First, a quick synopsis:
The adventure intensifies in Zero Visibility Possible, Book III, at a breakneck pace to the shocking conclusion of the Parallax series. Impossible odds face two groups of comrades who have traveled far seeking answers to mysteries. The first company heads for the Saddle of the Mountains of the Sky while the second, a hundred miles to the west on the barren Malpais, is led by Esther. Both groups face deadly enemies and startling enigmas.
Back in Rio Luna, Esther’s mysterious disappearance confounds her parents and her friend, Markey. In the Valle, though, questions surrounding Don are resolved. Meanwhile, the Soreyes heap new terrors on the clanspeople. Will the travelers return in time? Facing challenges far more insurmountable than bringing down the Tower of Il Serrohe, can the hapless clanspeople dare hope for freedom?
Zero Visibility Possible (released July, 2016) available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and my publisher Black Rose Writing. And, yes, signed copies can be ordered directly from me, email@example.com
See special mail order instructions on Purchase a Book page.
OK, here is the teaser. Don’t expect to find this chapter in this exact form in Zero Visibility Possible because I’ve scrubbed out spoilers. However, this is very close to the final version that will include details I can’t reveal now!
Northern edge of Càhbahmin fields along the bosque
The Pirallt had no sooner reached the ragged edge of the bosque when the ash cloud moved across the path behind him. He had taken too long. Now he doubted he could make it to Il Mote, and had little chance of finding Esther. Nonetheless, he swallowed hard and headed south, forging a trail through the dry, tangled brush.
How far can I go before the smoke, or the winds behind it, stop me?
As if in answer, through the growing obscurity he saw a milling crowd of clanspeople blocked by a wall of large cottonwood trunks driven into the ground to hold them captive. In front of the timber wall, thirty well-armed warriors brandished torches.
He retreated to an open area south of the fork, then turned back to the northwest. Once again, he saw the gruesome scene. With whirling winds and a billowing ash cloud moving in, the Soreyes began lighting the straw fields as the wind blew west into the timber corral.
“No! I can’t watch them cremate the clans!” The Pirallt cried out as he broke into a run towards the group with no idea what he would do. Suddenly, cutting through the constant background rumble, he heard cawing. He looked up to see Allan circling above.
“What the hell?” the Pirallt muttered. “Yes! All right, Allan!” he said as Allan swooped down.
The Pirallt suddenly became visible to the clanspeople behind the Soreyes as he came out of the lurid ash storm.
“Now we have a chance!”
A familiar voice—deep, booming out of a chest as big as a barn—roared. “Move it! Move it! My friend, is that really you?”
“The Great Taurimin! How did you get here?”
The big voice answered out of the dimness. “These manure-eaters swept up my mate along with the young bulls they hunted. When I came in search, I heard her voice, but it was a trap. What can we do?”
This exchange alerted the Soreyes, and they whirled around to face the Pirallt. Their relaxed stance went from joy at seeing the clansmen on the verge of destruction to fear of an attack from behind. But they soon began to laugh and point as they realized he was alone—with a crow sitting on the ground beside him.
“Look at that!”
“One stupid-looking Pirallt and a dumb crow!”
“This’ll be more fun than frying clansmen!”
He could hardly comprehend the clamor. Watching the Soreyes slowly advancing on him, the clansmen raised shouts of anger and blood lust, the Great Taurimin’s voice rising above the others.
“Kill the Soreyes!”
“We won’t take their evil treatment anymore.”
“Attack! Attack!” The big Taurimin called out.
“No! Wait!” the Pirallt ordered. The clanspeople stopped, but continued to prance about like nervous six-year-olds.
He could now see the powerful Taurimin with his mate at his side. The old leader stood ready to bash his way through the timbers.
Think! Think… I know, use their chants like when the Soreyes were brought to their knees!
Turning to Allan, the Pirallt said, “Start your best Corvimin deception chant, right now!”
“Now! Dammit, don’t question!”
“OK, but we’re not much for mumbo-jumbo chants,” the crow said, as he began concentrating as best as he could while the warriors advanced.
The Pirallt called out to the trapped clanspeople. “Start any chant you can think of. No! Use the one when you brought down the Tower. Do it!”
He concentrated, opening his mind to the chorus of exotic words and images the clanspeople sent his way. Cutting through the faint chants was a powerful one, full of grim determination—the Great Taurimin.
The Soreyes paused, noting the change that came over the Pirallt and the Corvimin. Behind, it was silent. A few glanced back and saw the clansmen standing, eyes closed, muttering their ancient ritual languages.
Then strange images, odors, sounds, and conflicting emotions emerged to fill the air as well as the hearts of the warriors. The Pirallt squinted to watch the formation above his head as it arched towards the Soreyes, who now stood stock still. Images and sounds coalesced into a bizarre whirlwind which, when it combined with the flying ash, was not so much a well-formed funnel cloud, but a gusty, haphazard wind, whipping wildly in all directions.
