The Storm's Own Son (Book 2)

BOOK: The Storm's Own Son (Book 2)
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Blood and Wrath

 

Talaos picked up the door he’d used as a shield. It was cracked and thick with gore on its underside, but held together by its iron bracings. He stepped in front of his men and hurled it like a discus into the center of the enemy. The officer and those around him went crashing in ruin. Then Talaos howled, and he and his men descended like wolves on the startled, leaderless survivors.

 

 

The Storm's Own Son

Book Two

By Anthony Gillis

 

First Edition 2014

 

Published by Sol Invictus Publishing Inc

Cover design and interior artwork by Anthony Gillis

Copyright © 2014 Anthony Gillis

ISBN 9781310261923

 

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Find more books by the author at

 

AnthonyGillis.com

 

-AG-

 

 

 

Preface

 

This work is dedicated to all who live by their own free minds, hearts, and conscience.

 

Writing it was an intensely personal creative process, with a great many of my ideas, feelings and reflections on life woven into it, underneath the surface of the story. That said, it is not an allegory or a commentary on modern politics, religion, or events. I've tried to create a world with its own history, cultures, beliefs and ideas. I hope it is one you enjoy exploring.

It is also a story written by and for adults with an adult view of life. It contains explicit violence and sex. If these are not to your taste, feel free to pass it by. The Storm's Own Son is the first volume in the Storm and Fire trilogy, which itself is written as a single whole. For that reason, though this
volume tells a complete story arc, it does not tell the complete story.

 

The best to you,

 

Anthony Gillis

June
9, 2014

 

 

The complete Storm and Fire series comprises the following:

 

Volume I

The Storm's Own Son - Book One

The Storm's Own Son - Book Two

The Storm's Own Son - Book Three

 

Volume II

Mercy of the Prophet - Book One

Mercy of the Prophet - Book Two

Mercy of the Prophet - Book Three

 

Volume III

Master of Worlds - Book One

Master of Worlds
- Book Two

Master of Worlds
- Book Three

 

 

Other Books by Anthony Gillis

 

Blood on Bronze

Alien Empire

Jamaica Rum

Barrett's Bar Stories

 

 

The World of Storm and Fire

Partial Map Excerpt

 

 

 

The
World of Storm and Fire

Map of Hunyos

 

 

 

 

THE STORM'S OWN SON

BOOK
TWO

 

 

 

 

1
. Glory and Power

 

Lightning and thunder. The clash of weapons and voices shouting war cries. Darkness.

The afterlife?

He opened his eyes. There was a shadow looming over him, with the moon overhead.

A voice.

"There you are, Talaos!"

Larogwan stood over him, axe and shield in hand.

He stared for a moment, uncomprehendingly. Then he replied.

"How long have I been out?"

The old warrior made a pained effort at a smile in reply, "Oh, a long time... some minutes at least."

Minutes?
He snapped to. The clash of weapons was real enough. He could hear battle somewhere below. He was in the pass.  He twisted himself up to sit. Agony wracked through his entire body. Some of his wounds split open again.

"Are you mad?" said Larogwan in reaction, "Stay put! I'm starting to believe the idea of you as some kind of son of the storm, because you must have lighting in your veins. There's not enough blood left to pump."

Talaos laughed, a hoarse gasping laugh, and immediately felt more pain. "In Carai, they used to call me the storm's own son," he said weakly.

"Well that does fit, doesn't it? But now man, wait until we carry you."

"No."

With that, Talaos rolled forward to his knees. Pain filled his body like fire. He raised one knee and planted a foot on the ground. He felt for his swords, then realized with a start they were still gripped in his hands. By force of will, he rose.

"You look like death," added Larogwan, watching him.

"I feel like it too, so at least we're in agreement..." muttered Talaos with a faint smirk.

Then he felt his legs almost give way. He mastered it, stood straight and looked around him. Down the valley below, the enemy was in full retreat.  Footmen mingled with horsemen, some fighting, others fleeing, yet others being run down by their pursuers.

The pursuers looked to be almost the entirety of Adriko's little force. The cavalry were on what was, looking downhill, the right flank. It had been the enemy's left during their assault. In the center were the Aledri spearmen, still in good order. On the left, the Madmen howled and slew. Adriko was with them, stabbing foes from horseback, and the irregulars were behind them.

Talaos started forward to follow them, but then his legs almost collapsed again.

"They've got it handled. I think you might have done enough for one night," said Larogwan, reaching to help him,
then seeming to think better of it.

