July is here and I am delighted to bring you an extract from Warbringer by Aaron Hodges to celebrate its 2nd year book birthday. Enjoy!
Book Extract: Warbringer by Aaron Hodges
Author: Aaron Hodges
Publisher: National Library of New Zealand
Release date: 2nd July 2018
Centuries ago, the world fell.
From the ashes rose a terrible new species—the Tangata.
Now they wage war against the kingdoms of man.
And humanity is losing.
Recruited straight from his academy, twenty-year-old Lukys hopes the frontier will make a soldier out of him. But Tangata are massing in the south, and the allied armies are desperate. They will do anything to halt the enemy advance—including sending untrained men and women into battle. Determined to survive, Lukys seeks aid from the only man who seems to care: Romaine, the last warrior of an extinct kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s Archivist leads an expedition deep beneath the earth. She seeks to uncover the secrets of the Gods. Their magic has been lost to the ages, yet artifacts remain, objects of power that could turn the tide of the war. But salvation is not all that waits beneath the surface. Something else slumbers in the darkness. Something old. Something evil.
Prologue – The Warrior
Romaine shivered as a breeze shook the treetops and somehow found its way through a gap in his clothing. He pulled the cloak tighter around his shoulders, eager to keep the winter cold at bay. The soft thump of falling snow came from nearby and he chuckled as two of his companions flinched. Settling himself more comfortably in the saddle, he flicked the lieutenant a glance.
“Want me to check it out?” Romaine asked, voice serious but the hint of a smile betraying his mirth.
The lieutenant scowled, though Romaine noticed the man loosened his sword in its scabbard before urging his mount onwards. Shaking his head, he let the lieutenant take the lead. The four other scouts fell in behind Romaine, nervous eyes on the dense forest to either side of the deer trail.
They were right to be nervous. Ten miles south of the Illmoor River, they were deep in no man’s land, far from the paved roads and walled cities of the northern nations. This was Calafe, a land of seemingly endless forest and great plateaus of tussock, of rugged hills and racing streams, with only the occasional settlement to prove the existence of humanity. This was his country, his home.
Or at least, it had been, until the Tangata.
Another tremor slid down his spine, though this time it had nothing to do with the cold. For ten years he’d fought to halt the Tangatan advance, ten long, brutal years of war. He’d been a simple woodsman once, but everything had changed with the destruction of their southern fortress, the Castle of Agzor. For a century it had barred the Tangata from the kingdoms of man, but with its battlements broken, its citadel cast down…nothing could halt the enemy advance.
And so those ten years of battle had proven futile. Just a few short months past, the last of Calafe’s territory had been lost. The allied armies had fought for every patch of earth, but in the end it had not been enough. The tide of the Tangata could not be stopped.
It had pained Romaine to leave behind his nation. Most of the Calafe army had already fallen by then, and yet more of his fellows had chosen to remain with the rearguard. They had been overwhelmed before the ships could return for them. Injured aboard one of the vessels, Romaine had been forced to watch as his comrades perished.
Thankfully, the enemy had not yet sought to strike across the Illmoor river. Some said they would remain in the south, but Romaine knew it was only a matter of time before they came. After all, people had once said the same of the Agzor Fortress, that it would stand forever against the beasts.
Romaine’s horse was struggling now, the snowdrifts growing deeper as they tracked their way eastward into the foothills of the Mountains of the Gods. Ahead, the lieutenant started to curse. Grimacing, Romaine edged his gelding alongside his superior.
“We’d best turn back,” he grunted. He didn’t bother with any honorifics—he rode with the Flumeerens, but he was not one of them. “If we press hard through the afternoon, we might make the crossing before nightfall.”
The lieutenant flicked Romaine an irritated glance. He was a young man, still in his mid-twenties, the son of some minor noble. Romaine could almost see the gears turning behind his eyes. Reaching the river before dark meant shelter over their heads and a hot meal for the night. But if they abandoned their path and missed some enemy movement…
“A little further,” the lieutenant replied finally. “We’ll turn around if the way becomes impassable.”
Romaine responded with a grunt. Pressing his horse forward, he continued along the trail, eyes on the way ahead. The storm had come upon them unexpectedly in the night, howling through the fir trees like a beast unleashed and burying the world in white.
They should have turned back then, but the lieutenant was new, still earning his stripes. Their orders had been to spend three days scouting for signs of the enemy. This being only their second, Romaine should have guessed the lieutenant would be hesitant to return. No doubt he feared the failure would be a black mark against his name.
It was an infuriating thought—evidence that the Flumeeren did not truly understand what came for them. They and the dregs of Perfugia might have fought alongside Calafe this last decade, but it had never been their land at risk, never their families, their very way of life.
That was about to change.
For if they could not stop the enemy at the Illmoor, Flumeer would be the next to fall.
Returning his thoughts to the present, Romaine scanned the path ahead. The snow had thinned again and the horses were making better progress. At least the fresh snow made Romaine’s task easier; not even the Tangata could move in these conditions without leaving tracks—
Romaine pulled sharply on his reins, bringing his horse to a stop. Beside him, the lieutenant cursed, but Romaine didn’t spare the man a glance. His eyes were on the trees, scanning the upper branches, the shadows beneath the broad trunks, seeking sign, however small, of an ambush. The wind had fallen off now, and he saw no movement. He let out a sigh as the others began to murmur. Breath fogged before his face as he returned his gaze to the trail.
Two sets of bootprints led away from them in the snow.
“What is it?” the lieutenant asked sharply as he got his horse under control. He had not noticed the tracks.
“Tangata,” Romaine replied.
The word cut through the whispers like a knife. Silence fell like a blanket over the six riders. The men looked to Romaine, faces as white as the snow all around them. Romaine might have laughed, if not for the racing of his own heart. Unlike the others though, it was not from fear.
This land had been abandoned months ago. There was no one left, not of his people, at least. It meant the general’s fears were true. The Tangata were moving north.
Aaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job and explore the world. During his travels he picked up an old draft of a novel he once wrote in High School (titled The Sword of Light) and began to rewrite the story. Six months later he published his first novel, Stormwielder, and hasn’t looked back since.
I hope you have enjoyed the snippet of the book. Why not visit the other blogs on this blitz to find out more about this book.
Happy reading and stay safe!