Tuesday, 24 December 2013

'The Time Hunters and the Sword of Ages' - Chapter 1

Hi all,

I'd just like to wish any TH fans out there a very Happy Christmas. And to celebrate this holiday season, here's the first chapter of 'The Time Hunters and the Sword of Ages.' I hope you enjoy it.

Carl
x


Chapter 1

The Modern Prometheus

 
Darmstadt, Germany. 1714

Otto Kruger’s eyes snapped open. At once, his senses were assaulted with information: the bitter scent of disinfectant; the sight of the rutted stone ceiling above; the purr of a machine humming softly to his left. Remaining stock still, he took a moment to process this new environment.
Where was he?
The last thing he remembered was being aided into a time machine outside a pirate tavern on Nassau, arriving at a Gerathnium facility somewhere in the Kamchatka Peninsula in Medieval Russia, before being transported, drifting in and out of consciousness, to an underground room. But more than the events, he remembered the pain, the unspeakable pain, as the blood spilled from his severed arm like an unstoppable tap.
His head blazed with fury as he recalled the swordfight that had resulted in the loss of his right arm – the clash with that insufferable groundsman, Will Shakelock. And then another memory joined the others, his last before this very point: he was lying on a rusty bed, barely large enough to cover his substantial frame. An unseen syringe propelled the anaesthesia into his body, sending him into a sweet, merciful oblivion, as the words of his employer, Emerson Drake, found his ears.
‘You will live, Otto. I told you, I reward those most loyal to me. I shall rebuild you, better than before, better than anyone that has come before. You will consider these events a blessing, I promise you …’
But how long ago was that? He had no idea.
It was then he heard that same voice again.
‘Welcome back, Otto.’
Kruger turned his head. Emerson Drake was standing there, a self-satisfied smile set on his thin lips.
‘Thank you, sir,’ Kruger replied groggily, his voice still needing time to find its natural timbre.
‘How do you feel?’
Kruger took a second to answer. ‘Good,’ he replied.
Drake’s eyes narrowed. ‘Just … good?’
Kruger sensed his employer had expected a different response. And now he was fully conscious, he could understand why. Good didn’t begin to describe it. He felt magnificent. The pain had gone, replaced by an innate raw power he’d never experienced before.
Kruger pushed himself sharply up. As he did, his icy blue eyes fell on his right side. Grafted seamlessly to his elbow was a silver arm, identical in size and weight to the one he had lost.
His eyes widened with shock.
‘Do you approve?’ Drake replied.
Kruger didn’t answer. Instead, he raised his enormous silver hand and balled his fingers into a fist. The deep scar on the right hand side of his face was cast in a silvery hue. Slowly, his mouth formed the following words, ‘I do, sir.’
‘Excellent,’ Drake replied. ‘The arm is made from a polynythene carbonite alloy, and attached, via the somatosensory system, to the premotor cortex region of your brain. Essentially, it will feel and function precisely as your old arm did. With one notable exception, you can now punch a hole in a wall without feeling a thing.’
Kruger glanced impatiently at the wall opposite as if keen to try this out.
‘And I trust you won’t mind I made a few other modifications whilst you were asleep – sensory and corporeal augmentations that make you really quite unique.’
Kruger looked confused.
Drake responded with a smirk. ‘You are now stronger, faster, more agile than any man alive.’ He paused. ‘In short, I’ve made you super-human…’
Eyes wild, Kruger was about to respond when he noticed two men in the far corner of the room. The first, slim and elegantly dressed in a flowing robe, had a high forehead and thick black hair that spiralled down in tight curls. He was staring back at Kruger, mesmerised. His mouth was ajar, as if wishing to express words of approval but unable to find the confidence to do so. The second, a middle-aged man with a striking gold and white striped tie had a warm, generous face, but wore a very different expression: as pale as stone, he looked simply petrified, thick beads of sweat specking his forehead.
‘Ah, of course,’ Drake said whimsically. ‘Otto, may I introduce you to these two gentlemen?’ He nodded at the curly haired man. ‘This is Johann Konrad Dippel, our esteemed host. Indeed, we currently inhabit a room in the western tower of his magnificent castle. Mister Dippel has been an Associate of mine for some time now, and I consider him to possess one of the most deviant minds of the early eighteenth century.’
Dippel clearly considered this a great compliment. ‘Dankeschön, Mister Drake,’ he said, before bowing at Kruger. ‘My house is yours, Herr Kruger.’
Drake turned to the other man, who was making effort to contain his trembling body from the others. ‘And this is Arthur Kingsley Porter – Professor at Harvard University, and without doubt one of the most eminent scholars of medieval architecture in the twentieth century.’
Porter looked too scared to respond.
Drake gave an ugly smile. ‘I’m afraid Mister Porter had to be coerced into making the time-trip, but I did feel he should see this wonderful castle. After all, it is indisputably one of the most renowned specimens in history, there’s no question about that. Have you found it interesting, Mister Porter?’
