GOD OF GNOMES by Demi Harper – Exclusive Excerpt!
A couple of weeks ago, when I revealed the cover for my upcoming LitRPG novel God of Gnomes (God Core #1), I promised to post an excerpt from the book – and here it is!
First, though, for those who aren’t already familiar with it, here’s the official blurb:
What kind of god would you be?
Deep beneath the earth, Corey finds himself reborn as a God Core – a sentient crystal with unusual powers. His new worshipers? A colony of incompetent gnomes, scratching out an existence in their underground grotto.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Corey soon realizes that his gnome denizens are about to become extinct. They are threatened by groups of blundering adventurers, and abducted by raiding kobolds to be sacrificed to their own dark god: an ancient, mysterious foe who does not take kindly to Corey’s arrival.
With the aid of his helper sprite and a menagerie of newly evolved creatures, Corey must protect and guide his gnomes until they can stand on their own two feet. But the kobold army is on the march, led by his new rival’s powerful avatar.
It’s a hard rock life, being a God Core.
Inspired by the god sims such as Black & White, dungeon managers like Dungeon Keeper and civ builders like Age of Empires, God of Gnomes is the first in a new generation of LitRPG and Dungeon Core stories — God Core.
God of Gnomes is now available for pre-order, and will be released in all formats (ebook, paperback and audiobook) on September 26th 2019. Here’s a taste of what you’re in for…
Excerpt from GOD OF GNOMES by Demi Harper
In the beginning, there was darkness.
I don’t just mean sun-below-the-horizon, light-the-lamps, tuck-your-feet-under-the-blanket darkness. No, I mean real darkness; the sort that lurks in the deepest places of the world.
You might find it in fathoms-deep trenches beneath the ocean’s black waves, or at the bottom of a cave rift, or in some monster-infested gorge – heavy, terrible, and probably sheltering all sorts of soulless, eyeless creatures in its blind embrace.
I don’t know how long I spent beneath the earth. All I remember is that oppressive darkness, grim and heavy as a shroud. It dimmed my memory and dulled my once-sharp wits. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t even speak. I became little more than a nugget of awareness, a fading firefly amid the backdrop of oblivion.
Then the gnomes found me, and things really went downhill.
A Rude Awakening
The dark was terrible, yes, but it was familiar. Comforting, in a way. Much like a vagrant is blind to the smell that seeps from his pores and waters the eyes of unfortunate passersby, I’d found myself accustomed to being wrapped in that stinking blanket of night.
So when the first slice of light struck me, I was convinced I was dying. Its bright burn hurt, and I wanted nothing more than to turn and burrow back beneath the cool, dank earth.
But when I tried to do just that, I found I couldn’t move. In fact, I couldn’t even feel my legs, or my arms. My mind spun in confusion.
Something was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
Where am I? Who am I?
When the unwelcome light finally subsided from blinding to merely agonizing, I was able to take in my surroundings. Not that there was much to see. With light came shadows, and the shapes that loomed over me cast very large shadows indeed. I did my best to squint, but I still could not feel my facial muscles, or any muscles at all for that matter.
As the stationary silhouettes surrounding me came into focus, I suddenly realized what they were.
Monstrous mushrooms, towering above me as casually as you please. An entire forest of them, by the looks of it, all leaning crookedly in different directions. Some of them rested against their fellows like contented drunks in the final hours of a party.
Others grew away, attempting to head off on their own purposes, as though they were tired of the other mushrooms’ nonsense and wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there. I can’t say I blamed them. The whole thing seemed rather badly organized.
As my sight grew accustomed to something other than all-pervading blackness, it became clear that these particular mushrooms were not only unsightly, but also unwell. The wonky stalks were an unhealthy yellow-gray, the sort of color you might see on a bruise, or the belly of a spider. Atop them, cracked caps overshadowed slimy-looking black gills.
In all, they were the sort of mushrooms you might expect to find in a potion made by some mad enchantress, cackling and rubbing her hands together while throwing ingredients into her cauldron. Filled with trepidation, I strained to look further afield, at anything but the most depressing fungi I’d ever seen.
Despite the light creeping in from somewhere far above, I definitely appeared to be underground. I caught glimpses of distant rock-and-dirt walls, of greenish moss, of hanging stalactites glistening with moisture.
This comforted me, for reasons I couldn’t articulate, and not just because I no longer seemed to possess functioning vocal chords. Being underground felt right, somehow. It felt like… home.
An image – a memory? – suddenly flashed before my eyes: a subterranean city, carved from stone. Beyond a black crevice moat – spanned by fine, arching bridges – rose towers with sweeping spires encrusted with black and blue gems. Orbs of blue-green light were strung across winding streets, pushing back but not quite banishing the shadows, and the entire settlement was suffused with that eerie jade glow.
Home, I knew.
Longingly, I reached out toward the city—
—only to find myself back among the mushrooms.
After trying and failing to recapture the grand vision I’d just had – it slipped through the questing fingers of my consciousness like fine sand through a sieve – I attempted to get a better look at my surroundings again, though being entirely unable to move was still proving something of an impediment.
