Authors: Jay Swanson
THE VITALIS CHRONICLES
2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
II OF THE
The Vitalis Chronicles is a fantasy trilogy by Jay Swanson, and is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. All elements to the story - including any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead - are entirely fictional.
© copyright 2012 by Jay Swanson
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cover Art Illustration by Sam Spratt
Photography by Liz Cantu
Maps by Jay
for more info!
Published by Jay as The Northern Range
HIS BOOK IS FOR THE FEW
WHOSE EYE FOR THE LITTLE THINGS
ONLY SERVES TO MAKE MY WORK STRONGER
OMETIMES THE DEVIL
REALLY IS IN THE DETAILS.
HE WORLD IS AFLAME
As if the sun won its battle with vacuous space and bridged the gap to consume its surroundings. The heat is unbearable; destructive in nature yet never consuming its final victim. He lies in the center of the room, waiting for it to claim him, wishing at times that it would. It never advances so far as to show him such mercy.
He feels the heat on his face, his clothing on the verge of ignition. The walls of the small house crack and splinter, crumbling around him in the inferno's insatiable lust. It feels like they have fallen before. But when did they rise? The smoke blinds him at times, the sting of ash eliciting tears, blurring his vision further.
Some tears aren't reactionary; some are for those he knows are nearby. Death roves free among the burning houses that fill the valley, inhaling the passing of souls with zeal like so many addicts their fumes.
His family is there. He can't see them. He can never see their faces. But he can hear their screams.
The combination is maddening, inducing despair beyond anything he has ever known. He wants to move, to crawl into the flames and join them in their fate; but fate, it seems, wishes otherwise.
He doesn't know how he got here, nor does he know from where the fire came. All he knows is that he could have done something to prevent this, could have been there to save them.
And the fire burns on. And the screams never die. And he is left with the ghosts of the slaughter of Levanton.
HE BAGGAGE TRAIN STRETCHED FOR ALMOST A MILE NOW
. The trucks were slow-moving to begin with, but without roads they turned lethargic. The twenty vehicles had spaced themselves out to the point that their commander, a dark swarthy Major by the name of Vasquez, was about to start slitting tires to let off steam. Granted, he was always on the verge of slitting something to let off steam.
“Beautiful day to be out driving. Blue sky as far as the eye can see and not a woman in sight to sour the moment.
” Captain Reynolds grinned. He was Vasquez's driver and commanding officer of the support unit. Notably, he was in a much sunnier mood. “And you sir, lucky as you are, somehow drew the straw for a mission like this on just such a beautiful day. And got stuck with we lowly few in the process, of course.”
Anders mouthed off at just the right time and got us both roped into this mess. I wouldn't call that luck.” Unlike the captain, Vasquez didn't need any heroics added to his career's highlights. His black mustache bristled at the thought of their mission.
Anders has a mouth, that's for sure, but that's what Hunters are for isn't it? They're a cocky bunch to begin with. How does that translate into you getting picked?”
I was in the same damned room!” Vasquez punched the dash of the car and grunted. Its defenses proved adequate to deal with his assault. “They go on and on about how the south is moving against us, and how we need to know what they're up to. So Anders stands up and says it's impossible, and that if it's true we should seek a peaceful resolution.”
Old woman that he is.”
Point being, Colonel Rast didn't take too kindly to the dissension. So as punishment he put Anders on reconnaissance for the mission he was actively defying.”
Seems kind of backwards to put a man on a mission he disagrees with, doesn't it?”
ot with Anders. It's the perfect punishment for the perfect soldier. He'll carry it out because it's his orders. Plain and simple.”
The captain laughed. “And you have the luck to get pulled into this with him somehow? So he gets punished and you get rewarded.”
Rewarded?” The indignant tone lacing Vasquez's voice was prickly, but nothing new to Reynolds. “Rewarded? Hell, this is as much punishment for me as it is him.”
How do you figure? This could be the mission that opens up the war we've all been waiting for.”
War we've been waiti– are you as fat a moron as those big-wigs in Elandir? I thought you had more brains between those huge ears, boy. War is never a good option. We could all die today, wallowing in our own blood and piss, and no one would ever know it. That's the nature of covert missions, that's the nature of war, and it's no way to seek fame and glory.”
It's just reconnaissance.”
Damn it all, you are stupid. Scouting work is as dangerous as it gets, and your men are no Hunters.”
The truck lurched as they cleared a set of large rocks and began to roll up another lazy hill. The trees were thinning out as they neared the Lorendian Desert.
Anders is doing the real scouting,” Reynolds reasoned. “We're just support.”
Yeah, because if they get caught and killed, it's likely they'll pat us on the head and thank us for bringing our boys to them. You see how slow we're movin'? And how many damned trucks they sent
for such a small team? A fine fool's mission. If they catch wind of us, we'll get fried before we can so much as park these rust-buckets.” The major turned to look out of the window, cursing under his breath
as the straggling line came into view well behind him. “Your damned morons can't even drive. Park it before you reach the ridge. We'll regroup here.”
We aren't going to make it to the rendez-vous in time to meet Anders at this rate, sir.”
“With this many god-forsaken trucks and men we'd do him more good not to get that close in the first place,” Vasquez spat.
The truck lurched to a halt and the engine sputtered out as Reynolds cranked the lever to engage the brake.
Either way, our timing can't be helped now.” The door refused to open until he gave it a good kick. “Get out here and help me yell at these worthless sacks to get a move on. And bring your rifle. Damned if I'll be caught with my belt over my heels.”
Reynolds didn't bother suggesting they get the sergeants to do the yelling. Vasquez loved doing that too much himself.
The dark green and black trucks rumbled steadily on, parking on the hill as they slowly gathered behind the lead. The two commanding officers wandered among them, Vasquez berating Reynolds' men for their numerous character flaws as he kicked tires and slapped hoods. They were losing daylight, he yelled, and he'd be damned if Anders beat him to his own post.