Hello lovelies, and happy Thursday! Today I bring you an excerpt from Warriors, book two of the Shard Trilogy, as well as this super-duper exciting announcement: the release date! Yes indeedy, come March 15th you’ll be able to hold Warriors in your hands…er, on your phone/Kindle/tablet. Get excited!! Ahem. Anyway, here it is.
And remember, you can grab Pirates, book one of the Shard Trilogy, on Amazon Kindle, or read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Two weeks is just enough time to finish book one before book two is released, so get yo’self over there, friend!
It was a warm, summer evening in Lagos, Nigeria. Most people were settling down for the night and the only real clamor was aboard two ships that lay in port, filled with slaves who were to be shipped off the following morning. The trade was at its peak and had in fact reached a near-frenzy since talk of abolishing slavery had begin to spring up in England. But for the moment, the business of slavery was quite safe, still flourishing and in high demand.
Outside of Lagos, two bedraggled figures—a mother and her teenage son—hurried away from the port city, the shackles that bound their wrists clinking as they moved. They were sweating and their faces were tear-stained, but they were also determined to get away before their absence was noticed.
“Iya,” the young man said to his struggling mother, “we must hurry. If they notice we’re gone—“
“Go then, Siju. I cannot keep up with you. You must save yourself.”
He gripped his mother’s arm, pulling her with him. “No. I will not leave you. We’ve come this far—you can do it. Come on.”
For a while they continued on like this, but after another hour, his mother collapsed onto the sandy ground. Siju sighed deeply, feeling his mother’s weariness but able to carry it better because of his youth. His physical youth, at least—he was only fifteen, but he felt fifty. He knelt beside her and rubbed her back soothingly, deciding that they could afford a short rest. Besides, there was no way that she could take another step in this state.
He looked around them, trying to see if there was a place that they could hide for a while. Perhaps he was overestimating the slavers’ desire and ability to come after them, but then again, he had an idea of how much slaves were worth. He doubted that they would let two such valuable pieces of merchandise get away. At that thought, he clenched his teeth. Merchandise. That’s all we are to them.
They had been running just inside the trees that grew along the shore. He could see through their trunks to the vast ocean, lit up by the moon and stars like a rippling galaxy. There would be no hiding there, obviously. On his left were the trees, which grew thicker and thicker further away from the shore. He supposed that they could go in among the trees to hide, but that would only be temporary, and they would leave an easy-to-follow trail of trampled undergrowth behind them. No, they would simply have to keep going.
“Iya,” he said softly, stroking his mother’s hair, “we need to go. We can rest again a little further along.”
“Go without me, Siju,” she said again, her voice ragged. “I got you out, and that’s all I wanted to do. You can be free.”
“Stop saying that,” he said firmly. “Either we both get away, or we both get caught. I’m not leaving you. I—“ he broke off as a sudden splashing sound reached his ears, and his head snapped toward the ocean, instantly alert.
Out of the waters, like some kind of mystical apparition, came a man, stumbling along and fighting against the current. Siju watched as the man’s shoulders emerged, then his waist, then his knees. A foul stench came with him, like a body that has been without life for three or four days, and the man looked bloated and pale, like a corpse. Siju’s breath caught in his throat and he could taste bile, a reaction to the repulsive odor.
His mother, too, was staring at the thing, her eyes wide and terrified. “A fumbi,” she said breathlessly, so quiet that Siju could barely hear her. “An undead spirit. Loa help us. Siju, get away from here, now.” Her voice was frantic and high-pitched, so unlike the calm, soothing voice he knew.
Siju’s thoughts scrambled around his brain, trying to order themselves. Was this really an undead man? It certainly looked that way, and he supposed his mother, a Vodun mambo, would know. The bloated, chalky-skinned creature continued to walk towards them, strange, gurgling sounds coming from its throat. It seemed to be trying to talk to them, but all that came out was slurred gibberish, marred by seawater. Siju’s horror nearly overcame both him and his familial protectiveness, and it was all he could do not to bolt in the opposite direction, with or without his mother.
But he refused to leave her. Accessing strength he never knew he had, he dragged his mother to her feet and pulled her along with him through the underbrush, trying to put as much distance between them and the fumbi as possible. He blundered on through the thinner layer of trees, pushing branches out of the way and hoping against hope that they weren’t leaving too much of a trail, though he knew a blind man could follow the clues they were leaving. But he had to try, for his mother’s sake and for his own, and so her pushed on.
It seemed like an eternity passed before the sun finally rose. Both Siju and his mother were long past exhaustion, and they trembled as they staggered along, sweat dripping from their bodies as though they’d been in the water. Every now and then, Siju glanced behind them, making sure that the fumbi was not following them.
He could not see the creature any longer, but he also couldn’t relax about it. He had been a private skeptic of Vodun until now, despite his mother’s firm belief in it, but he could not shake the terror he’d felt upon seeing the undead spirit—nor could he get the thing’s stench out of his nose. It was a pure abomination of nature that such a thing was allowed to walk the earth.
But he slowly became aware of other sounds—harsh, animalistic sounds that made his mouth go even drier than it already was and that made his heart race. Dogs. They’re coming for us, and they have dogs. Siju wiped sweat from his forehead and looked down at his mother. She was breathing heavily and her eyes were closed, and her whole body was shaking.
This is it, Siju realized with the sudden calm that comes with accepting one’s fate. We can go no further. They’ll find us. No one can escape dogs. Trembling, he fell to his knees in the cool, white sand. If he had it in him, he might have wept, but as it was he could only stare numbly in the direction of the sound of dogs barking and men shouting.
What would happen to him and his mother now? He’d heard stories of escaped slaves being whipped to within an inch of their lives, or even being beheaded on the spot when they were found. At best they would be dragged back to the ships and then taken to some faraway land, forced to work like animals beneath the hot sun.
He shuddered and laid himself protectively over his mother’s shaking body, gritting his teeth. They would have to kill him before they could get to her. Siju had promised his father Bandele when he was dying three years ago that he would look after her, and he was determined to keep that promise. Let them come, he thought. I’ll rip them to shreds with my bare hands if I have to.
***If you enjoyed the excerpt, grab Pirates now so you’ll be all ready when Warriors comes out on March 15th!