Excerpts and Teasers
Okay, so posted below is a part of chapter two of Whisper Walker.
CHAPTER TWO, pt 2.
When I got home and found the house empty, I decided to do the only thing that really clears my head. Creature hunting. The excitement and rush helps purge my mind: knowing that I could be killed at any second if I let my guard down, knowing that Drake might catch me.
I stepped into some tight but stretchy pants and a leather shirt. I’d never liked leather, but it acts as a light armor and does a good job protecting me against mutant claws and teeth. I pulled my short hair back in a ponytail and tied it up. Next, I slipped on a pair of gum-soled shoes. I put a few thin throwing knives into my belt and fixed the sheath to my thigh.
Now the main weapon: a short, double-edged sword. This I hung in its scabbard on my back. The handle stuck up perfectly behind my right shoulder. I had designed the scabbard and sword so that I could draw it in the blink of an eye, yet it stayed out of the way as well. Sometimes a gun would be nicer, but ammunition was hard to come by. It was just easier to acquire a sword, and I never had to reload it. Lastly, I threw on a lightweight long-coat that covered my weapons and strange attire, and would allow me to get through town without drawing attention. I would stash it once I was outside the Gate.
I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom to make sure I had everything on. For a moment I wished, for perhaps the millionth time, that I had even a single hint about where to look for Drake. All he had said was that he was going in deep to get a precious material for the air filters we needed for Ash season. Said he had stumbled onto it once, but this was the first chance he’d had to retrieve it.
I absentmindedly fingered the jewelry hanging around my neck, pendent hovering just at the top of my cleavage. It was a silver creature. I think it was called a dolphin, but couldn’t be sure. All creatures like that were long since extinct. Drake had given it to me a couple of years ago. He’d gotten it in one of the waste cities. I had worn it every day since, especially when I went outside the Gates. It was my lucky charm. Anytime I got myself into a bad situation, I would feel it against my chest and it helped remind me of what Drake would do.
I was flooded with worry again. My stomach balled up in a knot. I inhaled a deep breath and decided I was ready. I needed to get this out of my mind; filling my veins with adrenaline was just the way to do that. I needed to remind myself that I was tougher than this. I was a skilled fighter. I killed mutants on a regular basis. I was bad-ass.
Of course, no-one else knew that, except the two guards that manned the Gate I used. It was my secret.
The Gate creaked closed behind me. The female guard said goodbye to me as she returned to the guard tower looking out over the woods.
It was astonishing how wild it felt outside the Gates. Inside, there were crushed rock streets, buildings with windows and plumbing, and plenty of other things that spoke of civilization. Outside the Gates, however, overgrown trees and dense foliage everywhere you looked. Lots of things were alive, too. Most things wanted to eat you. Even if it was just the massive carnivorous flies or needle-beaked birds that wanted to suck your blood. My father had once told me that those birds used to be sweet and gentle. They’d fed on flower nectar, but had adapted through necessity.
I started off down the trail, not wanting to venture far so I could get back before Drake did. It would be hard to keep this a secret if I showed up wearing this get-up and carrying a sword. After a few dozen meters, I stepped off the trail. Everything grew instantly darker as the tall bushes and trees cut out most of the light.
I drew my sword, enjoying the metallic sound it made as it lifted free from the scabbard. With the hilt in my hand, I couldn’t help but grin. It probably would look a little sadistic if anyone had been around to see it.
I had to have the sword out, just in case. You never knew when something was going to pounce on you. It happened when you least expected it.
I pushed aside a large leaf and stepped past, only to instinctively duck as my body reacted before my mind could. There were a couple of short mutants sitting around a rotting animal carcass. They were about a meter tall and ugly as anything in this world.
They were both on me in the blink of an eye. One had a primitive knife that it had been using to cut up the meat. It tried to stick the bone blade into my leg but I parried with my sword. The other came at me au naturel with only its claws and astonishing strength.
I slammed it down with my elbow. Its teeth snapped at my forearm and it felt like it had scraped through the leather wrappings. I kicked at that one while the one with the knife came right back at me. It swung wildly, missing me on the initial arc, but threatening to get me on the return swipe.
I ducked low and swung, thrusting my blade back between my arm and side. I felt it strike home as I spun, but not before I felt a burning sensation as the creature’s blade sliced into my shoulder muscle.
