Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy: The Templar Chronicles: Book 2

Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy: The Templar Chronicles: Book 2

by Jeff Gunhus

ISBN: 9780988425941

Publisher Seven Guns Press

Published in Children's Books/Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery & Horror, Children's Books/Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children & Teens (Young Adult)

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Book Description

Book #2 of The Templar Chronicles.

After barely surviving the onslaught of monsters that tried to kill him the day before his fourteenth birthday, Jack Templar leaves his hometown on a quest to rescue his father and discover the truth about his past. The award-winning adventure continues...

Sample Chapter

Praise for Jack Templar Monster Hunter

The Templar Chronicles Book 1

Selected as a 2012 Finalist for the Book of the Year Award. – Foreword Reviews

"Gunhus brings young readers a monster-filled romp to read at their own risk. The tone is set--sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek and likable; rooting for Jack is easy...Gunhus masterfully introduces fully realized characters with whom readers can connect almost instantly. The pacing is quick but not rushed, and events seamlessly progress, complete with action, cliffhangers and surprise reveals. " - Kirkus Reviews


Here there be monsters!

Label found on ancient maps

describing the lands beyond the known world.

Chapter One

I leaned up against the ship’s rusty metal railing, barely able to catch my breath. I took a pull from a water bottle as I looked out at the hundreds of miles of black ocean that stretched out in every direction, the full moon painting broad, glowing strokes across the surface that seemed to point right at me.

I always imagined that the middle of the Atlantic Ocean would be a violent place, filled with giant, rolling waves and massive storms, but the water that night was as calm as if we were on a lake. Good thing too, since the trawler we had been on for the last week was a creaky old lug of a ship whose best days were far, far behind it.

“Come on,” said a girl behind me with a distinct English accent. “Break’s over.”

I was about to complain when I instinctively felt the attack coming. I rolled to my right and a sword sparked against the metal where I had just been resting. I held up my own sword in front of me and crouched down.

“Eva, we’ve been going for hours,” I said. “Can’t we relax just for once?”

Eva paced in front of me in the shadows of the main deck of the trawler. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail like every time we sparred. She held a sword in her right hand and had a nasty barbed hook screwed into the socket on her left wrist.

Even though it would seem that a lethal iron hook would attract my attention first, it was Eva’s face that always distracted me when we fought. Even in the dim light, even though she was trying to run me through with her sword, she was just about the most attractive girl I’d ever seen. Every time I looked too closely at her face, I thought of the kiss she gave me right before my fight with Ren Lucre. As I pictured it in my mind again, Eva smiled, her teeth nearly glowing in the dim light. That smile wasn’t good news.

She lunged at me, using a twisting combination to my weak side that I had to jump backward to avoid. I blocked a low blow from her hook, but felt a breeze as her sword swept sharply within an inch of my right ear. I reached up and felt a small patch of missing hair. I guess it was closer than an inch.

“You’ll get more than a haircut unless you practice harder,” she said.

I gripped my sword tightly and the two of us circled one another on the deck. Eva had been the first person to tell me that I was a monster hunter. She had been with me through that terrible first night, when the Creach horde had come to kill me. I had lost my Aunt Sophie that night, but I had also discovered that my father was still alive and held captive by the Dark Lord of the Creach—Ren Lucre.

Eva had been all business since we left Sunnyvale for the Monster Hunter Academy. Nothing but hour after hour of fighting practice. I didn’t mind too much because she was an amazing fighter—much better than I was—and after coming face-to-face with the enemy I was eager to learn new ways to protect myself.

Not only was she a great fighter, but she seemed to understand how I had changed. She could sense the heightened strength and speed that had surged through me right before my fourteenth birthday. The change seemed to have either slowed or stopped, which bummed me out because I was hoping for full-on superhero powers. Or at least a body-builder physique. To look at me, you’d never imagine the strength I possessed. When I caught a glance of myself in the mirror, a skinny middle school kid looked back at me. Not only that, but I still thought of myself as Jack Smith, the name I’d been raised with my entire life. Jack Templar felt like a stranger’s name to me and I wondered if it would ever feel like my own.

