Chris Trengove

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Archive for November 2014

‘CLAWS OF FURY’ – Prologue and Chapter One

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CLAWS OF FURY was originally published by Bloomsbury in 1996, under the title KATZERS. It was one of the first swathe of titles to be published by their just-set-up children’s division, soon to become awash with money when Harry Potter took off. Despite the promise of publicity and promotion for KATZERS, little was forthcoming, and the book was also saddled with possibly the most hideous cover of all time. CLAWS OF FURY is now available again on Amazon Kindle with a great cover by renowned comics artist Kev Hopgood, as is its sequel CLAWS OF THUNDER. I’m working on the third book in the Trilogy, CLAWS OF VENGEANCE, aiming at publication in 2015.

PROLOGUE
As he approached the foothills, the young Katzer warrior reined in his mount and turned to look back over the plain.
It was a day’s ride away now, but in his mind’s eye he could still see the battlefield: the scattered dead, the wounded supporting each other as they staggered from the scene of slaughter, Mangies to their tented camps, Katzers to their walled cities.
He shook his head as if the gesture would rid him of the pain, the dull ache that had been his companion for every step of the ride. He felt the place where his right ear had once been. Now there was nothing but a ragged stump, the fur around it caked with dried blood. It was the legacy of a wild stroke from a Mangy shortsword . . . and the beginning of the legend of One-Ear Tom.
It had been a great victory for the Katzers. The Mangies outnumbered them, and they were savage fighters, giving no quarter. But they were disorganised and undisciplined. In the end, they were beaten by the subtle strategies of the Katzers, led by three warrior chiefs – Tom, his brother Tamm and Fleekolla.
Yet for Tom, it was a hollow victory. He had seen many friends killed or wounded. He had also seen Tamm die, going down under a howling, snarling pack of Mangies. Pity his poor young widow,and the kit she was expecting!
Tom wanted no more of it. His taste for fighting had been dulled by years of war. Now he just wanted peace, quiet and, above all, solitude.
He turned away from the plain. He flicked the reins, and the big dappled war rat snorted once and moved off, picking its way carefully over the loose rocks.
Above him, in the distance, he could see the snow-covered peaks of the Stony Mountains . . .

CHAPTER ONE
With all the fluid grace of his cat forebears, Ninelives padded down the dark alleyway, his smoky grey fur blending with the shadows. He scanned the grimy, peeling walls for an escape route – a door, a window, anything. He was only seconds in front of his pursuers, and – spit and screech, it was a dead end! No, wait. There, in the wall, a gate . . .
He wrenched it open and found himself in a courtyard, a green, shady place walled in on all sides. He looked around. Which way? Not much choice – back the way he had come, or through an archway that led to some steps. There was no cover, just a few shrubs and plants, nothing that would hide even his slim frame. So if he didn’t hit the steps they’d got him for sure . . .
Ninelives sprinted for the archway and leaped up the steps, taking them three at a time. Moments later, his pursuers arrived in the courtyard.
There were two of them; a girl with salmon-pink fur, a boy with a glossy black coat and white hind-paws. The girl pointed at the archway. ‘He must have gone that way. There’s no other choice.’
The boy grinned. ‘Ha! I know this building. My uncle used to live here. There’s only a couple of flats up there, and then the roof. We’ve got him!’
Whooping excitedly, the pair rushed for the archway and up the stairs.
Ninelives had already reached the roof. Claws of hell! A sheer drop on all sides! The nearest building was five metres away, across a side street. He looked down at the street, which was
thronged with Katzers, rushing to finish their shopping for the coming Katerwaul Festival. It was at least ten metres down, a risky drop even for a young, fit Katzer like Ninelives.
There was no way, and yet . . . Ninelives could hear the stairway echoing with footsteps as his pursuers closed in on him. He made a fast decision. As the boy and the girl burst through the door onto the roof, they saw Ninelives dashing for the edge.
The girl put her forepaw out in a warning gesture. ‘Hey, don’t . . .’ she shouted, her cry dying in her throat as Ninelives launched himself into the void, hind-paws pumping like a long-jumper’s.
He nearly made it. If the rooftop on the other side had been a few centimetres lower, he would have. But instead of hitting the roof hind-paws first, Ninelives slammed awkwardly into the wall, his claws scrabbling at the edge of the roof.
For a moment, Ninelives hung. But his strength had been knocked out of him by the impact, and his grip quickly began to falter. He looked down. Some of the Katzers in the street below had spotted him and were pointing upwards. On the opposite rooftop, the girl and the boy were shouting and waving their arms.
Ninelives didn’t hear them, nor the Katzers in the street. He relaxed his limbs, letting the key muscle groups fall into place. Then, as the crowd below gasped, he dropped, feet first.
The moment stretched out, dreamlike . . . then suddenly, halfway down the wall, Ninelives seemed to stop in mid-air, as if he’d hit an invisible safety net. Actually, as he dropped, he’d seen a waste pipe which ran across the side of the building, and had instinctively grabbed it. For a moment, it held . . . then sheared away. Again, the crowd below gasped. But instead of breaking away completely, the pipe buckled. Under Ninelives’ weight, it bent towards the ground, creaking and cracking, until, a metre from street level, the young Katzer was able to drop lightly down onto the pads of his feet.
The crowd heaved a sigh, a mixture of relief and disapproval. One of them, a well-dressed, middle-aged Katzer with long, waxed whiskers, shouted at Ninelives: ‘Hey, kit, you want to watch yourself, larking about like that! You might have fallen on someone!’
But Ninelives was already away, his body singing with adrenaline. He was used to being lucky.
‘Sorry! Gotta go!’ he called back over his shoulder as he sprinted off.
By the time his pursuers dashed out into the street, Ninelives had disappeared and the crowd had dispersed. Hands on hips, the girl glared up and down the street. ‘Spit!’ she exclaimed. ‘KatHunt is supposed to be a game! How dare he take risks like that! Wait till I get hold of him! I’ll kill him myself! I don’t care if he is my brother!’