The Soreyes were amused at first, but as the whirlwind inched towards them, confusion set in. Terrifying voices filled the air like a demonic choir accompanying chaotic emotions of terror and distraction. The Soreyes’ faces went white, then, unaccountably, a few turned on each other.
Initially, it was only a suspicious or fearful look as if a friend had abruptly become an enemy in disguise. One struck his nearest comrade with the edge of his sword. Blood spurted, covering the aggressor’s face, splattering those nearby. Then another jabbed a partner, and another, and another as frenzy broke out among them.
The old Taurimin immediately charged the timbers that blocked the clanspeoples’ escape. His massive head and shoulders made quick work of knocking down one of the timbers that would only allow passage through a narrow opening.
Seeing that, Allan seemed to wake up and leap into the air. He swooped over the Soreyes and dropped down among the trapped clanspeople.
“Follow me! Quick! But stay clear of Soreye weapons.”
The crow lead them through the narrow passage and the maze of battling warriors, but the big Taurimin followed no one. He thundered head first through more heavy timbers of the corral with his young Taurimin behind. The warriors struck out, injuring the smaller ones. Another planted a direct blow to the Great Taurimin’s forehead.
The leader fell to his knees, and called out, “Move. Move out of—” as the mighty leader collapsed. A few nearby warriors, seeing him down, broke their trance and converged on him, raining blows and spears on him. With effort, he stood and circled madly, enraged beyond any restraint. He knocked down and crushed the bones of several captors, but two of the burliest warriors hit his head again and again.
His mate pushed her way to his side, butting and kicking the Soreyes. The other young Taurimin, Càhbahmin, and Kastmin streamed past the brawl. Finally, a Soreye armed with a long flint knife caught the leader across his throat leaving him gasping, uttering a gagging sound as blood flew out in a wide spray. He dropped, soaking the ground around his head in glistening red.
Ten warriors clubbed him as two others dispatched his frantic mate.
However, most of the clansmen escaped by darting through the chaos to reach the Pirallt. As they gathered around him, the Pirallt, distraught over the two Taurimin’s murder, strained to ignore them. He had to keep the whirlwind going, but it soon dissipated as the clanspeople relaxed and stopped chanting.
Emotionally numb, he was unable to move as he watched the final blows to the pair of older Taurimin’s bodies.
“Kill them!” he ordered. The clanspeople, who just then realized what had happened, fell on the Soreyes, stomping and kicking the warriors before they could react. The fighting churned the mud into a foamy mass of sludge, blood, and manure, with crushed Soreye bodies mingling in the terrible stew.
The Pirallt and his companions were stunned.
“Come on! Follow me,” he cried, leading them into the thickening ash cloud. “OK. Listen. I can’t see which way to go, but—Allan! Here. Come here!”
Allan appeared through the swirling ashes and falling cinders.
“Fly above to see which way to go. You have to lead them out of here. Go north, away from the eruption. It’s only going to get worse.”
Everyone stared at him. A pool of quiet in the turmoil. Neither the clanspeople nor the Pirallt could bear to contemplate the emotional horror and confusion their victory had brought. So, they suppressed it and moved on to what they had to do next.
“I have to go another way. I have my own people to consider and I need to find Esther.”
Allan spoke up. “But so much has happened here and—everywhere, since then.”
“I know. Dammit, I know. But I have to try.”
Give me strength.
“I can’t forget my friends now! I will go back to the bosque and head south again.” He swallowed hard. He would die in the effort before he gave up those he loved most.
Still, he looked on the mounds in the mud, at what used to be the powerful Great Taurimin and his ever lively mate.
A sharp pain cut through his bowels, but the Pirallt took it in stride.
“Just go as I’ve said. All of you. You must escape! If I don’t make it back, tell the others what happened here and where I’m going.”
He stepped to Allan and patted his narrow shoulder. “I couldn’t have done any of this without your help. Do this one last thing and we’re good, you and I.”
The Corvimin’s face formed an unfamiliar expression—a mixture of gratitude and sorrow. “Yes. I will. Gladly. You and I will always be good. Go to your people. These clanspeople will be fine. We’re heading north, as you say.”
Allan rose into the air, soundlessly flapping his great black wings. “Wait a moment, clansmen!”
He flew beyond their vision into clearer air. He saw the way, then dipped low.
“Pirallt, turn this way,” as the black bird banked to his left indicating the direction of the bosque. He then circled to point north. “Follow me, clansmen!”
He guided the clanspeople away into the deadly gray and brown wind.
Meanwhile, the fire began to spread out ahead of him, filling in the corral. The Pirallt ran forward to witness it incinerate all but a few fleet-footed Soreyes who disappeared into the smoke.
He heard screams, moaning… then silence.
Turning in the direction that Allan had pointed, the Pirallt resumed running west to the bosque.
I hope to hell the air is still clear along there!
He followed the path dictated by the fire lines.
The Pirallt marveled at his heightened senses like a bat negotiating a path through a pitch black cave.
Now you have to get a book for the “rest of the story”! 😉