Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hunter Shea's The Montauk Monster - Spotlight with Excerpt

Publisher’s Weekly named the upcoming thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER, one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

About the book/Advanced praise"Shea combines ancient evil, old school horror, and modern style." --Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author

It Kills. . .

On a hot summer night in Montauk, the bodies of two local bar patrons are discovered in the dunes, torn to shreds, their identities unrecognizable. . .

It Breeds. . .

In another part of town, a woman's backyard is invaded by four terrifying creatures that defy any kind of description. What's clear is that they're hostile--and they're ravenous. . .

It Spreads. . .

With every sunset the terror rises again, infecting residents with a virus no one can cure. The CDC can't help them;FEMA can't save them. But each savage attack brings Suffolk County Police Officer Gray Dalton one step closer to the shocking source of these unholy creations. Hidden on nearby Plum Island, a U.S. research facility has been running top-secret experiments. What they created was never meant to see the light of day. Now, a vacation paradise is going straight to hell.

"Hunter Shea is the real deal.. . .intense." --Gord Rollo, author of Valley of the Scarecrow and Crimson

"Shea delves deep into the unknown. A thrill-ride of a read!" --Alexandra Holzer, author of Growing Up Haunted

Called “Most Anticipated Summer Read of 2014” by The Horror Bookshelf along with Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes and Brian Moreland’s The Vagrants.

Barnes and Noble

Raves for Hunter Shea

Forest of Shadows

"A frightening, gripping story that left me too frightened to sleep with the lights off. This novel scared the hell out of me and it is definitely a creepy ghost story I won't soon forget." --Night Owl Reviews

Sinister Entity

"This is the real deal. The fear is palpable. Horror novels don't get much better than this." --Literal Remains

". . .Culminates in a climactic showdown between human and spirit that keeps you glued to the pages!" --Horror Novel Reviews

Evil Eternal

"Hunter Shea has crafted another knockout. At turns epic and intimate, both savage and elegant. . .a harrowing, blood-soaked nightmare." --Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows

Swamp Monster Massacre

"If you're craving an old-school creature-feature that has excessive gore. . .B-horror movie fans rejoice, Hunter Shea is here to bring you the ultimate tale of terror!" --Horror Novel Reviews

About Hunter Shea
Hunter Shea is the author of paranormal and horror novels Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, Sinister Entity, which are all published by Samhain Horror. The June 3, 2014 release of his horrifying thriller Montauk Monster is published by Kensington/Pinnacle.

He has also written a short story to be read prior to Sinister Entity, called The Graveyard Speaks (it’s free, go download!), and a book of stories called Asylum Scrawls. His next book from Samhain Horror, titled HellHole, came out July 1, 2014, and is his first western horror. As you read this, he has a few more books in the works from both Kensington and Samhain and release dates should be announced soon.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists, and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.

He is also half of the two men show, Monster Men, which is a video podcast that takes a fun look at the world of horror. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at, on Twitter @HunterShea1, Facebook fan page at Hunter Shea or the Monster Men 13 channel on YouTube.

Montauk Monster Truth or Fiction

Is the Montauk Monster made up for the book or an urban myth? Is there some truth that propels the story? You can find out more about the real Montauk Monster story here:

Excerpt from The Montauk Monster
The bat suddenly felt like a lead weight in his hands. Brian took a step back. He couldn’t make out any details in the dark, but he could see that they had to be dogs, big ass ones to boot. His plan had worked, in that his little surprise had gotten them to stop rooting through the garbage. The one drawback, and it was a big one, was that they weren’t the least bit afraid. Not of him. Not of the bat in his hands.

They took a step forward. The one on the right flicked a paw, crashing the can into the side of the house.

Brian tried to shout. All that came out was a soft, stammering hiss of nonsense.

The dogs came closer.

What the hell was wrong with them? Brian could feel the heat of their savage intention coming off them in steady waves.

