Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

Colleen's blog

  • Hunches-A Deleted Chapter from Tiger’s Voyage (Chapter 12)

    January 13, 2014

    Chapter 12     Hunches

    Tiger's Voyage

    He sat back in his chair and fingered the amulet that lay against his chest thoughtfully.  It had been a wise decision to place cameras in all the temples of Durga.  He’d never actually thought it would pay off, but he was a man who took no risks, and left no stone unturned, especially since there was very little else to go on.

    It had taken him several weeks and dozens of researchers to figure out the weapons he’d seen were all weapons used by Durga and even after he knew, the information didn’t help much.  He’d guessed that they were replicas of weapons used long ago, but even then, it was too much of a coincidence that the chakram and the arrow he’d seen were made of gold.  The snake was golden as well.  Too bad the arrow had disappeared along with the Baiga.  If he’d just had a chance to study it, he might have tracked them down sooner.

    It was just a hunch to watch the temples, but over the years he’d learned to follow his hunches.  When his new assistant brought him the tape, he’d had to work to control himself.  He’d been known to cause accidents when he was too eager.  He dismissed the man abruptly and his hands shook as he drew his fingers across the hard surface of the recording.  He could almost smell her, sense her.  Like an alcoholic cupping a snifter of the finest brandy in his hands after years of abstinence, he looked at it, imagined what it would taste like.  Would he sip it or gulp it down quickly?  Savor or consume?  He deliberately prolonged the process.  When he could wait no longer, he reverently inserted the tape and sat down to watch.

    At first, he fumed with rage when he saw that most of the tape had been lost to static, but then he realized that he had still learned enough information to find her.  He rewound the tape and watched it again carefully, his fingers twitched as the girl entered the temple.

    “Soon,” he thought to himself.  Soon he’d be able to touch her again.  He shuddered as he heard her voice—strong, purposeful, yet vulnerable.  “I wonder what she’ll sound like when she screams,” he thought briefly.  He smiled in anticipation, but set those thoughts aside for the moment and focused on the task at hand.

    She spoke.  “Goddess Durga, we’ve returned again to ask your help as we begin this new quest.  Help us break this curse that has fallen upon these men and defeat the evil one who set it upon them.”

    The evil one.  Evil is a word used by the weak.  What evil is there in seeking power?

    He didn’t believe in good or evil, only in powerful and powerless, and he was determined that he would fall in the former category.

    He leaned closer and peered at the face of the younger prince, Kishan.  He said, “Beautiful goddess, please appear to us once again and grant us the tools necessary to overcome those who would prevent us from finding your prize.”

    Her prize.  He made a mental note to have his research team start searching texts to figure out what prize of Durga they were seeking.  He grunted.  Appear to us?  Did they believe the goddess Durga was somehow guiding them?  Would show herself in corporeal form?  Like good and evil, he didn’t believe in the gods.  Faith was a crutch, a convenient way to control the masses.  They became mindless slaves and neglected whatever meager intellect they possessed when they became believers.  They sat at home and wept and prayed, prostrating themselves for divine assistance.  Assistance that would never come.  An intelligent man took matters into his own hands.

    Still…the four of them obviously expected something to happen.  Perhaps magic was involved.  Perhaps it was the power of the amulets they possessed.  He didn’t need to believe in the gods to believe in magic.  Magic was a tool.  A gift to be used by those wise enough to understand and manipulate it.  A trick of the universe that only a few sought and even fewer could harness.

    He sneered as the eldest stepped forward.  The white tiger.  The next time they crossed paths, he would kill him.  “Cutting off his head should do the trick,” he mused.  Plunging a knife in his heart hadn’t even worked, but surely decapitation was something even he couldn’t return from.

    Dhiren’s words were brief.  “We come seeking your wisdom and strength.  Please aid us in our time of need.”

    The girl spoke, “Mr. Kadam?  Would you like to say something?”

    Kadam.  Kadam.  Unfortunately, Kadam was a common name in India.  The man seemed vaguely familiar but at this point he couldn’t place him, other than the visions they’d had together.

    “What do I say?” Kadam asked.

    The girl advised him, and Kadam said, “Help me come to the aid of my…princes and bring an end to their suffering.”

    My princes?  Apparently, this Kadam had either been alive as long as he had or had accepted the princes as his sovereigns.

    He watched as the two men changed into tigers and Kadam and the girl talked about why whatever they were trying to do didn’t work.  Fascinating.  They expected something powerful to happen.  He watched as Dhiren moved to take the girl’s hand.  Interesting.  He didn’t want to touch her.  They repeated their statements and transformed to tigers.

    He dragged his nails angrily across the leather arms of the chair as the video lost the connection.  He would have analysts try to capture anything they could from the video but his hopes were not high.  When the video came back on, he saw the girl patting her snake charm on the head and saying goodbye to the empty room.  He watched her lift the wreath of flowers around her neck and inhale.  Where had the flowers come from?  He tapped his thigh as he considered.

    The younger prince appeared and asked if she was alright.

    “I’m fine.  You didn’t have to wait for me, Kishan,” she said.

    He kissed her forehead and said, “Sure, I did.  Come on.  The others are waiting for us in the car.  Let’s get back to the boat.”

    Perhaps he had been mistaken in the girl’s affections.  It appeared she favored the black tiger, much as his erstwhile daughter had.  It bothered him to be wrong.  He had been sure that the girl had loved Dhiren, but her feelings were immaterial for the moment.  He would consider that at a later point.  What was important now was…the boat.

    So…they were on a boat.  If luck was with him, he could have the other pieces of the amulet within the week.  Within the month at the most.  He stood and stared out the window at the city lights below.  So long.  I’ve waited so long.  It surprised him that he was almost looking forward to capturing the girl more than he was to obtaining the amulet.  The need was vicious.  It tore through him and his fingers itched again.  Sparkles of blue light popped and crackled between the digits.  He clenched his fists and buried the power deep within him.  Soon, he would unite the pieces of the amulet and would finally have the means to accomplish what he’d always dreamed of since he’d learned of the amulet’s existence.

    A thought occurred to him and he called for his assistant.  It was another hunch.  He smiled.  And his hunches had been paying off lately.


    This entry was posted in Bonus Material, Tiger's Voyage.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Author Bio
    Colleen Houck

    New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she's not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.