Beast Series Book 1
by Luke Phillips
We just lost our place at the top of the food chain. Man is just meat.
“This was on par with Jurassic Park.” Courtney L.
“This story has heart and soul in the midst of its rampaging terror.” Bevi Debb
“His hero has the potential to be one of the most loved adventure icons, in the mould of Indiana Jones.” A.K.S Ford
It is only when the bones of its prey are discovered in a remote Scottish glen that the majesty and power of one of nature’s most successful predators is truly revealed. As it strikes silently from the shadows and on nights shrouded in darkness, a small village falls under siege to a remarkable creature. For thousands of years mankind has had the upper hand but now – suddenly, violently, bloodily – the balance of power has shifted.
When an isolated wildlife research centre launches an investigation, it is soon discovered that something out of place has made the Highlands its home and set its sights on the quiet village of Cannich. It will hunt, it will kill and it won’t let anything get in its way. Thomas Walker, a renowned wildlife specialist and former big game hunter, finds himself confronted with his past and an animal the likes of which he had never wanted to face again. As its devastating rampage goes unchecked and threatens his home, the woman he loves and his very way of life, an older and much more human adversary seeks him out. How long will any of them survive the presence of the beast in their shadow?
There are nearly 2,000 reported sightings of what have become known as mystery big cats across the UK every year. Some, such as the beasts of Bodmin and Dartmoor have become infamous. Their origin and identity remain unknown. Shadow Beast, the new chiller from Luke Phillips, offers a terrifying and deadly explanation.
The creature stopped in the last reach of the shadows of the tall pines and dropped to the ground. It watched the group of stags charge from the tree line a hundred yards down, driven in a state of panic and changing direction instinctively as they went. Their feet pounded the earth and sent trickles of stone and mud sliding down the steep slope as they moved across it. It felt the vibrations under its feet and sensed the urgency with which they moved. The deer kicked their feet high to avoid the strewn boulders and scrub of the mountainside. It watched as their eyes darted back to the darkness beneath the trees to search for their pursuer. Their nostrils frothed in exhaustion, but as they stopped to snatch a few life-giving breaths, the leader of the group let out a strained bellow as he expelled the air from his lungs and continued on. The creature licked its nose as the wind brought the sticky sweet must of the animals towards it. A wave of static energy rippled along its back and across its shoulders like wind on water. It had flanked them without being seen and now lay motionless, its black hide blending into the darkness behind the thick gorse bank where it had slunk down onto the earth. Dawn was approaching and the night was retreating to the west.
It watched still, taking deep slow breaths that inflated its lungs to full capacity, the oxygen rich mountain air the fuel for the coming charge. Its paws rested on soft, dew drenched earth and budding heather that would silence the heaviest of footfalls. It waited, panting soundlessly as its silver whiskers warned it of micro-changes to the direction of the wind and air pressure, as the distance between it and its prey narrowed. It allowed a twitch of frustration to flick through its tail as the deer changed course again and headed down the hill, instead of towards it and the tree line. It rose slightly and continued its journey along the knotted and twisted branches of the thickly entwined gorse. Not in flower yet, the bank provided a dark and dense veil of branches to hide behind. Its movement was snakelike, its head naturally rising and falling as it followed the cover and the deer, its pelvic and shoulder muscles pumping together as it accelerated and slowed to match the pace of its prey. At the end of the gorse bank it came to the welcome shadow of trees again and disappeared within their darkness. Here it moved more cautiously, walking on stones and roots or flicking away the dry branches that lay in its path. Then it paused.
The sweaty, ripening must of the deer was intoxicating now and it knew they were close, even though it could not yet see them. Ahead of the creature was a small earthy bank that marked the boundary of the wood it had entered. This led to a sparse, grassy knoll that bordered a long, straight river of stone along the valley. It knew that rather than cross the stone river, the deer were more likely to hesitate and turn back to the trees with the coming dawn. It crept towards an opening on the bank between an oak and a pine, their intertwined boughs locked in a centuries-old battle for the light that formed a natural arch. The bank was steep and the creature paused, calculating its approach. It slunk down onto its belly and used the exposed roots of the oak as a stairway up the bank. It hunkered down, coiling its hindquarters beneath it and stretching its neck and head forward. Its whiskers bristled as they sensed the changes in air pressure and the breeze moved round the animal coming towards it. From the shadows it watched as the stag approached closer and it once again licked its nose and muzzle in anticipation. It repositioned itself slightly forward for better purchase and inhaled one last time. Silence fell upon the wood. The stag was stung by the sudden quiet and snapped to attention as it peered towards the darkness. The creature saw its moment and burst from the shadows, barrelling forwards in a furious and fluid sprint that silently engulfed the ground between it and the leader of the herd. In its final bound, it launched into a headlong leap, claws outstretched for a murderous embrace as it let out the thunderous roar that had built in its chest.
The Daughters of the Darkness
Beast Series Book 2
“We often look to escape the everyday by seeking out the dark places, where something monstrous waits in the void. Luke Phillips takes you there, where man is still well and truly on the menu.”
SHANNON LEGRO – INTO THE FRAY RADIO
1898, East Africa. The Tsavo man-eaters kill 130 people over the course of nine months. The unusually large, pale-coloured, and maneless male lions mark history in what became known as their reign of terror.
