Category Archives: Rebellion Chronicles
It’s almost time for the launch of Horsemen’s War (Dec 3rd 2020 Kindle/Audible/ and Paperback, and available to pre-order right now), and I know that 2020 has been a long year for a lot of people, so I thought that I’d post the prologue now for people to read.
I hope you enjoy it.
Virginia, United States, Earth Realm
The interior of the barn was covered in blood. None of it was mine.
The two dozen inhabitants had arrived here believing they were meeting with me as an envoy from Avalon. I was meant to discuss future business deals, bring them more prosperity, and they, in return, would keep Avalon’s influence alive in the newly free country of America. Things had changed.
There was a gargle in one of the four empty stalls. The horses that had been kept there were long gone.
I walked over, stepping around the top half of a torso and a severed head, and found the still-living man inside the stall. The smell of blood and shit was overpowering, but I pushed it aside. I didn’t plan on staying long.
His tunic was bathed in blood, and more blood covered his face. There was a deep cut along his chest, and it continued to bleed heavily.
“Why?” he asked, a look of betrayal in his eyes.
I followed his gaze to the body of his nearest companion.
“You are murderers, thieves, slavers. Scum who relish and traffic in human misery,” I said, my voice completely calm. “Why should so many innocent people die while people like you continue to make wealth off their pain?”
“But we work for Avalon,” he said, his face waxy. He did not have long. “You work for Avalon.”
I nodded. “I was sent here by Merlin to ensure that Avalon’s reach continued into this new world. But I decided that it was also an excellent time to remove the rotten parts of the system.”
“We work for Avalon,” he said again.
I didn’t remember his name. It didn’t really matter. He was one of hundreds I’d killed since arriving in America in 1784. All of them had deserved it. Their deaths had made the world a better place.
“I don’t care,” I told him.
“Merlin will find you,” he said with a gasp. “He will punish you.”
I smiled at him. “And you’ll still be dead.” I drove a blade of fire into his chest, ending him properly.
I stood and removed the long black coat I’d been wearing. It was covered in blood, as were my dark trousers and black boots. I tossed the coat onto the floor. There was a second one on my horse, outside the barn.
I pushed open the partially stuck wooden door and stepped outside into the cold. I ignited my fire magic, keeping myself warm as I stared at the familiar face of the man who stood fifteen feet away. He was taller than me, with long dark hair tied back with a blue bow. He was clean shaven, and his hurt expression was clear. He wore a long black coat, similar to the one I’d dropped in the barn, and like me, he carried no weapons. He didn’t really need them. I’d once seen him tear a man in half with his bare hands.
“Tommy,” I said, feeling like the word would get stuck in my throat.
“Nate,” he replied, taking a step toward me. His voice was calm, almost sad.
“They deserved to die,” I said, my tone harder now as I let my anger fuel my voice.
“Probably,” Tommy said with a slight shrug. “Not for us to say.”
“Why?” I shouted. “Why not for us to say? We have the power.”
“Because that’s not what we do,” he countered immediately. “We’re not here as judge, jury, and executioner to people we deem to be bad. Humanity is meant to police its own.”
“Why should innocent people die and bastards like this continue to live?” I snapped, marching toward Tommy until I was only a foot away.
“Because we’re better than them,” Tommy said. “Because we can’t rule humanity—especially through fear. That’s not our place. They are ignorant of our existence for a reason. Their safety—and ours! Your actions are putting us all in danger.”
“They. Are. Monsters.” Each word was said louder, the last a bellow.
“You killed bad people,” Tommy said, his voice never rising. “But what about all the innocents who also died because of that? We don’t just blindly kill people we disagree with. We can’t. We’re not conquerors. They’ve literally just had a war here to destroy oppression. You were not sent here to decimate the population of people who you deem to be unworthy. Mary Jane would never want that.”
I punched him in the mouth, my hand wrapped in dense air magic. Tommy flew back ten meters and collided with an old wooden shed, which imploded from the impact.
The silence that followed felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure how to take back what I’d just done. I wasn’t sure how to stop the anger and hate inside of me, how to burn away the pain that had all but consumed me.
“Did that make you feel better?” Tommy asked as he hurled a large piece of wood a hundred meters into the fields beyond.
“Don’t you ever say her name,” I snapped, feeling the warmth of the hate return to push aside the pain.
