consortium chain harrington martin
THE CONSORTIUM CHAIN Copyright ÂŠ 2017 Harrington Martin All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the authorâ€™s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Indigo an imprint of BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2016962381 ISBN-13: 978-1-946006-83-7 ISBN-10: 1-946006-83-1 Visit the author at: www.emprenbazaar.com www.bhcpress.com Also available in Hardcover and eBook Editing by: Michele Crerand Book design by Blue Harvest Creative www.blueharvestcreative.com
welcome to xarh 7 Introduction, Book One: Defiance and Interdiction 23 of War and Consequence 237 Introduction, Book Two: Dawn and Validation 247 of Power and Deception 413 Introduction, Book Three: Dreams and Contemplation 423 of Legends and Grace 593 Glossary
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lames danced off the torches in the marbled hall as the child’s cry echoed forth. It was the first hour of the new year, and the night was a blessed one. The dimly lit hall was filled with the women of the Township. Black robes shuffled about as they gathered the newborn’s birth robe and whispered amongst each other. A proud mother smiled as her baby was wrapped in the black silk garb of her people. This was to be a momentous occasion. A son was born unto the Wor family. Jahrok Wor sat alone on a stool outside the building’s hall in the pouring rain of the swamp citadel’s eve. Only one of the two moons of Xarh was adrift in the fog-filled night sky. High above, huge, metal shielding hung from moorings over the rooftops of Huld. The
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dark brick construction of the city-state shimmered under the cover of water. Painted black, as every object in the citadel, the shielding blended into the dark expanse of space above. A mooring rattled in a gust of wind, telling Wor it needed to be tightened. Banthyk guards patrolled the area, giving the Lord a nod of respect as they passed. It was a typical day in the Township. His muscular size dwarfed the stool as ebon robes hung low and covered the ground beside him. With chiseled jaw and squinted eyes, he exhibited the rugged manifestation of the swamp-hardened people. Dyed black hair hung wet before his face as he absorbed the Banthyk weather. Torches were spread across the citadel walls, their fire sputtering under the swamp weather’s offering. Leaning in to the door to hear the first cry of his newborn son, the puzzled Lord furled his brow in confusion. Being the Warden of the Third Township in the Citadel of Huld was a responsibility he did not take lightly. He knew that his people needed him as much as his wife and child. However his brother was far to the north, and his mind was cascading with the worries he felt for his elder’s safety. It was not long ago that Jahnder Wor, a Banthyk Lord of renown, set out with a small band of soldiers to attempt the unthinkable, to lay siege to Castle Trsyriu in the heart of the Kingdom of Sarkrea. A fool’s errand, to be sure. A suicide mission, most assuredly. Jahrok, a Banthyk Lord as well, had fought with his brother to stay and wait for the other Lords to gather a greater force. But the elder brother believed the Union would never reach a consensus and gather troops fast enough. Jahnder had had enough. Enough of the aerial assaults on his people. Enough of the slain within his beloved city. Enough of the Union bloodshed. His twenty men would suffice. Rising from his stool, Jahrok looked to the raining sky and let loose a bellowing yell. Upon hearing the noise, his wife, now holding his newborn son, put her head down into the baby’s chest. She knew that the Warden would be leaving soon. This time, there would be no talking him out of it.
s the rain poured across the swamplands of Banthyk, the sun shone on Ornateam. Black-armored men of the swamp squinted in the bright light as they peered into the northern plains. Their eyes still adjusted to the radiant orb in the sky. Sweat already beaded under their armor. The swamp couldn’t prepare them for this facet of nature. These conditions would test the pale skin of the southern soldiers. With weapons on the ready, and defiance to the Kingdom’s oppressors in abundance, they sought the worst and found it. “There it is, milord. The edge of our destiny.” The twenty-man squadron had braved the Sea of Regrett and slipped under the coastal defenses in the cover of night to reach the outskirts of the vast
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Sarkrean homeland. A massive collection of huts, houses, and buildings for as far as the eye could see. Yellow-tan clay dotted the landscape as the Kingdom’s building materials gave the civilized expanse an almost radiant hue. Scattered around the outskirts were patches of decaying stumps and withered foliage. Nature was attempting to rebuild the forests that had grown here long ago, but the Sarkreans continued their devouring consumption. The gains of nature’s progress had long since been averted. This was beyond any city that they had seen before. This was an ocean of the enemy. “Stay the course, Graewl, we have only just begun,” said Jahnder in a stern and focused tone. The sturdy Banthyk Lord stiffened his frame and checked his weapons. Sans helmet, as was customary for all members of the Union, the blackened armor he wore was cutting edge. A mixture of heavy chain and tempered plate, his Banthyk shell was as sturdy as it was flexible. The mighty Lord towered over his men, and his extra-thick armor increased his massive size even further. His Apeatharis Draeun was at the ready over his shoulder. With no need to hide it, the green light from its menacing, hooked tip shimmered brightly with the sun’s aid. Its three-pronged, opposing end waited for its next taste of blood. A great, two-handed hammer, stained with the blood of battles past, was at the ready in his left hand. His strength allowed him to wield it with one hand when many of his peers would use two to lesser effect. Jahnder was a master of the hammer, and in battle it became an extension of his arm as it knocked its victims wildly through the air. As he took a deep breath of the Ornateam air, the fragrant essence of an earthy, smoked aroma filled his nostrils. An unfamiliar meat being cooked. It only served to whet his appetite for pressing ahead. Jahnder was quite similar to his brother in many ways of appearance, but his ravenous stomach had bulked up his musculature beyond what his sibling could achieve. A new food on the horizon was certainly alluring. “They know not what they have here, my friends! This land is far too good for the likes of these worms! Let us bring upon them the rage they have wrought!”
