I’m getting ready to release the opening book of the Refuge series by the end of April, beginning of May. I wrote the first attempt at this world fourteen years ago, and it was a stinker. Great setting, good characters, a good story line, and an author just not ready to work on such an ambitious project. I actually started on a sequel to that book before I realized they were just too long for an initial effort at getting published. Years later I wrote another book titled Refuge (now Refuge:Doppelganger) which was a more manageable 90,000 words or so. In 2010 I decided to tackle the idea again, but to go back to the beginning. Thus was born Refuge: The Arrival, written from the start to become a self published ebook. It finished out in first draft at 163,000 words. During the first rewrite I only made correction and added about 5,000 more words. During the second rewrite it topped off at 204,000 words, which seemed a little long for a 99 cent ebook. Then I decided to split it, and offer it as two ebooks, titled Part 1 and Part 2 respectively. So the third rewrite, which will probably add 10,000 more words, will split the book into two 105 to 110,000 word books. Some sections will be moved so that there is a climax at the end of book one, leading into book two. Following that will be a sequel called Refuge: The Legions. I’ll let you guess what that is about.
I call the first in the series a science fiction/fantasy fusion. It has elements of both, based on the storyline. Later books will have more of a fantasy feel, though I will still introduce science fiction elements here and there. The basic storyline starts with a nuclear war in Central Europe as Russia goes on a rampage, trying to reconquer her old empire. Our sister world, Refuge, is linked to us by a number of dimensional gates, allowing people and creatures to periodically transit between the worlds. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Orcs exist on Refuge as evolutionary offshoots of humans. Magic and dragons and lots of other mythological creatures also exist. Our dreams and imaginings actually come from this world, and the fantasy of Earth is the reality of Refuge. Nuclear weapons actually open gates between the world, and millions of people on Earth, thinking their last sight was that of the blast that was going to kill them, appear on Refuge, where they seem to be the answer to an ancient prophecy. The Europeans appear on the lands of an ancient Elfin Empire, ruled by an evil Emperor who wants to live forever, the four thousand year life span of his people not enough. He sees the humans as soul energy to complete his transformation into a lich. Best of all from his stand point is that these newcomers appear to have no magic. What they do have is two armored divisions worth of German and American soldiers and all their equipment. Also, Refuge is a planet where belief becomes reality, and the Earth equipment, which wouldn’t normally work on this world, works just fine, for a limited period of time. The humans soon realize its use it or lose it, and they use it with a passion. The other aces in the hole the humans have are the Immortals who come across with them. Eternally living humans with greater than human abilities, they become true Demigods on Refuge. So its tanks versus wizards, attack helicopters versus dragons, and nukes versus whatever proves to be a good target.
Below is an excerpt from the book. In this scene the Earth humans first catch sight of the enemy, and learn that they are more than meet the eye. The enemy discovers the same.
Captain Antwoine McGurk pulled his hands down from his eyes and stared in disbelief at the scene that greeted him. He was expecting to see a blasted landscape, if he saw anything at all, after being washed with nuclear fire. Instead he found himself staring from an undamaged face at a scene of rare beauty.
His cavalry troop had been on the reverse slope of a hill north of Berlin when the three weapons within range had gone off. Now they were sitting on the side of a cobblestone track that ran between the trees of an endless forest to the rear. Just ahead were the perfectly tended fields of farming country, with cows and sheep grazing in open pastures, and a cluster of pleasant looking houses and barns about a half mile to his front. Figures were gathering in that small village, while other figures hurried from the nearby fields. Several were pointing at the collection of tanks and APCs that were near the road.
As the captain watched one of the people mounted a horse and rode away swiftly in the opposite direction. The captain pulled his field glasses and put them to his dark face, focusing on a distant structure on a hill several miles away. A castle sprung into view, similar to one of the capital castles he had seen in Germany, the homes of the rulers of one of the many small kingdoms of the sixteenth and seventeenth century lands of the Deutsch. But this was not the land of the Deutsch. Of that he was sure.
