Excerpt: Theoreticals of Illusories

In advance of the publication of Theoreticals of Illusories on February 1, here is a short excerpt:

I sit in the chill alone, another mile further down the road, staring up at the sky and watching my breath as it forms puffs of vanishing clouds. The air is the way only winter can make it, sharp and crisp, cutting at my lungs as it goes down my throat. Clouds are gathering, distant on the horizon, foreshadowing the storm I know is coming. Wind, snow, and tumult; the storm of our humanity will not even register.

I can see a fire in the distance, not far from where I crouch in the miserable shelter of a few trees. It must be no more than half a mile, if that, and I long to trudge across the snow to join whoever is there. To ask them if they will share their fire and perhaps a little food or drink, if they have any to spare. The commonwealth of all travellers on a cold winter’s night.

But I do not stray from where I sit in the frigid darkness, shivering and rubbing my hands together to try to put some semblance of warmth in them. The Commonwealth—my commonwealth—died some time ago, and I have no friends left to me. Certainly not in this place.

Does he feel as tired as I do? As hopeless and alone? Is he worn out and ready to quit, the strength to keep fighting drained by these endless hardships?

No, not him. For him, the privations and difficulties are merely proof of his righteousness. The blood on his hands only demonstrates the justness of his cause and the lengths he will go to stand by it.

For me, I do not enjoy this new world that he and his kind have wrought. That it is him, of all people, that I am forced to reckon with only makes it all the worse. If it were someone else, it would be another matter. It would not cut so deep.

As these thoughts flit through my mind, I finger the tome that I carry with me. It has only the dead in it now. The incantations here that my kind once worried over are now only the words of a forgotten tongue. I am its last speaker and I have sworn myself to silence. He and his kind have seen to that.

He has the silver and the gold, and our lives, so many I cannot even bear to count. And now he will take this last thing too, to bring an end to all this.

Continue reading

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Now Available: Two Skulls

TWO SKULLS

FANTASY/HORROR

CLINT WESTGARD

 

Mejk the Unharnessed is a spirit walker, who can traverse the lands of the dead and bind the souls there. Chosen by his people to restore them to greatness, he will take any risk to claim the dead in the Untamed Lands.

Harni the Cleaved travels with Mejk, his guide and protector. She will stay at his side, no matter how arrogant he might be, for her people have chosen her as well. More than Mejk, she understands just how forgiving the Untamed Lands are.

Neither of them is prepared for what they will face when they come across an ancient skull. Mejk will find himself facing a greater power than he knew existed, while Harni tries to defend him against impossible odds.

In a world where the living and the dead offer no quarter, Mejk and Harni will be pushed to their utter limits just to survive.

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Excerpt: Two Skulls

In advance of the publication of Two Skulls on February 1, here is a short excerpt:

The bones had been bleached dry by the sun and were a gleaming white amidst a sea of green grass that stretched on for miles in any direction. The sun glimmered off them, catching the eye of Harni the Cleaved, one of two riders making their way across the plain. She brought her horse to an abrupt halt, wordlessly pointing at the distant speck of white. The other rider, Mejk the Unharnessed, grunted in response and they both turned their horses toward the bones.

They came across the rest of the body in their search for the skull—a femur here, a rib there—the body obviously having been torn apart by whatever carrion hunters inhabited these parts. Mejk was forced to dismount from his horse to find the skull, which was hidden beneath an especially thick swirl of the lengthy grass. He knelt on the ground, picking it up gingerly to study it, while Harni kept her eyes watchful upon the horizon.

The skull was whole and unbroken, except for a small hole at its base where an arrow had obviously struck and killed the warrior. Mejk turned it over in his hands, counting the teeth and looking at the form of the skull with a skeptical eye. Harni interrupted his study with a grunt.

Be quick,” she said. “Someone’s approaching.”

You know this can’t be rushed,” Mejk said, not taking his eyes from the skull.

It may have to be,” Harni said.

Hearing the urgency in her voice, Mejk looked up from the skull and cast his eyes along the horizon. “Who is it?”

Who else,” was her whispered reply.

Who else indeed. These were the Untamed Lands, which no one had claim to. But that would not stop some of the Great Tribes from doing so, especially to two warriors from the Fastarl traveling far from their lands. These plains had once been theirs in more glorious times, but that was many lifetimes ago, long before Harni or Mejk had come of age. Now the Fastarl lived upon the winds, forced to survive on their wits and at the sufferance of the Great Tribes, never to have a true home.

All that could change if Mejk was successful here . For the Untamed Lands were littered with the dead, many of them Fastarl, murdered in those dark days when the Great Tribes had driven them from their lands. And Mejk was a spirit walker. He could walk with the dead, could claim them from those places where their spirits were banished. Continue reading

Now Available: Those Macabre Nights

THOSE MACABRE NIGHTS

FANTASY AND HORROR

CLINT WESTGARD

A man is cursed and awakens with horns upon his head. A woman, in search of the origins of a gruesome folktale, discovers that parts of it are all too true. Two men, separated by over a century, find they are inextricably connected by a contract signed and a terrible debt owed.

