Chapter One: Sorry, William…

Well, here we are in those exciting final weeks before a new book release. That means it’s time for a sneak peek. As each book in the Walking Between Worlds trilogy has been released, we have shared the first four chapters in the weeks preceding. I’ve also written a brief introduction to each chapter, sharing details about writing or publishing or other relevant goings-on. I like that practice, and plan to stick with it. However, it’s probably best to warn you: if you haven’t read books one and two, this is not the best place to start. The first four chapters of Book I: Demons & Angels are available to read for free here. You’ve got time to download the ebooks or order the print version if you like it, and you can be ready for Book III: Fall of the Walker King when it releases on December 1st. Subscribe to my newsletter for the companion short story to Book I – subscribers receive this for free!

If you have read books one and two, thank you! I hope you find yourself as spellbound reading the final installment as I did writing it. We begin this book from William’s perspective, the old Walker introduced in the second book. There was more than one painfully challenging situation for him in Book II: Rise of the Walker King, and it’s nice to think that maybe things will get a little easier for him as time goes on. I even had that thought for a while when I was writing the second book; I liked William a lot, and had it been up to me things would have surely smoothed out for the solemn immortal. Unfortunately it’s not up to me, and William begins this book wedged firmly between a rock and a hard place.

This was a tough story to write, through all three books. I knew that some of my beloved characters were going to experience horrors that I would have to describe, and that more than a few lives would be lost. Yet the story needed to be told, and it had decided I was the one to tell it, so I got off my ass and got to work (metaphorically, of course. This all happened without me actually having to go to the trouble of standing up).

So I’ll leave you now with William, with his dilemma and his worried thoughts. If it helps, remember that I really do feel for the guy . . . sorry, William.

Check back next week for “Chapter Two: Cal and Sarah pay Roche a visit”. If that’s not enough, every Wednesday is #1lineWed. Some very clever romance authors came up with the concept, and it soon caught fire in the writing world. Each week they choose a theme, most of them as clever as the concept itself, and authors from every genre submit a relevant line from their work in progress.

Like I said, I think it’s a great idea. I try to find something every week, and these are the last few submissions that will come from this book. There won’t be any spoilers or anything, just brief peeks into what I think are my better turns of phrase. You can find these on Twitter or Facebook every Wednesday, faithfully posted by my “Awesome Girl”. And don’t forget: if you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive the companion short story to Book I: Demons & Angels for free! It is called The Way of the Walker, and will also be included in the upcoming Sudden Insight Publishing charity anthology.

Thanks for reading!