“Those people look kind of odd, sir,” said Sergeant Ramirez, the tank’s gunner, leaning onto the lip of his hatch and focusing another pair of binoculars on the people of the village.
McGurk swung his own glasses toward the people and grunted when they came into focus. They seemed kind of small in reference to the wheels of the nearby wagons, the cows and the horses. Like children, or…
“Hobbits,” said the captain, a smile coming to his face.
“Sir?” asked the gunner, looking over at the troop leader with a confused expression on his face..
“You ever read Lord of the Rings, Ramirez?” asked the captain.
“I saw the movies,” said the Hispanic NCO.
“Close enough,” said the captain. “They look a lot like the little people from those stories.”
“They look pretty harmless, sir,” said the gunner, nodding toward the village.
“Hey McGurk,” came a voice over the radio/intercom. “You there?” The voice sounded very faint, with much more static than would be expected of the sophisticated communications system. Even if the atmosphere was roiled from multiple nuclear blasts.
“That you, Taylor?” he asked, thinking he recognized the commander of D troop.
“It’s me,” agreed the voice. “I thought we’d had it back there,” said Captain Taylor over the com. “What the hell happened anyway?”
“A miracle,” said McGurk, crossing himself as he thought back to his early teachings in the Catholic Church. “We were about to be incinerated. And now we’re here instead. I call that good enough to be a miracle.”
“And where is here?” asked the other captain. “I’m trying to get a triangulation on your position through some other vehicles. Damned GPS doesn’t work.”
“We’re on another world,” said McGurk, scanning the patches of trees on the other side of the fields. “This sure ain’t Kansas anymore. And I don’t think the satellites came with us.”
“I didn’t want to really believe that,” said the other captain. “Even though I’ve seen some strange plants and animals here already. But I guess it has to be true. Anyway, we have a fix on your position. We can’t raise the battalion or squadron, so I guess you’re the next higher link for me. Any orders?”
McGurk swore for a moment under his breath as he looked at the castle. The gates had opened and a line of armored men on horses were leaving the castle. They were headed down the road from the top of the hill and coming in his general direction.
Shouldn’t be too much trouble, he thought, looking around at the vehicles he had with him, most of his company. D Troops’ fourteen tanks would come in handy anyway, but…
The flare of lightning caught his attention, dazzling bright even under the strong sun in the sky. He turned back to see a robed man on horseback point a staff toward his position and another crackling blast of lightning come searing down from the hill. It struck the ground a dozen feet from the forward scout track, leaving a smoking hole in the ground.
“I think it would be a good idea to come to us,” said Captain Antwoine McGurk. “And don’t let appearances fool you. Be careful. These people might be more than meet the eye.” Or, he thought, watching the horsemen come his way, they might be exactly as they appear.
Count Jerrasia Lesanderi led his men from the castle that overlooked the village of Herrasand. His village. He could see the intruders arrayed along the road that led to his County Capital, twenty or so large objects that did not resemble anything he had ever seen before. The headman of the village, a small Kashan’liya male on a large pony, rode beside him at invitation, pointing out several of the objects that were halfway hidden under the foliage of trees. The Count reminded himself to reward the headman for bringing the news of the intruders’ arrival, even though the guards on the wall had seen them immediately and alerted the Ellala soldiers. But for one of the small ones the headman had performed his duty well.
“Wizard,” he called to the robed Ellala riding just forward of him. The man looked back over his shoulder. “Hit them with something while we ride toward them. They are still out of range of our bows, and I have a bad feeling about those things they are in.”
“Yes, my lord,” agreed the mage, looking back at the objects and raising his staff to point at the closest one, one of the intermediate sized boxy objects. He muttered some words and sent a bolt of lightning at the object. A bolt that missed by a good twenty feet.
“Why did you miss?” growled the count, riding up next to the wizard.
“I don’t know, my lord,” said the mage, shaking his head. “Something protects it mayhap. I will try again.”