He tripped as his heel came in contact with the raised brick of the patio. Daring a quick glance to his right, he wondered if he could make it in the door and slam it shut before they got to him. It would be close.

They’d gone disconcertingly silent.

Drawing in a deep breath, he pivoted and started to run.

He didn’t go far.

The other garbage can took the brunt of his flight. His shin cracked into it and he somersaulted over the can, landing on his side. The pain in his leg was excruciating.

The ticking of nails on concrete made the hairs at the back of his neck stand on end as the dogs rounded the corner with confident strides.

Brian scrabbled to get back on his feet. The open door was just six feet away. In there was safety. In there was light and a first aid kit to take care of his leg.

In there was a place where pissed off, giant dogs could not go.

His yard was swiftly flooded with light.

“Brian, what the hell are you doing out there?”

The light and Sam’s angry voice put a good scare into the menacing dogs. They dashed back down the alley as fast as greyhounds. One of them brushed against the can on its way out, giving it one last ear-splitting clatter against the house.

Hands clasped over his battered shin, Brian couldn’t find the words to answer his neighbor.


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Friday, May 30, 2014

The Strain Read-a-Long - Twitter chat postponed #thestrainRAL

I am behind on posting the discussion post...and responding to the comments on the last discussion post. I'm so sorry! It's the end of the school year so it has been constant music performances and award ceremonies to attend. I promise I will have it posted tomorrow. Also, something has come up for me tonight and so I'm going to have to postpone the Twitter chat until next Friday, June 6 at 8:00pm CST/9:00pm EST. Again, I do apologize.

Hope you're enjoying the book as much as I am!


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Thursday, May 22, 2014

PUYB: Kevin Bohacz's Ghost of the Gods - Spotlight

Title: Ghost of the Gods
Genre: Techno-Thriller
Author: Kevin Bohacz
Publisher: Mazel & Sechel
Pages: 437
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Was it the accumulated wounds to the environment that had finally triggered the nanotech plague or was it simply one more step in a shrewdly crafted plan to replace us with humans 2.0? As I write this at least one pair of these transhumans breathe the same air as us, and there are likely many more. They may look like us, they may even be almost human, but they are also cybernetic and will live for an extraordinary length of time. Trust me, their goals are not the same as ours. It was not a natural plague that almost drove humankind to extinction but an attack from within, turning our own biology against us. Scientists discovered all too late an artificial entity, a sentient machine foolishly created in the image of god, had been studying us and genetically altering us for longer than we can imagine. Perhaps it is because of this god-machine that we evolved into creatures who can think and speak and know our own mortality? This silicon god is so different from us that we may never truly understand it, but what we do know is that it is terrifyingly intelligent and it hates us. What we do know is that it tried to eradicate us from the face of our planet and then stopped for no discernible reason. What we do know is that its work is not done.

It had been a restless night for both of them. The old growth forest was dense with huge oak and hickory trees. The ground was damp, and the air had a mossy tang to it. Mark Freedman heard the snapping and popping of the campfire as he awoke very oddly from a dream. He no longer awoke as humans had since their beginnings. At some point the processing throughput of his nanotech augmented brain surged upward and his eyes simply opened. He was fully aware of the data streaming in from his senses and his wireless neurological interface to the god-machine. The machine was an artificial intelligence whose origin was murky. It was hosted redundantly within the world’s oceans in supercolonies of the same nanotech seeds that infected him. A single seed was a self-replicating nanotech machine about a quarter the size of an average bacterium, yet had the power of a personal computer. The technology was decades beyond anything humans could have created in a lab. Some thought the technology could be almost as old as life on earth while others had far different, more recent ideas.

Mark could still see the spherical colonies in his mind. He had been dreaming of them again. Each was an undulating mass of hundreds of trillion of COBIC bacteria. Each bacterium was infected with a seed that covertly replaced most of the nucleus. It was all so stealthful, like a skilled hunter toying with its prey. Only in this case its prey was the world. Each colony was only a few feet in diameter, a size easily lost in the vast chasms of deep ocean water. Only a handful of these super- colonies were secreted around the world. He could hear echoes of the artificial intelligence thinking to itself. At times it could be maddening.