“Mary Jane was your wife,” Tommy said as he strode back toward me, shrugging off his coat and dropping it onto the snowy ground. “I know her death hurt you, but it’s been sixteen years. Everyone involved in her murder is dead. You killed them.”
“I said, don’t mention her name,” I seethed.
“We found the soldier,” Tommy continued. “We found him without his tongue, his eyes, his fingers, his toes, lips, and several other parts you’d removed. He didn’t even look human. You think Mary Jane would approve of that? You think she would be standing beside you, telling you this is a job well done?”
I threw another punch, and Tommy caught it in midair as if he were catching a child’s toy.
“Mary Jane was a good woman,” he said, pushing my arm away. “You disgrace her memory with every life you needlessly take.”
I threw another punch, this one wrapped in fire, but Tommy growled, low and mean, and struck me in the chest with the palm of his hand.
I smashed through the barn doors and crashed into one of the beams inside before dropping to the floor. I charged out, leaping over the blood, directly into Tommy, who had turned into his werewolf beast form. He caught me one handed and threw me aside into the fence that surrounded the barn. I wrapped myself in air magic as I bounced along the frozen ground into the field beyond.
Dirt and snow rained down around me as I got to my feet, ready for Tommy, who was methodically walking toward me.
“I don’t want to do this,” I shouted at him.
“Then stop,” he said sadly.
I created a blade of fire in one hand and extinguished it. Tommy was my best friend. I wasn’t going to fight him. I just needed to get away; I needed to finish what I’d started.
“Mary Jane would be disgusted at what you’ve become,” he said.
Blind rage took over, and I charged Tommy, trying to drive a short blade of fire into his chest, but he punched me in the jaw with enough strength to spin me in the air but not break every bone in my face, which he certainly could have done.
“You’re not doing this for Mary Jane,” Tommy said as I spat blood onto the snow and took another swipe at him, cutting him across the chest.
“Stop saying her name,” I screamed at him.
Tommy backhanded me across the face, and I felt my entire head ring from the impact as I hit the ground once again.
“You’re meant to be my friend,” I snapped at him.
“Yes,” Tommy said. “And that’s why I’m here. You need saving from yourself.”
“Liar,” I said, spitting blood onto the ground once more. “You’re here to stop me from what I have to do. What needsdoing.”
“You’re delusional,” he said softly, even through his werewolf mouth. “You’ve lost yourself to pain, anger, hate, and hurt. You think that if you somehow drench yourself in enough blood, you’ll either make up for your wife’s death, or you’ll just become numb to it all. But it’ll never be enough, Nate. Not ever. You know this.”
“You think beating me senseless will do the trick?” I shouted.
“I’d hoped to talk,” Tommy said with a sigh.
“Why do they get to live, and Mary dies at the hands of some piece-of-shit English soldier while I’m not there? Why, Tommy?”
“I don’t know,” Tommy said softly. “I wish I did. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But neither is how you’re dealing with it. You can’t stop the hurt inside you by hurting everyone else.”
I threw another punch at my best friend, but he caught my hand again, dragging me toward him, where he enveloped me in a hug, taking us both to our knees.
“No, Nate,” he whispered softly. “No more.”
“Why is she gone, Tommy?” I screamed to the heavens. “I miss her so much,” I whispered, my voice breaking.
“I know,” he said, his own voice cracking and tears running down his face. “I’m so sorry.”
I cried then, for the first time since Mary Jane’s murder. I cried for her, for me, for the horrors I’d inflicted. I cried in a snowy, blood-speckled field in Virginia as my best friend held me and brought me back from the darkness that had enveloped me. And right then and there, I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do to repay him for that kindness.
Horsemen’s War Pre-order:
I know it’s been a little while since my last blog post, and I hope everyone is keeping safe.
I thought I’d let you all know that I’ve done a reading of Death Unleashed for SRFC, which is now on Youtube to watch at your leisure.
Death Unleashed is officially out for people to read on 27th Feb, but before then, I thought I’d share the Prologue.
For someone who could use fire magic to keep warm, I was still bloody freezing.
I’d been sitting on the frozen ground under a large tree for the better part of an hour. I was wrapped up warmly in a big dark-brown coat and thick trousers and carried several books that helped keep the cold out, but I still didn’t want to be here. While my fire magic kept me warm, I couldn’t use too much of it for fear that someone would see, and I’d have to explain why steam was rising from all around me.
