My fantasy genre bender Refuge: The Arrival: Book 1 reached two thousand ebook sales this morning. Add to that the almost 1,700 for book 2 and 866 for Doppleganger and the series had sold over 4,500 copies. Compared to the over 18,000 sales for the two Exodus books and it isn’t even in the same ballpark. But still doing well enough to continue the series and hope that its popularity grows. I have been developing the world of Refuge for fifteen years, soon after I started putting fiction to hard drive. I call it a genre bender because it mixes military fiction and fantasy.
The story of Refuge revolves around the coming of Earth people to a world made up of our fantasies, and world in with Elves, Dwarves and Dragons exist, and great armies and mighty magics have raised empires, good and evil. A nuclear war on Earth opens wide the gates between the dimensions, and millions of Earth humans find themselves in a world of dreams and nightmares. The enemies they face are strong, and the ruler of the evil empire of the Ellala elves see the humans as nothing more than life energy to further his dreams of immortality. The humans have also brought fighting men, and tanks, artillery and attack helicopters. And three nukes, which rival the powers of the gods of this world. The technology is destined to stop functioning as the physical laws of the planet exert themselves. So it’s use it or lose it, and the humans use it with a vengeance to win enough great victories to gain breathing room.
In Book 3, the human tech no longer works, which does not mean the humans, who were also much more advanced in the muscled powered technologies than the natives of the planet, must now fight with weapons centuries behind those they are used to using. They still have a lot of surprises in store for the evil empire. Below is a first daraft excerpt from the current work in progress. An airborne assault on a fortress, shades of Eben-Emael.
Paul wasn’t really sure how he felt about the dragons. They were beautiful creatures to be sure, in their gold and silver scales. And damned intimidating as well. There were only a few ways to kill his kind, and he wanted to live a long time. Dragons possessed two of the killing methods. They could burn his body to ash, and they could eat him. Both methods would destroy his body, and that would be the end of his immortality on this mortal plane.
The big Gold looked him over as he approached, with calm golden brown eyes. The woman seated on its back rendered a salute, her long reddish brown hair coming under her helmet and blowing in the wind. If she can bloody well get used to the things, then so can I, thought the Brit. Can’t let a bird show me up.
Paul moved into place, standing about five meters from the Polish woman, the immortal Izabella Kozlowski. She was also in full armor, though of lighter construction of his own, a long sword and shield attached to her back. Now she’s a right good looking one, he thought of the blond hair, blue eyed woman who was said to be almost four hundred years old. But I like an older woman, he thought with a smile, knowing that she would be young and beautiful for centuries to come, as long as she didn’t get eaten by a dragon as well, or burned to death.
Oh, crap, he thought as the dragon flapped its wings and reared up on its hind feet. Two human troopers were holding on to the rear legs, some of the paratrooper contingent from Earth who were along for what could amount to a suicide mission. They were doing this kind of thing on Earth, thought the big Brit, who had been too large for the para regiment, and had never learned to jump. Until coming here, and training over the winter for just such a contingency. Well, maybe not this exact thing, he thought. The paratroopers, mostly Americans, with a smattering of Germans and a few Brits, had not jumped from dragon or battlehawk during their training on Earth. Their transport was more staid and stable, aircraft that all were familiar with.
The dragon grabbed him with it right claw, the woman with its left. It tensed its rear legs and jumped into the air, wings flapping with a booming sound. In moments it was high in the sky, heading toward the fortress. Other dragons rose along with it, thirty of the beasts. The larger carried four warriors each, the smaller two, for a total strength eighty-four paratroopers, about what one drop plane would have transported on Earth. Eighty battlehawks would also be in the air, each hauling one trooper into the air. It would be up to them to take the gates to the fortress and its keep, along with one follow up stick of another eighty, if all the hawks made it back from the first wave.
The ground passed below, visible in the faint light of the largest moon, a quarter full, but still brighter than a full Luna on Earth. The camp fires of the legion were visible in the distance, surrounding the fortress, which was lit with torch light and glow globes. It seemed to come toward them slowly, or really they toward it. But also too fast. Paul would have preferred it take longer, so he could gather his thoughts before jumping into what could be hell.
