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Authors: Jeremy Robinson

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The Last Hunter - Collected Edition

BOOK: The Last Hunter - Collected Edition
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The Last Hunter – Collected Edition

By Jeremy Robinson

 

Summary:

 

I’ve been told that the entire continent of Antarctica groaned at the moment of my birth. The howl tore across glaciers, over mountains and deep into the ice. Everyone says so. Except for my father; all he heard was Mother’s sobs. Not of pain, but of joy, so he says. Other than that, the only verifiable fact about the day I was born is that an iceberg the size of Los Angeles broke free from the ice shelf, a few miles off the coast. Again, some would have me believe the fracture took place as I entered the world. But all that really matters, according to my parents, is that I, Solomon Ull Vincent, the first child born on Antarctica—the first and only Antarctican—was born on September 2nd, 1974.

 

If only someone could have warned me that upon my return to the continent of my birth, thirteen years later, I would be kidnapped, subjected to tortures beyond comprehension and forced to fight…and kill. If only someone had hinted that I’d wind up struggling to survive in a subterranean world full of ancient warriors, strange creatures and supernatural powers.

 

Had I been warned, I might have lived a normal life. The human race might have remained safe. And the fate of the world might not rest on my shoulders. Had I been warned…

 

This is my story—the tale of Solomon Ull Vincent—
The Last Hunter
.

 

This collected edition of
The Antarktos Saga
includes all five books in the series—
Descent
,
Pursuit
,
Ascent
,
Lament
and
Onslaught
, as well as never before seen art and character designs inspired by the series, an exclusive short story titled “The Children of Antarktos” and an interview with bestselling author Jeremy Robinson, composed primarily of questions asked by fans of the series.

 

 

The Last Hunter

(Collected Edition)

By Jeremy Robinson

 

 

For the real Solomon, my son and inspiration.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Since the five books in my series,
The Last Hunter,
took several years to write and publish, I feel like there should be a ton of people to thank, but the creation of this book has been a fairly closed system between just a few people. First, I must thank Kane Gilmour, who not only edited all five books, but also spurred me to release this collected edition and helped make it possible. I must also thank Roger Brodeur, Patrick O’Sullivan and Frank Bernard for hunting down the typos that snuck into the individual books, making the collected edition sparkly clean.

 

For an astounding cover that perfectly depicts Solomon, I must thank illustrator extraordinaire, Larry Rostant. And for amazing character sketches, a big thank you to Mark Corotan (markcorotan.com), Rich Woodall (johnraygun.deviantart.com), Christian Guldager (chrisguldager.com) and Dave Freeman.

 

On the home front, I have to thank my wife Hilaree for all her support over the years and for raising a son that could inspire such a story. You are amazing. To my daughters, Aquila and Norah, your creativity and energy fuel my own. I hope that you will enjoy your introduction into the world of Antarktos, as seen in the new short story, “The Children of Antarktos”. And to Solomon, my first and only son, thank you so much for being you; for being strong and savage when you need to be, and compassionate and forgiving like no other person I’ve met. Without you, this series would never have existed. I hope that when you are old enough to read it, you will enjoy the fictional world I’ve made for you. I love you all.

 

—Jeremy Robinson

New Hampshire

November 2013

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In 2005, I wrote a novel titled
Antarktos Rising
, in which I created the world of Antarktos. In that novel, we met strange and horrible creatures freed to live on the surface of Antarctica, after an event known as Crustal Displacement shifted the frigid continent to the equator (and South Dakota to the North Pole). The novel was self-published to great success in 2007, and it helped land my publishing deal with Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. In the years that followed, a nagging urge to revisit the unexplored world of Antarktos grew to the point that I could no longer ignore it.

 

I let my imagination run wild through the lush Antarctican jungles and dark recesses of the ancient subterranean world. I discovered new creatures and a cast of human beings called hunters, who had been kidnapped from the surface world, broken and remade as ruthless killers—servants to the Nephilim, an ancient race of half-human, half-demons living beneath the surface, but rising to exact their millennia-old plan: the destruction of the human race.