These, and other, stories explore the ways in which we are haunted—by ghosts and creatures even more inexplicable—and the ways in which we haunt ourselves. For there is no escape on Those Macabre Nights.

A terrifying and thought provoking collection of stories that will keep you up all night.

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Now Available: Mouth of the Underworld

MOUTH OF THE UNDERWORLD

FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

The Mouth of the Underworld, the eater of souls, has long been lost. But Kasuir and Jasryl, Hautlyrun youths who have heard endless tales of it, discover its entrance in the highlands above their town.

They are forbidden to enter the cave, warned that the old tales may be true. But they are both young. They do not believe in those old stories, told to scare them as children. The old ways were all proven wrong when the Ven conquered and brought the railroad and modernity.

But sometimes old tales do have a kernel of truth. For something awaits them in the Mouth of the Underworld. From it, there will be no escape.

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Excerpt: Mouth of the Underworld

In advance of the publication of Mouth of the Underworld on December 14, here is a short excerpt:

Help me. I am here. Help me. I am trapped.”

The words, carried on the wind, from somewhere within the mountain, were so faint I could barely make them out. I leaned forward, straining to see if there was any more to be heard, but only the sharp whistle of the wind on stone and the stirring of the trees behind me reached my ears. I stayed rooted where I was for five minutes or more, my sweat cooling on my back, but the voice did not return. I stood on the threshold of the Mouth of the Underworld, peering uneasily into the darkness that lay beyond the narrow ingress, knowing that I had to step within that void, but fearing to cross into that unknown realm.

My father had forbidden me to enter this place, and it was not in me to disobey him.

Only the past lies there,” he had said. “We have forgotten the entrance for a reason.”

I could have argued that the past was who we were, that we had to face it and exorcise those demons if we were to ever be free of the Ven and their rule. But I had not, for there were many in Huispar who still believed in demons, in the terrible gods of the deep our ancestors had once worshipped. They believed the old laws still applied and that no Hautlyrun should enter the caves, for they were the path to the underworld, where the living had no place. That I knew differently did not matter, the cataman’s son had to obey the ancient laws.

The breeze coming from the mouth of the cave died and silence descended in the surrounding cloud forest, as though the whole world was hushed, awaiting my decision. I had imagined the words, I told myself, imagined the voice, my own disquiet playing tricks on my mind.

But, even if that were true, it did not matter. Jasryl was still down there somewhere below. He had been gone for the better part of two days and there was nowhere else he could be. I had to go after him, because no one else would dare. More than that, he was the truest friend I had in this world. If I left him to die I would never be able to forgive myself, no matter that it went against my father’s word and my own nature.

The decision made, I felt the weight lift from my shoulders. I slid through the narrow gap, the jagged edges of the stone almost touching my arms, giving me the distinct sensation of teeth closing in for a bite. I tried to ignore the feeling, though it was difficult, telling myself it was just the stories I had heard as a child coming to life in my head.

Three days before I had crossed this same threshold with Jasryl. That had been a different occasion, both of us filled with awe and excitement. Now every harbinger seemed to point toward doom.

I knelt in the opening of the cave where there was still enough light that I could see and fought with the lantern I had brought, trying to get it to stay lit. The wind was very strong, gusting at times, almost sweet smelling, alive with the earth itself. As I crouched over the lantern, trying to spark the oil, the words came on the wind again, more distinct this time, the voice clearly recognizable.

Help me. I am here. Help me. I am trapped.” Continue reading

Now Available: The Acolyte

THE ACOLYTE

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

After crossing the universes to join with Toma Osahi’s group of renegades in their battle for control of the Church of Regents, Laila Johar finds herself in a precarious position. While they both share the same goal—wresting control of the Church from the Grand Regent—Osahi doesn’t know who Laila really is. What will he do if he finds out?

While Laila struggles to keep her identity secret, Osahi and his people pull her deeper and deeper into a search for her missing friend Ana that promises to shed light on the dark secrets of the Watchers’ Order and the Acolytes. Before she can find those answers though, Laila will have to face what lies within.

Crossing the universes has unsettled the already shaky equilibrium in her mind. If she wants to return herself to her own body, she will have to act fast, for the consequences of what Acolytes did to her are still reverberating. And Aeida hides somewhere, waiting for his time to come.

The thrilling third volume of the Sojourners Cycle continues Laila’s incredible journey across multiple universes and against incredible odds, all in a desperate search for herself.

