Brogan McTyre and his compatriots are wanted, dead or alive. Preferably alive, so they can be sacrificed to the raging gods. All they can do is hire more mercenaries and turn them into a fearsome army. But warriors aren't enough when the gods bring Armageddon to the world, unleashing storms and madness, and ceaseless attacks on Brogan's men by increasingly demonic foes.
Deep in the heart of the Broken Blades Mountains lies a sword containing the heart of a god slain in immortal combat, the one thing that might give Brogan an edge against the gods, but finding it isn't going to be easy...
File Under: Fantasy
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Author hometown: Bradford MA, USA
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Brogan McTyre knew he was sleeping. It was only in his dreams that he had time to grieve.
When the He-Kisshi came and took his family, stole them away to appease the appetites of the gods, he followed and sought to stop them. He failed, and his world changed.
In his dream he had time to think, to consider the world around him without feeling the pressure of keeping his allies alive and trying to stop the gods from destroying the world in a retaliatory tantrum.
Long enough then to lower his head and remember his beloved Nora's laugh, her kiss, the feeling of her breath when they embraced. Leidhe and Sherla, laughing at a secret jest between them, the sort it seemed that only twins could share. Time enough to mourn his son, Braghe, who would never grow old enough to shave, or ride a horse, or sharpen a knife.
He understood that what he saw was not real, could not be real, and did not match with his last memory of slipping into a fitful slumber along the rocky edge of the Broken Swords, amidst chunks of rough crystal the size of his head.
The fact that he knew it was a dream changed nothing. In that moment, everything he experienced was his reality.
He stood along the spine of the mountains, facing north. To the south the range continued on almost to the sea. To the east the black, raging storm clouds hid half the land away and shattered the peace with a thousand tongues of lightning. To the west the lands were clear and pristine, but foreign to him: Mentath, the country he'd fought against in his youth, was a place he never wanted to see again.
The female voice that spoke to him came from Mentath and spoke with barely suppressed hatred. "You are hunted, Brogan McTyre. You, who have enslaved a people and angered the gods."
"It was enslave them or kill them. They deserved worse than they got." In the real world he might have felt guilt over the words, but not in his dream.
"The gods do not agree." The voice trembled with rage and the storms lashed out to the west, mirroring that fury.
Not to be outdone, Brogan raised his axe above his head and roared back, "The gods took my family from me! They deserve nothing but death and destruction!"
To the west something twisted within the cloudbanks. A great, hunched shape that slithered through the storms and hid itself in the corner of the eye. Below that form the ocean surged over the land devouring all that it touched, threatening to reach all the way to the mountains.
Winds roared across the plains and reached out, whipping his hair in a frenzy. His clothes rippled in the charnel gale, and the scent of carrion forced itself on him.
Brogan was not afraid. He should have been. He knew that, dream or not, he had actually angered the gods. He understood that their rage would end the world.
"Tell your gods I'm coming for them! Tell your gods that I'll see them dead for what they did!"
"You who end the world would make threats? The gods will have you one way or another, Brogan McTyre. We prepare for you. We will cut your heart out and offer it to the gods. If they are merciful they will let us live. If not, in whatever comes after this world, we will find you, and make you suffer."
The wind woke him. It blew across his face and pelted him with a fine, gritty hail.
Brogan rolled over and pulled his cloak closer around his broad shoulders. There was absolutely nothing glorious about sleeping in the mountains as winter crept closer.
For one moment he was at peace, and then the truth rushed in as brutally as the tide in his fading dream.
Nora. Braghe, Leidhe and Sherla. Their loss was a weight on his chest that would likely never leave him.
It was also a hot blade that burned inside, a glowing ember that wanted to ignite and burn the world.
He opened his eyes as the wind shifted and he felt a warm breath touch his flesh. Warm enough that it was something other than the wind.
His hand clenched around his axe's grip and he looked up toward the source of that warmth.
Harper Ruttket smiled at him. It was not a pleasant expression. The glint in the eyes and the curl of his lip, reminded Brogan far too much of a predatory animal.
He tried moving the axe, but Harper was wiser than that. The man's foot pressed down on the blade and kept it pinned there.