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Lord Wor pointed his hammer to the edge of the cityscape and moved his men forward. Though they could smell the sweet fragrances of distant flowers and cooking animal protein as the plains greeted their progress, the death march was at hand. No soldier among them had any illusion of going home. They rubbed their eyes as the sunlight became tolerable. White, shadowed spots still trailed in a few of the men’s vision. The brightness blurred the distinction of shapes. But they saw the enemy location, and that was enough. As the small squadron approached the beginnings of the hut communities, a loud horn rang out from the interior. The swamp men marched forth, unfettered. Nearly all of them had heard this horn many times before and knew this meant the enemy was coming to greet them. Huts along the outskirts flung their wooden doors open wide, and the bright robes of the Sarkrean people were in full view. The Banthyk squad picked up its pace toward the enemy and grabbed their Apeatharis from their backs. Lord Jahnder Wor readied his Apeatharis Draeun in his right hand and let the hilt of the hammer slide to its longest length in his left. Arrows flew from behind the first rows of huts and sliced down into the middle of the Banthyk ranks. The men used the spear-like Apeatharis in a whirling defensive motion to cut arrows down as they flew within range. Arrows had rarely been effective against the Union’s armor in the past, and clearly this time was no different. The first wave of sky-borne attacks was averted with little damage to speak of. A single arrow sunk into Graewl’s thigh, toward the end of the barrage, but he had not slowed a bit. Determination was evident. After the initial arrow volley, the Sarkreans of the Kingdom outskirts were upon them. Battle cries screamed through the sky as the shaven heads of the men and women of the Kingdom’s outer huts came streaming toward Jahnder and his troops. Their robes were faded yet flowing wildly and mixed with each family’s symbolic colors. All wore traditional breastplates to protect their heart, but these pour souls’ armor was rusted and held on by weathered leather. The Banthyk men had seldom seen Sarkreans
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of such small stature. These were impoverished citizens. The long, two-handed Shuntren gleamed in the sunlight as the citizens of the outskirts ran. Most swung the blade overhead in both hands in traditional downward-striking Sarkrean fashion. A frightening sight, as intended. Jahnder was the first to make contact with the Sarkrean surge. Before the Sarkrean warrior racing toward him could swing her Shuntren, the mighty Banthyk Lord let loose his hammer into her chin. In a whirling display of power, the hammer connected with a punishing, upward thud that knocked the woman into the air. Blood sprayed from her face as her mandible shattered. Instantly the convesium began to heal her, and Jahnder brought his other weapon to bear as the woman returned to her feet, fully healed. The Banthyk Lord flashed his Apeatharis Draeun’s hook and slid it under her breastplate. He yanked the breastplate from her chest, tearing her robes from her body as well. She stood naked glaring at him, clutching her Shuntren tightly as Jahnder spun the Apeatharis Draeun around and slid the three pronged end into her bare chest. Her heart was punctured. “Heathen!” she hissed as her body fell limp on his Banthyk weapon. The menace from the south slipped her skinny corpse onto the ground and readied himself for the next Sarkrean. Looking up, he saw his twenty men tear into their ranks. Blood flew skyward as the Sarkreans closest to him were cut to pieces. The rapid healing effect was in full force as their wounds quickly sealed, and limbs grew back amidst the cyclone of giant Sarkrean swords. Graewl and his soldier brothers had small swords to accompany their Apeatharis. Far too many of the Banthyk soldiers were using the Apeatharis as a blocking device and slashing away with their secondary weapons. Jahnder’s frustration mounted as he saw the young soldiers struggling with such a mass of humanity. The men were clearly trying to evaluate how to deal with the numbers of Sarkreans they were facing. The blood was everywhere. “Some of your men are getting sloppy, Graewl! These worms will just make a bloody mess if you let them!” Jahnder barked as he chuckled and wiped blood splatter from his face.
