Wolf’s Bane is book two of the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy. This book takes the reader deeper into the conflict developing across Marathana, introduces the reader to new players and people groups and drastically raises the stakes. Questions of identity, individual choice versus the greater good are explored. Jeru struggles to take difficult steps forward in his destiny while Kelen fights the evil dogging his every move, all of it leading to a devastating end.
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About the book: Wolf’s Bane, Rise of the Papilion Book II
The Purple Morrow is destroyed. However, its promise endures in the form of a champion, mankind’s only hope against the destruction spawned by an ancient, sinister evil.
The Rovers have invaded the Southernlands, sending its inhabitants fleeing for respite. Waylaid in a defunct desert town, and reeling from revelations about his past, a powerful, emerging evil lures Kelen to seek vengeance. Though he resists, Kelen soon learns that the Shadow Man will not relent until a terrible, ancient claim is fulfilled.
As Marathana quails under the burgeoning darkness, Jeru’s clan looks to him to lead. Jeru, however, knows his path lies elsewhere. Leaving everything behind, he braves the Badlands, a hellish desertland only the hardiest dare tread, to awaken the latent spirit of the Papilion within him. Jeru learns much in that place of desolation, including one truth which could turn destiny on its head. Now more than ever, Kelen, the Wolf of the North, threatens everything he holds dear. Jeru must choose: save the people he loves, or sacrifice them to save Marathana.
In the meantime, here’s an excerpt of Chapter 2, Facets (beta version). In this chapter, Jeru’s path is juxtaposed with Kelen’s, each of them coming to a certain point of understanding about their purposes in life and in the unfolding events. Jeru has just survived a harrowing climb up a mountain and Kelen wakes in a panic after a nightmare…
Kelen staggered through the trees. Near the point of exhaustion, his arms barely managed to swing his axe at the stray branches barring his path. Fatigue pulled at his legs, still he fought against the temptation to collapse. He could not rest, only move forward through the trees, down the valley and up the ridge on the other side. It did not matter that he did not know where he was going. He only cared about escaping the horror that pursued him.
‘Kelen,’ the disembodied voice purred. Kelen felt the shadow’s essence behind him, its essence toxic, like a poisonous wind.
Kelen ignored it, concentrating as best he could on putting one unsteady foot in front of the other. He could hear the thing behind him, taunting and hissing as it slithered around the trees.
‘Northman, Rover. Killer.’ The voice bore into him, a poison-tipped knife embedding itself in his chest. ‘You cannot escape.’
Kelen shook his head with vehemence. He kept moving, head down, eyes focused on the ground. He leapt over a clump of knee-high shrubs and smacked his knee against a stump, but he pressed on.
‘It is futile to run,’ the shadow called. ‘I see and know all. You cannot escape your fate.’
Confused and weakened by exhaustion, Kelen stumbled into a dead end. A granite outcropping blocked the way in front and stretching on either side grew bushes with finger-length thorns.
“What the devil are you?” Kelen backed away from the billowing horror, cursing under his breath when his back thrust up against immovable stone.
The shadow laughed, a horrible crackling sound like the crushing of dried leaves underfoot. A rush of wind swept through the woods, shaking the trees with violence. Then the wind abruptly died, plunging the clearing into silence.
“What do you want?” Kelen’s voice sounded thin in his ears.
The thing curled on itself and hovered in the air like living darkness. A column of the black stuff rose and bent forward like a claw, spanning the space between them, stopping mere inches from Kelen’s face. A slit appeared in its centre and curved into a macabre, twitching smile. Unable to speak, Kelen watched as it’s body swelled and elongated into the splayed fingers of a fist.
‘What do I want? Isn’t that obvious, Rover? I have come for you!’
The black fist closed around him. Kelen was consumed.
Jeru’s eyes snapped open to a clear, late afternoon sky. Sitting up, he looked around and on seeing how much time had passed, he was annoyed with himself for drifting off. What if he had missed it? He frowned. He didn’t even know what it was, so how could he recognize it if and when he saw it?
Jeru moved to get up in order to look for clues or anything which could help him figure out what he was looking for. Then he reconsidered, thinking that since he had been called to this place, it was more likely that whatever he was looking for would find him. He decided to wait.
His next move decided, he leaned back against the rough bark of a mature oak and looked up into its web of branches and waving leaves.
‘The Oak that was once whole is rent asunder. The wound must be healed.’
‘The two halves cannot survive long alone. The wound must be healed! What was broken must be restored!’
Kelen’s name suddenly dropped into this mind and with a grimace, Jeru pushed it aside. He didn’t want to think about Kelen or his many sins; they sickened him. The man had crashed into his life, leaving behind too many wounds, many of which refused to heal. Jeru was fairly certain they would one day meet again, but that worry was for the future. Kelen was gone and for how, he could stay that way.
Looking around, Jeru noticed that the surrounding forest appeared changed, and hints of something peculiar rode on the wind; something sweet and bright which hinted at excitement or anticipation. Though the sun was low in the sky, the woods seemed to be shine from within. Even the new buds which dotted the tree branches like tiny emeralds and the hesitant sprigs of grass pushing through the remains of last season’s rotted underbrush appeared to radiate with soft, golden light.
The sun had just slipped past the tops of the trees when a rustling sound came from behind him. Twisting around, Jeru scanned the pines and birches, and the red and green ferns growing between them, half expecting to see a fox or a hare leap out of the underbrush. When no such creature appeared, Jeru settled himself back against the trunk of the tree when, out of the corner of his eye, a brighter light than any he had yet seen, glowed.
The light approached, emitting golden rays like a maturing sunrise. Any second, whoever or whatever it was, would reveal itself.
The moment he had been waiting for had come.