The Malaya Nevka River was a stone’s throw away, its icy top a crust on the frozen water beneath it. Any human who fell in would die in moments. Even a sorcerer like me would certainly remember the time without any fondness.
I sighed, ignoring the suspicious glance from the man who walked past me. It was early in the morning, and the only people out right now were those working and those up to something bad. I definitely looked like I belonged in the second camp.
Stretching, I walked toward the bank of the river, hoping I hadn’t been sent here for no reason.
Two decades ago, I’d left Avalon when it had become apparent to me that it was built on corruption and that even Merlin—a man I’d once considered a father figure—was capable of evil but had convinced himself he was doing the right thing. The murders he’d ordered committed in the name of keeping Arthur alive in his coma still haunted me.
I’d left Avalon and done very little else since. I’d just been beginning to figure out what I was meant to do next when Hades had offered me a job. Come to Saint Petersburg, help him with someone who wanted to escape Hera’s grasp, and maybe it would help me discover what I should do with my life. So far, it had only helped me realize that Russia was a mess. Economically, socially—everything was heading toward disaster. I’d been in Russia for a few months arranging everything, and the longer I’d spent in the company of workers and commoners, the angrier I’d seen them become.
The ice thirty feet back from the bank broke, and a gloved hand reached out to find purchase on the frozen surface. A second later, the hand vanished back beneath, then remerged ten feet farther toward me as it smashed through again. This time a second hand appeared, grabbing hold of part of the fractured ice, but the hands slipped and fell back into the dark water.
“Just swim to the bank,” I said, probably slightly louder than needed.
Either he heard my instruction or he decided the bank was the best idea anyway, as less than a minute later the cold, wet man dragged himself out of the water and onto the mud. He was taller than my own five nine by a few inches but slighter in frame than I was—gaunt, almost. His looming presence was frankly . . . disconcerting.
I walked down to him, helped him to his feet, and practically dragged him up the bank before dropping him on the grass behind a stone wall.
“What if they see me?” he asked in Russian, his voice trembling from the cold.
“They think you’re dead,” I told him, speaking his own language. “At least, I hope they do.”
“They poisoned, beat, stabbed, and shot me, before throwing me into a frozen river,” he said. “I very nearly was dead.”
“Well, if they don’t think it now, they never will,” I told him. “Why didn’t you just pretend to die after the poisoning?”
“Didn’t realize I was poisoned until it was too late; by that point they’d stabbed me. I pretended to die then, but apparently they needed to shoot me first. Have you ever been shot? It hurts like the fires of hell.”
“Yes, I’ve been shot,” I said. “Now, to the world, Rasputin is dead, and in his place is… actually, I have no idea. Call yourself Fred if you want.”
“I will call myself whatever you wish so long as you take me from Hera’s grasp.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“How are we leaving?”
“We have a carriage to take us to Finland, where we’ll be getting on a boat to England, where we’ll be changing to another boat to America. Once in New York, we’ll . . . well, I’ll explain that later.”
I took Rasputin to the nearby carriage, where its driver nodded a greeting.
“Any trouble?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “Clothes are inside.”
“Get changed,” I told Rasputin. “You’re wearing fine clothing, and despite them being saturated and covered in mud, it’s a bad idea for where we’re going.”
Rasputin nodded and removed his coat, revealing the orange glyphs lit up over his arms. Fire magic keeping him warm and dry: it was why he hadn’t died in the river. Being a sorcerer certainly had its advantages, although Rasputin was quite low on the power levels when it came to our kind. He was manipulative, cunning, and shrewd but not powerful. He used fire and air magic, like me, although I’d gone to great pains to explain to him that should he cross me, I would kill him.
I climbed in the carriage just as Rasputin was pulling on a shirt, showing the scar on his stomach where a silver knife had been used to try to kill him a few years earlier.
“Hera sent you here to steer the czar and his family toward actions that benefited her,” I said as the carriage set off. “Like keeping Europe from descending into war.”
Rasputin nodded. “Didn’t work out so well. The war is a mistake. I actually agree with Hera on that.”
“Me too,” I said. “It’s a waste of time, money, resources, and, more importantly, people. Lives thrown away because of pettiness and politics. But once the war started, Hera changed her position, using you to get information about the Russians’ military plans. She saw an opportunity and didn’t care how many lives were sacrificed to benefit her.”
