Preview of The Watchers of Eldon, Book Seven in the World of Samar
Jax caught his breath and felt the hair on the nape of his neck rise. Brodie had told him tales of alien creatures living on this island, but he’d thought they were bedtime stories used to frighten children into going to sleep. The fishermen called this place Delure. Jax had been intrigued just enough to try finding it. Mostly he’d wanted to prove to Brodie that he was a good enough sailor. Even though Brodie had taught him himself, he was skeptical. Jax had taken the challenge. He hadn’t really expected to find anything here.
He fingered the hilt of his blade. He’d never been one for carrying a sword. He hated to be encumbered, but he could do some damage with the dagger. And yet, he didn’t know what sort of creatures might have made the hexagon building in the valley below him. There was no movement around it, no indication that anything alive lived inside. Perhaps it was abandoned.
Never one to flee a challenge, Jax started down the other side of the hill.
He’d left Temeron five years ago to see Kazden…well, to see the ocean. His friends had told him that it was a stupid venture to take. However, looking at the ocean hadn’t been enough. He’d watched the boats troll in and out of the harbor and he’d known that he had to learn to sail.
Enter Brodie and the strange friendship that had occupied the next five years. Brodie was an old, gnarled fisherman, who scraped out a meager living through the siege and after. Brodie Daegan had more stories to tell than Jax had ever heard. He suspected half of them were lies, but Jax didn’t care. Brodie knew how to sail and Jax was a willing pupil. Beyond that, Brodie didn’t mind taking Jax’s Lodenian coin either.
Jax wasn’t sure Brodie considered him a friend, but it didn’t matter. Whenever they shared a pitcher of ale in the tavern or went fishing in the bay, Brodie didn’t seem to mind his company, and he even shook his head in fond bemusement when his Stravad client did something incredibly stupid.
Jax hoped this wasn’t one of those stupid things. When he thought about it logically, it didn’t make much sense to go marching toward that hexagon without knowing exactly what he faced. He wasn’t even sure he knew what he intended to do. He didn’t think he intended to knock on the front door, but sometimes even he couldn’t predict what his impulsive nature might cause him to do.
Caution won out and he paused at the bottom of the hill, hiding behind a tree on the edge of the valley. From here, he could see the hexagon and the area directly in front of it. It still appeared to be abandoned, but no one had ever died from being too cautious – at least he didn’t think they had.
A rustle in the tree branches distracted him. He whipped around and looked over his shoulder. He couldn’t see anything, but more rustling followed the first bout. He eased back into the trees and crouched down, moving in the direction of the sound, shuffling forward in an undignified squat. Some hero, he thought.
He saw a number of the glittering rocks and circled around them, avoiding any contact with his skin. The bark of the trees was rough and brittle beneath his fingers, flaking away as he clung to it.
The forest jutted out at the base of the mountains, then sloped back. He eased his way to the farthest point, which afforded him a clear view down the entire line of foothills. He caught his breath and gripped the trunk. A short distance away stood a group of strange creatures, pulling low-hanging branches from the trees and piling them on a tarp.
There were three in all – man height, wearing long tunics and loose fitting trousers. Their feet were covered in a soft-soled shoe and they wore protective gloves on their hands. Their skin was an opalescent green, so pale he wouldn’t have noticed the greenish tint if the sun hadn’t been shining directly on them. From the crown of their forehead to the nape of their neck ran a thick band of white hair. Two of them had the strip of hair tied up in a horse’s tail.
The creatures didn’t notice him, didn’t sense him in any way, but Jax felt a sudden wash of anxiety. Something was making him squirm and he brushed a hand across his ear as if to dislodge an insect. He stopped in mid-motion. The sound in his ear wasn’t the sound of an insect, it was the sound of voices – thoughts, humming at a frantic pace.
At the same moment, the creature closest to him looked up. Jax felt its gaze pierce him. Its eyes were like two onyx spheres, larger than a man’s and round. Jax was torn between the strange beauty of the creature and the annoying buzzing in his head.
Then something landed on his shoulder. He jerked around and reared away, dislodging the long-fingered hand that gripped him. He landed on his backside and scrambled back. The creature looming over him was at least eight feet tall with a long, sloped forehead devoid of hair and skin so pale it glowed in the sunlight. Its eyes also glittered like onyx, no pupils distinguishable in the iris.
Jax narrowed his eyes as the buzzing increased, hammering against his eardrums and vibrating in his skull. He covered his ears with his hand, curling in on himself, but his head jerked up a moment later.
The buzzing wasn’t in his ears, it was in his skull, pulsating in his brain. Thousands and thousands of thoughts, questions, exclamations.
“Stop!” he shouted, clutching his head, but the buzzing only increased in alarm.
The creature held out its long fingered hand, but Jax had seen enough. He scrambled to his feet and bolted, crashing blindly into the undergrowth and climbing with both hands toward the summit.
He fell and slid downward many times, scraping his hands on the brambles, tearing holes in his clothes. Once his pack caught on a branch and he swung wildly to be free, afraid they’d caught up with him. The branch broke and threw him backwards. He landed on his side, catching his ribs and thigh on a rock. He rolled away and looked behind him. No one was in pursuit and the humming in his head had grown dull.
He rolled into a sitting position, protecting his ribs, and studied the rend in his trousers. A long gash ran the length of his hip and outer thigh. He grimaced and shrugged out of his pack, opening it and reaching for his medicinal kit. He pulled out a roll of bandages. The glittering dirt from the rock had gone into the cut, so he didn’t feel any pain, but he worried it might become infected. Using some of his precious water, he washed the dirt away, then bound it with the bandages. Taking a sip, he capped the water and put it away, then climbed gingerly to his feet. The leg bore his weight. Actually, it was numb. This alarmed him, but he reasoned it was probably for the best. He had a long hike ahead of him to get back to the shore, and then a swim out to his boat.
With a final look behind, Jax Paden began his long climb once more, grateful when the hum of thoughts finally faded entirely and he was left with only the single thoughts of his own mind.