The second bolt of lightning came closer to the object, but still too far for the normally accurate battle mage, who could hit an object dead center at a mile or more.
“Signal your brothers in the tower,” said the count, gesturing back toward the castle. He looked back at the missed object and saw that the round structure on the top was rotating, and the long protrusion was moving up and pointing at his column. “Have them conduct a summons. We will need all the help we can get, I think.”
As he finished his words all hell broke loose.
“All secondary weapons, take that bastard under fire,” ordered Captain McGurk. “And hose down the rest of those troops as well.”
The turrets on the company’s eighteen M2A6 Cavalry Scout Tracks rotated to the front as the barrels of the thirty-five millimeter bushmaster auto-cannons moved onto their targets. The commanders of the twelve M1B9 Abrams tanks pulled their venerable .50 caliber machine guns around on their ring mounts. Within two seconds of the order going out thirty automatic weapons were filling the air with rounds, all headed toward the column of natives who were still exiting the castle.
Within seconds thousands of rounds of .50 caliber and thirty-five millimeter were hitting among the riders and horses. Blood splashed in the air as men and beasts went down under the onslaught. McGurk swore as he watched the robed mage and the ornately armored man next to him sit though the onslaught as rounds seemed to deflect from the air around them. He watched as some of the .50 cal tracers bounced from some of the armored troopers, while others were blasted from their horses. Thirty-five millimeter seemed to cut through any of the armor, except for the mage and the leader, who seemed to be under some kind of protective field.
And then the mage threw what looked like a ball of flickering light. To the captain it looked like an energy torpedo from one of the science fiction movies he loved to watch. Red and bright and scintillating, it flew unerringly to the first of the APCs. The ball hit, and flared into an exploding mass of flame that engulfed the vehicle. It must have been very hot, more in the range of a blow torch than a regular fire. The crew and passengers of the vehicle died instantly, and seconds later the ammunition began to cook off as the interior of the APC flamed.
“Ramirez,” called the captain over the intercom. “Target that robed man with the main gun. Sabot. Take him out.”
“Yes sir,” called out the gunner. “One round sabot.”
“Up,” yelled the loader, slamming the round into the breach.
The gunner painted the man with the laser ranger and brought the target into focus, then pulled the trigger just as the mage brought his arm back, another ball of scintillating light in his hand. The tank bucked under the recoil of the big 120 mm smooth bore gun. The tungsten carbide penetrator headed for the target, dropping the sabot on the way.
Jerrasia Lesanderi jumped in his armor as sounds he had never heard before erupted from the valley. There were bangs and pops coming from the objects on the other side of the village. He saw flares of flames coming from the long objects sticking out of the alien things. And the Ellala around him started to spray blood and fall dead from their horses, while many of the beasts themselves jerked and fell to the ground as large holes opened in them seemingly from magic.
In the first seconds of the barrage he noticed that some of his men, those with better armor, jerked as objects bounced off their heavily enchanted protection, staying in the seats of their saddles. Then larger objects would strike them and blast through the armor, no matter the enchantment. The wizard with him had erected a magical shield as the first pops sounded. Being a warrior-mage himself, the count had added his power to the shield. So far everything that had come near to them had been deflected away, and they had provided some protection to the Ellala directly behind them.
The wizard reached his hand back while muttering a spell. The arm shot forward, throwing a ball of red light that sped toward the nearest of the alien objects. The sphere struck and the object was covered in flames, its own weapons going silent. The count breathed a sigh of relief watching the enemy thing, he thought of it as a hut, die. At least he knew that they could kill these enemies. And if they could kill them they would kill them. That was when the objects started moving, the larger of them emitting a high whining noise, rolling along as fast as horses.
The count wondered why the bigger long barrels on the largest wagons, for such he thought them now that they moved, had not flamed. Then he saw that one was starting to move his way, just as the wizard was reaching back to throw another fireball. Having a bad feeling about the whole scene, the count jumped from his horse and got down behind a mount that had already fallen, making sure that the horse armor was between him and the strange invaders.
