Hello lovely folks.
I've been promising this so here it is. In truth, it's not so much a lost or missing chapter from 'Rise Of The Wolf'
. Although it's a scene that I was particularly fond of, after chatting it through with my super smart editor Shannon Cullen, we decided to drop it from the manuscript. Fun though it was, and a great explanation of the horror Drew has just endured, it effectively postponed us from getting to where we needed to be - the Dyrewood. The artwork here was provided by the fabulous illustrator Sean Steele for the Scarefest Festival in the UK, where the chapter recently appeared for the first time. A couple of elements from this passage made their way into the following chapter in the finished book, but here's the whole passage in its entirety: 'HUE AND CRY'
. I hope you enjoy, and have a very happy Halloween!
HUE AND CRY
splashed into mud and puddles, occasionally flying out from under him as he
skidded along. Each step brought a jolt
of pain, his feet tattered, peppered with shards of glass from the melee in the
farmhouse. Still he stumbled on. What had started as a flat-out sprint had
waned into blind flight, Drew simply wanting to put as much distance as
possible between himself and the horrors he’d left behind. The constant rain slowed his every step,
sucking the strength from him.
Over meadow and
field he had run, leaping and diving over hedgerow wherever possible, tearing
straight through them where no other way could be found. Wicked thorns had torn strips from him,
lashing his exposed flesh. The palms of
his hands were slick with blood; whose he could no longer tell. Was it the monster’s black blood that stained
them, or that of his mother? His own
blood mingled fresh with them as he crashed onwards.
He’d first heard its
clear cry over three hours ago, and since then it had drawn closer, joined by
others. Occasionally the bark of a dog
echoed over the downs, carried on the wind to the fleeing boy's ears. As others had picked up the chase, it was
that one horn that Drew heard above the others, as he recognised it
immediately. It rose, crystal clear,
calling all to come to its aid. It was
his father’s horn.
Drew crashed into
the cracked trunk of a lone sycamore, clinging to the bark as he recaptured his
breath. The tree stood atop a small
hillock, a single sentry that stood proud, reaching up into the stormy night
sky. His lungs heaved ragged and fast in
his chest, his throat dry and parched.
Noticing a pool of rainwater between the trees revealed roots, he
dropped to his knees, snatching up handfuls of dirty water in his cupped hands. He buried his face in the puddle, which
carried the sickening taste of moss, mud and blood. Foul as it was, it quenched his thirst. He dragged himself to his feet, the
not-so-distant horns reminding him that he could not dally.
It was then he
realised that the hilt of the sword still sat proud from his belly, sheathed
within his insides. The pain that he had
felt initially had all but gone. He
raised his hand to his shoulder, where his father’s first strike had found its
target. The blade had carved a great
wound there. Blood had spilled
forth. Now, although the wound still
ached, a scab had already formed over the top of it. The wound itself, where jagged inches of
flesh had been torn apart, had already begun to knit itself back together again. How this was possible he might have pondered
a while longer, had the sword in his stomach not demanded his attention a
little more urgently. What should have
been a fatal wound now held about as much discomfort to the boy as a severe
case of gut rot.
Still, the sword remained.
Drew grasped the
hilt between both his hands and pulled, once.
The sword flew out, a fresh gout of blood following it as it came. A familiar pain struck him as the wound
reopened, a dizzy spell washing over him as the injury assailed him anew. He tossed the sword to the ground at his
feet, pausing a moment to lean against the tree trunk while he caught his
breath and bearings.
The horns called,
his father’s closest by the sound of it.
He counted six in all, the surrounding farms obviously coming to Mack’s
aid. Reuben, Brody, old Ben
Feather. Grem Jeffers was probably there
too, and his boys, Luke and Lester. Luke
and Drew had spent many a summer together on the downs, both boys being
shepherds and sharing a mutual love for the outdoors. Like Drew, Luke was a natural
outdoorsman. Heck, he was probably
leading the hunt. These folk who, up
until a few hours ago, Drew would have trusted with his life, now sought that
very thing from him.
He still couldn’t
believe that his father was hunting him, wanted him dead. Couldn’t the old man have afforded him even a
sliver of doubt, stayed his hand until the boy had said his peace? What kind of monster did he think he was that
would have killed his own mother? Drew
appreciated that the situation had looked bad.
Very bad. As bad as things could
possibly be, to be fair. But he loved
his father and now, fleeing as he was, felt pain he couldn’t have before
imagined at his betrayal. When the chips
were down Mack Ferran had been incapable of giving his son even a chance at
explaining. He’d made his mind up
without a moment’s hesitation and that cut Drew deeper than any sword blade
could. In a matter of hours, the boy had
gone from being part of a loving home, to being an orphan, having no family at
rolled over the hills and fields now, closing on him. His breath recaptured, he readied himself to
start running once more. Glancing at the
moon’s position in the sky Drew figured it was probably three or four in the
morning. Simply looking at it caused the
boy to grow dizzy. It held a spell over
him, enthralled and sickened him at the same time. His flight had been staggered by bouts of
spasms, attacks that had once more ravaged his body. None of the attacks had been as extreme as
the remarkable transformation that had taken him in the farmhouse, but each had
been debilitating. At times he had
dropped, pole-axed with the pain, as the cramps hit him. On other occasions, the slightest changes had
threatened to escalate, as claws and teeth had grown and elongated before
slowly returning to their natural state.
