Have to give apologies to DB and Escapist Book Co. as I was never able to get around to posting on my scheduled date for the book tour, or even the same week. Life has been… busy to say the least.
Thankfully, with DB’s approval, I am providing the below excerpt from his novel ‘Callus & Crow (The Wayward World Chronicles #1).
Callus & Crow by DB Rook
Series: The Wayward World Chronicles
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Weird Western
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: July 17, 2022
Publisher: Seventh Realm Productions
Can a path of blood lead to redemption?
Is redemption enough to amend a wayward world?
Morality and reality have shifted from their natural axis. Technology and ideology derive from the remnants of a world long dead and segregated by the monsters that now rule the seas.
Crow, a young ranch hand, is swept into an odyssey of redemption and revenge as he strives to hold back the ravages of fate and the urges born of a curse shared with his new mentor.
Callus, an exile struggling to find redemption whilst keeping his vampiric curse from tainting his new ward, pursues his prey across the sea.
The new world they discover reveals a tyrannical society fixated on their council’s ascension to godhood.
Amazon US: https://amzn.eu/d/hcTAIuU
Amazon UK: https://a.co/d/b89dhXT
Author Bio & Information
DB Rook lives in the North of England with his wife and two beautiful children. He is a drummer, a gamer, and a dreamer who loves to spend time in other worlds, as well as this one. He has spent recent years working in the charity sector whilst occasionally visiting the Wayward World to stretch his legs and feed his soul.
Letter to the local Sheriff’s office
Dated:12th Weresday, 7th, 829 AF
I feel it my duty as a concerned citizen of this region to implore you to take action against the villainous slavers that are in operation in the area that you call your jurisdiction.
Only yesterday I received word from a cousin out in the wilds about how he and his kin were forced to flee their farm on account of the swine that had already come for their neighbour. These foreigners have come from beyond the mountains and they’re stepping on our land like it’s their own. Now I’m not in favour of our Viken neighbours but even those heathens are running scarred and keeping their heads down and we know those brutes like to swing their picks if they get a chance.
My husband, rest his soul, had a cousin out East who escaped from the very same slavers. When he came back, his own Mother didn’t recognise him. They’d painted one of his arms in pitch. Said it was like leather. Poor fella lived in fear till he died nursing a black arm and a wicked thirst for strong ale.
As I write I am making plans to visit town and speak to you person to person, we need to do something, Sheriff, else they’ll keep coming closer and closer to town and taking those they need and dragging them off to the Lord only knows where!
Thinking with my hatchet.
In the eye of the storm.
Seems I only ever think about life before the curse when I’ve done somethin’ stupid. Think I knew before I let go of the hatchet, but some weird twist in my guts stopped my brain. I was so concerned that I’d left Crow in danger and I’d felt his heart was pounding.
As we ran down that busy street, barging and dodging drunks and doorsteps, my mind went way back to the forest as I fled to escape from my tribe. They’d held her back as she tried to run with me. They wouldn’t hurt her, but my own tainted blood was worth nothin’ to them. Arrows stuck into trees as I passed and wild hunt calls came from everywhere. Always knew what we were risking, but the elders could never have kept us from each other, or so I thought.
A weird horn echoed behind us, followed by furious calls for revenge; back on the busy Hatton Street, I picked up the pace, Crow kept up, I guessed he was enjoying the chase, didn’t really have time to ask.
“This way!” I pulled his arm down a side alley and his legs went from under him; he scrambled his way up again as I pulled him up and into two men.
“Watch wh…!” Crow’s shoulder sent the first man flying as we dashed past and away from more angry shouting. I think I heard Crow laugh, but someone hurled a distractingly enormous man out of a saloon and into my path; I had no time to dodge, so I tripped and rolled over him and into the dirt, cursing as I went. With Crow now ahead, I got up and ran after. At the end of the alley was a ramped cellar door. There was nowhere else to run and for a second I thought he’d stop, but up he ran and leaped off the top to disappear down the other side. I followed him up; I could sense his pounding heart as he landed far below in the shadowed stable yard. I landed next to him and had to grab his shoulders before he ran again.