“I know what I’ve done,” Rasputin snapped. “Hera craves power over all else. She might not have wanted the war initially, but once it happened, she was happy to use it to her own ends. She constantly switches sides, playing them off one another, to ensure that whoever wins, she’s on their side. I cannot work for her any longer.”
“Hera has started rumors that you and the czar are members of a pro-German group. That you’re encouraging the czar to make a separate peace treaty with Europe. A lot of people want your head.”
“As I discovered,” Rasputin said. “Thank you for arranging my death, by the way.”
“It took me a couple of weeks to put the idea in a few heads that your death would be better for Russia,” I said. “Funny, they didn’t take much convincing. They really don’t like you! I may have suggested some suitable methods; ensuring you were disposed of in the right manner was important. Last thing we’d want is them cutting your head off or using silver.” Decapitation could kill us, just as it would any human, and silver hurt like hell.
“Well, I’m glad you helped.”
“Rasputin, the drunken debaucher who influenced a czar and his wife,” I said with a smile. “Hera has clearly finished her use of you. You made a good decision to seek Hades’s aid.”
“Hera is a monster,” he said. “She lies and betrays everyone. There’s no one she wouldn’t sacrifice should it aid her. Her own family is terrified of her.”
“I’ve met her on several occasions,” I said. “Never been someone I liked. Why work for her all these years if that’s how you felt?”
“Being on Hera’s list of enemies is a good way to seek an early grave. Once you’re in her grasp, getting out is not as easy as walking away.”
Rasputin coughed and spat out the open window, closing it afterward. “What happens once we’ve reached our destination?”
“You will tell your interviewers everything. And I do mean everything. Hera’s plans, plots, schemes, why she wants the czars to fall. You’ll leave nothing out, and in return you will be rehomed somewhere safe with a new identity. You will never refer to yourself as Rasputin again; you will learn a language that isn’t Russian. I don’t care which one. You will always need to look over your shoulder, because if Hera should discover you didn’t die . . .”
Rasputin sighed and nodded. We both knew what Hera was capable of.
We were in the carriage for over an hour before we stopped unexpectedly, and voices could be heard from outside. There was a bang on the carriage roof. “Stay here,” I told Rasputin before opening the door and stepping outside, wrapping my long dark coat around me as I crunched through the fresh snow to the front of the carriage. I looked up at the driver and nodded that it was okay.
“Gentlemen,” I said, paying attention to the three men for the first time. “How can we help you on this cold night?”
The three men were all slightly taller than me, and all wore thick coats that had seen better days. One held a wooden club, one a rusty sword, and the final one a scythe. Although two of them, from their clothing, appeared to be farmers, one of them wore an old military uniform. Things could go very badly, very quickly.
“We want all of your valuables, and whoever is in the carriage can cough up as well,” the man in the uniform shouted. “Now, or we start hurting people.”
He was obviously the leader, which made sense considering he’d had the training to fight. He looked more assured of himself, while the other two appeared outright terrified.
I reached into the large pocket inside my coat and grabbed the smallest of three leather money pouches, throwing it to the man who was closest to me, completely shutting out the leader. The expression on his face told me that he knew what I’d done. No matter what else happened, he would not let that lie.
“There’s enough in here for six months’ wages,” the man closest to me said, the awe in his voice easy to hear.
“All silver,” I assured them, turning to the leader. “I assume a good soldier like yourself knows of somewhere to exchange it?”
The two farmers looked at their leader in horror.
“He knows you deserted,” the man in the middle of the three said to the leader.
“I don’t care if you deserted,” I said. “Look, I’m in a hurry, and I need to leave. It’s a matter of life and death. Please take your money, go home, and feed your families.”
“We should,” the man with the money pouch said.
The leader took a step toward me, pointing his dagger at me the whole time. “I think I’m going to take that nice coat and those nice boots, and then I’m going to kill you.”
“We don’t need to do that,” the middle man pleaded with him. “We have money for food. That’s all we need.”
“I need something more,” the leader said. “I need to show this rich asshole that he can’t spend his whole life looking down on us, letting us die for his kind.”
“I’m not who you think I am,” I said. “And I’m sorry for your loss, but you don’t want to do this.”
The leader took two steps toward me before I sidestepped him, grabbed him by the wrist with one hand, swept out his legs, and threw him into the snow. I picked up the dagger and threw it into the trees at the side of the road.
