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Authors: Vaughn Heppner

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Leviathan (Lost Civilizations: 2)

BOOK: Leviathan (Lost Civilizations: 2)
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Novels by Vaughn Heppner

The Ark Chronicles:

People of the
Ark

People of the Flood

People of
Babel

People of the Tower

Lost Civilizations:

Giants

Leviathan

The Tree of Life

Gog

Behemoth

The Lod Saga

The Doom Star Series:

Star Soldier

Bio-Weapon

Battle
Pod

Cyborg Assault

Planet Wrecker

Alternate Europe Series:

The Doomfarers of Erin

Dead Man's Moon

The Dragon Horn

The Assassin of Carthage

Other Novels:

The Great Pagan Army

The Sword of
Carthage

The Rogue Knight

Invasion: Alaska

Strontium-90

Leviathan

(Lost Civilizations: 2)

by Vaughn Heppner

Copyright © 2010 by the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

Chapter One

The Giant’s Spear

[Goliath’s] spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.

-- 1 Samuel 17:7

He who had been Lord Skarpaler, the war chief of the Bloodspillers, trudged across a vast plain of grass. He did not feel the wind on his stone face, or the sun on his granite skin. Pressure on the bottom of his feet, however, told him the solid earth was beneath him.

His obsidian chip eyes allowed him to see bounding antelopes as they fled his approach. Each leapt higher than his neighbor did—creatures with the agility of grasshoppers. Later, shaggy bison, with murderous horns, lowed complaint at him. A huge bull pawed the earth, but wisely turned and trotted elsewhere. Purple flowers bloomed in the sunlight as bees buzzed around them.

With stone ears, the former Lord Skarpaler heard an eagle cry as it soared above, hunting for carrion. Sparrows clung to waving stalks, chirping to their young. Mostly, however, the trolock animated with the spirit of he who had been Lord Skarpaler, heard the thud of his many-ton step. He was over eight feet tall, a monstrosity of articulated stones and boulders shaped to resemble a man. When he walked across embedded stone, he heard a clack, like millstones smashing. When he paused at a small pool of water, he saw a thing with a catapult-stone head.

Once, a sabertooth with ugly neck wounds roared with fright, standing over a slain carcass. He who had been Lord Skarpaler ignored the savage beast. It could no more harm him than the eagles could, or the sparrows that flew in their mindless flocks, or the panicky rabbits that bounded out of his path. Despite its obvious reluctance, the sabertooth wisely limped to safer grounds.

The Avenger, the stone trolock, the man who had been Lord Skarpaler, moved across the wind-swept plain, the endless expanse of waving grass with its occasional gnarled tree. Sleep was a foreign idea. No longer did he need it in order to refuel his limbs. Meat or bread ground by his teeth, and swallowed down his throat, seemed like a bizarre concept. Only one thing gave him sustenance, and it was because of this one vital nutrient that he headed south.

He felt the fiery glow of death, spirits violently torn from their shells, and sped to their new destinations. He hungered for the far-off glow. It quickened him a little, as the thought of feasting renewed him with energy. Then, even from his distant vantage, he felt the intense heat of a Nephilim’s death. Of course, men also died, he knew the feel of their blaze to a nicety. But the death of a Nephilim intrigued him.

He needed to learn who the new powers of this age were. He marched south to discover who dared war against Nephilim.

His was not a quick stride. He was still too cold. The warm wash of death, of released spirits, showed him how starved he truly was. Only in the days of glory had he known quickness. Then, he had fought beside the Master, as they roved the battlefields, and fed on death. To crush the life from a man—that was sweetness, warmth and rapture of feasting. He craved it, and knew that without it he would soon nod into eternal slumber. He would become little more than a strange rock formation.

