Thanks to the generosity of the author, here's an extract from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s newest Recluce installment, Heritage of Cyador. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
From New York Times bestselling author L.E. Modesitt comes Heritage of Cyador, the new novel in the Saga of Recluce. Scarcely a year after the events of Cyador’s Heirs, Lerial uses his mastery of Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape his world and define the magic that exists within it, to utterly destroy an Afritan military force crossing into Cigoerne. Five years later, Lerial, now an overcaptain and a field commander of Cigoerne’s Mirror Lancers, must lead three companies of troops into Afrit on a mission of mutual interest: neighboring Heldya is threatening to invade Afrit, and if that nation falls, Cigoerne is certain to be next. The mission is both delicate and dangerous; Lerial’s value in the effort to repelling Heldya is undeniable, but his troubled history against Afrit may reopen old wounds that will never truly heal.
From the low rise where he has reined up, the Mirror Lancer undercaptain glances eastward to the Swarth River, slightly more than five hundred yards away, its waters far lower than usual in the hot afternoon, an afternoon more like late summer or early harvest. Then his eyes turn westward, taking in the open lands, whose grass is dry and brown and barely calf-high. More to the north are the few scattered plots that have brought forth little enough from the drought-plagued past harvest. Less than a kay behind him beside the small stream that flows down the middle of the swale between the rolling rises is a scattering of cots and hastily built shelters – structures thrown together by the people of Ensenla after they had fled the town of the same name, a town less than two kays north of where he waits, a town burned to the ground early that morning and now marked only by trails of smoke rising into the silver-hazed green-blue sky. Roughly fifty yards in front of him is a single post, stained a faded green. There is another such post a quarter kay to the east, overlooking the river, and another a quarter kay to the west, and that line of posts extends a good ten kays west of the river, perhaps farther, since the undercaptain has not measured the precise distance they extend in the three eightdays since he arrived to patrol the area.
The undercaptain studies the lay of the land, and the approach to the rise, knowing that a full battalion of Afritan Guards rides toward him and Eighth Company. They are less than half a kay to the north, just out of sight on the dirt road that has linked the burned-out town to the Cigoernean hamlet of Penecca for the past twenty years.
The undercaptain continues to reach out to the skies, frowning as he does. Still… there is enough moisture there to continue to create the clouds he would prefer but does not need.
“Ser?” asks the senior squad leader.
“Five companies. They’re riding up the slope just on the other side of the border. They’ll want us to stand aside so that they can slaughter the people who fled. We can’t let them do that.”
“Strange that the Duke isn’t here, ser.”
The undercaptain knows that the senior squad leader is suggesting a withdrawal might be in order. “It’s better that he isn’t.”
“Begging your pardon, ser…”
“The blood won’t be on his hands.” The undercaptain is being obscure, but he also knows that obscurity will serve him and the Duke far better than clarity in the matter.
The Afritan battalion appears at the north side of the top of the rise perhaps two hundred yards from the undercaptain and the senior squad leader. The Afritans continue forward until the lead riders are within fifty yards of the border post, and the line of five companies abreast comes to a halt. All five companies re-form into a five man front, then dress their ranks, and even their files.
An armsman carrying a white banner bordered in the dull crimson of Afrit rides forward, stopping just short of the border post.
The undercaptain motions for him to proceed, even as he separates order and chaos in the air above the rise, watching as the cloud above expands and darkens slightly.
The Afritan rides forward, reining up ten yards short of the Mirror Lancer undercaptain.
Neither speaks, but the undercaptain gestures.
The lancer clears his throat, then begins. “Majer Ehraam is pursuing traitors who have rebelled against his Mightiness Duke Atroyan. He would appreciate your not impeding his duty.”
“These are the lands of Duke Kiedron. While we understand the majer’s desire to do what he perceives as his duty, our duty is not to allow the armsmen of another land to murder and ride down those who have fled to Cigoerne for refuge.”
“I am commanded to inform you, Undercaptain, that you and your men will be treated as allies of those who are traitors if you stand in the majer’s way.”
“Might I ask if Arms-Commander Rhamuel accompanies the field commander?”
The Afritan armsman does not answer.
“Surely, you must know,” prompts the undercaptain.
“The majer has the authority of His Mightiness.”
The undercaptain nods. “You may inform the majer that we will not harm him or his men so long as he does not cross the border into Cigoerne. My Mirror Lancers are posted a hundred yards south of that border.”
“The majer must insist on the right to bring traitors to justice.”
“He has the right to bring them to justice in Afrit, not in Cigoerne. That is the rule in all lands, and that is the agreement between Duke Kiedron and Duke Atroyan. We will enforce that right by force of arms if necessary.”
“The majer has declared that he will pass.”
“If the majer crosses the border with his battalion, we will enforce our right to protect ourselves.”
“Then… the majer says you will suffer the consequences.”
“So will he and all his men.” The undercaptain glances at the small but thickening cloud that has gathered partly above him and mainly over the center of the rise to the north of where Eighth Company has reined up, arms ready.
Abruptly, the Afritan armsman turns and rides back to the massed formation.
The undercaptain waits.
“Ser…?” ventures the senior squad leader.
“Have the squads hold their positions. I’ll give the order if we need to attack.”
While the senior squad leader relays the order, the undercaptain concentrates, extending his order senses and beginning to create order lines as parallel as he can make them to the dancing chaos within the small thundercloud overhead, a cloud that darkens moment by moment as raindrops begin to fall across the top of the rise.
A trumpet triplet sounds, and the Afritan battalion starts forward at a fast walk.
Carefully and precisely, the undercaptain eases apart order and chaos in both the air above the advancing Afritans and in the ground below them. The Afritan riders break into a canter as they pass the faded green boundary post.
As he senses, with what he thinks of as brilliant light, the interplay between a deeper level of order and chaos, an interplay within all things, the undercaptain begins to separate small bits of order and chaos in the ground under the mounted mass of Afritan riders. Seemingly just before, but in fact, a calculated time before that point where his separations would unleash massive power, he limits the separation, and creates a quadruple ten-line order coil with the power going into a shielded circle around the Afritans.
Lightnings flare from ground and sky in a pattern that crisscrosses men and their mounts, galvanizes blades with such force that they are ripped from the hands of men who do not even feel their death. Thunder with the force of mighty winds slams into everything within that fiery circle, and the charred fragments of men and mounts are thrown to the ground, consumed almost totally by flame and then covered with fine ash that is all that remains of the browned grass of harvest.
The undercaptain shudders in his saddle as a wave of silver-gray flows over him, a wave unseen by any but him. His eyes blur, and tears stream down his cheeks. His head feels as though it is being pounded with a wooden mallet. He squints, enough to sharpen his blurred vision so that he can make out what lies before him on the top of the rise.
All that remains of a battalion of mounted Afritan armsmen is a circle of ash and blackened ground some two hundred yards across.
The senior squad leader gapes, then looks to the undercaptain, his mouth open, but wordless.
“The skies and storms favor Cigoerne,” says the officer. After a long silence, he adds, “Have second squad continue the patrol. The other squads will return to our camp. We need to tell the people of Ensenla that it is safe to reclaim what they can from their old town. They’re entitled to it. They’ve little enough left to their names.”
The rain is already beginning to let up as the undercaptain and the bulk of Eighth Company begin their return to the temporary camp and post in Ensenla, a post that the undercaptain knows full well will soon become a large and permanent base for protecting the northern border of the duchy.