where the writers are
The Third Sign
The Third Sign
Amazon.com Amazon.com
Powell's Books Powell's Books

Gregory gives an overview of the book:

Calen Gollnet lives in a tumultuous world. Surrounded by hostile forces bent on its destruction, his country Klune has been free for ten years, having thrown off the yoke of oppression thanks to a small group of heroes known as the Covenant; but the cost of this freedom was great, and the nation's liberty is becoming tenuous. The Covenant is broken, and Klune is now kept safe only because of a treaty struck between the human king and a race of honorable but xenophobic mercenaries known as arlics who have patrolled Klune's borders for the past decade. But the treaty is due to expire, and both the arlics and humans are restless, each claiming that they have been weakened by their dependence on the other. As negotiations between the two sides break down and dark armies gather while politics bogs down the governors of city and country...
Read full overview »

Calen Gollnet lives in a tumultuous world. Surrounded by hostile forces bent on its destruction, his country Klune has been free for ten years, having thrown off the yoke of oppression thanks to a small group of heroes known as the Covenant; but the cost of this freedom was great, and the nation's liberty is becoming tenuous. The Covenant is broken, and Klune is now kept safe only because of a treaty struck between the human king and a race of honorable but xenophobic mercenaries known as arlics who have patrolled Klune's borders for the past decade. But the treaty is due to expire, and both the arlics and humans are restless, each claiming that they have been weakened by their dependence on the other.

As negotiations between the two sides break down and dark armies gather while politics bogs down the governors of city and country, Calen flees from the army attacking his home city, unaware that there is more to fear than mortal warriors; the appearance of the horrifying Soul Wall and other omens point to the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Return, in which it is said that three signs will signal the return of a great evil. The first two signs have come to pass, but the prophecy is obscure on its final prediction: the tide of the conflict may be changed by the third sign, but no one knows what that sign is, or whom it will favor.

The Third Sign is an epic fantasy, in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan, whose unique combination of suspense, mystery, political intrigue and sword and sorcery will draw readers in as they search with the characters for the answer to the most important question: what is The Third Sign?

Read an excerpt »

Toric Illmone, the most recent member of a farmer’s bloodline stretching back centuries, perhaps
even before the Dreamer’s first dream, wiped beads of sweat from his brow before bending again
to drive his hoe into the earth. It was late summer, and already hints of the oncoming fall were in
the air, but hot work was hot regardless of the season. The harvest had been particularly good this
year—as good as any that even Toric’s grandfather could remember—but that did little to
alleviate his workload. Reaping the fruitfulness of the earth had left many wounds, and the soil
had to be worked, turned, and coaxed back to its natural aerated condition if it was to yield
similar results next spring.

This was tiring, tedious work for most, but for Toric it represented a kind of spiritual
ritual, a bonding with the land he needed to experience each year to feel he was fulfilling the
promise of his heritage. Land was meant to be tilled, dug, shoveled, filtered; it was meant to be
used and cared for so that it could be used again, and Toric felt the weight of that responsibility
keenly. All the Illmones did. He was perhaps not the most creative thinker, or possessed of the
most ambitious, quick mind; but he was committed to his work and difficult to sway from a path
he had set for himself.

Pulling back on the hoe handle again, Toric stood the implement in the earth as he
straightened, sighing with the effort. He looked over his field, almost all resurfaced now from his
efforts with the hoe, and beyond it to the borders of the wood that lay to the east of the Illmone
farm. Tragsclaw Wood was the official name of the forest, but despite the rumors it seldom
produced anything more dramatic than a wandering bear. Unnatural creatures were few, and
unexpected events even fewer. Toric liked it that way, as did his neighbors; their lives were
founded upon regular, predictable cycles, and their existence depended upon careful planning and
the application of age-old wisdom. Successions, disasters, and wars certainly happened beyond
the borders of his homeland, informally known as The Fields by its residents, but such
occurrences made little impact upon its inhabitants. They were content to live as they had for
centuries, and it had indeed been centuries since anyone had bothered to interfere with that simple
life.

Toric grunted with satisfaction as he leaned on his hoe, looking around the borders of his
land. Far to the south lay the hills which ran between Tragsclaw Wood to the east and the
southernmost area of Razorwood to the west, and even farther to the north were the major cities
of the nation of Klune, but Toric, as ever, was most interested in his own space. In his
grandfather’s time the field had barely extended to ten acres, but now it was nearly double that,
one of the largest farms in the area and expanding every year. He employed a group of laborers to
help him with the upkeep, of course, but they had already been sent home. Toric wanted time to
work the land alone, and the unusually good harvest had given him the luxury to indulge himself.
This was the time he loved, a few hours of silent thought and careful tending of his ancestral
ground.

