An excerpt from “The Staff: book # 1 of the Belaria series”

My book “The Staff” will be part of a fifteen author free books list which will be made available on my other website http://freefantasygenrebooks.wordpress.com/ from 25th till 28th September. Here is the prologue from the book.

Prologue

Algrad had found the dead cockroach stuck between some big rocks on the river bank. The most peculiar insect he had ever seen, it was also probably the largest one that existed. More than half a metre in its breadth alone, its length surpassed two metres.

A new species of course, what should he name it?

He wondered vaguely for some time. What could be an appropriate name for the giant cockroach…?

‘Ummm… Ah, Bezorium!’ he decided finally, after his surname “Bezon”. Yes, that would be good, he thought. ‘Bezorium… the largest cockroach ever!’

Coming to Tropagia hadn’t been all a waste. He had discovered innumerable numbers of new plant and animal species more than half of which he had named after His Majesty, a quantity after himself, many after family members, and a good deal still after his more efficient of men. Moreover, he considered his greatest achievement of all as succeeding to pierce the countless superstitions people held concerning Tropagia, and the talks of such and such supernatural beings dwelling in the forest.

Yes there were beings in the Tropagian forest, not though of the nonsensical kind people had nightmares of but rather exotic much as the cockroach that lay in front of him.

However, Algrad’s success did have a downside as well—the expedition would not be able to reach the sea on the northern shore of Belaria as the plans had been; also, an estimate of the area over which Tropagia was spread could not be taken. This was because Algrad had simply collected too many specimens of the flora and fauna already to keep on continuing, and thus in two days time they were scheduled to begin their return journey to the capital.

Still, as far as his calculations went, the expedition party had penetrated around sixty three to sixty five kilometres into Tropagia, not considering the various loops of the river Gordan which they had been utilising both as a water source and as a guide into the forest since the start.

‘Sir, Sir!’ called a rather frantic Ashmil, one of Algrad’s men, as he rushed into the tent, ‘I-I think you should come see this Sir!’

‘What—?’ Algrad was surprised when Ashmil caught him by the arm and pulled him out of the tent, outside.

‘You have to see this, Sir!’

Ashmil pointed at the opposite bank on the other side of the river. Looking at the place, the ground might have verily disappeared from beneath Algrad’s feet.

‘The Gods protect us,’ he muttered, barely audible.

There were about a dozen of them, half men, half bugs. It was a paralysing sight. Men till their waists, they were bugs from below having six hairy stick like legs. They were looking at the expedition party, observant, just as the men were looking at them, fear stricken. One thing was set clear… The Devil’s children did dwell within Tropagia.

Algrad shook his head in disbelief, appalled at the scene before him. He had been wrong in his perception of Tropagia. The superstitions of the people had been true.

‘The men are ready Sir,’ said Ashmil, ‘Should we open fire?’ And ready they were: all of Algrad’s men had armed themselves with rifles, muskets and pistols. But Algrad declined.

‘No, it’s too risky; we’d be foolish to fire without knowing what strengths they possess.’

‘But what should we do then—?’

Suddenly, out of the blue a lone gunshot cracked the air shattering the suspense. Someone, fear overtaken, had fired.

The bullet hit the thick armour of one of the mutants and bounced off harmlessly. It was enough to unleash the mutants into action. And with a thundering roar they charged; the shallow river in between little of an obstacle for them.

Before he knew it Algrad was running away from the river bank towards the lush density of plants just as everybody else was, fiercely yelling a single word— ‘Flee!’

As they fled, some of Algrad’s men fired aimless shots at the mutants. This, however, was no hindrance, and by the time a handful of seconds had passed the mutants reached their side of the river.

Algrad ran madly, uncaring of the direction as long it took him away from the half men half bugs, amidst the thickness of vegetation. He could hear pained screams of his men from behind- the mutants had got them. Poor fellows, he thought, but what could he do besides try and somehow save his own skin? So Algrad kept running.

After sometime of adrenaline filled run Algrad slowed down his pace and looked behind— only plants. He ran some more, the farther the better.

Algrad finally came to a stop and crouched behind a tree, gasping for breath, heart drumming and body hot. After inhaling furiously for a couple of minutes, his body began to cool down and his breath returned.

Algrad considered his surroundings more sensibly.

Where was he?

He had definitely come a long way away from the river bank for the cries and howls of his men and the mutants had faded into an undisturbed quiet.

Now trees, bushes and other plants surrounded him on all sides, as though encaging him. He felt claustrophobic, despite all his love for nature.

More moments throbbed by, and slowly fear returned to Algrad as stark realisation overtook him. He could not get to the river, his only chance of any survival at all.

He might have escaped the demons, temporarily most perhaps, but now Algrad Bezon was lost in the Tropagian forest.

***

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About A J Chaudhury

A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India of fantasy and historical fiction. His short story "A Song of Blood", set in historical Pragjotisha, has released recently, and more tales are following soon.
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