Resurrected Soldiers: The Tyrus Chronicle - Book Three

A father becomes a soldier again. A soldier commands an army. A commander becomes a hero.



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Resurrected Soldiers: The Tyrus Chronicle - Book Three

Tyrus never thought he’d see war again, but to save his family he must once again accept its sickening embrace. By night, painful memories of past battles haunt his dreams. By day, the nightmare continues as he commands an army against impossible odds to destroy the Geneshan artifact responsible for the near destruction of Turine. Worrying about friends and family both near and far, he wonders if he’ll ever truly know peace.

Ava promised her brother she would take his kids and those traveling with them to the safety of the Southern Kingdoms. She didn’t think it would be an easy journey, but she couldn’t have foreseen facing roving armies in addition to battling the unexpected obstacles of the bleak land. She is forced into a role she never wanted, being a leader. With so many relying on her, she hopes past experiences and the fraction of sorcery still under her command will be enough for her to succeed.

Resurrected Soldiers is the third volume in The Tyrus Chronicle.



Resurrected Soldiers

Chapter 1

A light gray sky littered with dark gray clouds hung above us as we marched. It looked about the same as the day before which was really no different than any other since the last eruption. I never thought I’d miss the orange sky that had been the norm for so long, but I found myself doing just that as a cool, light breeze tickled the back of my neck. The orange sky was at least warmer.

The landscape blended with the sky, lots of gray, most of it caused from recent fires. The faint smell of sulphur hung in the air, reminding me of a battlefield scarred with sorcery. Patches of brown peeked through the ash and rocky dirt. Most of the vegetation that had not been consumed by flame had starved without the sun. Once or twice, I saw a bit of green.

Most might take that green as a positive omen, a sign that things were finally looking up, that the world would recover, and that those alive would have a chance to keep on living.

I’m not as naïve as most.

My son, Zadok, would say that I was being pessimistic again. I would say I was using obvious facts and past experiences to form my view. Survival was not certain.

We marched in ragged, twisted lines. Some did so in small masses of a dozen men. Others, like myself, marched alone with only their thoughts to keep them company. It was hard to believe that Balak had allowed discipline to grow lax in such a way. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it yet, but something seemed off about him.

A soldier fumbling with his trousers ran across my line of sight, stopping behind what remained of a dead bush. He yanked his trousers down, squatted, and got to work. Loudly. While others nearby made crude comments and heckled the man, I made a mental note that the very same soldier had repeated that maneuver three times in the last hour.

That wasn’t good. And not just for him.

If others got a hold of whatever was giving him the runs, it could spread like crotch rot. Something so seemingly insignificant could cripple an army.

I made another mental note to later check in with the healers and cutters Balak had on hand. I needed to get a better feel of who was responsible for the overall health of the army.

“Slipping right back into it,” I muttered low to myself. “Like I never left this blasted life.”

Just a few hours ago, I had told Hamath that it felt like I was re-entering hell by agreeing to join Balak’s army. Looking around at the bleak land, my assessment didn’t seem far off the mark.

But considering my time since the Geneshan War, had I ever really left hell?

Other than a few brief reprieves and tender moments with friends and family, one bad thing after another had occurred. Watching people die from the eruptions, collapsed buildings, raiders, and starvation was in no way more comforting than watching countless soldiers give their lives for Turine in what now seemed like a pointless war.

After the Geneshan War, the killing hadn’t stopped. Instead of slaughtering a cruel and vicious enemy, I had been forced to kill some of my own countrymen. Though I had good cause to do so, the truth wasn’t any easier to swallow.

The newer version of hell was already a lonelier experience than my last stint in the army.

I had no wife I could hope to return to, for one.

Lasha’s presence in this world had been a driving force for me. Even from a distance, she and her letters had kept me from slipping into too dark of a place.

The renewed absence of my children only added to my current misery.

The dread hanging over me didn’t bode well for my future. To already feel so low at the beginning of another war made me worry that the pain I’d face this time around would more than rival my first decade as a soldier.