The god-machine, through its global wireless web, linked together all seeds that permeated everything on the planet. The result was an ancient living network of unimaginable scale and distributed comput- ing power. The seeds undetectably infected virtually every multi-celled creature, including humans.

Mark took a deep breath to clear the cobwebs of his dreams then took another deep breath. He heard a twig snap in the darkness, and his heart jumped. At the edge of the small clearing, beyond the reach of the campfire’s glow, lurked a deep gloom thick enough to conceal almost anything. The night was alive with droning and chirping creatures that should have been hibernating. Climate change had brought so many unforeseen consequences. In seconds his nanotech brain had cataloged the telltale sounds of several species of insects and other small creatures. Some would be extinct before long.

Mark thought how humankind had come so dangerously close to extinction itself. When the nanotech seeds had metastasized inside him two years ago, the technology had not only altered his brain, it had modified his flesh and even to some extent his DNA. While most of the seeds had taken root permanently inside the neurons in his brain, some remained unattached.

Using a mental command, Mark augmented his vision to include medical information about his body. The information was mentally projected as virtual reality. Looking at his arms and legs, he saw what resembled a colored fluoroscopic view. Orange blotches in the overlaid schematic symbolically indicated where the unattached mobile seeds were now massing. He knew these seeds were concealed inside harm- less COBIC bacteria, which they controlled and used both for disguise as well as mobility. These nanotech bacteria navigated his circulatory system like computerized antibodies. The microbes were sheathed in a chemical disguise, dialed-in to match its environment in the same way a chameleon changes its color. The result was complete invisibility to the immune system of its host. If his flesh was injured, this free-swimming nanotech could knit his tissues back together at the molecular level, healing the damage in days instead of weeks. These seeds, however, did far more than heal. Slowly, over time, they perfected through genetic fine tuning. He was the first of his kind. He had no idea how long he would survive, but he did know his lifespan would be extraordinary.

Mark turned off the medical projection. While he could examine his flesh, there was no command that could show him what was happening to his mind. Soon after the nanotech seeds had infected his brain, all his dreams had become conscious experiences and remained that way. In his conscious dreams he was able to solve problems, explore places, and just simply live. It was like an entire second existence had been opened to him. He knew his conscious dream life was mostly the result of photographic recall of everything, including dreams. Surveillance data from the god-machine proved most people had conscious dreams every night; they just failed to remember them and called them by a different name: lucid dreams.

Mark gazed up from the small clearing at a sky overcrowded with stars. He felt like the only being alive in this infinite, lonely place. A gibbous moon was just setting below the branches. Its pale blue light cast long shadows of tree limbs across the clearing. The shadows reminded him of ghostly talons reaching out for their prey. He checked for dream signs to make sure he was not experiencing a false awakening.

The temperature should have been frigid and the ground covered in deep snow, but it was not. More signs of a planet teetering on the brink of environmental collapse. The continent no longer had uniform seasons. Some places were experiencing a frozen winter while here in Missouri it was closer to early spring. It was chilly enough to be uncomfortable for an organic, but not for Mark and his companion. He simply dulled the temperature sensitive nerve endings in his skin. The campfire’s low flames had been reduced to orange coals. He could see the radiated warmth on his arms and legs but felt nothing. The glowing coals seemed almost alive as they writhed in their superheated world. Unable to feel the warmth, Mark was fascinated and reached out with his hand. A computer assist acted automatically in response to his state of mind. This assist, like the medial schematic, was a geo-projected virtual reality. The assist was warning him that the heart of the fire was 1,262 degrees Fahrenheit. It did this by displaying the temperature superimposed over the coals. Mark thought about the utter pointless- ness of that warning and how it showed the machine interface was still adapting to him and had far to go. He never had any intension of inserting his hand into the flames.

