The Castalia House blog is pleased to present an excerpt from Barbarian Emperor, the newest release from independent writer Jon Mollison
Plucked from obscurity and hurled into the burning, blood soaked sands of the coliseum, one man defies an Emperor. Rather than settle for mere vengeance and an honorable death, a gladiator rises to challenge both a Derelict Emperor and the dangerous, seething chaos from beyond its borders. Caught between the fiery passion of his master’s step-daughter and the powerful concubine of his greatest enemy, can one simple barbarian chart a course to save an Empire, save the girl, and save his own soul from the black pits of despair?
Full of the furious action and adventurous exploration of strange realms, “Barbarian Emperor” touches on deep themes of familial bonds, the brotherhood of battle, and the eternal balancing act that man and nation perform on the precipice between barbarous struggle and civilizational apathy. Take it for the thrill ride or ponder the still depths of the work, either way, you’ll love this story of one defiant man and his struggle to find himself, his destiny, and his one true love.
My chest heaved with the effort of the fight. Rain dripped down from my bangs, forcing me to shake my head to clear my vision. My assailant mistook the gesture and bade me advance with a ‘come hither’ motion of his shield and spear.
I answered with a salute of my own – sword held vertical before my eyes, hilt at the center of my chest – and he nodded.
Left foot forward, I waded in.
The point of his spear swayed before me, inscribing small circles of caution. He held it low in an underhanded grip which allowed him to lunge and stab forward faster than my own sword could be plunged through the neutral ground between us. Nonetheless, I made my attempt.
My left sword swept around and caught his spear in a weak backhanded blow that knocked the thick blade of it aside. Stepping inside the length of the spear, my sword crashed down upon his shield and left a deep valley across the curve of it and then the man spun away and the spear came around and caught me on the back of the head.
Stars whirled before me, white against the black and I fought to retain my feet. The press of the spear tip loomed large in my mind and I threw a backhanded blow with my left sword to ward off the death blow. Needlessly as it happened.
The spearman had backed off, allowed me a chance to recover.
His bare head cocked to one side, a silent inquiry of my readiness. The man wore breeches like my own, but his had been dyed in a riotous plaid pattern. His loose white shirt hung open at the chest, revealing a broad expanse of muscle covered by intricate blue tattoos. Pale blonde hair lay plastered to his skull, heavy curtains flanking a steely face pierced by bright blue eyes. His mouth quirked with amused respect.
I like a man that smiles when he fights.
We might have been friends under better circumstances.
I grinned tightly and saluted him back, and we began to circle each other again.
We danced, feinted, and parted. Again and again we lunged and dodged and tested each other’s mettle. Our blades clanged in light blows as each thrust gently, probing for weakness and finding none.
Oh, he was a cagey one, that warrior.
My swords grew heavy and my breath ragged. His shield he carried close in, only rarely extending it for protection or punching with its edge when I veered to close, but his spear tip began to sway in larger circles. His own chest heaved with the effort of pulling enough air in toward starving muscles.
The short, sharp shock of battle had subsided into a marathon test of mettle. So evenly matched were we in skill that the balance hung solely on the grit and determination to continue. Willpower alone kept us upon our feet. We ground away at each other, muscles tensed and snapping back and forth in stroke and counterstroke. Solely by dint of merciless tenacity, we each hung onto that last fragment of our minds that compelled us to steady, analyze, and react despite the ache of our long fight.
The first to make even the slightest error would be the first to die, and well we both knew it.
The crowd, ignorant of the game of Bellum Parvus we played with muscle and blood, booed at what they took to be lackluster sparring. But we proud warriors recognized that death waited for us and would arrive at any moment.