Title: The Snowtiger’s Trail
Author: Watson Davis
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Swords and Sorcery
Welcome to Windhaven and the Wrath of the Wizard-King! A deposed Wizard-king leads his ragged band of followers to the last town before the Far Waste and hides there from his vengeful queen while building an army to re-take his rightful kingdom. A regular army won't do for the Wizard-king. He needs something deadlier, something magical, something demonic. When Wallak of the Bright Fox tribe wakes up from a night of carousing in Ancliff, he can't find his nephew. He can't return to his tribe alone, but if he discovers his nephew whereabouts, he may never return to his tribe at all. This is a swords and sorcery tale of dark, soul-twisting magic where no-one is safe.
Three doors led from the room. I circled around, staying close to the wall. Keeping my nose closed off, I breathed through my mouth and approached the door to my left. It opened with a touch of the handle. I peeked inside but it was only a small room filled with oddly shaped glasses, jars of powders, and large sacks full of the gods only knew what. I eased that door shut and tiptoed over to the door directly across from the stairs.
Setting my ear against the door, I listened but heard nothing coming from beyond it. I touched the handle but this door refused to budge, so I grabbed the handle and pulled, and then pushed, leaning my weight on it, but it was locked from the inside.
I sneaked to the last door, dreading it because this was the door from where the sounds were coming, the crying and screaming and babbling growing louder as I approached. Tugging on the handle, I almost cursed when it opened, releasing a noxious cloud that reeked of excrement and decay.
Square cells wrought of round golden bars set into the floor filled the cavernous room. I edged in, peering into that first cage, and my eyes met those of what I think had been a girl, her skin now a pasty white, the white of muddy snow.
Her body appeared stretched, every part of her longer than it should have been, but her eyes were human and blue. Her teeth were too large for her mouth, too large for her lips to close around them, and two of her teeth were now long, dagger-like fangs. Only a few strands of long blond hair remained on her head. She whimpered and moved toward me with those sad, longing eyes, reaching out with her oversized hand. She slurped as she breathed, and it said, “Food?”
I felt sorry for the poor thing so I stepped toward her, pressing my finger against my lips. “Shh.”
When I got near enough, her hand shot out, claws springing from the tips of her fingers like a snowtiger’s. Those claws tore through my leather shirt, ripping gouges into my flesh, snagging in the leather. Her other hand darted out from between the bars, her fingers aiming for my head, but I jerked back, raising the knife out of pure instinct and driving it into that hand.
She howled and pulled her hand back, yanking the knife from my grip, and I fell back, tumbling away from her, right into the bars of another cage. Other voices joined her howling, taking it up like a chorus of wolves. She shook her hand, the one with my dagger caught in it, and stared at it like she had no idea what it was. She swatted at the knife and hissed at it.
Something warm touched my neck. My hand went to my hilt, and I whirled around. It was a boy with stalks where his eyes should have been and his eyes on the ends of those stalks, and his skin had a red armor on it. Instead of hands, he had pincers like a crab, the tip of which had touched my neck.
I said, “By Maegrith’s spiky beard, what in all the Nine Hells is going on here?”
A voice called out, “Uncle Wallak? Is that you?”
“Deral?” I backed away from the boy with the pincers, but not too far back, afraid the girl with the teeth or something worse might get me. I scurried toward Deral’s voice, splashing through the amber-colored fluid on the ground, peering into each cage as I passed, my mind trying to comprehend what my eyes were showing me. Each cage held a person, some looking like normal people, crying and reaching out to me, begging me for help, others a nightmarish mix of human and beast, some with fur, some with fangs, some part wolf, some part bear, some part ox, some I had no words to describe, but at the end of the row of cages, Deral waited, motioning me forward.
“Uncle Wallak!” he cried, shaking his head.
He looked normal enough, but pale and taller than I remembered.
“Have they done anything to you yet?” I hugged him through the bars. Lacy huddled in the cage next to his, and she laughed with her arms and legs trembling, her eyes wide, wild with fear, her hands over her mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “This one guy has been casting spells, and this other thing has been giving us things to eat and drink. If we don’t take it, it makes us.”
“Right.” I knelt before Lacy’s cage and held my hand out to her.
“Hey. Brida’s been looking everywhere for you.”
She leaned toward me, tears welling up in those crazy eyes, and whispered, “I’d like to go home now.”
“Let’s see what I can do,” I said, stepping back and looking around at the rough-hewn rock walls, the benches up against the walls, the straw littering the floor, the liquids draining from the cages to a series of drains in the middle of the floor, and a couple of desks in the corners of the room. “Deral, do you have any ideas where the keys to the cages are?”
“I do,” a voice whispered.
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BQJQ62D
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07BQJQ62D
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BQJQ62D
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Watson Davis discovered fantasy and science fiction, magic and technology, Isaac Asimov and Robert E. Howard, when he was a young, impressionable boy in Houston, Texas. He wrote his first robot apocalypse short story at eleven, delved many a dungeon and battled many a vampire while pursuing a degree in mathematics, and penned books of swords and sorcery and military space opera. He now lives in Spain in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean.
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