Follow-up on New Book and Katabasis

Hi all! I’m regretfully admitting that I have to push back my new release again. I’m still dealing with some things and, though I wanted to put out this book in the wintertime due to its setting, I’ll have to wait until I’m fully satisfied with it. I also need to rewrite its accompanying short story that I’ll be releasing for free download along with it. So, there’s still too much to do! And I’ll not beat myself up about the delay!

In the meantime, I’ve decided to post a series on my page here. It’s something written purely for fun with a Greek D&D feel and a little bit of silly romance, and it’s not quite up to my publishing standards, so you get it for free! I’ll be posting it in bits until I catch up to where I stopped it, and then if people like it I’ll write more. So here is: Katabasis (or its working title: SKELETONS!).

(Sorry, I don’t have anything drawn for this, so have a dinky AI cover.)

Whenever he left a town, he always let himself have a brief fantasy that he was leaving to return home, that he knew somehow where home was and was following the path there. That in just a few days’ time, he would be walking back in the gates, and would be greeted, and maybe the spell on him would be broken and he could respond to anyone who spoke to him.

He had a few spare minutes to let his imagination work this way as he left Kalfas. The road changed from stone to dirt as he left the bustle of the town behind and the temple of Athena on its little hill was lost behind the trees. The sun was rising, just peeking over the horizon, though that was hidden behind the foliage as well. He imagined that he had asked directions, and that he had requested transportation just up the road. A horse-driven cart passed by him and the fantasy dissolved. He couldn’t even ask the driver if he could ride in the cart. He wouldn’t risk just hopping in – sometimes the drivers beat him out of their carts. He had no directions, and he would have to walk. It wasn’t like he didn’t have the time for it, but there were other thieves in the woods, and he couldn’t outrun them on foot. He had been beaten that way, too.

Whatever. He was used to it.

He had quickly discovered when he had been tossed out into the world that he had a natural talent for thievery – an ability to silently vanish into the shadows – but thievery meant that he couldn’t remain in any one town for long. He had a constant nagging worry that eventually someone would realize food had started disappearing when he had arrived, or he would simply be caught red-handed, and he would be unable to verbally defend himself. He didn’t even want to steal, but he couldn’t beg, couldn’t ask for money or a job, couldn’t even indicate any question through motion. It hadn’t been merely his voice they had locked away.

It had been a very long time. He had stopped counting the days. But he had never stopped thinking of home. It was in his heart, every moment of every day, and in his dreams at night. He didn’t know the way back there; they had made sure of that, too, when they took his voice. He no longer felt anger or annoyance or even sadness. He was numb.

Except when he thought of home.

The sound of the cart and the horse pulling it melted away down the path ahead, and he was able to hear the birds chirping. He was sleepy. He was not a morning person, or even a day person. He yawned silently, and looked to the clouds to see which way they were drifting. East. So possibly rain. A bad time to be striking out into the woods. But he didn’t really mind rain. It was easier on him than the sun glaring in his eyes.

He noticed something flitting among the branches above him. A white bird. He stopped, focusing on it. It took off from a branch, flew in circles, and landed again. It made a sound. It wasn’t a chirp; it was a moaning whistle, as if a wind were passing through a gap between enormous imposing stones – the sound of ageless longing and loneliness.

The thing flew down closer to him, as if it had noticed him. It had no feathers. It had no skin and no flesh. It opened its white beak and whistle-moaned again, this time in his direction.

He raised his hands to it. He was at least allowed to do that, to invite the thing down.

It glided down as if it had wings, though all it had was bones – nothing but bones. It hesitated on a branch just above him, its skull cocked to the side, regarding him. It shone beautifully white, a tracery of bones as its humerus, radius, and ulna folded over its ribs and spine. The dark holes in its skull studied him before realizing that he was all right, and then hopped to the edge of the branch, where his fingers touched the thing.

A desperate whinny of a horse and a clattering of a cart sounded from down the path, sending the bone-bird flying into the air, above the trees and out of sight. He watched it go with a terrible regret and a sadness that he typically didn’t allow himself. Then the cart was careening down the dirt path, and he had to dart out of the way as it passed him again, only this time heading towards town, the horse’s eyes crazed and mane flying, the driver whipping it bloody.

Once the cart vanished around a turn, he continued on down the path, in the direction the cart had fled from. He could hear a clashing of swords and shouts, and wondered if he might be wrong in what had caused the horse and cart to flee. But highway robbers wouldn’t typically act so close to a town.

If he were smart, he would turn around and not get involved. It could be anything ahead – robbers, war, just a group of people having a bad day. But if it was none of those things, and he could help…

He quickened his pace.

And if he did help? What had that ever gotten him before? He had saved lives and, every time, been chased away for it, pummeled with rocks or brandished at with a sword. The living never appreciated what he did for them.

But the dead did.

He sped up again.

He spied movement through the trees, and he could hear two people shouting to each other: a young man and a younger girl. Their words were not encouraging; they were losing the fight, and wouldn’t be able to outrun their enemy. Unearthly snarls told him why – there were dogs among the skeletons attacking them.

The girl heard – or sensed – him first. She was dark-skinned, short and plump, and her hair was a mass of curls. She turned her wide, dark, frightened eyes to him, and cried out, “Paris! Behind us!”

The man named Paris could barely turn to look. He was deep in battle with several skeletons, two of which gripped swords in thin hands that seemed, at first appearance, so frail. They clattered as they moved, their legs taking steady steps towards the pair. Their jaws hung open, a mournful moan escaping their gaping mouths. The dog danced around the legs of the man, bones chattering, all flesh-less startling white. Its teeth were bloody, and blood dripped from the man’s leg around tattered fabric.

That man only glanced over his shoulder, his eyes wider and more fearful than the girl’s under a mess of copper hair.

“Get out of here, man!” Paris shouted, turning back to the sword flying at him. He deflected it artfully. He had done well for the most part; a line of scattered bones indicated where he had retreated, striking down the enemy. But several of them were rattling back together, rising up to strike again.

The girl, realizing the newcomer behind them was not a threat, shouted, “Go! We’ll hold them off!”

He sighed inwardly. This Paris person had a sword and was good with it. He’d be in major trouble when the pair chased him off. But there were so many dead here that needed rest.

He stepped forward.

To be continued…

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