Why Do Things Work The Way They Do?

If I knew the answer to that I’d be a millionaire, or maybe just a thousandaire….who knows. The possibilities are endless. My first two books remain free on Kindle and Nook. I was initially skeptical about this tactic but it seems to be working. Or does it? Hammers in the Wind and Tides of Blood and Steel were actually written as one book while I was stationed at West Point. My publisher said they wanted a series so I plunged in with a knife and spoon and turned it into a six volume end all series for the second world I created: Malweir. Of course I came up with the name BEFORE the internet was a big deal….

While the Northern Crusade series is moving and grooving, Hammers is up to 135 reviews as of this writing, I find my other (first) novel: Armies of the Silver Mage, appears to be struggling. Sure, it is selling nicely, but it is a standalone novel set in the same world a few hundred years before Hammers. I wrote Armies during my downtime in Afghanistan in 2002-2003. Armies only has 38 reviews and is technically the first of a series of separate novels all in the same world running through a very long and elaborate timeline. I don’t get it.

Both books are free. Both are good stories (I think) but one seems to be running a sprint while the other looks like gearing up for a marathon. One day I will wind up with a large publisher and an agent (or so I hope) and who knows what will happen then. For those of you unfamiliar with either, I suggest you swing over and check one or both of them out. After all, it’s only going to cost you a little time. Read on, my friends.

A snippet of Armies of the Silver Mage to entice you.

Half a continent from the sleeping forests of Relin Werd stood the Gren Mountains, the treacherous boundary between Averon and the wicked land of Gren. Here the war was very much a reality, not just mere speculation over a mug of ale and a leg of venison. Soldiers of Averon met the enemy in engagements that no one ever heard. Skeletons littered the rocky pass between kingdoms. Whatever fragile peace the capital of Paedwyn pretended to enjoy was lost in this largely forgotten part of the world.

Strong winds ravaged the rocky terrain, funneling through the mountain passes and picking up speed and intensity before unleashing across the open slopes of the Gren Mountains. Dark skies kept the air damp and dour enough for the intruders to quickly lose hope and return the way they had come except for the three mounted soldiers, who silently rode through the lower foothills of the eastern range. Black and purple skies laden with thunderstorms kept the sun perpetually hidden here. Lightning raked the slopes around them, warning them to turn back lest the hour grew too late. A thunderclap trembled the ground.

“We should turn back!” one of the soldiers shouted.

Sergeant Hallis, the scout leader, ignored him, noting how quickly the young and inexperienced trooper was ready to give up. The land of Gren had been besieged by nature since the Silver Mage first took power, over two hundred years ago. It was rumored that Gren was once a gilded land of a different name, but history was forgotten in response to the great evil threatening the world. Hallis himself had joined the army of Averon out of necessity. A flux swept through the kingdom, claiming hundreds, including his parents. Having nothing to keep him at home, Hallis left to join the army.

He reached the rank of sergeant and was nearing the end of his third decade of service. Most of his duty had been spent on the wrong side of the Gren Mountains, scouting and spying on enemy movements. It was a learned skill that was almost second nature to him. He barely noticed the weather anymore. Normally he wouldn’t have taken such a green trooper, but there was little choice. Despite years of waiting, the army of Averon wasn’t prepared for the war everyone knew was coming. There just wasn’t enough time to get ready.

Hallis didn’t have the luxury to worry about what was happening back at Paedwyn. Assigned to the garrison at the mountain fortress of Gren Mot, his job was to scout out the enemy and report any actionable intelligence.

“Keep quiet and watch me, Troop,” Hallis barked at the lad. He wanted to say more but knew it was useless. This was the boy’s first mission and no amount of class work or indoctrination was enough to prepare him for the horrors surrounding them.

