Friday, December 22, 2017

The People's Necromancer

Check out this excerpt from The People's Necromancer, a sci-fi novel by Rex Jameson, exclusive to the Wrath and Ruin boxed set.


Frederick clapped the archer on the shoulder. He and his three men returned to their horses and made their way toward the smoke and the distant screaming. A cacophony of metal, hooves and cries drowned out the sounds of their own footsteps. They moved in a circuitous route south and found five men with red sashes raping a woman along the road from Shirun to Perketh. Two men held down her arms as their cohorts cheered on a man who was vigorously thrusting and spitting in the woman’s face as she fought against the hands that pinned her down.
Two arrows split the heads of the spectators, and Frederick leapt from his horse with his sword at the ready. He plunged it through the rapist’s chest cavity, spreading blood all over the poor woman and the wagon on which she was pinned.
“I’m sorry,” Frederick said lamely as he realized he should have thought of the blood spray.
The two remaining men screamed and released her and ran toward the western woods. Simon and the two archers gave chase. Frederick didn’t have to watch them. He knew his archers would catch the perpetrators if his squires didn’t. His four other men stood ready, encircling him.
He knocked his visor up and absently stroked the plume atop his helmet. It was a nervous tick of his that happened when he couldn’t think of something to say. The woman looked in shock and disbelief at the blood all over her body.
“I should have gotten him off you first,” Frederick apologized. “I wasn’t thinking.”
She guffawed queerly as she pushed her dress back down and began to rub the blood all over her body. “No, good knight. This will do.”
“Are you hurt?”
Her eyes tensed up. She groggily looked back at a small house some twenty yards away.
“I don’t…” she said but nodding. “I don’t feel anything.”
Tears began to fall down her face. Frederick left her and moved to the fence and saw two sets of small legs from behind a wheelbarrow. The boys didn’t move. As he approached, he covered his gaping mouth with his hand. Their innards had been cut from them, likely in front of the mother. The children had been dragged around the yard. Blood was everywhere. Madness and evil had been here.
Frederick gripped his sword and gritted his teeth. He strode to the woman. He pointed to the dead bandits beside her.
“Bathe in their blood if you like,” he said. “If it provides you some comfort, I’ll empty the others onto you as well. Say the word and I’ll bring back all the blood you require!”
She stared at her body, raising her bloody hands in front of her face before looking back at him. “It would be an empty thing… Like me, I feel. Unnecessary… without purpose…”
“Is your husband also?”
She laughed so hard she cried, as she rolled off the wagon and began shuffling back toward her house and the backyard that held her horrors. “He left us long ago. For all I know, he’s one of these men… this Red Army.”
“I’ll tell the King of your loss,” Frederick promised. “I’ll petition for grievances.”
“I have grief enough,” she said softly.
“At least tell me your name,” the Captain said.
“Sarah,” she said. “Sarah Crow.”
“I’ll…” he said, trying to think of some promise to her. A song sounded too flippant. He would offer her a rose, but this wasn’t a tournament. What she had suffered was loss beyond what he could comprehend in the moment. “I’ll kill as many of them as I can.”
She turned to him along the short, barren path, likely trampled by her boys in their young years. She nodded as more tears fell.
“Yes,” she said. “Please.”
He leapt atop Lightning and Simon followed him closely on his own mount. They found a bandit group and slayed seven more before any backup arrived. Frederick became wraithlike, solely focused on carnage for Sarah. In his mind, he saw each of these men killing the small boys at the house on the road to Shirun, and they all paid bloodily for the damage they had inflicted.
Ten more on the road leading to Perketh. Five more in the forests just south of the smoke. Three more who had made camp and offended his ears with their boasts of rapes and murders. A small group of six who managed to ding his armor with arrows before he ripped their insides from their stomachs and spat into their faces as the light faded from their eyes.
Covered in their blood, he meandered through the wood, hoping against hope that Perketh still stood—that he had made it in time to save even one of these people. But the screams were muted and the smoke was beginning to subside, as if there wasn’t much more to burn.
He stumbled through the trees until he came to a shadow there, watching the town. Unlike the faceless men he had slaughtered, this one seemed familiar. Frederick raised his visor, squinting at the leather-clad, brown-bearded man in a long leather cap and non-descript armor who had not noticed his approach.
“Jeremy?” Frederick asked, surprised.
He knew Jeremy Vossen from anywhere. They had enjoyed many a strong ale together in the capital. Jeremy had even served as wingman to him while table hopping at social events, often distracting fathers as Frederick had stolen a kiss from Lucille Croft, Evelyn Crayton and any number of other dangerous potential liaisons.
“Freddie?”
Frederick forgot himself. He almost forgot where he was, as if the mayhem and retribution had all been a dream and this chance meeting was the reality. He took his helmet off and smiled widely and genuinely through his twirled blond mustache. He stroked the plume of his helmet as he thought of something to say.
“Lord Vossen has sent you here, hasn’t he?” Frederick asked, walking up to him and giving him a hug.
“Yeah…”
The hug was returned but lighter and stiffer than usual.
“Well, I’m so glad you’re here,” Frederick said. “I’m only leading ten men, but they’re good men. We’ve killed dozens. Maybe three. I haven’t been counting. But man, we could use you.”
Jeremy nodded, but he seemed lost.
“You ok?” Frederick finally asked.
“You’re on loan,” Jeremy said, in a rambling sort of way. “The King loaned you to Mallory over the repayment, didn’t he? This was your special assignment?”
“Yeah,” Frederick said with laughter still in his voice at seeing his old friend. “I thought it would be a quiet time on the frontier. I expected I’d be patrolling orcish borders, not this…”
He motioned at the smoke and bodies he had left in his wake.
“Whatever this is!” he said finally. “Man, I have some stories to tell you the next time we sit down…”
“I bet…” Jeremy said, hugging him again.
Frederick patted Jeremy on the back, slightly confused.
“There was this woman,” Frederick said. “Sarah. I found men… pinning her down. They were… You know… I… We killed them all, but not before they had killed her boys. Spread them out all over her yard… I left her there…”
He winced as he thought about her covered in blood, turning toward him on the path to her small home and the graves she would have to dig.
“I wish you hadn’t come,” Jeremy said, grabbing him by the back of the neck.
“No one wants to be here,” Frederick said, smiling at his friend, “but someone had to come. It’s a good thing I came. That we both came! You and me together? The Red Army doesn’t stand a chance!”
A sharp pain pierced Frederick’s neck and a metal taste flooded his mouth. He gasped as he pushed away from Jeremy. He grasped around at his exposed neck and felt the knife handle. He fell to the ground.
“I wish you hadn’t come,” Jeremy said as he bent down to Frederick’s level.
Every inhalation sent blood into his lungs. His body spasmed violently as he gasped for air. He reached out to Jeremy, who held his hand as he sputtered the last breath of his short 22 years. He looked up at the sky and thought of the tournaments he had won. Of his father’s proud face in the crowd. Of Jeremy standing next to Godfrey and just as happy as he had been.

“God damn it, Freddie,” Jeremy said. “God damn it…”

If you enjoyed the excerpt and want to keep reading, preorder Wrath and Ruin for only $.99 and get The People's Necromancer along with 23 other sci-fi/fantasy books!

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