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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Do your duty, come what may." Jack Templar and the Lord of the Demons (The Templar Chronicles #5) by Jeff Gunhus

With two of the Jerusalem Stones in hand, Jack and his friends must race the clock to find the remaining Stones as Ren Lucre’s Creach forces gather strength.

Description:

With two of the Jerusalem Stones in hand, Jack and his friends must race the clock to find the remaining Stones as Ren Lucre’s Creach forces gather strength. With two of their group now with Creach blood flowing in their veins, the team will be tested as never before. They must unite together if they have any hope of surviving their journey to the Underworld and their battle with the vicious Lord of the Demons. The fate of the entire world hangs in the balance.

See our review for book #1 here
See our review for book #2 here
See our review for book #4 here

"Jeff Gunhus did it again! The 5th book in The Templar Chronicles; Lord of the Demons is a fantastic, fast-paced adventure that both kids and Adults would enjoy. Jack Templar and his group of Monster Hunters (some are slightly changed but alas they are hunters at heart) have set off to gain the third Jerusalem stones, as usual, their paths are rarely smooth sailing and they encounter many bizarre and dangerous beings on the way. " - Goodreads, Princess' Review

EXCERPT

Eva lifted her nose in the air, picking up a scent.

“What is it?” I asked.

But it was T-Rex who answered. “That’s rabbit stew, is what that is.”

I sniffed the air. He was right. I smelled food of some kind. The sweet aroma of carrots mixed with earthy potatoes and root vegetables. I couldn’t tell if it was rabbit stew like T-Rex claimed, but I wouldn’t have bet against him.

“Could be a trap,” Daniel said.

“Okay, let’s drop the act,” I said. “Swords.”

All of us pulled our weapons, some of us slower than others. Xavier and T-Rex both got theirs twisted in their shirts but eventually got them out and went on guard.

“We know you’re there,” I called to the woods around us. “Come out and show us that –”

Ziiiizzz, Thwack

An arrow flew an inch over my head and buried itself into the tree behind me.

“Take cover,” I yelled.

I ran to the trees, pulling Xavier with me. Another arrow slammed into the ground in front of me. I changed direction, but another arrow let loose and again dug into the soil, kicking up dirt and leaves.

I got the point. This wasn’t someone missing. It was someone sending me a very clear message. Stop moving or I’ll shoot you.

A quick glance around showed me the others fared no better. There were arrows sticking from the ground and trees all around us, but none of us were hit.

“Okay,” I called out. “We get it.”

“Weapons down,” came a high-pitched voice in the tree above us.

I looked up and saw a flutter of movement among the leaves, but then it was gone.

“Weapons down, I said,” came the voice again. “Or I’ll put an arrow in the fat one’s tummy.”

“Is he talking about me?” T-Rex asked. “I’ve actually lost a bit of weight, you know.”

I put my sword on the ground in front of me and motioned for everyone to do the same. We all had backup weapons stashed on our bodies – throwing knives, stars, daggers and the like – so I wasn’t too worried about giving up my sword. Daniel caught my eye. He had his hand on the Templar Ring as if he was about to pull it from his finger. I felt a surge of excitement that I could wear it again. But that would also mean we’d have to deal with an out of control werewolf in our midst.

I shook my head. I figured if whoever or whatever was in the trees wanted us dead, then they would have already taken a shot at us.

“Who are you?” came the voice again. “What are you doing here?”

“We’re travelers seeking shelter for the night, maybe a warm meal,” I said, speaking the words every monster hunter knew by heart. It was the way members of the Black Guard identified themselves. “We ask for your hospitality. Have we come to the place where such kindness is freely given?”

There was an excited chattering of voices in the trees, and then a person fell from the sky, hitting the ground with a solid thump. Then another. And another. Finally, I counted an even dozen of them even though I wasn’t sure what they were.

They were half-sized men, the tallest only a little higher than my waist. They all carried bows as big as they were, cradled in rough, thick hands and muscled arms. Their bodies were stout and clad in flexible leather armor studded with small squares of iron in decorative patterns. What made them creepy was that while their bodies looked like they belonged to middle-aged men, their faces bore the smooth features of someone no more than nine or ten years old. While their arms and necks were wrinkled and tanned with time, their faces were pale and their eyes looked too shiny, like they were on the edge of crying. Still, their faces looked blank, so I didn’t think they were emotional about anything. All I knew was that my skin crawled as their moist eyes looked me over.