Flames pockmarked the landscape as far as the eye could see. Scrub brushes void of greenery were the last remnants of a pristine empire. All of the Fair races fled west after a brutal campaign to oust the Silver Mage was lost. Nothing now grew upon the soiled plains. Nothing lived in the fetid waters. The mountains were filled with hordes of Trolls and worse. Goblins and other foul beings lived in the low country, dwelling in vast underground caverns. Hallis knew his patrol was being watched even now.

Most patrols were fielded with the instructions of monitoring only. King Maelor had been concerned with enemy movements and troop buildups for years now and was eager to learn the disposition of his foe. For Hallis, this patrol was unlike any other. Three separate patrols had been sent out the week prior and none returned. Concern was rising that the enemy was at last ready to move. He’d accepted the task because it was a soldier’s duty to follow orders, whether he liked them or not. What he didn’t accept were the men assigned to him. His complaints fell on deaf ears and three short days later they were inside the realm of the enemy. The third scout reined in close to Hallis and said in a low voice, “Do you think he may be right?”

Hallis finished a hasty drink from his canteen. “I’ve been thinking that since we left Gren Mot, Jinse.”

Older than Hallis, Jinse offered a weak laugh. “So have I. We shouldn’t be on the same patrol, at any rate. What good would it do for both of us to get killed at the same time?”

“Orders are orders,” Hallis answered.

His friend picked up on the meaning even as the words left his mouth. They both knew the garrison commander at the mountain fortress was an intolerable man who expected his subordinates to obey his every command without question. Jinse also knew that Hallis had been around long enough to put the lives of his men first. The rest of Averon may still be safe behind the illusion of peace, but combat was very real here on the border.

“We should have seen signs by now,” Hallis scowled after they rode another hour. “I don’t like this at all.”

Lightning and thunder emphasized his point.

“The winds are picking up,” Jinse remarked. “This is getting dangerous.”

Hallis smiled. “It’ll make the ale that much better when we get back.”

He was going to say more when they rounded a corner and came face to face with a vast plain, normally empty. His eyes widened in horror at what he now saw. Thousands of campfires and campaign tents stretched as far as they could see and into the darkness beyond. Squat, grey bodies in leather armor blanketed every inch of the land. Hallis just barely made out enormous creatures pulling siege machines closer. He’d seen and fought Trolls and Goblins before, but had never imagined an army so large. The people of Averon long believed the impending war was inevitable. Not even the king’s top advisors could predict when though. Hallis stared at the answer and the fear that came with it.

“This isn’t good,” Jinse said, his throat suddenly dry.

Hallis sat still and watched. He’d already given up trying to count. The rookie didn’t fare so well. Barely past his teen years, the trooper was on the verge of snapping. Never in his days did he actually expect to go to war. Yet here he sat, locked on the brink of a fate inescapable. Doom was returned to the world of men. The veterans noticed his wild look and moved to keep him from doing something brash.

A lightning bolt blasted a nearby rock into a shower of sparks and pebbles, spooking all of their horses. The rookie was thrown into a boulder before his horse ran off in the direction of the Goblin camp. Jinse was the first to recover and desperately dashed after the horse before it was too late. Hallis immediately went to his fallen trooper. He was halfway there when Fate intervened.

Black arrows rained down on the fallen trooper, killing him instantly a dozen times over. Hallis snatched his shield in a useless effort, for the enemy was on both sides. The assault ended with a horrible roar from the rocks above. A Mountain Troll burst from cover, mighty war hammer in hand and squads of Goblins at his heels. Hallis was cut off. Jinse wheeled about and drew his sword. The odds were against them and they knew it. Then Jinse did something Hallis didn’t expect. The grizzled old veteran roared back at the Troll and charged into their ranks.

“Go!” he bellowed to Hallis.

The last thing Hallis saw was his friend plowing into the enemy. One of them had to live to warn Averon. Jinse chose Hallis. Both men spurred their horses hard; one into certain death and the other back into the mountain passes. Jinse offered the ultimate sacrifice and Hallis would be damned if he let it go to waste. The garrison at Gren Mot had to be warned. He feared the fate of the entire kingdom depended on it.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: