Many years ago, when I first started writing, I had an idea for an epic fantasy that would be just a little bit different than everything else that was out there. I dreamed of a fantasy world that was a blend of common fantasy themes and our own modern world. A world in which Earth religions existed alongside the worship of pagan Gods, and those who practiced worship of the Universal God were granted some special protection. I called this world Refuge, after the concept that it was the refuge of many races and species through the history of our world, up to and including humans from the early Twenty-first Century. I stole the idea of immortals from Robert Adams’ Horseclans Novels, though I made mine, well, different. And I set the first novel, The Quest, The Cross, and The Sword in the year two thousand after modern humans came to the world. This was a time when the conflict between the European Kingdoms and Tarakesh was coming to a head. The novel was the story of the Millennial Orc, the most powerful mage of his race in a thousand years, who was also an avowed Christian. The novel was too long, with too many characters, and two thousand years was a lot of back story to fill. Later I wrote a stand alone novel with fewer characters, with Kurt von Mannerheim, Ishmael Levine and Paul Mason-Smith, my central immortals, as main characters. This is the novel Doppelganger, which is available for free, at least for now, on Smashwords. Over the next seven years I realized that this was not where I wanted to start the story, two thousand years in the future. The answer was to start the story at the beginning, at the time when the Europeans first came over in mass to the new world. This was imagined to be a time of atomic war, since I had already established that nuclear weapons on Earth opened the gates wide. And then I thought that these Europeans (and any other peoples from Earth) would be helpless against the magic using, fully armored warriors of Refuge. Unless? Are here came what I thought was the difference. The Earth people brought along a bunch of their best war making toys, and they were a little too much for the natives to handle. At least initially. And there I had the setting for the first two books of the series, Refuge: The Arrival: Book 1 and Book 2. It will still have a lot of characters. Why? I love Harry Turtledove, and have always liked his historical series where the scene switches from character to character to character and gives a large overview of an enormous and complicated time (a World War or such). So I decided the same kind of format would serve me well here.
The plan is for the Refuge series to run to about fifteen or twenty books, all in the one hundred to one hundred twenty thousand word range. After The Arrival will come two books called The Legions, then two more, to cover the arrival and founding of the European kingdoms. After that I will skip ahead one or two hundred years per book, until the start of the climactic era of war with Tarakesh, which will encompass six or so books. I already have a rough outline for the series, including some spin off books that will cover different characters while still filling in the history of the Planet, as well as major expeditions by Levine and a war or two featuring Mason-Smith. I hope this is something that readers will enjoy. I know it is something I will really write with a passion. Below is an excerpt from Refuge: The Arrival: Book 2.
Major Antwoine McGurk looked through his glasses at the fortress on the mountainside and cursed under his breath once again. They had hit the fortress with everything they had since the sun came up on this seventh day. The heavy hitters in the fortress had hit back, and they had done more damage to his command than the Earth humans had done to the fort.
On the plain of the valley, between two and three kilometers from the gate house of the mountain stronghold, two of his tanks burned, victims of those deadly fireballs the wizards threw. He hadn’t known they had that kind of range, so he had confidently sent the vehicles to that distance to hit the gatehouse. And the crews had paid with their lives. He had known that his decisions might lead to the deaths of his men, but it didn’t sit easy with the young officer.
“Here comes another salvo,” said the voice of his executive officer and Company C Commander over the radio.
McGurk looked up as the sound of artillery rounds traversing the sky overhead came to his ears. Then the nine rounds impacted on the energy field over the mountain fort, and exploded, a hundred meters from the wall. Shrapnel whistled away from the bursts, hitting the ground of the valley, and deflected away from the fort.
“Same effect as the last ten salvoes,” he muttered under his breath, looking to see if the energy field looked any different. To his eyes it had changed not one bit.
“Cease bombardment,” he ordered over the com link to the artillery, swearing again under his breath and slamming his hand hard on the turret top in front of his hatch.
“Good way to break your hand, sir,” said the gunner, leaning over onto his hatch.
McGurk felt like cussing the sergeant out but held it in. His entire tank and crew had been promoted with him when he assumed control of a battalion combat command, and he had been with these men for over a year, plus the week on this insane world.
“They seem to have us figured out,” continued the gunner, turning his own binoculars on the fortress. “How many do you think they have in there, sir?”
“More than enough to keep us out, along with that energy field,” said the newly promoted major, shaking his head.
His command was made up of a company of his old cavalry battalion, along with a company of armor and a company of mech infantry, along with one and a half batteries of SP artillery. Until his early losses he had twenty-two tanks. Enough in his mind to reduce any fortification. But he had been proven wrong here.
“Sergeant Major Willis,” he called on the circuit.
“Yes sir,” came the voice of the senior NCO back in the command and control track. “What can I do for you?”
“Get on the horn to Army and let them know what’s going on here,” he ordered. “Tell them we’ve got this big as hell fort and its right in a place where we would like to be. And their magic is preventing me from hurting it. Then tell me what they suggest.”
“Yes sir,” responded the top sergeant of the combat command. “I’ll get right on it.”
The major picked up his field glasses and scanned the target once again, all five hundred meters of crenulated wall, massive towers, and the keep beyond.