I looked over at the two remaining men. “Either of you try, I’ll kill you,” I said. “Go home.”
The leader roared, thrusting himself up from the ground and charging at me, but he met my elbow with his jaw and got a fist to his stomach, which sent him back to the ground. I placed a dagger of fire against his throat.
“As I said, I do not have time for this,” I said. The two other men ran off into the woods as the leader’s eyes opened wide with shock and fear.
“I tried to be nice, I tried to just get you to go, but you want something I can’t give you. And if you try again, I will kill you.” I moved back to the coach and opened the door. We were on our way a moment later.
“Why didn’t you just use magic?” Rasputin asked. “Why not kill them?”
“Because they were desperate men who have been pushed to a breaking point by poverty. The leader wanted some kind of retribution for what he’d been through, and besides, I get the feeling this place is going to see a lot more death in the future.”
“Not just here if we don’t stop Hera,” Rasputin said, smoothing his beard. “She will unleash War on this world if she isn’t stopped.”
“Other than the war in Europe?” I asked.
Rasputin shook his head and looked about to say something but sighed instead. “No, my friend,” he said after several seconds. “Her War is something else entirely. It’s to be feared like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
And there you have it, the prologue of Death Unleashed. If you’re interested in reading more, please do consider pre-ordering, as they’re vitally important. The links for which are below.
With just over a month to go until the launch of Sorcery Reborn, I think now is a good time to let you all read the opening chapter. You can pre-order by clicking on the links at the end. Enjoy.
A year. I’d been told it would be a year. Gotta be honest: that hadn’t turned out so well, had it?
Clockwork was a town of just over seven thousand people, the majority of whom appeared to be quite nice. Acknowledging that being a solitary loner who never spoke to anyone was a pretty good way to screw up your mental health, I’d made sure to make a few friends in my time here. While the last two years had sucked on more than one occasion, having friends was one of the good parts.
I’d introduced myself to Clockwork as Nate Carpenter, Nate Garrett being, for all intents and purposes, officially dead. I’d used the surname of my best friend from my old life. Tommy was one of the people I missed seeing the most.
Duke’s Diner was one of three in town and the only one I visited with any frequency. This was partly due to the fact that the owner and chef, Antonio Flores, cooked the best damn food in town and partly because I liked several of the people who worked there.
I parked my blue Mercedes X-Class outside the diner, which was already busy with those who required an early-morning coffee and/or a Mexican breakfast. Antonio served more traditional American food, too, but no matter how good it was, no one came to Duke’s for the pancakes.
The snow was a few inches high and crunched under my booted feet. Despite wearing a thick green winter jacket, warm jeans, black boots, and black gloves with a matching hat, I was still cold. The heater in the pickup had spoiled me.
I pushed the glass door of the diner open and enjoyed the warmth and the sounds of eating and chatter that washed over me.
“Is that you, Nate?’” Antonio bellowed from the kitchen, sticking his head out of the serving hatch.
“No, it’s Commissioner Gordon. I’m looking for Batman,” I shouted back to Antonio.
Antonio smiled. “Are you coming tonight?”
“For the approximately one hundredth time, yes,” I said.
Antonio’s smile turned into a huge grin. Antonio had been a US Army Ranger. Having served two tours in Afghanistan without so much as a scratch, he’d gone back for a third time and hadn’t been so lucky. He’d lost the lower part of his left leg when an improvised explosive device had gone off near his team as they’d been sweeping a village that had been massacred by insurgents. That had been ten years ago, although the loss of a limb didn’t appear to have slowed Antonio down. He’d once told me he’d considered it a new challenge to overcome.
Apart from owning Duke’s—which, despite me asking, Antonio had never shown any interest in explaining the name of—he also ran the under-fifteen girls’ soccer team for the town, with the help of one of the sheriff’s deputies, Brooke Tobin.
“Football game tonight,” he shouted, using the correct name for the sport.
“I know,” I shouted back, gaining a few laughs from the three waitresses and waiter who were working in the diner.
“You are coming, though, right?” Jessica Choi asked me as she led me over to a booth at the far end of the diner. Like all of the waiting staff, the only uniform she wore was a black T-shirt with Duke’s adorning it in big red letters.
“Yes,” I promised.
“Because Ava has been talking about you coming to a game for weeks now,” Jessica said. “It’s the cup final.”
