Rothgar, God of Gnashers, ancient champion of the wilds, made good campfire chicken.
The blue-skinned ravager plucked the lumps of clay out of his campfire and smashed them open on a rock. Clay shards fell off the chickens, peeling their softened feathers away from their hide.
Rothgar pried a wing off the chicken and held it out to Lady Ira. Lady Ira slowly drew her belt dagger. The god raised his eyebrows, but didn’t react.
Ira speared the chicken wing with her dagger, held it to her mouth and took a bite.
She chewed. She swallowed.
“This is good!” She exclaimed, eye wide. She held the wing out to Dragon Face. “Try this!” She told the masked wrestler.
So. Wow. This was a pretty long hiatus. And so close to the climax of this story! I know how infuriating that can be for readers!
As with previous hiatuses, I took this one because I was working on another project. Specifically, I was busy rewriting a 80,000 word novel from scratch.
The good news is, my rewrite’s complete, and I’m shipping the new novel around to publishers.
Expect a new update soon: we’re bringing this bad boy home…
Corax was gone.
The remaining Pilgrims stood around the stone wall, staring incredulously at the pigment stains that coated it.
Uuco was the first to find his voice.
“The cave painting ate him!” He blurted out.
The Hidden Sanctum of the Hidden Gods was a work of majesty, a sliver of sky carved off of the heavens and brought down to earth.
Lapis Lazuli tiles coated the floors, walls and ceilings in tight, swirling patterns, shimmering a rich dark blue. Brilliant clear gemstones broke up the dark swirl, shinning like stars, arranged in constellation patterns—a bow, an axe, a rearing tiger.
It was not quite like the shining stars, hazy galaxies and deep void that the night sky held…but it was just as radiant.
Minbarg the Quill-Keeper crouched behind a wicker basket, waiting to spring out and ambush the fleeing prisoners.
This was his moment! This was his day of glory! Once he defeated these pitiful criminals, Captain Zarth would see how faithful and loyal he was! He would be rewarded, raised up to the highest annals of Gnasher legend!
As soon as the prisoners showed up. Any moment now.
“Easy, my friend,” Dragon Face said, cradling Corax like a farmer holding a calf.
Corax spat and hacked, running his narrow tongue along his teeth to force every single scrap of human flesh out of his mouth.
“My comrades!” Dragon Face exclaimed, rising up; his sculpted copper mask was warped and half-crushed, its molded fangs, nostrils and wings smashed into unrecognizability. “After exchanging blows with Captain Zarth, I’ve come to believe he might be stronger than me!”
Dragon Face smiled, revealing teeth stained with blood. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
All the Pilgrims stared at Dragon Face blankly for a moment.
“As long as you’re happy,” Corax said in a dry, bland tone, “that’s all that matters, Dragon Face.”
The real Captain Zarth came striding through the hole in the wall, mace resting on his shoulder, hide shield raised. “Escaping from prison is a felony,” he said calmly. “So is stealing from the Gnasher’s armory.”
He pointed his mace at the gathered Pilgrims. “The penalty for these crimes combined is death,” Captain Zarth explained. “Obviously.”
Minbarg the Quill-Keeper was not the ideal Gnasher.
He had no passion for upholding the law with berserker fury and bone-cracking crunches from his mace. His beast pelt always sat uncomfortably on his shoulders; the fur tickled and chaffed at his neck. And he always felt awkward spilling oxen blood in secret rites dedicated to their Hidden God.
Still, Captain Zarth refused to expel Minbar from the Order of the Gnashers, even when his advisors counseled him otherwise. “Nobody,” he told Minbarg, “can command the Chimeras like you.”
As it turned out, the gas from Lady Ira’s spell-tablet had tarnished the guard’s keys along with their bronze weapons. Still, the corrosive gas had weakened the cell door hinges too; just enough for Dragon-Face to burst them open with a blow from his shoulder.
“Mmmm?” Uuco muttering, squirming against the many bonds tying him, glancing left and right despite the thick blindfold covering his eyes. “Mmm! Mmm!”