“So who is it that asks the old question in the old way?” the one nearest us asked. “We’d like to know that very much.”

All twelve of them nodded in unison as they moved closer to us. I fought a sudden impulse to flinch back. I’d suddenly realized what was so odd about them. All of them had the same face.

I didn’t notice at first because some of them wore their hair differently, some wore helmets, and others had scars from some long ago battle. But once I looked for it, there was no mistake. All the faces were the same.

“Just travelers looking for rest,” Eva said. If these strange beings unnerved her, then she was better at hiding it than I was. But the fact that she jumped in to make sure I didn’t tell these strange creatures our names told me she wasn’t comfortable either.

“Can I ask your name, friend?” Daniel asked.

A different one of them stepped forward. “We are the Talib. As for names, you can ask. We can ask. But will the answers and truth be told? Think not, we do.”

“Great, we ran into a herd of Yodas,” Will said under his breath.
Excerpt 3



The woman cackled loudly, a laugh full of phlegm deep in her throat. “The old ways. Oh, how I do love them,” she said, crossing the room toward the fire.

She walked hunched over and with the shuffle of a very old woman. Dressed in a black robe, she was hard to see in much detail except for long hair that trailed behind her, reaching all the way to the ground. As she reached the fire, more than one of us sucked in a quick breath in shock. She wasn’t an old woman at all, but a beautiful girl, maybe just over twenty. Her skin was smooth and reflected the color of the flames that burned in the hearth. When she smiled, perfectly white teeth glistened behind full, red lips.

“Hello there,” Daniel said, sounding every bit like the wolf in his blood.

“Oh please,” Eva muttered.

“If we are intruding, we can certainly just be on our way,” I said maybe a little too hopefully.

“A werewolf, a vampire, and four human boys,” she said. “What an odd group to be traveling together, if you’ll excuse me for saying. And speaking like members of the Black Guard no less. Curious indeed.”

“We are all friends,” I said. “We are bonded together.”

“If you think you’re going to be able to add some heads to your wall, you’re mistaken,” Eva said.

“Eva,” I hissed. Diplomacy wasn’t her finest quality, but I was crazy to think I could stop her.

“What we need you to do,” Eva continued, “is call off your pack of weird dwarf-children out there so we can get back on the road and away from this nuthouse.”

The words were out so quickly I couldn’t stop her. We all turned to the woman with the crooked old body and the beautiful face to see how she would react. Part of me thought she might attack us. I thought the six of us could take her if it came to that. But I didn’t think we could hack our way through the Talib gathered outside, especially since the longbow appeared to be their weapon of choice, meaning they could strike us from a distance.

The fire behind the woman rose up in height as if a wind blew up. The wood crackled and spit sparks up into the chimney. She turned to us, her face transformed into a snarl. Her hands came up from the folds of her robe, twisted and deformed, more like claws than anything else.

“Dwarf-children?” she bellowed. “You dare mock me? You dare mock my pain and suffering?”

“No,” I said. “We’re not mocking you. We’re just a little scared is all. Sorry.” I punched Eva in the arm. “Eva, say you’re sorry.”

Eva stared the woman down and said nothing.

“Okay, I’m sorry on her behalf,” I said. “But really, it looks like we’ve come here in error. If we could be on our way, we promise not to disturb you again.”

The woman lowered her hands and slid them back under her robe. Her face relaxed and the snarl disappeared, replaced once again with the beauty that had been there before. “I’m sorry; it’s too late for that,” she said ominously. “I am Bella of the Woods, and you may not leave without accepting the hospitality you asked for.”

The way she hissed out the word hospitality caused gooseflesh to appear up and down my arms. I had a bad feeling her idea of hospitality wasn’t a pot of tea and some cucumber sandwiches. The way the others shifted uncomfortably behind me made me think I wasn’t the only one who picked up on it.

