Rounding out this week’s posts, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from Werecat #4 as part of my kick-off for its release. Many thanks to folks on Facebook and Twitter for your support of #Werecat4ReleaseWeek. The book has gotten off to a good start at the Kindle store, and I’ve been busy all week rounding up reviewers and bloggers for future publicity.
Whew! It’s been quite a busy week, and I’m looking forward to my vacation, which starts on Sunday. Husband and I are headed to Mexico City, so I’ll go dark here for a week or so for a much needed break.
I chose to share an early scene from The Sim Ru Prophecy that gives a hint of the intrigue which moves the story forward. Picking up from The Fugitive, the hero Jacks has traveled to Caracas, Venezuela with his boyfriend Farzan, their cat Bella, and their friend Kwame, after acquiring an ancient codex known as The Bastet.
Jacks believes that The Bastet contains secret knowledge about werecat magic, and he knows for a fact that the werecat terrorist group The Glaring is after it. This scene takes place after Jacks, Farzan, Kwame and Bella have checked into a hotel in Caracas, and Jacks’ is up late on their hotel room balcony with the codex after being scolded by Farzan that he should come to bed.
Alone on the balcony, Jacks found himself staring unfocused into the night. He felt like such a shit. Why couldn’t he be a good boyfriend and lay down with Farzan for that one night? Farzan put on a tough front, and he truly was tough as nails when he needed to be, but he had to be going out of his mind with worries about his family. Farzan had dropped out of medical school and left his family’s home for the first time in his life to be with Jacks. He had left all of that to live on the run, in constant danger.
Jacks had thought he could figure out the codex, gaining some advantage over the Glaring and giving Farzan some hope that his sacrifice had been worth it. But Jacks had to be reasonable. His problem with the Glaring was much too big to be solved in one night.
The night air was suddenly cold against his skin, and he felt like he was shrinking. What if the problem was too big to be solved, ever?
All Jacks knew about the Glaring was that they had organized to destroy humans in vengeance for exterminating the Amerindian cultures from which the dual spirit werecat had been borne. They operated like a network of terrorist cells, and they had millions of domestic strays with whom they could communicate psychically to keep surveillance on their enemies.
Who was Jacks to stop an organization like that? Besides being a single werecougar up against an untold number of werejaguars and allied weretigers and werelions from Asia and Africa, Jacks had only come into his werecat nature less than four months ago. Did he really believe he could bargain with Tepe? The Glaring’s leader had to be incredibly powerful and persuasive. It wasn’t in a werecat’s nature to follow anyone. Getting so many of them behind him was an amazing feat. And Jacks’ only leverage with Tepe was money and appealing to his human side. Tepe probably didn’t need any of the former, and he had pretty much shown that he had sworn off the latter.
A lithe, furry body wove through Jacks’ legs, and then Bella jumped up on his lap. Jacks absent-mindedly raked his hand down the cat’s back. It hurt like shards of glass against his heart to think about, but he wondered if he should try talking to Farzan again about going home. The Glaring didn’t have to be Farzan’s problem. If Farzan got hurt while accompanying Jacks on his mission, Jacks wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do when you loved someone—protect them at all costs, even if it meant letting them go?
Bella nudged against the codex. Jacks caught her firmly but gently by the scruff of her neck. The book was fragile, and she could damage it, however innocently.
Bella looked up at him and held his gaze. Something was stirring in her head. Another mystery of Jacks’ werecat transformation was that they could read each other’s minds and even connect their minds to visualize and hear what the other one was doing. A bizarre thought occurred to him. He opened up the codex and laid it flat on his lap so that they could both look at it.
A burst of light ate up his vision, and then things looked like he was peering through binoculars with fisheye lenses. The first page of the codex appeared as two planes sliding over each other, like a double-exposed photo, only fluid. Jacks waited out the unpleasant sensation of adjusting to his vision melding with Bella’s. He had always done it with his eyes shut. Otherwise, it felt like someone had hooked his eyeballs on a fishing line. But to test out his instinct, his vision had to be focused on the same thing Bella was looking at.
Jacks strained to right their two planes of vision on top of each other. They slid back and forth, and then they locked into position. The codex was as sharp as an ophthalmologist’s chart through 20/10 lenses. Every detail and imperfection of the abstract symbols stood out crisply in his sight. Jacks could even make out the minute brush stroke of the ancient stylus that had drawn them.
He looked to the first line of glyphs, and nudging Bella mentally, he brought her plane of vision squarely on top of his. The first character was a bearded man with a tall, elaborate headdress, and the ones below it were a series of dot-and-line characters interspersed with glyphs. As Jacks looked down the column, like reading a totem, the words of a story formed inside his head.
“In the year 166, the month of our lord Cit Chac the jaguar god, the day of Ki, was born Po Nge Be, son of U Kix Chan, king of kings, ruler of the seven tribes. The boy was blessed with health and strength and beauty above all others, and the people loved him. For the prince’s name day when he was to wear the sacred pagne of manhood, his subjects brought tribute to please the gods: twenty and three bushels of maize for the corn goddess, three-twenty urns of water for the god of rain, three herds of sheep for the god of gods Hunab, and a weaned jaguar cub for Cit Chac. Of these, Po Nge Be proclaimed: the cat shall not be sacrificed for he was to take him as his companion, and he named him Pu Neb.
“The people were afraid. As Cit Chac had blessed their warriors with fearlessness and might to overpower their enemies, so would He take vengeance on the kingdom and bring upon it bloody war.
“But Po Nge Be was wise. He understood that Cit Chac plays tricks on men and that the cub Pu Neb was sent to him to test his honor and his loyalty. So did Po Nge Be take Pu Neb to our lord’s temple where on the night of the jaguar’s tail, when the eye of the god of death looks down upon the world beseeching those who desire to travel between the worlds, Po Nge Be mounted Cit Chac’s altar and took the knife to the jaguar’s throat and took it to his own.
“This pleased Cit Chac, and he permitted Po Nge Be to stand before his throne. When our lord returned him to our earthly realm, he was no longer Po Nge Be, and Pu Neb was no longer Pu Neb. For they were both man and cat and king of men and king of jaguars. This is how the werejaguar kings became supreme. May they protect us until the end of days. This is how the werejaguar king is born on the night when Cit Chac blesses human sacrifice with the magic of the spirit world.”
Jacks veered away from the book and shook off the ethereal tethers that connected his mind with Bella’s. He looked around the balcony and the city below. It felt like the writing in the codex had swallowed him into another world, and he half-expected to have been transported to an ancient time and place. To re-emerge to ordinary surroundings was disappointing at first, but as Jacks settled in with what had happened, his blood rushed through his veins, and he had to hold down a cry of victory. Bella chewed at one of her paws in a routine chore of grooming. Jacks scooped her into his arms and kissed her on the forehead.
With Bella as a conduit, he could read the Bastet.
How such a thing was possible was well beyond his comprehension, but how and why didn’t matter. Jacks could decode the secrets of werecat magic. He felt as tall as a skyscraper. He would figure out why the Glaring was so desperate to steal the book. He would stay a step ahead of them.
Jacks tucked the book under one arm and carried Bella with the other, and he rushed to wake up Farzan and Kwame and tell them the news.