[Go] yelled the voice in his mind as they were almost over the fortress. Too far away as far as Paul was concerned, but he also knew that was the illusion of the jump. He took the order seriously and let the dragon drop him from its claws, looking back to see the two human paratroopers let go of their claws and fall. He turned his attention back to his own drop, counting to five, then pulling his rip cord. The US Army issue parachute opened above him, and in a second he was jerked into the sky, then floated. It was a steerable chute, the latest of airborne technologies, and he could control his drop and fly where he wanted, even pulling into a hover when needed. Some of the human commanders had wanted to use the levitation of magic, but the Elves had pointed out that levitation could be picked up and tracked by a skilled mage, and there were many such mages in the fortress.
The Brit watched the fort get closer, his eyes focused on the outer walls where sentries walked their posts. Those sentries should have been watching the skies as well as the ground outside the fort. A demonstration was in progress that attracted their attention, as ranks of legionaries formed up and marched, as if they were about to attack the walls. Engineers worked at engines, while pots of projectiles flamed behind them. The Ellala in the fort had to feel secure in their ability to repel any such attack, but they also had to know that the Earth people could pull tricks on them that they had never heard of. Like they were about to do at this moment.
The outer wall of the fort passed beneath Paul’s boots, and he pulled on his cord to change his trajectory toward the inner keep, where the garrison could shelter if the outer fort fell. Taking the courtyard meant nothing if the keep held out. So it had been decided to take them both at the same time. The four immortals and twenty troopers would try to take the gate to the keep, while a full company of paratroops would take the outer courtyard and open that gate. Or at least that was the way it was hoped it would go.
The Brit pulled his right riser, then his left, and aimed for the top of the tower to the left of the gate. The roof came up fast. Paul was wishing it would come fast as two Ellala looked his way. The one with the pike shouted, then set the spear to take the Immortal when he landed. The one with the bow pulled an arrow to his ear and released. The shaft sped into Paul’s chest and bounced from the armor. The immortal pulled on both risers and slowed, then dropped straight down, while the pikeman screamed and charged forward.
Paul’s feet hit the roof and he pulled the quick release tabs that attached his parachute pack to him. His next move was to pull the bastard sword from the sheath on his back, while his left hand grabbed at the ax haft that was attached to his left side. The pike head hit his chest and slid away. The immortals were all encased in the best armor that could be found, it thought to be more important to protect them so they could do what they did best, fight. It actually saved more lives to protect those with the best ability to take damage.
Another arrow hit his shoulder, and Paul roared as he struck the pike away with his sword, then swung the ax in to cave in the shoulder of the spearman. The archer was drawing another arrow when Levine landed behind him. A swing of the ancient immortal’s sword and the archer was headed for his afterlife, to reward or punishment. More paratroopers came in to land, while Izabella Kozlowski came down on the other tower with a dozen more paratroops. Gregor Babich yelled in frustration as he missed the roof of that tower and fell onto the roof of the keep, forty meters below the tops of the towers.
Guess we’ll have to do without him, thought Paul as he ran toward the stairway coming up from the wall, where dozens of Ellala swordsmen were swarming up. Just hope he makes it OK. Then he was standing over the landing to the stairway, and his sword and ax rose and fell in a rhythm of destruction that dropped and Elf every couple of seconds to his death.
He glanced to the side, looking down into the outer court, where the other paratroopers had landed. There were bodies on the ground, both human and Elf. The humans were getting the worst of it in the melee, men who had only been practicing the sword for less than a year, against beings who had been using a blade for centuries. Arrows were coming down from the walls to take more of the humans. But even as he watched the humans were clumping together into groups of a half dozen, then a dozen, then fifty, sixty, forming a tortoise formation. Now the arrows were glancing from the shields or sticking to them, while the men under the protection of that cover thrust with their short swords and killed all the Elves that came at them.