Twenty kilometres from Katzburgh, out on the plain, Warrod the Cur paced up and down the tent of skins and furs that was his headquarters, twirling the gnarled hardwood ‘war rod’ that had made him famous. Part wolf, part dobermann, two metres of solid muscle, Warrod looked every bit the ruthless warrior he was.
He was attended by his two deputies, Rottler the rottweiler and Gizzard, known as the Merciless, apit-bull crossbreed whose compact build belied his legendary ferocity. They both knew better than tointerrupt their chief when he was thinking.
Warrod spoke, the sudden harshness of his voice making his deputies flinch. ‘A festival, you say?’
‘That’s right guv. They call it the Katerwaul Festival,’ said Rottler. ‘Once a year they hold it. Quite an occasion, I’ve heard tell.’
Warrod sneered. ‘An occasion, eh? It sounds as though you’d like to go and join in the fun. You wouldn’t be a Katzer-lover, would you, Rottler?’
Rottler shifted his feet uneasily. ‘Hey, not me, Warrod. I’m no Katzer-lover. I just meant –’
Gizzard continued for the tongue-tied deputy: ‘He just meant that it’s quite an event, Warrod. It starts off with this big race in the main square, then there are circuses, sideshows, all sorts of things. It usually goes on for days.’
‘Well, it won’t this year!’ said Warrod, his eyes glittering. ‘Because this year those fun-loving fishgobblers are going to entertain some special guests: Warrod the Cur and the hordes of the Mangies!’
Rottler looked dubious. ‘Er, with respect guv, it seems a bit unfair. I mean, attacking them when they’re having a knees-up. Know what I mean?’
Warrod exploded, smashing his rod down onto the table with tremendous force. ‘By the fangs of the Cur! We’re talking about the enemy here Rottler!’
A spasm of fear passed across the deputy’s battle-scarred face. ‘I know guv, but –’
Without warning, Warrod reached out and grasped Rottler by the throat, lifting his heavy bulk effortlessly off the floor. As Rottler gagged helplessly, Warrod thrust his face close to his deputy’s muzzle. ‘The Katzers are the enemy, he hissed, and don’t you forget it. It’s them or us Rottler! Katzers or Mangies!’
Rottler’s eyes were bulging, but he managed to croak: ‘Y-yes, Warrod, them or us. I know, I know!’
As suddenly as he had grabbed it, Warrod released Rottler’s throat, pushing his coughing, choking deputy away from him in disgust.
He started pacing again, for all the world as if nothing had happened. Finally, he turned and looked at Gizzard and Rottler. ‘Tell me, why do you think the Katzers live in comfort, while we Mangies have been reduced to eating lizard meat?’
Rottler and Gizzard had no answer.
‘Wham!’ The war rod smashed down again, this time onto a stout wooden chest. The lid of the chest splintered under the impact. Warrod’s eyes glittered as he hissed at his two deputies: ‘I’ll tell you why! It’s not because they’re cleverer or tougher than us. It’s because they’re better organised. That’s why they beat us forty years ago, and that’s why they’re better off than us now!’ Warrod emphasised his point by sweeping everything off the table with his rod, lamps and dishes smashing on the floor at the feet of Rottler and Gizzard.
Rottler licked his lips nervously. ‘Yeah, right, guv. I couldn’t agree more.’
Warrod turned his piercing gaze on Rottler. ‘I don’t want agreement Rottler, I want action! Finally, under my leadership, the Six Tribes of the Mangies are united. Now, for the first time in forty years, we can grind those milk-drinkers under our heels!’
Rottler nodded enthusiastically. ‘Under our heels! Right! We’ll fix those Katzers!’
‘We’re your men, Warrod,’ said Gizzard softly. ‘Just give us the word!’
Warrod’s cold stare swept over his two deputies. ‘I’ll give you the word, Gizzard. The word is kill! The word is burn! We’ll hit them right when they’ll feel it most – in the middle of their precious festival!’
Rottler looked dubious again. ‘But – with the greatest respect guv – we know that they double the guards. . . and they check out every traveller arriving at the town . . . and . . .’
Warrod interrupted him. ‘You’re forgetting something Rottler. The Mangies now have a leader – a leader who’s survived years of tribal war and four assassination attempts. So this time, Rottler, we’ll use our intelligence.’
Rottler tried, unsuccessfully, to look intelligent. ‘Intelligence, right guv, I’m with you.’
For a moment, it almost looked as though Warrod was going to smile, but he didn’t. Instead he turned to his other deputy. ‘Gizzard, I want you to infiltrate Katzburgh, find out what’s going on, take hostages if you have to. I want an up-to-date report on the Katzers’ defences.’
‘I’m on my way.’ Gizzard left the tent, while Warrod continued to issue orders. ‘Rottler, I want you to call a meeting of the Top Dogs.’
Rottler was all business. ‘Right guv, no problem. Er, when do you want the meeting for, exactly?’
Warrod looked at his deputy as if he was talking gibberish.
Rottler continued quickly: ‘I mean, they’re all pretty busy, being Top Dogs and all . . . how about tomorrow at noon?’
Warrod drew himself up to his full height, his hackles rising as if electrified, his yellow eyes
bulging with rage. ‘Now!‘ he screamed, swiping at Rottler with his rod. ‘You thick-necked excuse for a half-witted tripehound! When I say I want something done, I want it done now!’
Rottler scuttled towards the exit, warding off Warrod’s blows with his thick forearms. ‘Right guv, got you. I’ll have them here right away. They’ll be here immediately, if not sooner . . .’
So saying, moving amazingly fast for such a heavily built Mangy, he escaped through the tasselled doorway of the tent.

