This past week, I have been working on an editing project for Sky Warrior Publishing. They’re bringing out a new ebook edition of Soldiers! by John Dalmas.
The image above shows the original cover from Baen Books. In many ways, the novel reminds me of my Old Star/New Earth Science Fiction series. The novel also left me reflecting on the very real horror of war. At least two of my great great grandfathers fought in the American Civil War (one for the Union, one for the Confederacy). Both of my grandfathers fought in World War I. Although he came to the war late enough he didn’t see any action, my dad was a Marine in World War II.
I am at once thankful that I have never had to experience the horror of war firsthand, and grateful to those soldiers who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country. This also came home to me recently when a young man who I watched grow up decided to enlist in the army earlier this year. War is a terrible business and nothing is more heart wrenching to me than when two sets of people decide they have to fight each other.
The Scarlet Order Vampires are mercenaries. They make their living off of war, but the horror and reality is something I haven’t wanted to shy away from in my novels and stories featuring them. With that in mind, I present a brief excerpt from my novella The Dragon’s Quest where Desmond Lord Draco comes face to face with the horrors of war.
He then led me down river a short distance until we came to the remnants of the Saxon village. The smell of decay hung heavy in the air. Despite the cold, flies were everywhere. Few bodies actually remained. Not far away, I saw fresh burial mounds.
“Those that were able buried what dead they could in the short time they had available,” explained the wolf creature. “Most have fled.”
“Most?” I asked.
“The wounded and those too sick to travel are still here.” He led me into the burned-out remains of a hut. There was an old woman lying on the ground. Her skin hung on her bones like the wrinkled flesh of an overripe fruit that had sat on the ground too long. Unable to move, the woman lay in her own filth. I tried to turn away but the wolf creature put his hand on my elbow. “You have the power to end her suffering,” he said.
I shook my head, not understanding what he meant.
He knelt down next to the woman and raised her head into his lap. Her watery eyes opened and she looked up at me. The mind behind the eyes was so far gone that I could not read the emotions. I would like to imagine that she was pleading for help, but what I probably saw was fear — if not of me, then fear of having been left alone.
The wolf creature gestured that I should kneel next to him and the woman. A new instinct began to dawn and I suddenly realized what it was I truly craved. I shook my head violently even as the hunger pangs compelled me to kneel down. The old woman’s eyes followed me as I leaned in and bit down on her jugular vein. Her blood flowed into my mouth and I swallowed greedily. She made a noise and, at first, I thought she was going to scream. However, it soon became apparent that she was moaning –- as though remembering some long lost lover. The woman had little blood left and she was soon quiet. The wolf creature reached down and gently closed her eyes as I sat back, horrified at what I’d become and even more horrified by the fact that I still suffered hunger pangs.
Draco’s full story will be revealed in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. In the meantime, you can read the story of Draco’s days in Arthurian Britain for only 99 cents in Dragon’s Fall: The Dragon’s Quest.