“In here.” I put my finger to my lips as I led him down the side of the stable to the side door I’d been through earlier. He followed in silence into the darkened shop I’d stashed our supplies in. Out in the street above, another angry horn called across the town.
Dorm of a Hatton saloon
Before my friends became my enemies
I stared in all-encompassing horror at Elgar’s still body, my mouth agape; my head was spinning as my pulse quickened. In that heartbeat, it appeared it was my body that had decided between my two guardians. I’d relished Elgar’s company and had felt a bond between us as we’d talked, but as Cal scooped me up in his arms, the relief that surged through my blood left no mistake where my place was; I gripped his shoulders and braced as he ran us headlong towards the glass window. Booming footsteps echoed behind us and in the back of my mind I recall a deep, sorrowful and angry roar follow us as we crashed through the window and plummeted towards the street far below.
Crow landed effortlessly amongst the shocked denizens of Hatton’s nightlife. Shards of glass splintered and burst onto the hard packed street as people fled. He put me down and we ran.
The initial despair at Elgar’s sudden death had gone; all that mattered was our escape together. We ran with speed and agility that seemed supernatural. If not for the crowded streets, we would have been long gone by the time the first horn called across the town. It was an eerie and bitter sound, like it reached for us and there was nowhere we could go to avoid it.
Eventually Cal stopped me in a distant, shadowed alley; he put his finger to his lips and led me through a doorway. Silently and without protest, I followed, surprised I was barely out of breath after our escape.
He quietly barred the door behind us and turned to me with gleaming eyes and an ecstatic grin. We shared a moment of pure euphoria before another horn sounded not so far away.
“I stashed us some gear.” Cal said as he lifted a bundle onto a table between us. Not only had he led us to this place, but to my surprise, he’d already been here to stash supplies. He saw my expression in the gloom and smiled warmly.
“Been here already, figured we’d need some supplies.” He fumbled amongst the items. “And you need a weapon.” He handed me a hatchet; it was my own, not Cal’s I’d borrowed for practice, but my own weapon. Elated, I inspected it thoroughly as he talked me through the other things he’d stashed. Amongst them were two new greatcoats, one for each of us. I quickly put mine on and admired the stitched-in hide at the shoulders and hems, a sturdy coat that my Pa would have approved of, but most pleasing were the similarities with Cal’s. His was a lighter garment and had the addition of a hood, but together we looked like a team, two equals.
Like children, we went about strapping our new packs and belts on in an excitement that almost drowned out the ever approaching Vikens outside. I told Cal about the Vikens and what I’d learned from Elgar, almost forgetting that my new friend now lay in a pool of his own blood.
I realised it was a hunting shop that we were in and found some jerked meat to chew on as we prepared to leave with a new sense of capability.
“There’s a wagon out back. Just need to hook up a couple horses.” Cal was saying as he moved towards a door, then suddenly he stopped. There was a loud metallic clunk, and an unfamiliar voice followed the barrel of a shotgun around the corner into the room.
“Yup, there’s MY wagon out back and that’s where it’s stayin’, boy!”
Finally, back on the trail
It’s unusual I let someone close enough to point a shotgun at me. No doubt I’d survive the blast, but it’d leave one hell of a mess of my face when I woke the next night. He was old and nervous, kept twitching his nose like he could smell somethin’ bad. I quickly decided I could take him first.
“Stop!” Crow’s hands were up. “We can sort this out with no one getting hurt.” He was talking to me; the old timer held his breath.
“We’ll pay for what we’ve taken.” He looked at me. His face was a question. I knew he was right; this fella hadn’t done us any wrong, was my fault he’d caught us.
“You aint got the gold for all this!” he waved the barrel at me and Crow. He was nervous, but he wasn’t backing down, had to give him credit; I could have his throat out before that bony finger pulled.
“Okay.” I said, didn’t raise my hands, not my style, but I showed him one palm as I reached for my pouch with the other. He didn’t like it. His eyes started blinking like there was sand in ‘em. The barrel lifted an inch.
Didn’t want to risk it; I lunged across the room and spun away from him, pulling the barrel with me; his trigger finger gave a loud click as I yanked the gun from his hands and tossed it across the room.
