Traveling deep into unknown enemy territory to complete their mission, Raylan learns that the ancient relic holds unexpected life; a creature buried in legends, one not seen in their world for more than two hundred years.
With their enemies closing in, Raylan and his friends search, desperately, for a safe way home. Danger lurks around every corner: Warriors larger than any man, predators stalking them through the night and soldiers determined to hunt them down. Leaving them all little choice, except to keep moving as they plot and fight their way back to those awaiting their return.
Targeted Age Group:: new adult, adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This story has been in my mind for years. It was simmering beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to break through. As I gained experience in life and writing, finally the moment came to me that everything fell into place and I started to put it all on paper. Windcatcher is the first book in a series of five (as it stands now). With major storylines flushed out and the characters emerging from both the story, as well as my mind, I look forward to continue the adventures of Raylan and his friends in the oncoming years.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The inspiration of my characters come from all parts of life. Some represent parts of myself, others what I see happening around me in the world. Other stories, movies, videogames. Inspiration is everywhere to be absorbed and harnessed into your own unique story shape. The dragons (and bond with a human) in particular are based on my experience as a falconer. The interaction with such majestic creatures is at the core of my dragon design.
Raylan pulled the reins of his horse to turn around and moved toward the north side of the mountain again. Looking down, he saw that the wagon was nearing the final stretch to the top.
Calling out toward the forefront, he waived his arm to encourage them over.
“Come on y’all! You got to see this!”
The bone-chilling howl that answered made Raylan’s arm freeze midair. The howl was so unnaturally hollow, and without warmth, that the hairs on his neck rose instantly. He saw Xi’Lao and Richard both look around to see where the strange sound came from, as his horse shuffled its feet nervously.
He did not see anything at first; but as soon as the black shape emerged from behind the last hilltop they crossed, he spotted it immediately. The dark shape looked like a wolf, much larger than Raylan had ever seen before. As it stood on the top of that hill, it threw its head backward and let out a second deep howl. As it echoed against the mountainsides, a deep rumble—like thunder—was felt beneath the sound; and at once, Raylan realized this was no ordinary wolf. His realization was enforced by the fact that he saw numerous men on horses come into view as they sped along the path they had been traveling now for days.
“Soldiers!” Raylan screamed, at the top of his lungs. “Move!”
He saw Xi’Lao and Richard put the spurs to their horses, to speed up, as Gavin cracked the whip at the horses in front of the wagon. The enemy troop was still a good distance removed from them, but the wagon would not be able to outrun them for long. They had to get to the rock arch as soon as possible. It was the best possible place to set up a defense against this new danger.
He turned around.
“Ca’lek, the stone arch, we need to make it!”
The call to action was all that was needed for Ca’lek to speed off.
As Xi’Lao and Richard flew by him, he shouted at them.
“Keep going, follow Ca’lek!”
The wagon took longer, but luckily it had already been quite close to the top. As Raylan turned around to line up his horse to the south side of the mountain, he saw that the large wolf was joined by another—even larger—and both jumped into motion, running along the path toward them. Their speed was incredible. They would be on them in no time at all. One last quick look counted at least twenty mounted enemies coming toward them. As he put his horse into motion, the first shouts of enemies encouraging their horses carried through the air. He quickly caught up with the wagon, and Gavin, which had just passed him at full speed.
Shouting at Gavin loud enough for the other riders to hear, too, he yelled, “A stone bridge ahead! We can make a stand there. It’s our only chance! They won’t be able to attack us all at once!”
He saw Galen and Peadar pass the wagon as soon as the path was wide enough. He heard Stephen cursing in the back of the wagon as it bounced roughly over the rocky path downhill. Behind the wagon, Harwin, Rowan and Kevhin pulled the spare horses they had taken from the encampment. The frightened animals had no trouble keeping up after hearing the wolves howl.
Approaching a bend in the path, Gavin used all his expertise in horse handling to prevent the horses from going out of control and ending up slipping off the path into the depths. The wagon tilted dangerously on two wheels as they carried the wagon’s speed and weight through the turn. Raylan heard a loud bang, which was most likely—judging from another cursed outcry—Stephen being thrown into the side of the wagon.
As both wolves came over the top of the path behind them, the larger one suddenly shifted and broke off the pursuit, diverting to its left, running along the mountain ridge out of sight.
Raylan looked behind him and saw the single wolf coming down the path and the horsemen coming just across the top. The group had already closed the gap between them by half. The wagon slowed them down on the winding road, the lone horses could not keep up more speed without the risk of slipping off the path.
