I was really disappointed when I learned that because of the word count, the on-line preview of the Jericho Effect doesn't make it to the part where I introduce the character, Wikeon. For that reason I decided to post a couple scenes from an early draft of the book introducing you to Wikeon here on the blog. You may choose to read these scenes either before or after reading the preview. Wolfgang is the leader of the werewolf pack and Fang is his brother and second in command. When the scene opens Fang has gone into a human village to steal supplies for the pack.
Fang was gone for a long time. As the sun sank lower in the west Wolfgang paced nervously. Finally a howl went up from one of the guards, signifying Fang’s return. Wolfgang heaved a sigh of relief as he walked to meet his brother.
Most of the pack ran to greet Fang. A murmur of surprise swept through the small crowd, and as they moved away, Wolfgang saw why. Fang was in his wolf form. On his back rode a small, dark skinned, ragged human boy who looked about seven years old. The boy raised a grubby hand and pushed dirty locks of shaggy black hair off his forehead revealing warm brown eyes. His other hand rested on a leather bag draped over Fang’s shoulder. The bag was filled with stolen items.
“What’s this?” Wolfgang demanded fiercely.
“The solution to one of our problems,” Fang replied. “The humans should be a little more willing to trust their own kind. The boy will be our thief.”
“Have you lost your mind?!” Wolfgang bellowed. “Do you seriously think the humans will forgive us for stealing one of their children?”
“He’s one of those orphans who live on the street,” said Fang, flexing his shoulders.
The boy slid off his back and stood, looking frightened and hugging the bag of Fang’s loot to his chest.
“I did him a favor,” Fang continued. “He would have starved living in the alley where I found him. Believe me, no one is going to miss him. Now we won’t have to put ourselves in danger by entering the villages. We’ll send him. As long as they don’t discover he’s a thief, he should be in no danger. Besides, since he’s one of them, he’ll be able to stay longer in the settlements and bring back more supplies than any of us ever could.”
“And what have you offered him in return?”
“A home with the pack and food.”
Wolfgang turned to the rest of the pack and asked, “What do all of you think of this?”
There was a mixed response. Some cried, “We don’t want a human in our camp, take him back where you found him!”
The boy moved closer to Fang.
Others said, “It’s a great idea. We won’t have to put ourselves in danger anymore, we’ll send a human! He can make up for the wrongs of his race by working for us.”
Wolfgang faced the boy.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Wikeon,” the boy replied.
“And Wikeon, are you prepared to earn your keep?”
“Yes sir, I am,” said Wikeon.
He met Wolfgang’s eyes with a look of determination. Wolfgang had to give him some credit for this, since he was not sure he would be so brave in Wikeon’s place.
Finally Wolfgang said, “Welcome to the pack.”
The other werewolves howled their welcome, Wikeon smiled timidly, and Fang whispered to Wolfgang, “You won’t be sorry.”
“I better not be!” Wolfgang snapped.
A few days later when the pack was again camped near a human village Fang brought Wikeon to a wooded valley from which they could see the settlement.
“All right, Wikeon,” said Fang. “It’s time for you to prove your worth. We need clothes for two men, three women, and a child. We could also use some more blankets and coats since winter’s coming. Don’t even bother returning without these things. I’ll wait for you here. When you get back I’ll check to make sure you got what we need. Now get going.”
“Right,” said Wikeon trying to match Fang’s serious look. “Should I get any food?”
Fang thought for a minute then answered, “Get some bread, fruit and vegetables if you can manage it. Don’t bother with meat. We hunt for that.”
“Okay,” said Wikeon.
He turned and ran toward the village while Fang melted into the shadows of the trees. Wikeon returned a few hours later wearing a large brown coat which was several sizes too big for him and munching on a plum. Fang stepped out from behind a pine tree and demanded, “Well, did you get everything?”
Holding the plum with his teeth, Wikeon unbuttoned the coat, pulled out a canvas sack and dumped it at Fang’s feet. He also emptied the pockets of the coat, shoving a few more plums, some apples, a zucchini and a cucumber into Fang’s arms. He then flopped down on the pine needle covered ground, finished his plum and tossed the pit at the trunk of a tree. While Fang set down the fruits and vegetables and sorted through the bag, Wikeon laced his fingers behind his head and lay back staring at the clouds skidding past behind the branches overhead.
After a minute Wikeon said, “It’s all there. I got everything you asked for and a little extra. Plus I got these to help me next time.”
He sat up, reached into an inner pocket of the coat and withdrew a few trade coins which could be used as currency in any of the four human kingdoms of Irowasa. Fang raised an eyebrow.
“How did you get those?” the werewolf asked.
Wikeon shrugged and said, “Some people don’t watch their pockets carefully enough.”
Fang smiled and replied, “I think we’ll keep you.”