Jim Melvin

The Death Wizard Chronicles

Book 4

More than 100,000 druids — gigantic insect-like monsters — have attacked the white horsemen of Jivita in the open field. Torg, the Death-Knower wizard, and some of his Tugars are there to join in the defense. A horrible battle ensues.

The lead portion of the druid horde thundered forward. The first row of cavalry met the challenge. There was a titanic clash of man and destrier against the keepers of Dhutanga. Each druid stood at least seven cubits tall and weighed as much as a war horse. Due to the excellence of their armor, the white horsemen bore no shields, swinging their longswords with both hands while maintaining their balance by gripping the high saddles with their inner thighs.

The druids spat acids at the eye slits of their helms and attempted to knock the Jivitans off their horses with long, angular arms. Several horsemen were torn from their mounts, screaming as the attackers dragged them away. But wherever a Tugar was present, the druids were beaten back.

Rajinii swung her staff this way and that, its fiery chunk of jade incinerating any druid it touched. Laylah wielded Obhasa with deadly fury, slaying the enemy by the dozen. Ugga’s heavy axe splintered the bark-like flesh, and none could stand before it. Even Elu got into the act, killing a druid three times his height with Sōbhana’s Tugarian dagger. But it was Torg who wrought the most damage. Without fear, Bhojja bore into the horde, purposely allowing Torg to become surrounded. Then he brought the Silver Sword to bear, slashing, stabbing, and hacking in a blur of movement. The tough hide of the enemy was no match for the ancient weapon, the greatest of its kind ever to exist, far surpassing even the finest uttara. Torg killed more than a hundred; yet it represented just a few drops in a sea of monsters.

“First row, fall back!” Torg heard Captain Julich shouting.

Bhojja responded without prompting, tearing through the enemy until she and Torg again were in the open. The first row, less a score of fallen riders, spun around and rushed through the ranks all the way to the back, except for Torg, Laylah, Rajinii, Ugga, Elu, Julich, and Manta, who halted at the sixth row, the next of the armored riders.

Torn By War -low-rez coverNow in the front, four files of mounted archers, twelve squadrons in all, prepared to enter the fray, with Bard anchoring the middle of the lead row. Even before the armored horsemen were clear, the archers, arranged in pairs, scraped the pitched-coated heads of their arrows together, causing them to flare and catch fire. As one, they drew back their bowstrings to their chins and then loosed thirty-six-hundred flaming arrows into the sky. The shafts blazed in the firmament like a flock of tiny dragons before hissing downward upon the leading edge of the druid army. In rapid fashion each archer loosed five more arrows, so that more than twenty thousand fell among the stunned enemy, causing it to briefly halt its forward momentum.

“Fall back!” shouted a master bowman. In unison the four rows of mounted archers retreated to the rear. Row six came next: seven hundred armored horsemen and two hundred Tugars again led by Torg, Rajinii, Laylah, and Ugga.

The leading edge of the druid army was in disarray. Thousands bore wounds. The armored horsemen waded into the chaos, finishing off those most seriously inflicted. For Torg, especially, it was easy pickings, and he and Bhojja again wandered farther than the others, slaying any that came within reach. But during the second wave, Torg noticed something disturbing. Interspersed among the ordinary druids were hundreds of larger and stronger ones, and none of these appeared to have been punctured. Were their hides impenetrable? Torg rode one down and hacked at it with the Silver Sword. Its insect-like head fell away, gushing hot green blood, but the supernal blade encountered more resistance than Torg had expected. These bigger druids, which he had first seen guarding the entrance to Kattham’s lair in the heart of Dhutanga, appeared to be far more dangerous than the ordinary ones. This did not bode well.

Julich ordered the retreat. The sixth row spun around and galloped toward the rear, sluicing through the ranks like rivulets of water. This time more than fifty horsemen had fallen. Torg and the others halted at the eleventh row and waited. The next four rows of archers, again anchored by Bard, loosed the ensuing barrage.