Still, my body was stronger, faster and more agile than I could have ever hoped for. Unfortunately, this didn’t always help me when I faced Eva’s superior skills.

“Brace yourself,” she said. “This might hurt a little.”

Before I could react, Eva was inside my defenses. I bashed into her using the hilt of my sword and I felt her fall back. I stepped up to take advantage of her misstep…only to find that it was a trap. The second I was off balance, she swept my leg and I hit the deck hard, my sword skittering across the ground.

She was right. It did hurt. Only I wasn’t sure what hurt worse—my banged up knee, or my ego from losing to her for the hundredth time?

She lowered her sword, her green eyes showing her disappointment.

“See? You’re on your heels again,” she said. “That’s why we can’t stop practicing.”

“I wasn’t on my heels,” I complained.

“She’s right, Jack,” said a voice, a bit garbled from a mouthful of food. “You were on your heels.”

I looked over at T-Rex, one of my buddies who had come along with me on my adventure. He was in his usual deck chair watching the workout, a thick sandwich in his hand and a soda balanced on one of the armrests. After a rough few days of seasickness, he had since gotten his sea legs, found the ship’s kitchen and was in the process of eating his way through everything the cook could throw at him. T-Rex had been round and heavy when we left Sunnyvale, and he was only getting rounder and heavier as the journey went on.

T-Rex was back to being his usual cheery self, but I knew leaving had been hard on him. Mostly because he missed his grandma.

She had raised him most of his life, but in the last year she had started acting strangely. The doctors said she had Alzheimer’s, which meant that her brain would slowly stop functioning and she wouldn’t be able to take care of herself, let alone take care of T-Rex. Just as I was going to leave town, Child Protective Services had taken his grandma away to a nursing home and was looking for him to put him into a foster home. So, with no other family, T-Rex had decided to come with me. And I was happy that he had.

“Why don’t you come out here and try?” I asked, glaring at T-Rex.

“Who? Me?” T-Rex asked.

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his hand creeping up from his lap. He then planted a finger firmly in his nose. Did I forget to mention that T-Rex was a world-class nose-picker? Every time he got nervous, he started digging for gold. That’s how he had gotten his nickname, T-Rex, because we all wished he had itty-bitty T-Rex arms, so he wouldn’t be able to reach his nose. The good news was that since our night battling monsters, his nose-picking had slowed considerably.

“Yeah, you,” I said sternly. “You need to practice too. This isn’t a vacation, you know.”

T-Rex stuffed his face with another bite of a sandwich and said, “No, I’m fine right here, thank you.”

“I’ll do it.” A shadow jumped down from a perch on the control tower in the center of the trawler. It was Will, my other friend from home. Both he and T-Rex had been drawn into my little monster problem on that terrible night. In fact, I owed them both my life. But that was where their similarities ended. T-Rex wasn’t the adventurous type. He would have been perfectly happy staying at home if his grandma hadn’t been taken away. As for Will… he was another story completely.

While I had been raised an orphan by my Aunt Sophie, Will had been raised by parents who were worse than the monsters we now fought. When my Aunt Sophie—who turned out to be a devil-wolf—was killed by Ren Lucre, Will felt the loss as much as I did. After that, there was nothing left for either of us in Sunnyvale, so it was a no-brainer that we left town with Eva, ready for anything this new world would throw at us. Three days later we were on a ship leaving New York harbor on the way to Europe. Destination: the Monster Hunter Academy.

Will strutted out on the practice area. He was short, but carried himself with a curled up tension that reminded me of a pit bull. Will loved it when people underestimated him because of his size. It made winning a lot more fun.

T-Rex cupped his mouth with his hands and made a sound like a stadium cheering a gladiator. I stepped back and let him into the training session.

Will held a short metal rod in front of him. He pressed a button and both sides telescoped out, leaving him with a spear in his hand.

“Besides, I need to practice with the new toy you gave me,” he said.

“You’ll get your turn,” Eva said, turning back to me. “Come on. Do it again.”

I held out my hand to Will and he tossed me his spear. “Let’s see how I do with this.”

Eva flashed me a smile. The one I’d seen far too many times on the deck of the ship. It was the smile right before I got my butt spanked.

Will and T-Rex hooted at the challenge. T-Rex got out of his chair and joined Will on the railing like they were at a boxing match while Eva and I circled one another on the deck.

“Are you going to make a move?” Eva asked.

I didn’t reply. I concentrated on her movements, moving the spear so that the tip created a figure-eight pattern like Eva had taught us.

Eva feinted to my side, testing me. But I didn’t take the bait.

“Good,” Eva said. “Better.”

She made a run at me and we exchanged a flurry of blows, the sword and spear banging off each other. As we parted, I nicked the shoulder of her leather suit. It didn’t draw any blood, but I knew Eva felt it.

“Yeah!” Will yelled. “That’s the way.”

“Get him, Eva!” T-Rex cried.

Eva and I circled each other again. Testing. Waiting.

“I’ll admit, you’re improving,” Eva said. “You even look good doing it. Kind of cute, actually.”

I felt my face flush at the comment. I paused, caught off-guard…and that was all she needed.

She lunged forward, smacking my spear to the side with the flat side of her sword, rolling her body along its edge until she was standing in front of me, my spear tucked under her arm. With a simple twist in the other direction, the spear flew out of my hands and skittered across the deck.

She spun and placed the point of her blade against my throat.

I gulped nervously, but nodded for Eva to look down.

Hovering right over her rib cage was my long dagger.

Will and T-Rex clapped. This was the first time I had even gotten close to beating her. Eva didn’t share Will’s enthusiasm.

Eva pushed me away and glared at us both.

“You all seem to think this is a game. It’s not,” she said. “Dying alongside your opponent still means you’re dead.”

“You’re just mad because he almost got you,” Will said.

Eva walked up to Will. She wasn’t that tall but she still towered over him. She leaned down so they met eye-to-eye. Will, never one to back down, glared back at her.

“Wait until we get to the Academy. You won’t last a day,” Eva said. She turned on her heels and stalked off into the ship’s cabins.

“What’s gotten into her?” T-Rex asked.

“We’re getting closer to the Academy,” I said. “She’s the only one who really knows what we’re in for.”

“So?” Will said.

“I think she’s scared for us,” I said.

“Oh,” T-Rex said, rolling the idea over in his mind. “I didn’t think of that. Do you think it’s going to be that bad?”

“Nah, she’s just trying to spook us is all,” Will said, the certainty gone from his voice. “Don’t you think, Jack?”

I shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

We stared out over the water, each of us alone with our thoughts of what the Academy might be like. Eva had told us very few details beyond a brief history of the place.

Set up in the mountains near the border between France and Italy, the Academy was the last holdout of an ancient institution that had trained monster hunters for centuries. Even as recent as a few decades ago, there were several such places on every continent. But modern technology was making it harder and harder to remain hidden from the public eye. This mountain hideaway was the first Academy, and, according to Eva, it might be the last as well.

“Eva told me that there were real monsters kept in captivity there for the training exercises,” T-Rex said. “Do you think that’s true?”

I shrugged. “We’ve both known her for the same length of time. Have you ever heard her exaggerate about anything?”

“I guess not,” Will said. “This is gonna be awesome.”

I smiled. Will was always the eager one, ready for anything. While this often got him into trouble, I wished I could be more like him. When I thought of Eva’s nervousness for us, all I felt was a twisting knot in my stomach. But I wasn’t going to the Academy to participate in their little training program. The only thing I cared about was finding Ren Lucre’s dungeons and then freeing my father. Eva had promised that the head of the Academy, Master Aquinas, would tell me everything she knew when we got there. I was counting on it.

A soft bell chimed from up in the control tower, a deep, resounding clang that guided our ship safely to shore. I followed the tower’s smooth, sheer walls upward, its top seemingly missing as it disappeared into a thick, swirling shroud of mist.

Three men walk along the balcony outside the steering house. The captain of the ship was one of them, noticeable because of the red glow from the tip of his cigar. These men were true sailors, paid off by members of the Black Guard back in America to take on three stowaways. Sure, a plane would have been more efficient, but try to leave the country when you’re a kid without a passport. Not that easy.

I was about to turn to Will and suggest we head down to bed when I heard the first scream.

It came from a few stories above us. It was a man’s scream, but high-pitched and filled with terror. A cigar hit the deck next to us. Instinctively, both Will and I crouched down to the ground, swords up as Eva had taught us, looking up to the balcony overhead. T-Rex just stood there, mouth open and gazing in the direction of the scream, clutching his sandwich to him. I reached out and pulled him to the ground next to us.

The fog descended further and covered the balcony in a thin, wispy haze. Through it, I could still see the dark shapes of the men on the balcony. They ran back and forth as if trapped. The captain cried out, his arms raised as if to attack something. He struggled with some unseen force, then tipped precariously over the railing.

“Watch out!” I cried.

The captain stood for a second, then stumbled as if forced by a strong shove. He fell backward over the railing.

“No!” Will shouted.

But just as the captain was about to hit the deck, a tendril of cloud bolted out from the mist and wrapped around his leg. He jerked to a stop just above the hardwood surface, held tightly by his one leg.

I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived.

Two other men tumbled down from the balcony, screaming. They were also caught at the last second by long wispy fingers of mist and held upside down off the deck. They struggled and kicked, but they could not free themselves.

The fog churned and swirled and I thought I saw bodies rolling just under the surface. Every so often an arm or a leg broke out from the cloud before dissolving into the night air.

“What is it?” T-Rex whimpered.

“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “But it can’t be good.”

Without warning, one of the tendrils of fog snapped back and forth like a whip being cracked. The sailor flew through the air, smashed into the wall, and crumpled to the floor.

“Definitely not good,” I said. “Come on.”

We ran, still low to the ground, staying as far from the ceiling of fog as possible. In front of us, the second sailor was tossed through the air, end over end until he smacked into the wall.

I lifted my sword over my head as I neared the captain, still hanging upside down. With a yell, I jumped onto a cargo crate and vaulted into the air, slashing the dense cord of mist just above the captain’s foot.

But my sword went straight through it like there was nothing there.

I landed hard on the deck, rolled forward and ended back up on my feet. In seconds, Will and T-Rex were at my side. Will brandished his spear. T-Rex still had a death grip on his sandwich.

“Impressive,” Will said. “Now what?”

The mist churned and grew thicker directly above us. There was a swirling vortex, like the beginning of a tornado.

“Run!” I yelled.

Just as I did, the vortex above us transformed into wide, gaping jaws lined with horrific teeth.

We sprinted from the deck, T-Rex screaming as we ran.

The jaws descended on us, a thick neck of white fog behind it. Luckily, we were already on the move as the massive jaws chomped down on the deck where we had just been standing. Shards of wood exploded into the air from the impact.

We ran into the hallway connecting the two sides of the ship. It was open at each end so I could see the night sky rise and fall through the gap at the opposite side. I spun around and saw that the fog was still chasing us, its front end crystallized into nasty looking spikes. As we ran down the hall, we suddenly saw a thick white fog engulf our only exit.

“We’re trapped!” Will shouted.

“This way!” I shouted back.

I opened a hatch in the wall and climbed in. Once on the other side, all three of us heaved against the thick metal door until it swung into place. I tried to spin the wheel to lock the door, when something heavy hammered in from outside. The force of the impact pushed the door open a few inches. We threw our shoulders into the door and slammed it back shut.

“Lock it!” Will yelled.

“I’m trying!” I said, lurching the wheel mechanism over, between the violent bouts of hammering on the outer side of the door. “Push harder! Both of you, on three. One…two…THREE!”


Excerpted from "Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy: The Templar Chronicles: Book 2" by Jeff Gunhus. Copyright © 2013 by Jeff Gunhus. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus learned as a young boy while living overseas without TV that books were a way to travel through space and time, have amazing adventures, meet fascinating characters...all while eating Oreo cookies with a cold glass of milk. Now, with five kids of his own, he writes books he thinks they will enjoy reading...and has learned to share his Oreos. (Most of the time.) He hopes you enjoy the books as well.

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