HellSong Series

by Shaun McCoy

Pre-Order Even Hell Has Knights

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From Gehennic Law: The King and the River

For the People so loved their King that they enclosed him in a steel cage; and thus the demons could not maul him. Then they found a horn of plenty and set it with him; and thus the hunger could not take him. Then they placed him on a barge and sent him down the river Janus; and thus the Devil could not catch him.

But soon they were assaulted by dyitzu and knew not how to save themselves. So they sent men down the river to beg advice from their King, and he told them to make weapons of stones and defend themselves. They did so, and they survived.

But then they were given women and knew not how to control them. So again they sent men down the river, and the King taught them how to clothe the women from head to toe; that their wives might forget they were human. They did so, and they survived.

But then they found that the Devil held them in poor regard, and that it was his will they be destroyed. So again they sent men down the river, and their King told them how to make the correct sacrifices to appease him. They did so, and they survived.

And finally they were struck with famine and could not feed their people. So again they sent men down the river, but this time their King and his wisdom had floated too far away. They did nothing and wasted until death.

Many wish to meet this King, and many have tried. They say that if you travel far enough down this river you can still find him, drifting eternally through Hell. But they also say that since Damnation is infinite, then the river's end is also its beginning; its head is also its mouth—

If one waits here long enough, he may come again.

Chapter 1

I will never see Alice again.

Arturus lay in the cold, dark stone chamber with the five remaining Harpsborough hunters, separated from his home by countless miles of impenetrable and devil filled labyrinth, waiting for Galen to return. Waiting for execution or absolution.

Arturus’ fingernails had grown long, and though he had bathed since his climb through Giant’s Tunnel, they had half moons of dirt beneath them. He pulled back the left sleeve of his black t-shirt so that he could see the symbol that had been so artfully carved into his shoulder. Some of the long thin scabs peeled off, sticking to the cotton cloth. The pain was a distant thing, like the echo of a man’s shout from some far off chamber.

He stretched out his arm so he might better see the symbol the priestess Kayla had cut into his person. It was a man, arms held straight over his head, palms touching and fingers pointing as if he were diving upwards. The man was only free from the waist up—below that, he was encased in stone. Hell heals all wounds, so the saying went, but it wouldn’t heal this one unless Arturus was willing to cut off his arm and wait for it to regrow—a dangerous proposition under normal circumstances and probable suicide in the Carrion.

That meant the symbol stayed. That meant that, in some way, he was still Maab’s.

He remembered Maab. Remembered her soft, wet lips as they coaxed him through his first kiss.

His heart and breathing quickened against his will.

I don’t love Maab. I love Alice. Or maybe even Ellen… but I don’t love Maab.

He looked to the five remaining hunters. They were a sorry sight.

We weren’t ready for the Carrion.

They had failed to rescue Julian, who was now a slave of Maab’s dark cult. They had failed to secure the devilwheat Harpsborough needed to survive. They had failed to even return home before Harpsborough sealed them in.

And four of them were dead.

Wistan, Mabe, Fitch and Patrick.

Aaron, the Lead Hunter of Harpsborough, seemed the healthiest. The muscular hunter caught Arturus’ eye and stood slowly. He walked with a limp, having not fully recovered from the long needles the silverleg spiders had left in his feet.

Those spiders are still out there, waiting for us to try and go home.

Aaron squatted down next to him, nodding across the room. Arturus followed his gaze to Kyle, the hunter who’d suffered the worst wounds from the spiders. Even now, after nearly a week of rest, Kyle could easily be mistaken for dead. The spiders had flayed his legs so badly and removed so much of the man’s thigh and calf muscles that they’d only been able to take off the man’s tourniquets yesterday. The healing had begun, but it wasn’t much. Loose clumps of scabs and congealed fluids leaked out between the masses of bandages which covered his legs. His face was gaunt, pale as a corpse’s. Even his black hair seemed unnaturally thin.

He looks worse than he did before we took off the tourniquets.

Arturus glanced back towards Aaron.

The worried hunter leaned forward and whispered into his ear, “He won’t be ready when we try for home.”

Arturus bit his lip for a second. “We’ll have to carry him.”

“We should have never removed his tourniquets, Turi. Moving him might kill him now.”

“But we can’t stay,” Arturus whispered back.

Aaron nodded.

Galen had done well in finding them a safe place to rest in a little traveled nook of the Carrion, but even so, the fact that they had rested a week thus far without having drawn any devils meant they were pushing the boundary between good luck and miracle—and there were no miracles in Hell. Arturus wasn’t even sure if they could make it another day without being sniffed out by a hellhound, and Kyle would probably need months to recover.