I sat down and sighed. “I promise I’ll be there.” The match had been postponed for several weeks because of bad weather. Matches were usually played on Thursday nights at the local high school, but the snow had been so bad that playing football in it would have been a special kind of torture. I’d missed a few of Ava’s games during the season and always felt bad for doing so, but I avoided traveling to other towns for away games, just in case I got spotted by the wrong person. I was in Clockwork to keep a low profile, so running around the state of Oregon would have been a risk.
Ava was Jessica’s younger sister. They had been brought up by their grandparents, Drs. Daniel and Donna Kuro. Ava had been only three and Jessica sixteen when their parents had died in a car crash twelve years earlier.
“How goes the doctorate?” I asked Jessica after she took my order of scrambled eggs and chorizo along with a cup of English tea. An addition to the menu I knew Antonio had only included to stop me complaining about its absence.
“Good,” Jessica said. “I feel bad for dropping Simon off at my grandparents’ so often, but they don’t seem to mind. And Simon loves spending time at their place.”
“It’ll be worth it when you’re Dr. Choi.”
Jessica smiled. “Then I just have to find a full-time job.”
“That’s okay; you can bring Simon here. I’m sure Antonio wouldn’t mind him helping out.”
Jessica laughed as she walked away to give Antonio my order. She returned a few minutes later with my cup of steaming-hot tea. “Antonio says he hopes you choke on it,” Jessica told me, barely keeping a straight face.
“He’s really cleaned up his usual language,” I replied.
Before Jessica could reply, the door to the diner opened, and she turned to look at the newcomer.
I followed her gaze and watched the man stand in the doorway staring at Jessica. He was over six feet tall, which put him several inches above my own five feet eight, although he wasn’t as broad across the shoulders as I was. He removed a red hat and gloves, revealing a bald head and heavily tattooed hands.
I looked up at Jessica and saw the fear in her eyes.
“Jess?” I asked softly.
“It’s okay,” she said, turning back to me and forcing a smile.
I liked Jessica Choi a lot. She was a smart, kind, and interesting woman. Also, her grandfather, Dr. Daniel Kuro, was one of only two people in town who knew exactly who I was and why I was here. I trusted Daniel with my life and owed him just as much. And while Jessica didn’t know the truth about me, she treated me as if I were one of the family, and for that I was eternally grateful.
Jessica walked over to the newcomer. Their conversation was short, and they were too far away from me for any of their whispered words to meet my ears, but I could see that Jessica was upset and angry.
She motioned for the man to wait and went to talk to Antonio in the kitchen before gathering her coat and hat and leaving with the stranger.
A second waitress brought me my food. I was concerned about Jessica and considered following them to check that she was okay. However, Antonio left the kitchen and went out the back door of the diner, making me feel better. If anything was going to happen, I was confident that Antonio could deal with it.
The food looked amazing. The chorizo scrambled egg sat on one half of the plate, while the other half was filled with a mild salsa that Antonio refused to tell me the recipe of. A stack of warm tortillas had been placed on a separate plate, and the whole thing smelled of heaven itself.
I took a bite of the food and sighed in appreciation. Antonio was a grumpy bastard, but he sure as hell knew how to cook. But even the great food couldn’t distract me for long; glancing to the rear entrance of the diner, I put my fork down beside my plate.
“Goddamn it.” Getting to my feet, I grabbed my warm outdoor clothes and headed toward the rear exit.
“What are you doing?” the waitress who had served me asked.
“I’m going to go see what your boss is doing before anyone gets in trouble,” I told her.
The look of relief on her face was reason enough for me to know I was doing the right thing. Everyone else in the diner was either engrossed in their own lives or watching me cautiously. They clearly wondered what was happening but didn’t want to be involved in it, just in case it turned out to be something unpleasant.
I pushed open the rear exit and took a face full of cold air before stepping outside and walking down the ramp to the staff parking area at the rear of the property. There were four cars, including Jessica’s own black Ford Ranger pickup and Antonio’s silver Mitsubishi Evo. There were no signs of either owner, except fresh tracks in the snow that led around to a nearby alleyway, which, in turn, led to a large field behind the diner.
