a thick beard moved up beside Lukas. “Then we make them understand why their ancestors feared this place. We should attack them, now, while they are still preparing themselves. Make the rivers run red with the blood of these dogs and leave their corpses to rot in the forest.”
Markus shook his head. “What good are teeth and claws against armour? These Vojska Republike Srpske troops are worse than the Nazi’s our fathers fought. They know what we are, and their legends tell them how to deal with Vukodlak. If we slaughter these, more will simply arrive to finish the job.”
Kryztof’s eyes bulged. “Alpha, with respect, you cannot be suggesting that we run? This place has been our home for centuries. To leave now, at the first hint of a threat and without a fight is unthinkable.”
Markus placed his arm on Kryztof’s shoulder. “I understand your anger, my friend, but think for just a moment. We have spent decades keeping our existence a secret. Killing Moonstruck before they expose us. The beast that attacked the garrison two weeks ago was unfortunate, but the superstitious fools burned the body after they killed it, so there is no evidence beyond a few mangled corpses. We cannot hope to beat them in an open confrontation, but if we leave, then they have nothing but a few empty cottages in the middle of the forest. Our secret remains exactly that, and the peasants will have nothing more than some new stories to frighten their children with.”
Michael looked up at the faces of his pack mates. Fear was quickly turning to anger, although those with children looked more relieved than anything. He paused for a second, unsure of how to impart the next piece of information, then pushed down his uncertainties. “There is one more thing. Their weapons are loaded with silver bullets.”
Lukas snarled at him. “And how can you be sure of that? Are your senses so acute that you can smell the silver in their rifles?”
Michael’s mouth went dry. There was no point in trying to hide his condition any longer. He shrugged off the blanket and brought his wolf up to the surface of his mind, focusing the transformation on his right index finger, wincing as a razor sharp talon burst through his flesh. Without a word, he sliced into his abdomen, biting his tongue until he tasted blood to keep the scream of agony in check. He dug around , and after a few seconds, retrieved a flattened lump of bloodstained metal. He then handed the bullet to Markus.
The pack leader’s eyes widened as he examined the round. “Mikhail. This is silver. How did you…?” He shook his head, although his expression remained troubled. “It doesn’t matter. Not now anyway. How you managed to heal from this is something to discuss another day. And we will discuss it. At length.” He held Michael’s gaze for a moment longer, and Michael thought he saw fear in the eyes of his alpha. Then Markus turned back to the others. “This settles things. They won’t attack at night, and the sun will set in less than an hour. We’ll burn this place to the ground and leave under cover of darkness. Take nothing. We’ll steal what we need on the way.”
Another burst of angry conversation sprang up from the assembled villagers. Some had already begun to move towards their homes, intent on retrieving precious keep-sakes, while others like Lukas and Kryztof protested their alpha’s decision. Michael noticed a glimmer in their eyes as they exchanged veiled, conspiratorial glances. Surely, though, they wouldn’t go against Markus’s decision? Not even Lukas would dare to make such a move? Would he?
Markus raised his hands and silenced the arguments with a look. He opened his mouth to speak, but then paused, angled his head upwards and a look of confusion crossed his face. Michael took an involuntary step backwards, unsure as to the meaning of his alpha’s actions. Then he heard the noise. A low rumble, as if an express train were bearing down on them. But there were no train lines for forty miles in any direction. His confusion mirrored that of his pack leader, until he remembered the mobile artillery units that he’d seen on the road.
He reached out his hand to Markus and screamed his name. Then the world exploded in a flash of noise, hot metal and pain.
Michael lay still for a moment, as his body struggled to knit his torn flesh back together. The pain overwhelmed his senses. His ears rang, and the stench of blood and burning meat assaulted his nostrils. He shook his head, as if to clear it, and opened his eyes.
A smoking crater dominated the centre of the clearing, it’s epicentre almost exactly at the point where Markus had stood seconds before. There was no sign of his alpha, but pieces of torn flesh and blood covered everything within twenty feet. The other members of the pack stood in mute silence, unable to believe what had just happened. Several of them were terribly wounded. Dmitri, who had brought Michael from England, ten years before, was missing most of his right leg, while Kasha, his wife, struggled to push her intestines back into her rapidly healing stomach cavity. Even Lukas and Kryztof seemed unable to process what had just happened. Their faces were blank, bloodstained masks of shock, and they stood by the side of the crater, gazing at the smouldering ruins of their alpha.
Michael’s ruptured ear-drums popped back into place, and he felt a warm rush of fluid stream down each cheek. Noise flooded back, as if he’d emerged from underwater. The cries of pain and fear from his pack-mates filled the air. And something else. The rumble of another inbound artillery shell.