I thought of my kids again. Molak-be-damned, I hoped they’d make it safely to the Southern Kingdoms. The last thing I wanted was for them to suffer as they had in the decade I was gone.

At least they had Ava this time.

I didn’t regret my decision for my sister to stay behind, but I also wished she could still be beside me. It was good to have Ira and Dekar along, but Ava knew me better.

A different solider ran off past my line of sight with hands at his belt buckle. I swore as a moment later sickly sounds reached my ears. I moved away quickly before the smell followed.

We definitely had a potential problem on our hands.

I swung my gaze around looking for a healer to talk to. I froze as a man rode toward me. The horse was large, at least sixteen hands high, and the man who rode it looked like a villain right out of a fairy tale with the menacing square helm he wore.

Hamath.

Before leaving the outpost, it was obvious that we had a lot to settle—the killing of Jareb, the raiding and attack on Denu Creek. Maybe settle wasn’t quite a strong enough word. But Balak had sent him out scouting before the two of us could engage in any real conversation.

In many ways, I still tried to grasp the truth that it was Hamath who had led the raiders that attacked Denu Creek.

I had thought Hamath dead for the longest time. Discovering that he instead had led men who raped, killed, and pillaged, in some ways made me wish he had been dead.

He reined in beside me and dismounted, leading his horse. Others nearby gave us room. They looked apprehensive, if not scared, of Hamath.

He hadn’t taken off his helm yet, and I had to admit that even though I knew it was him underneath, I too felt uneasy in his presence. I wasn’t scared of him, but I was scared of what he had become.

We walked in silence for a bit, neither knowing what to say. Eventually my mouth moved. “It’s not hot in that thing?”

Hamath grunted, reached up, and pulled his helm off, letting long red hair fall out. “Yeah, now that you mention it. Just got into the habit of leaving it on, I guess.”

“Why?”

“Creates an aura. It inspires people.”

“Considering what the people you commanded were inspired to do, you should throw the thing away and never put it on again.”

I winced at the biting nature of my comment. I meant what I said, I just didn’t mean to say it so viciously.

Hamath bobbed his head slowly while digesting that remark. “We all can’t be the great Tyrus.” He cocked his head. “You know, that missing ear suits you. Probably makes you even more intimidating than before to others, huh? Weird that you lost the same one that Ira did at the end of the war though.”

I ignored the last remark and stopped myself from touching the scar. I wouldn’t let him bury his first comment by distracting me. “What is that supposed to mean about me being great?”

“Nothing,” he muttered. “You wouldn’t understand.”

I wanted to push, but I could tell that he was starting to lock up.

I sighed. “Let’s back up. Can we catch up before we argue?”

“Sure. Why not?” His indifferent attitude surprised me. “I suppose you want me to go first.”

“Well, you know some of what happened to me from Jareb, though it probably isn’t very accurate.”

“No probably about it. Listening to him and you’d think you were the cause of every bad thing in the world.” He paused. “What do you want to know?”

“I want to know why you put that helm on and started raiding.”

He shrugged and took a deep breath. “I guess I better start way back when you left me outside of my hometown. I was expecting the welcome home to be bad, maybe not as bad as Damanhur, but bad all the same. I even had it in my mind what I was going to say and do once the bad started happening. However, it never worked out that way. That old blacksmith I was telling you about way back when, the one I used to help out at as a kid. . . Come to find out, he was still alive. The old coot was the first one to recognize me. Came running out of his shop just to give me a hug. That drew attention from the rest of town, and it wasn’t long before others joined in. People clasped me on the back and offered me drinks. Said they were proud I represented them in the war.”

“Wow. That’s great. You deserved a welcome like that.”

His lip curled slightly. “That’s not even the crazy part. Remember, Bilhah?”

Of course I remembered Bilhah. She and Hamath were engaged at the start of the Geneshan War. He never told me until our return trip home that he received a letter from her after the first couple years. She had ended their relationship after meeting someone else. He had kept that information secret because he didn’t want me to feel guilty for talking about Lasha.

“Of course,” I answered.

“She was there.”

I cleared my throat. “How’d that go?”