The adrenaline was blazing through me. Hot in my veins. I registered the wound and then moved on. I turned to see the creature impaled upon my blade and gushing dark blood. I started to pull my sword out when I heard a noise behind me. I whipped around, yanking a knife out of my thigh sheath and letting it fly before I even saw what I was aiming at. It was thrown on pure intuition. Feeling where the creature was more than seeing it.
The blade flew true and pierced the mutant’s throat. This one was tough, though. It pulled the blade out and had the gall to start brandishing my own knife at me, blood gurgling from the wound in its throat.
I whipped around and yanked the sword out of the other mutant’s chest. As I pulled, I jumped and rolled to the side, narrowly missing a charge by the wounded mutant with my knife.
It tried to growl, but it came out as a twisted, forced, sputtering sound. It was about to die and knew it. But it sure wanted to take me down with it.
We were standing a couple of meters apart now. Both of us waiting on our opponent’s move. I was in no hurry. We could wait all day. The mutant would die of blood loss soon anyway. The creature seemed to realize my plan and attacked. It sprinted at me, full bore. Like an ugly battering ram with a super-sharp knife.
I needed to take away the advantage it gained by being on the offensive. I lunged at it, sword singing. I jumped to the side, swinging at it as the knife clipped my leather shirt.
I cleaved straight through the neck of the mutant, the head rolling down the slight incline we were on. I snatched my knife up out of its hand. As much as I hated to have contact with something it had touched, good knives were hard to come by.
The excitement was starting to wear off and, with it leaving, came the pain. I couldn’t see my back to examine the injury, but I didn’t think it was too bad. I figured it was mainly a flesh wound that stung like hell but wasn’t dangerous.
I picked my way back through the forest to the Gate. There, the girl that had said goodbye to me earlier got out their medical supplies.
She motioned for me to pull my shirt off. “So, any luck?”
I grinned a little with pride. “Yeah, two of the Shorts.”
Her face properly reflected amazement. “Whoa. Nice. Shorts are nasty little ones. They get a lot of people because they’re so fast.”
I nodded in agreement, wincing as she wiped the wound.
She continued. “I remember that time, where we had that little band of them, eight, I think. They were separated in pairs, one outside each Gate, waiting for anyone to venture near. They killed a bunch of the merchants. No one here would deal with them; all of the Hunters were afraid of them because they killed one of the Hunters like it was nothing.”
She seemed to be lost in her memories and dragged a piece of gauze down my shoulder like it was sandpaper. I inhaled sharply at the pain, only half listening to her talk.
“But then Drake got back from a long trip to the waste cities. A pair of the Shorts jumped him outside the Gate, and he killed them both without getting a scratch. He came inside and found out about all the people who had been killed and that all the other Gates were surrounded, too. So he tried to get other Hunters to help, but no one would.
“Then he went out and killed four more. The other two fled the area. All he got was a couple scratches.” She sighed. “He’s amazing. I don’t know why you don’t tell him about you. You two would be unstoppable.”
I looked over my shoulder at her. “That’s not going to happen.”
As I left, I questioned why I tried so hard to keep this from Drake. I was starting to care more and more about him. Since the day I stumbled up to the Gates and was almost shot by a sentry, Drake had been there protecting me. He’d been returning from a Hunt and he pushed me out of the way just as the sentry shot. Drake had been hit in the thigh by the bullet that had been meant for me, but acted like it was nothing; being tough since he thought I needed it.
We were both twelve at the time and that had been five years ago. He assured the Council that I wasn’t dangerous and that he would take care of me. It took a lot of work on his part for them to let me stay. Eventually I started living with him.
The house used to be his dad’s, but he had died a few months before. It was perfect for the two of us. We were very young, but in this world, everyone grew up fast. He was already a Hunter prodigy, and I showed aptitude as an inventor. He had literally provided for me for years, taking on the role of someone much older. I knew without a doubt that he liked taking care of me. It was just the way he was. I’d convinced myself that if he knew I was self-reliant and could take care of myself out in the forest, it would break his heart. It would take away a little joy he had in a world that was very tough and make him feel less needed.
No. No, I definitely needed to keep this a secret. I knew I wouldn’t be able to forever. But I was going to try .