He pushed himself to his feet and ran towards the others. “Go! Get into the forest. Now!”
One of the log cabins exploded in a fireball, sending vicious shards of wooden shrapnel into the air that sliced through the flesh of the villagers. His eyes sought his sister, who cowered beneath the branches of the grand old oak tree, along with Connie, Isaac, Megan and James. He ran to them, pushing them towards the trees on the northern side of the village. “We have to get out of here. Now. Head to the east, towards Grbavci and I’ll meet you at the edge of the forest.”
Marie shook her head. “No, come with us. I won’t leave without you.”
He pushed her away. “I’ll be right behind you, but I’ve got to get the others moving. I won’t leave anyone behind.”
Marie looked like she was about to argue, but then her shoulders sagged and she nodded her head in agreement. She put her arm around Connie’s shoulders and led her friends towards the edge of the village, while Michael tried to help Dmitri and Kasha to their feet.
Kasha’s face was pale, and streaked with sweat, but she’d managed to push her innards back inside, and her wound had already closed. Dmitri was another story. Tattered strips of flesh hung from his severed leg, and several wooden splinters the size of baseball bats protruded from his chest. Michael looked around and saw, to his relief, that the rest of the pack were stumbling after Marie. He called out to Steffan, one of Markus’s closest advisors, who was close to the rear of the retreating group. “Steffan, I need some help here. I can’t carry him on my own.”
Steffan looked back, and without hesitation ran to Michael’s side.
Dmitri was on the verge of unconsciousness, but managed to shake his head and growl at Michael. “Leave me. Get Kasha clear instead. I’ll just slow you down.”
Kasha struggled to her feet and yanked one of the splinters out of her husband’s chest, eliciting a scream from Dmitri. “Enough of that talk, Dmitri Kosovan, or I’ll twist the next one as I pull. Stop whining like a kicked puppy and get on your foot.”
Another cottage erupted in a fireball, and Michael felt a warm rush from his leg as wooden shrapnel shredded his flesh. He ignored the burning sensation, and metallic aroma of his own blood, and, with Steffan’s assistance, dragged Dmitri up from the ground.
They’d made it halfway across the clearing when, above the cries of pain from the wounded pack members, and the crackle of flames from the burning buildings, came another sound. The rhythmic thud of an inbound chopper. Michael exchanged a worried look with Steffan, and they pushed themselves harder, but it was too late. Above the trees to the south, rose the sleek, insect-like shape of a Soko Gazelle helicopter. Weapon pylons protruded from the aircraft’s side, and almost immediately the Gazelle began to rain heavy machine gun fire and rockets down on the fleeing werewolves. The trees to the north erupted in a column of flame and smoke, scattering bodies like confetti across the clearing.
Michael felt his heart lurch. Marie had been heading for those trees. He screamed her name, just as the nose of the helicopter tilted towards him. Then the world turned red.
20th December 2008. Underhill Military Base, Sublevel Four. 08.27.
Michael’s eyes snapped open. He felt a moment’s disorientation at the bright fluorescent glare of the overhead light, and the overpowering stench of disinfectant. Cold metal pressed against his bare skin, and when he tried to sit up, he found his arms, legs and chest restrained by thick nylon bands. He struggled to piece together his thoughts, his mind thick with the remnants of a narcotic haze. It came back to him then. The battle at the cottage in Scotland, against pack mates that he’d known for years. Fire. Blood. The military units falling upon him as he tried to heal the terrible burns he’d received. He was still in the military base that they’d brought him to. This was bad.
A face peered at him. Bald, with a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and a forest of nasal hair protruding from wide, flaring nostrils. Terrible halitosis. The face smiled. “Ah, good. You’re awake. I would have been rather disappointed if you weren’t conscious for the experiment.”
The man backed away, out of his field of vision. Michael tried to turn his head, but found that another thick strap across his forehead prevented him from moving.
“What are you doing?” He asked, his voice thick with the lingering effects of the drugs.
The man ignored him and busied himself with some metallic implements that scraped and rattled on a tray somewhere to the right.
“Hmm, now, let’s see. The date is 20th December 2008 at approximately…erm…zero eight thirty hours. The subject is a male lycanthrope, Caucasian origin, possibly from Northern England based on his accent.”
The man’s face appeared once more. He held a vicious looking blade with serrated edges that glinted in the harsh glare of the overhead lights. “Today, we shall attempt to ascertain the limit of the subject’s regenerative capabilities and pain threshold.”