A soft breeze stirred dying leaves on the branches around him as a few more floated to earth. He watched one incinerated as it drifted down onto the hungry coals… as it dissolved, a terrible memory crept back into his awareness unbidden and his heart broke anew. Every day when he awoke the world was as it should be for a brief time, then the serpent of reality opened her eyes inside him and the horror of what he knew broke him again as he knew it would every morning of every day of his unimaginably long life. He spoke in an urgent whisper directed at both God and the god-machine.

“I want our lives back. I want our hope back. How could you hate us so much?”

Sarah stirred next to him. She was a nanotech hybrid like him. They were the only two known to exist in a world of one and half billion humans who had survived the nanotech plague. A plague caused by the god-machine and the seeds living inside his flesh. Mark regretted whispering and furtively wiped the dampness from his eyes. Sarah’s Rottweiler, Ralph, was staring at him. The dog’s eyes glowed with orange light from the fire. The huge animal was like a witch’s familiar.

Sarah could partially see and hear through the animal’s senses as they were radiated out as data across the god-machine’s n-web. Since all creatures were infected with some nanotech seeds, all creatures radiated some emanations, be it mental or emotional. Sarah propped herself up. Mark could see her shadowed expression in the wavering light. She looked so attractive and so frighteningly intelligent. He knew she was curious. He could feel her empathic awareness begin to suffuse him as her cybernetic brain fully awoke like a rising sun. Her spiritual caress was a hand returning to a familiar glove. While she shared and expe- rienced all his emotions, she must never discover the terrible truth. He concealed it deep inside himself and kept it from her so that she did not lose all hope. There was always hope.

About the author

I am Kevin Bohacz the bestselling novelist of Immortality and a lucid dreamer… Welcome to my dreams. I am also a writer for national computer magazines, founder and president of two high technology corporations, a scientist and engineer for over 35 years, and the inventor of an advanced electric car system – the ESE Engine System (circa 1978). I was also a short order cook for I-Hop, flipped burgers at McDonalds, and delivered Chicken Delight. All of those careers and more are behind me now that I am a full time storyteller, a catcher of dreams. Thank you for reading my stories and making this all possible.

His latest books are Immortality and Ghost of the Gods.

Visit Kevin’s website at or follow him on Twitter at

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Ghost of the Gods Tour Page


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Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Strain Read-a-Long - Discussion Post One #thestrainRAL

I was going to post some questions from a reading group guide I found online, but it said it had a lot of spoilers and I, for one, do not want this book spoiled for me.

So, how are you liking it so far? I am finding it incredibly creepy. The part when the firefighter is up on the wing investigating and the door just opens. Holy cow! I had all kinds of skin crawling going on. And how about that huge coffin-like box in the cargo hold? I'm sorry but if I found a box like that with soil in it, what would I automatically think of? Dracula, vampires, and the like. I mean, come on...did these characters NOT read Dracula?! Yeah, that's just my horror novel/movie brain talking. haha!

The eclipse was an interesting addition to the story. It was cool to learn more about the phenomenon. I had no idea that a person could really go blind after looking at the eclipse during the sun's reappearance. Then shouldn't Dolores Claiborne be blind? She looked at the eclipse as the sun reappeared after letting her husband fall to his death in a well. But I digress. That's another book for another time. *wink* Anyway, I thought the eclipse added to the general foreboding of the story. I think Eph's ex-wife had just the right attitude about it...feeling very uneasy. Little does she know...

Share with us your thoughts by leaving a link in the comments or by just commenting below. If you've read ahead, please keep in mind that others may not have so try not to leave any spoilers.

I hope you're enjoying the book as much as I am.


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Monday, April 21, 2014

The Strain Read-a-Long - Information, Sign-up, and {Giveaway}


Welcome to the information and sign-up post for The Strain Read-a-Long! We will be reading the book in May and June in anticipation of the FX network series which starts in July. Want to win a copy of the book? Giveaway details at the end of the post!