 

After coming up with the hunters, I immediately knew that one of them would be my main character. At the time, my son, Solomon, was just four years old, but his wild appearance combined with a strong character was exactly what I needed for my hunter. So, the Last Hunter became Solomon Ull Vincent, modeled after my son, along with myself as a child, and he was thrust into a dark world. I suppose it’s strange to write about my son facing such horrible fictional situations, but knowing my actual son and witnessing his passion, compassion and endless kindness, made my fictional Solomon more believable, well-rounded and inspiring—to readers and to myself personally. As a result,
The Last Hunter
remains my favorite of all my novels.

 

And I’m now thrilled to release the story in a single collected edition, complete with never-before-seen art, an amazing new cover, a brand new short story and an interview featuring questions from fans of the series. Whether you’re reading Solomon’s story for the first time, or you’re a long-time fan picking up the collected edition, I hope you will enjoy
The Last Hunter
as much as I do, and that the fictional Solomon will inspire you the way the real Solomon continues to inspire me.

 

—Jeremy Robinson

 

P.S. If you’re interested in
Antarktos Rising
, it is still available, and it’s a great side story for
The Last Hunter
. If you would like to read
Antarktos Rising
in chronological order with
The Last Hunter
, read it after
Pursuit
(Book 2).

 

 

Prologue

1911

 

Douglas Mawson tasted blood. The chapped skin of his lower lip peeled up like flakes of shaved coconut. The cold had started the injury, and then it worsened thanks to his habit of chewing the skin from his lip. But he was careful about it, nibbling at the still dying flesh like a preening bird. It was the sneeze that split the lip, tearing it down the middle. The sting cleared his mind, but the blood made him hungry. He looked around, hoping to see something that might take his mind off food, but he saw only white ice and blue sky.

Three hundred fifteen miles separated Mawson and his two men from camp; three thousand more from civilization. No man had ever ventured further from home, and only one of them would make it back.

Mawson, commander of the expedition, stood before a white glacial expanse. His angular face, typically clean-shaven but now covered by an inch-thick beard, hid behind a dirty tan scarf. The scarf did little to protect him against the Antarctic cold, which grated his lungs. The rest of him, bundled in a thick, beige snowsuit, felt warmer when moving. Not so much when standing still.

Dr. Xavier Mertz had stopped. He was the point man, riding on skis while Mawson followed with a dog sledge team and Lieutenant Ninnis brought up the rear with a second team and the majority of their indispensable supplies. That Mertz had stopped meant he’d seen something. Most likely something dangerous, like a snow-covered crevasse. They looked solid enough until you put weight on them. Then they could fall through like a trap door.

“What’s the problem, Mertz?” Mawson shouted.

But the man didn’t reply.

Mawson removed his hood in case the man’s words were being muffled. He asked again, “What is it, Mertz?”

The only sign that Mertz had not frozen solid on the spot was his head, craning slowly from side to side.

Mawson signaled for Ninnis to remain behind and stepped off his sledge. He petted the nearest dog as he passed, then headed for Mertz. His feet crunched over the snow and ice, signaling his approach. Still, the man did not move.

Five feet away, Mertz finally responded, his hand snapping up with an open palm. The sudden movement sent Mawson’s heart pounding. But the message was clear:
Don’t. Move.
And he didn’t. Not for three minutes. Then he spoke again. “Bloody hell, Mertz, what is it?”

Mertz turned his head slightly. “Saw someone.”

“Saw something?”

“Some-
one
.”

Ridiculous
, Mawson thought. They were the first human beings to set foot in this part of the world. So sure was he of that fact that he spoke his mind aloud. “Ridiculous.”

He stepped up to Mertz’s side. “The land is frozen. Not only is there no way a man could live here, there’s nowhere to hide.”

Mertz turned to Mawson. “He wasn’t wearing clothes.”

