The attack didn’t come until nearly dusk on that second day. And it had nothing to do with wolves.
The screaming came first. Daniel had just turned to me and pointed to a rocky outcrop ahead of us. The cave. That meant a campfire and a chance to eat something hot. Just as Daniel turned, a black shadow streaked out of the treetops, emitting a deafening shriek that only stopped once it smashed right into Daniel’s face.
In what seemed like slow motion, a splatter of blood arced through the air and landed in a pattern on the fresh snow.
Daniel spun around on his horse, and Saladin reared on his hind legs, nearly knocking me off his back. I looked over at Daniel and saw something attached to his face—a creature with pale grey flesh and wiry hair. About the size of a large rat, it was so emaciated that its skin looked like only a thin casing stretched tight against its skeleton. Adding to this bony appearance were thin, papery wings that were wrapped around either side of Daniel’s head, holding on while the creature’s mouth gnawed on his face.
I put my hands to my ears as the forest erupted with the same maddening shriek, but now in a chorus. Judging from the ear-shattering volume, there had to be dozens of them. I knew exactly what these things were, remembering them from one of my classes. These were shriekers, members of the Lower Creach. Not overly dangerous by themselves, but deadly when they hunted as a group.
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up into the trees. At first I thought I was seeing things. The low light and the wind rocking the trees had created a bizarre dance of shadows, confusing my senses. But as I watched, I could discern dozens of dark forms gliding through the shadows.
Screeching and spitting.
Picking their way toward us with their stubby feet and their bat-like wings.
I could see their faces now. They were small, with pointed noses that reminded me of a ferret or a weasel. Only these guys had mouthfuls of pointy teeth that protruded out from elongated jaws.
The shriekers nearest me saw that I’d spotted them and they opened their mouths wide and hissed at me. They launched themselves off the trees, falling in an ungainly, barely controlled descent.
Saladin reared again and this time I couldn’t keep my grip tight enough. I fell off the saddle and hit the ground hard. Instinctively, I rolled to one side.
The creatures landed in the snow where I had been seconds before.
I climbed to my feet and drew my sword, struggling to block the shrieking from my ears as Saladin ran into the forest.
After barely surviving the onslaught of monsters that tried to kill him the day before his fourteenth birthday, Jack Templar leaves his hometown on a quest to rescue his father and discover the truth about his past. Joined by his friends Will and T-Rex, and led by Eva, the mysterious one-handed monster hunter, Jack sets out for the Monster Hunter Academy where he hopes to find answers to his questions. Little does he suspect that the Academy is filled with dangers of its own, many of them more terrifying than anything he’s faced so far.
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Buy the first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, at Amazon
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Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Middle Grade/YA series The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. Jeff is also the co-CEO of College Works Painting, a national company with over 4,000 employees that has been featured in national media for its unique opportunity for college students to learn entrepreneurial skills. He is the author of the motivational career guides No Parachute Required (Hyperion) and Wake Up Call (Seven Guns Press). After his experience with his son, he is passionate about helping parents reach young reluctant readers and is active in child literacy issues. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland by trying to constantly keep up with his kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the CIty Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.
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