The man gave an anxious nod. ‘Y-yes,’ he replied in an American accent.
‘I am glad,’ Drake replied. He looked back at Kruger. ‘Anyway, Otto, would you care to stand? I’m keen to see just how successful the surgery has been.’
With a swift turn, Kruger dropped his legs to the floor. He pushed himself onto his feet. At six foot five, he dwarfed everyone in the room.
‘And do you feel fit enough to get back to work?’ Drake asked. ‘I have some thoughts on the fourth Eden Relic, and I think you might appreciate where the trail is leading,’ he added mysteriously.
‘I welcome it, sir.’
Drake gave a nod of satisfaction. ‘Excellent. Then it seems our work here is done.’ He turned to Dippel. ‘Mister Dippel, thank you again for your hospitality.’
‘You honour this house with your patronage, sire,’ Dippel replied.
Drake turned to Porter. ‘And Mister Porter, I assume you wish to return to your time and your charming wife, Lucy?’
Hope flickered in Porter’s eyes. ‘Yes … please. Very much.’
Drake pondered this for a moment. ‘I’m afraid that won’t be happening,’ he said icily. ‘You see … you’re a friend of Percy Halifax, are you not?’ He spat the name out like the very words scorched his tongue.
Porter’s head spiralled. Confused, he said nothing, as if fearful of giving the wrong answer.
‘I know you are,’ Drake replied simply. ‘But what you’re not aware of is that Percy Halifax is a time traveller, just like me … or that a few months ago, I told him if he continued to try and thwart my activities, I would punish his friends and family.’ Turning into the light, his face fell into silhouette. ‘I’m afraid he didn’t listen…’
A slow, horrific realisation spread across Porter’s face.
Drake glanced at Kruger. ‘Otto, would you give Mister Porter a hand in showing the dangers of befriending Percy Halifax.’
Without hesitation, Kruger marched purposefully across the room. Before Porter could shout an objection, Kruger’s silver hand seized his throat, crushing his windpipe, transforming his intended scream into a muffled, desperate wheeze.
In one swift, jerky movement, Kruger hoisted Porter into the air.
Porter kicked wildly, his fingers clawing at Kruger’s hand, but it was to no avail. Kruger’s grip tightened like a vice, choking the air from his lungs.
Drake watched it all with a cold detachment. He looked disinterested, bored even. ‘I could suggest you choose better friends in the future, Mister Porter,’ he said. ‘But then again … you have no future.’ He nodded at Kruger.
Like a child throwing a ragdoll, Kruger hurled Porter at the far wall, ten feet away or so. Porter smashed powerfully into the stonework, before crashing to the ground, twisted and lifeless.
Drake looked at Kruger, who looked shocked at his newfound strength. ‘You seem to have made a full recovery, Otto?’
‘I think so, sir.’
‘Then I suggest we leave this time zone,’ Drake replied. ‘I intend to be very busy in the coming months, so I’d like you to go on a time-trip for me, a very important trip.’
‘As you wish.’
Drake smiled. ‘You know, Otto, I’ve always appreciated your ability to follow orders. And you never question, you never ask for anything in return.’
‘Ah, but this time there is something, sir.’
Drake looked surprised. ‘Really? Continue …’
Kruger’s voice fell to a low, ominous snarl. ‘I want the groundsman. I want him to suffer like no other.’
‘Of course you do.’ Drake shrugged indifferently. ‘Then Shakelock’s fate is in your hands.’ He turned to Dippel. ‘I’ll have to erase this tower from history, Dippel. I’ve left too much of a mark for it to continue to exist.’
‘I will not object, sire,’ Dippel replied.
‘I know. Actually, in the future, some credit you with destroying this tower yourself in a failed experiment using nitroglycerine.’
‘Nitroglycerine?’ Dippel replied, puzzled. “And what may that be?’
‘It’s an explosive liquid,’ Drake replied. ‘However, as Ascanio Sobrero doesn’t invent it until 1847, many considered this an impossible claim. Ironically, it’s nitroglycerine I intend to use to blow this place to oblivion.’ He chuckled sourly. ‘Isn’t it fascinating how the actions of the time traveller today can influence the minds of tomorrow?’
‘And, Otto, let me tell you another story, one that also intertwines the castle and the life of our host. I said earlier this castle was a renowned specimen – well, its name is Burg Frankenstein. Does that ring any bells?’
Kruger nodded. ‘It certainly does, sir.’
‘I thought it might. Well, in a hundred years time, a young woman, Mary Shelley, will visit Burg Frankenstein, and conceive an idea that will later become arguably the most famous horror novel of any age. And, furthermore, do you know whom many believe was the inspiration for Miss Shelley’s protagonist, the scientist, Victor Frankenstein?’ He nodded at Dippel. ‘None other than Mister Dippel himself. Now isn’t that amusing?’
Kruger remained stone-faced. ‘Yes, sir.’
‘But the real irony is, with my recent experiments at the castle, it’s conceivably me who is the real-life figure on which she based her tragic hero.’ Drake laughed coldly. ‘And if that’s the case then you know what that makes you, don’t you?’
For the first time since he had gained consciousness, Kruger’s face was split with a smile. He glanced over at Porter’s corpse before looking back at Drake.
‘That would make me the monster, sir…’