Here is the reading and post schedule. I've also decided to host two Twitter chats at the end of May and June. Hashtag will be #thestrainRAL

First reading section: 
Pages 1 - 93 (starting with The Legend of Jusef Sardu)

First discussion post goes up here at Castle Macabre:
May 16

Second reading section:
Pages 97 - 207  (starting with Awakening: Regis Air Maintenance Hangar)

Second discussion post goes up here at Castle Macabre:
May 30

First Twitter chat:
Friday, May 30 at 8:00pm CT/9:00pm ET (#thestrainRAL)

Third reading section:
Pages 211 - 290  (starting with The Old Professor: Knickerbocker Loans and Curios....)

Third discussion post goes up here at Castle Macabre:
June 13

Fourth (and final) reading section:
Pages 293 - end  (starting with Replication: Jamaica Hospital Medical Center)

Fourth (and final) discussion post goes up here at Castle Macabre:
June 27

Second Twitter chat:
Saturday, June 28 at 9:00pm CT/10:00pm ET (#thestrainRAL)

Sign up to join us in the linky below. I hope you will!


I have a large, mass market style (meaning it's not the small mass market paperback) copy of The Strain to giveaway to readers in the U.S. only. I cannot mail internationally at this time due to finances. Sorry! You must be signed up for the read-a-long to enter. This is going to be a fast one so I can mail the book out this weekend. Please leave me a comment below if you're entering and leave me your email address in case you win. Last day to enter is Thursday, April 24 at 11:59pm CT.

Sign up HERE!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Run with the Wolves-Volume One: The Pack by T C Combs - Guest Post and Review

Story and Setting

In writing the "Run with the Wolves" saga I initially had a concept for a story about a number of different people who suffered from afflictions that were not of their choosing - and how differently those various people chose to deal with what fate had cruelly bestowed upon them. I had in mind a 'Vampire-like' character; a 'Pack' of both wolves and wolf-like humans who suffered from a lunar-sickness; and finally, a group of people who were rejected by society due to physical abnormalities or forced into hiding due to religious persecution.

To make these characters come to life, it quickly became apparent to me that the setting was going to be every bit as important as the story itself.

I did a lot of research - and a lot of soul searching too, I suppose. The more I learned, the more I was drawn to the life and times of the 15th century in Medieval Europe, and in particular, to the year 1461. This was century of great discovery and learning. It was also a time of terrible repression and great cruelty.

The 15th century saw the birth of great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Copernicus. The famous explorers Bartolomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Vasco da Gamo opened up the world to new trade routes and lands not previously known to Europe. It was a century that saw the Johannes Gutenberg printed bible and the founding of universities in places such as Barcelona.

The 15th century saw the birth of Joan of Arc in 1412, saw her lead the French forces against the English in 1428, and watched as she was burned at the stake in1431. It saw the execution of the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus. It was the time of the War of the Roses, the Plagues that swept across Europe, the on-going conflict between the three pillars of society - the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. It was a century that saw the expulsion of Jews from Portugal and Spain - and of course, the 'Inquisition' under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

And, it was the century that saw the advent of firearms and the change that development brought to warfare. If all that wasn't enough, it was the time of Vlad the Impaler - the man said to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker's story 'Dracula'. What better setting for my fantasy epic to take place in than this time period!

I hope you will check out my trilogy 'Run with the Wolves'. Pick up a copy of Volume One 'The Pack' and see for yourself how history and fiction can be mixed to deliver a spell-binding tale that will keep you riveted and entertained.

Please visit my website for retail sites, full reviews, storyboards, and special events.

All the best

T c Tombs

My thoughts on Run with the Wolves
The best of both of my favorite worlds here...historical fiction and horror. This is a very different werewolf novel from what I have read before. I found the story and setting a refreshing change from the normal Urban Fantasy setting.

