the power of fear

(An excerpt from one of my WIPs, Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche, the sequel to the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy)

“God forgives,” the voice assured me from the shadows.

No, he wouldn’t comprehend it at all.

I smiled, then, hearing her again, the Waitress. Teasing, flirting, crying, cursing, her voice echoing from hours ago.

“You’re so funny,” she had laughed as we sat knee-to-knee at a famously cramped restaurant on the Rue Saint-André des Artes, the tourists seated in a room to the right, the French locals in a more spacious room to the left.

“You’re so wonderful,” she had slurred, her tongue thick with expensive Bordeaux as she slipped her hand in mine, the streets dark and quiet as we walked.

“You’re so … ,” she had whispered, the thought unfinished as her hand snaked between my thighs, the car speeding along the quay, the scent of her lust in my nose, her breasts warm against my arm, her breath kissing my cheek, the vast, leafy shadow of the Bois de Boulogne rising in the distance.

“I lied,” I finally offered the Priest, committing yet another sin.

Silence.

“You’re human,” came the tentative cinnamon-scented response.

“You’re a monster!” the Waitress had screamed as she ran, her hand clutching its twin to her chest, the blood pump, pump, pumping down her dress as I spat the orphaned finger to the leaves at my feet.

Shall I tell the Priest this? That I can still taste her blood on my tongue? How the crunch of her slender bone between my teeth excited me? Or how she ran and I followed? Should I breathe this between these slender strips of polished wood? How she darted behind a tree before I rushed forward, startling her, trapping her?

No. This sheltered, naive little man would never understand why I let her run again. Or how the chase invigorated me. How hopelessly addictive her terror was. How her tears delighted me. How the Darkness so very much enjoyed the thrill of those last moments of her life. His mind could never wrap itself around the thrill of catching her, trapping her, torturing her, her eyes wide, the snot dripping as she sniffled and sobbed.

He could never know the power of fear.

anguished screams of the stolen innocent

Here you go, guys. The back cover book blurb for The Elder, coming this week:

In The Elder, the latest installment of The Martuk Series, Jonathan Winn, author of Martuk … The Holy, digs deeper into the world of ancient Uruk. A world of power and absolute rule. Of magic and superstition. Of Dark Gods and mysterious Ancients, magical Immortals and unseen Seers. Of powerful Priests cloaked in robes of red and gold and a Man from the Mountains who has yet to arrive.

From the innocence and depravity and blood-drenched chaos of The Wounded King, we now follow The Elder, a Priest desperate to rule, blinded by power, afraid to die. A man who climbs deep into caves beneath sun-scorched mountains and sacrifices anonymous flesh in a blood-stained Temple. A desperate soul driven by words whispered from the lips of a doomed Child and haunted by the warnings of an Immortal buried in ash. One who makes an impossible choice for the promise of Life Everlasting and, riddled by doubt, chooses again, this final act of violent desperation opening the way for an ancient curse from a Darkness older than Time.

From the whispered pleas to the Darkest of Gods to the anguished screams of the stolen innocent, this is … The Elder.

***

The Elder is the second book in The Martuk Series, an ongoing collection of Short Fiction inspired by the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy.

Her bloody eyes found mine …

(excerpt from The Elder, the soon-to-be-released second book in The Martuk Series)

The Seer sat motionless behind the ripped and tattered woolen.

I waited.

Her head forced back, she gasped, The Child, the throat swollen and round, the skin cracked and bleeding as it stretched.

The wolves paused, eyes narrow and rumbles in their chests as they backed away.

The Seer cocked its head, listened.

The Child’s head dropped with a crack. She swallowed, licked her lips, her chin lifted, and then her bloody eyes found mine.

She spoke.

“Man from the mountains …” she began, The Seer mouthing the words, “He will come, will gain what you seek, will lose all in an end that never ends.

“Stone stained red … a darkness … a hunger …”

She stopped.

Her mouth suddenly opened in a cry, the power of The Seer ebbing as reality returned, the girl convulsed by sobs as the tears briefly ran.

And then, quiet once more, powerless and trapped in the shadows near the crumbled grey of the ceiling, her tiny, bloodstained body turned.

First her head, the neck rotating with cracks and snaps and pops. And then the slender shoulders, the chest, the arms and torso and waist, the little legs dangling as they followed.

The Seer swayed, the bent and broken body listing to and fro as The Child’s turns quickened, her pretty mouth held slack as the blood ran and the shadows danced and the wolves growled from the dark, their eyes aglow in the firelight.

Faster and faster she spun in the air, faster and faster The Seer swayed, lower and lower the wolves growled. My head spun as sweat stained my brow and bile rose in my throat, the dark now too dark, the rank air stealing my breath.

I closed my eyes, my palm to my forehead, the chill replaced by a sudden heat as I laid low, taken by a sudden illness. An odd sensation of warmth and cold and sickness and fear. The unfamiliar feeling of being trapped. Powerless.

The Child turned, The Seer bobbed behind the tattered woolen, the wolves now howled, and the cool of the ground soothed my cheek as I fell to my knees and then lay flat, my fingers threaded through the soil as I clutched the earth while my head spun and my stomach turned and I fought for breath.

Priest …

Liar …

King …

Yes.

Wounded King …

Yes.

