Enjoy an exciting excerpt from Railroad Rising as we get ready for it’s release to Kindle!
Carrtog pushed his horse forward through the crowd. The prickling of his ring grew in intensity, was this crowd about to turn into a riot? What did they have in those sacks besides their lunches?
He pulled up in front of the line of guards and said to one of them, “I must speak to your leader. Immediately!”
The fellow looked at him suspiciously, and without taking his eyes off Carrtog, he called “Captain Gwailants! Man wants to speak to you, sir!”
Shortly, the captain came over on foot, there being no room for horses on the platform. He was a hard-looking man, his face browned by the weather, and his short beard and mustache had all gone pepper and salt. His sword was unsheathed in his hand.
“Come up here and talk, and I hope for your sake that you have something important to say.”
The guardsmen grudgingly let him through the line, and the first thing he did was to display his ring to the captain. “My ring tells me that there’s danger here, sir.”
The captain sneered and displayed his own ring. “It does, does it? Would it surprise you at all to know that I know that very well? Our king, however, has decided to ignore the danger in favor of making his political point.”
“Oh.” Carrtog felt deflated.
“Your news is not as vital as you thought, eh? Perhaps you should turn and leave us before—”
There was a shout somewhere in the crowd and what looked like a smoking ball of cloth came whirling through the air to land on the platform.
Carrtog felt a touch of confusion. Recognizing a battle-magic spell, he waved his ringed hand in front of him as if waving away the smoke. The confusion cleared from his mind. That first ball was followed by three others, thrown from other points in the crowd.
He spun to face outward, drawing his sword and shouting “Tsingallik for King Bornival!”
With any luck, that yell might convince the King’s Gentlemen all around him that he was on their side. On the other hand, members of the King’s Gentlemen seldom took risks with the king’s life; it was too likely that one or another of them would stick a sword into his side just to be sure.
Several among the guard swept hands before them — it was no surprise that a large number of them knew battle-magic, some likely knew much more than he did. Men among the crowd flung back their hoods, revealing caps of metal or leather, though a good number wore only a cloth bonnet like his own. There seemed to be only a couple who wore metal breastplates — the rest had a jacket of leather. The weapons they pulled from their sacks were mostly short swords and stout cudgels, but several had wheel-lock pistols.
The pistols were only accurate at close range and took some time to reload. Carrtog knew how to use a pistol; in fact, a pistol would have had more than one use for him at this moment given his training in battle-magic. His grandfather had offered him one before he and Yakor started off on their journey, but he had turned it down. The things were very expensive, particularly in a hinterland place like Tsingallik, and though he hoped at some time to earn the money to buy one of his own, he hadn’t wanted to ride away carrying one that his grandfather might well need worse than he.
The pistol-men in the crowd opened fire, the King’s Gentlemen replying. The powder-smoke began to gather, obscuring visibility, though not to the extent of hiding either of the two sides. Several men in the crowd went down. Carrtog noted that at least two were pushing their way back out of the crowd, just trying to get away.
An attacker stuck a pistol into his face, but Carrtog managed a frantic chop just before the fellow pulled the trigger. The pistol fired off to the side, and the man staggered aside clutching his bloody wrist.
Carrtog thrust at him, but his sword glanced off the man’s leather jacket as he went sidewards. The thought went through Carrtog’s mind that he should grab the dropped pistol, but good sense told him he didn’t have time. Indeed, there was a man jumping forward, extending his sword in a thrust. Even as he reacted, Carrtog noted that something had taken off most of the man’s left ear, leaving the blood streaming down his left side. He parried, and did his own thrust, then pulled his sword free, jumping back to avoid further attacks.
He called out once more, “Tsingallik for King Bornival!!” Then stepped forward, thrusting again.
He noticed that the attackers did not seem to be trying to kill the king or his party, but working to force them backward into the train car where the ladies and the rest of the retinue had already taken shelter. If the attackers were trying to force them inside, it seemed to him that the best thing to do would be to try to force their way out.
But with Captain Gwailants shouting “Rally round the king! Rally round the king!” It seemed that they would be playing into the enemy’s scheme.
The King’s Gentlemen tried to close in around the king, and one glimpse that Carrtog was able to get of Bornival showed the man standing tall and grim, his bloodied sword in one hand, and blood soaking his left sleeve. Obviously, someone had gotten closer to him than his guard would prefer.
Carrtog could hear Yakor’s wisdom telling him not to get trapped in a train-car with the enemy’s target. But with the next surge of rebels he had little choice. He fell into formation with the king’s Gentlemen. Then they were all inside fighting to prevent the numbers of foe inside with them from growing.
Strangely, several of the rebels were pushing backward out the door, while trying to prevent any of the royal party from leaving.
Shouts went up from outside the car, shouts that Carrtog couldn’t make out, but he suspected a signal of some sort.
The train jerked into motion. There was a great groaning as the fastenings tore from the outside platform. Then the train was dragging the outside platform with it, leaving bits scattered along the way as they gained speed.
They’re trying to take the king hostage!