Indomitus Vivat (The Fovean Chronicles)

The Fovean Chronicles

 

Book Two: Indomitus Vivat

 

By Robert W. Brady, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start every adventure as if it is your last.  The person coming back from it is not going to be you.

The Fovean Chronicles

Book Two: Indomitus Vivat

© 2012 by Robert W. Brady, Jr.

 

 

 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical photocopying or through a retrieval system without the express permission in writing of the author, except by a reviewer who may publish excerpts as part of a review.

 

 

 

ISBN: 978-0-9793679-6-0

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used factiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

Cover art: Boris Vallejo

 

 

 

 

 

Second Printing

 

 

 

 

10   
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Dedication:

 

This book is dedicated to the memory of
Howard A. Rogers

 

I finally became a farmer.

 

 

Known Fovea

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

              The Almadain

 

 

 

     A white stallion that Men called ‘Blizzard’ stood with a Man on his back on a street made of stone, in a city made of stone, where arrows flew around him and magic crackled the air.  Screams from warriors and lesser horses tore his ears; blood and smoke and the acrid stink of fear filled his flaring nostrils.  He stomped a metal-shod hoof and brought sparks up from the ground, bobbed his head and snorted in anger while the Man debated with its mate on a lesser horse next to him.
     It hadn’t always been this way, the white stallion remembered.  He’d been free once.  He’d been
the Almadain
– first stallion and protector of his kind.  He’d run with the wind in his mane on the Wild Horse Plains, guarding the Herd That Cannot be Tamed, sacred to the goddess Life, the sun or the moon hanging over him, thick grass at his hooves, mares to breed with all around him, his sons and daughters as far as his brown eyes could see.
    But then the man-god Steel had come to him, and sent him south to the lands where Dwarves and Uman and
Men
dwelt, to find the one with hair light like his own, and blue eyes, and to carry that one forward on his back into a future unknown.
     The Almadain could have refused.  He had no love for Men.  Men had hunted his kind, come to steal his foals, his mares.  Men stank of the flesh they consumed, they made things that cut and stabbed, hard bits that pinched the gums and thick leather that chaffed the back and sides.  Men were killers no better than the loafer wolves that weeded out the sick and the weak from the herd, except that Men preyed on the strong.

 
    But Steel had shown the Almadain a future where this one Man ran free, with no horse to guide him, hunting where he would, feeling detached from the world.  In that future, the Man killed with a hunger worse than all of the loafer wolves that the Almadain had ever seen.  In that world, Men and Uman came by the hundreds and took the plains where the Herd ran, and enslaved or killed the Almadain’s kind, driving them under the lash in homage to the god War, sweeping out encased in armor to conquer and destroy.
     The Almadain could not really understand that hunger.  It wasn’t
horse-like
to want more grass than the herd could eat, to want to see farther than the edge of the plains.  These were man-thoughts.  But not understanding them didn’t make them unreal, and the Almadain needed no convincing what were the vices of Men.
     And so, the Almadain had left his herd, his mares, his foals, and turned south.  He’d found the Man and befriended him, borne him on his back, run with him into sharp steel and screaming men and horses.  Where the Man was strong, the Almadain had been strong as well, and together they had protected the Man’s herd.
     More importantly, in the quiet times after the battles, after the blood that flowed and the voices that screamed, while other horses stood trembling and fearing the next day, the horse called Blizzard and the Man called by many names had come together.  The Man had curried him with soft brushes, picked the dirt and worse from his hooves, stitched his wounded sides sometimes and run his fingers through his mane and tail.
     Sometimes in the dark of night, the man with white hair had taken the Almadain’s head in his arms and held it; and shook with grief and let the tears from his strange, blue eyes.  Sometime the man spoke softly to the horse, going on for a long time, not really saying anything with his words, but conveying with his scent and with the sound of his voice that the things he saw, that the things he
did
were as terrifying to he himself as to the Almadain and to the other creatures, the Dwarves and Uman and
Men
, whom they together visited these things on.
     In the quiet in the night and after the battles, the Man had come to love the horse, and the horse the Man in some ways.  The sacrifice had proven its worth – the Man might be a conqueror, a killer, a predator but, thanks to the love of a horse, not a monster.
     Steel heels touched the horse’s sides.  That meant start forward.  Blizzard bobbed his head and obliged, leading hundreds of horses not quite like him into the heat of battle, the smell of blood, the chaos of the worship of the god War.
     And before the violence wiped all other thought away, the horse called ‘Blizzard’ reminded himself that, in fact, the Man had not become a monster
yet.

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

              Exit, Stage Left

 

 

    
An important part of any invasion is what to do if you actually survive it. 

     Here I was in t
he center of Outpost IX, having just killed a
whole lot
of Trenboni citizens, corrupted the Scitai archers who had helped me pull that off, breached the gates of the city proper and then straight up threatened all and, yes, murdered some of the delegates to the Fovean High Council.  Uman-Chi Wizards, the best in the world (arguably after my beloved wife, Shela, who’d come with me alongside 5,000 Wolf Soldiers and 500 Aschire archers) where trying to rain down destruction and hell fire on us, and I had a problem.

