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Authors: Russell Kirkpatrick

Tags: #Fantasy Fiction, #General, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Imaginary Wars and Battles, #Epic

The Right Hand of God

BOOK: The Right Hand of God
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The Right Hand of God
Fire of Heaven trilogy [3]
Russell Kirkpatrick
Orbit (2008)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Fantasy Fiction, General, Fiction, Fantasy, Imaginary Wars and Battles, Epic
SUMMARY

The company has been scattered far and wide in its mission to prepare Faltha for war -- now the armies of the Destroyer are near and invasion is imminent.

Leith has returned to the city of Instruere. Bearing with him the legendary
Jugom Ark
, thousands flock to him to fight for Faltha in the coming battle. But Leith struggles to accept their faith in him, and his role as custodian of this sacred artifact.

As the land darkens under the shadow of impending battle, the company must strive against treachery and self-doubt - for a great evil approaches.

About the Author

Russell Kirkpatrick's love of literature and a chance encounter with fantasy novels as a teenager opened up a vast number of possibilities to him. The idea that he could marry storytelling and mapmaking (his other passion) into one project grabbed him and wouldn't let go. He lives in New Zealand with his wife and two children. Find out more about Russell Kirkpatrick at
www.russellkirkpatrick.com
.

PROLOGUE

TWO PROUD MEN FACED each other over a low stone table. Both men nursed deep anger and bitterness. Each hated the other. They found themselves drawn together nevertheless by expediency and desire. Each man sought to govern his emotions, successfully so he thought, and each watched scornfully the other man's pitiful attempts to retain his equanimity.

'Escaigne remains well hidden, despite the treachery that saw us betrayed,' the Presiding Elder said. For a moment he considered confessing just how many of his people had been taken by the Instruian Guard, but decided to keep secret the paucity of his remaining force. Better to make the agreement first; better to avoid ceding the leadership of any alliance to the deranged man opposite him, especially on the basis of the number of followers.

The Hermit smiled. The man's thoughts were written plainly on his face. Watcher of the Sixth Rank, he had proclaimed himself. Watcher indeed! He could see nothing!

'Unlike you, I have lost no followers,' he told the Presiding Elder. 'But some of them will die, I have seen it; holy martyrs who will be enthroned above us at the right hand of the Most High. Their example will serve to inspire the remainder of the Ecclesia. They will be seeds sown into the fertile ground of belief, and as the fire falls on Faltha I will reap a harvest of true believers.'

The older man snorted. 'I wouldn't be so sure about that if I were you. I predict that many of your Ecclesia will come flooding into Escaigne once they realise the emptiness of your promises. We offer them a chance of revenge against the corrupt Council, of setting real fires, not running after some numinous spiritual flame that achieves nothing. Your most sensible option is to join with us. Commit your people to Escaigne, the next rulers of Instruere, and I will see to it you are given an exalted place among our ranks.'

'I forbear to remind you of the many Escaignians who found real meaning in the Ecclesia,' the Hermit answered testily. 'Perhaps a few of them may return to your dubious care, but even they will come back to me when they discover you offer them nothing but the darkness of a windowless room.'

'Not for much longer!' The Presiding Elder stood and leaned forward over the table, his arms spread wide, hands on the cold stone. 'With or without your help we will reclaim the leadership of Instruere.'

'Reclaim? You've never led Instruere!'

'The Watchers were always involved in leadership,' the Presiding Elder growled.

'As were the true believers of the Most High!'

'Then why can we not work together?' The leader of Escaigne tried reason for the last time.

This fool was probably not worth the effort, and everyone knew how badly his ill-equipped, untrained rabble would fare against the

Instruian Guard. Still, the Presiding Elder's plan required expendable soldiers, people to blunt the swords of the guardsmen, and he was unwilling to preside over the deaths of any Escaignians. These religious fools would serve him well.

'Of course we can,' the Hermit replied with forced sweetness, nearing the end of his patience.

Why should the Anointed Man of God be subject to the wishes of an unbeliever such as this one? The day would soon come when all such would be placed under his heel!

Pulling himself together, he continued. 'The question is, who leads? Since both of us are men unaccustomed to following the wishes of another, it seems that we will not easily arrive at an answer. So, in the interests of our common goal, why do we not share command?'

'I low would that work?'

'Simple. We do nothing without the agreement of both. Should this agreement not be sought, the alliance will be considered broken from that moment. And be warned! I have many ways of seeing, ways a Watcher cannot comprehend.'

'Save your mysticism for the gullible,' the Presiding Elder snapped. 'You are more persuasive when you trouble yourself to think. Very well, we will join our forces together - for a time.

But at the first sign of treachery I will have no hesitation in abandoning you and your followers to their fate.'

'And I yours,' the blue-robed Hermit agreed, stretching out his right hand. The sallow-faced Elder took it in his own, and for a moment the two men were linked as one, each squeezing as though to break the bones in his ally's fingers.

CHAPTER 1
THE GATES OF INSTRUERE

THE CAMEL TRAIN SNAKING its way up the Pass of Adrar looked like all the other summer trains from Ghadir Massab - heavily laden, slow moving, and shimmering in the scorching heat. The train halted again and again like some hesitant reptile as the drivers stopped to water themselves, their beasts and their slaves, in that order. But, the bandit leader reflected as he watched it draw closer to his ambush, unlike all the other trains that travelled through Hamadabat on their way to the Central Plains of Faltha and to Bhrudwo, this one appeared here. Why not on one of the longer but less dangerous passes to the east?

BOOK: The Right Hand of God
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