“I hope those things on the wall weren’t given her hospitality too,” T-Rex said under his breath.
Excerpt 4

He was an ogre, not a particularly large one, maybe twice the size of a large man. But his body bulged with ropes of muscle, all on show because he wore only tattered shorts. If his skin had been green instead of a dirty orange, he might have been able to audition for a role as the Incredible Hulk in a movie. Only the Hulk didn’t have hundreds of tattoos covering his body the way Draxo did.

As he got closer, I saw that the images were not the normal kind of decorative art. The tattoos were gruesome depictions of death. Creach and human carcasses, all broken and twisted, some of them dismembered then reassembled in terrible ways. An arm where a head ought to be, a leg sticking out of a stomach. From Draxo’s nickname, “the Butcher,” I had a bad feeling the tattoos were probably memories.

Even so, the worst part of Draxo was his face. Really his entire head. It reminded me an oddly shaped potato, bulging out in unexpected lumps and slanting to one side as if he’d been run over by a truck when he was a baby. The massive head looked even odder because he had little pinpricks for eyes, no larger than a quarter. They were completely black and didn’t seem to move. Instead, it seemed like Draxo had to turn his head from side to side in order to take everything in around him.

Adding to the rest of his strangeness, Draxo’s skin, including his face, was crisscrossed with scar tissue from what looked to be dozens or even hundreds of old wounds. Apparently the Butcher enjoyed killing things that had the ability to fight back. As he crossed the floor toward us, no creach there met his eye. Instead, they all shied away, bowing as he went. Again, just like the minotaur guards, it reminded me of Ren Lucre. But while Ren Lucre commanded all creach around the world, Draxo was master of only this underground city. I wondered about the creach’s ambition and whether he was content with his dominion. It might be a weakness, something to use against him.

“Fangtrope,” he said, stepping up to the ogre who had blocked our progress. “Can it be true that you’re harassing my personal guests?”

The other ogre shook his head, all his earlier bravado gone.

“Y … your guests?” the ogre named Fangtrope stuttered. “These are your guests? I had no idea that –”

“Silence, idiot,” Draxo growled. “I know that Tomas told you so.” He tapped a hole on one side of his head. “I hear everything that happens in Old Rome. Remember?”

“I’m sorry,” Fangtrope said. “We were hungry. We just thought …”

Draxo held up his hand. “We?” He turned to the old vampire who’d harassed us. “Stephano, you were part of this? Tsk, tsk. I thought you were a gentleman.”

Stephano bowed low. “I’m so sorry, your Grace,” he said. Then he fell to his knees, groveling. “I was in error. I beg your forgiveness.”

Draxo’s tiny eyes squinted, his pug nose turned up as if he were disgusted with the display. He swung around to look at Fangtrope. “You see, that is how you apologize when you offend me.”

Fangtrope looked down at the vampire on the ground and shook his head.

“Kneel,” Draxo growled.

Fangtrope hesitated but then dropped to his knees. Still, he was a proud one and kept his head up, staring Draxo in the face.

The hall was silent, the only movement in the crowded room coming from spectators shifting positions to get a better view of the action.

“You are brave, Fangtrope,” Draxo said. “And you have been useful to me.” He reached into a small pouch he carried on his waistband. When his hand came out, two of his fingers dripped with red fluid. It seemed like a pretty safe guess that it was blood. “For that reason, I give you the chance for an honorable death.” He reached out and smeared an “X” on the ogre’s forehead with the blood. With this act, the crowd cheered wildly. Fangtrope stood and the crowd roared louder.

“My thanks,” Fangtrope said to Draxo.

Draxo nodded. Then, without a second’s hesitation, lifted his giant foot and smashed it into the middle of Stephano’s back. The old vampire’s backbone snapped loudly, and the crowd fell silent. Draxo grabbed a sword from a nearby goblin, moving much faster than I thought possible for a Creach that size, and in one fluid movement lopped the old vampire’s head off his shoulders.

The room was silent, stunned. But it only lasted a few seconds. The crowd resumed its cheering and the music started back up. Someone grabbed the old vampire’s head and threw it into the air. Someone else caught it and threw it again, like a macabre version of a beach ball being tossed around a crowd at a concert or sporting event.



Draxo turned to us. “Welcome to Old Rome,” he said, grinning. “Come, we will talk.”



About the author:
Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, 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. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.

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