>Welcome Author Madeleine Drake…(Giveaway today)
Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas. You can find her online at www.madeleinedrake.com
Excerpt from Blood Hero
EXCERPT FROM Blood Hero
The akhazu slunk through the gate of the foreman’s courtyard on all fours, strings of drool hanging from its toothy jaws as it sniffed the air with a piggish snout. Half again the height of a tall man, its hind legs were thick but short, and seemed permanently stuck in a half-squat. The forelegs were longer, bunched with muscles and ending in three-fingered hands with talons that scored the dirt with each step. The creature’s sparsely-bristled hide looked wet. Understanding dawned on Rihat—the creature must have been attracted by the recent additions to the canals that watered the village’s fields.
The akhazu made a slurping sound and shook its head, raining gobbets of slobber everywhere.
Then it charged.
It moved faster than anything Rihat had ever seen. One moment, it stood in the courtyard gate; the next, it was before him, wrenching the spear from his hand and slamming him to the ground with a mighty shove. Pain sliced through his ribs—probably cracked several—and the rock digging into his kidney sent streaks of fire and numbness down his legs. Knocked breathless, Rihat barely got his shield between his belly and the akhazu’s maw in time.
The shield buckled, began to fold. Serrated teeth tore through the thick bronze plate with a metallic shriek as the creature struggled to close its jaws. Rihat screamed and ripped his arm free of the leather straps, rolling sideways, frantic to put some distance between the akhazu and himself. Scrabbling in the dirt, he made it to hands and knees, freezing as the muscles between his ribs spasmed and locked. He grunted and forced himself to stand in spite of the agony tearing at his left side. His head rang. His heart pounded. Every breath he took was so thick with the monster’s stink it burned his lungs. Iltani had promised her blood would give him the power to defeat the akhazu. Had she lied?
The monster yanked the mangled shield out of its mouth and tossed it aside. The crumpled metal landed out of sight, somewhere in the same darkness that hid Rihat’s spear.
Fear sucked the strength out of his muscles. No spear, no shield, and I haven’t even landed a blow yet. I’m going to die, and so is Shala.
The thought of his sister being devoured by the akhazu gave Rihat a burst of new energy. I’m going to die, but I’m going to take this demon with me. He jerked his sword out of its sheath and centered the tip on the creature’s chest. “My turn.”
As if it understood his challenge, the akhazu charged again. Rihat sidestepped and swung his iron sword in a wide arc that should have severed monster’s massive arm just above the elbow. But instead, the blade bit into bone and stuck—it was like striking a mountain. The jarring impact sent a painful vibration up into the sockets of Rihat’s shoulders. The akhazu yowled and reared back; as its arm rose, so did the sword. Rihat’s half-numbed hands slipped on the leather-wrapped hilt, and he was forced to stand on the tips of his toes to keep his grip. Without his sword, he’d have only a dagger to defend himself.
Don’t let go.
The beast whirled, slamming him into the side of the house so hard he felt the brick crumble beneath his body. Blackness whirled around him, not the dark of evening, but of unconsciousness. The akhazu drew back, did it again, harder this time. Rihat couldn’t believe he still had hold of the sword. Gritty air burned his lungs like acid. Nausea bubbled up from the pit of his stomach. Don’t let go.
Rihat focused all his remaining strength in his fingers as his quivering knees gave way. He slid to the ground, and the embedded blade came free with a spray of oily black liquid.
The akhazu squealed and staggered back, clutching its injured arm. It poked one taloned finger into the deep cut on its bicep, examining the wound. Then it turned back to Rihat, snout twisted into a snarl that bared every single one of its wickedly pointed teeth.
I should be dead. But he wasn’t. Somehow, Rihat was back on his feet, in spite of the beating he’d already taken, a beating that should have broken dozens of bones. Somehow, he’d found the strength to stay conscious and hang onto his sword. Somehow, he’d moved fast enough to keep up with the akhazu. Iltani’s blood. Maybe she hadn’t lied.
Maybe he did have the power to kill the demon.
* * * *
Hurry, hurry, hurry. Iltani concentrated harder, willing her body to coalesce. She was weak from hunger—she’d barely sipped from Rihat in the temple the previous night, and there’d been no time to draw from Cuno by the time they’d procured the wagon and onager team. Her arms and legs seemed to be made of mist, and when she looked down, she could see the ground through her feet.
Where was Cuno? Where was the wagon? Ishtar’s curse bound Iltani to the carnelian necklace; she always materialized within a few feet of it. Cuno must have moved it someplace else for safekeeping. And if the pendant was in danger, then what was happening to Cuno and Rihat?
She had to get to Rihat before he went after the akhazu. He had the power to defeat the monster, but without instruction, he’d have no idea how to use it. Brave, loyal Rihat, who was willing to become something he both hated and feared in order to protect his sister. He was the fourth warrior she’d asked for help, but he was the first of the bunch she’d actually liked. The thought of losing him made her still-forming stomach twist.