(( It’s been a while, so I thought I’d share an excerpt from a chapter I’m currently working on in “Ice Phoenix”. Enjoy. ))
Lutvyk tightened his grip on his sword, his light blue eyes darting between the path ahead and the waters lapping the slush of the stony bank.
“Is it just me, or does it seem unnaturally quiet, captain?”
“Yeah, too quiet-”
Icy water doused Lutvyk as a horrific monster lunged out of the river. Drawing his sword on reflex, he turned as the creature slammed into him, tearing him from his saddle.
Hitting the ground hard, Lutvyk struggled to fend the monster off, his blade wedged lengthwise into its upper jaw.
A carcass ravagyr, it had the upper body of a man but the bald, noseless, lipless head had an upper jaw lined in hooked teeth. Lacking a lower jaw, its gaping mouth opened all the way down to the open orifice of its chest where the murderous teeth lining it gave way to sharp ribs opened outward around an exposed stomach. The body closed at the end of the torso flanked by knife-like legs before coming to a sinuous tail that ended in a wide, powerful fin. The muscular arms and webbed fingers with sharp talons crushing Lutvyk’s shoulders were the least of his worries.
Fighting for his rider, Fraust attacked from behind, raking his massive claws through the slimy, fish-belly white flesh and biting chunks out of its boney back. Every time it managed to shake him off, the snow leopard came back twice as fierce. Greasy blood splashed Lutvyk’s face, the smell like rotten fish guts making his stomach turn.
Rounding back, J’pyn vaulted from his snow leopard’s saddle, sword drawn. Aimed for the carcass ravagyr’s head, he’d nearly reached it when it’s tail snapped up, catching him full in the chest and throwing him to the ground. Landing in a skid, he came in again.
Gritting his teeth against the pressure bearing down on him, Lutvyk fought to keep the monster at arm’s length and the flexing, reaching teeth and ribs along its yawning torso away from his body. Its force against him drove his sword further into its jaw until it wedged in bone.
There was no way to gain the upper hand. If he leveraged himself against the ground and flipped the carcass ravagyr over, the monster would flail its body. All it would take was the lightest brush and the hooked teeth would have him, their rapid, undulating movement churning his guts to mush while pulling them into the monster’s exposed stomach.
The problem was, carcass ravagyrs were not easy to kill.
Lutvyk looked into the rheumy eyes peering down at him with voracious hunger.
“Being gutted and devoured alive is not how I plan to die!”
~ Excerpt from “Ice Phoenix”, due out late 2018, copyright Aj Culpepper 2018
~ Artist Unknown