Now, history is repeating itself. A new pride of killers has arrived in Tsavo, staking out their own bloody legacy. One that includes the murdered wife of conservationist and former hunter Thomas Walker.
Torn between the newfound happiness he has discovered in the Highlands of Scotland with his new fiancée, and his loyalty to the man whose brother has been taken by the man-eaters, Thomas must face his past and creatures feared as myth by his friend and the people of Kenya.
Arriving in Africa, Thomas finds the situation worsening as a local arms dealer and war lord declares the ‘critters of the bush’ are under his command to drive those not loyal to him from the land. With all not as it seems, the odds are stacked against Thomas and the small band of friends trying to restore balance to the region and its wildlife.
Amanda Walker woke with a start, sitting up in her sleeping bag and instinctively reaching for the old Marine Corps fighting knife she kept under her pillow. For a few seconds, she sat completely still, trying to work out what had woken her. Her first thought was that a snake had decided to curl up in or near the sleeping bag. It wouldn’t be the first time. When she couldn’t detect any movement, she relaxed a little and began to listen.
The door of the canvas tent was still tied shut. There was a soft breeze and she could hear the song of crickets carried on it. Then she heard something else. Soft murmurs, coming from outside. She looked over at her husband, Thomas. Even in his sleep he looked exhausted. She turned up the collar of his shirt to cover the insect bites on his neck. He had fallen asleep in his clothes almost as soon as he had returned from the day’s tracking. His fitful slumber and the sheen of sweat on his skin told her he was fighting another bout of Rift Valley fever. She smiled to herself and affectionately ran her fingers through his hair. She would let him sleep, but she couldn’t ignore the sounds. They had heard the man-eaters calling close to the camp during the day.
Just like her husband, she had gone to bed in her clothes, and she tucked the knife into the back of her shorts as she pulled the mosquito net up and made her way to the door-flap of the tent. She undid the top tie whilst yawning silently and peered out. The camp’s outbuildings were across the way, but no lights were on in the windows. Nothing seemed to be stirring. Then she heard the murmur again. Standing on the veranda of one of the buildings was a little boy. His skin was incredibly dark, showing up the blue and mauve tones of the night sky above. He was completely naked and held his hand over his mouth as he sobbed, staring into the darkness in wide-eyed terror.
As Amanda undid the rest of the flap ties, the boy noticed her immediately. As she watched him streak out of the camp, she immediately realised he wasn’t one of the children who lived with the crew and staff. He moved with absolute silence, his feet hardly touching the ground as he ran. The moon was full and bathed the scorched ground in an eerie light. Amanda couldn’t help the pang of panic she felt and took a few steps in the direction the boy was headed, intent on following. She hesitated. Thomas would be angry if he knew she had left the tent during the night. All the better reason to let him sleep, she decided.
She began to follow the little boy. The red dust stuck to her bare feet and the ground was still warm from the baking heat of the day. She crossed the road that led into the camp and paused for a moment as she looked out over the long grass. Thomas really would be angry at the thought of her going any further without a gun or an escort. But she could see the path the boy had taken and now she was growing concerned. She had already imagined the possibility the boy was from a local village, where maybe the man-eaters had attacked. What if he came for help? Amanda thought. She pushed on into the long grass.
She moved carefully and quietly, moving the brush aside and listening intently with every step. She could barely see over the top, so instead she crouched and followed the path the boy had made, peering ahead.
“Kito,” she whispered softly, “kito?”
The Swahili word was often used affectionately by mothers to children. The literal translation meant ‘precious one’. Amanda had considered the boy was so young that he may never have met a white person, and her appearance could have startled him. If he heard her speaking softly and in Swahili, he might stop running.
The moon was directly above her, making her long blonde hair look silver in the strange light. Somehow it made her feel alone and exposed, and she shivered with the cold she suddenly felt. Instinct overrode her, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she reached the abrupt end of the trail. The boy had seemingly disappeared into thin air. The tall grass ahead of her swayed silently in the wind, moving back and forth as if caught in the breath of some invisible giant beast. She crouched, spinning on her heels to face the direction she had come from. She began to tremble as she closed her eyes and listened, as the crickets stopped singing one by one until there was silence.
For a moment, she couldn’t bring herself to open her eyes. She gritted her teeth and blinked, peering out into the grass around her. At first, she didn’t see anything. Then a pair of amber eyes flashed in the darkness, then another. More eyes, like burning coals in the shadows, appeared over to her left. Even in her fear, she was amazed at the pride’s ability to work together in silence and in the dark. She could feel them closing in on her. She estimated them to be no more than twenty yards away, and they were obviously hunting. She was in no doubt what, or rather who, the prey was.
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About the Author
Luke Phillips has always had an interest in natural history. Its hard to say when that interest began to include the myths and monsters that haunt our folklore, but it may well have been as a young boy, standing on the shores of Loch Ness.
From trekking through California looking for Bigfoot to camping out in the Highlands on the trail of real-life reported big cats, his imagination has always been captivated by the darker side of our unnatural history.
Despite studying zoology at university, Luke has strayed from the mainstream into the eerie world of cryptids and monsters. And the truth may well be stranger and far scarier than fiction!
His first book, Shadow Beast, was launched in 2015 and his second, The Daughters of the Darkness, was released in 2017.
He is based in Kent in the UK.