Ninelives made straight for the main square of the city, the Katzerplace. He had a plan. He knew that, the day before Katerwaul, the square would be filling up with market stalls, all laden with festive delicacies – smoked carp and roach, eel fingers, starling kebabs, fragrant cream and yoghourt dishes.
It would be filled with strong smells that would throw a cloak of confusion over his tracks.
Ninelives rounded a corner into a street which led to the Katzerplace, only to find his way blocked by dozens of colourful hand-painted wagons and trailers. Spit and screech! The circus! The street was closed and the only way ahead lay through an entrance with a turnstile, guarded by a tough-looking Katzer who was as wide as he was tall.
As he got closer, Ninelives recognised him. It was Sly Squat, a swaggering bully with whom he’d had a number of run-ins over the years. Ninelives hadn’t seen him around in a while, and now he came to think of it, Spacer had mentioned something about his joining the circus.
Ninelives thought fast. He smiled to himself. Here was a chance to put distance between himself and the other two, and get up Sly’s nose at the same time. Ignoring the queue of young Katzers waiting to get in, he dashed towards the entrance of the circus, and, right under Sly’s nose, vaulted over the turnstile.
‘Oi you!’ Sly called after him. For a moment, it looked as though he was going to desert his post and chase Ninelives, but there were too many excited young Katzers in the queue. He contented himself with snarling after Ninelives: ‘Don’t worry, kit, I’ll get you later!’
Then he sullenly turned back to his customers, his hand already out for entrance money.

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Written by Chris Trengove

November 6, 2014 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized