Shadows in the Dust [Restless Series Book 1]
Click on image to enlarge.
by Will Molinar
Category: Horror/Science Fiction
Description: The infamous fallen general of a shattered kingdom, Marcus Ravenholt now rules in a dire land of despair and decadence. Dreaded wolves, skeletal warriors, powerful fallen heroes of a bygone age and other fell creatures of legend and undeath are his to command in a mockery of his past life. Now a new force with a dark secret has arisen to threaten him, drawing their recruits from the common people of the land to do battle with the vampire's inexhaustible legions. But are the men and the power behind them a force for good in this evil world or are they simply causing more trouble by inciting the wrath of the greatest warrior the kingdom has ever known? Find out in this brutal slug fest of living versus undead, of holy might versus unhallowed power in a land where the dead walk....
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2007 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: June 2007
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [438 KB]
Reading time: 297-416 min.
The warrior raised his sword to block the downward stroke of his opponent. The blinding sun glinted off both combatants' weapons as they clanged together. Taking advantage of the momentary lull, the warrior smashed his shield into his enemy's face. Blood sprayed out of his nose and onto the warrior's bright plate mail.
His next attack was blocked by his back-peddling opponent, who twisted and turned his feet on the rocky ground to avoid the vicious strikes. He was good, but the warrior knew he had him when he started feinting a bit too much. It was a ploy of desperation. He feinted again to the right, too high, and the warrior drove his blade into the man's throat. He gurgled and died, his jugular spurting blood in a single torrent.
Marcus Ravenholt stopped to remove his thick helm to not only breathe and rest but survey the battlefield. The scene before him was a chaotic swirl of madness. Blood and mud mixed together on the ground to create a pungent, sickening smell. Marcus was accustomed to that. Screams of pain and bellows of rage echoed through the air. He heard such sounds in his dreams.
This part of the battlefield was sparse with fighting. The main formations had scattered and broken apart, falling into small pockets of close quarter melee. Very little semblance of order was left. That did not bode well for Marcus and his compatriots.
He heard a sharp scream of pain behind him. Turning, he saw a man kneeling with his sword upraised to defend himself. The enemy soldier batted the weak defense aside with one blow. Marcus's ally was dead if he did not act soon.
He ran with purposeful swiftness and hacked the enemy's neck from behind. Blood squirted from the wound. Another strike severed his head from his body.
His comrade knelt down in the muddy ground while Marcus reached down to help him up.
"On your feet, soldier," Marcus said.
The man was stunned and rested his hand on the shoulder of his savor. "Thank you, Captain. I-I lost my shield." He glanced around the ruined field round them.
"Fight without for now or find another. We must move."
Around them, the storm had abated for the moment. But Marcus knew it was only a momentary lapse. He also knew there were pockets of fighting, knots of warriors hacking and bleeding. He needed to find such groups and bring them together in order to salvage something from this fiasco.
He could see a group of blue uniformed soldiers, men of his kingdom, over the rise of the closest hill. They fought in a frantic battle with men wearing black and silver. They were foreign invaders sent here by their greedy monarch to plunder and pillage his beloved land.
Marcus would not allow these hostile forces to gain the upper hand in this war. There was too much at stake. He grabbed the soldier he had saved and the two of them rushed off to join the fray.
He charged in, bellowing a monumental cry of war and smashing into the enemy line. He struck with shield and sword at once, bashing in one man's head with his shield and chopping down with his sword to cleave a man almost in half. The battle lust was upon him.
Marcus could see his own men fighting and they recognized him as an officer. He made eye contact with a man and shouted, "For Balidor!"
"For Balidor!" the man said and the rest took up the chant.
The men, buoyed by Marcus's presence and the benediction of their sovereign, redoubled their efforts. Soon, the nearest enemy were routed. Marcus took stock of their situation and counted up the number of available men within their group.
One of the men was a sergeant. Of the others, only twenty were still competent to remain fighting. He spoke with the remaining sergeant and had him pick two men to stay with the wounded and then with the rest they made their way to more pockets of resistance.
They gathered more and more men as they fought and defeated each enemy group they encountered. Marcus picked the smallest groups first until he had enough men on his side to feel confident in their ability to handle a larger threat. It was amazing to him how the ranks and strong formations of a few hours ago had disintegrated into such chaos.
