Coming 9/6/13: Blood in Elk Creek – This is the longest novella I’ve written to date – 36K words of adventure, mystery, and snark for Captain Ramos, Colonel Douglas, and a horse named Dolly. And if you’ve been wondering about the Infected, they’re coming for you now.
I’m really excited to share this one with you guys and I hope that you like it. Less than two weeks away!
Once called the Great Plains, the Dead Plains are a place in which no sane citizen of the Duchies dares set foot. The Infected roam the lands in starving packs and rare is the man who returns alive from an expedition. But when one of the regiments of the Grand Duchy of Denver disappears into those wilds under false pretenses, Colonel Geoffrey Douglas dares the Dead Plains to investigate. And Captain Marta Ramos, infamous pirate and thorn in his side, is not far behind.
Foul events are afoot in the Black Hills: Lakota hunting camps leveled, and the Infected move as an army in purposeful, terrifying ways. Captain Ramos and Colonel Douglas must form an uneasy truce and venture deep into the hostile terrain of the Black Hills to discover what has prompted this invasion and how to stop it.
If the Infected don’t kill them first.
Marta looked upstream, but the view was occluded by rocks and more pine trees. There was a loud splash, followed a moment later by another surge of clouded water.
She levered herself to her feet, then drew her machete. The heavy blade felt strange and clumsy in her left hand. Feeling a bit drunk on adrenalin, she made her way around the rock with exaggerated care.
The stream took a sharp turn on the other side of the rocks, widening. Two corpses were laid neatly out in the shallow water. A coyote stood over one, worrying at its arm—the source of the splashes and the gouts of old, coagulated blood.
Hand still clutching the machete, Marta bent over and retched, forcibly ejecting all of the water she’d just drunk from her stomach. She wiped her mouth with a handful of grass and looked up to find the coyote now staring at her, a profoundly unimpressed look on its face and a forearm and hand dangling from its jaws.
Marta’s stomach cramped again. Stop that, she mentally commanded herself. It was a reaction entirely in her mind, nothing but fear.
Tail at a cocky angle, the coyote trotted off with its prize, though the animal did give her a wide berth.
Marta approached the bodies with more trepidation than she had ever felt when faced with any number of corpses. Neither of the corpses had heads; each simply had a stump blackened with blood and rot. She recognized the look of the cuts, knew them before she’d even pulled her goggles properly on and snapped in one of the surviving magnifying lenses.
They’d each had their head removed with two or three strikes from a machete. She’d had to make similar cuts herself before, more times than she cared to consider. Each corpse wore the tattered remains of leather clothing, just trousers and no shirts, feet yet covered with moccasins. A few decorations partially obscured with muck and blood were made from colored porcupine quills; this was not the clothing of those who resided in the duchies.
All of these small details, building readily into a disturbing picture in Marta’s mind, felt curiously beside the point. Her left hand shook as she raised it to her goggles again, flipping through the loupes until she found those of treated calcite. The delicate lenses had cracked and crazed into a thousand tiny rhombic shapes, but even through that she saw the telltale glow that oozed from the bodies, that swirled through the water that touched them and confirmed her worst terror.
The corpses and stream, the stream she’d so greedily drunk from, were alive with Infection. Bright flecks showed on her left hand, which she’d used to scoop water to her mouth. A horrible sort of laugh squeezed from her throat.
She’d survived the most impressive aeroplane crash of her career just long enough to kill herself.