“Wonder what high muckety muck owns this pile of rocks,” he said to himself, while hoping Army would come up with some way to make the solid structure a true pile of rocks.
* * *
Major Antwoine McGurk watched the fortress through his glasses as he prepared for the next segment of the attack. All day the special ammunition round had been on the road, and had arrived at his artillery battery position just a half an hour ago. Now it was prepped and ready, and the major was prepared to see if the magic of the natives was equal to the power of the atom.
“Everybody get under cover,” he ordered over the com, watching men get behind thick earth or into vehicles that backed down to reverse slopes. He left his own tank hull down on a ridge that was at least eight kilometers from the fortress. His helmet was buckled down and he was low in the hatch.
He looked down for a moment at his guests. The four Ellala prisoners were in a fighting position with a couple of rifle armed guards. The heavy goggles that allowed one to watch a nuclear blast were on their faces, and army helmets were buckled onto their heads. Their hands were tied in front of them, their fingers swaddled tightly so they could not make the magic gestures needed for their sleep spells. They kept looking up at the guards, probably wondering if they were to be shot. The guards kept directing their attention back to the fortress, sitting at the far end of the valley under a shimmering screen.
Kill two birds with one stone, thought the major, remembering his orders from the general. Destroy the fortress. And ensure that there were enemy who witnessed the destruction, so that the enemy would have one more thing to worry about. The captain had wondered if the fortress really warranted the use of one of their three nukes. But the general had made a point about using them or losing them. So he was going to use one to hopefully its best effect.
“All stations report clear,” came the voice of the sergeant major over the circuit.
“This is Zulu Foxtrot November,” said McGurk over the circuit back to his attached artillery battery. “Authentication One Niner Seven Tree. Fire Mission. Target, Fortress at location Alpha Niner Delta. Set for air burst, twenty kiloton.”
The artillery net repeated the orders back to the major, after acknowledging that his authentication was correct. All this had been said before between him and the battery commander. But especially when dealing with nuclear weapons in was better safe than sorry. Because sorry could really be bad.
“Shot off,” yelled the soldier on the net. McGurk looked at his watch, counting off the seconds while the round winged its way to the target. At the count of eighteen seconds there was a bright flash on the other end of the valley, a light too bright to look at, followed in about eight seconds by a thunderous roar.
* * *
The fortress was actually an outpost of the Imperial Army of Ellala’lysana, and not a stronghold of some lord. It housed a couple of regiments of cavalry, a regiment of Ellala infantry, and a squadron of dragons. Over five thousand of the elves called the structure home, including service and support staff. The walls were of dwarven fused granite, making it as hard as the mountain it was built on. And it boasted a full two score of dedicated battle mages, as well as numerous priests. The Ellala felt confident in the ability of the fortress to withstand any attack mounted by the strangers and their weapons of war. And the mage summoned protective field over the fortress added to that confidence.
The air mage in the fortress had already learned, during the bombardment earlier in the day, to feel the rounds of the enemy projectile launchers as they cleaved the air on their way to the target. But the one he felt now was different in some way. It made a knot in his stomach as it came in, as if it represented some deadly danger.
“Hold the shield,” she yelled to the other mages who stood on the walls, their heads below the crenelations that protected the ordinary soldiers. “Put all of your power into it.”
The other mages, a score of wizards who were drawing on the power of the mountain and the air to erect the shield, grimaced in concentration as they reinforced the spell. Most thought that the spell would surely have to keep out whatever the strangers were sending toward them. For only the power of a larger group of mages, or some mages of immense power, could crack the shield. And they knew that the strangers did not have either numbers of mages or powerful mages. Or the power wielded by a God. That could crack the shield. But again it was known that the strangers did not have that kind of divine connection.
The air mage could tell when the projectile was a second away, and added her own powers to the shield, bringing up the blowing winds to try and move the shell from its trajectory. It probably moved the shell twenty feet from where it was going to strike, which mattered not with the weapon they were about to receive.
The shell detonated with a bright flash, then a painfully bright flash that instantly blinded all of those outside the fortress, whose attentions had been caught by the initial light. The shield held out the hellish flame that roiled away from the fortress, and a thunderously deep rumble came to those within the castle. The mages could feel the energy of the shield being used up like firewood in a fire. The energy levels dropped precipitously. They tried to throw in more energy, but they couldn’t match the building power of the nuclear explosion, especially when they were all in agony because of their melted eyeballs.
The shield went down suddenly. One instant it was there, blocking the waves of heat and radiation, forcing the blast up and away from the fortress. The next it was not, hundreds of thousands of degrees of heat vaporizing those elves on the battlements and out in the courtyards of the fortress. The blast effect tossed anything that was not securely fastened to the mountain, in many cases torching things that did not ordinarily flame, then blowing them out in the next instant. Rock melted, then was blown apart. The fronts of structures in the inner wards blew in, the heat and fire blasting down doors and through long tunnels. Even the dragons died in almost painless instantality, from fire that dwarfed their own internal flames, or objects that were thrown at thousands of feet per second. There would be a few survivors, a pitiful couple of score that huddled deep in the fortress, really into the heart of the mountain. But the combat power of the garrison, and the defensive power of the fortress, was a memory.