Sound Current Rider
From Chapter 2: Drums of War (Excerpt)
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 At last, shortly after noon, the dust cloud from the late arriving Elbarran contingent
settled and the new troops boiled out of their animal-drawn wagons to join the ranks of
their mechanized fellows.
 Silence fell, punctuated only by the low hum of many electric motors idling and the
squawks of carrion birds gathering in the branches of the bottle trees on the knoll behind
Merozuna. A thin breeze whispered through the dreadlocks of the young heir, bringing the
sweet scent of ripening lubumi from the fields around the village a mile back. In his head
the strange sound continued – growing ever louder like the rapid pounding of kettle drums.
 The tableau held motionless for a long moment.
 Then a figure standing on the roof of one of the royal army transports, recognizable as
King Djamena D’Elbarran by his silver-dyed shock of dreadlocks, raised his rifle, aimed
carefully, and fired. Merozuna heard a slug punch through leather and his uncle grunt
before the rifle’s report reached them across the distance. Out of the corner of his eye,
Merozuna noticed that Makuva’s left arm dropped limply to his side but that he remained
upright. Relieved Djamena had not used his right of first shot to kill, the young D’Alhurn
raised his rifle alongside the others of the command group. He sighted down the barrel,
hands trembling minutely, held his breath, and pulled the trigger.
 The stock rammed heavily against his shoulder as the gun kicked, but down on the plain
the driver of a royal jeep jerked behind his shattered windshield and slid sideways off his
seat. Ripping open the firing chamber with practiced familiarity, Merozuna slammed in
another slug. The compressor built into the stock of his rifle whined as it repressurized the
chamber. Bullets were now whistling through the air around him. He fired again, taking out
another driver as the jeeps accelerated towards the disciplined ranks of the outmanned
Alhuran army.
 Front rows kneeling, rear ranks aiming over their heads, the Warriors of Alhur fired as
quickly as the small electric motors in their guns could restore pressure in the firing
chambers. To the right, bolts from the three crossbow battalions were hissing away like
horizontal sleet, ripping into the onrushing enemy. The Elbarran jeeps fanned out in a
large semi-circle in an attempt to close in from three sides. Alhuran scooter cavalry spit
dirt from under their wheels as they shot out to meet them. Behind the jeeps ran the bulk
of King Djamena’s thirty thousand fighters, leaving their armored vehicles empty behind
them, eager to get at close quarters. Out of thirty thousand throats came a blood-curdling
roar, sweeping at the Alhurans across the diminishing distance like a tangible force.
 Merozuna’s rifle soon began to feel hot in his hands as he sent slug after slug down into
the mass of leather-clad royal Warriors. Before long the pitch of the compressor’s whine
changed and the pressure began to build more slowly as the battery ran down. Dropping
the gun, Merozuna ripped from the harness at his back the two parts of his dual bladed
war staff, the bilet-kitan. Quickly screwing the two halves together, he gave the staff a
practiced twirl over his head. Two-foot long blades at each end glinted brightly in the
Vismak sun, whistling through the thin air. A quick look to either side showed Merozuna
that the high nobles and officers on the knoll with him had also discarded their rifles and
were drawing their hand weapons.
 His eyes met his father’s. In spite of the apprehension twisting his guts, Merozuna
nodded gravely in respect. The old man had condemned himself, his family, and many
Warriors of his county to death, but there was no one who could gainsay the nobility and
honor of his motives. To his son he was a hero and a great Warrior.
 Swinging his own bilet-kitan in one huge fist, the count let out a bellow and headed down
towards where the melee of hand-to-hand combat had taken over from the shooting. Heart
thumping against his ribcage, Merozuna followed, skipping in long strides across the
brown Vismak grass.
 The bladed war staff served as a marvelous close range weapon when wielded expertly.
Young D’Alhurn hefted it, feeling a surge of adrenaline pump through his veins. Rushing
between the rows of Alhur fighters not yet engaged in close combat, he headed towards
the front lines where silver markings on war vests indicated enemy Warriors among the
aquamarine colors of his own. The first royal Warrior he came upon was a woman, tall and
square-shouldered, laying about her with a broadbladed longsword.
 Merozuna hesitated. He’d never considered that he might have to kill a woman in combat,
although female Warriors weren’t altogether uncommon on Vismak. The longsword
clanged against his forward blade as she thrust with a fierce glare and he automatically
parried with his bilet-kitan. He could feel the strength in her wide shoulders, but the speed
of her blow told him she lacked quickness. Hesitation gone in the face of her
aggression, he feinted with the war staff, using the motion to slightly shorten his grip
towards the back end. Then, as her sword came up to fend him off, he whirled the bilet-
kitan in a vertical circle. The blade in the short grip smashed her sword down while a split
second later the one in the longer grip slashed down on her head. She toppled, a stunned
look on her bloodied face.
 Anxiety completely forgotten in the thrill of battle, Merozuna shifted his hands on the bilet-
kitan and cast about for this next opponent. Drops of blood scattered from the forward
blade. He suddenly realized the rolling drumbeat in his head had risen to nearly deafening
proportions. The sound was mighty strange – but whatever it was, it seemed to sharpen
his senses, quicken his reflexes, and make him move with a dreamlike surety he had never
experienced before.