Sometimes he forgot that Harper was his best friend.
"It's morning soon. The sun is climbing and soon enough we'll be discovered if we're not on our way." If Harper was at all worried about the way Brogan tried to move his blade he hid it well behind that predatory smirk.
"I hate you, Harper."
"Of course you do. That's why you put me on the last watch of the night. Get up, you bastard."
The dream was gone but the reality remained. He was a wanted man. He and his friends were being hunted down for offending the gods. They had done so by interrupting the ritual sacrifice of all four members of Brogan's family. His family died, but the rituals demanded were not completed and, as they soon learned, the world was ending as a result of their actions.
The Grakhul were a people who served the gods, preparing the sacrifices and committing the ritual acts. Brogan and his companions had killed a great number of Grakhul, mostly men, and sold the rest into slavery, making them wealthy beyond measure. But they couldn't spend a coin without getting themselves burned at the stake or worse. They'd angered the gods and that was bad enough, but they'd also offended the Slavers Union by selling them the remaining pale-skinned people and lying about where they came from. The Grakhul were under the protection of the very gods Brogan had already offended. The messengers of the gods, the He-Kisshi, had, according to the rumors they'd heard, destroyed the home of the Slavers Union to show the dissatisfaction of the gods. The slavers would doubtless like a refund.
Brogan wasn't much in a mood to negotiate with the slavers, as he was already a condemned man in all five kingdoms. He was going to need that money to muster an army sufficient for his needs.
The only good news was that Brogan was a mercenary. He understood how mercenaries felt and worked. They would be loyal as long as the coin held out. They would also be loyal to their own before they'd be fair with the slavers. At least until the slavers offered more money.
He rose and looked down toward the east and the gathering storms that swept across the plains of Arthorne, hiding half the known world from view.
The winds howled. The rains drenched the plains and left a vast watery surface where once had been desert. To the south, where the land was higher, the waters had not completely taken over, but rivers and streams all flowed over their banks, lakes were larger than they should have been, and in some places the heavy caul of storm clouds obscured what should have been easily seen.
The day was only just beginning and there was so much to do. He had to gather an army. He had to plan how to fend off several armies that wanted them captured and offered to the gods of the Grakhul.
He had to leave behind his friends, if only for a time, and find the best possible answer for how to kill a pantheon of gods.
There was a voice in his head that told him his tasks were too great. He thought of Nora and his children, and crushed the doubts behind a veil of hatred. Fuck the gods. They'd pay for what they'd done.
If he could save the world in the process, he'd do so. If he could not, he'd be content to slay the gods.
To the east the sun broke the horizon. The northern areas were buried in storm clouds and lightning. The southern areas were bright and clear. Beneath his feet the Broken Blades – where once upon a time gods, or giants, had fought and died – held the light at bay.
To the northeast the darkness continued, save where tongues of lightning shattered the peace and stabbed into the heart of the land again and again in an endless fury.
The gods were angry and they wanted blood.
He knew just how they felt.
Myridia opened her eyes and squinted against the bright sunlight reflected down from crystalline shards.
She was chilled; the air held a note of frost, and she was without a cloak. Around her the others were just as cold. They did not feel the chill in the same way as the savages around them. They stiffened in the cold, moved more slowly, until they warmed themselves by a fire or through activity. If the weather was cold enough they could freeze as solid as the ice, but their temperature was better suited to being in the depths.
The remnants of her dream were still there. She didn't think it was completely a dream. She suspected the gods had used her to convey a message to the leader of her enemies, the one called Brogan McTyre. She had seen him before, of course, when he'd captured all of her people that he didn't slaughter.
It had been a wonderful dream, screaming at him. In a perfect world she would be the one that offered him to the gods.
She intended to do all she could to make sure that happened.
Somewhere in the distance, the Night People were coming for them, but they had not arrived yet. And to ensure that they did not get close, she and her sisters would ride through the waters during the day, swimming and taking their other forms, breathing water and moving at speeds that would shame most horses.
"Up!" Myridia called to the others, and they responded quickly, their pale skin made almost silvery by the light cast upon them. She stretched and savored the growing heat of the day.
Lyraal stood in one smooth motion, her eyes squinting against the sunlight. Her hands touched key points on her body, checking her weapons were in place and testing a few spots where she'd been injured in previous fights. The moves were entirely unconscious and Myridia knew it from watching her friend over the course of the last few weeks.
"We should go. We have a great ways to travel yet." Lyraal's eyes assessed her. She knew the other woman was looking for signs of weakness. By Lyraal's words, Myridia was in charge. She made the decisions and led them toward the Sessanoh and the chance to purify that area for the sacrifice of the men who had offended the gods. That didn't mean she was above judgment. Lyraal watched her, and would also be the first to tell her if she was no longer fit to lead.
Behind them the sun reached the massive crystalline blades thrusting up from the mountains. Fiery light bounced across the ground in a myriad of hues, a reminder that gods had battled in this very area.
"The river calls," Myridia agreed. "We have a long ways to travel and we have dawdled long enough."
The Night People had followed them before and taken Garien and the other humans they'd traveled with for a time. Now Garien's troupe followed them, hunted them as part of the creatures they had tried to escape.
There was no one to blame for the delays except Myridia, who'd told herself that moving with the band of performers offered them all protection from their enemies.
She should have listened to Lyraal. They should have moved on and taken the rivers instead of riding horses. It would have been faster.
Myridia called out to her sisters again and they moved with her toward the river, gathering their meager supplies as they went. They did not need much. They had their weapons, covered in oilcloth. They had some clothing. Fish swam in the water and would be easily caught and consumed.
As the waters covered her legs, Myridia willed the change and watched her skin harden into iridescent scales. Fingers and toes lengthened, and webs grew between the digits. Her eyes grew larger, her mouth changed shape. The sides of her chest once more revealed the gills that so often lay hidden and protected.
A moment later she was under the cool, rushing water and swimming hard to the west and south, following the river's course. Not far behind her, Lyraal sang a song of rage and sorrow into the waters and followed.
They would reach their destination. They had no choice. The world would end if they failed.
Niall Leraby smiled. He couldn't help it. After the gods knew how long, they had outdistanced the rains again. More than that, they had outrun the clouds. The skies were blue and clear, though a look behind told him that the calm would not last. The storms were there, raging in the distance, but they did not move as quickly as he and his companions.
Still, as Mosara, his mentor, was fond of saying, one should always look to the light if one wished to avoid getting lost in the darkness.
A little light. A small blessing. For the moment he was dry, and his clothes were dry, and he did not smell of damp and mildew.
Tully rode the horse next to his. They were both sore from the ride, but grateful for it as well. Neither was much of an equestrian. Tully had never had a need, and Niall always preferred to travel in a wagon rather than to actually ride on one of the beasts. Still, one adapted. They'd been in a wagon and then they'd walked for days and now they rode, courtesy of the slavers who rode with them. Well, they were slavers, but currently they had no stock to sell. That had been taken from them by the He-Kisshi.
Niall and Tully both knew the creatures far too well. One of them had chased them, fanatically. It had come for them with a thirst for vengeance, ever since they'd killed it.
Killed it. He-Kisshi, as it turned out, lived up to their reputation for being undying. The damned thing had been strangled, burned, cut, and beaten repeatedly but it wasn't until Stanna, a giant of a woman if ever he'd seen one, had come along and cleaved away the head of the thing that they knew it was dead. Even then they'd burned the vile hooded skull just to be certain.
Stanna rode ahead of them now, talking with Temmi, the young woman he'd seen grow from a giggling, happy girl to a solemn, bitter survivor of the He-Kisshi's endless attacks. Her entire family had been killed by the nightmare monstrosity. He'd been worried for a time that she might not recover with her sanity intact, but it seemed that the redheaded giantess was good for his friend. They had become companions, and when they stopped each day to settle their camp, the slaver taught the younger woman how to fight and defend herself from attackers.
Riding at the end of their column – a larger party than he'd expected – was another of the slavers, a man named Lexx, who was long and lean and bore the scars that he, too, had received from the He-Kisshi. The damned things seemed incapable of leaving anyone unmarked by their presence. The beasts had nearly killed the man. He was intact now because the slavers paid for him to be healed by sorceries that few could hope to afford. The scars he suffered were copious, but he could walk and he could see from both eyes though one had been torn free with a whip, according to Stanna.
