Have you seen the first Warpath excerpt? Here comes another Warpath excerpt. A while back I released a small snippet of Warpath on Twitter. Yes, that is my semi-legible handwriting in purple ink…
— Melissa Vazquez (@TheSecondRealm) January 19, 2014
With the work for Warpath coming to a close, it seems appropriate to release another snippet. This is from about the middle of the book, so there may indeed be spoilers, for the spoiler-conscious. For the rest…Warpath is coming. Soon. So very soon.
Enjoy the scene the above tweet was written for.
Warpath: Second Excerpt
Their campground was dark, with not even a fire around them for light or warmth. Everyone else was asleep, the girls huddled together. By the light of the moon, it was easy enough for his eyes to adjust, enough to see that someone was still awake. Marco was on guard duty, with their self-appointed body guard sleeping for the moment.
Marco whipped around to face him as soon as Kaleb got up and his boots had hit the dirt. “Jesus, you scared me.”
“Sorry,” Kaleb whispered back. “I just woke up.”
“The girls insisted that we left you alone to sleep. They also insisted that Atrimalous needed rest, so I got stuck with the night watch.” Marco’s voice was light with humor, despite the fact that he had gotten the short straw. “Not even a fire to keep me company this time. Atrimalous said it was dangerous with how close we are to the forest, still. Come over here and help me feel less creeped out.”
Kaleb took the invitation, sitting next to his friend. “I had this awful dream about the Kkyathi. The big battle and all.”
“You don’t know if they’re okay and it bothers you,” Marco pointed out. “Seems natural to me. Are you okay?”
Kaleb had no idea of how to answer that, so he shrugged and filled the silence with a non-committal answer. “I don’t know. I mean obviously, physically, yeah. But I still worry about them.”
“Honorary werecat. Why wouldn’t you be worried?” Marco chuckled and patted his friend’s shoulder. “I might not have spent that much time around them, but from what I’ve seen, they’re worthy opponents. I wouldn’t want to face them in battle, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’re fine.”
Fine wasn’t necessarily what Kaleb was worried about. In war, casualties were sure to happen. How many of the Kkyathi had fallen, even if the tribe as a whole was okay? What about Kirrah? The war leader was fierce and fearless, but still mortal. Was she still leading her warriors on the battlefield, or was her battlefield now in the heavens for her effort?
Marco saw the worry on his face and sighed a little. “Look, you know I’m not really good with the whole comforting thing. But honestly, they knew what they were getting into, Kaleb. They wanted war. So whether they come out alive or not, they looked death right in the eye. Probably smiled at it, too. Didn’t you say they were proud warriors?”
“To battle is to be alive,” Kaleb said, echoing what he had heard a warrior say once. “Yeah. The Kkyathi relish battle. It’s a part of their blood.”
“Then I’m sure, whether or not they were killed in battle, they were happy with what happened. They were itching to go into battle either way. There was no way to stop it.”
Kaleb didn’t reply while he was thinking over what Marco had said. When he did speak up, his speech was hesitant, as if he didn’t know how to find the right words. “Aside from you guys, the Kkyathi are the only people I’ve really felt comfortable around. Like family. My own family didn’t want me. I mean, who wants a child with some kind of freakish power? My parents were terrified when they saw me transform. They passed me onto specialist after specialist and priest after priest. They thought I was evil.”
Marco stayed quiet, letting Kaleb speak what was on his mind. In all the time he had known Kaleb, the shape shifter had never been open about his upbringing. The most he had known about it was that Kaleb’s family had abandoned him after he had accidentally transformed in front of them once. He had never pushed Kaleb to speak about it before but it looked like the shape shifter wanted to talk about it now.
Kaleb’s stare was off into the forest, although his mind wasn’t focused on what he was looking at. “When I was thrown into foster care, I thought I had done something wrong. I tried so hard not to transform, but there were times when I couldn’t control it. And I was passed on to Dr. Alexander Fox, this…scientist. Therapist. I don’t know what he was, exactly. He sought to bring out my transformations on command, like I was a circus bear. I still remember his questions, his tests. That’s what he called, them, tests. He made me pretend I was a certain animal. In my mind, I was that animal. I could feel the animal’s instincts, I swore I had their senses…”
“Kaleb, you don’t have to–”
“No, let me talk.” Kaleb took a deep breath. “I ended up transforming after that. It helped in a way, becoming that animal mentally, but each session triggered a transformation. In a way, Dr. Fox helped me gain control over my shape shifting abilities, but he was only focused on the questions. Why did I transform? What triggered it?”
He paused for a moment, then drew another shaky breath. “He never made me feel like I belonged. Neither did my family. No one did, until I met you guys. You guys never questioned my ability to shape shift, because you had your own powers. Then I met the Kkyathi. They’re the closest I’ve found to what I can do. They celebrate it; they live it. That’s why I got so attached to them, Marco. In a way, they are the closest I’ve found to family in terms of ability.”
He could feel Marco’s gaze on him. Maybe that was why he was shivering. He had never told anyone about his short stay with Dr. Fox in some lab. He didn’t even know where he had been transported to after his foster parents had given up on him, after his parents had given up on him. He just knew that once he had gotten away, he had wandered into Moonlight Hills.
This was the first time he had ever opened up about the time before he had joined the Shadow Assassins. For some reason, it made him apprehensive, like his friendship with Marco hung in the balance of what he said.
Beside him, Marco sighed heavily. “I know you care about them, Kaleb. But we are still here. We need you, too. While we’re here, while we’re on this journey, we need you. Don’t go running on us just because you’ve found some new friends.”
It was such a simple statement but it struck Kaleb like one of the arrows of light he had seen Evangeline use. Marco’s voice was even, not intending to guilt or accuse him. Yet it was enough to shake him out of the strange guilt he had sucked himself into, when he thought of how the Kkyathi were doing.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
“But you’re not here, with us,” Marco replied. “Not really. You might be here physically but mentally, you’re still in the Emeralde Kingdom. You’re still with the Kkyathi. We need your focus here.”
“I’m just following along, same as you. You need Atrimalous.” Kaleb didn’t know why he sounded so resentful. Backing off on the potential aggression, he added, quieter, “I’m just as lost as you are, here. It’s not a good leadership position.”
“Then don’t worry about leadership. Worry about staying together as a family. That’s what we are, right?”
Kaleb glanced over to Marco. Even in the moonlight, Marco’s smile was visible and infectious. He felt a smile of his own emerge. “Shadow Assassins until the end.”
His reward was a light, affectionate punch on the shoulder. “You got it.”