This week, I actually had no idea what to write for the blog. I reached out for reader suggestions but…well, that didn’t go well either. I thought that all was lost until my test reader finished her run-through of the second book and I began my final read-through before heading into the print-proofing stage. Yeah, that’s right, the second book of The Star-Runner Chronicles is almost upon us, so I’ve decided to share a little preview with you all! So, pull up a chair and enjoy this world premiere exclusive excerpt from Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire!
It had been hours since Wolfsbane and Calvin had started trying to crack that blasted seal and Falor, Inferno, and Uncle Falcon had long since gone back to exploring the treasure room proper. The two had taken a short break for lunch thirty minutes in, but aside from that they had been plugging away at it non-stop…and they were starting to get frustrated. Things would start out well enough, with the first two or three buttons lighting up just fine. Unfortunately, once the third or fourth button was pressed every single button but that one would go out again. In fact, more than a few times the third button would be pressed, only for the first two to go dark and both the third and fourth button to begin glowing! It was almost as if the thing had been deliberately built to make anyone who tried to unlock it without an instruction manual get utterly pissed off, quit, and go home!
Now, Calvin stood hovering over the carvings, a look of deep concentration on his face as he carefully considered his next move. The jade star was already giving off its gentle glow and he was on to making his second choice. Finally, he took a deep breath and pressed the white quartz sun…only for the sun, moon, and cloud to light up and the star to go dark again. “Gaaahh!! What the Hells are we doing wrong?!” Calvin snarled in aggravation. “It’s like this thing is fucking with our heads or something!!”
“It’s an inanimate object, Calvin. It’s not messing with us on purpose,” Wolfsbane sighed as he scratched himself behind the ear. “Remember what Inferno said: All sealing spells—”
“Need to have a means of unlocking them. Yeah, yeah,” Calvin growled as he sat down on the floor beside the pedestal, “I know, I know! But we’ve checked all around this room to make sure this stupid thing’s not just a decoy and we came up with jack squat and those stupid buttons are driving me CRAZY!”
“But there’s got to be a pattern to this somehow,” Wolfsbane said with a whine as he looked over the colorful shapes for what could have very well been the millionth time that day. “We just have to figure out what it is…”
“Ah, so no luck with that lock yet, eh?” a familiar voice asked. When Wolfsbane looked up, Falor was leaning against the door frame and peering in at them curiously.
“Nope. This thing sucks ass!” Calvin replied. “It just, like, refuses to cooperate!”
Wolfsbane nodded. “Yes. This lock is a real puzzle aright…” he sighed.
Falor’s eyes suddenly lit up and his large, fox-like ears perked with interest. “A…puzzle…?” he asked, then shook his head and turned away. “No, not a puzzle. Just a lock. A reeeeaaaal uncooperative lock. Tha’s all…”
“Huh? What’s with you?” Calvin asked.
But Wolfsbane understood what was going on with his friend as soon as soon as he’d seen his expression change. Falor loved solving puzzles and riddles. It was his favorite pastime—beside cloud watching and fishing—and he was very good at it. Once, while the two of them had been taking the train to Wolfsbane’s family home, he had watched in awe as Falor found every single hidden image in one of those scavenger hunt picture puzzles in ten seconds flat without even peeking at the answer page in the back of the book. However, it was also very hard for him to resist the challenge of an especially difficult puzzle. The harder the puzzle, the deeper the riddle, the stronger his urge to solve it tended to be.
A mischievous smile crossed Wolfsbane’s face as a thought came to him. He knew that piquing Falor’s drive to solve puzzles just to get him to help them undo the seal was probably not the nicest thing to do…but three heads were better than two. “Yeah, this is a really tough puzzle too,” he said, trying very hard to keep his tone of voice exactly the same as before, “We know that we need to get all of the symbols to light up all at once, but when we press that last or next to last button they all go out except for the one we just pressed. Well, either that or the buttons that are already lit will go out and the darkened buttons will light up. It’s really strange…”
“Well, isn’t that interestin’,” Falor said quickly, all three of his tails twitching independently of each other as he visibly struggled to stand his ground. “Tough luck that.”
“Yeah, and just this last time around I had one button lit up but when I pressed the second, boom! The one I had lit up went out and all three of the buttons that were off turned on!” Calvin said, clearly oblivious to everything but his own frustration. “It’s sick I tell you! Sick!”