     I couldn’t keep the city, so I really, really needed to leave it.  More importantly, I needed to leave it, and survive – preferably with those members of my entourage whom I hadn’t gotten killed already.

     I didn’t want to march back across the Silent Isle to the Scitai-occupied portion with every Trenboni warrior they could muster on my tail and their Wizards turning my soldiers into frogs, neither did I really believe that the Trenboni Navy would sit idly by while I boarded my Theran fishing vessels with my remaining warriors. 

     We double-time marched it to the wharves, now
almost four thousand strong.  There we found the merchant ships from the Free Legion Shipping company which Ancenon ran, but which we were all welcome to use any time we wanted to.  While I’d been making bloody war on the Trenboni and killing delegates to the Fovean High Council, Dilvesh, who bore the green symbol of the Free Legion, the question-mark turned upside-down, as our only Druid, had been commandeering Ancenon’s ships and ordering them to dump their cargo.  The ships had come here on legitimate business from the day before, and the Trenboni fleet had focused on keeping ships out, not in.  I’d arranged to have all manner of products shipped from Thera into Outpost IX, either directly or through other ports.  Ships come here on legitimate and actually pretty normal business brought no attention to themselves, and now it was just a matter of using them.

    
Each ship had orders to leave when her capacity in horse and warriors were onboard.  From there we made a mad dash to Thera and the safety of Eldador.

    
“Think that they’ll call for an embargo against us at the next council meeting?” Dilvesh asked me.  He, Shela and I took the same ship and had pulled away from port.  All around us our vessels were peeling away from the wharf as soon as they were loaded.

    
“I think we may see them before that,” I said.

     Dilvesh had his own reasons for doing this.  I knew them from what I had experienced with the Druid in Conflu. 
Dilvesh’ purposes might be his own, but they served mine here and now.

    
I spat into the ocean in the wake of my lead ship.  They’d come after Alekanna and the Free Legion because they thought there’d be no consequences for their actions.  Let them see the high price for guessing wrong.

    
Karel of Stone, the newest member of the Free Legion and the one whose mark was silver, had decided to stay on the Silent Isle. His people would be recognized as a part of the raid and might feel retribution.  Shela had promised to make an appearance on their portion of the Silent Isle if she had to.

    
“Sail, ho! Trenboni Tech Ship!” I heard from the crow’s nest. 

    
“Where away?” our captain called.  I didn’t know the man.  The sailors in Free Legion Shipping were Ancenon’s, not mine.

    
“To stern and closing, five sails!”

    
I turned and cross the wheel deck, putting my hands on the well-worn railing to stern, where I could see five ships pursued us, running against the wind. A mystical breeze that would affect no other ship propelled Trenboni ships.  I had marveled at them before but not now.

    
“We might have to put a few ships in their way to hold them while the rest escape,” Dilvesh told me.

    
I would do it if I had to but I didn’t like it.  I also didn’t think that our merchant ships were going to hold off the Trenboni for very long.  If they could overrun us then they would, and had plenty of time for it during the long voyage to Eldador from Trenbon.

    
“Shela?” I asked my wife.  She focused her eyes past the horizon, then closed them and turned back to me, shaking her head.

    
“Water is not my god,” she said.  “And Power isn’t in play here, not like he’d been in Outpost IX.  Those ships are the combined effort of powerful Wizards, White Wolf.  I am no match for them.”
     I nodded.  Shela wasn’t invincible; she’d just been smart about picking her battles.

    
I turned to the Druid standing to my left, dressed in his usual white robe and brown cowl, his curling green hair peeking out from underneath it.  His brown eyes searched to stern as mine had.

    
“The trick with the boards?” I asked him.

    
“I can,” he said, “but not before we’re in range of her weapons.  If I’m swimming for my life or on fire, I won’t be able to cast spells.”

    
And people thought I had a strange sense of humor.

    
I turned back to Shela standing to my right in her Andaran raider outfit – the black leather halter and skirt slit up the side, dressed in thigh-high boots with flat heels for riding and a black leather overcoat with narrow lapels and wide sleeves which would not inhibit an archer; the cut of its back down to just above her knees. 

    
“Is one of our other Wizards available?” I asked her.

    
She closed her eyes and then opened them immediately.  “I have Devinor,” she said.  “He is solid.”

    
“Have him attack us,” I said.

    
“What?”

    
“Shela, do it!” I told her.  “Set our sails on fire.  Dilvesh, make us take water – not a lot and nothing you can’t fix.  Remember we have horses.”

    
The Druid looked at Shela, Shela looked at me.  She shrugged and did what she’d been told.  He closed his eyes and followed suit.

    
A sailor screamed in our rigging when our sails exploded in a sheet of flame.  The ship lurched to one side a moment later, our sailors screaming “fire” and “breach” at the same time.

