THE HYDRA OFFENSIVE
by Joshua K Johnson
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The nation of Ansgar is divided.
In the east, King Eadric Garrard has crushed one rebellion but gets no rest as the rebellion in the West is rapidly spiraling out of control. If he can’t get things in line soon, his reign could be at an end.
Raedan Clyve has traveled across the Vast Sea to secure treaties and trade. Unchecked in his studies of magic, his powers are growing beyond his control. The dark path he has set himself on leads to destruction and chaos, but is it too late to turn back?
Kyrie Salas captains the Dragon’s Breath, chartered to carry the Western emissaries across the world. She sees the potential in Raedan and seeks to harness it. But will her emotions get the best of her?
War has raged, battles have been fought, and lives lost. But the conflict for the future of Ansgar is just beginning.
Oars slapped the water in slow rhythm as the sailors pushed the pinnace closer to the docks. A light fog had settled on the harbor and it mingled with thick black smoke from the waterfront factories to create a roof of sorts over the water. The air smelled of a rain coming and a cool breeze drifted into the harbor from the north. The sailors navigated by the light of the waning moon and the lanterns set out on the piers, weaving in between massive galleons and shallow-bottom longships.
Raedan sat at the rear of the boat, cigar in hand. Kyrie sat beside him, reading a book. Without the gift of night-sight, it was impossible for Raedan to make out the letters. The ship was silent, except for the dozen men grunting as they heaved and Raedan was happy for it. He had heard his fill of arguing from Pyt Ansell and Ahlrick Cheston. Each of them felt the need to add their opinion to every discussion and they rarely agreed on anything. Finding the right lesser king to approach would have been impossible if they had been allowed to lead it.
Instead, Kyrie had done the work. She was born of Laine, and her connections had proven invaluable. She had secured a meeting with the lesser king of Kiva Dana, the furthest north and west city in the Sea Kingdom. They had set the meeting only that afternoon and had been warned against making for town in anything but the dimmest of conditions.
The weather was with them, and both Raedan and Kyrie had whispered concealment spells to aid in their quiet approach. The ship’s wood was inlaid with gemstones for each of the Orders of magic and the onyx stones glimmered with infused magic.
A distant bell began to toll and Kyrie closed her eyes. Raedan felt the magic flow out of her.
“We’re near,” she said after a moment. “Oars up.”
The sailors pulled the blades in from the water, letting the small boat glide toward the docks. They set the poles in the belly of the vessel and retrieved bed rolls from beneath them. As the boat drifted toward the dock, most of the oarsmen laid out on their benches as if asleep. A single man stood at the bow of the ship, watching into the darkness.
The bell tolled for the fourth time and a soft whistle drifted back from the front of the pinnace. Kyrie closed her book.
“The night guards have left their posts and the morning guards are not yet in place. There is a bedroll under your bench. Get it.”
Raedan reached under the bench and found the blankets stowed there. He untied the roll and laid it across the runabout’s deck. The ship shuddered lightly as it scraped against the dock and the lone watchman went to work mooring the ship to the pier.
The sound of heavy boots echoed along the dock as men approached from the city. Kyrie pulled Raedan down to the deck, squarely on top of her. He could feel her body tense as he shifted his weight. Her chest rose and fell in slow, shallow breaths, her breasts pressed against his chest. Her hair was in his nostrils. The smell of sweat mixed with a sweet perfume.
Joshua Johnson is the author of “Gunpowder Fantasy” The Cerberus Rebellion and the creator of the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. When he isn’t working or spending time with his family, he writes novels, short stories and novellas.
He currently lives in Northern Illinois with his wife and young children.
Joshua will be awarding a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour an ebook containing short stories set in the same world as the novel, titled “The Chesian Wars”.