Authors: Linda Mooney
Tags: #romance, #scifi, #fantasy, #novel, #erotic romance, #futuristic, #apocalyptic, #battle lord, #mutants
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or
are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons,
living, dead, or undead, is entirely coincidental.
The Battle Lord’s
Copyright 2006 by Linda Mooney
All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in
reviews. Due to copyright laws you cannot trade, sell, or give any
It would snow before nightfall. Atty stared
up at the naked trees, following the sight of her breath, like
little white clouds as it dissipated in the cold gray afternoon.
The woods dripped near-frozen drops of moisture. Even in late
winter the surrounding trees were impenetrable. Huge mounds of
undergrowth still clung to green remnants and tried to survive
before being suffocated under a blanket of snow.
She continued on her way, tramping through
the maze, stamping her feet harder than usual to try and get the
feeling back in them. Her toes and fingers were numb. She’d lost
feeling in them some time ago and hoped it was temporary. Toes she
could live without, but the loss of fingers would eventually lead
to her own slow death. Any deformity was a death sentence at this
time of the world if it prevented one from finding food. Worse if
the Cleaners discovered it. Any grave injury or illness also meant
a short life span.
Her home was less than a mile away.
Atty hoped she would get back before nightfall. If it began to snow
before then, that wasn’t a problem. Getting caught after
having to face the
coming storm—that was another nightmare. She hurried her pace. The
rabbits she’d found in her traps bounced against her back, their
bodies bound together by a makeshift cord.
Somewhere behind her she heard the howl of a
wolfen. She remembered the first time she’d seen one. Pawpee had
taken her hunting to show her how to use the new bow he’d made her
for her birthday. They had gone a hundred yards into the forest
when they saw it, an emaciated female hungrily gulping down a small
rodent. Patches of fur were missing from her body, and distended
teats showed that she was nursing young. The animal looked at the
two bundled humans without fear before trotting off into the
underbrush. It had been huge, almost as large as a horse.
“Are they all that big?” she’d asked in a
soft voice. She had been almost afraid it would hear her and come
back to devour them.
“Most,” Pawpee had whispered back. “That is
why you must never be outside the walls once the sun goes down. The
wolfen could get you...or worse.”
Atty began to breathe easier as familiar
landmarks came into view. She stopped at a large evergreen whose
trunk bore directional marks. Her lungs ached from the cold. Her
nose was a lump on her face, totally without feeling. At least this
time she had something to show for her misery. Like the poor wolfen
she’d spotted years before, she averaged one good hunt for every
five, but recently it had felt as if the odds were getting ready to
change again. For the worse.
The woods were beginning to thin out, and in
the spaces between the trees she could see the compound. As she
emerged into the clearing the sentry caught sight of her and called
“Ho, Atty! Looks like your hunt was
“It was minimal. You should have seen the
ones that got away.”
The sentry laughed, signaling to someone
below to open the gate. There were four gates leading into the
compound, one for each point of the compass, and all of them just
big enough to allow a rider or a small cart. Atty approached from
the south, the side facing the densest part of the woods.
Stepping over the threshold at this smaller
entrance was like entering a different world. The interior of the
compound buzzed with activity, a hive of people going to and from
work, a marketplace of sellers and buyers, a small hub of people
doing what they were best at, whether weaving or blacksmithing.
Everyone seemed to be hurrying to get whatever they needed doing
done quickly. Although the compound was safe at night,, and a lot
of activity still filled the inner courtyard beneath lantern light,
it was the approaching storm which had them scurrying like
“Atty! Ho! What have you there?” a tall,
gaunt, and balding young man called out to her. He manned a stall
of potatoes and business looked brisk. Potatoes were a staple of
the community. Fortunately, they could also be grown
“I’ve had a successful hunt, Posso,” she
grinned. “And, no, you cannot trade for any of them. I need them
“Spoilsport,” Posso grinned back. He reached
into his pants pocket with one of his three hands to make change
for one of his customers, promptly getting back to business.
Atty hurried through the main area and down a
narrow street. The compound was built with the living quarters
clustered in the center. The area ringing the living quarters lay
between them and the immense compound wall, much like an inverted
doughnut. Most compounds had been built like that. In the event a
raid took place, and the enemy managed to breach the outer wall, at
least the inhabitants had a chance to meet them in face-to-face
combat to try and prevent them from penetrating the inner core
where families were hidden.
The streets weaving through the apartments
were narrow but wide enough for two people to walk abreast. To a
newcomer the gravel-lined walkways would be confusing. To Atty, who
had trod these streets since birth, they were no more a mystery to
her than the woods outside the compound gates.
“Mohmee! Look! I’ve had a successful hunt!”
She bounded through the door and held up her catch with pride. Her
joy was short-lived. “Mohmee? Keelor?”
As she had expected, the fireplace blazed
cheerfully. The table held a pot of holly branches, a makeshift
bouquet until the flowers bloomed again. The spinning wheel in the
corner still held the partially finished pile of wool her mother
had been carding. But there were no smells of anything cooking.
