Fresh from confronting the Lord of the Vampires in the limestone catacombs beneath Paris, Jack Templar faces his toughest challenge yet as he searches for the next Jerusalem Stone, this one being held by the Lord of the Werewolves.
But the narrow escape from the vampire lair came at a great cost and Eva battles to survive the new vampire blood in her veins. The only chance to help Eva is to continue their quest and find the Jerusalem Stones. Reuniting the Stones will not only stop Ren Lucre’s coming war against mankind, but also transform Eva back into her human self.
From the ruins of ancient Delhi to the depths of the Black Forest in Germany, Jack and his friends face monsters, bewildering riddles and treachery from the most unlikely of places. Through it all, they are plagued by the Oracle’s prediction that at least one of their group with not make it through the adventure alive. Worse yet, they know that Kaeden, the Lord of the Werewolves, will do his best to make sure none of them do.
But they are monster hunters of the Black Guard… and they will do their duty, come what may.
Right after Eva gave us her warning, things went downhill in a hurry.
Clawed, scaly hands jetted from the water on the port side of our small boat and grabbed onto the edge. It was perfect timing, and my mind registered that as a problem. Someone was in command and had trained these Creach well.
A bigger problem was that our boat tipped precariously to one side from all the weight hanging on it.
I lost my balance and staggered down the slope to the port side, hit the gunwale, and nearly fell into the water.
As I leaned over the edge, desperately pulling myself back on deck, I got a good look at what we were up against.
At least ten gillmongers hung on the boat. If you’ve never seen a gillmonger before, just imagine what a half-man/half-fish would look like, and you have a pretty good starting point.
Humanoid in size and shape, they are covered in slimy, scaled, green skin. A single heavy, armored spike sticks out along each long bone, from wrist to elbow, elbow to shoulder, knee to hip. But it was their heads that really threw me off.
Though it wasn’t an actual fish, it was close. Tight green skin stretched over elongated faces with gaping mouths and hardly any chin at all. The mouths all hung open, gasping for air in the foreign environment. They had rows of sharp teeth, too long to fit in properly behind the thin lips.
Huge eyes completed the fishy image. Big, black, lifeless discs the size of baseballs with no white to them at all.
Unfortunately for us, the gillmongers’ bodies were muscular and wiry. This was going to be no easy battle.
“Jack!” Will shouted, grabbing my shirt and pulling me backward away from the edge.
Even as he did so, the gillmongers pushed upward. The boat rocked in the opposite direction, sending us flying against the starboard side. They continued like this, pulling, pushing, pulling, pushing, until all of us sprawled out on the deck, holding on for our lives.
Everyone except Eva, that is.
I glanced up and saw that she remained on the bow of the boat, watching us with an expression of only mild interest.
Then the rocking stopped… and things got really bad.
The hands on the railing disappeared, and for the barest second I felt a surge of hope that something had scared them off. But all they were doing was plunging to the bottom of the river to have a firm surface from which to jump.
In a small explosion of water, the first gillmonger burst from the river, soared into the air, and landed on the deck of the boat, cracking the old wood planking with the impact. Then a second and a third rocketed over. Soon, there were five gillmongers on our small boat, each gripping a short dagger in its teeth.
Daniel got his wits about him first. He was right next to me on the deck, and I heard him say, “Sorry, but no one gave you permission to come aboard.”
He stood, produced his sword from his side and, with a battle cry, plunged into the enemy.
I jumped to my feet and joined him. The gillmonger in front of me greeted the downward thrust of my sword with his wicked little dagger. The collision produced a rain of sparks that reflected in the Creach’s black eyes. But it didn’t faze the monster. He pressed the attack, dagger flying, his mouth gaping open and shut as he moved.
“Enjoy your bath,” Will cried next to me as he forced the gillmonger he battled backward into the river.
In the split second I glanced over to see Will, I let my guard down just enough for the gillmonger I fought. He feinted with a direct knife thrust to my head. I blocked it easily enough, but my footing was off. When the gillmonger kicked at me with a webbed foot, I stumbled backward and found myself up against the pilothouse in the middle of the boat. On reflex, I ducked and felt the gillmonger’s left arm fly just over my head. The Creach’s spikes hammered into the wood on the pilothouse, trapping him there.
I used the opening and slammed my shoulder into his exposed ribs, churning my legs as I hefted him into the air. With a yell, I chucked him over the railing and back into the water.
A quick look across the deck told me we were in trouble.
More gillmongers were launching out of the river and landing on the boat. All of the guys were fighting hard – even T-Rex and Xavier double-teamed a gillmonger together.
But to make things worse, the slow current of the river had spun us around and was taking us directly toward a sand bank curving out toward the main channel. That’s when I remembered that nobody was steering the boat.
We hit the sand bank with surprising force, the current carrying us faster than I thought. Everyone on deck, both hunters and gillmongers, lost their balance and fell. I used the opportunity to dispatch the nearest gillmonger with my sword, lifted his legs, and tipped him overboard. The body hit the sandbank with a thud and lay there, unmoving.
Too bad the sand around the body did move. Claw pinchers made of black, shiny armor rose up from the sand, snapping at the air. Big crustacean bodies followed, dozens of them appearing along the sandbank, each as big as a large suitcase.
“Pincer-crabs,” Xavier shouted. “They can bite through armor. Be careful.”
“I was planning on it,” was all I could manage as the gillmongers redoubled their attack, savagely swinging their swords and body spikes at the nearest one of us they could find. Anyone except Eva, that is. They left her completely alone as she stood silently at the bow.
The pincer-crabs crawled from the sand straight at us. The sound of splintering wood filled the air as they tore away chunks of planking wherever they touched the boat. They appeared to be unstoppable and mindless, ready to consume anything that stood in their path.
This proved true as I managed to trip the gillmonger I was fighting. I kicked him toward the pincer-crab just coming over the top of the railing. In the blink of an eye, the crab grabbed the gillmonger by the arm, dragged him over the edge and back to the sandbar. The pincer-crab detached itself and fell on the gillmonger. I looked over the edge of the boat and saw the monster crab feeding on the body.
There was a scream and then I heard Daniel bellow, “Xavier!”
I turned and saw Xavier with a pincer-crab on him, one of the thing’s sharp walking legs impaled through his shoulder.
“No!” I shouted.
But there were four gillmongers between me and Xavier, and more springing from the water. Pincer-crabs crawled up the side of the boat. Daniel had lost his sword in the battle and now fought with his fists. T-Rex stood next to Will, waving a short sword in front of him as the creatures closed in. Will pulled at Xavier’s arm, doing everything he could to keep him from being pulled over the side to certain death. Screams of pain and terror filled the air.
We were lost. This was the end of our adventure.
Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.
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