The barrel flared just as the wizard’s arm was going forward. The wizard should have gotten off his cast, but whatever the barrel threw was unbelievably swift. The count could feel the rush of air as it passed his position, pushing through the mage in a splatter of gore. The bottom of the mage, all that was left, fell from the bucking horse as the fireball exploded backwards, taking out a dozen of the Ellala knights.
The count lay on the ground, his mouth open in disbelief. Then he screwed up his courage and looked back at the castle, where he could feel other mages working their spells. The strangers were mighty, with weapons of great power. But the burning wagon showed that they could be hurt. And the mages were working on a summoning of beings that could hurt them badly, before they took their souls back to the hell from whence they came.
“What the hell is that?” called out one of the vehicle commanders over the company circuit.
McGurk’s own mouth opened as he watched the being materialize behind the mass of dead and dying horsemen. It’s large, he thought. At least fifteen feet tall, and as proportionally broad as a heavily muscled man. Horns reached from the top of its head at least another three feet into the air, and large leathery wings the same red hue as its skin opened and shut behind it.
A demon, he thought, looking at the solidifying monster. Or a Balrog. It didn’t matter what it was named. He knew that it threatened not just the lives of his command, but their very souls, if it got among them.
“All vehicles,” he called over the com. “Target that SOB and take it out.”
The fifties were able to come onto the target first, tracers reaching for the large monster. And the tracers bounced into the air as they hit the skin of the creature and deflected away. The monster opened a mouth full of sharp teeth and roared to the sky. Its wings opened. Some of the thirty-five millimeter rounds blasted through the thinner skin of the wings, and the creature roared again if rage.
The first of the discarding sabot rounds hit the demon high on its right shoulder. The magic bullet penetrator pierced the skin and drove deep into the bone. The finned end of the round stuck out of the creature as it reached up with a clawed hand to grasp the projectile. Hand touched metal and smoke rose from the member as it burned.
Two more rounds struck the monster in the chest. It staggered back under the impact, roaring its anger and desire to kill its tormentors. One must have pierced a lung, and black blood came boiling out of its open mouth. A fourth penetrator hit the demon in the stomach, doubling it over. The fifth sailed over its head, bouncing off the hillside behind it. The monster raised its wings and started to jump into the air, its eyes burning as it looked over the mortals it intended to rend and kill. That was when the sixth penetrator hit the demon in the forehead, driving through bone and into brain tissue, exploding the reddish matter through the back of the skull. The monster opened its mouth once more, emitting a hoarse squeak. Bonelessly the monster folded upon itself and fell to the ground. As soon as it lay flat it began to bubble, while skin and muscle and bone dissolved away and the demon returned to the hell from which it had been called.
“There’s more coming,” shouted a tank commander, and three more of the shapes began to form, closer to the company. The tanks took them under fire before they had fully come into existence, blasting them away. And in their place five more of the large demons, along with a pack of smaller monsters, started to form.
“The top of the closest tower,” yelled the commander of a scout track, pointing at the castle.
The captain turned his binoculars toward the tower in question. There were four robed men on the tower, gesturing and moving about. He knew they were the ones calling the demons, and if he could kill them the summonings would stop. Never thought reading that fantasy stuff would come in this handy, he thought with a smile. The smile left his face as he watched another mage appear at the top of the tower, one hand holding the hair of a female figure. The mage jerked a knife across the throat of the woman and blood gouted. The mage let go of the body that fell out of sight, and went down the stairs of the tower once again. In his place appeared another mage, grasping the hair of a woman and repeating the sacrifice.
“Damn them to hell,” shouted the captain, thinking the situation through for a moment.
“My tank and the tanks from first and second platoons,” he ordered over the com. “Take the tower under fire, sabot rounds. There’s sure to be some kind of shield there. Mortar tracks from first and second platoon lay down a barrage on the castle. Everyone else target those demons and give them everything.”