Following the tracks was easy enough, and it didn’t take long to hear voices. As I drew closer, the voices became more distinguishable: three men, one of whom was Antonio. The other two were . . . unknowns. I didn’t like unknowns; they made me nervous. Exiting the alley into the large field, I spotted Antonio sitting on a bench with the two strangers standing over him.
They looked over at me as I approached, and one of them—a large white man with a bald head and bushy black beard—turned toward me, casually opening his jacket to show the pistol he held. A wordless threat.
“Hey,” I said jovially. “It’s a bit cold to be having a chat out here.”
“Go away,” the second man snapped. While his gun-wielding friend stood over six and a half feet tall and probably weighed over twenty-five stone, this one was barely taller than me and considerably less broad. He had military-style short dark hair but no obvious weapons. Like his friend, he was white and wore a thick red jacket, although his was still zipped up. Didn’t mean he didn’t have a weapon; it just meant if things went bad, he was second on my list of problems.
“I’m just here to tell the chef how good his food is,” I said, looking over at Antonio. “How can I possibly repay such an excellent breakfast?”
“It’s okay,” Antonio said with a forced smile. “I’m good. Go finish your food, Nate.”
“Yes, Nate,” the shorter of the two men said. “Go finish your food.”
“Where’s Jessica?” I asked, ignoring the man.
“She’s just having a nice conversation with our boss,” the gun owner told me. “You can see her from here.”
He gestured across the field to where Jess stood at the far end defensively. From the amount the man was gesticulating, the conversation looked pretty one sided.
“Now you can fuck off,” the shorter man said. “We’ll keep Speedy Gonzales company.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Really?” I asked. “Was that meant to be funny because he only has one leg or because he’s Mexican?”
“I don’t care what you think,” he snapped.
“Did they hurt you?” I asked Antonio in Spanish.
Antonio’s surprise showed he hadn’t realized I spoke the language, but he shook his head. He looked a little frustrated too. Antonio was used to kicking ass and taking names; I imagined that the two men getting the drop on him had stung. Better to have stung feelings than be dead, though.
“Are you leaving or not?” the smaller man said, taking a step toward me and unzipping his jacket.
“I think I’ll sit and wait with my friend for Jessica to finish talking,” I told him.
The man shrugged off his jacket, revealing a gun still in its holster. His arms were covered in various tattoos, including a swastika on his bicep that showed from under the blue T-shirt he wore.
“Nazi?” I asked.
He smiled at me. “Not really your business.”
“Just making pleasant conversation,” I told him. “This doesn’t need to go sideways.”
“He’s right, Bryce,” his partner said quietly. “We didn’t come here to hurt anyone. The boss will be angry if we do.”
Bryce nodded slowly and picked his jacket up off the ground. He was quite wiry and certainly had the appearance of someone who knew how to fight. Maybe he was more dangerous than his partner.
Once upon a time, I’d have killed them both without a second thought, but that time had ended two years ago, and I had to remind myself to stay calm. To not allow myself to be drawn into anything that would cause trouble. Even so, I really wanted to break Bryce’s smug face.
Bryce motioned for me to go sit beside Antonio, but he refused to move aside as I walked toward my friend, and he smacked his shoulder into mine as I stepped around him. A stupid, childish way to tell me he was tougher than me. I sighed, put on my best smile, and sat next to Antonio.
“So are you both Nazis, or are you just freelancing?” I asked.
No one answered.
“Guys, I’m just making conversation,” I said.
“Can you not piss off the people with guns?” Antonio asked.
“Ah, they’re okay,” I told him. “The gun is only so we don’t do anything stupid. I just want to know a bit more about our Third Reich–loving friends here.”
Bryce punched me in the jaw, knocking me off the bench. “I told you to shut up,” he snapped, giving me a kick in the ribs for good measure.
“Enough,” the hulking Aryan wannabe snapped. “Damn it, Bryce. Enough.”
“He’s asking too many questions, Jackson,” Bryce said. “He needs to learn to keep his mouth shut.”
“Help your friend up,” the man called Jackson said to Antonio, who offered me his hand and assisted me in getting back on the bench.
“I meant absolutely no disrespect,” I said, with no sincerity. “I just figured talking would be better than awkward silence.”
Bryce got into my face. “When the time comes, scum like your friend here will be turned to ash. And those who stand beside the lower born will be right beside them. Got it?”
“Riiight,” I said and spotted Jessica walking alone across the field toward us.
Bryce moved away and looked over at her.