Don't go into this one expecting non-stop action. That is not this novel. As I read a lot of historical fiction, I am accustomed to long, descriptive scenes, etc. of historical background which is what this book has in plenty. Now don't get me wrong...there is plenty of action and, for the horror buffs, even gore. But this novel is not just a tale of wolves and werewolves. It's a story of countries divided and warfare too. So, although it may have been slow going at times, I appreciate the difference in this style of horror novel and find myself anxious to read the next book in the series.

About the book
It is the fifteenth century, and three kingdoms are caught up in the dire conflicts of their time. As the possibility of a peaceful resolution provides hope that a decade-long war will finally end, no one realizes that dark forces are waiting to invoke chaos as a full moon rises.

On a farm nestled beneath the Euralene Mountains along the western border of Medinia, young Willie works for the Smythes as a serf. One moonlit evening when the Smythes are gone to a neighbouring village, Willie hears the terrified cries of animals in the pastures. When he goes to investigate, he discovers that this wolf pack attack is like no other. Badly injured during the raid, he survives—but now he is afflicted by the full-moon madness that will soon transform him into one of the wolf creatures he dreads. With his life seemingly warped forever, Willie must face the prospect of a lifelong descent into horror.

In a time of witchcraft, superstitious folk lore, and fearsome creatures roaming the night, Willie struggles with an uncertain destiny and must seek help from the one man he holds most responsible for the dark fate that awaits him during the next full moon cycle.

“Beware of the full moon. This one is for all of the werewolf lovers!” —Top Book Reviewers

A well-written and addictive first novel. —Blue Ink Review

A well-developed, tightly plotted fantasy; readers will want installments two and three. —Kirkus Reviews


About T C Tombs
T c TOMBS earned degrees from Trent University and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. Like many Canadians, he loves hockey and golf, and he has a passion for medieval history, folk lore, literature, film, and music. Terry and his wife, Sandra, live in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, where they have raised five daughters.

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Michelle Franklin's Tales from Frewen, Volume 2 - Excerpt and {Giveaway}

Read-Along: The Rat, Pt. 6

The cat charged, knocking the empty dish rack over, and out skittered the rat from the shadows, its leg wounded, its countenance vicious and unseemly, its hide matted, its ears crumpled, its teeth protruding. It hastened toward the giant, divagating as it ran, its injured leg making it impossible to run straight. The cat leapt after it, biting and clawing, the rat shrieked and swiped. It tried to run into the storeroom, but the cat caught it by the tail and, with a jolt, flung it into the air. It wriggled and turned, trying to right itself, that it might land on its feet, but the black metal of Rautu's blade flashed, the sword came down, and as edge of the sword touched the ground, the body of the rat fell one way, and the head another. The terrifying and ferocious creature was no more, lying dead at Martje's feet, and she nearly danced in triumph.

"Ha, ye bastard!" Martje exclaimed, in a fever of maniacal glee. "That's you done in, and you're sure never comin' back!" and it was under this charm of a resounding victory that she turned to the giant, nodded to him, and even smiled at him.

Never a friend to the cook, Rautu was horrified by her sudden admiration. He stepped back from her, in dread of her possibly embracing him, picked up the rat's body by the tail, bid Khaasta to take the head as a prize, and said, "Your rat is dead. The Tyfferym dark, Mhojhudenri."

"Aye, aye, a'right, monster," she humphed. "I'll bring it to you. Make the cat go outside with the head if he wants it, and don't touch anythin' with what you got in your hand."

The slab of Tyfferim dark was brought, Rautu accepted it with mild complacence, and as Martje handed it over, she said, "And remember, monster: you're not tellin' anyone I asked you for help and that's that."

"I do not need to tell anyone," said the giant, plucking the chocolate from her hands. He tucked the chocolate into his belt. "Your mate already knows."

Martje's nose curled and her brow furrowed. "How's that?"

Rautu pointed toward the yeoman's quarter entrance, and there, standing at the top of the steps, was Shayne, watching his wife, smiling to himself, and shaking his head.

