Back in April, I posted a draft of the first page for Grenadiers and Dragon’s Fire. It’s a steampunk-themed story with just a bit of fantasy thrown in for fun. Depending on how you butter your bread, steampunk is a subgenre of either fantasy or historic fiction (or both) with a retro twist. I’ve finished up the story, and here’s the final version of the first page.
Screams crossed the sky, spitting sparks and fire until they slammed into the lower slope of Bourgogne Hill. Explosions erupted a moment later with a shower of dirt, bloody limbs and two unfortunate Imperial soldiers.
“Lieutenant!” a voice screamed down the line. Panic broke the soldier’s voice.
“Don’t you move,” Lieutenant Aubrey Hartmann yelled back. She didn’t use his name. There was no need to shame him when everyone was equally scared. “Don’t you dare. Keep your heads pressed into the dirt until you’re kissing rock.”
The Imperial advance had been stymied. Their right flank along the wide River Raglan was covered by a combination of air platforms and naval ships of the line. The heavy and light guns had made it impossible for the enemy, the Glorious Republic of Hamill, to mount a counterattack and encircle them on that side. But on the left, they’d needed at least a division to hold the wing. The support came from the Light Division under Sir Heinz de Lutz. The Light Division had angled as they came up Bourgogne Hill, straight into Aubrey’s company and half of the 4th Division. De Lutz either hadn’t realized it, or hadn’t seen it in time. The mix of the two divisions was now such a thorough jumble that they’d lost any cohesion. The officers had halted the Imperial advance and were trying to divide the two divisions. The Hamills had taken advantage of the confusion and started the mortar bombardment.
Another volley screamed over her head. The Hamill cannons had a poor angle from the top of the fortified redoubt. Their mortar crews, on the other hand, had nearly perfected the range. Aubrey took her own orders to heart and pressed her body against hill’s hard-packed dirt and scrub. She turned her face left to breathe. Sergeant Simmons looked back at her and gave a grin.
“I hate you,” Aubrey said.
Simmons grinned wider. The mortars began to scream and fall again with explosive roars. The Sergeant said something to her, but it was completely lost in the noise.
Overhead, two Imperial air platforms thundered into position, their bulky Simm-Daimlers driving them into position and holding them in place. Some of the soldiers called them airships, but that was incorrect. They were nothing more than a flat platform slung under a dirigible frame, crowded with two mounted guns, five crew members, and the stinking, smoking, thunderous engines. They couldn’t travel any real distance without support for refueling and riding on the platform was uncomfortable for any length of time. Even with all their faults, the looming presence of the air platforms made the heavy mortars stop. The Hamills had learned early that most of their light firearms couldn’t reach the air platforms or do more than superficial damage to the dirigibles’ battle membrane. Exposed mortar and cannon crews were a target for the air platform gunners operating the two mounted Agar repeating guns. The twin guns on each platform started their tat-tat-tat of sustained fire. Every tenth shot was a Fae-spelled tracing round that drew a blue streak through the air as it lined down to the target. The Fae didn’t participate in human wars, but they liked to dabble. They enjoyed the little mischiefs they could cause. Those mischiefs, like the tracing rounds, made the air platforms deadly accurate in seconds, rather than spray-and-pray from the early days.
I don’t have a definite release date for this anthology. I’m told it’s this year, so stay tuned for more information.