Who doesn’t like a good free story? Well, the person not making any money off all the free copies flying away, that’s who! But, I wouldn’t have made it free if I didn’t care! So this week is for all of you who like a good tale of betrayal, all out war, and the end of an era. I first began Law of the Heretic back in high school. Not caring for the story, I dumped 120 hand written pages. It wasn’t until my 2nd tour of duty in Korea in the late 90s when I revisited the idea. Thus the story you see before you. Sadly, I never finished the series until last year, but now it is out and ready for all of you to devour and enjoy.
Law of the Heretic
The sun peeked out from behind the thick veil of dark, troublesome clouds, delivering proud testament to the beauty of the world below. Summer was drawing to a close, but not without giving up the last of its yearly prizes. Flowers of every color blanketed fields like vast oceans. Song birds arc through treetops, resplendent in their colors. Oh what freedom to avoid being trapped by earthly constraints.
Far away on the edge of the horizon loomed lofty mountain crags where fledgling dragons spread their wings for the first time and left their lairs in search of food. Predators lurked among the reeds of the river banks, carefully watching herds of deer graze. Life and death continued at the same stable pace that it had since time immemorial. All seemed right.
But as with most things, looks were deceiving. Beneath the blanket of manipulating tranquility a storm brewed. Thunder rumbled across the plains from sights unseen. Animals shifted nervously, suddenly anxious to find the source of their fear. The land went quiet as bird and beast alike hurried for sanctuary. Dust clouds littered the horizon, announcing the arrival of the minions of war. Horses, great steeds bred for singular purpose, drove hard across the open plains, effortlessly spurred by warriors in sparkling gold armor.
Battle axes and bows bounced along with half-emptied saddle bags. The heavy clank-clank of steel clashing was intimidating. Proud white banners embroidered with a gloved fist of gold waved magnificently among the ranks. A hawk screeched from high above. A herald. The horse soldiers continued across the plains, pushing ever closer to their targets.
No smiles did their faces betray. No faint echo of a past happiness to detract from the mission. There was no room for emotion or sympathy when the Golden Warriors were unleashed. Only the cold reality of steel. Their numbers weren’t that of an invading army, but at fifty strong, they were more than a match for the challenges ahead.
Lord Aron Kryte led the charge. His hazel eyes squinted through the sunlight as he followed the trail left by the scouts. He kept his helm tied down to the saddle, allowing his shoulder length, dirty blond hair to flow freely. His jaw was stern, belying ruggedly handsome features. Scars from more than a dozen engagements decorated his body and matched his attitude. Kryte was a servant of the Hierarchy.
At thirty-five and with only seventeen years of service, he was well on the path to becoming one of the highest ranking men to earn the title of Golden Warrior. His reputation as being a fiery leader who always placed himself in harm’s way propelled him through the ranks faster than any in the last hundred years. Strongly built and bred for war, Aron Kryte was the consummate professional. Peace was his ultimate goal but the minions of darkness had other designs on the future.
He slowed his company to a halt. Bred to run for days and charge straight into a fight, the horses were winded and needed rest. Aron dismounted, his eyes never leaving the distant mountains. Worse, he’d lost the trail. An ill omen. He felt the presence of his second in command behind and smiled. The old man had practically raised him.
“I fear the scouts are dead. Their tracks are gone and there is sign of a struggle. Look at the grass here and here. The break in that sapling is not natural either. Dismount the men and have them search the immediate area for blood sign or bodies.”
Amean Repage turned and relayed the orders, taking the opportunity to remove his helmet and run a gloved hand through his sweat slickened hair.
“Which way would you go?” Aron asked.
Amean, the grizzled veteran, scratched his iron grey beard in thought. “The young dragons will no doubt be out hunting this time of year. He’s no fool. It’s the forest or nothing.”
“Reasonable,” Aron agreed. “But something about this mess doesn’t feel right.”
Amean gazed hard at his friend. “Aron, my boy, nothing is ever what is seems. Have you ever wondered why we’ve never been able to find the Rover’s camp?”
Aron cocked his head, confused. “Why do you bring that up?”
“Amuse me. We’ve never found them because they don’t have a camp. Ever since the war with Aragoth they’ve been skulking, moving about so as not to be caught while plotting revenge. Plotting and waiting. They never strike unless numbers are in their favor and always disappear as quickly as they arrive. They’re not going to stop until revenge has been extracted.”
