This beautiful piece will grace the cover of my upcoming fantasy novelette, Vargrom: Modrad's Exile, which is a spin-off/prequel to The Fire King. It's scheduled for release this winter.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
“Is he in there?” Chuck asked.
Luis couldn’t see the mouth of the cave anymore, but that was by choice. He hid behind Chuck and Catsandra. After finding out who Barry was, Luis wanted no part in disturbing him.
“How I am supposed to know?” Catsandra said. “It’s dark.”
The brisk morning breeze caused Luis to shiver. Unfortunately for him, it proved to be the least of his worries. A roar from behind sent the dog jumping, forcing him face-first into Catsandra. As he turned to look, an enormous black beast stood in front of them, its breath outlined in the cool, damp air.
“There he is,” Catsandra said, her tone casual and calm.
Luis felt just the opposite. He couldn’t stop shaking.
The bear laughed. “Sorry, little one,” he said, apparently speaking to Luis. “I can never pass up an opportunity to scare someone.”
“Oh.” It was all Luis could muster at first. “No problem.”
Though the Chihuahua expressed relief, the sheer size of Barry still intimidated him.
“Are you busy?” Catsandra asked.
“It’s that time of year,” Barry said. “Of course I am.” He paused. “Why? Is there something you need?”
Catsandra stared at the dog. “Luis here is looking for a friend. He’s on his way to see Reagle.”
“He could use some muscle in the event he runs into trouble.”
“I see. It’s a bad time, though. I’m fattening up for the winter months, and I’ll be hibernating soon.”
“Oh, right,” she said. “I forgot about that.” Catsandra pondered for a while before continuing. “I have an idea.”
“You often do, Cat. I’m listening.”
“It’s only a day’s hike, and there’s a lot of vegetation in the foothills. You’ll be back in a couple of days, and you can have your fill along the way.”
Luis watched as Barry’s eyes narrowed. “You make a good point,” the bear said.
“If it matters at all, I’ll be going as well,” Catsandra said.
Those words astonished Luis, and he found comfort in the cat’s decision. “Thank you.”
“What about you, Chuck?” Barry asked. “You’re in the same situation as me. Won’t you be hibernating soon?”
“My burrow is ready for the winter,” he said. “A few days won’t matter.”
Luis thought of something, but he hesitated to speak. After deliberating for a few seconds, he posed a question. “I don’t know much about bears, but don’t you typically eat animals like… Chuck?”
Barry’s shoulders bobbed from amusement. “A fair question, little one. Most bears might, but not me.”
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“Yeah,” Chuck said. “Do you think I would have tagged along otherwise?”
© Kevin Hopson 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Catsandra settled near the entrance as Luis rested snug against the interior wall. The cat’s home was nothing more than a huge rock, at least at first glance. Jutting several feet above the ground, the strange formation resembled the bottom of a large tree that had been uprooted and pushed on its side. Parts of the rock were hollow, offering shelter to some of the forest’s inhabitants.
“How long have you lived here?” Luis asked.
“A long time,” Catsandra said, staring into the night. Light from the full moon helped illuminate the forest, some of the rays making their way inside. “Most of my life,” she added.”
“All by yourself?”
The cat bobbed her head. “I’ve never had family. None that I can remember, anyway.” Luis couldn’t imagine his life without Kendell, and he felt sorry for Catsandra despite the fact he hardly knew her. “That’s not really true,” she interrupted.
“Not having family.”
“So you do?”
“They’re all around me. The forest, I mean.” She pondered before continuing. “Still, it would be nice to know where I came from… who my parents were… if I had any siblings.”
Luis could relate. He knew his parents and siblings only briefly before being shipped off to another home. However, he did know them, and he loved his new family more than anything else in the world.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Where are my manners? Are you hungry?”
The dog hadn’t thought much about it given the day’s events. “I guess I could eat something.”
“What do you normally eat?”
“Obviously, but what type of food is that?”
Luis wasn’t sure how to respond. “I don't know what it is, but Kendell feeds it to me every day.”
“Have you ever eaten a mouse? I’m sure I can fetch you one.”