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The New TIME HUNTERS newsletter

First of all, I'd like to apologise for my recent lack of updates on this blog. I'm going to try and do better.

Anyway, for any Time Hunters fans out there, I am publishing a fortnightly newsletter. This should keep you informed of any new developments in the TH world, offer an insight into my writing process and give you the opportunity to enter plenty of competitions.

If anyone would like to receive this newsletter then please email me at carlashmore@mailcity.com and I'll add you to my database.

Many thanks,

Carl
x


Thursday, 7 February 2013

TH3 - The Book Cover

As part of my preparations for the imminent release of 'The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate', I thought I'd release the book cover. Anyway, thanks to my good friend, Alex Massey, here it is:


Saturday, 2 February 2013

'The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate.'

Just a quick note to say I've completed 'The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate'. Th3 has been a particularly tough write and is around 10000 words longer than the first TH book. Still, I'm proud of it and it should be available in Kindle and Paperback in a matter of weeks :)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Italian Job

Hi all,

I just thought I'd share some nice news with you all. I have been approached by the Italian publisher, Fanucci Editore, about the possibility of publishing 'The Time Hunters' in Italy. It's obviously very exciting for me. My favourite city is Rome (along with New York and Manchester) and it would be lovely to think that I was in print overthere. Now, I'm aware that nothing is certain in his world, and negotiations may well come to nothing, but it's an honour to have even had the enquiry. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 24 December 2012

'The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate' - Chapter 1

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm feeling full of the spirit of Chrimbley. Subsequently, I thought I'd post the first Chapter of 'The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate' as a small tease of what's to come when I release the next TH book in March (hopefully). Anyway, may I wish everyone a fantastic Xmas and here it is:


'THE TIME HUNTERS AND THE SPEAR OF FATE'

By

Carl Ashmore



-->
Chapter 1

Tut’s Toy


Egypt. The Valley of the Kings. November 26th 1922.  2.00pm.

