Burn Down Bloody Twilight: Preview 1

Posted: November 2, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

tqp-logo-readyAnd now, the first of four preview excerpts from “Burn Down Bloody Twilight,” the forthcoming novel by Jeff Holland and published by Threat Quality Press. (ON SALE FRIDAY)

It is an epic and yet easily accessible fantasy-adventure yarn (can epics take place over the course of three days?) with soldiers, pirates, zombies, alarmingly profane magicians, and stoned warrior-monks. And here’s a bit from the first chapter:

Chapter 1: Captain Mene’s Final Assessment

It took him over an hour of fighting, but Victor Mene, captain of the Royal Guard of Western Sun, had finally made his way to the edge of the kingdom. His armor was spattered in blood. The blood was more gray than red.

One of his soldiers stepped before him.

Mene greeted him formally. “Sergeant Colby. Good to see you.” He firmed his grip on his sword. “I’m sorry.”

And then Victor Mene swiped his sword and took off the man’s head, as another of his men approached.

“Corporal Howell. I’m sorry.” And then Victor Mene smashed his shield into the man’s face. Crushing it completely.

A feeling he would almost categorize as shame had been creeping up on Victor Mene throughout the last hour. Maybe longer than that. A rare feeling, if he was being honest with himself. Up until recently, he had felt nothing but pride for the entirety of his military service. Shame…he hardly had a context for it.

It wasn’t for leading his men into a total slaughter. An entire battalion of Western Sun’s finest, coming back to their homeland dead on carts in waves. Though he would always keep that loss with him, as he believed no leader should never forget his failures.         But this is the nature of warfare. Good men die. One of life’s simple truths, no matter how abhorrent it may be.

It wasn’t for keeping quiet when the Orphan listened to Grolev. He had spoken his piece when the decision to invade the southlands had been made. He had explained to the best of his ability his doubts that they could annex that savage land. But in the end, Victor Mene was a soldier, not an advisor. He would not accept the blame for the poor judgment of the queen-in-waiting’s cabinet, or the manipulations of her mystical advisor.

And it wasn’t because he did not foresee Grolev’s manipulations resulting in the current state of his kingdom. That Grolev would suggest raising the dead sons of the kingdom, and that the Orphan, in her grief over one young private, would agree to this course of action. Who could possibly have known this could happen?

If it was indeed shame he felt, then he placed it squarely on the fact that he had apparently trained his men so poorly, that they would rise up from death with no memory of his battle tactics. No fighting skills at all, really, other than frantic rushing and a sloppy desire to spill blood.

“Peter Mink. You too? No more than a schoolboy. I should have drummed you out when I first saw you. I’m sorry.” And his sword dropped again.

Victor Mene believed himself to be without fear. He came from a long line of guardsmen. Victor honored the guard and everything it stood for. It was the family business, after all. His mother had died in childbirth, and he had no siblings. He was raised by guardsmen. He had learned to fight – learned to win – from the moment he could stand.

Atticus Shore shambled up to attack him next. “Corporal Shore. You were a waste. I’m not sorry.” He split the man’s skull with his blade, then gutted him with the shield, and then moved on his way.

Victor Mene’s failure, as far as he could fathom it, lay in what he could only see as his piss-poor training of the men under his command. That they would return from the dead was both disgusting and regrettable. That they would be such easy prey for a lone guardsman, that this mass of angry, pathetic retches that he had once called soldiers, would let him leave the kingdom grounds this easily….

Victor Mene once again felt shame in his gut. He accepted that his own failures had been a part of this travesty, as well he should have.

He blamed other people more….

(TOMORROW: Drinking and posturing and possibly a scene with an incredibly tall tale built into it.)

  1. Hsiang says:

    And now begins the Picking of Nits.

    So the kingdom here is actually named “Bloody Twilight”? That has got to be a major challenge for their Tourism board.

    The phrase “speak your piece”, I always use “speak your peace” but see both used with about the same frequency. Do any of you scholarly types know which one is “right” and the origin of the phrase? One must be a misspelling of the other, either that or this is an example of freaky convergent etymological evolution.

    I already have some questions about the contemporary voice used here, word choice and such, but I think I see what you’re trying to do. The exposition might be too much of an infodump. But let’s see. Dazzle me, Holland.
    For now I’ll keep my big yap shut and let the story do its job. I’ll read the excerpts ’til the weekend and then unleash Hell.

  2. braak says:

    American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (by way of answers.com) says “piece.”

    Trap! Shut it!

  3. Hsiang says:

    And now I know.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    “Bloody Twilight,” as you’ll see (though maybe it won’t get explained in the previews – but I’m not blowing anything important) is not the actual name of the place – but it is the name used by the people who know its history. Think “Hell’s Kitchen.”

    (Goddamn it, thanks to Fox, I can only think of Gordon Ramsey. Think the NYC neighborhood! DAMN, YOU, RAMSEY!!!)

    The modern lingo…well, you’re gonna just have to get used to that. It was a conscious decision I made – part of my reason for writing the book was an urge to put together a fantasy story without the austere dialogue that, to me, can be a serious barrier against getting into the story. I wanted everyone to speak in a relatable voice, so that’s the tack I took.

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