“Uh.” The thought of it disgusted Luis, but he didn’t want to insult Catsandra. “I don’t think I have.”
“They’re even easier to catch at night,” she said.
“Don’t bother,” Luis replied, sounding a little too desperate. “What I mean is that I’m not really that hungry.”
“Okay, but let me know if you change your mind.”
Luis nodded. “I will. Thanks.”
“I was thinking,” Catsandra said.
“Tomorrow. If you’re going to find Reagle, it might be wise to bring along some company.”
Catsandra seemed to be hinting at something, but Luis didn’t want to put her on the spot. “You think so?”
“There’s someone I know who might be able to help. His name is Barry.”
Though surprised with her response, Luis didn’t give any indication of it. “What does he do?”
“He can offer protection. As kind as these woods are to me, they can be very dangerous, too.”
“He lives just a few minutes from here. We can visit in the morning before heading out.”
“How else will you find him?”
“Of course,” Luis said, feeling somewhat embarrassed. A rustling in the woods distracted him.
“I saw you coming a mile away,” Catsandra said.
Moving into the light, Chuck appeared. “I’d like to go.”
© Kevin Hopson 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
With his ears pinned back, Luis trembled like only a Chihuahua could. His feet left the ground, and the dog gazed down, the rough and unforgiving touch of something unknown lifting him higher and higher. Finally, an object came into view, but it was nothing like he had seen before.
“Hello,” the creature said.
Too nervous to bark, Luis whined in response, his survival instincts eventually kicking in. He attempted to howl but something else escaped his mouth.
“Please,” Luis said, shocking himself.
“I’m sorry,” the creature said. “I’ve scared you, haven’t I?”
Just like the prior word Luis spoke, this one was equally unexpected. “Yes.” He paused. “I… can… talk.”
Luis realized he was being held by a branch, several ends of the limb coiling around him like fingers. The face in the tree stared back at him.
“Sometimes curiosity gets the best of me,” the tree said. “I’m Oakley.”
The dog thought about what he wanted to say, and his mouth did the rest. “Luis.”
“Nice to meet you, Luis.” Oakley lowered him to the ground.
“Where am I?”
“The forest,” Oakley replied.
Luis hesitated. “Yes, but what forest?”
The tree shrugged. “It doesn’t have a name. It’s just a forest.”
Confused, Luis looked over his shoulder, skeptical of what he saw. “Where did the tunnel go?”
“I came through a tunnel. It’s how I got here.”
“There’s no tunnel in that direction,” Oakley said. “Just miles of woodlands.” He wavered for a moment. “I have to say, though, that you came out of nowhere. I didn’t notice you until you were nearly beside me.”
Movement in one of Oakley’s branches startled Luis, the tree seeming to sense the alarm on his face.
“That’s just Catsandra,” Oakley said. “She won’t harm you.”
An orange, gray, and white-striped cat jumped to the ground, the dry leaves crumbling beneath its weight. Catsandra eyed Luis with her glowing green irises, keeping a stern face and refusing to speak. Luis swallowed. If lucky, the four-pound Chihuahua was half the size of the full-grown cat, but even that was a generous assessment. Luis paid her no mind and turned back to Oakley.
“I’m looking for a boy,” Luis said.
“A boy?” Oakley inquired. “A human?”
“Who is he?”
“His name is Kendell.”
“And he’s your friend?”
“My best friend,” Luis replied.
Oakley breathed out, some of the nearby leaves moving from the gentle breeze. “Wow. It’s been ages since I last saw a human.”
Those words deflated Luis. “Then you haven’t seen him?”
“I’m afraid not. However, if you’re trying to find someone in these parts, Reagle has probably seen them.”
“Yes,” Oakley said. “He lives in the foothills.”
“And how do I get there?”
“North… in the direction you were already headed.”
“It’s a day’s hike,” Catsandra chimed in, speaking for the first time. Her voice was much kinder than Luis had anticipated. “You’re better off heading out in the morning.”
As Luis contemplated the cat’s advice, Oakley let out a scream. The dog jumped back, noticing a furry, brown animal biting into the tree’s bark.
