In a Wolf's Eyes
Saga of the Black Wolf
A. Katie Rose
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Date of Publication: April, 27, 2012
Number of pages: 497 (approx.)
Word Count: 155,000
Cover Artist: Ginny Glass
Raine is a slave, a gladiator. Known as the Bloody Wolf, he is the champion of all champions in the Empire of Khalid. Ly'Tana is a warrior princess of Kel'Halla and is set to wed the heir to Khalid's throne, Crown Prince Broughton. When Raine and his new wizard pal, Rygel, accidentally murder the High King, they set in motion events rapidly spiraling out of control. Ly'Tana discovers the true, and violent, nature of her betrothed, a man nicknamed Prince Brutal for his vicious nature, and escapes her marriage.
But Brutal will stop at nothing to have her for his wife. To entice his runaway bride into a trap, he brings down and captures her griffin bodyguard, Bar. Ly'Tana vows to have Bar back or die trying. She seeks the help of Raine and Rygel, and frees Bar from Brutal's clutches. Yet, in doing so, Raine and Ly'Tana are forced to flee for their lives, hunted by Brutal's secretive assassins.
Can they escape the hunters and their silent, evil hounds? Can Ly'Tana evade Brutal's hungry need to marry her and seize her beloved country? Can Raine keep Ly'Tana alive and still save himself from capture and torture? Can they stop themselves from falling in love?
Thus begins the first novel of The Saga of the Black Wolf series.
Driven by the panic that still crept forward to nag at the edges of my mind, I lurched onward for another hour. I hopped and skipped forward, keeping the fear and panic at bay by concentrating on not tripping over rocks or deadwood. I quickened my pace to that of a crippled beggar. If the Tongu came for me now, they would have no trouble whatsoever in overtaking me. I tried to increase my speed, hobbling and skipping along, but despite my care, stones and undergrowth constantly tripped me up. I set my jaw grimly, and stubbornly stumbled on.
The deathly quiet around me informed me they hunted me still. How close were they? The pervading evil only told me they were close, but not how close. They might be a mile behind, or only a few rods. I'd never know until their hounds nipped my heels. They knew I was naked and injured and had nowhere to go. With Wolf tamed and broken or dead (my mind shied away from that thought), they knew I was no match for them. I despised the fact that they were right.
Kel'Ratan and the rest of my warband lay only a few leagues to the east. No doubt, they were already hunting for me, worried, seeking me with every resource they had at their disposal. They would have no idea where Wolf might have taken me, but I knew they would have started a search of the forest. Wanting to estimate my position from the escarpment, I decided I was further from it than I previously thought. I struggled on.
Something passed between the sun and me. A bird? Whatever it was flit past the candle of my eye in less than a heartbeat. I glanced up, but saw nothing but sun and green. I stopped mid-hobble, scanning what I could see of the sky between the tops of the trees, looking, searching all around for another shadow. Could it be? Come back, come back, damn it.
Two grizzled hounds burst out from the undergrowth a few rods from me. Their lips skinned back from savage white teeth, but once again, in a fleet instant, I saw their muzzled tied shut. Whipping my crutch out from under my arm, I cocked it. Balancing my weight on my good right leg, I swung the crutch, now a heavy club. I had chosen well. Solid oak and still green, it was as hard as iron. The hound, a few strides ahead of its mate, leaped toward me. My club caught the beast squarely on the side of its head. Skull crunched under the impact. I had no time to consider its death, when the other hound also leaped, snarling voiceless.
My warrior instincts and training took over. As in swordplay, rather than meet it head on, I melted to the side. My weight, solid on my right leg, shifted me to my right, where I held the club. The hound's leap took him past me, but he wheeled. Almost mid-jump, he turned, his hind legs thrusting him forward, digging furrows in the dirt. My club, on its returning swing, caught the hound under the jaw. I hit him hard enough to snap him backward. He flipped up and back, hitting the ground hard on his spine and tail.
I didn't look to see if I killed him. I knew the Tongu would run right behind their hellhounds. I readied myself, my stout club, undamaged by the two hard impacts, raised high.
They did not disappoint me. Three of them burst out from under the trees, their tattooed faces and scarred throats as familiar as old friends. Undaunted by my readiness and my club, they rushed at me. They held no weapons in their hands. So they still wanted me alive.
Come on, big boy. Let's dance.
The first one ducked my swing, but I still hit him on the shoulder rather than his head I aimed at. He staggered to the side, passing me by. My returning blow caught the second in the ribs. His choked off wheeze told me I did some real damage. I set myself to receive the third when my left leg failed me utterly.
I needed two sound legs with which to fight. When I instinctively sought to balance on both legs to bring my club around to swing at the third Tongu, running a few feet behind his brothers, my left leg collapsed under me. My wild swing missed the Tongu completely. His arm around my waist finished what my treacherous left leg started. I went down, the Tongu's foul smelling, hissing body on top of mine.
The impact knocked the wind from me. Gasping for much needed breath, I hit him, hard, on the ear with my fist. History surely repeats itself, for the Tongu hissed in pain and struck me a wicked blow across the face.
Half-stunned and sick with pain, I struggled, kicking upward with my knee, seeking his soft genitals. I hit only his rock hard thigh instead. He grunted, his dark evil eyes peering down at me, his triumphant grin white in his tanned face. He pinned me solidly, my wrists hard against the damp earth and dead leaves. I lost my grip on my club.