“Or they’re all dead,” Aron added.
“Some of the population is on their side. The drunks and degenerates serve as eyes and ears while thugs and petty rebels keep alert. It’s a flawless system, almost. How easy is it to lead an insurrection than by looking like the everyman?”
Aron smiled at him. “If I didn’t know better I’d say you were one of them.”
Amean laughed. “No. I simply like knowing who it is I’m supposed to kill.”
“Lord Kryte,” a young trooper called. “We have completed our search of the area and found nothing.”
Aron frowned. He edged the toe of a boot through the matted grass and into a small dribble of blood. Rage was building. His men were missing and every instinct screamed ambush. “Mount up. We move.”
The trooper saluted and hurried back to the others.
Aron clasped his hand on his mentor’s shoulder. “To the forest. I want to catch them before sundown.”
His company was already back in gear and mounted. Aron nodded satisfaction and did the same. Tapping his heel to his horse’s flank, he began what he hoped was the last leg of their hunt. The thunder of two hundred hooves rumbled again. They splashed across the large stream, spooking predator and prey. The displaced water showered down upon them, adding an almost god-like quality. As the minutes ticked away and the leagues rolled by, the Golden Warriors quickly stole upon the forest where a nest of trouble awaited.
The forest was alive with the buzz of insects and chirp of birds. None were concerned with the rough looking man crouching silently beneath the boughs of a pine. He wore thick furs that made him look like a beast. Menacing streaks of grey and black paint lent savagery to his appearance. Weapons, hidden under his guise, lay waiting for the chance to kill again. He lifted his face to the winds and sniffed. Disappointment scrawled across his face. He detected nothing. Waiting was always taxing.
He’d been in this same position for over a day without changing results. Wild creatures came and went, never bothering to pay heed. He did after all, reek with compounding stench of sweat, fear, and blood. Even after countless hours of vigil he maintained faith that would eventually be rewarded. Only when the enemy arrived was he satisfied.
He espied glimpses of them through the myriad trees and scrub brush. Gold shined with arrogance as they followed a deliberately set path through the forest. Nothing more he could do from here, he left his post. Any delay now and he would be run down mercilessly, tortured until he gave up all pertinent information. He’d served his purpose and now raced to join the other Rovers for the coming fight.
Darting through the underbrush with speed and lethality, the scout was almost successfully in his departure. Almost. Two spears leveled in front of him, dangerously close to piercing his throat. He snarled, taking a step back that was abruptly halted by the unforgiving jab of a third. Speaking in guttural tones, they laughed before letting him pass. The scout snarled, angrily brushing the spears aside before continuing into the heart of the temporary camp.
Rovers moved about, all preparing for battle. The scout marched past with head high, shoulders back. He knew the information he carried was vital to their success. Warriors sharpened sword and spear. The grind and spark of steel being honed echoed around the camp. The scout knew he was already ahead of his peers for he had been sent on his mission expecting battle. Now, with the leader in sight and patiently waiting for his report.
Crouched upon a massive boulder half covered with moss and the detritus of age, the Rover leader wasn’t looking forward to what the scout had to say. Perhaps it would be good news, but the Golden Warriors were never casual in their approach to war. He had only twenty fighters against a full troop of hardened cavalry. Not even their tenacity would be enough to blood the warriors enough to achieve victory. The coming fight was inevitable. His party had raided a nearby village- demanding response from the Hierarchy.
“What have you seen, Vryn?” he asked, folding his arms.
The scout bent slightly, placing his hands atop his knees in an attempt to get his breath back. Through panting gasps, he managed to say, “They come. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to reach us.”
The clearing erupted in renewed activity as word instantly rippled through the camp. Ute Hai wasn’t much concerned. There was still plenty of time for final preparations, or a hasty escape.
“Good” Ute murmured. “Is our surprise in place?”
“Take your position with your men and prepare. This is going to be an important day for the Rovers, young Vryn.”
Vryn left, giving Ute Hai ample opportunity to go over his ministrations for revenge. What he wanted was more than the simple conflict between the Rovers and Hierarchy. It was one man attempting to avenge the past against another. How sweet it will be. After all these years, Aron Kryte will get what he deserves.
You know you want to read more: Law of the Heretic: Immortality Shattered Book I