Talaos paused, sighed,
then laughed. It hurt again. "With all that, how did I avoid getting trampled?" he mused to Larogwan.

"Look around you..." answered Larogwan, sounding a bit surprised.

Yes, he thought, the view did seem a little too high for this stretch of the slope. He looked down. They were atop a small hill of corpses, more than six feet high.

"They went around your little mountain, it was easy enough," added Larogwan.

Talaos put his blood-caked hand to his chin in thought. "So what happened?" he asked.

"You threw so much havoc into the cavalry that they stopped advancing to help their friends. At that point, Adriko saw his chance and counterattacked with the spearmen and our cavalry. We Madmen did our part too, and their infantry formation broke amid the mess. They started falling back all out of order. All the cavalry circling around trying to kill you actually got in their way when they wanted to retreat, and... Well you can see the rest."

Talaos stood silently for a while, watching below and feeling his strength slowly recover, though the pain remained intense.

Down below, the enemy had reached the plain, and there they began to gather again.  The remaining cavalry covered the men who'd been on foot, as the latter jumped on horses.  It was impressive, he thought, how organized they stayed even now. They knew how to fight wars in Hunyos.

As the enemy ceased to rout, Adriko seemed to think better of following them out onto the open plain. Even so, the enemy themselves seemed to be keen to avoid a further fight. Their green-cloaked commander shouted orders, and they formed up, facing Adriko's force.

With the blow of horns, the enemy turned, wheeled fast, and rode away at a gallop. They were in good order, but with fewer than four hundred of their eight still remaining. They left their dead, their wounded, their baggage, and the field of battle as they rode north into the moonlit distance.

While Adriko and the main force watched the plains beyond, the Madmen returned back up the valley. As they approached, Larogwan turned to look at Talaos. The latter thought the old warrior showed a mix of emotions. Sympathy yes, but also something else. He looked unsettled.

"They were angry enough to stab at you for a bit after you fell," Larogwan said, "and though I'm glad you are
, it really makes no sense to me at all why you're still alive."

 

~

 

Adriko wasted no time on celebrations of victory, or on anyone's desire for rest. When the enemy was safely gone, he put everyone to work rounding up the numerous stray horses, the baggage train, and then anything of use or value that could be found on the battlefield. Every man able to hold steady on a horse, experienced rider or not, was put on one. Their wounded, those who were too weak to ride, were loaded on the wagons of the supply caravan, and some of the supplies in turn were loaded on the plentiful extra horses.

They gathered their dead, fifty of the original three hundred men, and piled them under an earthen cairn at the top of the hill on the east side of the pass. They worked through the night, and in the dark hours before dawn, set forth with two hundred men mounted, fifty wounded riding carts, and a vastly increased quantity of supplies and gear of war.

The enemy wounded and dead were left to their fate on the field behind.

Talaos and the Madmen had reclaimed their horses during the general sweep. He rode his in endless, weary pain, and in silence. No one around him sought to break that silence for a long while. He'd scavenged a plain gray cloak from the battlefield and wore it over his black rags.

At last, as dawn could be dimly discerned through the still looming black clouds in the east, Kyrax saw fit to grumble. His eyes squinted east under his thick black brows.

"Why in the hells are those clouds still there? Not natural, if you ask me."

"Well... anyone want to ask Kyrax a question he just answered?" jibed Larogwan.

Talaos, however, thought about what Kyrax had said. It was at certainly strange that banks of clouds should linger that long, even out over the sea, without breaking into a storm, dissipating, or at least moving on.

He found himself wishing they would move, this way, with a mighty thunderstorm to wash the brooding darkness from his spirit.

Firio rode up, his thin face looking cheerful.

"Talaos, do you think you might be immortal?"

Talaos laughed, "Immortal?"

"You know, like you don't die. They say the Living Prophet is immortal, so why not other people?"

Low, black, grim chuckles passed among the Madmen as they all rode onward.

With every step of his horse, Talaos's body wracked with pain. "I can't say I feel very immortal right now. Not dying isn't the same as can't die."

Firio smiled.

Talaos, for his part, hoped the Living Prophet could die.

 

~

 

As the morning wore on, exhaustion did as well, and some of the men began to grumble. Adriko, however, pressed on as fast as the wagons could manage. Around mid-morning, and  half a day or so from Avrosa, they saw a tremendous dust cloud coming their way north from the besieged city.

Groans passed down the line.

Adriko dispatched two scouts to ride hard ahead and have a look. They soon returned.

"Warlord
Kurvan, and a relief column!" reported one.

Adriko rode down the line with a hand raised to get everyone's attention,
then spoke.

"All right, men," he said with a smile, "Help's here. I think we can slow our pace."

They did so, and after a little while the hillman warlord rode up with a force of about five hundred light cavalry in ordered companies, and a vast swarm of hillmen and mercenary irregulars, a thousand or more, following them and flanking them far out into the country on either side of the road.

As the warlord rode up with his chieftains and officers in tow, Adriko gave him a weary smile, saluted, surveyed the sprawling horde behind,
then spoke.

"I didn't think we had that many men to spare..." Then, mustering some presence of mind, he added "...sir."

Kurvan growled at him in what might have been a laugh. If bears laughed. "More of my lads have been making their way to Avrosa through the back country. A fair number of Basivras's surviving rogues heard the good news that we were around. They didn't want to miss out."

Adriko managed a faint smile, "Even better then.  We're glad you're here. You must have set out almost as soon as you got the news."

“Not too long after," growled Kurvan. "Ha! Some difference we made! Looks like you did all right though. Take a rest for an hour or two. We'll keep an eye out. Then, let's get back."

Adriko nodded, and turned with a brighter smile to give the news to his men.

 

~

 

They formed up to return to Avrosa, with Kurvan's forces gathered like a protective cloud around Adriko's little army.  Kurvan invited Adriko and Talaos to join him at the
head  of the main column, while Lurios was delegated direct command of Adriko's force. After a battle followed by hard labor, with many hours of travel on either side, and no sleep, the others were exhausted. Talaos, still in great pain, felt weary to the core.

They rode on for a while in silence, passing the wooded countryside to the west as it gradually rose again towards the hills near Avrosa. To the east, the farms on the coastal plain remained deserted. The clouds, far out at sea, were slowly continuing to grow darker and pile higher.

Kurvan rode front and center, with Adriko at his right and Talaos to his left. His hill chieftains and a pair of mercenary commanders rode a little distance behind, while the cavalry officers had returned to their units.

"Nice weather, eh?" he growled to his companions.

"I was thinking strange might be the right word," said Adriko lightly. While they'd rested, he'd washed, put on fresh clean bandages and changed into a new clean tunic. With  the change his easy manner had returned.

Kurvan knitted his shaggy brows. "It is. It used to do that sometimes when I was younger. You would've been a boy, Adriko.  East and west winds fighting it out over the sea.
Clouds piling up till they'd made a made a monster of a storm. Kind that sinks ships and flattens villages. Haven't seen it in a long time, maybe twenty-five years or more."

The warlord turned to Talaos, who still wore his tattered clothes and scavenged cloak.

"Probably don't get too many storms that big over in the sunny Republic, eh, Talaos?"

"Not often," replied Talaos."They said there was a storm like that out of the east, the night I was born. I guess it would have been from this part of the sea."

Kurvan gave him a craggy grin. "That fits. I like it."

Then a new thought seemed to cross the warlord's mind. He looked ahead toward Avrosa.

"Figured I'd save you lads the pain of reports and questions till you get back to camp. That said, my lads have been talking to yours." He shook his head and made his growl of a laugh. "They have some stories!  I hope you lads can give them more things like that to talk about. We'll need 'em when it comes time to take, maybe storm, the city." With that, he leaned over in the saddle toward Talaos, eyeing his rags and scars. "And you ought to start wearing armor, lad."

Adriko held the reins in one hand, and put the other to his chin. He turned to Kurvan. "Storming the city, eh? I'd guess they're thinking of taking that risk because of our friends up north coming to crash the party."

"That's right," replied Kurvan. "They show up with twenty thousand, or more, last thing we want is to be stuck outside the walls. Not at a city full of more enemies."

"Besides that, how are things at Avrosa?" asked Adriko.

The wind picked up a bit, with a breeze from the east blowing the grass  in little waves across the plain. Overhead, some gulls flew inland.  Kurvan stretched his massive frame in the saddle, then spoke. "We're still in good order. There's grumbling about the fleet not getting here. People forget it means the enemy fleet is tied up too. Strange stuff going on in Avrosa itself."

Something about the way Kurvan had said that made Talaos think of his journey from Ipesca, and what the refugee leader had said about Avrosa.
About things involving the Living Prophet. He turned to Kurvan.

"Strange?" he asked.

BOOK: The Storm's Own Son (Book 2)
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