He is coming …

Driven to rule and afraid to die …

Barring any unexpectedly HUGE edits — unlikely but not impossible –, my upcoming book The Elder, the second in The Martuk Series, should be live as early as next week.

Want a blurb?

Oh, alright. Here ya go …

Driven to rule and afraid to die, a powerful Priest sacrifices everything for “an end that never ends” from a Darkness older than Time.

The angel on my shoulder says I might have gone too far with this book. The devil on the other insists it’s just right.

Who to believe? (^~^)

“these tender bones”

— excerpt from Martuk … The Holy

The King’s eyes snapped open.

“Do you see me?” came the whisper.

The boy stopped, carefully backing away.

“Do you see me?” the King asked again, louder.

The boy nodded his head.

“What is it you see? Do you see me?”

The boy remained silent. Afraid to move. Afraid to breathe.

“Do you see my glory? My perfection? My power? Do your eyes see a god?”

Sitting up, he reached out and grabbed the boy by the throat, dragging him close.

“Do your eyes see a god?” he asked, pressing his lips to the boy’s face, smearing the soft brown skin with streaks of red.

“You, you are flesh and bone,” he whispered, his nose buried in the smooth cheek, inhaling deeply. “Yes, just flesh and bone. Nothing special. Nothing sacred or glorious. There is no god living here. You are expendable and soon forgotten.

“Do you know this? Understand this? Do you see how small, how insignificant you are?”

His hand tightened on the slender, delicate span of neck, the child’s face blushing red as he struggled to breathe.

“Who will miss you when you’re gone? When your dead flesh has been torn, devoured by dogs? Your eyeballs pecked and plucked out by birds? Who will miss these tender bones when they’re nothing but little piles of dust? Who?”

The boy’s flushed cheeks were now wet with tears. A thin stream of drool fell from his swelling lips, then, sliding off his chin and staining the hand of the monster choking the life from him.

“I am a God,” he continued. “I can never die. I can never falter. Never stumble. Were I to fall, the sun would go out, the crops would wither. The world would end. Just end. And humanity, these subjects, these grateful, ignorant, stupid masses who bless my name, they would perish. They would die.

“But they do not see me, a God in agony, trapped in this prison of blood and bones. All they see is power. And were I to be set free from this, this place, this body, this pain, this mediocrity, I would be mourned. I would be missed.”

He pressed his bleeding flesh to the dying boy.

“No one will mourn you. You are human. Mortal. Useless. You don’t carry the burden of greatness. You do not sit in the Heavens. You can leave your skin and forget your bones. You can find eternal rest in the Fog.

“But me?” His voice rose. “I cannot!”

He struggled to stand, lifting the boy by the throat. The tiny feet kicking frantically as his eyes rolled back in his head, small brown hands clutching the King’s wrists in vain.

“You can die! You have freedom! You have peace! You are not trapped!” he shouted at the dying boy, his hands gripping the neck, blood rolling from the boy’s ears and mouth, rivers of red staining his cheeks.

“You are not trapped!”

I felt sick to my stomach watching this. But I couldn’t look away. And I couldn’t help but wonder Why aren’t they doing anything? Helping him? Stopping this?!

“I am God,” the King then whispered, his lips inches from the boy. “I can steal your soul. Eat you. Swallow you.”

And then he kissed him …

I had lost — an excerpt from The Wounded King

An excerpt from The Wounded King, the first book in The Martuk Series, a collection of Short Fiction based on the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy

I ran.

The shadows followed.

It had dropped me, the Darkness, Its strength not yet great enough to hold me.

But I had climbed to my feet, the dark unbelievably dark, my ankles stained by the moist heat as I tripped and then stumbled and, tumbling down the hill, ran.

She was on the ground, Mother, oblivious, the dirt against her cheek, her hands buried in the earth, the shadow rolling and twisting around her as It ate her whispers, her sighs, her tears.

And now I sprinted toward the city under the glare of a bright sun as It chased me, churning and turning and whipping in the dust.

My heart pounded in my ears as the rocks cut my feet, the Darkness’s desire for me inflamed by the blood staining the ground.

The city drew near, the thick walls and heavy gates in sight.

In the quiet calm of morning she had urged me to leave the city with her. Had insisted on passing through the gate to climb the small hill so we could speak away from those who would see, our secrets unknown to those who would hear.

She had lied, my Mother.

I stumbled and fell.

The heat was on me, the moist fingers wrapped around my ankle, my calf burning in the heat, the flesh raw under Its touch.

I kicked It free as I crawled, my hands pawing at the dirt as I climbed to my feet to run again.

It reared back, the shadow lunging forward like a snake before It followed, the Dark rolling on the ground like a wave.

I was close, so close, to the city. To safety.

What if the Darkness followed me beyond the gates?, I suddenly thought as my heart beat in my ears. What’s to stop It were it to slip into the city and torment me there? Is there anything to keep It from swallowing me while I sleep?

What if this monstrosity were inescapable?

The guards recognized me, the brawny men in a rush to open the gates for the Almost King.

I darted through.

The Darkness followed.

I felt It on my heels, my calves, the back of my thighs, my back, my neck, the fingers around my skull as I ran and ran, the pain a constant sting, the burn excruciating as the Darkness took hold of me.

I had lost.