I suppose I could write a long post about it, but...that's about it!
Eyes of the Hidden World, book 2 in Last Sword in the West, is officially live wherever books are sold.
You can purchase it directly here:
or on any of the major retailers through this link:
Also, check out the cover!
Small spoilers for Last Sword in the West to follow.
If you're interested in previewing the book, the first chapter is below.
Which will provide some small spoilers for book one.
So if you haven't read that yet, you might want to turn around now.
High on a nameless mountain, death stalked Tomas’ trail, hunting the warrior like a relentless bloodhound.
Tomas climbed, hoping to outmaneuver his old nemesis one more time.
His fingers bled as he pinched a tiny projection of stone with his right hand.
He kept his body pressed tight against the cold rock as the wind whipped across the sheer face. It tried to separate man and mountain, seeking any crack it could wedge wider.
Tomas let go of the hold he’d been grasping with his left hand. Thick clouds overhead obscured Tolkin’s face, nearly blinding him to whatever awaited above. He crawled his hand up the rock, fingertips searching for the next hold.
He heard the wind building to his left. Trees that had been swaying now groaned and creaked as the gust bent them over. It hit him a moment later, and he felt his hips peeling away from the stone. Blood made his tenuous grip slick.
They waited for him below. A nightmare menagerie of predators. If the fall didn’t kill him, they would. It didn’t want him on this mountain anymore.
His left hand scrambled, seeking anything that would keep him glued to the wall.
There, above him, his middle finger found a little pocket in the stone, barely large enough for three fingers. He jammed his fingers in, tightened his grip, and held his position.
A moment later the gust passed, moaning at its failure.
Fingers secure, he lifted his right foot up to a thin ledge he’d used for his hands a minute ago.
It wasn’t much, but after what he’d just climbed, the ledge felt like a plateau.
He looked up. The climb above was easier, but not easy. The holds grew larger, and a crack running down the rock whispered a promise of an easier ascent. But a single mistake would still put him at the bottom of the cliff. His arms and legs were heavy with exhaustion. He refused to look down.
“Want help?” Elzeth asked.
Some dangers frightened him far more than falling to his death. “No.”
Elzeth rumbled but didn’t argue. They both knew Tomas couldn’t spare the focus.
He mapped out a route in his mind, imagining the moves he would have to make. Then he climbed.
As the holds became more numerous and easier to grip, a new temptation threatened him. The desire to be off this cliff made him want to hurry, to scramble to the top and collapse, exhausted, on the trail above.
In haste, mistakes were likely, and it only took one to fall to his death below. He forced himself to focus on every move.
Sweat mixed with blood. Sharp stone ripped and caught at his clothing. His forearms burned.
He climbed on.
“One’s coming,” Elzeth said, calm enough one might believe he hadn’t just doomed their whole climb.
“Hells,” Tomas cursed.
He was only a bit over halfway up.
“And another,” Elzeth added.
Tomas climbed faster, but for every foot he ascended, his heart sank further. He’d seen them climb and knew he couldn’t match their speed. He risked a look down.
Two creatures followed him, climbing up the face he’d struggled against with the ease of a pair of mountain goats. They were shaped like enormous spiders, hooked appendages grasping every hold and crack without problem. He imagined those same hooks tearing through his skin.
Far beneath the spiders, the undergrowth of the woods rippled with movement. Countless creatures searched for him. However they communicated, word hadn’t yet reached the others about his position far above them.
A thin thread, perhaps, with a pair of shears hovering dangerously near. But hope, nevertheless.
Tomas pulled himself higher, finding an even wider ledge he could balance on without needing to grip the rock with his hands. He held on anyway and twisted to meet his assailants.
They reached him a few seconds later. He kicked out, catching the one in the lead just before it could hook into his leg.
It made no cry as his foot connected with its body.
The force of the kick dislodged its hooks in the stone, and it fell.
Tomas’ victorious grin faded when the creature latched back on to the rock a few feet below.
He kicked at the second one, but it had learned from the mistakes of its predecessor. It danced to the side, then jumped on his back.
Sharp hooks tore through his clothing, finding purchase in the muscles of his upper back. Hot needles of pain twisted and sank deeper. Tomas bit back his own cry of agony and suffered in silence. He wouldn’t be the one to alert the others below.
He twisted, trusting his life to one hand and foot so that he could smash the creature on his back against the rock. He felt it crunch between his back and the stone, but the hooks didn’t release their grip. If anything, the creature held on tighter.
He slammed his back against the wall again, but the angles were wrong. Maybe he hurt the spider, but he wasn’t hitting it hard enough to do real damage.
The second creature reached him again. Tomas kicked with his free leg, but couldn’t hit it. The spider on his back dug deeper. The one below him jumped onto his leg and wrapped around it, hooks finding purchase in the muscles of his calf.
The thread of hope snapped, cut in half with one decisive cut.
“Yes?” His voice was sweet and innocent, as if he didn’t already anticipate Tomas’ request.
“I’ve changed my mind.”
Tomas feared the moment of transition, the single heartbeat where he couldn’t be sure his body would be his own.
In the space of a single breath, the course of a man’s entire life could change.
Strength flooded his tired limbs. His vision and hearing sharpened.
And deep below, in the heart of the mountain, something even darker stirred, called to attention by Elzeth.
But Tomas remained, wholly himself. When he had the time, he promised to let out a sigh of relief. For now, it was time to fight.
The spider on his back died first. Tomas slammed it once more against the stone, and this time the hooks lost their grip. The spider fell off him and tumbled down the cliff.
The second one joined the first when he kicked at a jagged stone. It crunched between his shin and the rock, and then it, too, plummeted into the woods below.
There was no point in trying to hide.
It knew where he was, and now the only question was whether it would pursue him this high up the mountain. Tomas scrambled up the remaining face, his grip strong and his balance sure. One small rock broke off in his hand as he grabbed it, but he had enough forward momentum to reach another hold. A minute later he was at the top of the cliff. His destination wasn’t far now.
He spared a moment to look down at the challenge he’d just defeated.
And immediately regretted it.
The creatures that had been searching the woods for him now knew where he was, and they were coming for him. A dark mass of countless skittering shadows rose up the sheer side of the cliff.
Others would seek different routes.
He almost let Elzeth rest, then thought better of it. There would be no hiding. Not from this.
He hiked, ever higher.
The monstrous being at the heart of the mountain waited for him. It knew what he wanted, and it would do everything it could to stop him. Unfortunately, it had a lot more friends on this mountain than he did.
As he ran, Tomas only had one thought running through his head.
If he survived this, the next person he passed who asked for help was getting a very different answer.
He was going to tell them “no.”