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The Banthyk Lord knew victory would be impossible if his men failed to deliver decisive kill shots to the heart. Sarkreans will continue to bleed and shed flesh for as long as they live, and their regeneration simply means that the battlefield becomes cluttered with entrails and disgust. A single Sarkrean has been known to leave multiple sets of arms, legs, even heads on the ground. The men sweated profusely in their black armor, and this was only the first battle of a vicious campaign.
s the wife of a Township Warden, Brayasha Wor was a proud citizen of Huld. And now she was a proud mother. Being the eldest of six siblings and the daughter of Warden parents, Brayasha had always been counted on as a protector of sorts. Protecting her newborn child would be second nature to a woman of her experience. As a young girl, her parents frequently had gone away, leaving her in charge. A disciplinarian, cook, teacher, and loving older sister were just a few of the many roles she assumed. The women in the hall praised her son’s birth as she asked for their assistance in tending to her husband. “Take me outside. I must speak with him.” Two of the women picked her up and set her gently into a large, wheeled,
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wooden chair that rested beside her birthing bed. They pushed her to the end of the hall toward the blackened metal door to the outside. Before arriving, it swung open. Rain poured in, and lightning filled the Banthyk sky as the hall momentarily lit up. “Let me see the child,” Warden Jahrok exclaimed as he walked in. Layered black robes glistened from the rain, his long hair tied neatly behind his head. Brayasha signaled to the two women to leave her and go back for the newborn. The women retreated down the hall. “Jahrok, you mustn’t leave. What your brother has done is nothing you have to be a part of. You’re needed here now. Your son needs you. I need you,” Brayasha said in a soft tone, clearly struggling to gain her strength back. “I cannot. Jahnder is right,” he replied. “The Union will never come to the decision to invade Ornateam outright. Even if he doesn’t make it into the Kingdom, he’ll need support. I can at least try to bring it to him. Brayasha, you are a strong and capable woman, and you will act as Warden for the Third in my stead. This is not a matter for contemplation. I must act now.” As he finished, the two women were returning with the newest member of the Wor clan. They rested the child in his mother’s arms and withdrew to the other end of the hall. “My son,” Jahrok whispered. “My wonderful boy.” A single tear rolled down his rugged face as he looked into his offspring’s eyes. He knew that what he was about to undertake would mean this may be the last time he would gaze upon his newborn. Jahrok slowly walked over to the two of them and bent down to kiss his wife. “For you I would do anything, my love. And for him, I would gladly give my life to allow a better future than the one we offer him now. This task is for all of us. We must show the rest of the Union that the Sarkreans can be dealt with on their lands. This cycle has to stop. Jahnder knows this, and now, so do I.” Brayasha turned her head for a moment and looked off, worriedly, into one of the flaming torches on the wall.
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“Go then. Go and find your brother. And, when you get to the castle, you take the heads of those bastards in Pantheona Siafrana Gal, and bring them home to me!” she replied as she choked back her tears. Jahrok squatted down and embraced his wife and newborn child. He held the two of them for several minutes before standing and reaching into his belt pouch. He produced a long necklace attached to the pendant of the family crest. With his right hand, he placed the necklace on the black-robed child, and his left hand he placed, palm open, on the boy’s heart. “May the Union guide and protect you. And may the night be your ally.”
about the author I’m a lover of all things fantastical in nature, a fancier of eclectic music, an owner of taste buds that enjoy almost anything, and a strong proponent of all things diverse. If there’s a way to cram a multitude of ideas into a single work of art, I’m guilty of it. Life has been quite good to me. I enjoy a relatively simple life in the suburbs. I live with the most amazing woman in the world who continues to inspire me to be better. I’m within a short drive of my beautiful daughter and granddaughter. I have a particularly cute cat that won’t leave me alone and knows how to push my buttons, and I have a loving, extended family that I’ll always cherish.
Published on May 11, 2017
Published on May 11, 2017
Imprint: Indigo Genre: Epic Fantasy Release Date: 5/12/2017 About the Book: There are tales of wild adventure, spectacular stories of farawa...