"We got you now, bitch," he hissed, his foul breath reeking in my nostrils.
I conjured saliva into my dry mouth and spit.
As in my archery, my aim was true. Squarely into his leering right eye, my spit hit. His face contorted into a mask of rage and hate. This time his fist almost made me lose consciousness.
Darkness filled my sight. No. Wait. My eyes, open wide, still contained vision. The darkness filled the forest. Beyond the Tongu's foul, grinning face, something impossibly huge blocked the sun, casting all into shadow. A deep, resonant sound, never before heard by a living human being, roared into the evil silence. Rage. Hate. Fury. None of those words could describe the daemonic sound that filled the forest. The earth shook under the sheer magnitude of that sound. I jerked my head, tossing my hair from my eyes.
The Tongu's evil eyes widened in sudden frantic panic. His leering mouth bowed down in horror. Blood drained from his darkly tanned skin, leaving his flesh paler than pale. He began to turn, slow, too slow, to face this new peril. His hands released mine as he made to boost himself off me, to throw himself off me. To escape.
A huge eagle's claw, with talons the length of a man's hand and sharp enough to gut a dragon reached down. It scooped him up, circled his torso, lifted him from me with all the effort a man might use to lift a mug of ale. So precise did those deadly talons seize him, I felt no touch of those claws on my bare belly at all.
Devil's eyes. Daemon's eyes. Yellow and black. With the dark shadows behind, the devil's eyes glowed yellow and black. For surely hell herself had vomited up this monster.
How can a man with no voice scream? Yet scream he did. His black eyes rolled back into his head, revealing the whites. The Tongu struggled, pushing against the immense hand that held him fast in its deadly grip. Yet his struggles were those of a mouse caught within the jaws of the cat. A savage raptor beak the size of a horse's head bent down -
- Bar bit deep into the Tongu's neck.
As I might have torn off a chunk of meat with my teeth, he ripped the man's body in half. The Tongu's heart and brain lived for a moment longer than he did. His hissing, wailing scream as Bar tossed the two pieces of the man's corpse into the brush died away and was lost.
Catlike, he spun. His tail whipped the air above me, his lion hind legs digging deep furrows into the loamy forest soil to either side of me. I half sat up in time to see the other two Tongu bolt. One reached the safety of the trees. The other .
Bar pounced on him. Dirt and dead leaves flew about me in a shower as he lunged after the fleeing assassin. This one had no time to scream. Bar's eagle front foot caught the Tongue by the shoulder, ripping down, taking off not only the shoulder, but sheared deep into his torso. His raptor's beak tore the man's head off. Shaking his foot as a person might shake water off his hand, Bar discarded the corpse that caught on his wicked talons. As hardened as I was by war, battle and violence, my gut lurched at the sight of both men's ravaged corpses. While Bar accompanied me in battle, protected me from enemies, guarded my back, I had never seen him kill before with such ruthlessness, such a savage viciousness.
He still wasn't satisfied. The hound I injured hobbled on three legs, eerily whining and chuffing, followed after his surviving master into the forest. Bar's single swipe cut the dog in half, red blood fountaining high to splash redly on a nearby tree trunk.
Never before had I ever been afraid of my griffin. Never in all our years together had I ever felt in any danger from him. Never before had I looked at my friend and all but pissed myself.
When he wheeled about to face me, streaked with thick dark blood over his eagle's beak, down his feathered mane, his raised right claw oozing gore, my empty bladder loosened. A raw, primitive terror ran through me. The terror a defenseless human felt when faced with a furious predator, a predator that killed easily and with little effort. The red gore, his lifted razor-sharp talons, failed to frighten me. 'Twas his eyes that caused my gut to lurch in sudden panic, caused my throat to close and shut off all breath. His raptor eyes, those daemon eyes, filled with such a lust for blood, for human blood, brought out the primordial fear in me.
He blinked. In that instant, Bar returned to sanity. I suddenly saw my friend in those awful black and yellow daemon eyes. Bar's concern, worry and panic over my safety returned with such a wash of love I began to cry. I flung my arms about his feathered neck, weeping with unashamed relief. My body shook uncontrollably, delayed reactions from the pain, the panic, the trauma of my ordeal bringing out a flurry of the shakes.
Sitting down on his lion haunches, Bar held me close to him, his taloned right foot circling my back, his feathered head bowed over my shoulder. The blood of his victims dripped down over my naked body, but I didn't care. Sharp chirps and hisses told me of his anxiety and worry. When neither Wolf nor I arrived at the monastery, he flew in all directions since dawn, searching for me.
His immense presence, his soft fur-feather mane scenting of blood, musty earth and sweet air, his huge body wrapped about mine brought with them some measure of quiet to my jangled nerves. My tears wetted his mane, dripping from a white feather to the ground below. I sniffled, my nostrils sucking in stray lion hairs. I sneezed. Choking on tears and snorted laughter, I finally grew some sense and straightened.
Leaning against his sturdy shoulder, I pulled my hair back from my face and looked into his predatory tawny eyes.
"What kept you?"
About the Author:
A. Katie Rose is a Colorado native, and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. She enjoys riding, teaching and learning from horses, likes camping, reading novels, watching movies and, of course, lives to write fantasy books. She currently works as a photographer in San Antonio, Texas, and is a slave to her six cats and four horses."In a Wolf's Eyes" is her first novel.