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the-acolyte

Now Available: Hart’s Crossing

HART’S CROSSING

HISTORICAL FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

Alice arrives to Hart’s Crossing, in the wild foothills of turn of the century Alberta, a girl of no more than fourteen, to live with her aunt following her father’s untimely death. There she will find love and heartbreak, and come to understand the darkness that lies in the hearts of others.

For all is not as it seems at Hart’s Crossing. There is the stern and forbidding Andrew Hart, whose countenance strikes fear in Alice and who is hiding something terrible. But even Aunt Muriel and Jack, her love, are keeping their own secrets.

When they are revealed it is Alice who will pay the price. For she will find it is impossible to leave Hart’s Crossing.

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Excerpt: The Acolyte

In advance of the publication of The Acolyte on November 30, here is a short excerpt:

It is some time after the channel vanishes—the ferry and the tiny room where Morris Loverne has just been overwhelmed gone with it —before I can find it in myself to move again. I feel adrift. Events have conspired again to leave me alone, with no one I can turn to.

Though I can no longer trust Morris—he is a creature of the Seeker and a Society agent, after all—his familiarity, our shared history, was a comfort to me. There was something like trust there, no matter how illusory it might have been. He was a friend once, however false he proved to be. Those are the only kind I have.

How pitiful it all seems now. The illusion of trust. That is all I have—illusions and lies. Even my body is not my own. My mind seems less and less so with each passing day.

Especially now, as I am reeling from the aftereffects of the transfer. My hands are shaking and my legs are trembling. It takes all my effort to keep my feet under me. I have to close my eyes against the sun, painfully vivid against the cloudless blue sky. My head aches. Everything hurts, actually, and, as I take a first tentative step, I collapse onto the rocks.

A swirl of thoughts and colors assaults me. I try to blink them back, to no avail. Somewhere, lurking behind this internal cacophony, lies Aeida, waiting for his chance to take control. He is still so dangerous. No matter that he is not what he was, this is still his body.

A terrible coughing fit assaults me, bruising my lungs. I don’t know if I can survive another crossing, not in my current state. It was never like this before. But I was never like this before either. This remade mind, stolen and tamped, was not intended to be sent across the channels. It was supposed to stay lost in a universe known only to the Watchers’ Order and myself.

If I am to restore myself to my body, I will have to attempt another crossing, especially now that I am here in another lost universe. It is inevitable. The thought terrifies me. Will entropy work further upon me each time, until there is nothing left of me and Aeida but a twitching mass of limbs?

That thought is almost as disturbing as those I have about what has become of my body. I imagine it, hidden somewhere in the endless universes, suffering under whatever tortures Molijc can devise. He will not win, I tell myself, as I work to steady my breathing and still my body. I will not allow it.

The Seeker has asked me to become his agent for the Society, or whatever faction of the Travelers he serves, and foment revolt within the ranks of the Regents. I have no doubt I will have to account for my failure to do so someday, but hopefully when I next stand before him, it will by my own eyes that meet his terrible ones.

I do not have the luxury of worrying about him. My time is short; I can see that clearly now. It is only a matter of time before Aeida gains command or this constructed mind collapses in on itself and neither of us survives in any form. I must restore myself before that happens. I must destroy Molijc and end the tyranny of his faith before that comes to pass.

My urgency brings me to my feet. There is no time to linger. As I rise, the colors grow brighter and brighter, at their center a pulsating orb that penetrates deep into my brain, lancing it like some doctor removing a tumor. Darkness is ascendant, and I feel my legs go from beneath me again. Continue reading

Excerpt: Hart’s Crossing

In advance of the publication of Hart’s Crossing on November 23, here is a short excerpt:

I don’t recall the exact details of my return to Hart’s Crossing. It was after the accident, that much is certain, but beyond that nothing is. My memory is troubled, whether from that incident, or some other that followed. This uncertainty worries me, on the occasions when my thoughts drift to those days, though I try not to allow them to. That is a futile struggle when I find myself unable to leave Hart’s Crossing. So much of the past is still alive for me in this place, for it cannot die.

Hart’s Crossing was once my home, a place where I loved and was loved in return, but no longer. Now it is my prison, a place where it seems I am doomed to remain for all the time that is left to me, embittered against my captors and hated and feared by them in equal measure. Such a cruel twist of fate that it should come to this end, after such a beautiful beginning. I cannot account for it, but then my memory, since the accident, is not what it was.

My days now are spent hiding from those I once welcomed with laughter and delight. I lurk in the bedrooms when everyone else is downstairs taking their meals, or whiling away an evening at cards. Only at night, when they are asleep, do I dare to descend, stalking the parlor and the kitchen like a cat after a mouse. Sometimes the floors creak at my passage, or I brush against some book sending it to the floor, announcing my presence for all to hear. In those moments I flee to the cellar or the attic, if I am able, and remain until they leave me in peace.

But there can be little solace here for me. No longer. Why do I remain then? It is hard for me to explain, but I shall try. Continue reading