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Ironroot – Fantasy Whodunnit

with 4 comments

ISBN: 1849234582 (308 pp)


Ironroot has been given excellent reviews. Readers say:

“easy to read – action- romance – good story.”

“I never re-read a book, but I have this one”


Captain Varro of the Fourth army is about to have the worst day of his life. Wounded in battle and fearing for his life and his future, he stumbles upon a plot that reaches deep into the past and into the roots of everything in which he believes.

Accompanied by a young engineer from his unit and the daughter of his commander in chief, he begins to unpeel layers of treachery and murder that threaten not only himself, but the people that he loves.

Ironroot is a tale of treason and revenge set in the world of the Interregnum, some twenty years after the events of that book.

——- Excerpt from Ironroot ——-

By moonlight white, portentous sight…

I remember that night.

I remember it as though it happened yesterday.

I always take a walk the night before a fight; always have. Helps clear the mind and lets you focus on the job at hand. Some people drink; some make love. I walk. Of course, it helps that I’m an officer and I can leave the camp any time I like.

Where we’d camped that night there was a small river a little to the north. Not much of a river really; more of a stream, but it ran down into a deep copse of copper coloured beech trees. I strolled from the north gate out into the moonlit night and wandered aimlessly in the general direction of the copse.

I had my armour on and my sword with me, partially because over the years it’s become such habit I often forget I’m wearing them, but also because I was leaving the camp and there were barbarians out there. To the south, for sure, but you never know.

The peace out there on the blasted moonlit heath was a balm and a blessing once you left the echoes of the raucous and nervous men in the camp far behind. The only sounds were the wind blowing through the heather and the long grass, the occasional rustle as something nocturnal scampered away from you, and once or twice the eerie, haunting call of an owl.

I’d no need of a torch or lantern. A lantern would have guttered and died in the moorland winds anyway, but the moon was full and white and shone with the aura of the Huntress. It was almost as bright as day. And I descended the slope toward the stream, my boots beginning to make sucking sounds as I stepped into the soft peat on the hillside. Reaching the stream, I stopped for a moment, trying to decide which direction to take. I may have been drawn toward the copse, or perhaps I later imagined that, given the events that unfolded. For whatever the reason, I turned and followed the babbling brook into the trees.

There everything was dark; a sort of primal darkness, such as must fill the endless halls of the underworld. I almost turned back; should have really. I’d walked far enough and needed to be among the men before we turned in. Something made me go on; again I’m not sure whether it was mere curiosity or something more. Sounds mystical and strange, I know. I’m not really a very religious man. Like most of us brought up in the chaos of the Imperial Interregnum, I paid lip service to the Gods of the Empire while maintaining my own private belief in the ability of a man to control his own destiny.

The Gods may have had other ideas. You see there are many other Gods that aren’t commonly prayed to in the Empire, but that are held in equally high esteem by the peoples on our borders. I’d been fighting the northern barbarians long enough to become quite familiar with some of these fringe deities, such as the wolf of battle, Hrogar and, of course, Cernus.

And as I stumbled along in the claustrophobic darkness of the trees, I stumbled upon a slope; almost tumbled rather than stumbled, I should say. I reached out and grasped the rough bark of a tree and regained my footing. A single animal track, probably a badger, led away and down to my right and curiously I followed it into a dell; a shallow depression sheltering a pool. It was a small pool, still as glass and reflecting the bright moon on its dark surface, framed by wavering branches. It was so still and peaceful as I wandered down through the trees to the water’s edge.

And saw the truth of these ‘fringe Gods’. I saw Cernus.

Across the water, on the far shore he stood. Among the shadows but bathed in silver moonlight, the great white stag watched me calmly. I’ve met ordinary low barbarians who became chieftains and led armies into battle just because they’d seen Cernus in the flesh. To see the Stag God by the light of the full moon is one of the tribes’ most powerful portents, though at the time I was blissfully unaware of this. I felt something that I find difficult to describe; as though I had been skewered by a thought. A single consciousness had passed from the great Stag across the water and entered my eyes, filling me with a silvery certainty. Something vast and important had just occurred that was not for me to yet fully understand. All I knew for certain was that this creature was no forest game, but a spirit of the most powerful and profound sort. And I still feel that there was no accident involved; no coincidence. Cernus drew me to that wood. Over the coming weeks it was an opinion shared by two others.

For that moment, I stood rigid, my mind filled with the shimmering light of the lake and the God that stood beside it.

And suddenly I was dismissed. My mind cleared and I actually staggered a little. A sceptic would say that a cloud drifted across the moon and shattered the silvery reflection on the water’s surface, and this is indeed true, but that was the coincidence. The stag let out a deep breath, a cloud of steam whisked away by the low breeze in the dell.

I felt in some way hollow; as though I’d just lost something truly important from my being. And yet, at the same time, I felt a certainty; a surety that something important had just transpired, but that something of even greater import lay ahead. One thing of which I was certain was that the battle the next morning held no fear for me. I would survive the following day.

I bowed once; quietly and with military precision and with an almost imperceptible acknowledgement, Cernus turned and strode silently away through the dark hollow beneath the trees. With a sense of purpose, I turned on my heel and picked my way up the difficult badger track and along through the copse to the point where the stream entered. Climbing the sucking, peaty slope once more, I set my gaze on the distant flicker of torches and made my way back to the comfort and human warmth of the camp.


Written by SJAT

March 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Just let me know when the book (IRONROOT) is being released. Loved INTERREGNUM.
    Stay the course.


    Karl Walterbach

    May 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    • Why thank you Karl. I’m actually writing the final chapter now.



      June 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

  2. Simon, Have just read through for the first time, in view of the fact that you are going back to YWO. This is as fast-paced, vivid and confronting as ‘Marius’ and I do wish you the best with it.



    July 16, 2010 at 9:52 am

    • Why thank you. This one has a few twists in its tale…



      July 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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