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Catching Hell Part 1
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-402-0
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 343 Pages
Published: March 2018

From inside the flap

Catching Hell is the first part of a sci-fi/fantasy epic about two friends separated on their quest to avenge their destroyed home. Aryu, who has wings, and Johan have their home destroyed by a mechanical army thought extinct. Now separated, Aryu learns that he must also deal with Nixon Ash, a phoenix-man sworn to kill owners of the Shi Kaze, a weapon Aryu recently found. Meanwhile Johan and his tactical mind adventure to a distant, advanced city to find a way to defeat their enemy and reunite with his best friend.

One goes into the world of the fantastic and mystical, while the other goes to the technological. Each are worlds they were raised to fear, but now must face to defeat their common enemy.

Catching Hell Part 1 (Excerpt)

Chapter 1:

A "Man" Walks Into a Bar…

In all the years he'd tended bar in this dump-water town, Ollie was sure he'd seen bigger men. Those who had come from the northern mines were strong and rugged. The people of the west, where the dark-skinned warriors seemed to be bred to be intimidating, were also a sight. But Ollie was sure he'd never seen one more, for lack of a better word, powerful.

He stood much taller than the portly Ollie, and it likely would take two of the old barman to make the scales equal in weight. If an ounce of fat was anywhere on him, it was well hidden beneath the mountains of muscle clearly visible even under the black, heavy armor he wore. It was darker than night, and as clean as a polished mirror.

If this was a normal man, born of woman, Ollie was a dead dog's maggot. Whoever this was, they had surely embraced the forbidden ways. For that reason alone he was more trouble than an old drink-slinger wanted.

His hair flowed like fire down his neck and over his shoulders (which were almost as wide as Ollie was tall). Even his eyebrows had that ethereal red shimmer, which stood out against his ghostly skin.

The mountain of muscle took in the now-silent patrons and proceeded to walk to the bar and the sweating man behind it.

The armor clinked and clanked as he moved, and the sword on his hip, clearly a well maintained and valuable weapon of a style Ollie had never seen before, swung with its own rhythm like a pendulum you wanted no part of. It was large, but looked proportional next to the man's trunk-like thigh.

Despite his visions of being manhandled by this demon for whatever purpose he desired (Ollie guessed information or a really stiff drink, which are the only true uses of a bartender), he was quite shocked and relieved when the beast sat at one of the bar stools (which had surely seen bigger men, but still seemed about to collapse), and smiled at Ollie.

Ollie was shocked to feel the uneasiness slip from his mind (not entirely, but certainly a little).

His smile was so well suited to him, yet so out of place. There were even dimples at the corners of his mouth like a child. Despite his astoundingly inhuman features otherwise, this man had a smile that could make a baby sleep.

Ollie approached the man slowly and asked him what he would like. He was disturbed again to see his eyes. Where others would have white, his were black like his armor. Instead of regular color, there was the same uneasy flicker of deep red and orange tones seen in his hair. There was no iris visible. Just a red sun on a black field. They were the eyes of the devil, given flesh.

The beastly man reached into some unseen pocket of his breastplate, produced a number of coins, and placed them on the bar. Most were of common enough origin to the man who'd seen many a currency in his time, but others were strange, with odd writings and pictures of men he'd never seen on them. Their metal, however, was plain as day.

Gold and silver, enough to send an old war horse like Ollie on a long vacation from the rabble and the drunks. The twos' eyes met.

"A glass of your stoutest beer and a little bit of your time" he said in an accent that was simply alien to an ear who'd heard it all. It sounded like "Ah glahs ove yer shtoutest beer and ah lit'l bih ove yer' tyme". It was understandable, but no less mysterious.

The tender half-turned to his rows of kegs, all old and well used for a few generations of guzzlers. Each was tapped with a spigot with a bright LED light on it, so out of place in this low-tech society it was almost offensive. Most were green, some pulsed yellow, and two flashed red like a warning beacon. Green equaled a full keg, yellow for half or and less, red for a keg that needed to be changed soon. Some avoided Land'O'North tavern for this reason alone. Even in small amounts like this, the tools of the ancient ones were sure to only bring suffering. To Ollie the ancient ones were nothing but ghosts, and he never once had to lift a keg to check the draught levels. That was more than enough reason to dance with the devils of the dust. Despite his constant complaints and frequent post-fight blood clean ups, he loved his life and job very much and welcomed any tool that would help him carry on a little longer.

He kept watch on the black-eyed man as he picked the required keg and passed an old glass beneath it. A soft click as the spigots magic eye saw the glass and began pouring the stout as perfectly and with as much velocity as the beverage required. When it neared the top of the glass, the same click was heard, and the drink stopped flowing. Only a beer thick as molasses with a head like a crown of white remained.

He delivered the glass to the stranger and allowed him to view his perfectly poured glass with a smirk. "I dare say a finer pint has ne'er crossed my eyes." said the man in that strange, lilting drawl.

"Ah, it's nothin'" said Ollie, not really knowing what a pint was, but knowing a compliment when he heard one. "The tap does all the work. I'm just the eye candy"

The man's smirk intensified. "Indeed."

He took a sip of the bitters and smiled as he swallowed. Dropping the glass, he revealed the telltale mustache of a man who enjoys his drink.

As he wiped the foam away, he let out a deep breath, as if he'd just ran many miles just for that one sip of stout. Ollie got a whiff of the smell as he did so.

The first thing he noticed was how hot it was. The odor was one of beer and sulphur, like the kind of smell that wafted down the mountains above the many hot springs that littered the land around here.

The barman felt his uneasiness creep back into him. All at once he was reminded that this was no ordinary man.

"Excellent!" said the man, still smiling while raising the glass again. "Ya' know, there are some that'd call it heresy t' use such devises". He indicated the digital spigots.

Ollie raised his eyebrow in mock surprise. "Really? Well, let them lift a half-full keg six times a day and see how long they cling to their half-assed notions of God."

The man put the glass down on the bar a little harder than Ollie would have liked and looked at him with those dark, flaming eyes. Ollie wondered if his witty banter had hit a nerve he had every intention of avoiding but his face held the conviction he felt, even if his knees did not.

"Well put, sir." The glass returned to his lips. "Half-assed notions indeed."

Ollie didn't know how to react to this comment. Staying on caution's side, he looked toward the coins on the bar for a change of topic.

"You wanted a bit of my time, stranger?" he asked, not at all sure he knew what was wanted of him.

The peaceful smile was out now in full force, and the man nodded as he put down the empty glass. "Yes, yes, o'course."

He placed his hands on the bar to aid him up. Even the hair on the back of his hands seemed to have that burning shimmer.

Once upright, the man reached to his side and grasped the handle of his sword, slowly though, so as not to arouse suspicion. He pulled it out of the sheath with a soft whisper and held it sideways inches from Ollie's face.

Ollie saw a few of the patrons, who had been watching the scene unfold with the same curiosity as Ollie himself, reach for hidden weapons and defenses in case of an emergency. He knew it had nothing to do with saving the bartender as much as themselves if things went a little hairy. Ollie had few friends and fewer enemies, like a bartender should.

Truth be told, there was a veritable arsenal of weapons behind this bar. From knives to assorted guns and carefully arranged projectiles. An old rifle was just under the spot the man had chosen to sit, but going back to his first thought upon seeing this newcomer, he was sure that even his highest caliber firearm could not stop this power that sat before him.

"I'd like ya' t' take a good look at this sword", he said, "and I want ye' t' focus not on how it looks, but how it makes ya' feel. Does it conjure any thoughts, or create any deep emotions?"

Ollie was so confused by the words he looked away from the man and his sword and gazed around the room at the men (and occasional woman, of the working variety.) Many of them looked away, not wanting to get involved in this incident before it started. Others shrugged at him, as if to say they didn't know what he wanted either.

At the back, in a dark corner sitting alone, an old man simply stared. Ollie looked back, not at the sword, but the man.

"Look, mister, I don't know what you're asking, really, but I..."