Now his hands were up, his breath coming fast and furious, and a pretty nasty smell filled the room. Crow was looking at me strange; couldn’t decide if he was trustin’ me or not. I reached into my new coat pocket and pulled my pouch. That damn horn sounded again outside, sounded very close.
“Aint got time to mess around, old man. What’s it gonna take for this and that wagon of yours?” I pointed at the gear me and Crow were already wearing and untied the pouch. He looked at Crow, thought it was a trap, like I was just gonna gut him where he stood. Might have done a few years back. I started tossing coins into a patch of moonlight next to his cash register; I saw his eyes bulge, not too scared to turn down my gold.
“Them’s pre-war coins.” He licked his lips, his nerves chased off. I threw a couple more.
“You happy old man?” he looked at me and then back at the small pile.
“One more for the horses?” he was smiling now, so was Crow. I leaned forward and put a coin in his hand, then grabbed it and squeezed.
“One more for the horses.” I agreed and put another on the counter. “And another, so no one knows we were here.” He nodded frantically; I patted him on the shoulder with a firm hand as he scooped up his coins.
The old fella watched us without a word as we tacked up his wagon and climbed aboard in the backyard. Just as we were ready to leave, there was a booming knock on his door, back in the shop. A voice with an unusual lilt shouted.
“Let’s see if too much gold can keep a man’s mouth shut.” I said to Crow, think he knew I wasn’t pleased, but he said nothing, fact he looked quite pleased with himself.
To: Commander Rostrom, Cthonic Order of the Reach,
Rear camp four,
Near “Sanctuary” School for the lost, civilian educational facility,
Dated: 2nd Redsday, 5th, 126 PC
It is with great regret I must inform you that the weapon, that which I am charged to deliver will not arrive. I docked on these shores via The Aileron Dwarf, 4th Maanday, 830 AF, and made haste to the front. However, native bandits immediately overrun our division and commandeered the weapon. I was, as the only survivor, tortured and held captive until liberated by the two men who hold this missive; it is thanks to them I can write this letter before my demise and inform you that the weapon was destroyed and therefore will not be available to the enemy.
I humbly ask as my dying request that the two men in receipt of this message earn the respect they deserve and not be considered responsible for the fate of the weapon and our mission to engage with your forces.
Cthonic Officer of the Reach
A fork in the road
We passed through the next couple towns, only stopping to ask about the place in the letter and get our bearings. Crow needed to deliver it at this ‘Sanctuary’ place, said he’d come so far he might as well go all the way. As we rode, I realised it could fit with my plan. Bit of time on our own would probably do us both some good. I’d gotten so close to Crow it was showing, I was making mistakes I’d never make on my own, and the need to catch up with Reverend Osset was a continuous weight on my mind, I’d lost so much time getting to know Crow that I felt I was letting Wilf down and stretching my redemption beyond the horizon.
He didn’t like it, but we agreed. He’d go deliver his letter, maybe learn a thing or two at the School and I’d go finish my business and come back to meet up at ‘Sanctuary.’
“If we’re partners, least one of us needs some education.” I’d said. He nodded, but still had a scowl on his face. He knew I was right. Hell, I’d struggled to read Jarad’s letter back then.
We had a couple good nights talkin’ round the fire, and I showed him some more things with his hatchet. He was getting good; I was sure he’d be okay on his own for a spell.
We rode as far as we could together before our paths had to split. When the time came, there was no scowling; he knew I’d be back soon and with one less demon on my back.
I’d taken the wagon and one horse, I’d need somewhere to sleep in the day, and we were far closer to ‘Sanctuary’ than we were to Osset’s place when we’d split.
As I rode, I wondered why I’d rarely come this way before. The need to get hold of the good Reverend had always been there, but I’d never actually searched for his place. Crow would probably say that I was more of a beast back then, cared less for people and my redemption, but that boy had sure put a change in me. I felt somethin’ akin to loss at parting ways, but the need for revenge and to clear my debts just kept getting’ heavier and heavier.
I’d never seen Osset’s Abbey, but Wilf used to say ‘bout how grand it was, how close to God Osset must be to have such a place to worship; I spat at the thought. Close to God or not, I’d tear it down right in front of him.