“Unlike anything I could have imagined. She pulled me aside that night and told me she wanted to get back together. Said that her and that guy she left me for never got married. She tried to write and tell me, but couldn’t get any letters through. She refused to marry anyone else until the war ended and she knew for certain that I was or was not coming home.”

“Sounds like things went just as well for you as they did in Treetown for Captain Nehab.”

“Depends on how you look at it,” said Hamath. A note of bitterness had crept into his voice.

I was genuinely confused. “What other way is there to look at it?”

“My way,” he explained. “The whole thing made me angry. Why did I deserve to have a good welcome when so many others didn’t get one?”

I shrugged. “Sometimes things just happen that way.”

“I never used to believe that. I used to think it had something to do with the gods smiling or frowning down on us. But after this last year, I’m wondering if you’ve been right all along and the only thing the gods are good for is cursing.”

“I’m not arguing, but why do you say that?”

“Because there’s no way I should have been smiled upon then, if not ever.”

“Why? You’re a good person.”

“Yet just a few minutes ago, you were coming down on me for wearing this helm and leading raiders,” he snapped.

I clenched my jaw. “Despite your recent mistakes, I still think you’re a good person.”

He snorted. “You know what I did when Bilhah came to me and laid things out? I took her somewhere private. I told her I had never stopped thinking of her and that I loved her. We slept together and afterward I promised we’d never be apart. I even started talking about the kids I wanted to have with her.”

That surprised me. Hamath had never wanted kids of his own. “That’s great.”

He sneered. “The next morning before she woke, I left. I grabbed my things and walked out the door. Not once did I look back.”

My stomach dropped. Who had he become? “Why?”

“Because I wanted her to feel some of the hurt she had put me through. Everything I told her the night before had been a lie. And I don’t regret any of it one bit.”

“Gods, Hamath,” I hissed.

“So am I still a good person?”

I didn’t really know, but if I hoped to have my best friend back I couldn’t say as much. Then again, he knew me well enough to detect an outright lie. “I’d like to think so.”

He shook his head. “Well then maybe you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”

I pressed him to continue, hoping to find a better explanation for his actions. “What happened after you left?”

“I left town completely and drifted for a bit until I heard that Damanhur was at it again when Balak discharged the next wave of soldiers. That got my blood boiling. Then I heard that Balak razed the place in response. For as much as I had always hated him, I finally thought he had the right of things. Made me realize that I needed to focus my anger elsewhere.”

“So you got a crew together and started raiding?”

“I wasn’t the only person angry before the eruptions. I joined a group of veterans. Some of them were those we had already dropped off. Others had fought in the Byzan wars and had learned how Damanhur had treated us. Of those older veterans, several left families behind out of a sense of brotherhood. They couldn’t understand why they had been treated fairly after the Byzan Wars and we hadn’t after the Geneshan War. Anyway, after the first raid, I took over as leader.” I swore I saw a glint in his eye as he added. “Then we really started doing some damage.”

I couldn’t understand how casually Hamath spoke about raiding. There was no sign of remorse, or even guilt. The people he stole from, hurt, raped, or killed didn’t seem to mean anything. He refused to meet my eyes though. Perhaps out of shame? I hung on to that thinking that the Hamath I once knew was still in there.

But then I remembered a conversation we once had. Hamath believed all people were inherently evil. Even the kindliest old woman, or an innocent young child, was capable of matching the worst atrocities we had seen during the war.

“All it takes is the right situation and a little nudge,” he had once said.

Was he talking about himself then?

I shook my head to refocus my thoughts.

“Why come to Denu Creek?” I asked, finally working to the question that had bugged me the most since I found out his identity as the leader of the raiders.

“Revenge.”

“What! What did I ever do to you?”

He looked genuinely hurt at my accusation. “No. Revenge on your behalf. I never believed that your town was going to be one of the rare ones like mine or Treetown. So, I was going to make them pay.”

“Is that why you never bothered to actually check on how things were and if I was living there?”