Third platoon’s tanks and all of the scout APCs continued to fire on the demons. The large demons fell to the heavy fire, as did many of the smaller demons. But many more of the host of smaller monsters ran at the soldiers and their vehicles. Dismounted infantry took them under fire, along with some of the auto-cannon. Most were blasted down before they could close with the humans. Some came on.
One of the smaller demons grabbed a soldier and bent him over backwards. The soldier’s mouth opened in a scream. The demon dropped the soldier to the ground, the man screaming but not moving his legs, the sure sign of a broken back. Another soldier fired his squad automatic weapon into the demon, blasting holes in the creature and knocking it to the ground. In an instant the demon was back on its feet, the wounds healing rapidly, grabbing at the soldier that had shot it down.
A slightly larger demon clawed at the skin of a Bradley, its talons scoring the hard metal. Grabbing under the vehicle, the demon raised the front of the track off the ground. With a straining grunt the monster threw the APC over onto its top. It turned with a roar and headed for another vehicle, when a 40mm grenade launcher hit it with a series of rounds across the chest and flung it back into the dirt. Moments later it was up and coming on again, to be knocked back once more.
They have to be completely killed, thought the captain as the first tank rounds hit the barrier around the tower and glanced away. If they’re just wounded they heal themselves and keep coming. So we have to kill the summoners and keep them from manifesting here. At least that always seemed to work in the movies and books McGurk had seen or read. Hopefully it would work here in this real world.
The tanks started to fire on the castle, well within range of their weapons. The silver bullet penetrators hit the magical barrier facing them and glanced off. The tanks cycled through a couple of rounds without any effect when the HE rounds of the 120mm mortars exploded against the barrier. And the third salvo of penetrators made it through the barrier and slammed into the tower the mages were using.
Must have finally weakened their power, thought the Army officer. The masonry of the tower sloughed off in places. His tank rocked under another shot, and the seven penetrators of the salvo hit the tower again, knocking more of the strong stone work to the ground.
This is too slow, thought McGurk, turning on his throat mike.
“Switch to HE,” he ordered. “All tanks switch to HE. Pull sabot rounds out before firing. Repeat, pull out sabot before firing. We don’t have ammo to waste.” He was sure he was correct about that last. He didn’t think they would get a shipment soon from Army or Corps. What they had might be all they had.
The acknowledgements came back over the radio, and the tanks sat silent for a few seconds as they changed out rounds. His tank fired first, his gunnery team the best in the company. The other eight rounds were off within three seconds, along with more mortar rounds.
Six of the tank rounds hit the side of the tower, blasting out hunks of masonry and opening holes in the tower. Three 120mm high explosive rounds and two mortar rounds hit the roof of the tower, sweeping away the mages who were trying to summon demons.
Men were yelling and cheering as McGurk pulled the field glasses away from his face and looked to the front of his command. Sure enough the demons were dissolving away as the summoners were killed, fading into the bright daylight.
“Top sergeant,” called the captain over the circuit, calling in his Company First Sergeant in his command vehicle.
“Yes sir,” answered the top over the com.
“Get a tally of casualties, first sergeant. And an inventory of fuel, ammunition and consumables. I want to know what we have to fight and run with.”
Captain Antwoine McGurk looked around as he dropped his hand from the throat mike. He could see that he had lost two of his scout tracks. One might be salvageable, and at the very least would give up its ammo and fuel. There were at least five dead men in view. And he had killed at least fifty mounted horsemen, dozens of supernatural creatures, and five to ten magicians. It looked like an exchange in his favor. Except that as far as he knew he and the other company of his battalion were the only Earth forces on this planet. And he didn’t know the extent of his enemies. Was he facing a local force, a kingdom, or a planet dominating empire? He needed information. And that was the specialty of his unit. He also needed to get in touch with other Earth forces if there were any here. Because they would need his information, and he would need their support.
“First sergeant,” he called through the com. “Get someone working on establishing communications with anyone else from our neck of the woods. American, British, German. I really don’t care if they’re Russian. I think we’re all in the same boat now, and we’ll need to row together.