The 'Chronicles of War' is a series of seven complete and self-contained novels that narrate the fabled career of Epsilon Three, Holy Warfarer of the Martial Rite. Orphaned as an infant into a pagan cult of war, Epsilon Three (named for the month and the day he became a foundling) learns the strategies and tactics of war as a prodigy learns physics. Triumphant at the Festival of Alcorde, Epsilon's ultimate reward is banishment beyond the Great Barricade of Empire into a mysterious realm of magic and monsters. The first volume of the series, The Warfarer's Exodus begins with Epsilon's first contact with the magical lands beyond Empire's Great Barricade. Expecting to die an immediate, if heroic, death, Epsilon and Helmcleaver, his murderous war stallion, ultimately survive the Wilderland's first trials and tribulations. As warfaring pilgrims lost on an errand of conquest, the two wander the forests in search of a destination. Once they meet Pandolyn, a powerful wizard of the Synod of Seven, their fates take a strange twist.
The ritual of Alcorde was but a moldering ember of memory in his mind. It would soon die, and with it his last hopes. Already its warmth was so dim as to be nothing more than a soft glow in the ashes of his thoughts.
They had praised him. They had showered him with riches he could never spend. They had sung of his courage from dusk to dawn, and virgins had thrown themselves at his feet, yearning to be spent at his pleasure. All the land's male children fortunate (or hapless) enough to be born on that bright day had been given his name. And for a moment, a mad, illustrious moment, all the eyes of the world had seemed to be turned in his direction. Every mouth had blessed him at once. All the peoples of the scattered lands had come to escort him triumphantly through the city walls. Now...
Now, where were they?
Epsilon glowered fiercely and swept his stern gaze about the room. He sat on a bench in a corner, a window at his right hand. No table squatted between his legs, leaving his range of movement clear and unobstructed. A great horn of ale reclined on the windowsill, but the drink was long forgotten. He hadn't ordered it and had no interest in its assets. Instead, he fished a wad of jillroot from a hide pouch on his belt and bit off a mouthful of the powerful stimulant. Masticating slowly, Epsilon glowered more deeply still and watched as a small throng of babbling locals gathered at the opposite end of the room.
Their conversation was hushed and secretive. Epsilon could not hear their words, but heads often popped up above the pack to glance in his direction, so he knew what they were discussing.
It will come soon enough, now, sighed the sacrificial hero. I had hoped to find peace here, at the end of the road... one last night as a human being. Here, at the gods' forsaken toenails of Empire, here, a half a thousand leagues from Capitol Tesla, here I had hoped to find ignorance and anonymity.
Sadly, this was not to be. The livery of the Emperor's Warfarer was subtle and somber, of dark colors and bland silhouette, but it was nearly as well known as that of the Emperor's own House. This despite the fact that there never had been and never could be more than a single Warfarer to serve all of Empire at any one time.
Epsilon's dubious powers were not a birthright, and neither had they been casually bestowed. He had maimed or slain a hundred men on Tesla's bloody court fields to win the right to wear the Warfarer's colors. Such was the nature of the Ritual of Alcorde. Many were called to combat, but only one could prevail. And that one was as surely doomed by winning as he might have been damned for losing. For wining was a death, of itself, though a much slower, more brutal death than any single sword stroke could ever be. Though he was only four months the outcast from Tesla, Epsilon had found himself regretting his fate many times over, almost nightly in fact.
Indeed, he was regretting it even now. As a big man separated from the suddenly hushed congregation in the far corner, Epsilon bit off another thick wad of jillroot and stowed the remainder of the cake in its pouch. His right hand came to rest on the pommel of the Warfarer's immaculate broadsword, while his left found the comforting support of a long dagger's jutting haft. Epsilon slid his feet beneath the bench warily, ready to spring into battle at a heart's beat notice.
The big man approached cautiously, his hands emptily clutching air, a sure sign of nerves. Though his own sword dangled readily from a worn belt that crossed his chest, the local didn't seem inclined to fight. Epsilon relaxed a bit, but only a very tiny little bit.
"Hail, Holy Warrior. Gods save the Emperor and His Holy Empire!"
Epsilon frowned and farted in the same instant. "There's nothing holy about me or the bloody empire. Or the Emperor, for that matter."
Hushed expectantly to witness the big man's attempt, the throng gasped in unison and covered their ears. Even their spokesman seemed aghast by Epsilon's words. He stood there uncertainly, his face blanched pale, his mouth working open and closed, open and closed.
The sacrificial hero spat a wad of spent jill to the wooden floor and wiped the back of his left hand across his mouth. His right remained still and firm. "What would you have of me, citizen? I am not long for this world, and do not like to waste my breath pattering."
After but a moment's further hesitation (which earned Epsilon's praise of the big peasant's courage), the spokesman made a sign of penance to an unannounced god and stammered, "F-forgive me, Warfarer, but your oath was black enough to curl a drunken friar's whiskers. No other man would dare say such things!"
"Aye, no other man, and still many truths are left long unspoken. Save for the Emperor, Himself, I alone need not fear my head for such paltry crimes. Just as I might deem your own head a trophy and take it without fear of recrimination. From man or god. Or emperor. Now again, good citizen, what would you have of me? And I warn you to speak surely this time, ere my patience wanes."
"Of course." The big man cleared his throat. "I am Deldric of the Farther Heights. I--er, that is, We would have nothing of you, sire, save your good cheer. Pardon my blunt tongue. I know nothing of courtly ways and gestures, but I do know something of black brows. And yours seems the blackest I have ever seen..." Deldric's voice trailed off into a mumble. As a bird hobbling before the serpent, the peasant found himself enthralled in the Warfarer’s deep green eyes. The depths of that steely gaze were unfathomable. Unfathomable like the deepest of seas. And, like the seas, the cool, potent restlessness of Epsilon's gaze seemed to promise death and harbor corpses deep down inside.
To save time, Epsilon glanced quickly away and reached for his forgotten ale. Rinsing his mouth, the Warfarer spat a blackened offal to the floor and took another sip of the heady liquid to wash his jill-numbed throat.
Deldric quickly found his tongue and continued, "I--We thought to offer you meat and drink and... and women... to afford you good cheer this night. The Great Barricade lies only half a league to southward, an hour's walk, no more. Though the Roaring Lion isn't much of an inn and even less so a public hall, you will find nothing like her in the Wilderlands." The big man stopped speaking a moment, both to catch his breath and to listen. When Epsilon made no immediate move to accept, he started up again, less confident than before. "Further, if you would shun our company, then this also will we allow you graciously. We will all go in peace early to our blankets and leave you to yourself... but..."
Epsilon sighed and sipped at his beer again. It was shockingly good. He enjoyed another, longer quaff and set the horn back on the sill. "But, you desire a favor of me, no? A bauble, a bead, something to remember the Emperor's Warfarer by, when you are old and your grandchildren pester you for firelight's tales?"