He sighed. “Yeah. I had worked myself up pretty good by the time we made it your way.” He paused. “I had my doubts once I saw that thing with the dead bodies. It was too smart for inexperienced locals. But I wouldn’t be deterred. It wasn’t until I saw you in the midst of the fighting that I knew I should have listened to my first instincts. The sight of you shook me.” He rubbed his collarbone where I recalled the square-helmed man taking a wound. “It’s why I hauled it out of there as fast as I could.”

“It shook you because you realized you were hurting the good people I stood with?”

“No. Jareb said that most everyone hated you at first. It wasn’t until you started saving people with your resistance that they came around.”

That was true and it angered me that I couldn’t argue against his point.

“Then what shook you?”

“That I could have killed you. Or that you could have killed me. Either would have been about the worst thing I could have imagined.” He paused. “I’m really not a good person, Tyrus. I’m all right with that. But the last thing I want to do is hurt you. You’re still the best friend I’ve ever had.”

I had once thought the same, but gods if hearing his confession wasn’t making me question that belief.

“What happened after you left Denu Creek?”

“I ran off to lick my wounds. To think things over.” He chuckled. “I also got angry because you beat me when I had held most of the advantages.”

“You got overconfident,” I said low.

I wasn’t trying to rub in his loss by saying as much, simply looking at the strategy he had employed at the time.

Hamath grunted. “Yeah. Losing took the desire out of me to keep raiding. But then I heard about an army moving south. Once I learned Balak was at the head, I decided to look into it. I re-enlisted pretty quickly.”

“I don’t understand that either. You hated him.”

“Still do.”

“Then why re-enlist?”

“Because this is who I am, Tyrus. Returning home and seeing Bilhah made me realize how uncomfortable I was in a normal life. The person who might have once enjoyed that was long dead. The soldier is the only thing left.”

I’d hardly call raiding the same as soldiering, but I bit back the comment. “So you want war?”

“Don’t sound surprised. I think if you were honest with yourself you’d want the same.”

“You’re wrong.”

“Am I? When have you felt the most comfortable, the most like yourself since we were discharged? Was it dragging a bunch of whiny civilians along with you over miles of harsh land? Was it dealing with idiots like Jareb who mistreated those you loved? Was it learning what happened to your wife? Was it dealing with mending a decade apart from your kids?”

I didn’t say anything. None of those things had been comfortable. All were difficult, some more than others.

He continued. “I bet you felt the most comfortable when you were strategizing or commanding. Probably when you were fighting people like me. Am I right?”

Sadly, he was. I also knew I hadn’t been the only one to think that. Dekar and Ira had both echoed those sentiments.

He took my silence as my answer.

“That’s what I thought,” he said in a judging tone.

I shook my head, unwilling to concede his point. “Just because something makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that isn’t the path you should choose. There’s more to life than just doing what you’re comfortable with or what you want to do. Life always was, and always will be full of tough decisions and things you don’t want to do. You have to accept that.”

“No, I don’t. The army taught me how short life can be. The last thing I’m going to do is waste what little time I might have left doing things I don’t want to do.”

“And this is what you want to do?”

“Why not? I’m respected and valued. Plus, I’m good at this.” He paused, and smiled in a way that gave me a chill for I knew it to be sincere. “And when I want a break from soldiering, there’s always a camp follower at hand who’s ready to spread her legs for some coin. What more is there?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I realized I had no idea how to respond to him. My best friend had changed so much, become so selfish, that he was a stranger to me.

“Captain Hamath!”

A young soldier, probably near Myra’s age, came running up. The way the soldier’s voice cracked, tugged my heart. A boy that age had no business being in the army.

The boy stopped and handed over a slip of paper. “General Balak has orders for you to ride out northwest and scout ahead.”

Hamath sighed, then stopped, and climbed back onto his mount.

“There’s more to talk about,” I said dumbly.

Hamath grunted. “Later. Considering that look on your face, it might be best if we take a break.” He paused, situating himself in the saddle. “Hol is a long way off. We’ve got more than enough time to finish our conversation. I’ll be seeing you, Tyrus,” he said before clicking his reins.

“Yeah. I’ll be seeing you.”

But did I really want to?



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