No matter. He was here now and in command of over one hundred troops. In less than an hour he had collected them. Within their number were three sergeants and Marcus had them split into two separate groups, one he led himself, the other led by the most senior sergeant, a man named Valus whom he knew and trusted.
Marcus ordered Valus to guard his flank but stay close to him as they made their way up a ridge to an area of the battlefield Marcus knew well. It was where he had last seen the largest remnant of their combined force. If he could link up with others, they had a chance to forge a victory out of this day's fighting.
At the top of the ridge, the young captain saw the largest group of fighting he had seen since the disintegration of their formations. The enemy, with their black uniforms, was putting up a fine defense, using the rocky outcropping above them for cover and would not allow their opponents to surround them.
Marcus saw an officer among them and suspected the man had done the same as he and brought together as many troops as he could muster and was trying to build back a unit of worthy fighting status. He had a sizable group, one that might become a focal point for the enemy to rally to. Marcus could not allow that.
Sergeant Valus and his squad started forward but Marcus waved him back. He studied the rocky outcropping that overhung the back of the enemy formation. It was not very high; perhaps ten yards up. The area right above their heads was flat and accessible by a winding trail that started over from Marcus's position to the right. It would take only a few minutes to reach that trail and be right above the enemy, ready to pounce.
"Sergeant Valus," Marcus said.
"Yes, captain?" The man stepped forward and Marcus put his hand on his shoulder.
"Take all but twenty men, the twenty being those of a reckless nature and daring bravery, and support our comrades down below. The twenty go with me. Understand?"
"Not entirely sir, but I will do as you command."
Marcus smiled. "Understanding is not important, Sergeant. Taking action is what matters most in life. And your actions shall follow you to your grave and beyond. Now go!"
The man went, taking the majority of their men with him. First he counted off the men whom he knew to be the most reckless and wily, the men with no families and no sensibilities.
Marcus liked such men as these. They were useful in warfare. And even more so in instances like this. They were indeed rakish looking men. Most were covered head to toe in gore. One man was missing a ear and had a mashed nose. He looked like a freak Marcus had once seen as child when his father took him to the local carnival. Just the thing that was needed now.
The young captain did not even ask if they were ready. He just led them up the ravine and to the trailhead. He could hear the fighting from down below as they made their way through the thick underbrush of the forest. Sergeant Valus had made contact with the enemy. Marcus and his small squad needed to make their own entrance soon or all could be lost. The enemy had a superior position and greater numbers. But not for long.
They ran through the woods. All of the men had swords drawn and a lot of them were hacking away at the branches and shrubs that marred their path along the way. Most of the time it was unnecessary, the trail was well worn. It was just in their nature to be destructive. He had picked the right team for this.
Within a few minutes they reached the top of the outcropping of rock. Marcus peered over the edge and saw the enemy formation. They were locked up tight to the wall of rock at their backs. They held the push of Marcus's own men and even with the aid of Sergeant Valus they kept their feet thanks in large part to the protection of the rocky hill behind them. Marcus intended to put an end to that right away.
Marcus lined up his group up to the very edge of the small cliff looking down the line at them. They were all almost frothing at the mouth.
"May the Gods follow," he said and tossed his shield down into the throng of fighting. He saw the makeshift projectile sail downwards and clip an enemy warrior on the back of the head. His skull split open. Blood spewed. Other shields came down as well from his comrades, some flying off to the side to wreak havoc on the enemy.
Marcus jumped. His men followed, howling like animals, all twenty coming down on top of the enemy formation likes rocks in a landslide. Marcus opened his arms and caught two enemies at once by crashing down on top of them. He hit the ground in a heap.
The enemy did not know what hit them. Their sergeants shouted orders to maintain discipline but they did not know how to react well enough to the new threat. Their formation fell into disarray. Which is what the young Captain Ravenholt had hoped would happen.
He rolled to his feet amongst ally and foe alike. He parried with sword and kicked out with his iron booted foot at the same time. He was a whirlwind of motion and emotion. He screamed with rage and sliced open men's bellies all in the same breath. He kicked and chopped and punched anything that wasn't wearing the same colored uniform. He fought with wild abandon and the men reacted to his energy with energy of their own.
Their foe routed, stumbling over themselves to get away from the terrifying embodiment of death that was Marcus Ravenholt. He let them go. His men had more pressing matters to deal with. The battle was not yet won.