Toric smiled and shook himself out of his late afternoon reverie. He didn’t want to waste
the remaining light. Bending again to his work, he drove his hoe into the earth. Then, quite
suddenly, the air changed. A stillness fell across the land; the wind sank to a sigh, and the
atmosphere seemed to close around Toric, who looked up with a frown. The weathermaster in the
next village had told him there was not likely to be rain for at least another week, but they were
notoriously inaccurate in their predictions—and even when they were right (and the one Toric
had consulted was known for his precision), other weathermasters could generate rain at
inopportune times when paid enough by jealous rival farmers. Still, such an occurrence had not
happened for several years, and he could think of no reason for a weather call to be made now.
He sniffed the air and caught a faint acrid scent—again, unusual for any normal storm. After a
moment, he returned to his work, hoping to at least finish the field he was working on before the
rain arrived. But only a few seconds passed before a low moan echoed across the fields.
Toric looked up sharply. The sound was fairly loud without any prior warning to have
heralded it, and seemed relatively close by. Perhaps a bear had stepped on the wrong end of a
stick, Toric reasoned; but just as he was about to accept the logical answer and focus his attention
back on the earth, the moaning came again, more loudly this time and closer. It seemed to come
from Tragsclaw Wood, and Toric squinted in that direction. He saw nothing but the fences at the
end of his land and the trees beyond. But the stillness seemed to grow more oppressive with every
passing minute, and there were no clouds visible in the afternoon sky.

The moaning sounded again, louder and with a different timbre—Toric thought he heard
some kind of a yowling, or screeching, like a cat whose late night caterwauls were silenced by a
thrown rock or rival feline. Inadvertently he shivered. This was no storm, and there was no
animal he knew that made such an unearthly sound. Dropping his hoe, he ran to his nearby cart
and pulled out his scythe. It was hardly a weapon of war, but its blade was sharp, and he had
killed a wolf with it one winter several years ago. But that wolf had been young and Toric had not
been alone then; he had no idea what he was facing this time. In truth he had little wish to
investigate the noise himself, but he was alone and had no time to run for others—and despite all
his imaginings, the sound likely had a simple explanation, as sounds always did. Why give his
neighbors the idea that he was imagining things? Gripping the scythe firmly, he ran towards the
forest.

Toric was no coward, but as he approached the edge of Tragsclaw his steps slowed.
Tragsclaw was not the darkest of woods, nor the densest, but today it felt different—ominous,
imposing, heavy. With every step he took the air seemed to grow closer and more difficult to
breathe. After a while he felt as if he were slogging through mud, so syrupy had the atmosphere
become. Pausing at the forest’s edge, the scythe’s handle damp from his sweat, he peered
cautiously into the greenery. He saw nothing but the trees standing silent guard on the forest
border, scrubs and moss at their feet. But beyond its unnatural stillness, something struck him as
wrong about the forest, though he could not put his finger on what it was. His nose and throat
stung with the acrid tang of the air.

He was so focused upon the unnatural atmosphere that he had entirely forgotten about
that which had drawn him to the forest in the first place—the sound. Suddenly the moan echoed
again, but this time it seemed to be nearly on top of him, and far louder; and now, he clearly
heard that it was more than a moan. It sounded like several creatures screaming or yelping at
once, but—and this he could not understand—they seemed to be both opposed and combined in
some way, like some kind of bizarre chorus of discontent. He froze and looked around slowly.
Nothing stirred. And he suddenly realized what had eluded his notice before: he saw no living
movement at all. No birds flew, no squirrels stirred, no fox darted from tree to tree. He bent down
to the ground and dug experimentally. No insects could be seen in the earth, neither worm nor
beetle. The land around him seemed utterly, entirely devoid of life.

Toric shook his head and turned away from the woods. Strange as it might seem to his
neighbors, something was clearly wrong, and he would rather be labeled a coward than a fool. He
headed back to his cart, but he felt as if he were walking through sand; it was now very difficult
to breathe fully, and the air felt as if it were trying to crush his body into the earth. His mind
swam, and his eyes darted from side to side. He had the odd feeling he was waiting for
something.

All at once, a great moaning and screeching arose, seemingly all around him—the most
terrible noise Toric had ever heard. Screaming and howling came from the forest, but not as
isolated noises; rather they made up a noise together, one sound of painful torment. As Toric
dropped to his knees in terror, he heard, for several seconds, what he swore were voices, human
voices shrieking in the most wrenching agony he could have imagined. He struggled to rise, but
all energy and strength had deserted him, and his brain seemed unable to command his legs to
move again. His breath came in labored gasps. As he turned his head to look back at the woods,
he caught a glimpse of swirling colors and odd shapes—and then, with one more deafening
scream of agony, it burst out of the forest and was upon him.

The Soul Wall ravaged north. And there had never been any sound more horrible than
that of its passing, now joined by one more, unreasoning, hideously distorted shout of agony, as if
ripped from the lungs of a still-living man.

gregory-wilson's picture

My debut novel, called "a very satisfying tale by an intriguing new voice" by Bram Stoker award winning author David Niall Wilson and "gripping...memorable...if this book is any indication, [Wilson] is in line for a long successful career" by reviewers from The Beezer Review to SFFWorld to Library Journal.

About Gregory

Gregory A. Wilson is currently an Associate Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City, where he teaches courses in creative writing, Renaissance drama and other subjects.  His first academic book...

Read full bio »