Title: Exordium of Tears
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Fight or die.
A brutal tenet by which the refugees from Earth – including the lost 9th Legion of Rome; the 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Rifles; and the Special Forces anti-terrorist team – were forced to endure while the Horde menace existed.
Now that threat is over, the survivors long to settle down and reclaim the lives stolen from them. However, such aspirations remain beyond their reach, for shadows loom on the horizon that not only threatens the future of Arden, but the universe too, revealing once again that…
Death is only the beginning of the adventure.
The day was unmercifully hot. Stripped to the waist, men bent their backs to the earth and went about their labors with an eagerness that filled the meadow with the irregular, muffled beat of metal on soil. Every now and then someone caught their shin or toe instead of their intended target, and a barrage of cursing filled the air with colorful metaphors.
None of these distractions intruded on the world of Marcus Brutus, former Prime Centurion of the Ninth Legion of Rome—and more recently sub-commander of the Ardenese city of Rhomane.
As was his custom when engaged in monotonous physical tasks, Marcus became an automaton. Lost in a cadence of his own making, he allowed the rhythm of his exertions to detach his mind and transport him back to a time only three years previously, when he had basked in the limelight of achievement and success.
The eradication of Gallic insurgents who had disrupted major supply routes for months. A commendation from Emperor Hadrian himself. His promotion to Triari thereafter.
A sad smile creased his lips.
If only I could have realized my dreams there and then. The district of Lugdunum was prime real estate, especially the villages clustered along the Saône River. I could have built a house there, close to the forest and away from the rest of civilization. Found myself a woman. Settled down. Spent my twilight years getting old and fat . . . and overrun with children.
His smile broadened into a grin.
“Happy about something?” an unexpected voice enquired.
“I . . . I’m sorry?” Marcus stammered, caught by surprise, “what did you say?”
Marcus allowed his eyes to re-focus and discovered Searc Calhoun standing above his trench, a bottle of chilled water clutched in his hand.
Searc was leader of the Vacomagi clan, part of the Caledonian army that had ambushed the Ninth Legion back on Earth and inflicted heavy casualties before fate intervened and snatched them all away to Arden. Former enemies, the two men were now close friends who enjoyed each other’s company immensely.
“I asked if you were all right,” Searc repeated, “you looked to be a million miles away there.”
“A million miles away?” Marcus snorted. “I’m afraid I was a lot, lot farther out than that.”
He snatched the bottle from his companion’s grasp and took a long deep pull.
Realizing what Marcus was alluding to, Searc couldn’t resist the opening.
“Och . . . dreaming of the ass-kicking we gave you back in Callie, eh? Lucky buggers. I’d have loved to stick your head on a pike and drink a blood-toast to your dearly departed ghost.” He paused to spit on the ground. “Bloody aliens and their interfering sprites, they spoiled a good ruckus.”
“That they did, my friend. That they did.” Marcus handed the bottle back. Shielding his eyes against the glare of the sun, he countered, “Anyway, what makes you so sure your uneducated rabble would have won? I think the Architect may have done you a favor.”
Around them, clansmen and legionnaires alike began hooting and hollering as the good-natured jesting became more personal. Joining in, several of them interrupted their chores to brandish hoes and picks at one another in mock anger.
“We could always reenact our little shindig, here and now,” Searc offered, “just you and me. I’ve got a score to settle, remember, after the tragedy of our last bout.”
The mood spread and soon a small crowd gathered in a loose circle to watch what had become a regular feature between the two warriors.
“Yes, that was a rather good tussle, wasn’t it?” A hint of steel entered Marcus’s gaze. As he climbed from the pit, he stretched his sore limbs. “Especially as I evened the score with a most skillful maneuver that put you flat on your face.”
“Skillful? Bloody lucky it was—”
A shadow flickered across the ground and everyone looked up.
Resplendent in midnight-green plumage, a chiraff spiraled lazily down from the sky to land in a nearby tree. A male, it was clearly on the hunt for a mate, for it cocked its head to the gathered throng below, strutted to the end of the branch, and puffed out its chest for inspection.
An iridescent flash of topaz-blue and royal purple stood revealed.
“Who’s a pretty boy then?” someone shouted.
“I wonder if it tastes good?”
The bird ignored them, continuing to flex and pose like an Adonis so his colors were displayed to their best effect.
“Nervy little sod, that’s for sure!”
A few whistled and stamped their feet. Others whooped and cheered the interloper on. In reply, the chiraff threw back his head, and fluted birdsong filled the glade with resonant bliss.
His query was answered by a warbling echo, and everyone stopped to watch as a female appeared from the dense foliage of a nearby tree. Swooping low, she glided across the intervening gap and alighted just along from her would-be suitor.
They called back and forth for a few moments, whereupon the male skipped closer, spread his wings wide, and commenced bobbing up and down. The female was obviously impressed. She issued a little chirrup of pleasure, and both disappeared in a flurry of feathers and leaves.
“He’s got all the right moves too!” Searc cackled. He slapped Marcus on the shoulder. “Talking of which, how are things coming along between you and your new lady pilot friend?”
The highlander flashed his eyebrows outrageously, much to the amusement of those nearby, who tried to suppress their giggles.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
There were several that impressed me in the same way in my early years. One of those is the Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin. I loved the magical system she employed, where everything could be manipulated or controlled by the employment of its true name. Very different from anything else at the time. And the setting? A worldwide archipelago surrounded by an endless ocean. Excellent. I found it a must-read as we follow the life of Ged as he comes into his power, and all the trials and tribulations that goes with it. Great fun!
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
Exordium of Tears is a binge-worthy read because it exposes the bittersweet reality of war. No matter how many battles you’ve fought, no matter how experienced or competent you are, you can’t escape the Reaper. I ensured to encapsulate the contrasting emotions that constant warfare inflicts on a soldier’s mind and heart, and how this can wear the greatest warrior down in the end. You’ll see. A lot of personal experience has been woven into the thread of this adventure, and you feel that as the story progresses.
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