Today, as part of the Blog Tour for The Wraiths of War, the latest and final book in Mark Morris’s Obsidian Heart series. I have an exclusive excerpt from the book. If you like what you read, be sure to pick up all three which are available now.
I came awake.
There was no preamble, no drifting up from the depths of slumber. One moment I was in the desert, the next I was lying on my hard wooden bed, covered by a prickly blanket and encased in a cocoon of snores and restless creaks.
But something had changed. I could sense it as surely as a deer can sense a nearby predator. Since moving into the hut with the other men I’d taken to sleeping with the heart in my hand, with my hand under my pillow and my head resting on top of it. That way, if someone tried to take the heart from me I would know.
It wasn’t this that had woken me, though. There was a dim night light by the door as a guide for those who woke in the dark and needed to stumble outside for a piss, and there was enough of an amber glow leaking from this to assure me there was no shadowy form looming over my bed.
So why were my nerves tingling like wires stretched between the outstretched arms of electricity pylons? Why was an internal alarm blaring in my head, warning me of danger? Was it something to do with the dream? Something I’d forgotten or overlooked?
I sensed stealthy movement in my peripheral vision, a worm-like creeping in the corner of my eye, that seemed to be coming from the narrow gap between the head of my bed and the wall behind. Thinking of the shape-shifter employed by my nemesis the Dark Man, I twisted on to my stomach, my head jerking up.
And that was when I saw it.
Perhaps stimulated by my dream, it had become active, extending long, black, fibrous tendrils that had curled from under my pillow and were now climbing the wall behind my bed in sinuous, overlapping loops and spirals. The effect was that of a huge clinging vine growing at a remarkable speed, or of a multi-legged ink-black sea creature slithering out from its hiding place and tentatively exploring its surroundings.
The heart itself, the core from which the tendrils extended, was active too. I could feel it writhing in my palm, slick and hot like a newborn freshly expelled from its mother’s womb. I had the notion that its ‘flesh’ was becoming one with mine, that we were one flesh, one mind.
And yet conversely the sensation was also a sensuous, almost sexual one. The tingling in my nerve endings became a swell of euphoria; my eyelids fluttered; I groaned.
Then, amid the snores and the sighs and the restless shifting around me I heard another sound, a purposeful and prolonged creak, as though someone had sat up in bed. And it was followed by a shocked gasp, almost a cry, sharp but brief, and just as quickly stifled.
Instantly I drew in my defences – that was what it felt like – and in a split second the heart was once again a cold, hard lump of obsidian in my hand. All evidence that it had ever been anything else was gone. With my hand still under the pillow, I half-turned my body, propped myself up on my elbow and surveyed the room.
No one was sitting up. No one was staring at me. As far as I could see everyone was asleep.
My gaze alighted on John Pyke’s bed, four beds to the left (my right) of Howard ‘Bone Saw’ Dankforth’s. I stared at his humped form without blinking. He was still – maybe too still? Was his the stillness of someone pretending to be asleep, eyes squeezed tightly shut, shoulders hunched, muscles tense?
I slipped out of bed as quietly as I could, padded down the central aisle until I was standing at the foot of his bed.
‘Pyke,’ I whispered. ‘Pyke, I know you’re awake. There’s no use pretending.’
He didn’t respond. Didn’t move. His body remained motionless. Had he seen? And what would it mean if he had?
I stood there for another minute or so, staring at the dark mound of his body.
Then I went back to bed.
THE WRAITH’S OF WAR
(Obisidan Hears #3)
Release Date: 11th October 2016
Published by: Titan Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy
In the final volume of the thrilling dark fantasy trilogy, the Obsidian Heart, Alex Locke is still searching for his missing daughter. He is transported far into the future and then back into the past and the horrors of the First World War trenches, as gradually he pieces together the strange truth about the obsidian heart and his lost daughter.
Mark Morris became a full-time writer in 1988 on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, and a year later saw the release of his first novel, Toady. He has since published a further sixteen novels, among which are Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the popular Doctor Who range.
His short stories, novellas, articles and reviews have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and magazines, and he is editor of the highly-acclaimed Cinema Macabre, a book of fifty horror movie essays by genre luminaries, for which he won the 2007 British Fantasy Award.
His most recently published or forthcoming work includes a novella entitled It Sustains for Earthling Publications, a Torchwood novel entitled Bay of the Dead, several Doctor Who audios for Big Finish Productions, a follow-up volume to Cinema Macabre entitled Cinema Futura and a new short story collection, Long Shadows, Nightmare Light.
THE WRAITHS OF WAR BLOG TOUR