Lexx saw him looking and smiled thinly. He was not a pleasant man, and there was something about him that made Niall leery. Still, they traveled together. Niall smiled back and nodded before looking back toward Tully.
Tully was still a mystery to him. They'd have never met if not for the Undying taking them as sacrifices – again the thought of his young neighbor Ligel, also taken for sacrifice and killed when they made their escape, came to him and twisted his guts with guilt. He doubted he would ever be free of that, especially since they were headed for his home, and he would see the boy's family soon enough.
He looked toward the south, the direction they headed, and the sun lit Tully's fine blonde hair and pale blue eyes. She squinted against the glare, and for a moment he thought she might actually smile. That was a rarity with the woman, though, to be fair, she had little reason for being of good cheer.
They had survived much, yes, but she was still wanted in her own town, and likely still hunted by the very people who'd raised her. He didn't know all the details and she wasn't much in a mood for sharing any news with him.
Some people have more secrets than others. He accepted that.
"We're attacked! Get your weapons!" He recognized Stanna's voice, but the words made no sense. Who could possibly want to attack them in the middle of nowhere?
Niall looked around, his face set in a scowl of concentration, and spotted people heading toward them. They rode hard, each and every last one of the attackers leaning over their horses and charging forward with every bit of speed they could get from the frantic-looking animals.
Were they truly attacking? He could not say, but he also could not take a chance. That much he had learned since being attacked the first time by the He-Kisshi: not every person he met would be a friend, or even indifferent. Some of them just wanted to kill.
Tully shook her head and said, "Not on this stupid animal." She dropped from her saddle and landed easily. Then, as the animals started to get nervous about the approaching group, she slipped away from the trail and the horses alike.
Excerpted from "Fallen Gods"
Copyright © 2017 James A Moore.
Excerpted by permission of Watkins Media Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good Story, I hope there is more to come. Lots of loose ends to clean up. The author creates some great characters and has a good balance between which ones he let's live or kills off and continues to throw curves. Great Metro reading!
So... I read and reviewed the first book in this series not too long ago and enjoyed it enough to jump right in to this volume. Author James A. Moore picks up where he left off, which is helpful to those of us who've read the first book (but will it be confusing to those who are starting with this volume?). Brogan McTyre is a wanted man. He and his family were chosen by the gods to be sacrificed, but Brogan broke custom and challenged this sacrificial offering to the Grakhul and he has continued to challenge the gods at every turn. What's the worst that will happen ...? The death promised by the sacrifice? Brogan and his allies build an army to fight off whatever the gods send. But the gods aren't too happy and it could mean Armageddon. Moore delivers this book in short bursts - hitting the reader with a series of literary rabbit punches instead of looking for one knock-out punch. Each chapter is told from multiple points of view. Normally I don't care for this too much, but Moore has included a large cast of characters, made each of them unique in some way, but best of all, he has me liking most of them so that I want to read about each one. Moore also finds just the right balance of action, drama, and humor, often using the different character/story lines to provide the reader with the needed boost of humor/action/drama at just the right time. This is still a wild adventure with plenty of action and bloodshed and just as with the first book, we have a conflict on a grand scale - mortal men against the gods - which keeps the stakes high and exciting. But it is the immediacy of the present characters - their journeys and squabbles - that draw us in and have us turning pages. Moore is clearly a talented story-teller. The action and characters here are throwbacks to Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber and the epic-ness of the story is not unlike Tolkien. It's all-around excitement. And for all that there is one small issue with this.... This is not a complete story. You MUST plan to buy the entire series to get the full story. This book doesn't end so much as it builds a bridge to the next book. Do I want to read it? Absolutely! But do I like being suckered in to it this way? I do not. I'll buy a book based on my enjoyment of reading an author, not because s/he left a story unfinished. Looking for a good book? Fallen Gods by James A. Moore is the second book in The Tides of War series - and that's important to know. It's thrilling, bloody, and fun, but you'll really need to know what happened in the first book to get the most from this volume. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.