Looks like it’s Friday again already. That means it’s time to share the Introduction chapter for the third book in the Lost Dogs series, A Freak Among Freaks. Like for the first and second book, this piece describes the location where the book takes place.
The mid south. An endless mess of jungle and swampland forest. Stinking bogs and poison brambles. Screaming birds and buzzing flies. Sweltering heat, air too humid to breathe, and when a breeze finally comes along, it reeks of death and decay.
Everything wants to eat you, and some of it won’t even bother killing you first.
Towns and villages are few and far between, built around slug farms and gas fields. Dangerous work in harsh conditions. High salaries and higher risks. Desperate people from all over the world come here to earn enough to pay off their debts.
Some never leave.
Law and order is a matter of corporate policy, and as long as you put in the hours you’re paid for, no one cares what you do in your spare time.
You stay in town. You work in the factory. You spend your weekend drinking yourself into oblivion. If you venture out into the swamps, you probably won’t make it back.
It’s a land of tough people. Hard men and strong women. If you’re not, you keep your head down, hope you don’t get noticed, and leave as soon as your debts are paid off.
It’s a land of mystery and lies. Legends tell of ancient temples and unimaginable treasure, but no one knows where, and only fools go looking. It’s all lies. There are no temples. There is no treasure. There’s not even a map.
There’s just the train.
It’s the only way in, and it’s the only way out. The old timers say the time table is the only printed thing you can trust, and only on a good day…
That’s it for this time. As you see, the environment here is very different to what’s in the previous two books. Readers who dig into the story itself will also find that this is the book where the series second protagonist, Alene Moneya, gets introduced.
Alene is a young woman with dreams of being a travel journalist. She wants to see the world and discover exotic places. She ended up in the jungle after following what seemed to be a really promising rumor. Now she stuck there, and the full moon is just around the corner.
To introduce her a little better, here’s the first scene of the first chapter of the book.
A Freak Among Freaks: Chapter 1
Alene marched through the night with fast, angry steps. The city lay dark and empty around her, but the moon had come out to shine and gave her enough light not to walk into anything. She’d calmed down a bit since she left the man’s apartment, but the beast within her still wanted blood.
The man had made a fool of them. With false words he’d lured them into his den and tried to have his way with them. The miserable bastard. They’d shown him. Shown him good.
Not them. Her. She – the little black punk with the big red hair – Alene Moneya. Short and thin, with dark brown skin, green eyes, and a sharp angular face. Combat fatigues and black leather boots. A black tee that had ripped in the fight, and a pair of dog tags that said to donate her body and belongings to cancer research in case of death.
For the evening, she’d let her hair fly, but usually she kept it tied back or in a wrap.
Alene pushed the beast away. There was no them about it. She was her own woman and the beast was nothing but an unwelcome parasite she had to keep in check. One more nuisance trying to ruin her life. It was she who’d been tricked by Lawrence’s promises of information.
She’d been stupid and naïve, and his lies had gotten her hopes up.
Clenching her fists and pressing her jaws together, Alene kept on walking. With every step her boots made a dull thud in the dry mud of the street. Everyone always tried to take advantage of her. Just because she was small and young and had a funny accent, they thought her a harmless, gullible fool.
Alene sneered at herself. They were stupid right about the last part. Lawrence had said he knew about the ruins she’d been told about, and she’d fallen for it. She’d stupid fallen for the entire stupid rumour about the stupid hidden temple in the first place. There weren’t even elves in this arse-end, middle-of-nowhere dump of a city.
So far, she hadn’t found a single reason for an explorer or traveller to come here, and she was no closer to an article than she’d been when she arrived. Sure, she could write a scathing essay about why no one in their right mind would want to visit Guapatrask, but it wasn’t worth the effort. Any magazine would cut it down to a one-paragraph, no-stars review, and wouldn’t pay her enough for half a cup of cold coffee – if they even published it at all.
She should never have come here.
Too late now. She was a gullible fool, and she’d come, but she was nowhere near harmless. Her frustration and disappointment when she’d realised Lawrence just wanted to bang her had woken up the beast, and Lawrence had seen first hand just how harmless she wasn’t. It had taken all of her willpower not to let the beast tear him limb from limb.
She’d managed to restrain it in time, and Lawrence would live, but he wouldn’t be trying to lure anyone else into his apartment any time soon. Hopefully he’d learned his lesson, but she doubted it. He didn’t seem the type.
The beast within her mind still wanted to run back and kill him.
Alene gave it a mental kick in the ribs, and it drew back and slunk away. Not that it would ever really disappear, but for the moment it finally kept its ugly maw shut. It had been yapping at her ever since she slammed the door shut behind her and stepped out into the dark street.
Really, the sooner she got out of here, the better.
The full moon was only a few days off, and she needed to get to a place with a pack large enough they admitted outsiders to their hunts. Those weren’t common, but as long as she got going and didn’t stop anywhere else, she ought to be fine.
If she went north, she’d be in the Midlands by the day after tomorrow, and then both Cakewald and Errenburg would be nearby. She’d have to check the map in the route guide to know for sure, but she usually wasn’t wrong about these things.
As soon as the service desk at the train station opened, she’d sign up for work on the next train north. First thing in the morning. She had a freelance certificate with International Rail, and out here in the jungle it was rare you couldn’t get a shift even on short notice. She’d be fine – probably.
North would take her further from her ultimate destination, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She wasn’t familiar enough with the south to know where the big packs were. Well, except Nos Abrua, but no way she’d go back there again.
Tin Jian would have to wait a little longer.
Continued in Lost Dogs #3: A Freak Among Freaks
That said, I’d recommend reading the first two books prior to this one. Technically, it’s not required, and you’ll be able to understand everything that happens in this one without reading them, but you’ll miss out on some of the details.
To find out more about the first book, check the Introduction chapter, here.