Howard Carter’s hand wouldn’t stop trembling. He mopped a thick line of sweat from his brow and stepped back to admire the sealed door illuminated orange from the torchlight behind him. The outline of the Royal Necropolis seal, the jackal and nine captives, was faint but unmistakable. Lightly, he brushed away a layer of dust, to reveal the pictogram behind. Carter recognised it immediately. In that instant, an older man’s voice met his ears.
‘This is it, Howard,’ Lord Carnarvon exhaled. ‘Look at the seal impressions, the cartouche. It’s him. I know it.’  
Carter examined the doorframe. ‘It doesn’t mean this is his tomb, sir,’ he replied, keeping his voice as steady as he could. ‘Remember when Davis found the cache of Akhenaten. It was similar to this.’
‘Similar but different,’ Lord Carnarvon said eagerly. ‘On the other side of this door lies the forgotten one. I’m certain of it.’ His eyes shone with child-like glee. ‘You’ve found him, Howard. You’ve found him.’
Deep down, Carter believed his benefactor to be right, but he wasn’t about to voice it out loud. He’d suffered too many disappointments to feel anything less than cautious. ‘We shall see, sir. We shall see.’
‘Damn it, man - call me George, will you?’ Lord Carnarvon insisted. ‘You’re on the precipice of the greatest discovery of the century. I think we can drop the formalities. What say you, Evelyn?’
A young dark-haired woman with pearl-white skin clasped the older man’s hand. ‘Daddy, I really don’t think Mr Carter cares how we address each other at this particular moment. Isn’t that correct, Mr Carter?’
Carter’s heart was pounding so loudly he didn’t hear a word. ‘I beg your pardon, Lady Herbert?’
Lady Herbert smiled kindly. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Go on then, man,’ Lord Carnarvon urged. ‘What are you waiting for?’
Carter swallowed hard. His gaze fell nervously on the hammer in his right hand, before settling on the chisel in his left. The same chisel his grandmother had given him on his seventeenth birthday. He angled the chisel’s nib on the door’s left hand corner and raised the hammer. BUMPH – a chunk of plaster fell away.
Inhaling a lungful of warm, stale air, he struck the chisel again. With a puff of dust, it broke through to the other side; he heard the soft crackle of plaster speckle the floor beyond.
His pulse racing wildly now, Carter pulled the chisel free to expose a small circular hole. Slowly, meticulously, he chipped away its edges, until the hole was the size of a dinner plate. Then he turned to the tall, moustached man on his left, ‘Arthur, could you pass me a candle, please?’
‘Certainly, old chap.’ Arthur Callender drew a candle from his shoulder bag, lit it and passed it over.
Dabbing his brow again, Carter inserted the candle into the blackness and watched the flame flicker left and right. ‘No foul gases,’ he said in a relieved voice.
‘Thank God,’ Lord Carnarvon said. ‘Then come on, man. Don’t keep us in suspense… take a look.’
‘And the best of luck, Mr Carter,’ Lady Herbert said sincerely. ‘You deserve it.’
Carter glanced back at her. ‘Thank you, ma’am.’ A nervous smile split his face. ‘Here goes nothing…’ He leaned forward and his head disappeared from sight.
It took a while for Carter’s eyes to adjust to the soft glow of candlelight, but when they did he saw a mass of objects surface from the gloom: golden objects - glistening, gleaming, as clean and flawless as the day they had been placed there.
In that moment, Carter knew he had fulfilled his lifelong dream. As a boy, he had visited William Amherst’s ‘Egyptian Room’ at Didlington Hall, and since then had been obsessed with Ancient Egypt. And now he had made the most important discovery in the history of Egyptology. Tears misted his eyes.
He had found the Boy King.
He had found Tutankhamen.
‘Can you see anything?’ Lord Carnarvon asked impatiently.
Carter took a long time to reply. ‘Yes,’ he said in barely a whisper. ‘Wonderful things …’
‘Let me see …’ Lord Carnarvon shuffled to Carter’s side. ‘Mr. Callender, would you be so kind as to get an electric torch?’
‘Certainly, sir,’ Callender said, turning away and exiting the passageway.
‘Howard, would you widen the breach so an old man can share in your glory?’
‘Of course.’
For ten minutes, Carter chiseled neatly at the hole, until it was as wide as a dustbin lid.  At the same time, Callender returned with an electric torch, which he promptly handed to Lord Carnarvon.
‘I feel like a boy again,’ Lord Carnarvon said, his voice aquiver.
‘And you look like one, Daddy,’ Lady Herbert said. ‘I’ve never seen you happier.’