“So…then the pattern just…changed up on ya all of a sudden…?” Falor asked, his ears twitching now as his interest grew even more.
“Yeah! I mean, if this thing is a puzzle,” Calvin continued, “then it’s totally impossible to solve!”
Falor whirled around to face them and cried, “NO SUCH THING!! An’ I’ll prove it!” And with that, he bolted across the room to the pedestal and began examining the buttons himself. “Don’ think I don’t know whatchya did there, Wolfie,” he muttered under his breath, peering over at Wolfsbane through the corner of his eye. “If we live through this, I swear I’m gettin’ ya back…”
“Fair enough,” Wolfsbane replied with a laugh, “I’ll be on my guard.”
“Ooookaaay…What are you guys talking about?” Calvin asked.
“Oh, just best friend stuff,” Falor said pleasantly as he carefully plugged away at the buttons, their lights flickering on and off as he did so.
Wolfsbane nodded. “Mm-hm,” he said. “In-jokes and all that…”
Calvin huffed and tisked in annoyance. “Man, I hate when I’m not in on an in-joke…” he grumbled as he crossed his arms.
For the next few minutes, Wolfsbane and Calvin stood by and watched as Falor continued to work away at the seal. After his first few tries, he did something radical—he began to experiment with pressing buttons which were already glowing, which caused the one or two buttons nearest them to either stop glowing if they were already lit or start glowing if they weren’t. Seemingly satisfied with this result, he immediately incorporated it into his overall strategy.
Ten minutes after Falor had started trying to solve the light puzzle, Inferno came in looking for him. As soon as he entered the room, he let out a frustrated groan and cried, “Not you too, Falor! I thought that you were on my side in this!”
“I am,” Falor replied, continuing to press the buttons before him as he spoke, “but Wolfie an’ Calvin started goin’ on and on about what a tough puzzle this was…and I just couldn’t help m’self. Especially not after Calvin went an’ said how this thing was impossible ta solve!”
Inferno put his hands on his hips, sighed, and shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe this,” he said, looking up at Wolfsbane and Calvin. “We’re all going to die now, and it’s all your fault. I hope you two are happy with yourselves.”
“Couldn’t be happier,” Calvin replied with a smile.
“Don’t be so pessimistic, Inferno,” Wolfsbane said reassuringly. “After all, remember how reluctant you were to even get on a pony when you were little? You thought that if you got on its back, the horse would rear up, throw you off, and kick a hole through your belly. But once you mounted up and got the hang of things, you didn’t want to leave the saddle.”
“True…but that was different!” Inferno protested as he stepped forward into the middle of the room.
“Now,” Wolfsbane continued, “you ride a mount that’s so fierce that the only person who can comfortably handle him besides you is a man who can talk to animals.”
“You talk about Grimorum like he’s some kind of monster,” Inferno said, crossing his arms. “He’s just…spirited. That…that thing in that crystal, on the other hand, is a menace of epic proportions that should never be allowed to see the light of day again!”
“But—an’ I have ta play the devil’s advocate on this one—Wolfie does have a point,” Falor said, as he pressed the moon, lighting it up but causing the sun and the cloud to go dark. “Ya never know the truth until ya check it out fer yourself…” At that moment, as if on cue, Falor pressed the green star, which lit it and the sun and cloud.
As soon as all four shapes were glowing, the carvings automatically sunk into the pedestal with a loud, solid thud. Next, the crystal itself began glowing brighter and brighter and Wolfsbane found himself shielding his eyes from the blinding green light as he, Falor, and Calvin quickly backed away from its source. By the time they had backed up almost to the center of the room, the crystal had reached its brightest sheen and a sound like cracking ice began to emanate from it. Seconds later, a sound like shattering glass rang out thrice from the crystal’s location and the light faded to just barely what it had been when the crystal was at its dimmest.
Want to know what happens next? Then be sure to mark your calendar for the first week of November 2014 and make a note on your reminder thingie of choice, because that’s when Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire is gonna drop! Haven’t read the first book yet? Well, what are you waiting for?! Head on down to Amazon.com (print and kindle ebook versions), Createspace.com (print version), or Tower Books (print version) and grab a copy of The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner to read while you wait, you silly goose! And follow me on Twitter @DanielleVFreman for updates and randomness. Until next week (when I will, hopefully, have a really rockin’ idea for the blog), this is Danielle Freeman, signing off.