• Dixon Reuel

Sample Chapter - On the Edge of Salt

Available at bit.ly/OnTheEdgeOfSalt

Blood Brute’s two prequel short stories, On the Edge of Salt and Finding Home, tell the tale of the coven’s life at their home, Owl Court, before the events of Blood Brute Book One - Rise of One.

On the Edge of Salt covers the early onslaught of the zombie apocalypse, when firebombs are first used to take out whole cities that are brute–infested. With a hidden home and smallholding shielded from the world, Rise is confident that his coven is safe behind the red brick walls of Owl Court. But as the night sky burns, a stranger with a terrible secret approaches his walls…

Available at bit.ly/OnTheEdgeOfSalt


Although Larnde stood too far away to be seen in daylight, when the city’s last night came, Rise still wanted to witness its destruction. As the spring night darkened and the hour of the city’s demise drew closer, Rise stood upon the wide, red brick wall encircling Owl Court. He faced east. Against the night sky, the firebombs might be visible.

Whether such destruction would be enough to end the zombie-brutes wandering Larnde, Rise had no idea. The news showed the firebombs that had ripped through other cities of

the world. Showed the ashen, ghost-empty aftermath. Those left alive and in charge and at the helm of such obliterating weapons told the world that these bombings were essential to eradicate the brute nests.

But the coven had stayed in Larnde for a while, more than a hundred years earlier, before the four of them came to live in the little homestead of Owl Court at the top of Holly Hill. It was a city they had once, even if for only a short time, called home. Tonight, Rise made a point of witnessing Larnde’s destruction.

The stars gleamed in a moonless sky. In that comforting dark, the only noise came from the courtyard below Rise’s feet, from the soft, sleepy sounds of their animals housed in pens and stables. The salt-seeded boundary beneath his feet grounded Rise in

this world, a world where his kind and coven remained hidden. People might climb Holly Hill, might even pass through the ring of holly trees surrounding Owl Court. But nobody crossed that sacred boundary of their red brick wall. To Rise, it was an edge between worlds, marked by the coven with white, ancient salt rubbed deep into the brick foundations. Every dawn, the coven invoked a prayer in the Old Language to reinforce such protection.

Ogrim also stood on the wall, but on the far side of the courtyard, as apparently Larnde held no interest for him. The eldest vampire performed his nightly rounds, ensuring nothing encroached upon their home. With the salted boundary, with a dawn incantation performed by the coven, such rounds weren’t necessary. But Rise tolerated it. Those rounds seemed to make Ogrim feel useful and kept him quiet.

The main house’s back door cracked open. Rise heard the light scamper of their cat, Tom, as he left the kitchen and made for the cowshed. Cypriot, their lone human, left the kitchen too, with equal lightness.

Rise turned from Larnde’s direction only when Cypriot climbed the ladder and hoisted himself onto the wall. Cypriot was fussing with a grey blanket while holding a squat, wind-up torch. Its beam shone in all directions as the blanket slipped again from his narrow shoulders.

“Salter insisted I wear it. She said that it’s not warm enough yet to go without a coat.” Cypriot sounded like an insulted teenager as the blanket swamped his petite frame.

“Oh she did, did she?” Rise tried to keep the doting smile off his face as he helped him.

The closing kitchen door caught Rise’s eye. Salter lifted her dark hand in thanks, her smile mischievous as she returned to the kitchen’s mellow candlelight. The coven’s impressive book, a chronicle of all their deeds, lay open on the kitchen table. No doubt, Salter had sent Cypriot out to Rise so that she could write the chronicle in peace. Rise silently thanked her.

“Salter said she didn’t want to see Larnde go up in flames. She said she’d keep an eye on tonight’s stew for me.” Cypriot finally seemed happy with how he was swathed against the night. He checked the power left in his torch before slumping theatrically against Rise’s side. “What on earth are you doing out here? I thought only Ogrim came out onto the wall.”

Rise smiled properly now, especially at Cypriot’s dramatics. He opened one side of his ancient leather duster and cuddled Cypriot under his arm, blanket and all. As they shared body heat, Rise nodded to that specific point in the east. A faint orange tinge on the horizon told of Larnde’s streetlights and skyscrapers. Still some measure of civilization.

“It’s Larnde’s final hour. I want to see it happen.” Then Rise added, “Don’t you?” The coven used only the oldest place names. Never paid heed to what towns and cities were currently called. If they were to start remembering every time a place changed its name, Ogrim always joked, the coven would never get anything done.

When Cypriot didn’t answer, Rise glanced at the dark head cradled against his shoulder. Although the coven drinking from Cypriot’s veins every week had lengthened his life far beyond that of any other human, Rise noticed a lone grey hair amid all of that brown. Rise had also lived long enough to know that he should never, ever mention such a find to Cypriot.

“What’s the matter?” Rise squeezed his shoulders.

“A city is about to be destroyed, Rise,” Cypriot said, lifting his chin defiantly. “Why on earth do you want to be out here for that? Salter doesn’t. I’m sure Ogrim doesn’t, either.”

Surprised at the question, at Cypriot’s distaste, the apparent distaste of the rest of his coven, Rise considered the orange-tinged darkness in the east.

“It’s … important to witness things,” he muttered after a while, although he was growing uncertain.

Cypriot deeply inhaled the night air. His brown-eyed gaze extended far across the treetops, into the empty world. A world that wasn’t for humans anymore. Cypriot himself had decided, at the very first rumors of the zombie-brute outbreak, to never

leave Owl Court again. Rise gave thanks to any and every god listening that he had taken such a decision.

“How did all this happen?” Cypriot asked with a mystified head shake. He turned the torch in his hands. Its beam shone through the wall’s railing, throwing bar-like shadows onto the

proud holly trees. “How did everything collapse so quickly?”


Available at bit.ly/OnTheEdgeOfSalt