“You both got off lucky this time,” Jackson warned us. “We might not be so hospitable next time. You need to mind your manners. I thought you Brits were good at that.”
“Mostly we just drink tea and live in castles,” I told him. “Doesn’t leave a lot of time for manners.”
The man shook his head as Bryce walked off to intercept Jessica, putting me on edge. “A word of warning,” he said. “Don’t piss Bryce off again.”
“No shit,” Antonio said.
“Was I fucking talking to you?” Jackson snapped. “Your kind speak when asked to. Your kind come into our country, taking our jobs and dirtying our bloodline.”
His sudden move from calm to rage surprised me. “Okay, no one needs to lose their cool here,” I said. “We get it: Nazis hate everyone who isn’t a Nazi.”
“KOA,” he said proudly.
“What?” I asked, confused and wondering whether I’d missed a giant part of the conversation. Before he could answer, Bryce and a worried-looking Jessica returned.
“You okay?” I asked Jessica.
“Yeah, we can go now,” she said, not looking up.
“She knows where she stands now,” Bryce said smugly. “Hopefully we won’t need to have a second conversation. A meeting between you and Robert will be arranged. I advise you not to miss it.”
There was a wealth of questions in my mind, but now was not the time or place to ask them.
“You can go,” Bryce said. He made a gun from his fingers and pointed it at me. “I’ll be seeing you again, boy.”
I ignored him.
“What’s the KOA?” I asked Jackson.
“The Knights of Avalon,” Bryce answered. “We’re going to take back this country of ours. We’re going to make it pure again.”
I nearly made a smart-ass comment about giving it back to the Native Americans then, but I decided that being a smart-ass wasn’t as important as not getting anyone shot. “You’re part of Avalon?”
“Let’s go,” Antonio said from beside me.
“That’s right—go on with your friends, boy,” Bryce called after us as we walked away.
It took every ounce of self-control not to turn around and beat the ever-loving shit out of the two of them. We stopped in the car park of the diner.
“You want to tell us what that was about?” Antonio asked Jessica.
“Not really,” Jessica said, looking miserable. “I’ll deal with it; they won’t be coming back. I’m sorry for what happened today.”
“Take the rest of the day off,” Antonio said and rubbed his jaw. “Been a long time since someone threatened me with a gun and I didn’t break his arm for it.” He looked over at me. “How’re the ribs?”
“Sore, but I’ll live,” I said.
“We should really tell the sheriff,” Antonio said.
“No,” Jessica snapped. “You can’t. It’ll just get worse.”
“Jess, no offense, but there are literal Nazis with guns in town,” I told her. “I’m not sure that’s something we should keep from the sheriff.”
“Look, I promise I’ll sort it out. Please, just give me a few days.”
I nodded and looked over at Antonio, who sighed and said yes. Jessica hugged us both and walked over to her car.
“Any idea what the hell that was all about?” Antonio asked. “Nazi fucks.”
Jessica drove out of the alleyway and turned onto the road before I spoke again. “Knights of Avalon,” I said, almost to myself. “That’s not good.”
“What’s not good? Avalon?” Antonio asked. “Those bastards are taking over the whole world. You see on the news at the demonstrations about them, about the people who are alleged to have gone missing? It’s not a conspiracy theory, my friend; it’s a fucking fact.”
“I know,” I said. “Look, I’m sorry about the food, but I need to go see the doc. I think I may have busted a rib.” It was an easy lie, but I did need to see someone. I took a ten-dollar bill from my pocket and offered it to Antonio.
He shook his head. “Buy me a beer at the game tonight. Go get checked out.”
I smiled, but inside concern gripped me. Avalon was in Clockwork. Were they here for me? Or for someone else?
Read the rest when Sorcery Reborn launches on ebook on 21st Nov, and on Paperback and Audible on 28th Nov.
So, I thought I’d written something about this for my blog, but it turns out I haven’t. A few weeks ago, I was allowed to confirm that I’ve signed a new 3 book deal for a trilogy titled the Rebellion Chronicles.
Yes, these books are the return of Nate Garrett and will start with Sorcery Reborn (working title). All 3 of these books will take place after A Thunder of War, and the first book of the new trilogy should be out next year (this is just a guess based on past releases on my part and I don’t have an actual release date, so take this with a pinch of salt).
Hopefully, this will ease the minds of some people who are eager to know when Nate will return.