The Bulls of War
E.M. Thomas is an author of two novels – an epic fantasy (The Bulls of War) and a historical fiction set in Ancient Greece (Fortress of the Sun). The former is the first in the series entitled Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones; the latter is intended to stand alone, yet fits into a continuum of late third century Greek novels to come.
E.M. Thomas was born and raised on the East Coast of the United States but is a world traveler at heart. He caught the writing bug early on and has a passion for all good fiction, but especially that of the fantasy and historical variety. It’s hard to pinpoint just where and when his twin loves of history and world-building originated, but they surely coincided. Perhaps it was the childhood strolls across sweltering Civil War battlefields with his parents, perhaps it was the 1,700-page Harper Encyclopedia of Military History that he stumbled upon in his teenage years, reading it ’til the cover lay in tatters. Whenever it was and however it happened, he knew that he was hooked, an affinity strengthened upon traveling to the ruins of Rome and Greece, scaling the towers of Welsh castles, and hiking atop the Wall of Hadrian. He was (and remains) especially struck by the concept and scale of ancient empires, the ferocity of their combat, the startling efficiency of kings and emperors in a time when communication was, at its best, as fast as a series of horses could go or boots could march.
One of his favorite moments thus far in his young career was writing a chapter of his latest book about the great battle of Corinth – while sitting in the ancient site of Corinth.
“They say all the land is tinder; it braces for a spark.”
An empire in the ancient land of Andervold stands at the precipice of war with its hated rival, their fragile truce teetering on the edge of a sword and the finicky whims of a powerful few. Tens of thousands of troops stand at the ready, only a breath away from battles on a scale unseen in centuries. Factions within and without the Imperial capital of Dray’gon Rokh fight to keep the peace with Valogar, while others shirk no scheme, murder, or terror in their quest to trigger war – a war some fear could rend their divided empire apart. From the highest minister to the lowest merchant, everyone has to choose a side eventually, lest they have it chosen for them.
Kyrus and his lifelong friend Tyghus learn this lesson the hard way, soon finding themselves caught in the midst of a dangerous game of brinksmanship. Although they are veterans of battlefields a thousand miles away, the men are no match for the Capital’s ruthless statesmen. These are rival power-brokers entrenched in mutual enmity, men and women who have broken even the most politically savvy at the slightest misstep – and they waste no time in pushing Kyrus and Tyghus to opposite ends of the factional divide.
Sure enough, with every scheme that’s hatched, they become more and more enmeshed in the morass of Imperial intrigue, unwitting pawns in a game that’s to decide the fates of millions. Tensions rise, loyalties fray, and hearts are broken, all as words of peace become drowned out by the drumbeats of war. Against this backdrop of deceit, suspicion, and betrayal, their friendship is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to save their country from itself and those they love within it – all the while battling their own tortured pasts.
Spanning vistas from majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and barren plains in the north to sweltering deserts, raging seas, and rain-soaked shrublands in the south, The Bulls of War is the first book of E.M. Thomas’s epic Chronicles of the Andervold Thrones, a sweeping tale of love and war, of life and death, of honor and vengeance.
Central Valogar, 5th Day of the Tenth Month, Y. 371 Post-Cataclysm (P.C.)
Ten years, two months and this morning, Kyrus thought, blinking away drops of sweat. Yet still… still it’s not any easier.
For the thousandth time, his hand slid to a blade’s hilt, body braced against a gust ripping through the sweltering berry thicket. Wide eyes scanned the crush of steamy greenery all around him, ears hearing only his own short breaths and a heart that pounded like a drum. Even as the wind petered out, his anxiety held firm, held him frozen in place.
Ten bloody years of this… a wonder I’ve any wits left about me at all. He grunted. Or do I have any?
He’d grayed since then, since his first days in Valogar. Wrinkled too. Bones ached from the constant marching, mind frayed from the perpetual fear of knowing they were out there, somewhere, always itching to add another Rokhish scalp to their belts…
It’s never going to be easy, he chided himself with a shake of his head and a swat of a branch, hum of cicadas returning. Never was, you knew that from the start. That’s the dream of the weak, the naïve… dreams have no place in this hell.
The gray column of bearded Rokhs he led into the brush had come to a halt with him, taken by their leader’s concern. They knew that forage missions in this foreign land were about survival as much as they were finding food for their camp. Gauntlets to be run, the soldiers called them.
In truth, Kyrus hated the patches themselves as much as any Natives within them. Hated their denseness, hated their thorns that poked every bare piece of flesh, hated everything about them. “A lifetime of training for what?” he grumbled. “To go and fight where it’s too tight to swing a damn sword? Barely room to even piss.” He lowered into an observant crouch with a grimace. “You bastards out there today? Hm? Bet you’re not… bet you don’t have the –”
A blackbird landed on a branch above him, jarring him from his thoughts, his paranoia, his false bravado. With a frustrated sigh, he rose and returned to the line’s midpoint, hoping he was right – hoping that the Native danger was imagined yet again, that it was yet another false alarm.
“Alright, carry on, then, dammit,” he barked, annoyed and embarrassed to have stopped for nothing.
As the line relaxed, he found his teenage son at his side, dark braided hair cascading down his back, blue eyes full of guilt and indignation. It was his alarm that brought the column to a halt, his word to his father that he’d seen something in the brush. The problem was that lately he was always seeing something in the brush; three times during this march alone, in fact, and the Elder was at his wits’ end with it. In that moment, he saw no blood of his, no beloved son, no new Academy graduate, only an undisciplined young man – no, an undisciplined young soldier, and one who was quickly turning the rest of the troops ornerier with every delay.