Heading West again
In search of Sanctuary
Another day closer to ‘Sanctuary’ and I realised that the land was drying up. For a while I had followed a small stream, but it had dwindled and just a small trickle remained. I encouraged my horse to take a drink and painstakingly filled a canteen. For a moment, I thought about emptying the bottle Cal had given me and refilling it with water, but thought better of it. I took a swig while it was on my mind and sat as it coursed through me, making me feel more alive.
I took out the strange letter that Jarad had written in those impending hours. Little of it made sense to me, but something tickled my mind. I reread it, trying to understand the brief message, when a spark of insight suddenly came to me. I quickly took out the paper poster that Elgar had shown me back in Hatton.
“Aileron Dwarf.” I spoke the strange words out aloud, matching them to both papers in my hand. Jarad had come to this land on the Aileron Dwarf. My mind raced. A boat that crossed the sea! It had to be true; the two papers were from entirely different sources.
“He came from across the sea!” My horse looked up at my exclamation and dipped his head again, nonplussed. I knew little of the big cities in this land or the wonderful things forged with metal and fire, but one thing I knew was that men had never crossed the sea, not until then, it seemed. I suddenly felt part of something huge, something secret, and I was on my way to meet with Jarad’s superior, who could surely shed light on this phenomenon. Packing up my things with increased vigour, I mounted my horse and set off.
As the land dipped and swirled around gigantic sandy hoodoos, I could see for miles. The landscape seemed devoid of green flora or the signs of inhabitancy, but somewhere out there was a path to a new world.
On my way to Church
Making good time
I’d almost got back into my old lonesome routine by the time I got there. Rising, I pulled back the wagon’s curtain; I’d ridden for a time in daylight but didn’t take any notice around me, just kept my head down and rode to make good time. If Crow’d been with me, it might have been easier, I thought to myself.
Small hamlets had spread over the land like a rash since I was last there; I rode through twitching curtains and disdain, stayin’ clear of Wilf’s ruins; didn’t think I’d approve of what they’d done to the place. I had no love for these people; they were Osset’s people.
Another night’s ride and the lights of his Abbey came into view; I hid the wagon in a nearby copse and got my head down before sunup. It’d been a rough night; I had no injuries to heal but as I stopped breathing, dreams of before the curse haunted me.
“You must go now.” Her voice trembled as she spoke, but she looked away, chin up. She would not look at me again. I stood and her first tear pattered onto the bark floor of the tent.
“I will only go to protect you. I leave my heart behind.”
“They have already taken your heart, my love, where they send you, I cannot follow.” Before I turned, I saw her hand go to her belly.
I turned and stopped before I lifted the flap, the golden sunlight eager to flood in.
“This world will pay for their curses.”
“I know.” She whispered through the rush of tears as I left.
“Anyone in there?” It must have been dusk ‘cause I woke up strong. The hurt left over from my dreams filled me with hate; I tore down the wagon’s curtain to reveal two shocked Abbey guards.
“I am here.” I dropped from the wagon and moved towards them. They stepped back, spears still held upright.
“W-what are you doing here?” the first asked. He finally had the sense to point his weapon. “This is God’s property.” The second now lowered his spear and rolled his shoulder. These two had never seen trouble in all their days, was obvious in their pompously clean velvet uniforms, their pale faces sitting on spotless ruffs.
“Osset!” I snapped. “Where’s Osset?” I grabbed the first’s spearhead and moved it from my face as the other advanced.
“Father Osset is in the new world. He isn’t here.” They shook their heads together, fat, freshly shaven cheeks wobbling.
“You must go now; this is God’s property.” The first repeated. I was not in the mood for this; I took his spear from him and snapped the shaft two handed over his partner’s head. He dropped unconscious with his own spear still in hand. I grabbed the other’s face in both hands, his cheeks bunched up like a baby’s.
“Where is he?” I said through gritted teeth, his face crumpled in terror.
“He’s across the sea!” he sobbed. “See for yourself.” He dropped to his knees to moan when I let go.
“I will.” I turned towards the Abbey feeling invincible but for a coiled snake of worry that I’d let my prey get beyond my reach.