Home > Horsemen's War (The Rebellion Chronicles #3)

Horsemen's War (The Rebellion Chronicles #3)
Author: Steve McHugh

Prologue

NATE GARRETT

Virginia, United States, Earth Realm

1798

The interior of the barn was covered in blood. None of it was mine.

The two dozen inhabitants had arrived here believing they were meeting with me as an envoy from Avalon. I was meant to discuss future business deals, bring them more prosperity, and they, in return, would keep Avalon’s influence alive in the newly free country of America. Things had changed.

There was a gargle in one of the four empty stalls. The horses that had been kept there were long gone.

I walked over, stepping around the top half of a torso and a severed head, and found the still-living man inside the stall. The smell of blood and shit was overpowering, but I pushed it aside. I didn’t plan on staying long.

His tunic was bathed in blood, and more blood covered his face. There was a deep cut along his chest, and it continued to bleed heavily.

“Why?” he asked, a look of betrayal in his eyes.

I followed his gaze to the body of his nearest companion.

“You are murderers, thieves, slavers. Scum who relish and traffic in human misery,” I said, my voice completely calm. “Why should so many innocent people die while people like you continue to make wealth off their pain?”

“But we work for Avalon,” he said, his face waxy. He did not have long. “You work for Avalon.”

I nodded. “I was sent here by Merlin to ensure that Avalon’s reach continued into this new world. But I decided that it was also an excellent time to remove the rotten parts of the system.”

“We work for Avalon,” he said again.

I didn’t remember his name. It didn’t really matter. He was one of hundreds I’d killed since arriving in America in 1784. All of them had deserved it. Their deaths had made the world a better place.

“I don’t care,” I told him.

“Merlin will find you,” he said with a gasp. “He will punish you.”

I smiled at him. “And you’ll still be dead.” I drove a blade of fire into his chest, ending him properly.

I stood and removed the long black coat I’d been wearing. It was covered in blood, as were my dark trousers and black boots. I tossed the coat onto the floor. There was a second one on my horse, outside the barn.

I pushed open the partially stuck wooden door and stepped outside into the cold. I ignited my fire magic, keeping myself warm as I stared at the familiar face of the man who stood fifteen feet away. He was taller than me, with long dark hair tied back with a blue bow. He was clean-shaven, and his hurt expression was clear. He wore a long black coat, similar to the one I’d dropped in the barn, and like me, he carried no weapons. He didn’t really need them. I’d once seen him tear a man in half with his bare hands.

“Tommy,” I said, feeling like the word would get stuck in my throat.

“Nate,” he replied, taking a step toward me. His voice was calm, almost sad.

“They deserved to die,” I said, my tone harder now as I let my anger fuel my voice.

“Probably,” Tommy said with a slight shrug. “Not for us to say.”

“Why?” I shouted. “Why not for us to say? We have the power.”

“Because that’s not what we do,” he countered immediately. “We’re not here as judge, jury, and executioner to people we deem to be bad. Humanity is meant to police its own.”

“Why should innocent people die and bastards like this continue to live?” I snapped, marching toward Tommy until I was only a foot away.

“Because we’re better than them,” Tommy said. “Because we can’t rule humanity—especially through fear. That’s not our place. They are ignorant of our existence for a reason. Their safety—and ours! Your actions are putting us all in danger.”

“They. Are. Monsters.” Each word was said louder, the last a bellow.

“You killed bad people,” Tommy said, his voice never rising. “But what about all the innocents who also died because of that? We don’t just blindly kill people we disagree with. We can’t. We’re not conquerors. They’ve literally just had a war here to destroy oppression. You were not sent here to decimate the population of people who you deem to be unworthy. Mary Jane would never want that.”

I punched him in the mouth, my hand wrapped in dense air magic. Tommy flew back ten meters and collided with an old wooden shed, which imploded from the impact.

The silence that followed felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t sure how to take back what I’d just done. I wasn’t sure how to stop the anger and hate inside of me, how to burn away the pain that had all but consumed me.

“Did that make you feel better?” Tommy asked as he hurled a large piece of wood a hundred meters into the fields beyond.

“Don’t you ever say her name,” I snapped, feeling the warmth of the hate return to push aside the pain.

“Mary Jane was your wife,” Tommy said as he strode back toward me, shrugging off his coat and dropping it onto the snowy ground. “I know her death hurt you, but it’s been sixteen years. Everyone involved in her murder is dead. You killed them.”

“I said, don’t mention her name,” I seethed.

“We found the soldier,” Tommy continued. “We found him without his tongue, his eyes, his fingers, his toes, lips, and several other parts you’d removed. He didn’t even look human. You think Mary Jane would approve of that? You think she would be standing beside you, telling you this is a job well done?”

I threw another punch, and Tommy caught it in midair as if he were catching a child’s toy.

“Mary Jane was a good woman,” he said, pushing my arm away. “You disgrace her memory with every life you needlessly take.”

I threw another punch, this one wrapped in fire, but Tommy growled, low and mean, and struck me in the chest with the palm of his hand.

I smashed through the barn doors and crashed into one of the beams inside before dropping to the floor. I charged out, leaping over the blood, directly into Tommy, who had turned into his werewolf beast form. He caught me one handed and threw me aside into the fence that surrounded the barn. I wrapped myself in air magic as I bounced along the frozen ground into the field beyond.

Dirt and snow rained down around me as I got to my feet, ready for Tommy, who was methodically walking toward me.

“I don’t want to do this,” I shouted at him.

“Then stop,” he said sadly.

I created a blade of fire in one hand and extinguished it. Tommy was my best friend. I wasn’t going to fight him. I just needed to get away; I needed to finish what I’d started.

“Mary Jane would be disgusted at what you’ve become,” he said.

Blind rage took over, and I charged Tommy, trying to drive a short blade of fire into his chest, but he punched me in the jaw with enough strength to spin me in the air but not break every bone in my face, which he certainly could have done.

“You’re not doing this for Mary Jane,” Tommy said as I spat blood onto the snow and took another swipe at him, cutting him across the chest.

“Stop saying her name,” I screamed at him.

Tommy backhanded me across the face, and I felt my entire head ring from the impact as I hit the ground once again.

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