"There's nothin' wrong with askin' for help, Martje," said Shayne, approaching her.

"Sure there is," Martje snuffed. "You don't mind askin' Tomas for help 'cause he's your partner and all--"

"But you gotta lower yourself and condescend and that to ask your enemy for help. I know. A real terrible thing, asking people for help. Then you gotta thank 'em for doin' the job right."

Shayne raised a brow and gave Martje a wry look, and Martje pouted and turned aside.

"I ain't thankin' the monster for nothin'. He got his chocolate outta me. He don't need nothin' else."

However pleased the giant was with his prize, he was still more gratified in Martje's capitulation. Watching her struggling against herself to surrender her integrity, lay by all reservations, and entreat him to help was all his sagacious elation. He grinned in spite of himself and marched outside, calling for Khaasta to join him, and he walked into the far field, glad that someone had seen Martje's concession, and wondering where on his heap of pelts his new prize should go.

Martje glunched and stamped her foot. It was unfair that the giant had got his way, but there was nothing to be done for it now, and Shayne was coming to embrace her and console her, and she must learn to forget that she ever conceded to ask for the giant for help, though he had performed his office so well.

"'Mon," said Shayne, in a soft accent, "let's clean up and get the tea made. I'm starvin' somethin' terrible."

"Aye," Martje moped.

Shayne touched his wife's shoulder and rubbed the top of her back. "There, there, aye? Wasn't so terrible to ask him, was it? He's not the mallacht, Martje."

This was a point to be vehemently refuted, but just then, Gaumhin and Brigdan entered from the field, the former carrying his Westren osprey, and the latter with his goshawk sitting on his shoulder.

"Oh, is it caught, then?" said Brigdan, glancing round the kitchen. "We were going to let our birds have some sport with it."

"Aye," said Gaumhin. "Mah gurl's been gaggin' for a hunt these few daes, aye? Sittin' in the mews, a-botherin' everaebodae."

"Aye, it's finished," said Shayne. "Den Asaan just walked out with it."

Martje's stared at her husband, her lips pursed, her expression furious, and Shayne looked repentant and made a nervous laugh.

"I suppose it is to be a secret as to who killed the rat," said Brigdan, smiling. "Very well. Gaumhin and I will promise not to say anything," but the damage had been done, for someone now knew that the giant had been allowed to kill it, and Martje sulked and went to the tea board, grumbling about how careless and useless husbands were.

"Think I'm sleepin' in the stables th'night," said Shayne.

"They are not so uncomfortable, master smith," said Brigdan. "You might find the hay loft very pleasant indeed. Vyrdin used to sleep there himself betimes when he was just training his horse. You might make a friend or two while there."

Shayne glanced at Martje, and then behind a raised hand, he whispered, "Don't mean no offense by it, but sleeping beside the nags'll be more peaceful than sleepin' beside the nagger."

"What's that, Shayne?" said Martje, in a sharp tone.

"Oh," Shayne hemmed, "nothin', Martje."

"Aye, sure thought so."

Brigdan and Gaumhin stifled a laugh, and Shayne stepped toward the basin and away from his wife.

"Does His Majesty know that the rat been killed?" Brigdan asked.

"Don't think so," said Shayne.

"I will gladly inform him, My Lord Regent," said Dobhin, who was passing in the hallway behind them.

Dobhin was on his way to the tailor and was walking beside Pastaddams, who was looking rather displeased, for the tailor had undergone a most frightful time with the baize that Her Majesty wanted, had seen some very horrible costumes at the Royal Theatre, and was very ready to sit at his sewing table and grumble to himself about the wrongs of the fashionable world.

"Absolute frights, every one of them," said Pastaddams, marching toward the tailor, speaking more to himself than he was to Dobhin. "How can they possibly think it acceptable to put that much frill at the bottom of so short a dress? What a job they have done, making themselves look ridiculous."