“We can make it!” he shouted to Harwin and the two archers, “keep going!”
All around him, Raylan heard screams hastening the horses to full speed and beyond. As they approached the stone arch, Raylan saw how thin it actually was. The thinnest part stretching across looked more than thirty feet in width before it thickened again at the other side of the ravine. It looked very unstable and so narrow the wagon might not fit across it at all; and if it did, the weight of the wagon and cargo might destroy it by sheer gravity.
“Gavin! I don’t know if the wagon will be able to get across!” Raylan shouted above the thundering of hooves and the rattling of the wagon’s wheels.
“It’ll have to!” panted Gavin. Keeping the horses under control took a lot of his strength and concentration.
Both brothers were fully aware they stood no chance fighting the enemy on this side of the ravine. They needed the bottleneck of the bridge to fend off the attackers. Kevhin and Rowan would be able to take positions to fire arrows, while Galen and Richard would guard the bridge from the other side.
Suddenly, a loud thud sounded on Raylan’s left side. An arrow stuck in the back end of the wagon and, an instant later, another whirled by his right ear. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the enemy’s archers riding at a dangerous speed, holding on to their horses with just their legs, pulling back their bowstrings to fire off another volley.
Most of the arrows never hit their targets, as the horse riding and the distance made it challenging for the enemy soldiers, to say the least. Rowan and Kevhin both fired of an arrow, but directed their attention back to riding once they noticed the distance made hitting anything almost impossible; besides, they only had so many arrows. Unfortunately, the enemy archers did not seem to care about wasting their arrows, setting off volley after volley.
Raylan turned his head as an abrupt sound behind him attracted his attention. It was the cry of one of the spare horses as it was unexpectedly struck in the left hind leg. Its pain could almost be felt as the scream of fear rose from the animal’s throat. The horse bucked and almost dragged Harwin, who was holding the reins, out of his saddle. Not knowing which reins were from the panicking horse, he let go of all of them. The second spare horse, suddenly with the freedom to move in any direction it wanted, swayed dangerously toward Raylan, almost pushing him and his mount over the edge of the path.
“Hiyah! Hiyah!” Raylan shouted, to encourage his own horse, as well as to scare off the spare horse which was now out of control.
The terrified beast slid back into formation between the riders, not daring to slow down with the black wolf giving chase.
The wounded horse had no choice, however; crippled, it limped to a halt, unable to put any weight on its hind leg. As the enemy group came closer, the animal went into a frenzy of fear, trying to get out of the way. But instead of being attacked, it was just passed by the wolf. Speeding past it, the wolf did not pay the wounded horse any attention, nor did the riders which shortly followed the black hunter.
The gap shrank to less than five hundred feet.
In front of him, Raylan saw the wagon knocked into the air, as one of the wheels hit a small rock on the path, resulting in another rain of curse words streaming out of the back. Dry wood flew out of the back, tumbling over the path and becoming moving obstacles; but none of the horses seemed to notice, as pieces of wood slammed into their legs and bodies.
Even with everything going on—the enemy breathing down his neck, dodging small branches which managed to make it to his eye level—Raylan felt his thoughts go to the egg. A knot formed in his stomach, as a feeling of nervousness flowed through him. He was unsure, but it did not feel as though it was entirely his own emotion. He hoped the egg remained safe with the rough handling of the wagon.
As the path bent around the final mountain slope, the stone arch came back into view. Before making the turn onto the natural bridge, the path turned onto the small plateau they had spotted before. The mountain’s side on the plateau rose straight up, giving the feeling they rode along the walls of a grand castle as they tried to make it to the drawbridge across the moat.
We’re going to make it. We have to make it.
Raylan saw Gavin steer the wagon left, making as wide a turn as possible to steer the wagon directly onto the stone arch. Ca’lek, Xi’Lao and Richard were already halfway on the plateau, speeding toward the stone arch. They maneuvered into a single line to pass over the smallest part of the arch and divide their weight up as much as possible.
A shadow moved at the top of his vision, as Raylan steered his horse after the wagon onto the plateau. His eyes barely caught up with the dark shape, when he felt every fiber in his body react to the threat. As he pulled the reins of his horse, he saw the giant stone wolf land on the plateau with a loud thump. It did not even stop its movement, the black shadow sped ahead at full speed. Its leap from the higher slope placed it in front of Ca’lek, Xi’Lao and Richard’s group; now, it moved into position directly in front of the stone bridge. Its body turned toward them as it skidded to a halt, letting out an icy, hollow howl to challenge them.
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