YES! It’s here. The song fiction you’ve all been waiting for because this month, the band is my freaking favourite. And please, it’s no surprise who chose this one, is it? NICKELBACK!!! The song is titled… The Hammer’s Coming Down and it’s off their new album, No Fixed Address. And can I just say… this album… damn. They just keep getting better.
Now, I know there’s a lot of Nickelback haters out there. I really don’t care. I love them. And this album has some new sounds for them. Also…I’m the only Canadian in the group, and I HAD to put some Canadian content in this subject. So, all of my song choices that come up are from Canadian artists. I’m just thrilled Nickelback came up first. So we’ll see if you can spot all four throughout the year.
And ladies… just remember. I COULD HAVE CHOSEN FOUR NICKELBACK SONGS. I COULD HAVE. But I didn’t. Because they’re only one of my favourite Canadian bands. And hey, this isn’t a drinking song or a sex song. I love it!
Okay… for those of you who don’t know the song, give it a listen…
Now, when I listen to this song, honestly what plays in my head, is one of my upcoming epic battle scenes from my serial—RED SKY DAWNING—which is starting in April!!!! Yes April. So please drop by then. It’s an all-out magical/sword fighting contest that happens near the end of the story. So you won’t see it for some time, but…yes. I can just imagine the dust, the clanging of swords, the glow of Aelwyn’s magic.
But alas, I can’t write THAT scene because…well, it’s part of the book. So, I’ve decided to write a battle scene with Rylan, the hero. Long before the story takes place. If you want to get a sense of who Rylan is, please check out the photo flash fiction from March…A picture’s worth a thousand words…. it’s a prologue into who he is. Or, just jump right in because it’s just another glimpse into that world.
“They’re flanking right.” Rylan pointed toward the moors on the other side of the river. “Don’t let them take the bridge or we’ll be cut off.”
Garreth gathered a group of soldiers together, barking out orders before sending them toward the stone structure, a tremble rumbling through the earth as their feet struck the ground in perfect precision. He turned toward Rylan, face weathered, blood smeared across his jaw and down his mail vest. His shoulders drooped for a moment before he drew himself up, heading across the open space.
Rylan scanned the surrounding countryside. The sun dipped low against the distant hills, the last rays of light just cresting the rocky slopes, bleeding the sky into a deep violet off to the east. Long shadows stretched across the land, slowly covering the mangled bodies littering the battlefield. He glanced down, hating the splatter of blood caking his armor and skin.
He’d lost count of the number of men he’d slain as he’d cut his way through the writing mass of flesh, his only focus on avoiding injury. Staying alive long enough to get what remained of his legion to safety. Save those still breathing. Blood dripped from his blade, but he didn’t have the strength to wipe it off—aware more would simply take its place.
Arglwydd’s troops had struck at dawn, the attack more calculated and brutal than any Rylan had faced yet. The sheer number of men, alone, had cost him a quarter of his warriors, the rest merely trying to keep the advancing lines in check—hold their position until they could rally…or retreat. They’d managed to limit the skirmishes to the outskirts of the small village nestled on the river, but it wouldn’t be long before one of the lines broke through—before those still seeking shelter within the tattered huts became casualties of a much greater war.
Garreth grabbed his shoulder, his hand trembling slightly as his breathing roughened. “We won’t last much longer. Not like this. For every man we cut down, three more take his place.” He shook his head. “I swear Arglwydd emptied every damn settlement between here and his precious castle to garner this much presence. Some of his soldiers look as if they’ve never swung a sword before today.”
“Skilled or not, they’re slowly gaining.”
“Aye.” He met Rylan’s gaze. “We both know there’s only one way we might come out of this alive.”
Rylan’s magic snapped just below his skin, threatening to break free of his hold. Ever since the first clash of metal, it’d been writhing within him—coiling tighter until every breath stung from the sheer force of it. Flickers of red sparked along his arms, tiny curls of smoke disappearing on the steady breeze.
He took a deep breath, once again pushing down the energy. “You know I don’t have that kind of control. Not here, with my men dying around me. Once I release it, there’ll be no stopping until I either kill them all—or it kills me.”
Garreth pursed his lips. “We’re outnumbered, Rylan. And this is just his foot soldiers. Soon, there’ll be archers, horsemen. What then? We can’t last out here against that kind of offense.”
Rylan glared at his friend, taking a few heavy steps away before turning. “Those houses are made of wood and straw. What do you think will happen to them once I release a wall of fire?”
“Better to burn our own village to the ground than to wait for Aldhaven soldiers to do it for us.”
“And the women and children hiding inside? What of them?”
“They’re dead for certain if Arglwydd’s men break through.” He glanced away. “Or they’ll wish they were.”
Rylan pushed a hand through his hair. “Maybe if I had a chance to rest. To meditate. I’d have the kind of control I need to be discriminate about what I burn, but here. Now.” He sighed. “If my father had spent more time allowing me to hone this power instead of just assuming I could wield it, perhaps I could live up to everyone’s expectations for it.”
“Roan only cares about winning. At any cost.”
“Including his son.”
“We’re all expendable. Pawns for his games.”
“Well, perhaps I want more.” He waved at the battles waging around them. “What kind of king sits on his throne when his warriors fight for his kingdom? He should be here—leading his men—not watching the sky fill with smoke from the walls of Ravendale.”
“Then call the retreat.”
Rylan snapped his head around. “We’ve never pulled back before, Garreth. Roan—”
“I don’t give a fuck about Roan or his orders. You’re my king, Rylan. Since you first saved my life in battle along with fifty other soldiers…you’ve been my king. I don’t care about ceremonies or crowns. Save your men. Live to fight another day, my friend. There’s more to your future than blood and death.”
He chuckled. “Just because one witch saw something other than swirling blackness in her crystal orb doesn’t mean anything. You know that.”
“Perhaps. Or maybe it’s a sign.”
Rylan closed his eyes for a moment, trying to block out the clattering of swords and the lingering screams of men dying on the battlefield. Garreth was right. It was pointless to fight a battle they had no chance of winning.
He glanced at his friend, nodding. “We’ll fall back. Take as many villagers with us as we can. Make our stand on more favorable ground. Sound the retreat, I’ll cover…”
A whoosh of air made him pause a moment before Garreth grunted, slamming backwards into the ground. A lone shaft poked out of his shoulder, the feathered end fluttering in the breeze.
“Garreth!” Rylan knelt beside the man, fingering the arrow. “Hold still.”
Garreth’s voice keened into a ragged cry as Rylan yanked the shaft free, tossing it aside. Blood flowed from the open the wound, pooling on the parched ground before slowly sinking into the earth—staining it an eerie red. Rylan gathered his magic, allowing a small stream to discharge, sending a finger of heat into the other man’s flesh. Garreth’s hand locked around Rylan’s, his eyes wide before his head tipped back, his scream echoing across the moors. His friend clenched Rylan’s forearm, his nails biting into Rylan’s leather cuff before Garreth’s hold weakened, his arm falling limply to the ground.
Another volley of arrows landed in a scattered pattern around Rylan, one grazing a slice across his biceps. Rylan turned, his vision bleeding into red as sparks erupted along his flesh, flaring into flames as they raced up his arms then down his torso, consuming his upper body in a blaze of fire.
He stood, his magic pushing outwards, pressing against his fragile hold until it broke, tearing a scream from within his chest. The energy billowed outwards, coalescing into a ever-increasing wall as it raced toward the river, leaving a path of charred soot in its wake. A cloud of arrows rained down toward him, the shafts hissing into flames as they struct the barrier, the remnants falling to the ground as burning shards of ash. Shouts sounded from his troops as the men dove off the bridge, sinking beneath the water in an attempt to escape the raging fire. Agonizing cries rose above the roar of the flames, the pungent aroma of burnt flesh filling the air.