Atty trudged into the inner rooms to check to see if anyone was
back there but there was no sign of her mother and younger
Assuming they might be at the market, Atty
peeled off her outerwear, hanging the sodden clothing over the rod
extending over the fireplace. She took several minutes bathing her
reddened hands and feet in the warmth of the fire before going back
into the bedroom she shared with her sister to fetch some fresh
clothes. The heat felt glorious. The dry clothes felt even better.
As feeling returned to her extremities, she took the rabbits into
the kitchen area and began to de-feather them. If her mother hadn’t
been able to start dinner, then it would be a nice surprise to have
dinner waiting for them when they returned.
She pulled a small pot from under the counter
and began to peel potatoes and onions to boil with the rabbits. At
one point a length of braid slipped from the coil wrapped on top of
her head and fell over her shoulder. Atty stared at the thick,
indigo blue plait, then gave it a quick toss to her back. She would
pin it back up when she was finished preparing the pot for the
fire. Unlike so many others, whose abnormalities were obvious and
sometimes distracting, it was her only badge to show she was one of
them. Her unusual color allowed her to be part of the compound.
Once the pot was sitting atop the grate in
the fireplace, Atty poked her head out the front door and checked
the street again to see if her family was heading home. Night had
completely fallen. Other than the pole lantern sputtering at the
end of the lane, there wasn’t any light to brighten the pathway.
The broken moon was hidden behind the bank of snow clouds, now
black ghosts riding low in the sky.
On either side of the apartment Atty could
see lights dimming behind the drawn window shades in the adjacent
apartments. Everyone was safely tucked in their prospective
cubicles to await the morning sun. Atty knew her mother and little
sister had no business being outside after dark unguarded even if
they were in the heart of the compound. Besides, the cold was
Sighing heavily, she closed the door, locked
it, and went back to the stool by the fireplace. It was her seat,
giving her an unobstructed view of the front door yet allowing her
to remain warm and protected by the hearth. Her bow and quiver
leaned against her, close at hand. Time passed slowly. The stew
bubbled, mixing and softening the vegetables and meat until it was
ready. Atty ate alone, never moving from her seat unless it was to
check the street outside.
The town crier came around at lights out,
accompanied by his ever-present protector with his crossbow and
steel-tipped arrows. Atty doused the two candles she’d left lit,
leaving just the slowly dying fire to throw faint golden shadows on
the far wall from behind the screen she placed in front of it.
Tears rolled silently down her face but no sound escaped her. The
cold crept into the apartment even while the young woman leaned
against the rock wall. Before long she was forced to put on more
clothing to keep from shivering.
Late into the night, long after the fire had
extinguished itself in the grate, Atty finally got to her feet and
stiffly walked into the back bedroom, the room she’d shared with
her younger sister for all of her twelve short years. There she lay
across her mattress of pelts and fell asleep. The sleep of
exhaustion. A sleep of deep mourning.
Outside the snow began to fall in fat
People disappearing was not unusual. Life had
become dangerous almost three centuries ago when the Great
Concussion had occurred. When the earth had passed through the
meteor field, the huge chunks of space debris had punched into the
lands and seas like a knife into a melon. Landscapes had collapsed
and reformed. Land masses had shifted or been blown completely away
into space. Seas divided, oceans dropped.
The moon suffered as well. The first
collision with a meteor half its size split a crack into the orb.
The second and third meteor wedged into the crack. The remaining
shower pelted the powdery surface until the moon fragmented until
it looked like someone had broken it open, then left it to hang
with an immense chunk missing from its upper left quadrant.
According to history the shower had lasted no
more than four hours from first impact to last. Four hours that had
changed history forever. The earth managed to recover but it took
human and animal kind longer. In some cases, never. In other ways,
permanent changes had been wrought, some good, many not so
The moon, however, had lost its aura. Had
lost its “man in the”. Had lost its cheese, as Pawpee once told
Atty was awakened by the pounding on the
door. News had spread rapidly that Eenoi and Keelor Ferran had not
returned to the compound the night before. For the young woman
shivering on her bed it was the return of a nightmare she’d endured
six years ago when she was fourteen. The night she and her mother
had stayed up waiting for her father, a beloved husband and father
who had never returned.
“You know you can’t stay,” Piron George
Atty bowed her head before the council of
elders. His announcement was not unexpected. It was a rule. When
the parents or guardians were gone, the remaining family had to be
dispersed to other family members, or to those who would take in
the survivors. Housing was at a premium and preciously guarded.
Therefore, only families containing at least one adult member were
allowed to live in them. When a family was whittled down to less,
and there was no longer an adult member to hunt or provide adequate
work to sustain the rest, other steps were taken. At least it
guaranteed a home for everyone, whether they were related or
To her surprise, Memnon Kalich stepped
the young man pointed out. “And she’s one of our best hunters.
Piron, you remember, don’t you? You owe her a debt when she brought
food to your table when you had been ill with the tree fever,
remember? She was one of those who helped keep your family fed
until you could recover.”