CHAPTER ONE

William stood at the center of the Heavenly space, his head bowed and his gloved hands clasped before him. He had heard of the Walker Council, of course, but he had never had occasion to stand before them. He had also never imagined that meeting them one day would mean standing trial before them on that day.
He wore his custom spelled armor, yet he felt completely vulnerable. He could call upon his key or his weapon with a thought, yet he felt completely defenseless. Paul had told him a little about the council, that an ancient angel with dark skin seemed their best chance at an ally. Yet when William looked upon the first eight unfamiliar faces, he saw nothing but a bunch of stern and ugly old white guys.
The ninth face was old and ugly and white as well, but it was not unfamiliar. Andre had somehow transmuted from Watcher to angel without a break in consciousness. William wondered if making the rules and breaking them whenever you wanted was the best way to run a governing body. It certainly didn’t seem to be the way angels should behave.
“We can read your thoughts, Walker.” One of the round-faced, mostly bald men spoke venomously.
‘But are you listening?’ The Walker thought forcefully.
There was a sly smile on one face at that, and William saw friendly laughter behind the angel’s eyes. He spoke next.
“We do not take action lightly or often, Walker,” he said kindly. “The criticism we receive for our policy of non-interference is rivaled only by the criticism we receive on the rare occasion that we do interfere.”
“My criticism never falls on anyone with the courage to stay their path or keep their word,” William replied calmly. “There is no honor in breaking one’s own code.”
The angel seemed unperturbed, but he also seemed the only one.
“I can see why the Walker King chose you,” he smiled.
“Calling himself a king does not make a man a king,” another angel spat bitterly. “There has not been a Walker King for a great long time, and if Walker Paul was the great Stone Walker, he failed to fulfill his own grand prophecy.”
“We found Walker Paul’s soul, then?” Then angel with the mirthful eyes turned in his seat to address the speaker.
“Of course not,” the speaker crossed his arms and frowned. “He was destroyed by dragon fire, along with Ximena.”
“You’re sure about that?” The smiling angel was clearly amused with the exchange.
“Of course,” he replied tartly. The other angel was clearly not amused. “We would have found them by now.”
“Did we not seal up the realms in between?” His dark luminous eyes twinkled mischievously, and he looked pointedly at William.
“Is this conversation appropriate during this trial?” Andre spoke up, leaning forward and trying to catch someone’s eye.
“You were told not to speak,” the angel’s merry eyes went cold. “You are too close to this matter, and too new to the Council.”
Andre settled back in his chair and folded his arms sullenly.
“And yet you have a point, Angel Andre.” The two angels were clearly battling for control. Now the dour one was smiling, thin-lipped and humorless. “Walker William is on trial.”
“Can we all just stop using that word?” The jovial angel spread his hands. “We already know the outcome of these proceedings. The only three responsible for the destruction of souls seem to have been destroyed completely themselves. Walker William will not be rehumanized, or punished in any other way. In fact, we-“
“Enough!” The dour angel slammed his soft fist into the soft woven light that made every inanimate shape in the room. “If you suspect that they have not been destroyed, you should not speak so blithely about it.”
“Very well.” The angel with the easy smile folded his hands calmly before him. “I will admit that the evidence points to Ximena and the Walker King being destroyed.”
His dour face was turning red now. “And I am happy to get on with our business with Walker William if you will please stop calling that miscreant a king.”
Walker William cleared his throat.
“I destroyed a soul,” he pointed out. “I killed a dragon.”
“No you didn’t,” Andre sneered. “Walker Paul killed that dragon after it gutted you.”
The dour angel shot Andre an irritated glance.
“Besides-” he began.
“Andre destroyed a soul,” William said calmly, holding the accused’s gaze. “He murdered Mason.”
“As I was saying,” the unhappy angel’s icy tone cut in, “even if you had killed a dragon, it would have been because you were following orders. That guilt would fall on Walker Paul, as Andre’s guilt transfers to the Dragon Queen.”
The more pleasant speaker cut in again.
“Now on to more peaceful matters,” he said. “Walker William, you no doubt remember Walker John?”
“Of course.” William nodded tersely. He saw no need to share his assessment of the man. In getting to know other Walkers, he had learned that the appointed leader had struggled with what little authority he had had. On the other hand, nearly every Walker had treated the self-proclaimed Walker King with a respect that bordered on reverence. He looked from one self-righteous glowing face to the next, thinking how impossible it would be to explain what they did not wish to understand.
The jovial angel was looking less than jovial, and William tried to quiet his whirling mind.
“We are prepared to offer you the position vacated by Walker John,” the dour angel said. “You seem to be someone the Walkers are willing to listen to and able to follow.”
“They followed me when I followed the Walker King,” William cut in. “Why would they follow me if I become your stooge?”
“Just because we can read your thoughts does not mean you need to express them all with such brash disdain,” the happy angel didn’t look happy at all as he spoke. “Surely you can step back far enough from your imbalanced emotional state to see that we are all just trying to make the best of a bad situation.”
William took a deep breath and did not voice his next several thoughts.
“What if I refuse?” he asked.
“Then you will be rehumanized.” The dour angel seemed pleased at the prospect. “Your memories of your life as a Walker will be erased and you will live out your mortal life as a normal man.”
William felt his eyes go wide. “My memories will be taken?”
“It’s a new policy,” the dour angel said dismissively.
Andre looked left and right, then decided to venture a comment.
“Also,” he said, “your Guide and your Watcher will be relieved of duty and released from their consciousness to properly pursue their after-earth life.”
The Walker did not like to make decisions based on the feeling that he had no other choice. He thought of the men and women he had fought beside and loved; the Walkers he had trained, and the Guide whose touch made his heart sing. William knew he could not allow himself to be swayed by anger, but what about love?
“Walker William.” The angel’s smile was lighting his features again. “If I may . . . what would Walker Paul want you to do?”
The fluidity within him turned to stone. “What are my duties as a servant to this council?”
“As leader of the Walkers,” the angel’s smile was unperturbed, “you will assist in training new Walkers, you will find new Walkers to replace those we have lost and you will explain the new rules to all of the Walkers. Furthermore, you will assist in rehumanizing the Walkers we have deemed no longer fit for service and finding suitable replacements for them as well.”
“You will also report to the Council daily,” the unhappy angel added with a wry smile.
“Daily?” William frowned.
“We have seen what a Walker can do in a day,” he shot back. “You will report daily.”
The happy angel sighed, allowing his practiced look of infinite patience to fray.
“For now,” he amended.
William addressed him. “What are the new rules?” He wished he had paid attention when the trial had begun; William had assumed that none of this would matter by the time they had tried him, and had not paid attention to their introductions. He didn’t remember any of their names.
“Walkers are once again forbidden from interacting with each other,” he began, then his smile broadened. “Stephan, Walker. My name is Stephan.”
“My job would be a lot easier if I could let Walkers work together, Stephan.” William tried to hide his irritation at feeling so violated.
“The walls between worlds have become dangerously thin due to recent events.” The dour angel refused to be left out of the conversation. “One of those events was the gathering of a Walker army; another was excessive walking between worlds, including unauthorized entry to above and below; still another was the destruction of souls and the misplacement of millions of demons. Every dire consequence the Council is now dealing with would have been prevented by keeping Walkers from gathering. Only the Walker Leader may interact with other Walkers.”
“And only on official Walker business,” Stephan tried to lighten the blow by smiling. It didn’t help.
“Walker movement is restricted as well,” the other angel went on. “Walkers shall not go above or below the seven layers of reality that make up the Earth dimension.”
William narrowed his eyes. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“Ask your Guide,” Stephan responded. “And let all of the Walkers know: we will be keeping an eye on them, particularly the surviving members of the army.”
“Violations will not be tolerated,” added the dour angel, “and punishment will not be lenient.”
“No need to threaten those who have not yet committed any transgression.” Stephan waved his hand in William’s general direction, and something took shape in his hand. “Take that scroll to the new Queen of Hell. We have not been able to establish a clear line of communication with her as of yet, but she is bound by law to update your key to match your new position.”
William frowned. “By what law?”
The dour angel leaned forward and narrowed his eyes hatefully at the Walker. “By highest law. By Council law.”
“And what if she kills me?”
Stephan shook his head. “It is highly doubtful. We would be obligated by law to bring her to justice.”
William almost laughed. “And who would take her place?”
Now the dour angel looked downright pleased with himself. “The Council would act as Hell’s governing body until Creator appoints a replacement.”

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