Author Jesse Teller stops by the blog and shares an excerpt from his most recently released Hemlock, book two of his epic dark fantasy series, The Manhunters. He’s also recently revealed his cover for Crown, book three of The Manhunters. It looks great!
The Manhunters Book Two
The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.
The Decimation of Midvor
Dusk lay uneasy on the abandoned farmland. Crops grew out of control, wheat on the ground, too heavy for its stalks. Corn slumped, raided by crows and other birds. A hush had fallen over the surrounding land, and Rayph Ivoryfist and Sisalyyon stood on the road hidden within the trees, studying the town and its growing shadows.
“You say your people told you of the animals here?” Rayph asked.
“The trees are restless,” she whispered. “All animal life, save the birds, has vanished. The people all left.”
From the tracks of carts that had passed, they looked to be carrying very little. Maybe a hundred people had walked this road recently, but Rayph doubted they had much in the way of belongings. “Can you tap into the forest while I go check things out?” he asked.
Sisalyyon nodded. She stepped into the gloom of the trees and dropped her cloak, exposing her naked body. Rayph pulled his eyes away, thinking of his wife and how long it had been since he had seen her.
Sisalyyon was the most ravishing woman Rayph had ever seen. Her perfection was a thing of legend. He heard her roots take the ground, and he turned to see her warping into the form of a cherry tree. The half-dryad dug into the ground. Her arms exploded into branches and blossoms. Her face alone remained that of a woman, and she nodded at Rayph as tears of sap rolled down her cheeks.
“It’s all dead. On the other side of the village, a mass grave holds hundreds of animals. Everything here is either dead or has fled,” she said. “So much decay and murder.”
She heaved as she wept, and Rayph nodded grimly. “Keep me posted.” He stepped from the trees and walked the road to the heart of the village of Midvor and the isolation it promised. Crows screamed at him, raising a storm of belligerent cacophony that gave Rayph pause. He pushed on, letting the night and the sudden chill weigh heavy on his mind. Darkness seemed in a rush, as if filled with bloodlust for the death of the day. Blood red clouds and the bruised purple sky spoke of the brutality of the night’s advance. Rayph touched his dagger, feeling the ally within kick, suddenly awake.
“Are we alone, Fannalis?” One pulse and Rayph knew they were not. He crossed the threshold of the arch over the main road and into the ragged edges of the village, where the houses teetered and moaned with the burgeoning wind. He felt it then, eyes resting on him as he moved, hungry eyes devouring every detail and plotting as he walked. Every door hid shadowy secrets. Every curtain waved in the wind, betraying the darkness within the abode, hungry and waiting.
Fear stabbed Rayph as he walked the dead village, and he wondered at what might have scared away its citizens. He reached the center and found the mill and the town pub. The mill house squealed as the vanes overhead slowly turned, casting new shadows. The mill door was an open mouth, waiting and set to snap closed.
Rayph turned his back to it and approached the pub door. He touched the handle and spat a word, hearing the lock on the other side slide, and the door burst open to slam the frame. The stench of old blood and dead flesh assaulted him. He spat a word, light burst forth from his hand, and he flew into the room.
Chairs had been shattered. Blood splashed the wall and sat in dry, peeling puddles on the tables and floors. Signs of murder hung everywhere, with no indication of the bodies that should be left. He searched the floor for drag marks and found none. Rayph moved on, stepping past tables, cracked and broken, and floorboards creaking, to make his way to the bar and jump behind it.
A great struggle had taken place here. The body of a mighty man lay in shreds on the ground, arms rent and ragged, tossed away as they were ripped free. Huge gashes in the thighs and neck, the face had contorted into a grimace of such pain as to drive a man insane. But the blood was scarce and the prints in it made little sense. He saw handprints and strange smears, marks that could have been knees, and a lack of puddles that nagged at his memory.
“I have faced this horror before, but I know not when,” he whispered.
Check out more info on Jesse and The Manhunters series at the following links:
Main website: http://www.jeramygoble.com