"Quite right, sir," said Dobhin, as they came to the tailor door. "I don't know what they would be at. Some of those colours were atrocious--"

"No, don't talk of it," Pastaddams cried, suddenly overcome, sinking under the power of his disgust. "Don't talk of it, Commander, I beg you." He passed a hand over his eyes and looked vexed. "It is too painful to consider that someone would dare sew puce next to evergreen."

"Indeed, sir. Quite a horror."

"Indeed it is. Such a mockery of hues, such a waste of fabrics--" The tailor stopped, closed his eyes, and inhaled. "I must stop thinking about it or I shall go mad. My needle and patterns will calm me."

He opened the door to the tailor, and where Dobhin entertained a hope of their catching the Majesties in the throes of violent passion, the king and queen were standing at the centre of the room, Alasdair adjusting his new jerkin, and Carrigh standing behind him.

"Oh, Your Majesty," said Pastaddams, with a polite bow to the king. "I see Her Majesty has finished the alterations. What an exquisite design it is, isn't it, Your Majesty?"

"It is a beautiful piece," Alasdair heartily agreed, looking down at his chest and passing his hand over the embroidery. "Did you see Carrigh's matching bodice? Here, my darling, show him."

He stood aside, brought Carrigh forward, and drew her to his side to show how their matching pieces fit together, the pattern at Alasdair's waist continuing at his wife's.

"It is uncommonly lovely, Your Majesty. And such a welcome sight after what I've seen just now. Puce and evergreen together. Would you believe it? I should not, if I were you, for I never thought any tailor in Frewyn capable of making such a blemish, a stain, a disgrace. Such scandalous pieces as never I saw..."

Pastaddams went on in the same style, drawing Carrigh's attention and leaving Alasdair to sidle Dobhin and say, in a whisper, "Were you hoping to catch us again?"

"Of course, Brennin," said Dobhin, with a wry smile. "I should have knocked if I didn't mean to catch you."

Alasdair gave him a flat look, and Dobhin was all sagacious self-assurance.

"I thought you should know, Brennin," said Dobhin presently, "that the rat has been caught and killed."

"That is a relief," Alasdair sighed. "Now we might all eat in peace again knowing that nothing has been gnawed on or walked over. And," colouring and looking demure, "I suppose I should thank you for detaining Pastaddams."

"No need to thank me, Brennin. It was frightfully easy. The man talks on forever about fabric and thread count. When I told him that the Frewyn Players just received their new costumes from a rival tailor, he demanded that we visit the theatre directly, that he might tell them all how shabby they look and see how shoddily the costumes were done. He was there above an hour, decrying the poor seams and slatternly hems and contemptible materials. I do believe he enjoyed it, despite how heated he is about it now, and I think he means to make them all new costumes. He says it would be an outrage to allow them to perform in such a scandalous wreck."

Alasdair smiled and studied Pastaddams in the height of his passion, raving about mismatched colours and the excessive use of sequins, which was always an unforgiveable offense, and wondered that the poor tailor did not contrive to have the creator of such unpardonable horrors assassinated at once. "I think he might be at this for some time," Alasdair smiled.

"Perhaps we should leave them to themselves and see how the Den Asaan is getting on with his new ornament."

Alasdair looked bemused. "Rautu killed it?"

"I saw him walking with its body slung over his shoulder as we came in from the theatre. He was looking rather pleased with himself."

"He must have done something to make Martje angry if you saw him smiling."

This was eagerly agreed to, and as Dobhin excused himself and turned into the hallway, the call for afternoon tea was made. Searle came, in all his anxious solicitation, to tell the king that the rat was gone, that the kitchen cleaned, and that toast on table.

"We'll be there shortly. Thank you, Searle," said Alasdair, and as everyone began to congregate in the kitchen, Alasdair thought to himself that he never had a morning more agreeably spent, and wondered if another rat could not be found, that he might be prevailed upon to suspend proceedings for the afternoon session in favour of spending a few more hours locked away in the tailor with his lovely wife.

About the book
Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series' most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.

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About the author 
Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.

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