First Chapter Book Award Finalist: Chronicles of Meredith by Mike Clifton

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The Chronicles of Meredith by Mike Clifton is a Finalist in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

Award-Winning First Chapter

Tendrils of black smoke rose in the early morning air.

Huddled within a thicket of vegetation, Larson Crump watched terrified as the manor house slowly burned to the ground. Licking flames greedily consumed the once grand structure and with a groan of tortured wood, the southeastern corner of the manor collapsed in a shower of flame and sparks.

Above the noise and tumult of the raging fire, a scream of pure horror rang out and Crump had to jam a fist in his mouth in order to stifle his own whimpering cry. Dreading what he would see, he slowly parted the thick screen of leaves and despite his need for caution, a despairing moan escaped from his lips.

Mike Clifton
Mike Clifton

There, with the burning manor as a backdrop, stood Lady Sonja stripped naked and held by…creatures that looked as if they had jumped out of one of his worst nightmares! Wicked, yellow tusks jutted from their lower jaws above which were a set of small piggish eyes. Waddles of pinkish-gray flesh framed the neck of the creatures whose boar-like head was attached to a squat torso of powerful arms and legs.

Turning his attention back to Lady Sonja, Crump noticed long, bloody slashes marring Lady Sonja’s breasts, the blood streaking down her ribs and abdomen. Tears ran from Crump’s eyes as he watched Lady Sonja’s husband, Lord Will, his face battered and bruised, struggle futilely with the nightmare creatures to try and assist Lady Sonja. With much amused grunting and squealing, the creatures struck Lord Will repeatedly till fresh blood ran down his face, and his head lolled listlessly on his shoulders.

There was a sudden stirring among the throng of manlike beasts, and as they parted, Crump spied a man and woman stride through them and up to the veranda fronting the manor house. The woman possessed raven-black hair, and even from a distance, he could see she possessed a terrible beauty. The man, not much taller than the woman, was unremarkable except for the cruel smile on his lips.

When the couple turned to face the grunting man-beasts, Crump saw their eyes for the first time. Black as a bottomless pit, they oozed a malevolent evil so potent, Crump’s legs trembled and his hair seemed to stand on end.

Sorcery! The dark magic filled the air to such an extent that Crump could feel the assault of it on his senses, almost as if it were some ill breeze portending disaster.

Mounting the veranda, the sorceress turned and held a small, round object high above her head for all the assembled creatures to see. Loud grunting and squealing erupted and went on for some time until the sorceress held up her hand for silence.

“The Orb is ours! It is now our time and our destiny! We shall be the Masters and they,” the sorceress said pointing at Will and Sonja, “shall be the ones who serve us! We will kill all who oppose us!”

Lowering the Orb and cradling it in her hands, the sorceress turned to Sonja.

“Before you die, I want you to know that it is your Artifact, your creation that has made our ascension to power possible.” Crump saw Lady Sonja flinch at the sorceress’ words as if she were struck a hammer blow, and a look of fresh despair spread across her tear-streaked face.

Laughing, the sorceress pointed and Lord Will was thrown into the mass of man-beasts. Raw screaming erupted anew from Lady Sonja as Will was torn to bloody pieces before her very eyes.

The violent sight and sound overwhelmed Crump’s senses. Gorge rose in his throat and what little remained in his stomach spewed out. Mercifully, the screaming came to an abrupt end, and Crump sank to the ground, his thin shoulders shaking as he wept.

Wiping his eyes, Crump tried to make sense of what was happening. All of his friends, the Lord of the manor…they were now dead! Only he survived and only because he spent half the night in the bushes with the belly flux. When the creatures attacked, there was no outcry, no alarm raised. It was if the entire staff were drugged or ensorcelled by some dark magic.

All but Crump.

Fresh screaming tore from Lady Sonja’s throat as she, in turn, was given to the creatures. It echoed throughout morning air and pierced Crump’s soul like a dagger.

He turned and ran.

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