Skinshaper (Rend the Dark Book 2)
by Mark Gelineau, Joe King
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Cover (use links below to download)
A mining town empty.
One survivor swings in a cage, waiting to die.
Ferran’s tattoos burn as horrors near. They should run. They should seek
help. But to save a few, they must journey deeper into the heart of the
nightmare to face an ancient foe.
Buy link: amzn.com/B01BPT9KUA/
Mailing List: www.gelineauandking.com/mailinglist
Amazon Author Pages:
Mark Gelineau: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Gelineau/e/B00I6TQUCE
Joe King: http://www.amazon.com/Joe-King/e/B01460OK50
Author Bios (Short)
Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.
The cage swung back and forth in the icy wind above the deserted town. It dangled from a length of frost-covered chain, high above the buildings of the camp. Inside the iron bars, a woman held herself still.
The sound came from far away, from inside the dark entrance of the mine. Her eyes narrowed and she held her breath, desperate to hear the sound once more. For a long moment, all that filled the air was the mournful howl of icy wind.
Then she heard it again.
She twisted in the narrow iron cage. Hope and horror warred within her as she held her breath and watched.
A figure broke free from the darkness of the mine and into the cold light of morning. He ran with a frantic intensity, arms and legs pumping. He shot across the bare white snow and into town. She watched with desperate, yearning hope as he ran through empty streets.
And then a chorus of gibbering shrieks sounded from the depths of the mine.
Hope shriveled and died inside her.
The man looked back and stumbled in the snow, falling forward onto his face. He scrambled to his feet, his face a mask of desperate terror.
From the mine, three twisted, broken shapes emerged.
They were fast, cavorting across the snow and ice with horrible, misshapen limbs. Too many legs and joints bending the wrong way. Arms with feet at the ends instead of hands. Madness made flesh.
The man pushed harder, his arms and legs flailing, but the creatures chased with impossible speed. The snow did not slow them. The ice did not cause them to slip or skitter out of control. They were made for the hunt and they descended upon him like wolves on a deer.
She shut her eyes as they dragged the screaming man back into the mine.
Then all was silent.
The woman didn’t cry. She just sat still and waited for her turn to die.
Just before dawn, Mireia started screaming.
Riffolk shot up wide-eyed from his blankets, his hand fumbling with his sword. He looked around for any sign of trouble, but there was none. There was only Mireia, sitting bolt upright, her eyes staring vacantly into the darkness as she wailed, and Ferran kneeling before her.
Just like last night.
And the night before that.
Her screams cut through the still, cold air, echoing off the stones around them. Then, just as abruptly as they began, her screams cut off. Mireia drew a huge, shuddering gasp and slumped forward. Ferran caught her gently.
“Ferran…” she whispered.
“Shh,” he said, easing her back down. “Rest now.”
Mireia looked as if she would argue, but Ferran held her gaze and she relented. She closed her eyes, a look of peace returning to her face. Slowly, her breathing slowed and she drifted into a light sleep. Ferran pulled blankets around her before joining Riffolk on the other side of the campfire.
For long minutes, the two men sat in silence, staring at the crackling fire. Riffolk drew his cloak tighter, trying to regain some semblance of warmth, but he knew it wasn’t the weather that chilled him.
“I feel like it’s getting worse,” Riffolk said.
Ferran sat with his hood up, the shadows from the firelight mixing with the tattoos on his face. “It is,” he said tightly.
“What does that mean?”
Ferran looked out into the darkness. “It means we’re getting close.”
Riffolk kindled a small flame in the lantern. The first thing he saw was a dark, ragged stain draped across the stone wall of the mine. Blood. He tried to keep his eyes from it, but couldn’t stop staring.
Mireia was the first to step inside. Ferran followed a half-step behind.
Riffolk nodded to Clyne, giving her his bravest face and trying to keep the lantern still, despite his shaking hand. “I don’t understand. Why did everyone run into the mine?” he asked as he entered.
“When they came for us, they came from the fields on the outskirts town. There was only one place to run to,” Clyne said, finally following.
Mireia breathed in sharply. “They were herded here,” she said. “They attack with purpose.”
Ferran pulled back the sleeve of his long coat and held out his arm. The dark tattoos pulsed a deep black, shifting and moving. “We are drawing near,” he said. “This place bleeds with the presence of shifters. Stay alert. They are cunning and can disguise their presence in many ways.”
“These things wore no disguises,” Clyne said, her face pale. “They are twisted and… they are horrors. They hid nothing.”
Ferran’s expression did not change. “Perhaps they are still young. That may give us a chance.”
“A chance?” Riffolk said. “We’re down here on the chance we may survive this?”
“No,” Mireia said. “We are here on the chance that there may be others that may survive this.” She gave Riffolk a reassuring pat on the shoulder before she moved forward.
Beside Riffolk, Clyne stared in wonder. “She’s crazy,” Clyne said, shaking her head. “I wish I was like that. Is she always like this?”
“No. She’s having an off day today. Usually she’s even more impressive,” he said with a grin, then followed the acolytes into the darkness of the mine.
Ferran stopped their descent with a raised hand. He pulled back the sleeve once more, baring the tattoos. The dark lines on Ferran’s skin pulsed and shifted violently, like they would leap from his skin.
“They’re coming,” he said, gripping his spear.
“Up from the depths,” Mireia added. Her eyes were bright, but her voice was grim. “Hard to focus, but I feel them coming. There are too many!”
“We are indefensible here,” Ferran said. “We have to fall back out of the mine.”
“No!” Clyne insisted. “I know where we are. The vault is close now. Just a bit further.”
“You have to listen to them,” Riffolk said.
“Please!” Clyne begged. “I can’t abandon her again. Please. It is just around this bend. The vault is defensible, more so than the rest of the mine, and we will find help there. If we run for the surface, we will be caught before we reach the entrance.”
Riffolk stood frozen, waiting for Ferran or Mireia to say something, to commit to one course of action or another. The moment seemed to last an eternity as his heart pounded in his ears once, twice—
“To the vault!” Ferran yelled. “Run!”
Clyne broke into a sprint with Riffolk close behind, the light of his lantern bouncing crazily around them.
They turned a corner and Clyne pointed to something built into an alcove. “The vault,” she said, breathlessly.
She sprinted forward, but as she went, Riffolk saw a strange shape uncoiling from the wall. “Clyne!” he yelled.
A twisted shape of naked flesh rose up before her. It had a large, flat body, like its torso had been crushed beneath a stone. Wide, white eyes stared down and the mouth opened wide to make a low keening sound. Its arms were horrifically long, with extra elbows and joints. They reached out for Clyne.