While finding myself underground had indeed been a relief, the local environs left me distinctly unimpressed. Unlike the expansive cavern from my vision in all its glittering glory, here was little but fungi and dampness. If only I could get up and move around —
A monstrous visage loomed into view, blocking the mushrooms from sight. It stared down at me with eyes like massive poached eggs; they bulged, gray and watery and wide, above dirt-smeared cheeks. The creature’s mouth hung open, a yawning cavern of boulder-like teeth ready to devour me.
I shrieked. No sound came out, though my vision was briefly infused with a strange reddish glow. Odd. But there was no time to ponder this new curiosity. Those pale eyes had widened, and the face came even closer. Still paralyzed, I now truly began to panic, desperately trying to move legs and arms I could not feel while the giant’s horrific countenance loured over me.
A futile struggle, it turned out. My traitorous body refused to obey my commands. As the colossal creature stretched out a hand toward me, I squeezed my eyes shut and prepared for the worst.
Or tried to. Turned out I couldn’t even manage that, and was forced to watch my approaching doom as fingers the size of cave-borers – those massive, tunnelling, worm-like eaters of rock – loomed unstoppably closer.
This is it. This is the end. So long, cruel world, and thanks for nothing…
The fingers closed around me.
Instead of being crushed, I was wriggled from side to side in a distinctly undignified fashion until the damp soil encasing me released me with a reluctant squilch, whereupon I found myself lifted – somewhat terrifyingly – into the air.
Dizziness consumed me as my captor stood to its full height and began walking. Barely-caught glimpses of the rest of the cavern spun past as I was jolted along, far above the ground that had held me for so long.
The wet-looking walls were adorned with surprisingly vibrant greenery, and I was grudgingly forced to admit that, nauseating though this little jaunt was proving to be, it was in fact preferable to the sight of those miserable mushrooms. And it was certainly an improvement on the eternal nothingness I’d been forced to endure up until that day. Still, it was difficult to enjoy the view given my current predicament. Where was this creature taking me, and what did it intend to do with me when we arrived?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. As we ambled toward the center of the cavern, the dingy light became brighter and brighter. Now I really wished I could close my eyes.
My every instinct sought to retreat from the cursed illumination, to seek deeper caves filled with cool shadows and still, quiet air. Instead, I was borne closer, helpless to shield myself from the light pouring down through what I now saw was a great ragged hole in the cavern’s ceiling.
‘No! No, not sunlight! Anything but sunlight!’
My horrified protests fell on deaf ears – probably because I still seemed incapable of making any external noise whatsoever – and I remained helplessly frozen as we stepped beneath that hellish blaze.
Blinding white claws gouged at my eyes, which I tried and once more failed to close. Unable to withstand the assault, I pushed away from it with every ounce of my being.
This turned out to be either a very good idea, or a very bad one. On one hand, I no longer felt the torment of the vile sun; I suffered not a single sunspot in my vision. On the other hand, this was because I now appeared to be floating several feet above the ground, and away from the light’s direct path.
Once I’d re-oriented my senses, I garnered a much better look at my surroundings than before, and noted several curious things.
A stream meandered its way through the center of the cavern, which was much larger than I’d originally supposed. On the opposite side of the stream to where I now hovered, rough tent-like structures were haphazardly erected, between which a colony of tiny creatures – looking from here like the smallest, dirtiest humans imaginable – pottered about on two legs, occasionally poking the ground with sticks in a listless sort of way.
Tearing my gaze away from the bizarrely tiny people, I saw that the swaths of ground on either side of the stream were made up of dark, wet-looking soil. Further downstream, the banks became gray.
Patches of black soil also bordered the cavern’s edges, though nothing grew in them aside from straggling weeds and the odd toadstool. The latter were being cultivated by a couple of the small man-like figures, and occasionally cut away and brought back to the ragged settlement – probably for eating.
The thought made me oddly hungry, though I sensed the sensation was in my mind; after all, I couldn’t feel any part of my body at the moment, including my stomach.
The gigantic mushroom field we’d just left comprised but a single quarter of the cavern; the sickly fungi lurked in the shadows far from the hole in the ceiling above me, their crooked forms looking strangely diminished from my new perspective.
I finally gathered my wits and turned my newly expansive gaze down upon myself and my captor. But all I saw was yet another of those tiny humanoids, standing atop a hillock directly beneath the falling sunlight and bending over a… gem?
It was definitely a gem. Purple, by the looks of it, and strangely familiar. The gem was dirty, almost as if…
… as if it had just been dug from the ground.
I floated there for a good long while, staring down at the sight directly below me as the pieces of the puzzle clicked together in my mind. I suppose you could call it an out-of-body experience, except at this point I realized – to my dismay – I no longer had a body.
The stunted creature below me held the gem up to the light. Magnified through its purple translucence, I saw again the nightmare visage of my gigantic captor – the gaping mouth, the pale, boggling gray eyes – in miniature as the creature peered closely at its prize in the harsh light of day. I felt again my own inability to move when I’d first awakened among the mushrooms.
And then it finally hit me.
By some ridiculously, insanely unlucky turn of fate, it seemed that grubby purple gem… was me.
Nope. Nope, nope, nope.
This was too much. Panic jolted through me, and before I could do or think anything else, I was back in my body – or rather, my gem – beneath the hellish glare of the sun.
Continued in GOD OF GNOMES (God Core #1)
Want to find out what happens next? Pre-order the book!
GOD OF GNOMES will be released in all formats on September 26th 2019. In the meantime, you can add it on Goodreads here.