Too often, however, as he journeyed south, he stopped, laboriously knelt on one stony knee and studied ants as they carted dead bugs to their nest. Or, he watched a bee buzz around a sunflower, land on the yellow petal and crawl into it. The grass as it swayed in the breeze, what a marvel that was. These were not trolock thoughts, but long ago memories of Lord Skarpaler. He was too cold, he knew. If he could warm himself, these feelings of pitiful weakness would depart. Then, he could plot to feast more. Then, he could find a way to bask continuously in the warmth of violently given death. Then, he could become the life-bane that he’d been fashioned to be.

An hour later, he trudged up a grassy knoll. When he came to the top, he stopped. Below was a new sight. He’d never seen it before, even as Lord Skarpaler. A vast, green body of water spread before him. Could the warmth of battle have occurred here?

As a trolock, he rumbled a sound in his chest. Seagulls screamed in fright, exploded into flight and flapped away for a safer place. He shuffled down the hill, examining the shore. Corpses lay strewn, washed by the pounding surf. Their spirits had fled to wherever they went after death. Sadly, he could not feast. He halted before he stepped onto the sand. He studied the tracks.

They imprints in the sand were of men, sabertooths and giants.

He smiled. Here is where the Nephilim had perished. He rumbled again, laughing as best he could. But he was so cold. Where on this empty beach could he find warmth, the nourishment he craved?

He saw something intriguing, something possibly helpful. It was long, and had an outrageously large spearhead. He stomped across the soft sand, sinking well past his ankles, and forced himself to bend at the waist. The surf had washed up a giant’s spear. It was a mighty weapon, too large for a man to use well. There was a notch on that two-foot, iron head. It was black iron, Bolverk-forged, something that might stab a trolock without shattering.

He hefted the spear, the oaken shaft that to a man would seem more like a pole. Once, as Lord Skarpaler, he’d wielded such weapons, although smaller. He’d been quite skilled with the spear, able to hurl it through hoops the size of dinner plates from fifty yards away. His granite smile grew. Perhaps he could use the spear to slay Nephilim. A Nephilim soul, as it departed to otherworldly realms, roared with a hot breath. It always quickened him more than mere humans did. Animals, unfortunately, gave him nothing.

Then, his holy quest overwhelmed him, and he knew rage. “Desecrator,” he rumbled, thinking of the First Born who had dared enter the crypt of Draugr Trolock-Maker. The arrogant First Born would warm him better than any Nephilim would, better even than a tribe of men. He would bask in such a death, and grow unnaturally quick. Perhaps once, long ago in the past, he’d fought beside such beings. But the old days of glory had passed.

He who had been Lord Skarpaler turned east. The First Born had marched in that direction, so he would follow. The littered, broken corpses on the beach showed him that men still warred against Nephilim. As valuable as the spear was, this knowledge was more so.

Before he met the arrogant First Born, he must wax strong on a diet of death. He must quicken himself into an all-conquering warrior. Only thus, would he honor his Master’s memory, and keep his own terrible promises. Only thus would he right the horrible wrong done in Draugr’s Crypt.

He who had been Lord Skarpaler carried the giant’s spear, and headed along the shoreline. The sea intrigued him, and he wondered if any ships sailed on it as they’d once sailed upon the small northern lakes of his homeland. If so, and when he met humans, he could feast. He would ready himself for the trial of strength he knew awaited him at the end of his journey.

Chapter Two

Regret

Would a wise man answer with empty notions or fill his belly with the hot east wind?

-- Job 15:2

Joash awoke with a cry, pawing for his dagger, his heart hammering at the nightmare of giants slaughtering his friends. He twisted around, blinking and confused. He sat between a huge coil of rope and a ship’s wooden rail, with a blanket over his legs.

Other exhausted people lay sprawled nearby, with cloaks thrown over them as blankets. For a half moment, Joash wondered if they were dead. But those nearest him breathed, and a few snored.

It was then Joash realized he had survived Jotunheim. He had made it to the
Tiras
, and sailors had rowed the huge ship out to sea, escaping the giant-flung boulders. Joash shivered at the memory.

Giants had hurled rocks like catapults, holing the ship. Joash remembered the horrible crunch of wood. He groaned, as he recalled launches or longboats, struck by flung rocks, and men tumbling into the sea. It had been a slaughter on the beach. He’d seen giants kill three of the toughest nobles of Teman Clan. And then there had been the trip inland before that.

“Elidad,” Joash whispered. Elidad had taken his runner too far inland, and there lost he’d lost the runner. Tarag or his sabertooths had done the wicked deed, while in the crypt of Draugr Trolock-Maker—

Joash lurched to his feet, stumbling to a nearby water bucket. He plunged his hands into the water, scrubbed his face and he drank, coughing a moment later.

As water dripped from his face, he studied the ship, and his stomach clenched as he realized they had anchored. On the horizon was the smudge of Jotunheim, the Kragehul Steppes.

Were they mad? The giants wanted them dead. This wasn’t far enough away. What would stop the giants from using barges at Hori Cove, and sailing here to complete the slaughter? They had to sail away.

The shouts between sailors and hidden grooms finally penetrated his mind. Joash hurried to the rail, even as he noticed the sails lashed against the yardarms.

A fierce scowl marred Joash’s features. He was a lean young man, with long limbs, and a shock of dark hair. The Elonites were blond or red-haired, had fair skin and were usually more muscular than Joash was. Aboard the
Tiras,
were sailors of Tarsh, stockier people. There were also free fighters, some of them primitive Huri, squat men with low foreheads, shaggy hair and deadly black bows.

The
Tiras
was a huge ship, with a mighty rear deck that towered over the waist. At the forecastle was a dart thrower. It had saved them yesterday when its dart had struck Ygg the Terrible in the shoulder. The giant had been in the process of hurling one of his necromantic skulls.

“Evil,” Joash whispered. They had to leave before Ygg tried again.

He leaned over the rail and blinked at grooms and runners catching pitched bundles. They stood in longboats, and stowed the goods. One younger runner fell as he caught a heavy bundle. He stumbled, and splashed into the green water to the laughter of those around him.

How could anyone laugh? Joash’s gut tightened, as the runner swam to the longboat and two grooms helped him in. Joash’s gaze had moved to a hole in the ship’s side. The hole was barely above the waterline, and the wood around it was jagged and splintered. Giant-flung rocks had made it, and other holes dotted the hull in too many places.

From within the ship, a board appeared before one hole as a sailor began to hammer. If a storm should suddenly arise—

Joash licked his lips, not wanting to think about that. He noticed that the grooms rowed to a nearby sandbar.

The sandbar had a few rocks, three trees, a dozen tents and herders pounding posts into the sand. They tied ropes to the posts, making a corral for the stallions. Sheep bleated from a different corral. With the tents, animals and people, the sandbar was packed, and barely above sea level. If a storm raged, waves would wash everything away. Beyond the sandbar was more sea, while several leagues distant, smudged Jotunheim and plotting enemies.

Joash looked around, but couldn’t spot Adah. He grabbed a runner. The runner told him Adah had gone on patrol with Lord Uriah.

“Patrol?” asked Joash.

The runner grimaced. He had lost his uncle yesterday, and now had dark smudges under his eyes.

The nobles of Elon had a strict hierarchy concerning charioteers. Once a boy turned into a youth, and into young manhood, he became a chariot-runner, if he had stamina and courage. His task was to run after his lord’s thrown javelins or arrows, and in battle, run fleet-footed with a knife and javelin, helping his lord or dispatching fallen enemies. If he survived, a runner became a groom. Now, he looked after his lord’s chariot horses, and ensured the chariot was in top condition, the axles greased, the wheels sound, the yoke strong, and all leather fittings oiled and supple. During battle, a groom drew a sword, but more often a spear, and followed the chariots into the fray. Several days ago, Lord Uriah had promoted Joash from a runner to a groom. In time, a groom became a chariot-driver, handling the restive stallions, and driving headlong at the enemy. The top rank, however, the pinnacle of any Elonite’s dreams, was to become a chariot warrior. A warrior fought from the chariot, hurling javelins, wielding the long chariot lance, or jumping off to face an enemy champion. The warriors wore chain mail, and often hefted a huge shield. They were the elite of Elon, and if Joash lived long enough, and practiced until he became skilled with the sword and spear, he hoped to become a chariot warrior.