Mawson frowned. Mertz had a reputation for being a humorous fellow. “My lip is split. My knees are sore. My stomach is rumbling. I’m not in the mood for jokes, so let’s go. I want to be off this glacier before dark.”

“His hair was red. As red as the blood staining your beard. But his body was pale.” Mertz returned his eyes to the snow. “Wouldn’t have seen him if not for the hair.”

Mawson’s patience wore thin. “Mertz,” he growled more than said.

The man turned to him and Mawson saw wide-eyed fear. “I’m
not
joking.”

With his eyes shut, Mawson took a deep breath. The energy he’d exert losing his temper would drain him later on. He’d need that strength to survive. Calming his voice, he said, “Mertz, look around. What do you see?”

He glanced at Mertz, who was indeed looking. “White. From horizon to horizon. White! There is no one there. Not now. Not before. And if we stand here one more minute, we will—”

A sound like a howl rolled across the frozen plain. Mawson’s voice caught in his throat. It sounded…human. But it wasn’t. “The wind,” he said quickly, noticing the deepening wrinkles on Mertz’s sunburned forehead.

Why hadn’t the man covered his skin
? Mawson thought. Before he could ask, a second, louder howl echoed around them.

Before Mawson could once again dismiss the sound, Mertz spoke. “There’s not a breeze to speak of.”

Mawson held his breath. Mertz was right.

Mertz looked at him again.
I told you so
, his expression said. But as he turned away, his head spun back around, past Mawson, toward Ninnis. His eyes popped wide. His arm reached out. A high pitched, “No!” shot from his mouth.

Mawson turned around in time to see the last of the sledge dogs pulled toward a hole in the ice. It whimpered, digging its claws into the ice. Then it was gone. Ninnis, six dogs and the sledge had disappeared. The glacier had come to life and swallowed them whole.

The two men ran for the spot where Ninnis had been. They stopped short, sliding on their feet as the ice opened up before them. Ninnis had parked the sledge atop a crevasse. Had they but continued moving, he would have made it across.

Mawson lay on his stomach, dispersing his weight, and slid to the mouth of the gaping hole. One hundred and fifty feet below, on a ledge, lay a lone dog. It twitched between whimpers, its spine broken. Ninnis and the other five dogs were gone, disappeared into the darkness beyond.

“Ninnis!” Mawson shouted. “Ninnis! Lieutenant! Can you hear me? Are you alive, man?”

There was no reply. He suspected there never would be. But they couldn’t just leave him. For three hours the two men shouted until their voices grew hoarse. They tied all their ropes together, but the line wasn’t even long enough to reach the now dead sledge dog.

Distraught over the loss of their colleague and friend, Mawson and Mertz didn’t want to give up hope. But they had no choice. Ninnis had fallen with most of their food, their tents and warm weather gear. To survive the three hundred fifteen mile journey back to base camp, they couldn’t spend one more minute mourning the man.

Mawson peeled a frozen tear from his cheek and returned to his sledge. They needed to move.

As they maneuvered the remaining sledge, and dogs, which would later become their food, around the crevasse, neither man heard the muffled cries coming from below. They left without pause, on a journey that would claim the lives of all six dogs and Mertz. Mawson alone would survive the journey and eventually return home to England.

But Ninnis would outlive them both.

Had either man thought to descend the rope they’d fashioned, they would have found their man tucked inside a hollow hidden by an overhang only fifty feet from the surface. After regaining consciousness, he’d tried to call out to them, to reach for the rope, but some unseen force pinned him down. An hour after Mawson and Mertz gave up the search, a hand so white it was nearly translucent, came away from his mouth.

“Welcome home, Ninnis,” a voice whispered in his ear, the breath smelling like rotten, jellied eel.

Ninnis filled his lungs and let out a scream, but the sound was cut short as he was taken by his collar and dragged deeper into the ice.

BOOK: The Last Hunter - Collected Edition
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