Today I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Gods of Rome the third and final installment of the Rise of Emperors historical fiction trilogy. I haven’t had the chance to read this book yet as I had a lot of conflicting blog tours running in early November, but the publisher has kindly sent me a copy for reviewing which I’ll be reading very soon. I just want to say a big thank you to Jade and Andrew at Aries fiction for the chance to be a part of this tour as well as the book.
Now, today, instead of a review I’ve been given the chance to share an extract of the book with you as part of the blog tour! 😃 I know this extract will get you excited. After reading it, it’s made me want to dive right into this book right away, regardless of my current read!😅
The Cottian Alpes, 27th January 312 ad
We moved through the mountains like winter wolves. The ferocious blizzard sped southwards with us, carried on the famous bora winds, singing a dire song. For days we marched through that driving snow, seeing nothing but great white-clad peaks either side of us; rugged, inhospitable highlands which in these frozen months soldiers were not meant to cross. All around me the gale screamed, boots crunched endlessly through the successively deeper drifts of white, men’s teeth chattered violently, mules brayed, exhausted. It felt at times as if we were wandering, snow-blind, to our deaths, but I knew what lay ahead… so close now.
I called upon my chosen men and a handful of their best soldiers – a group of thirty – and we roved ahead of the army like advance scouts. The blizzard raked through my bear cloak, the snow rattling like slingshot against my gemmed ridge helm and bronze scales as I scoured the valley route. Yet I refused to blink. When the speeding hail of white slowed and the murky grey ahead thinned a little, I saw them: a pair of stone and timber watchtowers, northern faces plastered in snow. Gateposts watching this passage between two realms. I dropped to my haunches behind the brow of a snowdrift and my chosen men hunkered down with me. I gazed over the drift’s brow, regarding the narrow gap between the towers and the valley route beyond, on through the winter-veined mountains. Thinking of the land that lay beyond these heights, my frozen lips moved soundlessly.
Land of Roman forefathers. Home of the man I had once considered my friend… but that territory was rightfully mine. Mine! My surging anger scattered when I spotted movement atop one of the two towers: a freezing Maxentian scout blowing into his hands, oblivious to our presence. Then the blizzard fell treacherously slack, and the speeding veil of white cleared for a trice. I saw his ice-crusted eyebrows rise as he leaned forward, peering into the momentary clarity, right at us. His eyes bulged, mouth agog.
‘He is here!’ he screamed to be heard over the sudden return of the storm’s wrath. ‘Constantine is h—’
With a wet punch, an arrow whacked into the man’s chest and shuddered there. He spasmed then folded over the edge of the timber parapet and fell like a sack of gravel, crunching into a pillowy snowdrift at the turret’s foot. I glanced to my right, seeing my archer nock and draw again, shifting his bow to the heights of the other tower, his eyes narrowing within the shadow of his helm brow. He loosed, but the dark-skinned sentry up there ducked behind the parapet, screaming and tolling a warning bell. At once, three more Maxentians spilled from the door at the base of that rightmost tower, rushing south towards a simple, snow-topped stable twenty paces away, in the lee of a rocky overhang. This was one of the few gateways through the mountains – albeit the least favoured and most treacherous – and it was guarded by just five men? Instantly, suspicion and elation clashed like swords in my mind. We had no time to rake over the facts. These watchmen could not be allowed to ride south and warn the legions of Italia. They had to die.
The armoured figures by my side rose with me and surged ahead, each eager to show their valour. They spilled around the rightmost of the two watchtowers. With a crunch, one of my feather-helmed Cornuti legionaries booted open the timber door and rammed his spear into the chest of the darkskinned scout hurrying down the stairs to join his fleeing comrades. My soldier screamed in time with the dark-skinned one’s death cry, driving him back inside and slamming him against the tower-room’s far wall. Of the three scouts fleeing towards the stables, a hurled javelin took one in the back of the neck. The second turned to attack us, running my Cornuti man through then swinging his blade at me. I blocked his vicious strike then cut deep into his shoulder with a swift downward swipe. He crumpled into the snow in a blossom of red, thrashing in pain, before I put an end to his suffering with a clean thrust to his neck. Yet the man had delayed us just enough: the last of the fleeing trio was now upon his mare. He geed her into a panicked turn, kicking one of my approaching soldiers in the face then breaking into a gallop. South… to his master’s side.
I twisted to my archer, who was taking aim already. ‘Don’t let him escape,’ I growled. The arrow spat forth and my small party halted, panting, watching it fly. It fishtailed and shivered then slashed down, only scoring the man’s thigh before plunging into the snow. The man sped on, chased by the driving blizzard, hugging the steed’s neck, droplets of blood falling in his wake to taint the snow.
‘Bastard!’ Tribunus Batius rumbled nearby, his bull-like form unmistakable in the driving blizzard. He had been by my side since I was a boy – though now he was showing his years, the stubble on his head and broad chin silver like his armour and his brutish features lined with age. The big man twisted to shout back whence we had come. ‘Equites! Cataphracti!’
‘No,’ I shouted as the bora winds keened and the blizzard softened for a moment, revealing that the rider was already gone from sight. ‘Our hidden approach was never going to see us all the way through this range. We have reached deep into the mountains unseen – done well to get this far. It would be folly to send our precious cavalry charging ahead – what if this weak watch was but a ruse? What if there is a trap further along this valley? Let us advance as one, carefully, while still making the most of our advantage before news reaches our enemy.’
‘Aye. Advance as one – out of this valley and upon Segusium,’ said another voice with a confidence I envied. Krocus, the shaggy-haired leader of the Regii, chin-tied beard encrusted with frost and snow. He and his men had served my father before me and he wore a mesh of battle-scars on his arms and face like marks of honour.
‘The first city that must be taken,’ Batius agreed with a sideways glance at Krocus – once his nemesis but now more of a comrade and a drinking rival. These two, my most trusted generals and leaders of my strongest regiments, did not salt their words with doubt.
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About the authors
Gordon Doherty is the author of the Legionary and Strategos series, and wrote the Assassin’s Creed tie-in novel Odyssey. He is based in Scotland.
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Simon Turney is the author of the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series, as well as The Damned Emperor series for Orion and Tales of the Empire series for Canelo. He is based in Yorkshire.
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Thank you for joining me on my stop for this blog tour today. I hope you enjoyed the extract and it makes you want to pick up Gods of Rome or indeed the whole Rise of Emperors series. 🙂 I hope to provide a review soon, but in the meantime there are many other stops on the tour with reviews too, so please do check them all out on the banner below 🙂
What do you think of this extract? Do you like historical fiction? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