‘Aside from your birth, child, I doubt I have been.’
Lord Carnarvon gripped Carter’s arm, steadying himself, before directing the torch ahead. He sent a beam of misty light into the opening.
At once, the two men gave simultaneous gasps of astonishment.
The antechamber was overflowing with artefacts – gilded chests, ornamental plates, silver vases, a golden throne, disassembled chariots – all of them piled shambolically from floor to ceiling. Two life sized ebony-black statues of Tutankhamen faced each other on the North wall, as if guarding the way ahead.
Carter and Lord Carnarvon stood there for an age, silent, motionless, as the sheer enormity of the moment swept over them. Then Carter lowered his gaze. It was then something caught his eye - something he would never have expected in a million years. His head reeled.  ‘Shine the light down there, please, sir.’
Lord Carnarvon noted the confusion in his voice. ‘What is it, Howard?’
Carter pointed downwards. ‘The light … there, please.’
Lord Carnarvon complied. To his surprise, the torchlight illuminated a wide assortment of children’s toys. ‘But they’re just toys, Howard. Tut was barely out of childhood when he died, it makes sense they’d be buried with him.’
Carter didn’t respond. Instead, he extended his arm, gesturing for Lord Carnarvon to move back. ‘Stand with Lady Herbert, please, sir.’
Lord Carnarvon looked confused. ‘What do you –?’
‘Move back!’ Carter bellowed, his voice rebounding off the walls.
Shocked by Carter’s tone, Lord Carnarvon stepped into the arms of his equally bewildered daughter.
Carter flung the chisel aside, and raised the hammer high. There wasn’t a trace of precision this time as - BAMMM - he slammed the hammer into the door. The walls shook; heavy clumps of plaster pounded the ground.
Callender had never seen his friend act in such a way. ‘What are you doing, Howard?’ he yelled.
Carter ignored him. Teeth gritted, he struck the door again, harder this time. The hole widened further; his legs were engulfed in a cloud of dust and plaster.
‘Howard, what the hell is going on?’ Callender asked. ‘You’re acting like a lunatic.’
‘Quiet, Arthur,’ Carter replied forcefully. Then, slowly, he leaned into the hole, his top half disappearing from view. He appeared to be scrambling for something on the floor. A moment later, he stood upright, utter confusion on his face.
‘Howard,’ Lord Carnarvon barked. ‘What has come over you?’
Wordlessly, Carter turned towards them. Cradled in his hands was an object, an ornately carved wooden object, painted in the most vibrant of reds.
Lord Carnarvon couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘My Lord!’
‘I - I don’t understand,’ Lady Evelyn gasped.
Callender had turned as white as a sheet. ‘I - it can’t be,’ he gasped. ‘It’s just not possible.’
Silence surrounded them.
Finally, Carter spoke, ‘What should we do?’
 ‘Put it back, man,’ Lord Carnarvon said at once. ‘We need time to think about this. Let us secure the tomb for the day, put it under armed guard, allow no one to enter, and we shall discuss the implications of all of this over dinner.’
‘But we’re having dinner with Charles Butterby tonight, Daddy,’ Lady Herbert said. ‘He’s made the trip from England.’
‘I don’t even know this Butterby chap,’ Lord Carnarvon sighed irritably, ‘but very well. We have dinner with Butterby and then the four of us meet up at my accommodations afterwards. Either way, we tell no one about any of this until we’ve had time to discuss it.’
‘You’re right, sir.’ Carter said. ‘And I apologise for raising my voice.’
‘Not at all, Howard,’ Lord Carnarvon said kindly. ‘I’m certain I would have been somewhat quick-tempered if I’d have been the first to spot it.’
Carter nodded. Returning the object to the antechamber, he delicately placed it beside the model of a funery ship, and allowed his gaze to fall on it one last time. His head reeled as he pondered the all-important question.
What was a toy double-decker bus doing in the tomb of the most famous Pharaoh of them all? A tomb sealed from the outside world for over three thousand years.

Monday, 20 August 2012

'The Time Hunters' - Brazilian contract signed...

I am delighted to say that today I've signed the contract from major publishing house, Bertrand Brasil, to get TH1 published as a print & ebook in Brazil. For me, it's a dream come true. I'm very proud to be an independent writer in Britain, but it's also  humbling to think that a major publishing company in Brazil has faith in the series to publish it for the Brazilian market.

I'll keep you all informed of all developments.

Carl