His body seemed to be in a constant state of flux as Drew battled with
the monster that raged within, wanting to break free.
A wavering black
line broke up the visible horizon to the east, growing in places as it neared
him before thinning as it receded into the distance. It stretched as far as the eye could see, the
refuge that he so desperately sought.
When he had first fled the farm he was out of his mind, running blind for
at least an hour before stopping to think.
In his fevered state he had figured that the road was the best route for
him, and by following it to Tuckborough he might have been able to gather his
thoughts, hopefully before arriving at the town. From there he hadn’t a clue where his road
would take him. To be fair he had been
hoping that he would wake from his bad dream before then, but such relief had
not been forthcoming. His living nightmare
had continued, unabated. When he heard
the horn he was left with little
option. He had left the open road,
hoping that higher ground might provide some cover or opportunity to lose his
pursuers. But this hadn’t worked, and
the further east he had run, the closer he had come to the forest.
The Dyrewood. Ancient and vast, the great forest ran across
Lyssia, some three hundred miles long in all and half as wide in places. Widely considered haunted, there were few who
dared enter the woodlands, tales of the
monsters and terrors within dissuading all but the most foolhardy. Wizened black trees lined the edge of the
forest, gnarled twisted trunks that splintered into the ground as if driven
there like great stakes, marking the borderlands where civilisation ended and
the wilds began. Beyond, the lusher
trees of the Dyrewood thrived, expansive green canopies blotting out the sun
from the forest floor below. The
occasional road wound its way into the forest, but Drew had no clue as to where
they led. For the most part they had
remained virtually untraveled in recent years, routes that had once been well
used now becoming overgrown and impassable.
The boy had heard the stories about strange creatures within the
Dyrewood, that there were settlements within the forest where people lived,
even a great city, but as far as he could tell these were no more than fairytales
for little ones. The Wyldermen, however,
were no such fantasy. He couldn’t
imagine why anyone would want to live in such a Brenn-forsaken place.
As ill luck would
have it his pursuers were driving him ever closer to the woods. It seemed to Drew that a decision was being
taken out of his hands. The Dyrewood was
his only chance for survival. Facing
what lay within the forest sounded like a fair gamble compared to the prospect
of being torn to pieces by a pack of dogs, or worse still slaughtered by family
and friends. Not in a position to dwell
on possibilities, his mind still a scrambled mess of shattered emotions, Drew
was set on the woods, terrifying prospect though it was. He’d never been this close, the forest a mile
away at most now. If he could just get
He was about to
set off running once more when he wavered, looking down. There in the mud lay the Wolfshead longsword,
half submerged in the filthy puddle. He
should leave it there, this token of his father’s. Once he got into the woods he would keep
running, putting distance between himself and the life he used to lead. He didn’t want to remember, wanted to lose
his mind and escape the grief. He let
out a scream of anguish, wailing at the moon that seemed to mock him from on high. The scream rounded into a howl as Drew
emptied his lungs into the heavens. The dogs, so near now, stopped barking at
the sound of this. He looked back to the
sword. Reaching down he slipped his hand
into the mud, grasping the handle and pulling it clear. Why, he didn’t know; maybe to remind him of
this hellish night, possibly to defend himself with. But he took the sword nonetheless.
He set off down
the hillside, skidding through the slick earth as he went. Tumbling to the bottom of the slope he scrambled
into a dash once more, legs leaden and heavy as he ran as fast as his exhausted
body would permit for the remainder of the distance. Halfway to the forest edge he chanced a look
back. The posse of farmers appeared over
the hilltop on horseback, torches wavering and sputtering in the rain as they
gathered by the sycamore tree.
Pointing, they blew horns and
cried out. “Beast” he heard them yell. “Murderer”. The dogs ran ahead of them, chasing him down,
finding their barks again.
Drew’s legs burned,
muscles screaming for him to stop, but he couldn’t; to stop for even a moment
was a difference between life and death.
He pushed himself on, sobbing in fear with every step. The dogs closed as he neared the
Dyrewood. The black boundary trees loomed
up before him, striking terror as he dashed under the shadows of their
boughs. The dogs behind skidded to a
halt, not so foolish as to follow him into the sinister forest. Glancing back as he tripped and floundered,
Drew could see the pack had gathered short of the twisted trees, some growling,
others whimpering, all of them fearful.
He looked into the great expanse of woodland, the darkness washing over
him like a cold black wave. The men on
horseback were nearing. He trudged on,
creeping now, stalking as silently as he could, deeper into his chilling
The dogs watched on as their prey slowly blinked out of sight,
disappearing into the deep, dark woods.
The hunt was over, at least for now.