Today I have the wonderful opportunity to post an excerpt from the book In the Shadow of the Rook by JDL Rosell . I hope everyone enjoys! I appreciate being able to post this. Thank You Josiah for this opportunity!
In the Shadow of the Rook (The Sons Incarnate Book 1)
by JDL Rosell
is out NOW!
So go get your copy!
In the Shadow of the Rook – Chapter I
“Locked lips,” Oslef had said to Erik. His voice was loud in Erik’s ears, louder than the howling wind as he ran through the forest. “Locked lips, and if I unlock them, that’s two dead men, see?” Oslef had a gleam to his eyes—beer tears, like always. “Though you know how I’d love to gossip with an old friend.”
Erik ran, the trees and brush smearing into a oily blur. He barely noticed the creatures scattering beneath the decaying leaves, the birds fluttering away as he passed. He didn’t look for lurchers hiding in shadows, who might be waiting for the next hapless passerby. A different scene played out in his mind’s eye.
“A bird asked after you. Wondered about our relationship. And asked about my prospects. My prospects—we both know those are complete and utter fek, don’t we? And as for us, well, that’s a bit more… complicated.”
Erik’s breathing came fast. As he stumbled over roots and underbrush, a hand went to his chest, to the ribbed flesh where it had been stitched after the hot knife had welded his skin back together. It seemed to burn under his fingers, and he rubbed at the dull echoes of pain.
“I explained the whole history to the bird, line by line. Fast friends we were, despite you having fek for family and lineage and being ‘fidel to boot. But I saw something in you, and I stuck around, didn’t I? Then we chased the same girls—girl, really, it was always just the one. We had our fights, but what boys don’t? But when that bird asked how far I was willing to go to get what I wanted, how far I would push our friendship, do you know what I said?”
“What did you say, Oslef?” Erik whispered to the woods.
“I said, ‘Anything for an old friend.’”
At first, it had been no more than a strange feeling, that something in his chest, no more painful than seeing an arrow in a stump. Even as his heart pounded hard near the metal tip, Erik felt numb, helpless to do anything but stare at the dagger in his ribs. His shirt darkened in a widening circle, like watching a drop of ink spread in a pool of water.
Then numbness gave way to the red wave, and it washed over him and carried him down.
His foot caught, and Erik tumbled to the ground, memories ripped away. His knees and hands scraped against the twigs and dirt, and almost as soon as he fell, he was pulling up the legs of his trousers and peering at his hands, desperately looking for red lines breaking through the skin. But they were whole. He wasn’t bleeding.
He sat back against a tree trunk, breathing heavily, and closed his eyes, and a different scene pressed in on him. Stale air in his throat, stiff and cloying as a tomb. Pale light flickered from thin tongues of piston lamp fire on stone walls. Before him, an old man’s eyes bulged, milky white tingeing pink, then the deep red of the setting sun on storm clouds. Strands of thin, pale hair fell over the unnaturally smooth, onyx face. The throat, thin as a starved doe, trembled with gasps, the only sound in the room as a pair of hands tightened about it. Then the noises stopped. There was a stillness, a silence, a sigh of relief—his own sigh—as he loosened his hands from the limp body.
Erik opened his eyes and resisted the sudden urge to slam his head back against the trunk, if only to alleviate the pressure building behind his temples. He rose and pressed on.
He couldn’t stay here, so close to Zauhn. Not with what he was. He had to leave as fast as he could, and not even because the town watch might come after him, or that he felt guilty from the blood on his hands. He didn’t know where he needed to go, not yet. And his father, who surely knew, who might have saved his son from what he’d become, wouldn’t tell him.
As his breath whistled through his clenching jaw, Erik tried to put thoughts of his father from his mind.
A bush rustled next to him, and he jerked away and scanned the woods, but the sparse moonlight showed nothing between the leaning trees. Still, his hand traveled to his belt knife and stayed there as he peered into the darkness and slowly found the source of the sound.
A shadow emerged from around a tree, and Erik flinched back, hand clenching hard. As the figure moved forward, the moon reluctantly revealed it. First a shoulder, barely more than tendon and bone. A foot followed, seemingly disconnected in the darkness, its long, purplish nails curling back and stabbing into the toes. Then the face; it hovered above the black body, the skin loose over the skull, with the jaw hanging slack around its few remaining teeth. And the eyes, lolling to the sides, irises bleached of color so even the thin light of the broken moon seemed to fill them.
