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.

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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 Contract

THE CONTRACT

HISTORICAL FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

Inspector Archibald Constant Cumberland of the Northwest Mounted Police establishes Fort McGregor at the confluence of two rivers. His mission is simple: keep peace with the Blackfoot Nation and fend off whiskey traders.

But life at Fort McGregor is rarely simple. His own men plot to betray him and soon he is fighting for control of the fort and his life.

When they begin talking about seeing a ghost, he refuses to believe them. But he will have his own encounter with the impossible creature and it will change everything.

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Excerpt: The Contract

In advance of the publication of The Contract on October 19, here is a short excerpt:

 

From the personal diary of Inspector Archibald Constant Cumberland, June 7, 1886:

Fort McGregor, I am proud to record here, has been firmly established. I have already written my report to that effect and it is on its way to Superintendent Perry at Fort Macleod. We finished construction two days ago, and the men who were brought to help in the building have been sent on their way, along with my report. Only ten men now remain: myself, the eight constables, and the commissioned doctor, John Cabbot.

All of them are good men, in my judgment, an absolute necessity, for we are far from help out here on these lonely plains. Four of them fought alongside me in Riel Rebellion, so I know they are battletested. Doctor Cabbot is newly commissioned, but he was trained at McGill and seems a competent man. He was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and tells me he spent some time in Deadwood and some other of the wilder environs of the American plains, so he understands well what our circumstances will be.

The other four constables are new recruits I chose from the latest batch to arrive from Ontario. I had some time training with them in Fort Macleod, with Superintendent Perry granting me my choice of the new crop, and I am confident I have selected the finest among them.

Our purpose is to keep the peace between the Indians of this region, members of the Blackfoot and Cree Nations, and the whiskey traders who have lately come into this territory, having been chased from the Cypress Hills and the Fort Macleod. After the troubles that have consumed the territories in these last years, culminating in Riel’s second revolt, the Superintendent is taking no chances. The last Commissioner of the Mounted Police was replaced for his failures around the rebellion and the new Commissioner wants to see no such mistakes repeated. We are to be on guard for any such troubles that might arise.

The fort itself is located at the confluence of the South Saskatchewan and the Red Deer rivers, a largely desolate section of the Northwest Territories. It is, as yet, uninhabited, except for the aforementioned Indian nations and the whiskey traders. The nearest forts are Calgary to the west and Battleford to the east. There are a few settlements to the north and east, but to the west and south there is nothing but ranching land.

The Blackfoot and the Cree are to be confined to their reserves, as per the terms of the treaty they signed, but the Blackfoot have lately been ignoring those terms, the result of the failures of the agent assigned to them by the government. His name is Harold Groves, and he is a singularly useless man. The Indians do not trust him. I can only hope they will come to place their trust in my men and in me.


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Now Available: Unspeakable Rites

UNSPEAKABLE RITES

FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

A dead man of no family or account is what Gahryll, Chief Magister of Tson, sees when the corpse of an Enir youth is brought to the Magisterium. But Magister Mihuibel sees something else: a conspiracy involving false adepts practicing an outlawed form of alkemya.

Against his better instincts Gahryll authorizes an investigation that draws both Magisters into the seamy underbelly of Tson where the rich and powerful prey upon the desperate. When the inquiry implicates one of the most important families in the Realm of Craitol in forbidden practices and false alkemya, their positions and ranks will be threatened.

But that is only the beginning. For the killer will stop at nothing to ensure his secrets remain hidden and Gahryll is brought face to face with the unspeakable power of alkemya that has been unleashed. It forces him to make a choice. Will he risk everything to fight for justice in a realm ruled where rank and wealth are all that matter?

Set in the same universe as The Shadow Men Trilogy, Unspeakable Rites, further explores the nature of alkemya, its terrible power, and the heavy price paid for its use.

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Now Available: The Debt

THE DEBT

HISTORICAL FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

Daniel Archibald Cumberland is adrift and purposeless, with neither a past or future to cling to. That is until he comes across a story of a lost NWMP fort and the mad officer responsible for its terrible fate. An officer named Cumberland, who may be his ancestor.

Discovering the truth will consume him. His father denies any connection, but he is hiding a terrible secret. Even he doesn’t know what Daniel will discover when he goes in search of answers.

For there is a debt, long agreed to. And someone, or something, will see that it is paid.

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