“Chuck,” Oakley yelled. “How many times have I told you? Chew on Woody over there and not me.”
“Sorry,” the woodchuck said. “Sometimes I can’t tell you trees apart, especially this time of the day.”
“Hey,” a voice called out in the distance. Luis assumed it was Woody. “Why are you always picking on me?”
“Who’s Woody?” Luis asked.
“My cousin,” Oakley answered. “He’s a lot bigger than me, so he can afford to lose some bark.”
“I heard that,” Woody shouted.
Luis watched as the last traces of daylight crept through the trees.
“Evening will soon come,” Catsandra said. “You’re welcome to stay with me if you’d like.”
© Kevin Hopson 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I've considered doing this several times in the past, and now I'm happy to finally go through with it. Each week (maybe more frequently) I will be posting a new chapter of this story as a "free read" for everyone. It won't be finely tuned and heavily edited liked my other books. However, as long as you can deal with that fact, I'll continue to churn it out. Without further delay, here is the first chapter of Kendell & Luis.
With a leash hanging from both sides of his mouth, Luis looked up at the garage door. The orange Chihuahua fixed his gaze on the knob, waiting for the protruding metal piece to turn. Kendell almost always arrived on time, and Luis never ceased to be excited. Their walks together highlighted the dog’s day.
Continuing to grip the harness with his teeth, Luis let out a light whimper. Other than Kendell being a little late, something that occurred every now and then, there was no real reason for concern. However, the dog’s intuition told him otherwise. More times than not, Luis’ gut proved to be right and – for whatever reason – he feared the worst this day.
The metal clasp of the leash knocked against the hardwood floor as Luis relinquished his grip, gently resting it beside the door. He darted out of the kitchen, making his way down the hallway foyer toward the front of the house. Kendell rarely used the main entrance, but the built-in dog door allowed Luis to come and go freely during the day. Putting his head through the flap, he searched the cul-de-sac for any sign of the boy.
A chilly, autumn breeze blasted Luis in the face and trickled through his mane. The Chihuahua possessed a medium coat, which provided warmth in the winter time and a higher tolerance for heat during the summer. Extreme temperatures seldom bothered Luis, though. In fact, the sight in front of him stirred more anxiety than any weather phenomena could.
Pushing through the door, Luis examined the street from the front steps. The sky was gray and the cul-de-sac empty. Several of the neighbors had kids the same age as Kendell, and they were typically out playing this time of the day, yet the neighborhood was unusually quiet.
Luis trotted down the steps and across the driveway to a small patch of grass. He often did his business here but was more interested in the sidewalk adjacent to it. The walkway descended a small hill, disappearing into a tunnel that went beneath the nearby road. It’s the path he and Kendell took each day during their walk. Luis didn’t know why, but he felt an urge to go in that direction.
Kendell loved the playground on the other side of the tunnel, so perhaps he had chosen to go on his own. Luis picked up the pace, the steep slope forcing his tiny legs to move furiously. When he arrived at the bottom of the hill, Luis hesitated. The tunnel, with cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and some of the overhead lights blown out, wasn’t as inviting without Kendell at his side.
“Luis,” a soft voice said, echoing in front of him.
Luis immediately recognized it. He could never mistake Kendell’s voice. Barking, the dog ran to the opposite end and exited the tunnel, but no one was there. The daylight around him began to fade. Luis looked back in the direction from which he came, the light appearing much brighter in the distance. Scared, Luis turned to head home, but something grabbed him before he could flee.
© Kevin Hopson 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
My novelette Delivering Jacob, which was released on October 13 by MuseItUp Publishing, is now available in all formats (eBook, print and audiobook). This story was inspired by personal tragedy and all proceeds will go to two charities... St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which is an organization that helps support parents who have experienced infant
Delivering Jacob Amazon Page
Delivering Jacob Amazon Page
Friday, October 2, 2015
Here is the debut trailer for my upcoming fantasy novelette, Vargrom: Modrad's Exile. This is a spin-off from my fantasy novella, The Fire King. It's due out this winter by MuseItUp Publishing. I hope you enjoy it!