My short story, The Monster Within, is up on Amazon for free until 2/24/18! This is the first story I wrote about Marek and Remy, and it gives a glimpse into the world that inspired my novella, Symphony of Ruin. If you’d like a sample before committing to an entire book, now’s your chance. And on the flip side, if you enjoyed Symphony of Ruin I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out how Remy and Marek started out.
In case you need further convincing, I’ve included an excerpt from the beginning of the story~
The Monster Within
Remy the rat boy came to my abode moments before sundown, noisily exclaiming that he’d discovered yet another blood eater in its grave. I was less excited than he. The spring floods had been gnawing away at the riverbanks for weeks, and the city’s most ancient secrets lay exposed. Increased demand for my alchemical skills left me with little time for my own pursuits. That day, the skies had finally cleared, the flood waters slackened and no one had come requesting saltpeter to drive out the plague toads, or copper beads to ward off the black heart mold, or my own special herbal blend for the discouragement of cellar trolls.
I deeply desired to send Remy away and ignore this latest unpleasantness, but once exposed, the corpse of such a monster invited only trouble. I made Remy wait outside as I gathered up the necessary chemical compounds in a leather satchel. I’d earned my knowledge through years of toil and wasn’t about to let the little sneak rob me of its value. When finished, I threw my cloak round my shoulders and followed the grimy orphan boy out of the twisted lane where I lived and down the sloping streets toward the river.
A crowd of boys greeted me. “Master Marek, Master Marek,” they cried as I strode away from the comforts of the professional quarter beneath the shadow of the castle and made my way to the docks north of the great stone bridge. “A monster!” they sang gleefully, as if finding this corpse gave them more joy than finding the hidden fairy during the Flower Festival on All Spells Day. In olden days, a monster got more respect, dead or alive. But now that most monsters were indeed dead, I feared our youth grew up rather reckless. I envied them their ignorant confidence.
The river still ran high, black and swift. Most of the flood damage remained untended, and would until the court emerged from its winter seclusion. Wooden docks had washed free and piled high against the bulwarks of the bridge. Supporting walls had crumbled and muddy banks lay exposed. Trees uprooted in the mountains had ended their journey nearly intact, creating eddies and whirlpools all along the waterfront. Homeless urchins swarmed like black beetles over the fresh turned mud, searching for washed up treasures. What they mostly found was garbage, and sodden garbage at that, but every once in a while, the long-sealed mouth of a tunnel or catacomb was revealed, and that’s when they came to me, Marek Zahradnik, alchemist and monster exterminator to kings and rabble alike.
I once again questioned my career choice upon viewing the gaping maw of yet another dripping, spider-black catacomb. The view did not slow Remy the rat boy. He slithered into the cave faster than a worm into filth, his measly lantern light disappearing with him.
“Go on,” said one of his mates. “It’s quite safe,” he added, ignorant of all the finer aspects of the word, he who thought safe meant “out of sight of the king’s guards” or “not currently on fire”. I scowled at him, not to be hurried, and took the time to rub a bit of mercury of myrtle upon the tip of my walking stick to create a faint glow. Then I dipped my head and entered the tunnel, resigned to wet shoes and squishy socks.
Thoughts of clammy toes and the things that might sprout between them if not quickly treated with ash of witch’s broom fled from my mind upon reaching the bones of the blood eater. As usual, the skeleton was phosphorescent. It cast a greenish light on Remy’s long, thin nose and buck teeth. Even the children could tell it was a blood eater, or vampyr, or dragula, by the large wooden stake wedged into its ribcage.
Find out what happens next. Get the short story here. (The story will be free until 2/24, then it will be .99)