Saturday Snippet: The legacy of a Roman legion transported to a strange world


Marc Alan Edelheit has become a well-known fantasy author, basing much of his work on the history of the legions of Rome, but in a fantasy setting that incorporates much traditional mythology such as orcs, dwarfs, elves and dragons.  He does it better than most such attempts, and I’ve found myself reading and re-reading his work for several years now.

For today’s snippet, I’ve chosen a chapter from his novel “Stiger’s Tigers“, first in the series “Chronicles of An Imperial Legionary Officer” (which currently stands at 6 books, with more to come).  Thankfully for those on limited budgets, they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, as well as in paper and e-book editions.

In this excerpt, the protagonist and his men must confront a rogue officer who’s been possessed by a minion of an evil god.  They’ve just fought their way into his castle to get at him.

One of Aveeno’s men appeared suddenly, attempting to swing the door to the keep shut. Stiger’s men slammed into it, forcing the door and the man back. He was quickly cut down and lay bleeding in an expanding pool of blood.

Stepping over the body, Stiger and his men were in the keep. Oil lanterns and lamps lit the interior with an eerie, soft, flickering yellow glow. A hallway stretched out before them, along with two staircases leading upward in opposite directions. A shout rang out down the hallway as someone turned and ran in fright.

“Hurry!” Boral called, starting up a staircase. The men followed the sergeant. They charged up the stairs and through the keep, with Boral leading the way. At several points they encountered a number of the garrison. Any who resisted were rapidly cut down. If not, they were thrown down the stairs or simply disarmed and roughly pushed aside, to be collected later.

Moving rapidly, they passed through several doors, which, had they been shut, would have proved a significant obstacle. The doors were made of a stout, heavy oak, framed and reinforced with metal supports. Castle servants fled screaming before them as they advanced through the keep. A few cowered in corners as Stiger and his men stormed by.

The group burst out onto a landing, with Boral pointing the way forward through a large doorway. Stiger’s men exploded through it, with the captain only a few feet behind. They found themselves in the keep’s great hall, which was filled with people. Most appeared to be not of the garrison, but civilians from the valley. They looked in shock at Stiger and his men. Several of the women screamed, with most everyone backing away.

Stiger and his men found themselves confronted by their first real, organized resistance. Seven of Captain Aveeno’s legionaries rushed forward, swords swinging as they pushed their way through the civilians. None were wearing armor or carrying shields. They wore only their service tunics.

Stiger’s men met the charge, shields forward, swords jabbing and slashing efficiently. Stiger stepped forward and caught a sword thrust that had been aimed at one of his legionaries. He deftly turned the stroke aside before jabbing it into the man’s belly. The man screamed and fell backward. Eli’s sword flashed out, lightning fast, catching a stroke meant for the captain. Stiger ducked back and to the side, striking at another sword. Sergeant Blake and several other legionaries appeared, having been delayed by disarming a man they had encountered on the landing. They pushed the captain back and stepped forward, hacking at the enemy.

It was all over in seconds, with all seven of Aveeno’s men dead or dying at their feet. Weapons were kicked away from the wounded. Blake finished one off with a quick stab to the throat. The man had had a vicious belly wound and Blake had meant it to be a mercy killing, but the act had the effect of badly frightening the civilians even further.

Stiger took a good look around the room. Perhaps thirty or forty civilians and servants were cowering along the sides of the great hall, which was nearly empty of furniture. A fire burned in a large central fire pit in the middle of the room. Smoke curled lazily upward toward a chimney set in the ceiling above. Along the back wall, a row of windows looked out over the valley. Near these windows sat a great big throne, with a tiger’s pelt draped over the back.

A man in an officer’s tunic sat upon the throne. In front of him stood two legionary lieutenants, both with their swords drawn. Pure malice was written across their faces.

“Silence!” the man on the throne thundered at the screaming and moaning of the wounded legionaries and frightened civilians. A moment of silence settled upon the great hall.

