Read Vulcan's Fury: The Dark Lands Online

Authors: Michael R. Hicks

Vulcan's Fury: The Dark Lands

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

What Readers Are Saying

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

VULCAN’S FURY:

The Dark Lands

Michael R. Hicks

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

ISBN: 9781310224034

VULCAN’S FURY: THE DARK LANDS

Copyright © 2016 by Imperial Guard Publishing, LLC

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Published by Imperial Guard Publishing

AuthorMichaelHicks.com

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING

Being retired I am not on any strict schedule. Started this book in the morning and just kept reading and reading and reading. Wife finally reminded me of what a red haired temper means. Sooo, get this book and enjoy it. But remember to peek in on the family every once in awhile. - Don T.

This is one of the best science fiction writers around. All of his books have been well written and this one is no different! The premise of this book is interesting, the characters are well developed and the story goes quickly, much, much too quickly. I can't wait to read the whole story and I can't say that strongly enough. - Debra L.

We all know about reading a book in 2 days. This is the book that you will pick up and read AGAIN, after days of heroic attempts of trying to avoid “eye contact” with the apps on your tablet and cellphone. I am reading it again, and it is even better, than the first time! - Hajni C.

WOW! Just finished the first book in the Dark Lands Trilogy. Or is it the Vulcans Fury Trilogy? Either way, it's a fantastic book! I have to say I was surprised so many times and that in itself is unusual. So many people to love and hate; Livius and Sergius are easy as any traitors to despise just as all the good guys are to love. - David B.

Couldn’t put the book down. Completely taken…by a Hexatiger. Never thought I’d fall prey to the charms of a massive six-legged tiger and his warrior-hearted girl. - Jen K.

Take one determined princess, add a loyal contingent and one fearsome beast, mix well with intrigue and betrayal, and you have a recipe for a book I couldn't put down! - Miriam H.

To paraphrase a popular movie, “Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome…Vulcan’s Fury is not it!” But oh, it brings to mind such heady days, with a wicked twist that could only come from the mind of Michael R. Hicks. Venture back to Ancient Rome, Mike-style – but hang on to your seat because once the action starts, it’s a roller-coaster ride and you won’t want to stop until you’re done. - Stephanie H.

Do NOT start this book unless you have plenty of free time, no external obligations and plenty of nourishment. You WILL be sucked into the story immediately. Animal lovers beware, you will immediately fall in love with Hercules. As an amusing side note, I had to remind my wife to finish her coffee and get ready for work this AM because she was so engrossed in the book. - Todd O.

Wow! I've read most if not all of Michael Hicks books but this one surprised me. I didn't know what to think of the setting, etc. I had my reservations. I'm a sci-fi fan. What a surprise, I was hooked immediately and couldn't put it down. At the end, I wanted more. When's the next one coming out?? - Karen K.

I have read a prerelease copy of this book and was not disappointed - do not miss out on this “bite your finger nails” book. Mike did a fantastic job of developing an alternate history of the Roman Empire which I absolutely loved (I was a history major in college). His character development in this book as in his other books is superb!! - Linda

From the opening scene, where we trail the fearsome beast intent on attacking young Princess Valeria, you will be hooked! Once again, Michael Hicks has drawn us into a fantastic world, not in a galaxy far, far away (hat tip to Star Wars), but right here on Earth, as it was many centuries ago. The residents of Rome are still recovering from a cataclysmic event that changed the whole orientation of the planet. The world had changed, but unfortunately, men had not. Just as today, sometimes war is far kinder than politics. - Jodi C.

I wanted another great book and an exciting series I could totally immerse myself in. Mission accomplished with this new book. I am letting my nails grow so I can bite them waiting for the next book to come. - Sarah

A fascinating story about a civilization that has rebuilt itself after a world-wide catastrophe, in the style of ancient Rome. The family of Caesar is facing daunting challenges both inside the Empire (betrayal and greed) and outside (Who are the giants across the sea? When will they attack?), Vulcan's Fury draws you in and keeps you turning pages long into the night. - Holly H.

Michael R. Hicks has done it again! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vulcan's Fury! The book is captivating, and held me in suspense, from the first chapter to the last. At different times I found myself laughing, crying, and cheering. I can hardly wait for the story to continue in his next book. Please hurry!!! - James S.

Just WOW, Vulcan's Fury was a page burner and I am so looking forward to the next book in this new series! - Sam D.

CHAPTER ONE

The beast wove its way with great care through the lush vegetation as it stalked its prey. It moved in slow, sinuous movements, so low to the ground that the white fur of its belly brushed against the manicured grass. Its coat of black stripes against dusky orange made it nearly invisible as it crept among the shadows, its long fur-covered tail trailing behind it like a serpent. Through the sweet fragrance of the many flowers in bloom it could make out the smell of Man. It was a pungent mixture of sour human sweat, spices and wine on their breath, and the oil and polish used on metal and leather. Drawing in a silent breath, it could make out eleven individual Man-scents nearby. They were not prey, but obstacles standing between the beast and the one it truly sought. The prey-scent was altogether different from those of the Men, for the prey was a young human female. She, like all living things, had her own unique scent. But here, amidst the many flowers, it was difficult for the beast to locate her, for she smelled much like a flower herself.