Then his attention was captured by the Ellala who continued to swarm up toward him. A quartet of paratroopers had by now put together short pikes from sections they had carried and were thrusting into the enemy, while others were firing heavy crossbows into the Ellala on the walls and in the courtyard. And then the Ellala on the wall backed away, and Paul wondered what was going on. The glowing staffs of mages appeared among the press and moved forward, and the Brit knew another deadly aspect had been added to the fight.
* * *
The Archduke had been walking the wall when the attack came, though it took him a few moments to realize that it was an attack. He wasn’t sure what he was seeing as the soldiers dropped from the sky underneath the fabric canopies that slowed them. There was no magical emanations, nothing to set off the alarms that would normally be triggered by an attack from above. But there was no levitation at work here, only more of the inventive technologies of the Earthers. And we were told that their technology would no longer work. Maybe that was true where the machines were concerned, but obviously not all of it.
Still, when the humans landed in the courtyard, they were at a disadvantage. They were not as capable as the Ellala who sorted from their barracks in the outer wall and the keep, and proved easy marks for the blades of trained swordsmen, despite their strange but well-designed armor. A dozen were down, then a score. And then the damnable humans grouped, and the strength of their tactical doctrine rose to the fore. A dozen of them got together and held their own against a dozen or more Ellala. Then a dozen became a score, then more, and what had been a slaughter from one side was now going the other way. Arrows fired into the courtyard bounced from the rectangular shields or stuck into the surface of them. No humans dropped, so the Archduke could tell that even the arrows that sank into the material of the shield was not harming them. And then that damnable rectangle, protected on all sides and above, started to move toward the gate.
Another group of soldiers dropped into the courtyard. The Archduke didn’t get a good count, but knew it had to be three score or more. They did the same thing as the other group, and soon there were about three score formed into another rectangle that moved toward the gate to the keep. Not all of those dropped made it, but the majority did, and they were nigh invulnerable in their formation.
“We must get more men into that courtyard,” yelled the Archduke to a nearby officer. “We must get mages there, or the humans will take the gate.”
“The keep will still be secure,” yelled back the officer, motioning for several of his men to run and direct reinforcements.
“I wouldn’t count on that,” screamed the Archduke, gesturing toward the gate towers above the keep, where several heavily armored warriors were slaughtering the defenders while more of the other humans were firing crossbows into the courtyard. “We have to keep them from opening this gate, so we can keep them from opening the keep as well.”
The officer gave a gesture of accent, then yelled and pointed to the courtyard, indicating to the archers to keep pouring on the arrows.
The Archduke turned and looked at to where the besiegers were gathered, and his breath caught in his throat as he saw a half dozen of the rectangles running in formation toward the wall. That was well over a thousand troops, and he had no illusions as to what would happen should a thousand of those well-disciplined troops enter the fort in those deadly formations. “Archers,” he yelled, pointing toward the oncoming humans, and several dozen bowmen turned and fired. As soon as the first arrows arched out the human formations shifted into more of those invulnerable walking fortresses. “Mages.” yelled the Archduke, and the half dozen magic users fired balls of flame or bolts of lightning at the formations.
In the past history of warfare on this world such a magical attack would have broken up the formations, one reason why armies did not march into battle, but charged in a mass of running, dodging individual fighters. But the fire or lightning that struck these formations either bounced from shields of magical energy, or simply flowed through the humans without effect. He couldn’t understand what was happening, even having seen it himself in the past. Some of the humans were simply immune to magic, following some over-god that protected them from such. The others were obviously using their own magic to protect themselves. That he did not understand at all. It took decades to learn how to use that kind of magic, and these creatures had been here less than a year. Some more technology we know nothing about. Will we ever figure them out, or will they march into the capital, unstoppable by anything we can do.
A crash and a crackle turned the noble’s attention back to the keep towers, where other mages were trying to drive the humans from the heights, and were seeming to not be having much success. That lack of success was apparent in the sight of the huge human in full armor moving down the stairs with a bastard sword in one hand and an ax in the other. At each strike an Ellala died, and the Archduke was sure that the fort was going to fall. His next thought was on how he was going to escape this mess.