    
We were dead in the water; the Tech Ships would overtake us in a moment.

    
“They will sink us as they pass,” Dilvesh said.

    
“Prepare to repel boarders!” our captain cried.

    
“Belay that command!” I said.  The captain turned on his heel on the open poop deck and turned his face up to the wheel house to see who’d countermanded him. 

    
“Fight your fire, save your ship,” I commanded him.  “Leave boarders if there are any to us.”

    
He nodded and redirected the crew.

    
We waited breathless as the Tech Ships fanned out.  Magic eyes scanned us; my skin crawled at the thought of it.

    
“What are we doing?” Dilvesh asked me.

    
“There is a place where I am from where men go through the snow on sleds pulled by dogs,” I said.  “Sometimes there are wolves in these places.  When the wolves are starving, they will attack the men on their sleds, and outrun the dogs.”

   
“And?” Shela asked, irritated.  She’d almost exhausted herself, her will the only thing keeping her on her feet, and she likely wanted to see her daughter again.

    
“And sometimes, when you can’t fight the wolves, you push one man off of the back of the sled.  He dies, but the rest live.”

    
“I don’t want to be thrown to these wolves,” Dilvesh said. 

    
“If the wolves are smart, then they keep after the sled,” I said.  “More meat there, and you wouldn’t throw one to these wolves if you didn’t know you were no match for them.”

    
“You think they will bypass us and go after the fleet,” Shela said.

    
“I think they won’t waste their energy on a sinking ship,” I said.  “I think they’ll let Water have us and go after the rest.”

    
They closed on us.  We could see their sails, then we could see their sailors.

    
“We’re within their range,” the captain called to us from the poop deck.  His crew had confined the fire and but they’d done it with water.  The ship leaned badly, the man-powered pumps unable to keep up with the flow.  The horses screamed in the hold, Blizzard among them.

    
“Dilvesh?” I asked him.

    
“Still too far.”

    
They kept coming, fanning out, ready to pass us, or getting out of the way for one to take the shot.

    
“Dilvesh?”

    
“Soon.”

    
“She is powering her weapons,” Shela said.  “I can feel it.”

    
“Don’t do anything,” I said.  “They might just be checking to see if there is a Wizard here.”

    
“I won’t be able to protect us -” she said.

    
“You wouldn’t be able to anyway,” I interrupted her.  “Not against five ships and their Wizards onboard.”

    
She bit her lip.

    
We waited.  The shot didn’t come.

    
“By the power of Earth and Water,” Dilvesh shouted, reaching out a pale hand like a claw toward the Trenboni ships.  “I command thee, part!”

    
The nearest Tech Ship pitched forward as if it had hit a shoal.  Next the one beside it did the same, and then the other three.

    
Fire lanced out of the sky at us.  Shela lowered her head and held up her hand to protect the ship, her long black hair falling to cover her face.  The crow’s nest caught on fire.  Another sheet of flame came at us from another of the ships and again she held up her hand in defiance.

    
“Fix us, get us out of here, Dilvesh,” I said.

    
He intoned, and the fire on the ship blinked out.  I didn’t see the hull fix itself, but I had to assume it had.

    
“Captain, how long to rig sails?” I called.

    
“As fast as we bloody well can!” he told me.  He had better things to do than answer my questions.

    
Another wave of fire rippled across the ocean, followed by another effort by Shela to defend us.  This time they scorched the hull.

    
“I can help you,” Dilvesh said to Shela.

    
“A few more attacks like that and you will have to do it all,” she told him, her long, black hair already wet with her sweat.  “Such power!”

    
They’d already rigged the jib and unpacked the mainsail on deck.  The ship inched forward on that one small sail’s effort.

    
A bolt of lightning flew toward it.  Those Uman-Chi were no fools!  This time one of our own sailors stood up and took the blast, falling dead in the water that the rest of us might live.

    
“Such courage,” Dilvesh muttered.

    
“Dilvesh, fight their fire,” Shela said.  “I will take their energy attacks.  Can you give us rougher seas?”

    
“I might,” he said.

    
The sailors were hauling the mainsail.  The Tech Ships ported badly, one of them down to the water line.  Even if the Uman-Chi could repair their hulls they would have to pump out the water.

     Another light
ning bolt.  Shela fell to her knees.  It skipped across the deck and scored the rails.

    
The sailors kept hauling.  Dilvesh took up the fight for Shela.

    
“Sails up!” the captain called.  Dilvesh waved his hand in a circle over his head and then pointed at the mainsail.  It filled with wind and the ship lurched forward.

    
A sheet of flame overran the stern.  A blast of lightening blew out the side of the wheel deck.

    
Shela stood and held out her hand.  Another lightning bolt – she moaned as she diverted it.  Dilvesh squelched the fire.

    
The next sheet of flame didn’t make it to the ship.  A bolt of lightning seared the water of Tren Bay but didn’t touch us.

    
Shela passed out unconscious.  Dilvesh sat down next to her.

    
“Let’s not do any sledding,” he said to me.

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