Hearing a deep voice call out, the beast froze, its amber eyes staring through the foliage in the direction of the Man-sound, its six legs tensed to seize an opportunity to attack, or to turn and flee. One of the Men, far to the beast’s left, crashed into the greenery, calling to its fellows, no doubt hoping to have found the monster stalking them. The other Men, demonstrating far greater wisdom, remained silent. But even standing still as a stone, the Men made noise. The great beast could hear their breathing, whispered Man-speak, the subtle sigh of grass as they shifted weight from one foot to another, and the clink of metal on metal or the soft squeal of leather. Only one among them, the eldest and most fierce, was truly silent. Of the Men the beast now faced, he was the only one it had any reason to truly fear. The beast likely would have chosen a more direct approach to reach its prey, save for this particular Man. The others were as helpless, bleating goats compared to him.

Certain now that it had not been detected, the beast used the noise made by the Man beating through the greenery to mask its approach. Still staying low to the ground, it moved forward in a series of rapid but silent steps, its tail low to the ground, shifting slightly from side to side to help it maintain perfect balance. After a momentary pause to make sure it remained undetected, it made another dash to a dense hedge, beyond which lay the prize. After sinking to the ground, it slowly, ever so slowly, crept forward until it could see through the hedge. Just beyond the living wall was a large circle of grass upon which stood the humans. At their center was the prey, and beside her was the One-To-Be-Feared, the metal armor girding his chest gleaming silver in the sun, as did the helmet with the red crest. He was never far from the prey’s side, and his eyes were never still.

With a tremor of excitement, the beast saw that those eyes were now fixed on the Man still stomping through the greenery. The Man gave a startled yelp, then cried out in pain as he stumbled upon the nest of bees the beast had earlier steered well clear of during its approach. The Man crashed back through the hedge into the grassy circle, slapping at his tiny tormentors. The other Men laughed at their companion’s antics, and even the attention of the One-To-Be-Feared was riveted on the spectacle.

It was an opportunity the beast could not pass up. Backing away from the hedge, the beast quickly retreated several paces. Then, turning back in the direction of the humans, it dashed forward. At the last possible instant it leaped into the air, clearing the hedge with room to spare, before it landed on the grass on the far side. Dashing past the nearest Men, it let out an ear-splitting roar as it bore down on its small human prey, her defenders too far away now to save her.
 

The prey, eyes wide, whirled around and beheld the nature of her doom. She opened her mouth and screamed.

***

Princess Valeria knew it was cruel to do so, but she couldn’t help but laugh as Paulus Furius came stumbling back through the hedge, retreating before a swarm of angry bees. The men of her guard detail showed him no mercy, howling at his misfortune as he slapped at his face and arms in a desperate attempt to rid himself of the attacking insects. Their laughter reached a crescendo as he yelped and all but jumped into the air as a bee found its way beneath his tunic to deposit its stinger somewhere in his nether regions. Even the normally grim-faced Marcus Tullius, the veteran centurion who commanded her guards, managed a smile at the young soldier’s plight.
 

Paulus favored her with a look of such utter helplessness, as if the bees were an affliction wrought upon him by the gods themselves, that she laughed all the more.

Where lesser young men might have been angry or embarrassed by her reaction, Paulus himself joined in on the laughter, despite the pain. Having just turned fifteen, he was the same age as Valeria. He was already nearly as tall as her father, who stood taller than most other men with whom she was acquainted, and under the unyielding training regimen of Centurion Tullius had developed a well-muscled body that complemented his handsome face. A ward of her father’s, in Valeria’s eyes Paulus was her brother, for he had been with her family since his parents were killed in the Southern Rebellion eleven years before. When he came of age at thirteen, he had filed for service in the Army. He could have waited another two years when he would have faced compulsory conscription, but entering the service early was rewarded with choicer assignments, a boost in pay by the time he turned fifteen, and a bonus advancement in rank, as well. Of course, being the ward of the Emperor was a minor bonus.

“Oh, Paulus!” Valeria finally managed. She had been laughing so hard that her stomach hurt. “That was…”

Her laughter was cut short by a deep, feral roar from the far end of the garden as an enormous hexatiger vaulted over the waist-high hedge. Her guards turned toward the threat and raised their shields, but none were close enough to help her. Even Centurion Tullius was caught off-guard, and that
never
happened.
 

She whipped around to face the rampaging killer, her eyes wide. “
Hercules!

The beast skidded to a stop, its six paws, each as big across as a man’s chest, digging furrows in the manicured grass before he unceremoniously plopped to the ground at her feet. Rolling over on his broad back, his tail twitching to and fro, Hercules rumbled in a great feline purr as he gently extended his forepaws toward her.

Laughing, she fell to her knees, wrapping her arms around the beast’s huge neck and burying her face in the thick white fur. Hercules wriggled on the ground, rumbling, clearly delighted with the attention.

“He beat us again,” Paulus said, shaking his head as he came to stand beside the princess and her furry companion, still wincing from the bee stings. “I was sure we had him this time!”

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