A horn blared off to his left and Rylan turned, watching as a unit of Aldhaven soldiers breeched the village, torches already setting some of the huts ablaze. Women and children fled the homes, only to be struck down as they tried to run past the advancing line of men. Rylan’s magic pulsed in response, extinguishing the last of his reservations. He glanced at his friend, whispering his apologies as he started across the field, an arc of fire preceding each step. Men charged at him, none breaking through the fiery barrier as he made his way to the edge of the settlement, the dirt path baking into cracked stone-like chunks beneath his feet.
He stopped, drawing his magic tighter, allowing it to swirl into a raging wall around him. The flames crackled and hissed, the heat setting everything within reach alight. Another horn sounded as he drew his magic inward, allowing it to gain momentum before he forcefully released it, feeding the fire until the very air sparked. Pleas and cries fell beneath the weight of his power, his echoed heartbeat the only tangible link back.
Time faded into shades of red, his surroundings nothing more than the dancing flames scouring the land. It wasn’t until water lapped at his thighs that he realized he’d fallen to his knees at the river’s edge, a blanket of steam rising from the surface. His lungs burned as he sucked in a few labored breaths, his focus slowly clawing its way out of the fiery haze.
An eerie silence covered the land, the distant squawking of birds ringing through his head. Flames still flickered in the surrounding trees, every inch of the earth within his field of view charred a deathly shade of black. Moans rose above the crackle of burning wood, the mournful sound like a knife to his soul.
Rylan palmed the shoreline, head bowed, muscles cramping with fatigue when a hand landed on his shoulder.
He stared straight ahead, unable to look away from the utter devastation, even to met Garreth’s gaze. “Dark hells. What have I done?”
“We need to gather what’s left of our legion and leave. Before Arglwydd’s troops find a way to launch another attack.”
“Another attack?” Rylan stumbled to his feet, kicking up a spray of water as he took a few shaky steps before turning. “Look around you! There’s no one left alive to launch an attack. I’ve killed them.” He released a choking breath. “By all that’s holy, I’ve killed them all.”
Garreth moved forward. “They brought this on, themselves, Rylan. They—”
“No one deserves the magnitude of violence I displayed here. They’re soldiers following the orders of their king. They’re no different than us.”
“Then the blame rests with me. If I hadn’t gotten hit…”
Rylan palmed his friend’s good shoulder. “We both know it was only a matter of time before I lost control. Seeing you struck down…” He released his hold, allowing his arm to fall to his side. “The blood spilled here is on my conscience. I’m merely lucky I didn’t decimate my own men, as well.”
Garreth sighed. “What’s done is done. Even you can’t change the past.”
“No. But I can shape the future. This is only the beginning. Once Aldhaven hears of this massacre, none of the border villages will be safe. Arglwydd will send his men to destroy every living soul born of this kingdom…unless I stop him.” He waved at the desolate landscape. “Stop this.”
Garreth pursed his mouth. “Do you honestly believe Arglwydd will listen to reason? To you?”
“It’s unlikely. But I have to try.” He shook his head. “I’d rather die trying to ascertain peace than live like this. There has to be a glimmer of hope—some kind of light to end the darkness.”
“Then I’ll grab our mounts. Gather supplies—”
“Not this time, my friend. I have to go alone.”
“Rylan. I pledged my allegiance to you, and you alone. You just saved my life. I won’t turn my back on you, now.”
“I need someone I trust to lead the men. Help whoever’s left standing find their way back to the Keep. If I fail…”
“Then there won’t be enough swords—enough magic—to keep me from seeing Arglwydd’s blood spilled.”
Rylan nodded. “Ornery as always.” He took a few steps, glancing sideways at Garreth. “I owe you far more than just my life. Thank you.”
“For what? As I recall, it’s you who’s saved me.”
“For never seeing me as Roan’s son. Godspeed.”
Garreth grabbed his arm, stopping him. “I meant what I said. I’ll be waiting for your return.”
Rylan smiled. “Then I’ll expect you to save me some of the good mead and not that swill you usually try to pawn off as my share of the victory.”
“Don’t die on me.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Now go and check out the other ladies for their take on an awesome song from my favourite band… and no, I’m not even SOREry for picking it.