If novel one is mostly a story outline still then book two is hardly more than a place holder. But I never intended to leave book one in a cliff hanger, it just didn't seem possible for the EoC to not be badly over extended after all that fighting, and they knew that before the ever started, they just choose to do 'the right thing' anyway. And frankly, the author was tired by then, too and I wrung the absolute last out my original 'bright idea'. So in my AU, now well off the beaten path, I offer what I am currently thinking is the starting off point for my second book, should I ever get that far, "From Ash and Flame". I deliberately avoid any references to a Phoenix here because deep inside it doesn't feel at all right.

Obligatory Legal Stuff and Disclaimer: While the most of the material from this is mine, any place, character, or ship mentioned in cannon, belongs to David Weber.

The characters and universe belong to Mr Weber. It is a pity that the legal system has become so skewed that he cannot enjoy other people's attempts at writing without risking lawsuit for stealing the amateur's ideas, or losing his own copyrights. I would be willing to sign away my ideas, story elements, new characters if an agreement could be reached that would allow him to share this story, including signing a Mercedes Lackey fanfic form. I hope that were he able to read this story, he would enjoy reading of his characters in new adventures without the writers work of turning the crank to generate the prose rather than recoil in horror that some else would dare to write in 'his world', but that choice would ultimately by his. For now, I copyright the sequence of words, and request that this not be printed or reproduced, electronically or in any other form, unless I should get permission from Mr Weber. For everyone else, I hope this further adventure in what is now truly an Alternate Universe will provide enjoyable reading while waiting for the next release from MWW.

From Ash and Flame

© copyright Michael Bushroe 2012

Cayleb and his army have triumphed over incredible odds amidst horrendous weather conditions and traveling further overland than virtually any Charisian before him, but his army is tired, a fraction of its starting numbers, far from home or friendly shores and quite war weary. Clyntahn, on the other hand, has whipped up the Church's armies under Maigwair and he is aiming them directly at Cayleb's heart. Literally, six inches below the top of his sternum and just to the left. I suspect a couple of assassination attempts will be made by Clyntahn, and I think it is time some other than Merlin is able to thwart at least one. Despite the confusion of many different chains of command, flaming egos, differing fighting styles and tactics, and the inherent incompetence of having torturers (Inquisitors) leading the armies, fighting on solid ground and advancing men on foot or horseback is simple enough that eventually an overwhelming force bears down on Dohlar. EoC's forces are driven back from town and pass to fall back on Gorath, where ultimately Maigwair drives Cayleb into the sea. With the exception that Cayleb had planned this all along, and had sufficient galleons and transports to effect an orderly withdrawal and denies Clyntahn the Charisian blood bath he hoped for. The combined forces fall back to Siddar or Tellesburg, depending on their condition. The latest troops are sent to replace those pulled back home to defend as much of Siddarmark as possible. But once the armies of God pull back north and regroup with their latest elements, they are too much for the burned, raped, pillaged western lands of Siddarmark to hold back and the armies of CoGA advance across many fronts eastward.

But the people Siddarmak have learned a painful, expensive lesson. On one side, they saw their crops burned, their food taken, their women raped and killed, people tortured or immediately put-to-death for not fighting for them. And even some of those who did fight for the foreigners, along with their families in some cases simply because they fought and failed. And all this now clearly from outsiders who did not care about the safety or security of the commoners of Siddarmark, nor how many died in someone else's battles. But on the other side the other foreigners never worked behind closed doors or skulked in the dark. And they tried to save and husband food so that all might eat, rather than burn it all then turn a cold back upon the hungry they created. And the raping and pillaging was much less, and always quickly and firmly dealt with. These hard won facts convinced some of the rebels, and almost all how had tried to straddle the fence that the only peace they would ever know lay behind Stohnar's sword. And so when they could be spared from the replanting and rebuilding from the ashes, they came forward to fight for their lands, their homes, their very families. Despite the wreck and ruin around them, it was not loyalty to a government that drove them, but a fierce flame burning within to protect home and family and whatever little else they had left. And they volunteered to stand in harms way with a vengeance, and a burning desire for vengeance, as well. While the CoGA's fighters were more driven from fear than a desperate last stand defense, and while the early battles fell their way, as Siddarmarkians felt their backs against the wall, and supply lines began to favor the defender over the attacker, the armies of the CoGA again suffered defeats like they had only seen once before.

Finally, the armies of CoGA retreated, or out right ran back over the Border States and a sullen peace fell over the land. Not the peace of law and order, but of multiple mass grave sites, smoking ash and ruin, and starvation. For now there would be no more fighting, because neither side could forage enough food to feed and army.

Probably more to come later.