“Captain Aveeno, I presume?” Stiger pushed himself through his line of legionaries. Rage burned in his heart. There were several things that Stiger wanted to personally do to this man. At the very least, Aveeno would pay for the deaths of Eli’s scouts, not to mention the betrayal of his oath. Eli and Father Thomas moved with him as he advanced across the room and past the fire pit. Oddly, Stiger’s men seemed frozen in place.

“Finally. I thought you would never come!” Captain Aveeno issued a wicked laugh.

“I am Captain Stiger,” Stiger growled. “You will answer for the murder of my people.”

“You care about your revolting men?” Aveeno laughed, spittle flying. “An officer who cares about those beneath his feet … how touching and enlightening!”

Stiger said nothing, but continued forward with Eli and Father Thomas flanking him.

“Since you care, you should know your scouts died screaming, and that I did the deed myself,” Aveeno snarled, standing up from his throne. He pulled forth a wicked-looking sword that had been resting against the throne. It had been hidden from view. The sword was black as night, and seemed to absorb light as Aveeno waved it before their eyes. Hate and malice radiated forth, almost wavelike.

“They sold you out,” Aveeno laughed. “You and your pet elf. A Stiger! Ha! I could not believe my luck! A spoiled, noble brat living off the legend of your dying family name.”

“They told you nothing,” Stiger snarled.

“They told me everything!” Aveeno laughed cruelly. “Your blood will honor my master, but first you will die begging for mercy at my feet as your scouts did!”

Father Thomas, who had been moving with Stiger, took one look at the commandant’s sword and pulled Stiger up short. Stiger shot the paladin a look of pure rage, furious at having been interrupted from unloading his anger on Aveeno. Stiger jerked his shoulder in an attempt to pull away, but Father Thomas’s grasp was ironclad. The captain’s rage turned from Aveeno to the paladin. Stiger raised his sword to strike.

Time stopped, with everyone other than Stiger and Father Thomas seemingly frozen. An ice-cold feeling exploded through the captain. The cold surged forth from where the paladin’s vice-like hand gripped his shoulder. Stiger cried out in agony, his vision going white as the paladin’s power hammered through him. The pain lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a moment. Almost as quickly as the agony had begun, it was replaced by a cooling and calming sensation that flowed throughout his entire body. A sense of calm and serenity with the world settled in his soul. The captain’s rage melted away. Stiger blinked in surprise at the paladin, who offered an understanding look in return.

“Your soul was under assault,” the paladin explained quietly. “No longer. The High Father has freed you.”

Stiger was at a loss for words. The paladin’s power continued to surge through him, relaxing and calming. So incredible was the feeling, he was almost unable to comprehend Father Thomas’s words. Nothing seemed to matter, other than the feeling of peace and serenity.

“This fight is mine and mine alone, my son,” the paladin said softly, barely loud enough for the captain to hear. He released Stiger.

Time started once again as the paladin stepped forward to confront Aveeno. It had all happened so fast, and yet to Stiger it seemed like an age had passed. The surge in power faded, but the feeling of peace and wellbeing remained, though diminished somewhat. Stiger glanced over at Eli, who also had a look of astonishment on his face. Had he been touched by the paladin’s power as well?

“Are you going to let a traveling priest fight your battles for you?” Aveeno seethed, having witnessed the exchange but clearly not understanding it. “I don’t know why I expected better from a Stiger!”

What would have normally stung his pride failed to pierce him. At this very moment, nothing could have upset or provoked Stiger to anger. He felt at peace with the world.

“Your fight is with me, filth,” Father Thomas said in a voice that echoed across the great hall. Ignoring the large sabre belted to his side, the paladin held forth his hand, and abruptly a great golden war hammer shimmered into existence. It was so large Stiger was amazed the paladin could even hold it. “I believe it is time for you to reveal your true form,” the paladin said.

The war hammer emitted a flash of white light that was so blindingly intense Stiger and everyone else in the great hall was forced to shield their eyes. When the flash had passed, Stiger saw the crumpled form of Aveeno’s body lying before the throne. Shockingly, the body was shrunken like an old grape, with steam rising upward from the remains. The two lieutenants were also down, their bodies smoking as well, but whole in form.