That was far in the future, however. First, Joash and the others had to escape Jotunheim. Joash presently held the runner’s arm, and repeated his question.

“Patrol?” asked Joash.

“Do you think we’re safe here?” the sad-eyed runner asked.

Joash shook his head.

“Neither does Lord Uriah,” the runner said. “He took a longboat with several Huri archers, Adah and patrols between here and Jotunheim.”

“Do they think they can halt a barge full of giants?”

“As to that, I can’t say,” the runner told Joash. “Maybe they can kill a swimming giant.”

Yes, perhaps they could do that, especially Adah, with her parrot-feathered, viper-poisoned arrows. Joash didn’t believe in poison. No warrior of Elon would. But, after yesterday, he could better understand why someone would.

Soon thereafter, Joash climbed into a longboat, and helped stow pitched bundles. He helped row to the sandbar. The green waves sloshed against the boat. Sometimes, drops splashed him in the face. He glanced overboard, and noticed an underwater slope. Marine grass grew thickly, and fish swam lazily. He even spied red-clawed crabs scuttling between rocks.

After carting bundles to the highest part of the sandbar, Joash hurried to Zillith, wanting to know if Harn had survived the giants.

Zillith was the Mother Protectress of Elon, and like her brother, Lord Uriah, the Patriarch, she was over five hundred years old. Joash found her outside a tent. She sat cross-legged on a mat, sewing buttons onto a jacket.

Zillith wore somber garments, with a hood hiding her gray hair. She had fine wrinkles across her face, and sharp cheekbones. Once, she must have been a beauty. Now, she had presence, and few cared to stare for long into her knowing eyes. As Joash approached, she laid the jacket and sewing needle in her lap.

Joash bowed his head, and sat before her on the sand. She had always been kind to him, the first to accept him when Herrek returned to Elon with him. That was after Herrek had slain Joash’s cruel slave-owner, Balak the beastmaster.

“I’m sure you and Lord Uriah know what you’re doing,” Joash said. “But it is madness remaining this near Jotunheim.”

Zillith’s eyebrows rose, and she seemed surprised, a thing Joash had seldom witnessed. Her doe-like eyes fixed on him, and he felt her scrutiny.

“Hm,” she soon said. “I see.”

Once, her cool voice making a pronouncement like that would have wilted Joash. He did squirm some, but he added:

“The giants want us dead.”

The faintest smile twitched across her lips.

“I find nothing amusing about that,” Joash said.

“Agreed,” said Zillith. “But can you imagine what would happen if a storm struck the
Tiras
.”

“The sailors are banging boards into place. So, better a storm than storming giants.”

The smile vanished, as Zillith leaned toward him, and touched his cheek where Elidad had opened the skin with a whip.

“I see a hard-won cut, no doubt gained by a bold tongue, or bold action. You’ve aged, and have learned to speak your mind. Who can tell if that is a good or a bad thing?”

Her fingertips touching his skin… the human contact shot yesterday’s bitter memories into his thoughts. He had seen too many warriors die under the giants’ axes. And the thought of man-slaying sabertooths made him wonder who could ever face Tarag and win.

“You survived a terrible ordeal,” Zillith said. “And you’re more tired than you realize. Some of your depression comes from that. A few days sleep will revive your spirits.”

“My sleep won’t return dead warriors,” Joash said. “Elidad and Ard—” He turned away sharply.