Erik swallowed hard and shuffled back even as his grip relaxed. It was an old lurcher, probably two or more months past fresh. What flesh hadn’t rotted off its body had likely been picked by carrion creatures, the thing too feeble to prevent it. It would have been dangerous when it was first made, fast as a live man and twice as furious, but now it was less than harmless. Erik even pitied it.
The lurcher shuffled forward, coming clear of the tree line. He could see it was once a woman from its skeletal hips. It favored its back foot as it approached, the end of the leg little more than a pulpy club.
It was far from the first lurcher Erik had seen. He and the count’s son, Oslef—that betraying bastard—had followed many tracks throughout the woods, hunting for the dragging feet that had made them. The pair would follow them through rain and mud, deep into the forest, until they saw the creature before them, walking slowly towards the shore of the island, always towards the shore. They had quietly drawn their blades and crept through the low ferns until the dead beings were close enough to rush. Erik had laughed as the steel cut through the flimsy skin and brittle bones.
He didn’t want to laugh now.
It kept coming, quiet but for the dragging of its foot and the creak of its bones. It didn’t wheeze like he expected, didn’t breathe at all. One day you’ll stop breathing, that devilish part of him taunted.
Did the lurcher know him? Could it tell they were the same, that he was one of them now? Its arm reached out, fingers splayed—to welcome? To harm? Or just to touch? Had it felt the loss of another’s touch longer than the decay of its own body? Perhaps it was the worst of the two pains.
But why did he think of it as an it? It had been a woman once, just as he’d once been a man. Why not she?
Her fingers grasped at the air before him.
Erik grabbed them, crushed them, and the bones became dust, too brittle even to cut. The lurcher made a guttural sound and fell forward, and Erik helped it, propelling its skull to the ground, and it smashed into wet grass and mud with enough force that even the soft earth could not stop the bone fracturing beneath his hand. Something oozed between his fingers.
One of its arms reached back, and he pulled it, breaking it at the shoulder. Its scream, already thin and weak, was muffled in the mud. But still its body pushed up, still its legs fought. A stomp to each femur put an end to that.
Erik rose and stepped away from the corpse, breathing hard. The forest was quiet, not even lunegazers clacking their wings, silent as before a storm.
His stomach roiled, then he was heaving onto the grass. There was clumpy blood and bile on his hands, and the mangled body still moved in the mud before him.
Isn’t it a bright future? The devilish voice gloated.
He stumbled back into the dark woods, leaving the lurcher broken and tearlessly crying. He wished he could curl up and sleep and never have to wake again. He wished he didn’t have to move.
But he did. For lack of anything else, Erik set his course on the hundred glowing pinpricks of lunegazers ahead, following them like a ship might follow the stars during a dark sea voyage. He soaked in their light hungrily, like they might nourish him of something he had lost.
The lights blinked out as one, extinguished like gust-smothered candles.
Erik dropped his gaze. He kept moving forward.
In the Shadow of the Rook (The Sons Incarnate Book 1)
by JDL Rosell
The dead are rising from this crumbling world—and Erik rises with them.
Murdered by his closest friend and raised by a necromancer, Erik wants more than the remnants of life. He wants Recarnation. Legends tell of the gods raising men to become Recarnates, immortals possessing magic that once shattered the world and barely held it together. And though Erik has his doubts about the truth behind the legends, he has to hope. Recarnation is his last chance at truly living.
One person might be able to help him achieve it: the Rook, the leader of a secret necromantic syndicate. But Erik doesn’t know where the Rook is, and he doesn’t have much time to find out. A dark menace stalks and kills from the shadows, and Erik has to keep one step ahead even as his body breaks down. Still, Erik moves forward. He has already died—what more can he lose?
But the power of the gods will cost more than just his life.
J.D.L. Rosell is the author of In the Shadow of the Rook, the first book in The Sons Incarnate epic fantasy series. Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, he followed the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of Seattle, Washington, where he now lives, writes, reads, and hikes.