Where a moment before there had been nothing, a shadowy figure coalesced from Aveeno’s remains, as if pulling itself together into a coherent whole. It slowly stood, terribly hunched and impossibly twisted, facing Father Thomas. It was so ugly and misshapen that Stiger’s mind could not seem to focus on its features. Abstractly, Stiger understood he was looking upon the face of pure evil, and yet he still felt calm, relaxed, and untroubled.

Father Thomas and the thing were just feet apart.

“Priest … you think to challenge my powers?” The shadowy figure hissed a terrible laugh, almost serpent-like. “A holy relic alone is no match for my power!”

“I intend to banish you, filth … vile servant of Castor,” the paladin answered, calmly but firmly.

The hunched, shadowy figure raised the wicked black blade that Aveeno had been holding moments before. “You are no simple priest!” the figure sneered, stepping from the steaming remains of Aveeno. It hissed in malice, which seemed to radiate forth like heat on a hot summer’s day. “I shall be rewarded for taking your head!”

“You will take nothing but the High Father’s greetings to your master,” Father Thomas countered. “I will send you back from whence you came!”

With an incredible shrieking scream of rage, dripping with hate and pure loathing, the shadowy, twisted figure lunged forward with an inhuman speed that was shocking to witness, and struck at Father Thomas. The paladin reacted with similar speed. Both the black sword and the golden war hammer crashed together with the sound of thunder.

Two powers, well beyond mortal comprehension, came together in a titanic moment. Black and white lightning exploded throughout the great hall. The world stopped, ended, and then began again all in the same moment as a sound too terrible to comprehend ripped through the room. It sounded as if all of the tormented souls from the underworld cried out as one.

A concussive blast knocked everyone off their feet.

WAKE! a voice hissed, crying out in desperation. GET UP!

Stiger’s eyes snapped open. He was lying on a hard stone floor and every part of his body ached terribly. He had no idea how long he had been out. The feeling of serenity had been taken cruelly away. He slowly picked himself up and looked around in confusion. He was still in the great hall and his sword was still in his hand. Besides himself, only Father Thomas and the misshapen figure were on their feet. They were fighting furiously, midnight blade against golden hammer. Stiger stood there dumbly for a moment, his brain refusing to believe what he was seeing.

Whenever the two weapons made contact with the other, the building shook with the impact. The sound was very much like a smith pounding on his anvil. Dust and loose mortar fell in a shower from the ceiling. Sparks and multicolored light exploded outward in a cascade from the point of each contact.

Father Thomas was bleeding from multiple wounds. He was being pressed hard by the misshapen figure, who was also wounded. Blood darker than a moonless night dripped and splashed onto the floor, hissing and smoking where it made contact with the stone.

Wield me! the voice spoke once again, and Stiger somehow knew it was coming from his sword. The voice was becoming louder, more insistent. He looked down upon the blade in his hand and was startled to see it glowing a soft pale blue. Forged for a purpose, forged for a reason, forged for a will! Your will is my will and mine is yours! Together we are one! WIELD ME!

Looking on the battle raging before him, Stiger honestly did not know what he could do. The weapons the paladin and the figure wielded were beyond his ability to comprehend. They were supernatural. How could he battle this evil without such a weapon?

The room abruptly faded from view and Stiger found himself on a field of battle. Two armies fought bitterly against one another in a blur of motion and color. Stiger could not see the action clearly, but he somehow knew intuitively that they were fighting. It was as if the two armies were shrouded in fog.

Stiger abruptly found himself at the center, where the two armies met. He saw a man who looked like himself, wearing a legionary general’s armor, blue cloak fluttering in the wind. The general was wielding the sword Stiger held in his hand, of that he was sure, though he knew not how. The general faced an abomination, twisted and misshapen like the figure Father Thomas now fought. The general was wounded, a hand held to his side, in an attempt to staunch the flow of his life blood.

Stiger sensed it was a mortal wound.

Watch, the voice hissed from nowhere and everywhere at once and Stiger realized with alarm it was in his head.