Her garments rustled as she stood, and moved the tent flap. “Not everyone perished.”

Joash wasn’t interested until he heard a familiar bark. His mouth hung agape, as Harn barked again, and worked unsteadily to his feet, his tail wagging.

Joash cried for joy, leaping to Harn.

“Carefully,” Zillith said. “He’s healing. You must treat him gently.”

Joash dropped to his knees, running his fingers through the lion-colored hair. The big dog licked his face, as Harn flopped down and thumped his heavy tail against the tented ground. Joash took the wedge-shaped head and hugged it to his chest. Then, he examined the stitches where a sabertooth had cruelly opened Harn’s side.

“How—”

“Never mind the quick healing,” Zillith said.

Joash looked at her strangely.

“It isn’t magic like the Nephilim practice,” she assured him. “But, some of us are not without hidden abilities.”

Undoubtedly, she meant Seraphs, which was a topic Joash wasn’t ready to think about yet.

Soon, Zillith brewed tea, and Joash sat cross-legged in the tent, with a hand on Harn. Before he was aware of it, Joash found himself telling her everything about the journey to Draugr’s Crypt and back. Well, he kept a few things to himself, such as kissing Adah. A man shouldn’t talk about that.

The wise Mother Protectress listened in a way that made it seem she heard more than he said. She uncorked a jar, and handed it to him. He took a pickle and devoured it. She gave him a small loaf of bread, and he devoured that as well.

As Joash wiped his hands, he asked, “How’s Nestor?”

Zillith shook her head, and said softly, “He never escaped the camp. I’m sorry, Joash.”

Cold grief washed over Joash, as he bowed his head. He felt sick inside, the food like lead. The giants, and their sabertooth allies, had slaughtered those at Hori Cove. If they remained at this sandbar too long, the same thing would happen to them. Nestor—the groom had trained him in countless ways. Joash couldn’t believe he was dead. First Ard, now Nestor, it was too much. Joash wished he’d never come to Jotunheim. He wished he’d never seen a giant, or even heard about the First Born, Tarag. Joash wished he could pluck the heart from every giant. He had so wanted to tell Nestor about the bin of gems, and the stone trolocks frozen before their grim lich of a dead master. Now, he’d never hear Nestor laugh, or shout angrily at his stupid mistakes.

“How long does Lord Uriah plan to stay at this death camp?” Joash asked, hollowly.

“Until Lod comes,” Zillith said.

Joash had heard that name before. Adah couldn’t talk enough about him. What was so unusual about Lod that made him the leader of Seraphs?

“I’m surprised you haven’t given me any advice about Seraph matters,” Joash muttered.

Zillith ignored his bitter mood. She said crisply, “First, we must all talk.”

Joash scowled. He hated cryptic comments, now more than ever. “Who is all?”

“The Seraphs,” she said.

A chill squeezed Joash’s spine. He wanted nothing to do with giants, and man-slaying sabertooths. Did she already think of him as a Seraph? Adah had told him he had to accept the charge. Maybe he had done well in Draugr’s Crypt, but he wanted no more adventures like that. He never wanted to lose so many friends in one day again.

“We must consider Tarag’s actions, and what it bodes,” Zillith was saying. “The First Born are cunning, as you’ve learned. Their moves always mean something terrible. Lord Uriah, and more so his people, have paid heavily for the knowledge we now possess. That knowledge must be put to use, otherwise, too many people will have perished in vain.” Her fine old wrinkled face tightened. Something deadly shone in her eyes then. “
That
must not be. No, by Elohim, it must not.”

Joash was sick of hearing about First Born, Nephilim or Seraphs. He wanted to drive out the memory of the giants, the sabertooths and the bloody beach. He never wanted to see anything like it again.

“Can I take Harn with me?” He needed fresh air, and he wanted to talk with Adah—as soon as she returned from her patrol.

BOOK: Leviathan (Lost Civilizations: 2)
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