All we have left to do is die.

He imagined Kyle sitting there, abandoned in this Carrion room—waiting alone for the devils to find him. Arturus wasn’t familiar enough with the man to know if he had a lover back in Harpsborough. He didn’t know whose name Kyle might call if the dyitzu were to find him.

Arturus ran his fingers over the smooth peach fuzz that was collecting on his cheeks. “We’ll have to get a stretcher. A woodstone door or something to carry him on, like we did with the Infidel Friend.”

It will have to be Galen who carries him.

But that wasn’t a good idea either. Galen was the only one of them who was healthy enough to fight. It would be better if Aaron and he were to bear the burden—but he wasn’t sure if they even could. Neither of them were able to walk very well. Arturus looked to the other hunters.

Johnny Huang, Avery, and Duncan were in bad shape, but there was also their captured priestess.

Maybe she can help.

She could hardly stand straight, however. Aaron had told him that Galen broke her ribs. On top of that, Arturus had no good reason to assume that she would even be willing to help. She was just as likely to drop her end of the stretcher as she was to try and carry it.

Maybe Aaron and I could manage for an hour or so before we give out. Then Duncan and Johnny could fill in, maybe for half as long. And then…

Then nothing. There would be days of travel left after that. Galen would be forced to carry Kyle on his own, there was just no other way around it. He and the hunters would have to try and be ready to fight—except this was a terrible idea. Even if they were all healthy, fed, and weren’t running low on ammunition, they would still be no match for the huge packs of dyitzu that roamed the Carrion.

There’s got to be a better way. Think, Turi.

Arturus felt Aaron’s hand on his shoulder. For as long as Arturus had known him, Aaron had been a very compassionate man, but he did not look so now. His expression was stern, even callous.

“Harden your heart, Turi.” Aaron said, getting up to his feet.

“What? Why?”

Aaron did not answer. He looked as cruel as Arturus had ever seen him. Slowly, the hunter walked away.

What’s going on?

Arturus looked back between Aaron’s limping figure and Kyle. Kyle’s eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling. His chest was rising and falling slowly. He looked so helpless.

Oh, no. Please no. We can’t.

Aaron leaned his shoulder against the far wall and slid down it into a crouch. His jaw was set. Arturus looked back towards Kyle, and by some horrible coincidence, Kyle chose that moment to lower his head. Their eyes met. Kyle managed a wan smile.

I’m sorry, Kyle. I’m sorry.

"McCoy is a talented and bright young writer. Knight of Gehenna is a new kind of novel--a page turner in the truest sense—wrought from equal parts brawn and brain."

—B. Butler, Author of Murder in Cairo

"McCoy is a brilliant writer; insightful, intelligent, articulate, imaginative, and funny."

—McKendree Long, Author of No Good Like it is.

"In Knight of Gehenna, McCoy masterfully creates characters, scenarios and the Hell where they live. He writes with a passion, layering emotion on fantasy and science fiction, drawing in readers from beyond his genre."

—Ginny Padgett, President of SCWW

"If Hemmingway was a Boxer, McCoy is a Cagefighter."

—Monet Jones

"Shaun is the real McCoy."

—Laura Valtorte, Filmaker, Author of Family Meal

"Exceptionally well written. I felt the pain of these characters physically and emotionally."

—Fred Feilds, Author

"With the visionary aptitude of such writers as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, Shaun McCoy further illustrates his unique underworld that has produced the spiritual vagabond Arturus in this sequel to Even Hell Has Knights. Arturus' quest for purpose in hell is not unlike man’s quest for purpose on earth."

—Len Lawson, Author of City of David

"Reading Knight of Gehenna is like being privy to an argument between Camus and Aquinas--only in this book they've got shotguns."

—Thomas the Younger, Author of These Windows.

They had failed.

No one, not even the warrior Galen, had expected the Carrion labyrinth to be so full of devils. No one had expected Maab’s soldiers to be so ferocious. They’d failed to rescue Julian, they’d failed to recover his food supply, and they’d failed to return before their own people, giving them up for dead, built a stone wall across the Carrion’s only known exit.

Now all they can do is try to fight their way home—but they can’t make it alone. With half their number already slain, Arturus, Galen, and the Harpsborough hunters must either make an alliance with one of the Carrion’s darkest powers or give up any hope of seeing home ever again.