The twisted figure approached the general, carrying an impossibly large dark sword, black as night. The figure radiated hate. Stiger could sense its feeling of triumph as it took a last step forward to finish what it had started and strike down the general. Lightning fast, it struck. The general brought his sword up to block the killing blow. Stiger thought nothing could withstand the power of such a strike. Surely the general’s blade would break!

The black sword hammered down onto the general’s sword and then shockingly shattered into smoke with an audible hiss, much like steam escaping a tea kettle. The general seemed stunned that he still lived and stood there staring in surprise as the smoke rapidly curled about his sword before dissipating. The figure looked just as shocked, its moment of triumph rudely torn from its grasp.

The moment passed, and with a look of great determination, the general stabbed his sword forward into the evil figure’s chest. The creature screamed horribly, the sound of tormented souls crying out from the great beyond. There was a thunderclap, and the evil figure was no more.

The general stood for a moment, then swayed and fell to his knees. He dropped his sword as his final moments of life ticked away.

The vision of the battlefield faded before his eyes and Stiger found himself returned.

The voice had shown him how to defeat the creature.

Now! the voice hissed desperately. STRIKE NOW!

Stiger took a step forward, his muscles crying out in agony. His entire body ached terribly. Moving forward toward the mystical melee between the paladin and the creature of evil was an incredible struggle. Stiger felt as if the air was somehow thicker. He took another step and suddenly it became easier to move.

Father Thomas threw out a hand at the figure and the room exploded with blinding light. The figure cringed for a fraction of a second and then countered. The room descended into absolute darkness. Stiger blinked. His sword flared brilliantly and the darkness faded, though Father Thomas still appeared to be affected and staggered backward, blindly waving his great hammer back and forth where he thought the creature was.

The figure, oblivious of Stiger, moved to the paladin’s side in the captain’s direction and raised the wicked-looking blade in preparation to strike. Stiger lunged forward and blocked the blow.

Upon contact, the figure’s sword evaporated into smoke. It turned in shock toward Stiger and snarled viciously.

Stiger swung down and stabbed the creature. It cried out in rage and fell back, Stiger’s blade coming free and hissing foully as the black blood boiled off the steel. He had expected the strike to kill or send it back from whence it came as it had done in the vision. He stabbed again and the creature dodged.

Father Thomas blinked and suddenly it became apparent to Stiger the paladin once more had use of his eyes. A savage blow knocked Stiger aside as the figure lashed out with a powerful fist, screaming with rage as it focused its anger on Stiger. He staggered backward, his vision swimming.

The paladin took advantage of the distraction and swung his great golden hammer forward.

It connected. With the sound of a bell tolling, the room shook as a brilliant light exploded from the point of contact, completely blinding Stiger.

The creature exploded into smoke.

A fraction of a second later, a tremendous concussion knocked him down. Stiger’s head connected with the floor and he knew no more.

If you enjoyed that combat scene, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rest of the book, and the series too.  Recommended.



  1. Very cool, I've read this series and thoroughly enjoyed them. I'm glad to see that you've discovered them as well. I highly recommend all of this author's works, he has proven to have some original ideas and exercised his creativity while also doing his foundational research.

  2. Agree with trailer for sale. I liked A long Time until now, as well, and have read them all and look forward the latest in that series. And, it looks like Peter has again made a good recco. Will look into that.
    And, It would be great if Dorothy would add to her Going Ballistic series. Going Ballistic remains one of the best books I've ever read. True talent there. Every so often I re-read it. And, have read all her other books as well as Peters. I have his latest western and am getting to it.

  3. So it's a high magic version of Turtledove's Videssos books? And with such cliched characters I'm guessing that it's aimed at the youth market, maybe tweenager?

  4. The 9th Legion disappeared on an expedition north of Hadrian's wall @120 AD. Hal Colbatch and Matt Harrington wrote an interesting novelette in about what MAY have happened to them.

  5. @Master Diver: Yes, and Rosemary Sutcliffe wrote a fascinating series about that legion and subsequent events. In order: The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, Frontier Wolf, The Lantern Bearers. Highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *