Authors: Chris Dietzel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidence.
THE EXCALIBUR, Copyright 2016 by Chris Dietzel. All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Watch The World End Publishing.
Click or Visit:
Cover Design: Grosnez
Cover Typography: TrueNotDreams Design
Editor: D.L. MacKenzie
Author Photo: Jodie McFadden
This book contains concept art based on various aspects of the story. For each design, an artist was given a basic description and then allowed to create their vision of that scene, character, etc. Artist biographies can be found at the end of the book.
Also by Chris Dietzel
The Green Knight – Space Lore I
The Round Table – Space Lore III
The Theta Timeline
The Theta Prophecy
The Theta Patient
A Quiet Apocalypse
The Man Who Watched The World End
A Different Alchemy
The Hauntings Of Playing God
The Last Teacher
Space Lore II
The portal glistened against the blackness of space. Three hundred and sixty individual metal cylinders, each larger than a standard space frigate, linked together in a circle containing the tremendous energy field connecting one spot of the galaxy with another. Away from the portal, in the infinite distance, billions of stars glimmered and sparkled.
The only sign of civilization, other than the portal, was the golden orange planet beneath it, swirling with clouds. Glyndwr was one of the many planets in the system that was hospitable to nearly every form of life, a planet full of cities and spaceports and trading hubs rather than a handful of colonies with artificial environments inside a containment field.
From the planet, a cargo ship made its way from the spaceports where it vanished into Glyndwr’s clouds. A moment later, the vessel appeared through the creamy orange formations, a path of cloud-colored mist behind the ship as it continued into the upper reaches of the planet’s atmosphere. Then, into space and toward the portal.
The cargo ship, a Capesize Bulk vessel, was long and flat, giving it the appearance of a landing platform for a Solar Carrier or Athens Destroyer rather than a spacegoing vessel. Ionic steam poured out of exhaust ports along either side of the ship as its mighty engines worked to keep the fully loaded cargo ship moving.
It was, no doubt, carrying some of Glyndwr’s spices and precious metals to other parts of the galaxy. Approaching the portal, the ship’s tinder walls began to lower. But when they were still only halfway shut, another ship began to appear out of the portal from the other direction. The cargo ship immediately began to change course to prevent a crash. Inside the ship, alarms wailed as the limited crew raced to save themselves from a catastrophe.
As the Capesize Bulk fired up its forward engines to slow itself, it also began to turn to the left, its tinder walls raising so the ship’s captain could see what was going on.
At first, only the tip of the new vessel could be seen as it appeared through the bright white energy of the portal, and there was no telling what type of ship would be coming through or how large it would be. If it was a small one-man vessel flown by some impetuous pilot who didn’t care about waiting for the okay to pass through, the freighter’s captain would have been fully prepared to continue ahead at full power and demolish the tiny ship. If it were anything larger, however, it could damage one of the Capesize Bulk’s tinder walls when they collided and the captain and everyone else aboard his ship would perish.
That was why the cargo ship came about, coming to a full stop next to the portal’s perimeter.
Inside the cargo ship, the captain, an old Gthothch, pounded a stony fist against the control panel in front of him and told his chief officer to open a communication channel with the other ship as soon as it was through the portal.
Everyone knew the dangers of two ships colliding inside a portal. Children were told horror stories of ships’ captains who decided to enter a portal without first going through the proper procedures, only to collide with another vessel when they were only part of the way through the energy field. The ships suffered severe damage and the tinder walls were compromised. As soon as that happened, all life aboard the ship ceased to exist.
As the captain waited, though, more and more of the ship kept coming through the portal. Any possibility that it was a single-man transport was erased. Any chance that it was a group transport was also eliminated as more of the ship came into view. Soon, it was too large to be an Ornewllian Compact or even a class-3 frigate. And still it was coming through the portal, taking up more of the expanse within the band of cylinders.
After the point when most ships would have already completely appeared through the portal, the ship that the captain had almost collided with was still not even half of the way through the energy field. He could tell because the ship was still getting larger and larger as more of its frame came into view.
The Gthothch captain sucked air in between his dull granite teeth. An Athens Destroyer.
The captain and his chief officer watched in silence as the Destroyer took up more and more of the portal’s space with its massive form.
When the Vonnegan ship was finally all the way through the portal, the freighter’s chief officer said, “Would you still like me to open a communication channel?”
The captain only shook his head, hoping the ship didn’t target his vessel with its cannons.
The Athens Destroyer took no interest in the cargo vessel, however. Instead, it immediately came to port, continuing past the Capesize Bulk and the planet Glyndwr and out into open space.
The captain’s eyes narrowed as he looked off into the distant stars. There was something about the constant light of some and the flickering of others that didn’t seem quite right. Then he gasped.
“Sir?” the chief officer said. But then he saw it too.
The nearest cluster of stars, hundreds of them, wasn’t a group of celestial bodies at all, but a fleet of Athens Destroyers, larger than any either of them had ever seen.
“My god,” the captain said, realizing that the Athens Destroyer he had just seen was only a single speck of light in a deadly constellation.
“Sir!” the chief officer shouted.
The captain looked down at the displays in front of him, then at the portal his ship was still facing. Another Athens Destroyer had begun to appear through the energy field. It only took a minute before both of them realized this ship wasn’t like the one that had just passed by them—or like any of the other Athens Destroyers they had seen during their years flying cargo across the galaxy. Instead of a gradual change from the front point of the ship to a long and expanding frame, this one jutted out much quicker. The little bit of the ship they could already see also had additional atomized steel columns—a sign that the ship needed more structural reinforcement against the various gravitational forces it might come across. There was only one reason it would need that. Because it was much, much larger than an average Athens Destroyer.
After passing through the portal for two entire minutes, only a fraction of the ship had appeared. And it was still getting larger. After another minute, the ship was coming close to touching the sides of the portal’s giant metal frame.
“My god,” the captain said again, the rocks in his throat cracking as he whispered the words.
The chief officer’s eyes were wide with wonder. “Have you ever see a ship that large?”
The captain couldn’t answer with words, only shook his heavy stone head. His own ship could be lined up with a dozen others just like it and they could all pass through the portal’s wide entrance without touching each other or the portal’s frame. A typical Athens Destroyer could be lined up with five other ships just like it and they could theoretically perform the same trick, although no general would ever be foolish enough to try the maneuver. But this ship took up nearly all of the space in the ring of cylinders. And still more of it passed through.
Each of the mammoth Destroyer’s cannons were the size of the captain’s cargo ship, which in turn was larger than any other ship near Glyndwr and rivaled the size of a standard Solar Carrier. One shot from any of the Destroyer’s guns and his entire Capesize Bulk and all its precious cargo would be no more.
When the Destroyer was finished passing through the portal, it too came to port and joined the rest of the fleet.
“What did we just see?” the chief officer asked.
The captain, who in the course of his long career had been a part of everything there was to see and do, usually hated the first mate’s naïve questions. This time, though, the question and the resulting answer suddenly made the captain want to break down and cry.
“Meteors of a troubled heaven,” the Gthothch said in a low grumble.
The captain looked at his chief officer and shook his head in a combination of annoyance and sadness.
“War, I think. And lots and lots of suffering.”
From inside the Supreme Athens Destroyer’s command deck, Mowbray Vonnegan stood at the windows that overlooked the expanse of space around him. Until the ship’s tinder walls rose, all he could see was flat gray panels. Still, he stared at them as if they offered the same sight as billions of stars.
When the Vonnegan fleet was rebuilt following the defeat at the Battle at Tevis-84, he had made sure his own ship would be crafted specifically to suit him. Not him, per se—he wasn’t any taller than an average Vonnegan, nor did he need unique accommodations. What he needed was a war vessel worthy of the leader of the Vonnegan Empire, with an arsenal of weapons the size of most other flagships. It meant twice as many crew members and three times more cargo bays filled with squadrons of Thunderbolts. Quite simply, it meant building a ship of such a size, and with weapons systems capable of destroying entire planets, that an enemy couldn’t help but be overcome with fear when they saw the ship.
Three centuries earlier, the Vonnegan king Murdroc the Incessant had married his second son to the Endoclin king’s daughter in an attempt to end the Seven Corners War. Their offspring were a hybrid of the two races, a species superior to both the violent and muscular Vonnegans and the quick and calculating Endoclins. The result was Mowbray, a man with a physique and facial features similar to that of a human, but taller, leaner, slightly out of proportion. At first sight, one might think Mowbray was dying of hunger because of how thin he looked. Upon closer inspection, though, one quickly saw that it was the proportions of his height—arms and legs that were much longer than a normal man’s, but with absolutely no body fat—which made him appear that way. The other feature that people commented most about him was his grayish purple skin and narrow eyes that revealed bright purple irises. The result was a king who looked like a normal man from afar, albeit an awkward man, but who looked more and more alien—and more deadly—the closer you got.