Kelen awoke screaming. His voice echoed through the night, ringing like the howl of some tormented animal. He bolted upright, leaving his blankets pooled in a tangled mess around his waist. Chest heaving and hands shaking, he wrapped his arms around his knees and lowered his head until his chin rested on their tops. Steady, he said to himself. It’s only a dream.
It was cold. Inhaling deeply, he was grateful for the bracing effect of the night air and watched as it left his body, swelling into fluffy white clouds; he found it strangely soothing. A layer of sweat covered his body so he yanked the blanket up to his shoulders and pulled it tight, shivering as much from the cold as from the nightmare. Another one. The fourth this week.
It was ridiculous. A former Rover and commander of the Northman army and here he sat huddled up and shaking like a child, because of a nightmare. A terrifying one, yes, but still only a dream.
Then why do I feel like this isn’t over?
A fire. That’s what was needed. Its warmth and the calming, trance-like flickering of the flames, just like the smooth, golden liquor called meedle that the Northeasterlings made always managed to chase away evil thoughts. He and his Rover comrades used to down the stuff by the bucket-load in the barracks back in Nashtosh. Wishing he had a barrel or two on hand, Kelen glanced ruefully at the empty clay jug at his feet. A few hours before, it had been full to the brim with some sort of stout beer he’d found while rummaging through an abandoned ab-clan village a day or two ago. The thick, dark brown beverage had tasted rude and uncouth on his tongue and it burned all the way down. Not at all soothing for a troubled soul. However, since neither meedle nor the brutal-tasting ale was available, Kelen returned to his first thought of starting a fire. Reaching past the edge of the blanket, he went to grab a nearby log when a subtle movement to his left caught his eye. His hand hovered just above the waiting log.
A pale-yellow mist was gathering in the area, snaking over the sheltering bushes and weaving its way around the patches of sparse grass dotting the ground. As it built into a sickly-coloured cloud, the shifting air currents made it twist and move with ghost-like grace.
Acid burned in his gut, swirling around inside him like fire. The longer he watched, the more tense he became. The thing was a pale version of the black cloud from his dream.
This can’t be real. I must still be asleep. He tried to shake it off with a laugh, but the sound never made it past his slips. Kelen quickly opened and closed his eyes, but they did not deceive him. He was awake. Somehow, the monster from his nightmare had leapt from the realm of the subconscious into reality.
He would find no solace in rational thinking or in pinching himself awake.
Solace had fled.
A gleaming figure, like a glowing torch against the evening haze, came into view. Jeru could not see the other’s face, for it shone with a soft, almost heavenly glow. Then, at last, the figure stopped before him, and the light diminished, allowing Jeru to lower the arm he had lifted to shield his eyes.
He must have been sitting in the sun too long. Or dehydration must be affecting his perceptions.
He blinked. “It can’t be!”
The man’s smile was a wisp of serenity painted on a handsome face. Jeru’s face.
“Do not fear, young Jeru,” the visitor said in a voice as old as the mountains and as full as the ocean. He reached up with both hands to remove the cowl from his head. The heavy material creased neatly at the neck. “It is I, Elia.”
The pale mist evolved, thinning and then dividing itself into separate entities, finally taking on the forms of hunched, gnarled gnomes. The little demons surrounded and pressed in on Kelen, and utterly perplexed, he could do nothing but curl into a protective ball.
Quivering with ecstasy, the creatures said, “Son of damnation! You will pay for your unbelief! See now and be ashamed of all the evil you have done! See and know the pain you have caused. Suffer for it and be damned, oh Rover, for you will never again know peace!”
One by one, the pale devils pulled back their arms, and then in unison, thrust them forward, jamming hooked claws into Kelen’s gut, driving them deep. Kelen screamed. Then with a sigh birthed of horror, his tormentors howled into the wind and tore him open.
Cursing, Kelen fought back, swinging at the cackling minions, sputtering with rage when his fists passed through them like smoke. The creatures were unphased, and taunted and toyed with him until they’d had their fill.
Suddenly, as though heeding some unheard voice, they fell silent and surrendered their gruesome forms, dissipating once again into mist.
But the damage was done. Kelen looked down at his abdomen. It was not blood or gore he saw streaming from the wound. Instead, memories coated with the black grime of death trickled past his fingers. He saw the faces of his victims, heard their cries rising from the stream in a cloud of accusation. It poured and poured, forming a pool of misery on the ground.
“Make it stop!” he shouted, trying to catch the flood and force it back in. “Just—oh, gods! Make it stop!”
The woman screamed as he yanked her children out of her arms. ‘Demon!’ she hissed at him. Blood from her split lip spattered on his breastplate. She pointed a finger at him. ‘May my gods strike you down for the atrocity you have committed this day!’
Kelen smirked, ignored the curse and turned his back on her, but not before slashing her with his axe. He did not bother to clean it, knowing more of the crimson fluid from other victims would soon coat it. He and his axe were one, and the mean weapon thirsted for more. The screaming children he still held by the wrists irked him. He tossed them to a fellow Rover to deal with. Smiling grimly, he lowered his visor and returned to the fray.
Kelen fell backwards onto the ground, writhing in the dirt, half-choked by the blankets twisted around his neck. “No more! Have–”
‘Mercy!’ pleaded the scrawny clansman in an effort to spare his family. He knelt with his forehead to the ground, an act of complete submission while his family huddled in a corner of the hut. A guant woman with hopeless eyes shed silent tears. Their children trembled beside her.
Kelen laughed. Most victims begged for their lives and it amused him every time. ‘I do not know mercy and can therefore show you none.’ He heard the sound of the hut as it crashed down on itself, eaten through by a voracious fire set by one of his comrades. He watched it burn. He heard the screams.
And felt nothing…
Stayed tuned for more information about Wolf’s Bane as well as for more excerpts!