Rajinii came over to Torg, her white armor splashed with green blood. Arusha leaned against Bhojja, as if already exhausted. The queen raised the visor of her helm. In the darkness, her gray eyes glowed like burning pitch.

“Did you see them?” she shouted above the tumult of humming. “The big ones?”

“Yes,” Torg said. “They were unharmed.”

“The normal ones . . . the smaller ones . . . are falling like flies. But these others . . . I was nearly bested by one. I don’t think that Navarese is aware of the difficulties they present.”

Laylah rode beside them. “They are much harder to kill than the others.”

Manta, the necromancer, agreed. “They resist our magic.”

Julich’s white breastplate bore a long gash. “Navarese must be told, but I am needed here. Your highness, who should I send in my place?”

Instantly Rajinii turned to Elu. “Sir! We have an urgent message for General Navarese. You must go to him immediately.”

The Svakaran didn’t like that one bit. “Sir Elu’s place is by your side.”

“Your place is to obey my orders. Feel free to return once you have done so.”

Elu snapped down his visor and guided his pony toward the rear of the army.

“I have to admit that I’m glad he’s gone, at least for a while,” Laylah said. “I was more worried about him than anyone.”

“Me too,” Ugga said. “The little guy is a toughy, but some of these druids are big even for me.”

Meanwhile, twenty-thousand more arrows had been loosed. The master bowmen called the retreat. Then Julich ordered another armored charge.

“Kill as many of the big ones as you can,” Torg shouted to Ugga and the others. “We must keep them from advancing too quickly.”

During his third charge, Torg paid even closer attention to the threat of the larger druids, and his worst fears were confirmed. Though it was difficult to see long distances in the darkness, he still came to believe that there were more of them than before, and none had been severely injured by arrows. Torg estimated that already five thousand druids were dead, but now fully a third of the druids that came forward were the more dangerous kind. Torg was confused. When he had been battling the druids in the clearing that surrounded Kattham’s lair during the rescue of Laylah, he remembered seeing just a few dozen of the larger ones. All the others had been what he considered normal-sized.

“Why are there so many of you?” he screamed, before riding down and beheading a particularly nasty-looking one, easily nine cubits tall and weighing more than one hundred stones. While he was slaying this giant, another of the big ones spit a ball of acidic sputum onto his back, burning away a patch of his jacket, though doing little harm to his Tugarian flesh.

“Retreat!” he heard Julich shouting. Yet again, Bhojja responded without prompting.

When they fell back, it was half a bell past midnight. Torg saw with dismay that at least five score armored horsemen did not return. While the rest rode to the rear, Torg, Laylah, Rajinii, Ugga, and Julich stopped at the sixteenth row. His companions looked exhausted. A sizeable portion of the sorceress’ left cuisse had been torn away, padding and all, revealing a milky thigh. The queen’s breastplate was dented and scarred, and Ugga’s oversized helm looked as if a tree had fallen on it. Though Julich had done little fighting, his responsibility as captain of the ranks was wearing on him. If he called the retreat too soon, the druids would advance on the archers and rout them, but the longer he delayed, the more horsemen he was dooming to unthinkable deaths.

While the next volley of flaming arrows was being launched at the enemy, Elu rode up in a rush.

Lord Torgon!” he shouted in greeting.

“Sir Elu,” Torg responded.

“General Navarese requests that you call all Tugars to the front.”

Even as they spoke, Julich ordered another charge.

“There is no time now. I shall summon them after the next withdrawal,” Torg said, knowing that he would have done so, regardless. Then Bhojja bore him forward again.

About The Author

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Jim Melvin was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. As a reporter, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Jim is the author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy for mature audiences. But he and his agent are now actively marketing book 1 of an epic fantasy trilogy for ages 12 and up titled Dark Circles.

About my Publisher

The Death Wizard Chronicles is being published by Bell Bridge Books, an imprint of BelleBooks, Inc. Bell Bridge Books is known for nurturing emerging fiction voices as well as being the “second home” for many established authors, who continue to publish with major publishing conglomerates.